Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman: NEW BOOK REVIEW


Guest Post by Jordan River


On ya APJ,

I have just read a book which is hot off the press. Australian Perfume Junkies is mentioned in the book as an indicator that we do not live in scent hostile times.

I am walking along the longest path of the world, searching for the book of my heart.

Vien Tuc
Đà Lạt

Imagine a whole world where everyone smells of CK One. You probably don’t have to imagine; you have probably been there as has Barbara Herman from Yesterday’s Perfume. One day Barbara rebelled against office-friendly scents and went searching for the rude, the loud, the odd, the weird and the impolite. What she mostly found was vintage perfume and then some cutting edge 21st century olfactive artists. This led her on a fragrant journey through the 20th century which became her book Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Fragrance.


Barbara Herman

Scattered pictures
Throughout the book are pictures that have been collected by Barbara over many years and reveal a lot about perfume, society and marketing ‘art’.


This is not a picture book though there are many full colour pictures. Barbara starts off with the thoughts of Aristotle and Plato and continues through Fliess and Freud to Chandler Burr, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.


In Part 1 Barbara courses through the development of ‘Perfume: is it art? I like Barbara’s conclusion that Perfume is a language.


Part 2 is a tour de force of 300+ vintage fragrances, including drugstore, all with back stories that you may have never heard before. I am not a vintage connoisseur so I learnt a lot from this book. If you know your vintage ‘fumes then I imagine you will be delighted with the way they are portrayed in Scents and Subversion.

On Jicky

the personality of a cat… sometimes with perfume more is more.

Barbara Herman
Scent and Subversion

Modern vs Vintage

the difference between modern and vintage perfumery is akin to the difference between polyester and velvet.

Barbara Herman
Scent and Subversion

Part III looks at the future of scent and tells the the story of how the author’s nose lost it’s virginity. Perspective on the work of Étienne de Swardt, Antoine Lie, Christopher Brosius, Sissal Tolaas, Martynka Wawrzyniak, and Christophe Laudamiel make for an interesting read as does the chapter called A Brief History of Animal Notes in Perfume.

This week there have been several collector’s items on The Fragrant Man of which Scents & Subversion would be the most affordable one. I think coffee table for the hardcover and the e-book for bedside reading.

This is a book you could read again and again as your own knowledge grows and as vintage bottles materialize on your own fragrant journey. If you already know everything then here it is all in one place. If you are new to perfume appreciation then a glossary and a guide called Perfume 101: How to become an Informed Perfume Lover, will become your reference points as you begin your own fragrant journey.

On Now Smell This, Aleta describes this book as a “worthy flanker” to Perfumes: The Guide. Yes it is.


In this book you will read about perfume set to music; this book is perfume set to words, erudite words that bespeak a mountain of research. Barbara has walked a long path, searching and researching. This is the book of her heart.

Kindle e-book at Amazon $US9.99
Hardcover Amazon $US24.95

Further Reading
Book Reviews by Dita Von Teese, Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Aleta (Now Smell This), Katie Puckrick and Chandler Burr
Yesterday’s Perfume – website
Yesterday’s Perfume – Facebook
Barbara Herman is @parfumaniac on Twitter


16 comments on “Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman: NEW BOOK REVIEW

  1. Undina says:

    Hmm… Jordan, I see that you liked the book so much that couldn’t help liking your own review?;-p
    Undina recently posted…Entertaining Statistics: October 2013My Profile

  2. I think a world of L’Eau d’Issey and one of those shampoo DKNY things would be my nightmare. Worse than CK1. Not ugly but just pointless and a waste of the sense of smell. Thanks for letting us know about this. My copy is now ordered and on its way
    Catherine du Peloux Menage recently posted…Fragrance appreciation workshopMy Profile

  3. Maya says:

    This sounds like a book I would enjoy. I love vintage perfumes; rediscovering old beauties, discovering new ones, finding new loves, and even being disappointed. The vintage world is a great place to explore.

  4. Fruitful says:

    The pictures are stunning, the book sounds amazing! To read!

  5. hotlanta linda says:

    LOL – my copy arrived 2 days ago, and we are still fighting to open the shipping carton! :-0

  6. Mark says:

    This sounds like a really good read. Can’t wait for it to arrive. Great review, thanks Jordan

  7. Cyn says:

    Cannot wait to read this! Barbara’s blog is a must read for vintage perfume reviews.

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