Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Published by
Riverhead (2014-10)
Original language
Lifestyle, Hobbies & Leisure


The Secret Life of Scent

by Aftel, Mandy

This book by an internationally celebrated artisan perfumer explores nature’s most primal scents and their connection to the appetites that make us human.

Widely acclaimed as a trailblazer in natural perfumery, Aftel has spent over two decades sourcing the finest aromatic ingredients from all over the world, creating artisanal fragrances, and advising on the transformative power of scent. In Fragrant, through five major players in the epic of aroma, she explores the profound connection between our sense of smell and the appetites that move us, give us pleasure, make us fully alive.
Cinnamon, queen of the Spice Route, touches our hunger for the unknown, the exotic, the luxurious. Mint, homegrown the world over, speaks to our affinity for the familiar, the native, the authentic. Frankincense, an ancient incense ingredient, taps into our longing for transcendence, while embergris embodies our unquenchable curiosity. And exquisite jasmine exemplifies our yearning for beauty, both evanescent and enduring.

In addition to providing a riveting initiation into the history, natural history, and philosophy of scent, Fragrant imparts the essentials of scent literacy and includes recipes for easy-to-make fragrances and edible, drinkable, and useful concoctions that reveal the imaginative possibilities of creating with—and reveling in—aroma. In fact, the interplay between food and scent is a hot new area of exploration for chefs and mixologists, with whom Aftel regularly collaborates. Interest in the science of scent is at an all-time high and this book is poised to do for scent what Michael Pollan and Alice Waters did for the food/locavore movement. Vintage line drawings throughout.

Mandy Aftel is an internationally known artisan perfumer and the author of six previous books, including Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume, which has been translated into seven languages and won The Sense of Smell Institute’s Richard B. Solomon Award. She has participated in many exhibitions, panels and conferences concerning scent, has demonstrated and taught the art of natural perfumery across the nation, and regularly collaborates with top-name chefs and mixologists. Her work has been featured on CNN and countless blogs, and in The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, In Style, Time, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, W, Self, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Elle, among many other publications.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Sebastian Ritscher

Available View on Rightsdesk



...fall’s most compelling tome of highbrow nonfiction by a Berkeley author…an authoritatively voiced, utterly fascinating, fact-laden look into the surprisingly complex world of scent.

Review: San Francisco Magazine

Reading Mandy Aftel’s thoughtful and charmingly written Fragrant, I was taken on a journey of intrigue and fascination that operated on all my senses. Who knew there was so much to learn about the human affection for smelling good? Or, indeed, for the adventure of smelling itself.

Quote: Alice Walker

Sumptuous and gorgeous… I want to give [Fragrant] to every woman I love.

Quote: Sophie Uliano

Romanian: Baroque Books & Arts

Quote: client

Aftel is a skillful storyteller, and the dreamy quality of her writing will transport readers as they come to understand that scent is ‘one of the most accessible yet irreducible experiences of magic that we have.’…Evocative, heady and overflowing with history and lore.

Review: Kirkus

A Botany of Desire for scent.

Quote: Michael Pollan

Fragrant is a thoughtful, beautifully written meditation on scent; I love that Mandy is both intrepid researcher and sensualist, with an innate gift for storytelling and an abiding curiosity in the provenance of her ingredients. This book vividly shows how the aromas of the natural world have the power to open the pathways to our minds, guiding and defining our traditions, our history and our future.

Quote: Alice Waters

A valuable recent addition to the perfume nerd’s informational arsenal… Reading her book makes a person wearing perfume feel connected to every human in every era who has ever done so.

Review: Bookforum

Mandy Aftel's seductive Fragrant plumbs the power of ancient and exotic smells to ignite desire, discovery, and transcendance.

Review: Vanity Fair

Mandy Aftel has been tutoring my nose for many years. I've been lucky enough to make regular pilgrimages to her perfume studio to smell with her through the hundreds of materials in her collection, to browse in her wonderfully eclectic library, to be informed and inspired by her passion for scent in all its forms. In Fragrant, she distills that passion into an eloquent account of the forgotten stories of nature's aromatic materials, the pleasure and meaning that they've given to people through the centuries, and simple ways of bringing those riches back into our own lives.

Quote: Harold McGee, New York Times columnist and bestselling author of On Food & Cooki

In this sensuous and profound exploration of the history, science, and art of perfume, expert perfumer Aftel (Essence and Alchemy) seduces readers with an sensualism that only intensifies as her stories unfold

Review: Publishers Weekly starred review

intriguing! (September issue fragrance feature)

Review: Food&Wine

Aftel’s vast knowledge and passion for perfumery are on full display here, and her personal anecdotes read like an old friend sharing a cherished recipe. … Strongly recommended for casual readers interested in the basics of scent and perfumery.

Review: Library Journal

Riveting and indulgent. [Fragrant] is a like a well-crafted piece of fine art, or a gourmet meal. You want to savor every single word on every single page.

Quote: The Girl Who Knows

A Life Lived with Common and Uncommon Scents In her new book, "Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent" noted perfumier Mandy Aftel follows her nose to odd corners of the globe - and into near-forgotten chapters of history - to explore the world's "rock-star scents." Yes, one of them is whale waste. by Rico Gagliano

Quote: NPR

More like this