Before wearing Paper Passion1 I sniffed a lot of books and paper. I sat in front of my bookshelves and wedged my nostrils between many pages. I don’t think contemporary paper has much scent; what I did smell on occasion (especially in art books) was a mild chemical odor (inks?) I did get a definite aroma from watercolor papers — the scent of wet animal fur. Finally, I sniffed a falling-apart edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time that was printed in the 1980s (I’m saving the wreck because the pages might make a neat lampshade or “collage” screen); the rough pages were not printed on archival paper (they’ve yellowed and become brittle). Sniffing the Proust and other “old” books I realized that cheap, wood pulp paper smelled the best — vanillic, woody-acidic.
Paper Passion opens with a quick touch of osmanthus “bud” (neither too fruity nor floral) and balsam of copaiba (woody but with a cool “bite”). The musk in Paper Passion’s base is super-light and almost undetectable but complements the overall vanilla-wood character of the perfume. I do smell “old books” as I sniff Paper Passion — there’s a definite musty vibe. The longer you wear the fragrance, the more you’ll smell like your granny’s huge, disintegrating 100-year-old family Bible, or bungalow-sized (silverfish-infested) volume of The Complete Shakespeare. Paper Passion is a well-blended fragrance, and it smells one-dimensional: all ingredients play their part to create the overriding “book accord.”
Paper Passion is unisex and has excellent sillage and lasting power. Paper Passion has no “character development” to speak of — it smells, almost from the beginning, like the extreme dry-down of a sweet-ish wood fragrance; in 10 minutes it presents itself as if it’s been on skin for hours. The almost non-changing nature of the fragrance makes it “tedious” to wear (for me).
I would categorize Paper Passion as a “collector’s scent”…a novelty perfume in interesting packaging. Paper Passion’s literal/“literary” qualities don’t appeal to me at all. Now, if Paper Passion scented a candle I might be tempted.
After I reviewed Paper Passion, a friend2 suggested I compare it to another “literary” fragrance: In The Library by CB I Hate Perfume.
In the Library is described in CB I Hate Perfume PR as “a warm blend of English Novel, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.” Perfumer Christopher Brosius was inspired to create In The Library after smelling a rare book printed in 1927; he appreciated the “warm woody slightly sweet smell” emanating from its pages.
In The Library opens with a sweet accord — an accord that brings to mind vanilla-tonka bean-beeswax; there is no acidic “edge” or hint of decay/disintegration as there is in Paper Passion. Floating beneath In The Library’s sweet opening notes are glimmers of wood, maybe some light tobacco?, and the aforementioned leather (incredibly light) and “wood polish” (a mild, resinous/honeyed note with a hint of what smells like clove). Paper Passion is a more realistic take on books/paper, but I find In The Library more enjoyable to wear — “cozy” and more natural smelling. Compared to Paper Passion, In The Library is restrained: the lasting power is good and the fragrance stays close to the body.
CB I Hate Perfume In the Library is available in perfume absolute, 2 ml-15 ml ($12-$90) or in water perfume, 100 ml, $75. For buying information see the listing for CB I Hate Perfume under Perfume Houses.
1. Paper Passion was developed by perfumer Geza Schoen in collaboration with publisher Gerhard Steidl and Wallpaper magazine; the notes include osmanthus, copaiba balsam, amber accord, air accord, paper accord and musk accord.
2. Robin here at NST.
Note: top image [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.