In the mid-1990s, a maverick fragrance brand got us thinking about scent in a whole new way. Launched in 1996, Demeter – as it was known – set out to create fragrances which captured all the amazing smells which surround us day after day, and which ‘are too often under-appreciated in our busy, pressured, multi-tasking world.
Skip forward to today, and there’s been great excitement since the brand launched under the name The Library of Fragrance in the UK…
From the word ‘go’, though, the scents were a smash. Notwithstanding the understated packaging, the original trio – Dirt, Grass and Tomato – launched at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and flew into stylish handbags city-wide.
In reality, the fragrances are not simply recreations: they’re complex ‘interpretations’, evoked through clever perfumery. A tomato smells delicious – but would you want to spritz it behind your ears? Probably not. And that’s the genius: the scents in their own right conjure up smells that are familiar to us, but weave them into something wonderfully wearable.
As soon as they launched, then, journalists loved them. Scent aficionados adored them, finding that the fragrances helped reconnect them with their senses. And all manner of people found themselves catapulted back through time and space: we were lying on the ground staring at a cloudless sky while Dad mowed the lawn, or making mud pies, or (in our Co-Founder Jo Fairley‘s case), being introduced to the entire scent universe by her granny, rubbing tomato leaves between her fingers in a slightly crumbling greenhouse.
For millions of devotees, these scents are a way to time travel. And (unlike many fragrances), what you smell – at first sniff – is what you get; the fragrances are ‘linear’, expressing their nature immediately, without changing over time. (Contrary to our general advice about fragrance then, if you smell a ‘Library‘ tester and you love it, feel free to snap it up right away – without worrying that you’ll have fallen out of love with it by next morning…)
Mark Crames (left) – who’s run fragrance companies since 1986 – now owns and runs Demeter, and explains: ‘There’s so much evidence that our strongest emotional responses are to our sense of smell… It’s the way we’re wired. Consequently, smelling idealised versions of even everyday objects like “Dirt” or “Tomatoes” can bring back intense feelings associated with those objects…’ Mark’s own additions to the collection are among the most-loved bestsellers: Baby Powder, Pure Soap and Clean Skin.
You’ll find the scents all over the world – from Paris to Moscow. And in the UK, The Library of Fragrance – as it’s so aptly-named here – brings together all manner of scents and smells in one place where you can while away many a happy hour exploring. With around 100 different fragrances in the UK alone, there’s something for everyone – whether you’re nostalgic for the scent of Play-Doh, (who isn’t?), like the nose-tingling freshness of a Gin & Tonic, or whisk-you-to-the-Caribbean Piña Colada.
As if The Library of Fragrance in itself wasn’t fun enough, we’re encouraged to layer, to make new scent combinations – making perfumers of all of us. Try Patchouli with Wet Garden, for a lush, earthiness: like a walk outdoors after a rainshower. Just for fun, blend Stable – which has notes of fresh hay, ‘a hint of muck’ and a touch of sweet animal sweat – with the whip-crack of leather that is Riding Crop.
Or maybe layer it over Saddle: ‘the unbridled scent of well-oiled, worn, warm leather…’ We won’t ask questions about who you might gift Cannabis Flower to – but you might want to follow with Chocolate Chip Cookie…?
The Library of Fragrance positively invites creativity. But if you like your fragrances a little more traditional, there are plenty of those, too. Think: Jasmine. Think: Cherry Blossom. Think: Bulgarian Rose. All beautiful evocations of those flowers – and all eminently layerable.
Others conjure a spirit of time or place – or even weather. As blogger Sailor Jennie commented about Thunderstorm, ‘The Library of Fragrance has somehow managed to perfectly capture the scent of fresh rain and gloomy clouds. How? I have no idea, but it’s really quite amazing.’ (Meanwhile The Perfume Society picked the perfectly complementary Pina Colada and Salt Air for our Jet Set Discovery Box…)
Since it’s possible to layer three or four for your perfect ‘customised’ scent, the potential perfumed permutationss are – wait for it – at least 268,435,444! This is perfumery at its most fun – and its most personalised.
So we invite you into The Library of Fragrance. We think you might be there for some time…
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