Scents and Literature

We explore the power of combining scents and literature. A scent inspired by one´s favorite book will allow them to enter a cherished world by reaching for the perfume bottle.

September 14, 2020

Scents and Literature

The late-summer storms have arrived, the leaves on the trees are beginning to lose their color, and it might be tempting to look for experiences that allow you to keep travelling, that recall memories of other times and places. Two of those experiences that many find most evocative are scents and literature; what better way to celebrate the two than to combine them in a mosaic of impressions?

Scent seems to be a counter-intuitive sense to use in literature: it is difficult to imagine or recall – the Western culture, dominated by visual stimuli, might sometimes make us feel like we have lost touch with our noses.

However, some writers are certainly aware of the powerful ability of scent descriptions to unlock strong emotional responses in their readers, to flesh out a description of a place or character, and to allow the readers’ imagination to blossom in response. There is a personal alchemy at play here, as our scent preferences and literary tastes are so individual, but if a fragrance or its description strikes a chord with our memory, identity or preference, the response can be very strong.





"(...) our scent preferences and literary tastes are so individual, but if a fragrance or its description strikes a chord with our memory, identity or preference the response can be very strong."



There’s nothing that cannot be described by its smell… 


A book which is famed for its preoccupation with perfume and smells is the novel À rebours (Against Nature) written in 1884 by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans. Its central character - the wealthy, eccentric Jean des Esseintes - indulges his refined, sometimes twisted artistic tastes throughout the book, and one of his experiments involves creating perfume. Here is how he describes an encounter with a bottle of Bénédictine liqueur:


¨It distilled an aroma of the quintessence of angelica and hyssop mingled with sea-shore herbs rich in iodines and bromines disguised by sugary matters; it [...] flattered the nose with a smack of rankness enwrapped in a soothing savour at once childlike and pious.”


The reader is dazzled by the rich, voluptuous description, which perfectly summarizes the atmosphere of decadence which des Esseintes inhabits, and into which the reader is invited.


Another book which overflows with scents is The Mistress of Spices by Indian American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (1997). It is the magical story of Tilo, a shopkeeper whose expertise in the mystical properties of spices allows her to help her customers with various complaints and worries. Tilo describes her spices, their flavors and scents with such familiarity and passion, in a language of such intimacy and knowledge, that we can’t help but believe that they do have the power to heal, bring happiness and abundance. We are transported into Tilo’s world of ritual.


Let the last example be a true feast of scents: Philippe Claudel’s Parfums (Parfums: A Catalogue of Remembered Smells, 2012). This is an autobiography told in smells, a fragrance-lover’s must-read – we follow the life of the French author who uses smells as signposts of childhood, love, freedom, work, home. The language is poetic, yet grounded in the author’s memories; the book creates the impression that there’s nothing that cannot be described by its smell, that someone’s whole life really is distilled into those 63 essences, such as “Hotel rooms”, “Suntan lotion” or “Coffee-roasting”.


Books – a perfect inspiration for your next perfume


Books and scents: both can take us to places we have known and loved or introduce us to worlds we could not have imagined. To create a scent based on a favorite book would be a beautiful exercise in making those journeys so much more real.

Could that romance based in Provence be recreated by combining Zesty Citrus and Relaxing Aromatic, with a drop of Aromatic Lavender?

Or perhaps you would like to keep revisiting that dreamy account of travels across Japan with a mix of Green Citrus and Creamy Wood?

You needn’t keep this magic power of instant travel all to yourself: the gift of a scent created with the Scent Creator and inspired by a loved one’s favorite book will allow them to enter their cherished world by just reaching for the perfume bottle. The possibilities are endless, and a whole world of delights awaits.





We explore the powerful ability of combining scents and literature to unlock strong emotional responses. A scent created with the Scent Creator and inspired by one’s favorite book will allow them to enter another world by just reaching for the perfume bottle.