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  1. #1

    Default Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    I really appreciate the excellent advice I've received here on woods (Tam Dao is fantastic; Sycomore works beautifully for me) and classic chypres and every other question I've ever posed. Now I need some help filling a couple of very specific scent descriptions from a couple of my favorite writers. The first is John Updike, describing a scent encountered in a moment of solitude:

    "The window was open a crack, and a canted pane of glass lifted outdoor air into his face, coating the cedarwood of pencil shavings with the transparent odor of the wet windowsill."

    Is there a fragrance that fits this description? I would think the prevalence of cedar in the past decade would make it easy to find a few possibilities, but the transparent odor of the wet windowsill, which is indeed distinctive, may be tough...

    The second passage is from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, in which he discusses a scent encountered at night, again in solitude (I mention this because I think it affects the perception of the fragrance):

    "The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante's paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn."

    I imagine any perfume that would be conjured up by this passage would be a niche fragrance, as it seems hardly the stuff of mainstream perfumery, but I could be wrong. Suggestions for finding this aroma in a bottle?

    Also, I'd love to read other literary references to scent that haunt you or inspire you to seek out a perfume that fits the writer's description.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    T
    Last edited by TRBeck; 10th February 2010 at 05:02 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Great thread topic. I'll have to think of some passages from my own experience to add.

    For yours, I'm not a juniper fan so no help on the Abbey, but Updike's cedarwood pencil shavings is often (both lovingly and disparagingly) leveled at Gucci Pour Homme (one of my personal favorites--the original, not GPH2). I get not just cedar, but smoldering incense and mineral graphite along with leather and cool, rooty orris that might be mistaken for a "wet windowsill" if one were so inclined. Dzongkha has even more iris along with cedar, incense and leather (and none of the amber in the drydown).
    Last edited by Antaeusintheair; 10th February 2010 at 06:12 PM.
    I offer you perfume,
    More for its pleasure than for yours;
    You perfume perfume.

    --Anonymous Ancient Greek Love Lyric

  3. #3

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Other frag suggestions which might fir this description:

    Knize Forest
    Opus 1870 by Penhaligons

  4. #4

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    I very much share your question about burning juniper. Cones of juniper pitch are a favorite incense and I'd love to be able to wear something similar. Juniper notes are so disappointingly short-lived in perfumery, it seems, whereas the smell of juniper smoke in a room can linger for days.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken_Russell View Post
    Other frag suggestions which might fir this description:

    Knize Forest
    Opus 1870 by Penhaligons
    Not sure if that's an intentional pun on conifers or not, but I like it. The Knize is a good suggestion, but not quite smoky enough I think. Oddly, though I've tried many others from Pen's, I haven't used Opus 1870.

    Thanks for the other suggestions, too, everyone, and of course keep 'em coming. I have Gucci PH, and it works for the pencil shavings but I'm not so sure on the windowsill. I once tried Rochas Pour Lui, and I'm wondering now if I'm remembering it right; it may be an answer.

    Regards,

  6. #6

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    About Opus 1870: while I don't get much fir or juniper in it, and while it's not too smoky either, it has a distinct resinous-woody-sappy, also a peppery-dry spiced, slightly earthy quality to it. At least to my nose, something maybe not identical to forest smells, but rather suggesting a literary rendition of a dreamlike forest (if this ever exists), even combined with notes of pencil shavings, moist wood and cedar.
    Last edited by Ken_Russell; 10th February 2010 at 08:43 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    One of the members of the Serge Lutens "Bois", especially Bois de Violette. Avignon also comes to mind, for some reason.
    If fragrance has a gender, so does all art.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    no suggestions but thanks for a most thought provocative thread

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Don't you just love well-crafted prose? I too rue the ephemeral nature of juniper notes. Perhaps not juniper smoke but IMO no one does 'woodsmoke' better than Laurie Erickson from Sonoma Scent Studio. I recommend these 2 in particular:

    Winter Woods
    Notes: guaiac wood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss, castoreum, amber, labdanum absolute, vetiver, ambergris, musk.

    Fireside Intense
    Notes: guaiac wood, nagarmotha (Cyperus), Himalayan cedar, Texas cedar, Indian sandalwood, agarwood, birch tar, cade, leather, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, ambergris.
    Last edited by Diamondflame; 11th February 2010 at 02:37 AM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Try D.S & Durga's Juniper.
    Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them. - Immanuel Kant

  11. #11

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Updike used writing about the nose better than anybody, but he didn't do it about commercial fragrances that I can remember or have spotted. Thus it's hard to find a fragrance that will be the smells that he has gathered and recorded from smelling out in the world.

    Check out this great paragraph, the first one in his short story "In Football Season" which I have in his collection, The Music School.

    "Do you remember a fragrance girls acquire in autumn? As you walk beside them after school, they tighten their arms about their books and bend their heads forward to give a more flattering attention to your words, and in the little intimate area thus formed, carved into the clear air by an implicit crescent, there is a complex fragrance woven of tobacco, powder, lipstick, rinsed hair, and that perhaps imaginary and certainly elusive scent that wool, whether in the lapels of a jacket or the nap of a sweater, seems to yield when the cloudless fall sky like the blue bell of a vacuum lifts toward itself the glad exhalations of all things. This fragrance, so faint and flirtatious on those afternoon walks through the dry leaves, would be banked a thousandfold and lie heavy as the perfume of a flower shop on the dark slope of the stadium when, Friday nights, we played football in the city."
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    James Lee Burke is also pretty descriptive about smells (and everything else). I need to go back and find some good passages. Great Thread.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Nice one there, DustB. Assuming the tobacco comes from the guy, of course...

  14. #14

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondflame View Post
    Nice one there, DustB. Assuming the tobacco comes from the guy, of course...
    Second best, I kinda wouldn't mind thinkin' it comes from smokin' in the girls room, DF!
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Literary Scents...suggestions and examples

    Quote Originally Posted by DustB View Post
    Updike used writing about the nose better than anybody, but he didn't do it about commercial fragrances that I can remember or have spotted. Thus it's hard to find a fragrance that will be the smells that he has gathered and recorded from smelling out in the world.

    Check out this great paragraph, the first one in his short story "In Football Season" which I have in his collection, The Music School.

    "Do you remember a fragrance girls acquire in autumn? As you walk beside them after school, they tighten their arms about their books and bend their heads forward to give a more flattering attention to your words, and in the little intimate area thus formed, carved into the clear air by an implicit crescent, there is a complex fragrance woven of tobacco, powder, lipstick, rinsed hair, and that perhaps imaginary and certainly elusive scent that wool, whether in the lapels of a jacket or the nap of a sweater, seems to yield when the cloudless fall sky like the blue bell of a vacuum lifts toward itself the glad exhalations of all things. This fragrance, so faint and flirtatious on those afternoon walks through the dry leaves, would be banked a thousandfold and lie heavy as the perfume of a flower shop on the dark slope of the stadium when, Friday nights, we played football in the city."
    You're absolutely right that he didn't really write about commercial fragrances, but I'm trying to get at the idea that a perfume might exist that would contain the notes described in some of these types of passages, not so much a literal translation.

    That said, I love the passage you quoted, and I think there must be some scent that would be the "fragrance girls acquire in autumn." It might not have all of the "notes" mentioned, but its impression or effect might be equivalent.

    Fantastic addition to the thread.

    Regards,
    T

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