Like cocktails, blue cheese and Renaissance painting, perfumes offer some of the greatest of all sensory pleasures. Yet, with the arguable exception of Robert Parker's book on Bordeaux wines (his analysis is mainly olfactory), they have scarcely ever been written about.
This guide to 1,500 scents, as scintillating as it is comprehensive, puts right this omission. Of course, you begin by looking up your own whiff. This reviewer discovered that Jo Malone's Grapefruit Cologne is "fine but lasts as long as you can balance a broom on the end of your finger."
However, Malone's Lime, Bail and Mandarin Cologne is "simply wonderful" and particularly recommended for males. In their introduction, the authors state the only reason men should wear perfume: "Because you like it". We are steered away from Salvador Dali's Laguna Homme ("If you drive a Moscow taxi at night, this one's for you") though, surprisingly, David Beckham's Instinct (made by Coty) is "a solid, handsome piece of work".
Rigorously uninfluenced by reputation or celeb-association, the authors give five stars to Chanel No.5 and Rive Gauche (both in its old and new formulations), while dishing out a grudging one to Burberry London (the designation "chav spit" is borrowed from AA Gill) and Gaultier 2 ("nauseating"). With new notes on 451 fragrances in the paperback, this pungent, entrancing book is a wake-up call for the nostrils. One to buy before Christmas.