A Great-Smelling Space

You know when you go into a place that smells so good, you wish you could bottle up that aroma and take it home with you? Maybe it’s a boutique that sells your favorite candles, or a florist, or the reading room in your library, or the corner bakery, or perhaps the smell inside that church you visited in Italy. Maybe it’s the place where they sell your favorite fragrance.

There’s a store here (pretty sure I mentioned it awhile ago) that sells high-end hand-carved home furnishings – things like massive, asymmetrical $6,000 tables made from tree trunks, and huge carved onyx bowls and light fixtures. I like to go in there and wander around, and they’re super nice about it.

I’ve always loved the way the store smells. I could tell it was some kind of room spray, and every time I went in there I’d ask about it, hoping to find out what it was so I could go buy some. Allegedly the owner concocted it, and maaaaybe they’d sell it someday … apparently I wasn’t the only person who asked. It’s a great scent, kind of warm and cool and spicy all at the same time.

I went in recently for my usual look-around, and – lo and behold – there were bottles of scent spray on the counter! They’d decided to sell a limited amount to see how it would do. It was $40 for one ounce in a cute matte black bottle, manufactured (according to the label) in nearby Tesuque, New Mexico. It’s not a bad price for a parfum d’ambience, and a great price for a perfume.

I admit I was a bit confused at first, because it starts off bigger and sweeter than I expected, since what I smell while wandering around the store is the drydown. The top is somewhere between fruity and floral – “Sexy Papaya” makes sense. It’s got that overripe-fruit thing going on with a hint of a skanky undertone, which I have a high tolerance for, YMMV.  It’s allegedly a blend of essential oils in an alcohol base, the only two notes I remember are clove and vetiver. That top settles down after 20 – 30 minutes and it’s the same ambient smell I remember from the store, simultaneously sweet and green and earthy. It’s a big scent even in the drydown, with excellent sillage and longevity, I can smell it on my skin and clothes a day later.

I can’t think of any other fragrance it reminds me of, and I find it entrancing. The closest description I can come up with is: it’s the smell of an old kitchen or workspace, something with a lot of wood, and there’s a wooden bowl with really ripe fruit, like papaya* or mango, sitting there, and the spice drawer is open nearby. I’d describe it as “a good smell” kind of perfumery rather than something wildly exotic, and even though it’s a room spray I’ve been wearing it on my person, and my arm hasn’t dropped off. I was warned that it has a tint and not to spray it on anything light-colored, although I didn’t pour any out to see for myself, I’ll take their word for it.

If you could wave your perfume wand and have a scent of a place, what would it be?

*not gonna lie, I think a split papaya with the seeds looks kind of … freaky. But I didn’t realize until today that some people think they smell terrible, like stinky feet or vomit, due to a chemical called papain, which is (fun fact!) used as a meat tenderizer, among other things. To me, papaya smells like mango’s slightly funkier cousin, and I think it’s delicious.

images via Pexels (and my own bottle photo)

  • Koyel says:

    I think papaya smells like poop (literal poop), but I am so glad that this scent you’ve been longing for has finally been purchasable!

    • March says:

      Hahahaha, well if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that fragrances are a veeeeery individual taste! And thanks, I was thrilled.

  • ElizaC says:

    I’ve always wanted to bottle the scent of going to my favorite restaurant/bar. It is located on the hill climb directly underneath the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Before you go in, the smell is concrete steps, salty air from being near the downtown waterfront and just a hint of car exhaust. Once in the restaurant, you smell lilies at the front and then the deep, wood smell of a classic wood bartop with a background of food and booze scents.

  • Musette says:

    I also use (and when I can’t buy/find my favorite, I make) papaya skin oil – it’s wonderful for the face and poitrine – really softens my skin. And since I love the smell of papaya it’s a W for me.

  • Musette says:

    I LOVE this post, March! There’s a furniture shop in Evanston, Shaker Traditions that smells/smelled (it’s been yonks) divine – they carry/carried a rose-based poutpourri, which they tucked into the drawers of their furniture and when I bought my dining table and hutch from them they put a bag inside one of the drawers because I loved it so!
    30 years on the potpourri is gone, of course – but the scent is still there in the drawers and typing this, I realized it’s still lodged in my Scent Memory.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, I can just picture that and how it would smell, I am sure I would love it, potpourri and all! It sounds like a perfect scent memory.

  • Dina C. says:

    I’m so glad your nose is cooperating and you can smell this scent! I love the smell of libraries and book stores.

    • March says:

      Me too — maybe partly because my childhood house had a LOT of books so it always had that library smell, and we also spent a lot of time in libraries and bookstores. The library here is old and smells wonderful, especially in summer for some reason.

  • Kathleen says:

    My favorite store scent was a home decor store in Dallas that sold their own signature candles. I can’t recall the name of the shop now. I purchased many of their candles over the years when going back to Dallas to visit. Unfortunately I haven’t been back in quite some time. I need to research if they are still open. I also love the scent of sun-warmed pine needles when hiking. I’m not a fan of papaya the fruit as I get the odd scent and taste. Next time I’m in Santa Fe I’ll visit the home furnishings store and hopefully they will have their room scent.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, that hiking-in-conifers smell! I love that smell, one of my favorites. There are a lot of big conifers in my neighborhood (which I think is sort of odd!) and occasionally on summer days I get a whiff of it. And there’s a home furnishings store here that sells a lot of candles and it smells fantastic! Maybe your candle place has a website.

  • alityke says:

    Love mango, ripe papaya is pure vomit. Gak!
    Fragrances found in the wild I like are the scent of home after a day out. This usually includes something savoury from the slow cooker, doggy paws, lemon wood polish, my spice cupboard, Mysore sandalwood & Dove soaps. It is welcoming but I wouldn’t want to wear it

    • March says:

      It’s so funny, the ways our homes smell so unique. I always think it’s interesting, going into the homes of friends. Your house-smell sounds lovely.

  • cinnamon says:

    I love both papaya and mango and the way they smell. I am having a hard time thinking of an indoor place of smell though I used to love the outdoor NYC fruit and veg areas as they mostly smelled of ripe fruit. I guess the most evocative place smell I’ve ever experienced was the herbal melange — oregano, thyme, rosemary and lavender — scent of hills in Greece experienced decades ago (not been to Greece since). I still remember mentioning it to my then husband who, having been to Greece quite a number of times, explained it.

    • March says:

      I would love to smell that hills-in-Greece smell. I think I had a similar experience once in Italy, it was a very herbal melange in the heat and sun, it was wonderful.

  • Maya says:

    I cannot think of an scent of place that might translate into a perfume. I do agree with you on the smell of papaya. I’m guessing that I would like Sexy Papaya more as a room spray, but you never know. Fruity perfumes (on skin) are not a favorite, though I have been warming up to them lately. A sniff test would be needed.

    • March says:

      I like a fruity perfume on occasion, as long as they don’t have extra sweetness like marshmallow or something. I like the drydown best on this one.

  • Tom says:

    I’m not sure I can pinpoint a particular place I’d like mine to smell like: i.e. “the tobacco section at Harrods”. I tend more towards “a forest before a thunderstorm” or “a large library on an autumn afternoon”. But this seems great. If they get bombarded with inquiries from all ove are they going to freak out?

    • March says:

      They had a bunch of bottles and I doubt there are that many people walking in who’d want to buy some, you’d have to be one of us weirdos haha. I also wouldn’t be surprised if that ripe fruit at the top puts some folks off.

  • Michael says:

    I know this store well, and it does smell great! I’ll be back in Santa Fe in a couple weeks and will go have a sniff.

    • March says:

      Oh, enjoy! It’s on my regular route to the Plaza and they’re always SO nice when I stop in and never buy a giant piece of furniture.

      • Musette says:

        decades ago, Metropolitan Home did a piece about how those giant pieces of furniture usually only work in the ONE place you buy it for – unless you are upsizing even more! A ginormous sofa that looks perfect in the family room of a McMansion doesn’t even FIT if you downsize to a 3BR ranch.

        • March says:

          I totally agree — most of their stuff I couldn’t even fit into my house! But a big, open showcase home here could probably make it work…

      • Michael says:

        And Collected Works across the street, it’s a twofer!

  • Tara C says:

    I cannot abide either papayas or mangoes because of that vomit smell. Ugh. As for bottling a place scent, nothing immediately comes to mind since the two ambient smells I love, church incense and bakeries, have both been done many times over.

    Although I will say the I still haven’t found the perfume that recreates the delicate scent of pine needles and ocean air I get out hear on the north atlantic coast of Canada. That would be lovely.

    • March says:

      It’s interesting, the subtle variations on that outdoors-with-pines smell. In the mountains is different than by the coast, Maine vs. California, etc. Love that kind of smell.

  • Shivawoman says:

    Oh good grief, now I want that room spray. The way you describe it sounds so unusual and different. I do think their name is waaaayyy off. I mean papayas are totally sexy, but I can’t take the name seriously. Maybe “Scent Sculpture” or something to go with $$$ home furnishings. At any rate, I’m jonesing for a scent I’ve never smelled!

    • March says:

      I totally agree about the name! Given the store’s vibe, I’d have expected something like you suggest, or maybe something majestic like Sequoia (which is the man’s name if you look on the bottle.)

    • Tom says:

      I know what you mean- I want it too!

      • March says:

        It’s always fun to discover a new scent you really like and don’t own five similar things already!