Between high school and college, I spent a year abroad.
Despite the fact that I hadn’t started LARPing yet, it was probably the best year of my life. On our last night, one of the staff members of our program gave everyone a tiny bottle containing something lemon scented (lemon extract, maybe) with a preserved lemon blossom inside. (The bottles are placed over the buds before they bloom, creating a ship-in-the-bottle effect.) He said scent is one of the most powerful triggers for memory and that he hoped the scent inside the little bottle would remind of us our year abroad.
I have the blossom-in-the-bottle tucked away in a drawer. And when I open it and sniff it, it takes me right back to that hotel function space where we spent our last evening of the year, sitting on the floor, talking about our year, creating some kind of art projects to commemorate it, and listening to music with nostalgia-themed lyrics (“Summer of 69,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Glory Days,” etc.)
I’m getting all misty eyed here.
The point is, that particular lemon scent doesn’t just trigger a memory. For me, it triggers a strong sense of being in that other place, in that other time, with all the emotions that came with it. Of being that person who has just had the most incredible year and wants to hold on to it forever, someone who is trying very hard to remember the Dr. Seuss quote, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” That effect of the scent is very difficult to describe. It’s unquantifiable.
And it’s an effect that I think could really enhance a LARPing experience. I know several LARPers who are into Black Pheonix Alchemy Lab, or BPAL as it’s commonly known, a company that lets you order and sample a variety of geek and esoteric themed scents by mail, and match specific scents to their characters.
So after getting some recommendations from fellow LARPers, I visited a store in Salem, MA called A Beautiful Corset. (Corsets being their primary merchandise. I thought about asking to try one on, but they actually only do that by appointment.)
The lady at the store had worked with LARPers before, so I told her a bit about Quill, my Cottington Woods character, and she gave me various scents to sniff and combinations to try. I knew I wanted something that both evoked the youthful, girlish idea of a doll, as well as its mechanical, artificial nature.
The ingredients of the perfume ended up as follows:
Almond oil and apricot oil as the base-I picked these mostly because I liked them better than the other bases, and they were subtle, light, clean smells, which is what I usually prefer.
Black tea and white tea – these were heavier, slightly smokey scents that smelled a bit like I imagined a workshop where Quill was first built would smell. I also associate dolls with little girls hosting tea parties. It’s sort of built into Quill’s nature to enjoy tea parties.
Lime – a tiny hint lime scent made it smell a bit more clean, like soap, which sort of evoked the artificiality of the character. Also, I just liked the way it smelled in combination with the tea.
Pink – this scent was designed to evoke cotton candy. It smells very sugary sweet and youthful.
I kinda forgot that I originally wanted a scent reminiscent of old books with leather binding, because that would probably be a scent that was very familiar to my character; she worked in church libraries for awhile, learning to read and illuminate books. Luckily, I think the black and white teas create a somewhat leather-like smell, and the vanilla in the pink might evoke that old library books smell, especially when combined with the hint of acidic lime. I read an article online that the old book smell has been described as ““a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” But maybe I’m just projecting what I’m hoping for onto the actual perfume.
Altogether, I like the final scent a lot, though it is a bit heavier than what I would normally choose to wear. Which is probably a good thing, because this isn’t meant to be my scent, it’s meant to be my character’s scent.
They had fancy little perfume decanters for sale, but I decided not to get one because they couldn’t be sealed, and I need this perfume to be able to travel easily.
I dabbed a bit on my wrists and the nape of my neck twice at the Cottington Woods event, and found myself sniffing at my wrists now and then. I was pleasantly surprised with how long the scent lasted. Since it has only been one event so far, it doesn’t yet have the strong association with Cottington Woods and trying to put myself in my character’s persona yet, but if I can convince myself not to sniff the bottle’s contents between events (and, ideally, not need too much bug spray during events,) it will hopefully develop that strong, specific association.
I suppose I should give the perfume a name, maybe something besides just “Quill” but I don’t know what. Someone suggested, “My Little Golem” but to me that’s a bit non-specific. There are several golems in game. (Including a scarecrow, by the way, who smells like hay, grass, and dirt.)
Anybody else ever try to use scent in LARPing?