Scent of a Story

I don’t ever wear perfume—it always feels heavy and strange to me—but I just discovered I Hate Perfume, the website of perfume designer Christopher Brosius, and now I am captivated.  He quotes Longfellow in his bio, he apparently used drive a cab, he’s happy to make you a personalized scent. Frankly, he had me at Longfellow, but it only gets better from there.

One of his perfumes is called A Room with View, which includes in it, among other things “a torrent of violets.” If you read on, you discover that the inspiration for the perfume is drawn from “one of my favorite E.M. Forster novels.” I love this man first for having more than one favorite E.M. Forster novel, and more still because the favorite named isn’t A Passage to India.

Brosius tries to capture in a perfume the scent of a Memory of Kindness from his childhood. Of a night in Winter 1972.

How do you capture the spirit of a winter night forty years ago in a perfume? How do you bottle “A field of untouched new fallen snow, hand knit woolen mittens covered with frost, a hint of frozen forest & sleeping earth?” I don’t know, but I’d love to find out.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to capture something like scent not in a bottle but on the page. How do you give a reader an experience that truly engages the senses using only words? For me, it doesn’t come all that easy, but I’m working on it. I admit that I’m much better on the visual and tactile than I am on things like smells and tastes—though I fear that this has as much to do with my lackluster sense of smell than anything else.

As with everything writing-related, it’s a work in progress. But I might order myself some Black March perfume (“A fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring”)—inspired by the Stevie Smith poem by the same name—to get the creative juices flowing.