Bottling The Smell of Books

Lately I've been noticing that more and more perfume entrepreneurs and fragrance makers are bringing out scents inspired by books and libraries. It's a great idea. I've always loved the smell of a brand new book. I just never thought of bottling it.

The first time I noticed it was in the Assouline bookshop in New York. Assouline is a French publishing company known for its sophisticated high-society books. So it was a surprise to see a new range of candles among the design titles. I couldn't see the retail link. Then I noticed the name.


Yes, that's right, it was a candle that smelled like paper. Or as Assouline put it: a candle that "evoked the atmosphere of your fantasy library and the pleasure of reading..."

Here's the packaging. It's very slick and impressively sparse. Hemingway would have approved.

Then I noticed that Assouline had produced another candle inspired by – wait for it – a library! (Although they called it a 'Culture Lounge'.) Now I haven't smelled this but I presume it's the scent of thousands of books all piled together in a small airless room, many of them gathering dust, with an old leather armchair as the fragrance's 'top note'.

I'm not far off the mark. This is Assouline's description:

These scented candles are each designed to evoke the rich fragrances of a library. Inspired by the distinctive aromas of leather bindings, worn wood, and crisp pages, Assouline candles are the perfect accoutrement to any luxurious library.

If you need even more atmosphere, there's also a leather one and a wood one. 

Burn them all together and you could almost imagine you were in The New York Public Library. 

Or a summer bushfire.

Then I read a story about a talented perfumier in Brooklyn called Christopher Brosius, who owns a fragrance boutique called' I Hate Perfume'. (Nothing like telling it straight up!) Mr Brosius makes a scent called 'In the Library', which smells  – surprise, surprise – like a library!

Now I haven't smelled 'In The Library' but apparently it's quite evocative. One blogger described it as 'leathery and lovely'. (He's obviously been reading first editions. The only leather in my library is the half-chewed shoe my puppy's been destroying for the past week.)

The thing is, these are all really lovely but can they take the place of a real book? I mean, when you're sitting up there in bed with your iPad or your kindle, reading the e version of The Hunger Games on your computer screen and sniffing your Library candle as it sends wafts of paper scent through the room, is it really going to be as good as an authentic book?

I'm thinking of buying the 'Books' candle, just to see.

In the meantime, I wish Mr Brosius would create a really interesting scented candle or fragrance. Personally, I'd really love one that smells like New York – you know; urban-y and architecture-y and fume-y, with a top note of new-clothes-on-sale, the summer grass at Bryant Park, and the ambiance of Balthazar. Now that's a fragrance I'd spray!

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