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Thursday 23 January 2014

Perfume Stories: How to smell like a library

Scent is a powerful and, let's face it, rather odd thing. Dior's Hypnotic Poison transports me back to the summer I took my GCSEs. The smell of Malibu and coke takes me straight back to the west coast of France and falling in love for the first time. Gucci Pour Homme... well, it's best we don't talk about the effect that has on me. I'm fascinated by the inspiration behind perfumes. There might be a scientific element to them but there's also a story. And sometimes, those stories are inspired by stories themselves.

Let's start off in the library itself. We've mentioned In The Library before. CB Perfume also have a scent called The Invisible Monster, inspired by an episode of Jonny Quest. Amazing. I'm also a huge fan of the True Grace Library candle - it's all whisky, smoke, leather and old books. Frankly it smells sexier than any library really should.

Miller Harris have created their own perfumer's library - Lyn Harris' collection is drawn from her 20 years of perfumery - the five scents in the range are inspired by her childhood and personal memories.

Cire Trudon are no strangers to the evocative power that scent has - their fairy tale sets are so adorable. Light the candle while reading Jack and the Beanstalk and be transported to a fantasy world that smells of crisp beans and springtime. The sets are £56 from Browns. They've also got a candle inspired by the Dada movement. Smartarses.

Damn, that's a sexy bottle, isn't it? It's part of the Les Parisienne's collection by Guerlain, which has been released in Harrods. To be released in the UK very soon is the much sought-after Liu, the long discounted and sought-after scent that was first released in 1929. It's named after its inspiration - the slave girl who dies in the Puccini opera Turandot.

A little more direct now: Frederic Malle was inspired by the Henry James novelPortrait of a Lady (mmm, lovely bottle). It's peppery and floral and very heady indeed. In short: I like it. It's something I imagine grown-up me wearing. Maybe then I'll be able to afford it - it's £200 for 100ml.

Oh, hey. You know what's inspiring? Dead writers. That's what. You can smell of eau de deceased scribe with this scent from Sweet Tea Apothecary on Etsy. The scent description is a lot more appealing than the name.

Perhaps a little less blunt is Jardin d’Ecrivains's Wilde perfume. It may be inspired by a dead writer, but this is much sexier packaging. It's £75 from The Conran Shop.

E'tat Libre d'Orange are mad about perfumes inspired by literature. Charogne gets full marks for oddness. It's inspired by a Baudelaire poem. In the poem the narrator compares his lover to a rotting animal carcass that he saw on the side of the road. No, wait, it's romantic and heartbreaking! It's about something being too beautiful and too perfect to last for anything but a brief time. This translates into a perfume that smells animalistic and of rich leather and forest. That's loads of brilliant small talk for £59.50.

It's not all about fancy literature and sexy rotting flesh, their fabulously-named Fat Electrician scent is inspired by the film Midnight Cowboy (and why the hell not?) And I'm very excited about Like This - it's inspired by the fabulous Tilda Swinton. Sara named her cat after Ms Swinton. She's a very inspiring lady. (I personally think she'd be more touched by the naming of the cat.)

Let's take a moment to give French perfumers everywhere a massive high-five. They're all about the dark literary thoughts and sexy inspirations. Case in point is Poudre de Riz by Pierre Guillaume. I'm going to try and ignore the damn ugly bottle. The perfume itself it based on the 1907 novel L'enfer by Henri Barbusse, specifically this line: “the air in the disordered shuttered room was heavy with a mixture of odours: soap, face powder, the sharp tang of cologne...” Guillaume wanted to capture the scent evoked by that line and their "fucking. Not making love, but fucking. You understand the difference?"

I like this guy. He tells it how it is.

If ever there was a woman to have a perfume created for her, it's Audrey Hepburn. Hubert de Givenchy created L'Interdit for his muse in 1957. And now Galaxy use Creepy Computer Pixel Audrey for their shitty chocolate adverts.

The last word in perfume inspiration, brilliantly, goes to The Fraggles. No, really. There's Boober with his own perfume which is described as "a fretfully clean scent: freshly-washed laundry, linden blossom, soap suds, and a sprinkle of vanilla." Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab are hugely popular over the pond. If Fraggles don't float your boat then you might like their Alice in Wonderland collection (this is exactly what I think caterpillar perfume should smell of). Or their Neil Gaiman scents. Anyone fancy smelling like Coraline?

It's a really tough call between rotting carcasses and Fraggle Rock but I think I might have to dance my cares away.


  1. Damn you DS!! I can see me having to spend a millionty pounds on the ENTIRE Neil Gaiman collection...and then we'll talk about Alice, Labyrinth, get the picture! Ah well, at least when I'm evicted for not paying my rent I'll smell delicious! :)

  2. Thanks so much for the BPAL love. ;-) I'll pass it along to Beth!

    1. I'm truly astonished by the creativity through the whole range!

  3. If, like me, you're ridiculously curious about all these amazing smelling things, you can usually get hold of samples or little 'decants' online for (obviously) an awful lot less. Ebay is obviously one place to find such things, as are reputable perfumeries like Les Scenteurs and Bloom. (Both in London, but they do mail order samples.)


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