The best books about aroma and flavor

Stan Hieronymus Author Of For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops
By Stan Hieronymus

The Books I Picked & Why

The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession

By Chandler Burr

The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession

Why this book?

Chandler Burr eases readers into the complex world of our most mysterious sense, smell, through the eyes of Luca Turin. Turin began collecting fragrances as a lark, wrote a book reviewing the world’s perfumes, and came up with a theory about how smell works. He thought he could win a Nobel Prize. That he didn’t hardly matters, because his quest whets my appetite for more books on the topic.


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What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life

By Avery Gilbert

What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life

Why this book?

This is also a book about what the nose doesn’t know, dispelling myths as well as digging into what scientists actually know in words non-scientists can understand. It is interesting to learn that blind people do not have enhanced powers of smell. It is positively illuminating to read, “Odors are perceptions, not things in the world. The fact that a molecule of phenylethyl alcohol smells like a rose is a function of our brain, not a property of the molecule.”


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Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells

By Harold McGee

Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells

Why this book?

Harold McGee, known for his books on cooking, brings molecules to life in Nose Dive. The book truly is a field guide, with tables throughout listing the source of aroma compounds, the components smell, and the responsible molecules. For instance, looking at molecules explains why Europeans might think American garden strawberries smell more like pineapple than strawberry. Nose Dive is also inspiring. “When we nose an intriguing flower or finger a leaf or sip a cola, and take the time to sniff repeatedly and searchingly for component smells, we experience their qualities more fully than when we smell with brain on autopilot,” McGee writes.


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Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters

By Gordon M. Shepherd

Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters

Why this book?

Gordon Shepherd gave the developing science of neurogastronomy – which studies how the human brain perceives food from the information processed through smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing – its name. A leading expert on olfaction, he is perfectly qualified to draw the link between aroma and flavor, and why Luca Turin would claim that smell provides 90 percent of what we taste. His description of the importance of retronasal smell, and the mechanics involved, turned a term that was fun to toss around tasting beer with friends into a revelation.


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Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense

By Bob Holmes

Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense

Why this book?

In Neurogastronomy, Gordon Shepherd likens smells to human faces, writing that they are easy to recognize but hard to describe. In Flavor, Bob Holmes introduces readers to a small tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers in Malaysia, the Jahai, who have more than a dozen words to describe smells, none of which relate to the smell of any particular object. Vocabulary, he writes, is something we can learn with little effort. His experiences with chefs, gastronomy experts, and food scientists may inspire readers to find personal vocabularies. In the end, he writes, “What’s important is that coming up with a description forces me to pay attention and paying attention enriches my flavor experience.”


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