Reviewed by Rama Gaind.
By Dominique Roques, Mountain Leopard Press, $39.99.
“Perfume is the invisible, unforgettable, fashionable accessory that announces your arrival and prolongs your departure.” ― Coco Chanel
A glance may be deceptive, but not the nose since fragrances make us dream and scents can make memories come alive. Perfumes are at once familiar to us, yet mysterious. They are reassuring at first, as it reminds us of who we are, sometimes poetry in reminiscences, then captivating, as its own story is revealed.
Such is the case with this account of three decades of wandering, on the hunt for the source of the world’s scents. Neither a chemist nor a botanist, Dominique Roques went to work in the perfume industry, prompted by appreciation and curiosity, a journey that developed into a passion. He has devoted himself to search for, discovering, purchasing and, from time to time, producing essences for the fragrance industry.
This homage to the harvesters of the world by Roques (translated from the French by Stephanie Smee) is a fragrant journey across the world, revealing the beauty and mysteries of the perfume trade. Some of the scents are jasmine in India, frankincense of Somaliland, lavender in Haute Provence, cistus in Andalucia, Bulgarian rose and Indonesian patchouli.
Travelling from Andalusia to Somaliland by way of Bulgaria, Laos, El Salvador, Indonesia and Egypt, Roques describes his search to find the best natural ingredients, precious to perfumers everywhere. He also visits Kununurra in Western Australia, which helped bring back India’s sacred tree, sandalwood, after years of exploitation.
In Search of Perfumes demonstrates how the prestigious multi-million-dollar perfume industry may begin its life as a single plant harvested by producers surviving on ancestral traditions and techniques and often risking their lives in the process as they combat the rising threat of climate change. Roques reveals the beauty and mysteries of a familiar trade; a return to the source of the world’s scents.
Fragrances are powerful magicians!