Monday, 16 July 2012

If You're Going To Criticise Someone's Work...

Yesterday, The Observer published Rachel Cooke's review of Jean-Claude Ellena's new book. Sadly, her appraisal did little more than remind me that mainstream media really shouldn't tackle the subject of perfume unless they're 100% confident they know what they're doing. In my hastily-written response to the newspaper, I stated that Ms Cooke is entitled to her opinion on the merits of Ellena's prose, but that she could have ventured beyond just one 'expert source' for an assessment of his perfumery.

"Then again," I wrote, "seeing as Ms Cooke was determined to stick to Turin and Sanchez, the least she could have done was to read their Guide thoroughly. Ellena's L'Eau D'Hiver is most certainly not the only perfume that 'passes muster' in their opinion. His Acqua Di Parma Colonia Assoluta is awarded four stars and is praised for its 'interesting' drydown. Un Jardin Apres La Mousson (also four stars) is called 'excellent', 'delightful' and 'completely convincing'. His Osmanthus for The Different Company (again, four stars) is a 'wonderful ... protective genie ... which hasn't failed me yet.' And, in complete contradiction to the claim made by Ms Cooke, Ellena's Osmanthe Yunnan is actually awarded five stars and is described as 'beautiful from start to finish, distinctive, impossible to improve, unforgettable, unpretentious and the best of Ellena's work for Hermès."

Infuriatingly, I neglected to mention Declaration, a creation which Turin applauds as nothing less than "superb".


PS Ms Cooke has sent me a reply in which she states that she stands corrected about Osmanthe Yunnan. "For some reason," she writes, "it slipped my mind that this was one of his scents."

PPS I'm still working on my write-up of last week's Ellena book launch in London; I hope to publish it here within the next fortnight or so.


  1. Good on you - I found the review quite infuriating especially as it raised Turin and Sanchez to the status of gods in order to criticize Ellena's work and seemed to be quite unaware of so many things in the current perfume debate that are more interesting than sticking to a pocketful of old Guerlains (gorgeous as they may be). I certainly don't like everything that Ellena's done and dislike his haute minimalism, but give me a bottle of Eau de Campagne (a perfume Turin and Sanchez curiously fail to review considering its relatively high profile) and my joy in living is affirmed.

    1. Gimmegree, thanks for writing. I don't know LT and TS, but I suspect even they wouldn't appreciate being called infallible.

      But yes, like I said in my letter, if you're going to claim that someone's work is unimpeachable, then you should at least take the time to read it.

  2. Also misleading is this quote: 'First is "humourless", and the Vert "hard to love".' But both First and The Vert are given four stars, and the latter is called "truly original" and "very impressive." (And First, clearly, is not *meant* to be funny.) If she thinks Turin and Sanchez are "unimpeachable" then why does she twist their words?

    1. Elisa, thank you, I confess I hadn't even bothered to re-read their reviews of First and The Vert. Silly me for thinking that Cooke had represented them accurately.

  3. I fear this is one of those cases where trashing something makes better copy than praising it - and accuracy is an optional extra. Sadly this seems to be quite a common view of the world as experienced through mainstream press.

    1. Chris, thanks for writing. I think I know what you're saying, but I stand by my assertion that Cooke is entitled to say that she didn't enjoy Ellena's book. I'm certainly not criticising her for being critical. After all, I too have published my fair share of negative reviews on this blog.


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