Interview With The Perfume Collector Author Kathleen Tessaro And Book Giveaway

Guest Post by Jordan River


Tonight The Scented Salon is in Vienna.

It is quite a gathering here with Olfactoria and your scented selves. With us is Kathleen Tessaro, the novelist. You may have read her book Elegance about a modern woman who changed her life by reading a French style manual called A Guide to Elegance written in the 1960’s by Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. Before publishing this work of fiction Kathleen was able to meet the now 80-year-old author (still living elegantly in the South of France) of the original style manual that inspired her book.

Kathleen’s latest book could have been named after you, yes, you, and you and you and you; it is called The Perfume Collector. Maybe you will find yourself in the plot as well as in the title.

The Perfume Collecto Kathleen Tassaro book review

We have 3 hard copies of The Perfume Collector to give away courtesy of the perfume loving publishers, Harper Collins.

To enter the draw leave a comment or a question for Kathleen and Olfactoria will then pop your name into Dr O’s top hat. (Editor’s Note: I’ll use the vastly less glamorous, if you don’t mind, Dr O. is very protective of his top hat.)

Let’s chat with Kathleen now.

The Perfume Collector Kathleen tassaro

Welcome Kathleen; you are married with a son, live in Pittsburgh, America and have written 5 novels.


Pittsburgh on a warm spring evening. Photo: Gregg Liberi

We would like to know…what was your first fragrance?

Kathleen: Cristalle!

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector

Jordan: Aha, you dived straight into the deep end of the Perfume Pool! What did you waft in the 80’s and 90’s?

Kathleen Cristalle in the 80’s and in the 90’s Philosykos by Diptyque.

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector Philosykos Diptyque

Diptyque have since updated their bottles. This is what they used to look like in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Jordan: Philosykos is one of my favourites. I prefer the EDT. Do you like the EDP better or do you alternate depending on the circumstance? The new bottle has not yet made it into my collection but it will be nice to have both shapes.

Kathleen: I wear eau de toilette in Philoskyos. Other fig formulations I’ve collected include Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio, Heeley Figuier, CB# 384 Crushed Fig Leaf, and Jo Malone Fig and Cassis. In truth though, I wear mostly the CB# 384 and Philosykos. In the summertime, I’ll use the Heeley to sharpen up light, citrus scents; it adds edge and range. But on its own, it’s terribly full on; better used like punctuation rather than an entire sentence.

Jordan: Do you buy for yourself?

Kathleen: Yes, right now I love CB I Hate Perfume – the entire line.

CB I Hate Perfume

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector CB I hate perfume

Jordan: Now that is a treat when you love everything from one Perfume House. What is their underlying theme or house accord?

Kathleen: I admire I Hate Perfume for both its ethos and the daring of its formulations, which often don’t even pretend to be pretty or pleasing. Examples of this courage include Invisible Monster and In the Library. Christopher Brosius seems to have a vision of scent that moves fluidly beyond the boundaries of gender; more perfume for perfume’s sake than this is what a man should smell like and this is what a woman should smell like. There’s just scent. Some provocative, others soothing, still others comical or playful. I also enjoy the subtlety and delicacy of his olfactory sensibility. My favorite perfume of his at the moment is Eternal Return.



Jordan: Does your partner buy for you?

Kathleen: When I tell him to! He never buys me perfume on his own.

Jordan: That is very well organized. Such obedience is to be admired in husbands. Much better than him arriving home with a scent chosen by a retail perfume-pusher. Those perfume-pushers actively target unaccompanied men in retail complexes.

What was the last fragrance you bought for your husband?

Kathleen: My husband does not wear a lot of cologne, which I appreciate. The last bottle I bought him was Royall Lyme, which he used to wear years ago and still has a soft spot for. In fact, I prefer his natural scent.

Jordan: What are your perfume preferences or notes that you like?

Kathleen: I have a large collection of fig perfumes as well as vintage bottles.

Some favorites.

Fig Favorites in the collection

KT-vintage-perfume-bottles Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector’s Vintage Perfume Bottle Collection

Jordan: What do men smell like in Pittsburgh?

Kathleen: Soap.

Jordan: How about more specifically; on the Metro, at work, out and about, on a date?

Kathleen: More soap.

The Love Angle



Jordan: Kathleen, what is Love?

Kathleen: Love is a verb. It’s an action, not a feeling.

The Gaining of Knowledge

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector

I used to collect first editions. Although battered, here are some of my favorite finds including Henry James, Nancy Metford and Ernest Hemingway.

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector

Jordan: Where and how did you gain knowledge?

Kathleen: Mistakes, mostly.

Jordan: How did you conduct the perfume-related research The Perfume Collector?

Kathleen: This was the most enjoyable research I’ve ever done and has developed into a lasting fascination. I’m lucky enough to travel to New York and London regularly and have the opportunity to visit and learn from many experienced perfumers and collectors.

One of my favorite shops in New York is Aedes de Venustas, where the manager, Miguel, had been incredibly helpful in educating my nose. Naturally I read about perfume production but I was also astounded by the number of websites devoted to perfume and the amazing, lyrical language people were using to articulate their olfactory experiences. I owe a great deal to the inspiration and information they gave me.

Aedes du Venustas Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector

Jordan: Do you think perfumery is art, artisanal, design and manufacturing, molecular architecture or something else?

Kathleen: It can be all of those things, just as food can.



Madonna and Child, Sculpture by Kathleen’s son, Eddie Tessaro.
My son, Eddie, made this Madonna and Child a couple of years ago. I think it’s him and me – note how distressed the child is! – Kathleen Tessaro

Jordan: What is Art?

Kathleen: What isn’t? What is good art is the real question.

Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector Sculpture

I love how appalled this baby is and how oblivious the mother is – Kathleen Tessaro

Jordan: (Lol) Kathleen, what is good art?

Kathleen: Good art defies rigid criteria. It’s easier to chart the affects of it. Good art causes a shift in perspective for the viewer – that could be a challenging shift or simply a new way of perceiving something….one is often haunted by good art; it takes up residence in the imagination. We are not the same people for having encountered it as we were before.

Fragrant Giving

Jordan: Do you and your partner, family and friends exchange fragrant gifts?

Kathleen: Only scented candles – usually by Diptyque. You’re more likely to get it wrong than right unless you know their taste precisely.

Jordan: Is there a person in Perfume Land that you admire?

Kathleen: I adore Miguel Briceno at Aedes de Venustas, in New York. He’s an extraordinary collector and also helps to create their own house scent, but what makes him so admirable in my eyes is he’s incredibly generous with his knowledge and in no way precious or a snob. To me, he’s on the front line of opening a whole new experience of scent to people who never knew this world existed and he does it with true equanimity and style.

Jordan: Kathleen thank your time and pleasant company.

Comments and questions for Kathleen will go into the draw to win 1 of 3 hard copies of The Perfume Collector.

Thank you Olfactoria for hosting The Scented Salon in Vienna and g’schamster Diener to your Dr O.


Jordan River

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

tessaro book

Amazon Kindle edition € 5,55
Amazon Paperback € 9,20

Philosykos – Diptyque

Philosykos Diptyque Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector
Classification: Woody Aromatic
Perfumer: Olivia Giacobetti
Launched: 1996
Top fig leaf, fig
Heart coconut, green notes
Drydown cedar, woody notes, fig tree
Images by Ana Maria Rusu and words by Christos at Memory of Scent
Clayton Ilolahia at What Men Should Smell Like

Cristalle – Chanel
Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector
Classification: Floral Chypre
Perfumer: Edmond Roudnitska & Henri Robert
Launched: 1974
Top bergamot, basil, petitgrain, lemon, galbanum
Heart hyacinth, jasmine
Drydown oak moss, woody notes

Perfumer: Jacques Polge
Launched: 1993
Top mandarin, basil, petitgrain, lemon, galbanum
Heart peach, melon, ylang-ylang, jasmine
Drydown vetiver, oak moss

Review: Victoria Frolova on the EdT and EdP

CB – I Hate Perfume
Tom at Perfume Smellin’ Things – Eternal Return
Victoria Jent at EauMG on Dogs…and CBMusk
Gaia Fisher, The Non-Blonde on CB #106 Invisible Monster
Tom at Perfume Smellin’ Things goes to dinner with 7 Billion Hearts

Royall Lyme – Royall Lyme of Bermuda

Royall Lyme Bermuda
Classification: Cologne
Perfumer: Uncredited
Launched: 1957
Notes Lime, Sugar Accord, 78 ingredients in total
Bryan Ross – From Pygros

Further Reading

A Guide to Elegance
Kathleen meets Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux
A Guide to Elegance Genevieve Antoine Dariaux
1964 Edition of A Guide to Elegance
2004 Edition of A Guide to Elegance
Book Review – The Perfume Collector
Kathleen Tessaro – website


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
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55 Responses to Interview With The Perfume Collector Author Kathleen Tessaro And Book Giveaway

  1. Ines says:

    I see there is a bottle of L’Air de Rien on one of the photos. I guess that makes you, Kathleen, familiar with the line, and there is a fig in there (one I adore) – so do you like Figue Amere too? 🙂

    • Dear Ines,

      I’m ashamed to say that I don’t recall Figue Amere. I was on a real hunt to smell L’Air de Rien and must have passed up that fig as being too much like the ones I already own. More importantly, what do you think of it? Would you recommend it?

  2. Anna says:

    Great interview! I especially enjoyed the definition of good art, how very true! I actually have two questions for Catherine: as a fig lover, how do you find Mugler’s Womanity?

    My second question is related to the wonderful smell of man’s skin. I find it difficult not to wear any perfume and love the different scents. However, I actually prefer my man’s natural skin scent to any perfume on him. Any ideas why? Do you think it is the immunohistochemistry thing (trying to pick up a partner with different immune system makeup) or just the fact that some men just smell amazing!

    • Dear Anna,

      I’m not familiar with Mugler’s Womanity….now I shall have to track it down! What’s your opinion on it? Are you a fig lover too? I must say that I enjoy cold, clear scents, rather than spicy ones.

      As for the smell of your man, the French, who are the most ardent perfume creators in the world, also acknowledge that nothing is more sensual or arousing than the natural odour of one’s lover. The famous line of Napoleon’s to his wife Josephine – “I’m back in three days – don’t wash!” – says it all. If one of life’s great pleasures is smelling good, than surely smelling utterly overblown with longing is even better!

      • Anna says:

        Dear Catherine,

        thank you for your answer. The Napoleon quote is actually a commonly used catchphrase in our household.

        I am not a fig lover (yet), I lean towards orientals and chypres (so a polar opposite to your taste). I got Womanity as a gift and I was surprised to find it enjoyable although it is very different to the stuff I usually wear. It is definitely a love-hate perfume, some perceive it as fresh while others think that it smells like…Josephine waiting for Napoleon back from Russia. On my skin, it’s radiant freshness with some marine notes. Maybe I’ll need to explore the fig territory more in the future.

        • One of the joys of becoming a dedicated perfume admirer is that you don’t have to limit your selection or experience based simply on how certain formulations react with your skin; one is allowed to consider and appreciate notes and accords without feeling under pressure to purchase or ever wear them. I find that very freeing. I spent a whole afternoon in New York chasing after the history of chypre in Aedes de Venustas even though I couldn’t comfortably wear it on my skin. I just wanted to understand what it smelled like. Maybe fig will be like for you…

  3. poodle says:

    I told my husband to buy me perfume while he was away and he asked which one I wanted. I told him to get me something he liked. I will never do that again. It’s good that your husband only buys what you tell him to.
    How long did it take you to write the book?

    • Dear Poodle,

      Longer than it should have is the short answer! About a year and a half. And your poor husband probably got cornered by one of those dreadful perfume sales women in the duty free shop….one has to be nimble to avoid them! What did he bring back?

  4. Nana says:

    awesome interview. so wonderful to get to know Kathleen and I love the vintage perfume bottle collection that she has. My question for Kathleen is: what is your favourite in the Aedes de Venustas own house fragrances?

    • Dear Nana,

      I love the Eau de Parfum….it’s a fresh, multi-layared experience; very individual (anything with tomato leaf in it is a winner with me) and a truly accomplished house scent.

  5. Tora says:

    Wonderful interview! I loved her comment about loving her man’s natural scent, and what makes good art. Anything that can shift the viewer’s perspective, be it visual art, or food, or perfume or literature is such a valuable and much needed talent and skill. I look forward to reading her book. Good questions, Jordan.

  6. I enjoyed reading this interview and look forward to reading “The Perfume Collector”. I am jealous of thos first editions- especially Hemingway.

  7. dremybluz says:

    Thanks for a wonderful interview with the great photos. I especially loved the sculpture her son made her.

  8. FeralJasmine says:

    I read “A Guide to Elegance” back in the 1970s at age 18, and while it didn’t reform me, it did make me think hard about what I was wearing and whether, in a decade or two, I would really want anybody to remember that I wore it. I have chosen my loathes more carefully ever since. Delighted to hear that Madame is still having a good life.

  9. susan says:

    I actually like perfume on my husband – luckily he’s been a very willing guinea pig and now has a mini-collection of fragrance himself! Kathleen, I love your attention to style – kudos!

  10. sophie says:

    I loved Kathleen’s ‘Elegance’! It’s wonderful that she’s exploring the perfume world for this novel. And what an appropriately elegant first perfume in Cristalle.

  11. happyface313 says:

    I loved ELEGANCE and I’d be happy to read THE PERFUME COLLECTOR 😉
    Great interview, interesting lady 🙂

  12. Lindaloo says:

    Great interview, Jordan. I love how Katherine shared personal aspects; her collections, her beautiful, indeed elegant, wedding pictures and her son’s artwork.
    I also appreciate the link to her website — her description there of meeting with Madame Dariaux was very engaging. I’ll be looking for both A Guide to Elegance and Tessaro’s Elegance, as well as the Perfume Collector.

  13. VeniH says:

    If the book is at least half as interesting as its author, then it must be a brilliant book!

  14. laniersmith says:

    I really enjoyed that interview Jordan! I love the book cover. It is so ….Dior!

  15. Rene Groyer (@ReneGroyer) says:

    Where do you find Chanel Christalle these days ?Its scarce and the most incredible fragrance. My favorite too.

    • Dear Rene,

      I understand that Chanel are limiting the availability of the original formula to selected sources and their boutiques only. Apparently the same is true of No 22 and 19. I’m not a fan of Christalle Eau Verte which is more freely available. It’s an exceptionally average summer citrus; firmly pedestrian in its ambition. I found my bottle of Christalle at Schiller’s pharmacy in Shadyside, where they have a gorgeous collection of rare scents – the last one left.

  16. Vanessa says:

    I loved reading this! Am a big fig fan myself. I was particularly tickled by the statement: ‘Those perfume-pushers actively target unaccompanied men in retail complexes.’ So very true..;-)

    And the clay figure had a Munch-like quality, especially the child’s distraught face. Brilliant!

    I have Kathleen’s book and am all the more inspired to read it now…

  17. loved the interview. very insightful!

  18. Nancysg says:

    Vintage bottles and first edition books seems like an appropriate combination.

  19. What a lovely interview! My question for Kathleen is this: what was the one time you had a fragrant mishap?

    • Dear “Smelly”,

      Oh my! The entire 80’s and 90’s were full of them! All those powerful scents – people could smell me coming for miles! And I had a constant headache from my own perfume – Coco, Poison, Opium….argh! What a poor match for a young girl.

      Even the memory makes me shudder.

  20. unseencenser says:

    Thank you for this! I just read The Perfume Collector this last weekend and already recommended it to the husband; looking forward to reading Ms. Tessaro’s other works too.

  21. leathermountain says:

    I love your son’s sculpture! And the whole photo series in this article. Thank you to K and to O.

  22. Pingback: The Perfume Collector Book Giveaway Winners Announced! | Olfactoria's Travels

  23. Marie says:

    Great interview
    I have a bottle of Chanel number 45 (fortyfive) brought back from Europe after WW2. Would
    you have any knowledge of its history? Thank you.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hello Marie,
      Octavian Coifan (of 1000Fragrances) is the man for you. He is a perfume historian with a vast knowledge of by now obscure fragrances. I’m sure he could help you if you contacted him (through his blog).
      What an amazing find though! Congratulations, Marie!

  24. I defer to Jordan’s far greater experience!

  25. Amer says:

    WOW! I’ve been referenced? Thank you so much!
    Great interview!

  26. Pingback: Fiction Writers Review » Blog Archive » The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro

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