Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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!


  1. Oddly enough, my favourite candle of all time is called 'embrace' and evokes the scent and feeling of a catholic mass, as the priest walks up and down the aisle with a cup of burning incense...puts me right back to Italy and
    I love it. Sadly, they stopped making it. I guess I was the only one who liked it. Next to that, it is cut grass for me but it must be grass from New England. Ah, what a fickle soul I am.:) Love Assouline books...more sighs ..:)xx

    1. Oh Jeanne, that sounds divine. (So to speak!)
      I'd love a 'Cut Grass' fragrance from New England too. Or a 'Summer Afternoon At Martha's Vineyard' one.
      (The Nantucket one would be too expensive, I'd suspect!)
      Janelle xx

  2. Mmmm, the smell of books. I was watching something on TV the other night and the commentator said "the great thing about a Kindle is that you don't have the musty smell of old books." Well, he's obviously not a book lover...and I shouted at the TV telling him so. Even the Assouline candle packaging is gorgeous.


    1. Hi Sharyn, Lovely to see yoou again. Yes, Ioved the packaging too. Assouline are so clever. They design all their products in sexy packaging, so it sucks you in. Their books could be blank and I'd still feel compelled to buy them for the covers!

  3. I think they will have a hit with that candle. I love their selection of books. I am reading on my Kindle your La Vie Parisienne and I love it! I feel the same way that much of the beauty and uniqueness about Paris is in the details and the appreciation of the beauty around Paris--I took many photos of the pretty door knobs in Paris.
    Love your blog

    1. Oh thank you Marie! How lovely of you to confess. I do hope you continue to enjoy it. (It gets better towards the end!)
      Thank you again for your kind words.

  4. That is *so* intriguing, Janelle! My word, I think it will be a hit for them. Fascinating. J x

    1. Hi Jane, Thanks for popping by, especially when you're so busy! So lovely to 'see' you again. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your project ideas. You have such energy and intelligence and vision, I'm sure you'll be a huge success!
      Janelle x

  5. An absolute necessity as you sit reading your kindle!!!!!!

    1. Maybe that's what Assouline are counting on? That we'll all buy them for our iPads and Kindles...?
      janelle xx


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