Review by Marco Valussi

“When I was invited to write a review for Fragrant Signatures – Manual for Creating Natural Perfumes I was worried I might not be the best reviewer. Of course, I have experience with fragrant materials, but my specific expertise is in other fields of application.

However, although not a perfumer myself, the issue of the reactions to perfumes is of particular interest because it relates to the use of EOs as mood-modifying olfactory stimuli. And in fact, in my teachings, I’ve often used the example of perfumers, and their interactions with clients, to exemplify the complex nature of olfactory experience, and the need for an individual approach. Since I’ve learned a lot in my career from texts and people in the perfumery business, I decided I could try. And I wasn’t disappointed. The manual is a manual indeed, clearly stating its purpose, which is to help perfumers-to-be to organize their way into this world, and it delivers it from the very beginning. In fact, the Introduction helps you very pragmatically to use the manual, explaining the content and usefulness of each chapter, and guiding the reader to the right content.

I was impressed by the amount of practical knowledge that was offered in a very professional, and easy-to-understand, way. In general, I liked the use of boxed insights that kept the main text easy-flowing while providing, for those who are interested, more details.

It was really interesting and fascinating to learn the very minute details concerning the day-to-day working of a perfumer. The manual is full of very useful and practical advice from the very beginning, like how to source/buy fragrant material, on how to build your palette, how to take advantage of courses, sample offers, aromatherapy friends and colleagues and so on to experience more material without excessive economic investment.  

Being a manual, with its typical structure and tone, full of practical and technical advice, it still succeeds in remaining readable and enjoyable. The theoretical knowledge and practical competence of the author are evident, as it is the love and joy of talking about fragrances. Being a technical person I was really drawn to it and I wanted to start filling in the questionaries and experience my essential oils from this perspective. And working in extraction and distillation, I really appreciated the recipes and extraction suggestions.

I also liked the fact that synthetic perfumes were not demonized, but the differences and the pros and cons of both approaches were stated.

I liked the way the history chapter was able to convey the fascinating history of smelly substances and the way they were used by men, without being bogged down by too many details. 

And last, but definitely not least, I really appreciated the stress Slobodanka puts on environmental and social responsibility when procuring materials, and on the need to be informed in terms of protected species. I also appreciated the fact that she was very clear about the issue of animal-derived substances, and explained the role and meaning of CITES. The attention to ecology, sustainability and ethics is evident throughout the text, and there’s an entire chapter on Ecology and Sustainability. The ethical element is, in my opinion, part ad parcel of being a natural perfumer or an aromatherapist.

Finally, the author cites a book I love, Burfield’s “Natural Aromatic Materials”, and in fact, I think this manual is a good practical companion of Tony’s text. I sincerely suggest this manual for all those interested in entering the field of Natural perfumery, and I hope to see an Italian translation soon.”

Marco Valussi BSc. (Hons.) Phytotherapy, Consultant to the distillation industry

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