In Search of Perfumes by Dominique Roques

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Author: Dominique Roques

Category: Biography & true stories , Early Bird , Earth sciences, geography, environment, planning , Previous Picks (Book Post)

Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Mountain Leopard Press

ISBN: 9781914495168

RRP: $39.99


4.3 19 votes
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A journey across the world, revealing the beauty and mysteries of the perfume trade. The book also tackles the earth’s changing climate conditions, with its impact on the sources of the world’s scents.

In Search of Perfumes is a fragrant journey across the world, revealing the beauty and mysteries of the perfume trade.

Fruits, flowers, spices, bark, leaves, and branches are just some of the natural ingredients from the plant world that are used in the creation of perfume. Dominique Roques, travelling from Andalusia to Somaliland by way of Bulgaria, Laos, El Salvador, Indonesia and Egypt, describes his search to find the best natural ingredients, precious to perfumers everywhere.

In Search of Perfumes demonstrates how the prestigious multi-million-pound 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.


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Allanah, Bremer Bay WA
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I am not a perfume person and would probably not have chosen this book for myself.  

‘In Search of Perfumes’ is a beautifully written combination of history, politics, geography, perfumery, agronomy and people.  

Dominique’s descriptions of the locations are so detailed you can close your eyes, picture the scenes and smell the smells. His respect and empathy for the growers, harvesters and producers is heart-warming.  

Each chapter introduces you to a different ingredient, its history and uses, as well as who grows it, how and where. Dominique details the patience, love and dedication required in each step towards producing the final ingredients. There is a great appreciation of each ingredient and the people doing their best to save and produce it using increasingly sustainable agronomy methods. 

“Trees are protectors, nourishing, sacred.”  

“Just as a musician’s instrument turns breath into music, a still condenses steam into perfume in a similarly magical sleight of hand. Breath and steam escape their brass and copper, becoming music or fragrance, envoys of the world’s beauty.”  

The world could always do with more beauty and I will be finding a place on my bookshelf for this very beautifully written book.  

Amanda - Early Bird Reader
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For anyone who has been taken back to happy memories at the mere smell of a familiar fragrance, you’ll really enjoy the ‘top notes’ (pun intended) of this book. Part travel diary/memoir/history lesson and the rest an environmental message. Dominique is passionate about perfume.  He literally lives and breathes it.

Love Therry Mugler’s Angel? That’s Indonesian patchouli you’re smelling. Its woody, balsamic notes are behind the cult favourite. Do you like Rosewood oil from French Guiana?  Or as it is lessor known, Chanel No.5. Familiar with scent of benzoin? Head into any department store and seek out a bottle of Opium by YSL it’s made with benzoin from Loas.

Not many people think of the provenance of the products they are consuming. Farmer from impoverished countries are exploited just to bring us flacons (I learnt a new word – it’s a ‘small, stoppered bottle’) of fragrance. Now I’m aware of the environmental devastation that occurs in the art of smelling nice, l’ll think twice before marinating myself in my fav Coco Mademoiselle.  

Dominique’s message is clear – if we don’t harvest oils sustainably as well as look after the farmers who bring us these oils, we could lose them forever. 

Belinda, Sheffield Tas - Early Bird Reader
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A beautiful book in design and content that takes us right from the origin of the perfumery world to the resultant products that we delight in exploring to give as gifts or for our own personal decadence.

Dominique pens in a style that has me travelling the world beside him, witnessing the explosions of colour, taunting my sense of smell with perfumed descriptions in their most natural form and meeting the wonderful characters who grow and create the very best of these scents. 

I have no doubt the narratives and descriptions in this book will hold the interest of the novice right through to perfumery aficionados

Ellen - Early Bird Reader
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I was drawn to this book by the cover but can find no mention of an Artist so consider it must be  generic design. Initially the Author’s name made me assume it was written by a woman until I started to read. The topic is interesting, however it is hard to decide if it’s a non-fiction book or a text book as it comes with an Index. Perhaps it might also qualify as a travel book,  the descriptions do make you want to visit cities and countries mentioned. 

This book would be of interest to the person who is curious about topics not usually available, to add to their own general knowledge.  Tourists wishing to explore the world from a different angle to the usual tourism brochure would also find it very helpful. Finally for the lover of all things Perfume it’s an ideal way to have an introduction as to how and where the beautiful scents derive. The language is very accessible however just a slight criticism of what is really a very fine book perhaps the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ is used far too often. It would not destroy the charm of the book and the topic if this was corrected when the proof copy is revised. 

Fran, Pinjarra WA - Early Bird Reader
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In spite of the feminine spelling, the author, Dominique Roques is a man. This established, I settled in to enjoy the eloquently told stories of how plants are sought and sourced for the perfume industry.

In Search of Perfumes, is eloquently written but by necessity, also industry specific so I had to look up some words. The fact that perfumers ‘keep stored in their memory’ the ‘precise aromatic imprint’ of each ingredient, in order to arrive at the best possible finished product, elevated the process to a mystical, almost magical level.

I enjoyed reading about the lavender industry in France, and the effort to restart rose-growing, and the distilling of their oils, in Bulgaria where there is even a rose museum. I learnt that bergamot, one of my favourite essential oils, is an actual fruit grown in Italy; and closer to home, that Kununurra in Western Australia, is one of the world’s top providers of sandalwood.

This book is scholarly yet poetic, scientific yet deeply human, with stories of travel and friendships forged by a shared passion for creating perfumes. While the original is in French, it loses nothing in the translation. This is gifted story-telling.

Heidi, Collinswood SA - Early Bird Reader
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The book is a richly descriptive journey of discovery taking the reader around the world in search of natural perfume ingredients. Cistus in Andalucía, rose in Bulgaria, cinnamon in Sri Lanka and sandalwood in Australia are a few places and ingredients explored

Readers will find the descriptions evoke an almost unconscious response, an olfactory memory of familiar perfumes and the emotions they conjure. 

Harvesting natural ingredients is often an embedded way of life for many communities, handed down over generations. The distilling and extracting techniques are, indeed, fascinating but the book is not bogged down by science. The author is keenly aware of the poverty experienced by many farming communities, the threats of corruption, violence and environmental impacts and this provides a thought-provoking balance to the book.

The author, a master perfumer, is clearly knowledgeable in detecting those qualities in natural ingredients such as barks, fruits and flowers that make them valued as precious scents and he shares this knowledge with passion. The book is beautifully presented with simple line drawings announcing each chapter and each new ingredient on the next leg of the journey.  

This would be a wonderful gift for anyone interested in perfumes, gardening, travel and other cultures. 

Jane, Ashfield NSW - Early Bird Reader
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This book is an ode to the natural botanicals that perfume our lives – to the places they grow, the people who tend to them, harvest them and distill them. It’s a love story dedicated to the entire industry. Written in beautiful, evocative narrative non-fiction it is a feast for the senses. I was transported through time and space and loved the way this book made all the locations so vivid that I felt I was there meeting the people, soaking up the atmosphere and inhaling all the wonderful scents. 

The writer does not shy away from the ugly side of the industry. There are echoes of the impact of the unscrupulous causing terrible environmental impacts from over harvesting. Some of this is quite confronting and heart breaking. 

Recommended for the armchair traveller, lover of memoirs, history or quests. There is something here for everyone. 

Karen, Hampton Vic - Early Bird Reader
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I was privileged to receive a copy of ‘In Search of Perfumes’ by Dominique Roques for review. This was a fascinating book, clearly written by someone who has devoted much of their life to the discovery and creation of perfumes. It’s not a ‘sit down and devour it in one session’ book, but rather a book to be picked up and dipped into, a little at a time, to learn about the origins of various scents. His travels have taken him to many exotic locations in search of particular plants, and the reader will come to appreciate the intricacies of combining different elements to create more complex fragrances.

I found both the index at the back of the book and the table of Words of the Trade to be useful additions. This is a book to intrigue anyone who has a love of perfume, or indeed, of travel.

Kathryn, Glenbrook NSW - Early Bird Reader
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Thank you for sending me a copy of this book. I applied for this book, purely because of the cover, it is beautiful.

The author has written a wonderfully descriptive book in a narrative non-fiction style.
The fragrances of fruit, flowers and spices are described using such vibrant language, you can almost smell them.

The history behind the discovery if each plant is fascinating and in many countries an essential part of the culture.  

The pencil outlined illustrations are delicate and fit so well with the style of the book.

I was, however, a little uncomfortable with a description of workers using sulphuric acid, as I wondered what safety measures are in place on these farms. I also hope the workers at all the farms are paid well, for what seems to be incredibly hard work.

Katy - Early Bird Reader
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This book is a blend of travel narrative, history lesson and a passion for the perfume industry and its signature fragrances. 

Smell that volume, that depth, that richness! It is green, animatic, miraculously balanced.  This line is taken directly from the book as said by Jacques a Master Perfumer in the industry. 

This book is all that and more.
Dominique, in this beautifully written memoir takes you not only on a journey around the world, he takes you on a sensory workout with his evocative language and ability to tantalise your senses with his olfactory descriptions.  From continent to continent you are transported not only by the fragrance being harvested, you are treated to an historical time frame of the production and harvesting of the fragrance. Roques introduces you to the characters, the families the passion within the people that spend their time collecting, harvesting and producing some of the world’s most sort after oils.

It is purely fascinating to discover the volumes of product that needs to be harvested and distilled to produce the final essential oil that goes into our modern-day fragrances that we so unknowing spray with abandon on our bodies. 

Lesley, Ravenshoe Qld - Early Bird Reader
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Perfume is a subjective treasure … we all have favourites, daily dabs, free samples and that sneaky spray as we stroll through an upmarket perfume department. But do we ever think about the ingredients and production methods of scents that transport us to another time, another place?

Dominique Roques works behind the scenes to connect the growers, producers and perfume houses of the world and has written a book about his travels. The anecdotal style makes you feel as if you are accompanying him….viewing the fragrant fields and orchards, yarning with families in the game for generations, dealing with success and failure, tragedy and joy.

It took me a while to fall into the rhythm of the book but each chapter told me new things and the photos of the artisans and labourers and the traditional implements of the trade were fascinating. I have a new respect for these bottles of delight and will look more closely into their provenance … particularly these days when we should all be a little kinder to the planet and those who provide us with so many things we take for granted.

Melissa, Pakenham Vic - Early Bird Reader
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For Roques, an administrative job in the perfume industry turned into a passion for fragrance and a decades long career in the production and purchase of essence.
Each chapter provides the history of a different plant, along with the background and culture of the region it hails from. Roques travels the continents and his imagery brings to life the exotic and picturesque locales and his vivid, sensual descriptions help the reader sense the scents he so loves. The book is enriched with photographs of people he encounters working the fields and details the rich, colourful lives of those who grow and tend to the plants and their unique skills. Much harvesting is done by hand and it’s fascinating to discover what traditions and processes survived modernity in family businesses that have endured though generations, along with the effort that goes into making just a small amount of essence or oil.
Roques’ book is well researched and his passion for perfume, along with that of the people he describes, comes through in his lyrical writing. While I didn’t share his passion, I did appreciate his knowledge and will definitely recall his stories when I next spritz my favourite eau de parfum!

Natalie, Raymond Terrace NSW - Early Bird Reader
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was fascinating learning all about the plants that are prized for the fragrances they contain, and how these fragrances are extracted for use in the perfume industry.

Roques’ love and admiration for the natural world, the plants, and the scents they produce emanates from the pages. Beautifully written, it takes you on a wonderful journey around the world exploring people, places, nature, culture and history.

Woven throughout the pages is the reminder that fragrance has an emotional impact on us and our memories. “Everybody carries with them through life a waft of lilac, a country lane lined with broom, the scent of loved ones”.

Truly a celebration of nature, people and fragrance.

Rachael, Nth Parramatta NSW - Early Bird Reader
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‘To open a perfume is to experience that quick flash of surprise, of pleasure, the brief moment when the extract has a chance to reveal itself to us’ is my favourite quote.

An enchanting non fiction which takes the reader on a fragrant journey. 
Revelations of the natural ingredients used in perfumery are explored and uncover the rarity and value.

The descriptive writing allows the ready to pause and reflect on their own experiences.
It’s not a book for me as I prefer fiction but would still recommend this to lovers of perfumes, those seeking answers or wanting to go on a scented journey.

Sam - Early Bird Reader
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I LOVED this book. From the front cover to the easy to read broken down small chapters.
It was a book that you would think was meant for scientists or botanists, or the budding perfumer. It is not. 
If you are someone like me that loves the natural scents of the world, and find that it is amazing what some smells people are drawn to and others aren’t then this book is for you.
Easy to read, almost like a journal or travel memoir. The photos and map interspersed throughout the book helped to break up the technical terms.
Brilliant for the budding perfumer. My entire family picked this book up at some point while I was trying to read it, and all commented on something they found interesting. Little tips and “did you know” coming from everyone, my nearly 17 daughter, husband and even my Dad who does not read. 
Thank you to the author, Dominique, who has written this book. You have reawakened an interest in me that I always wanted to learn more about but thought that it was either to difficult for me to grasp (too many technical terms), or only for people in the industry.
I really appreciate and pay attention more to where and what make up the scents around me now and the industry and people of countries all around the world that are involved with this industry.

Tracy, Currambine WA - Early Bird Reader
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I really enjoyed this book about the quest for beautiful fragrances all over the world from different plants.

The author is obviously passionate about plants, scents and the hardworking people that labour intensively, often for very little payment to harvest the ingredients for perfumes. Every detail is explained of the hard work that goes into growing, harvesting, extracting, distilling and much more to obtain what many people take for granted when they spray on a fragrance or light a candle or incense.

The entire book is also a history lesson about plants and the silk roads and spice routes of the world.

Never boring and very interesting reading about all the different techniques and I wish I could smell some of the fragrances so beautifully described.

Climate change is discussed as well as the exploitation of the plants and the people trying to earn a living from them. It was nice to read the chapter on Sandalwood as it grows in my home state of Western Australia. I must also add that the cover is stunning and caught my eye straight away.

Overall a great read and I think anyone that loves fragrance and plants would enjoy this book that is very well written and flows beautifully.

Vikki, Lindfield NSW - Early Bird Reader
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I found this book delightful, from the pretty cover to the glossaries and in-depth index.

The author describes his journey in the perfume industry, geographically and chronologically, detailing the various roles he held and played over 30 years.
The chapters were short and could be read as written or in any chosen order. Each presents a vignette of a perfume base and region. 

One very quickly gets a sense of each region and how different herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, and trees have been grown in that region, both visually and olfactorily.

In each chapter we meet a crucial player in the industry, with a photograph illustrating the people, the process or some form of machinery involved. I was intrigued with how each chapter provided another layer of part of the process involved in growing, collecting or harvesting the individual product, one of the many different processes involved, as well as the culture and history of the region or people themselves.

Science, history, geography, socioeconomics, sociology, culture, and business – are all covered in an accessible way, suitable for the casual and serious reader. My only disappointment was that the photos and illustrations were not in colour.

Donna - Early Bird Reader
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I’ve never been a person who wears a lot of perfume but I do love a good subtle scent. So this book caught my eye and my interest.
This is a book about finding the most natural of scents, the beauty in aromas and the places in this world where they are found. It’s such an interesting read but it’s not just about the finding and making of perfumes but also about the effects it has on our societies. 
This book is divided into chapters that tell you of a certain place, a certain plant and it also tells more than that. It delves into the people, the processes, the way things have changed over the years and sometimes stayed the same. These places are exotic, sometimes remote and always very interesting and intriguing.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I might as it really brought to life what goes into the making of a good perfume, some good and some maybe not so good. And I must say the epilogue finished the book perfectly as did the ‘Words of the Trade’ which was enormously helpful in understanding the trade.
Such an enjoyable and enlightening read.

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