Monday, October 17, 2011
still-sound 11. Papier d'Armenie
Lisa, (the same Lisa who brought me to the Sun and Doves pub as mentioned two blogposts ago) introduced me to several interesting things. We shared a studio in Whitechapel a few years after finishing art school. One day she came by after returning from a trip to France and gave me a packet of Papier d'Armenie. She explained that you rip one of the fragrant strips off the pack, fold it into an accordian, light an end and blow it out. You place the smoldering strip on an ashtray (back then people still smoked so ashtrays abounded). I would describe the scent emanating from the smoke as that of burnt paper but with a distinctive powdery vanilla twist.
Armenian Papers were developed in France some time in the 1800s. Apparently the tradition of scenting and sanitizing a room by burning bensoin resin had long been established in Armenia, hence the name. The papers themselves are coated with this resin. The papers are found in all the pharmacies of France. They are usually not on display - you need to just know about them. I presume most French people do just know about them. That they are found in les pharmacies makes me think that they belong to the old-school world of science and sanitation rather than to the fashion and beauty world of scented candles and parfums d'ambience. They have a practical, even healthful function.
When Rob and I moved into the house in Long Beach we painted one of the bedrooms. Strangely the paint itself or the dampening of the walls created a faint pee smell. Rob assigned me the task of tackling the odor. I thought of the papier d'armenie but had none and didn't think I'd be able to find any on short notice. I managed to find an Italian equivalent at the Santa Maria Novella perfumery. They were significantly more expensive than the French drugstore variety but I bought them because I thought they would effectively resolve the bedroom-odor situation. The Carta d'Armenia come as separate strips housed in a red box. The papers are quite thick - their weight and size make them look more like old fashion tickets, perhaps to a regional Italian train line. They are more difficult to fold, accordian-style because of their thickness. Perhaps they should be used as tickets to regional Italian train lines. Sadly the carta d'armenia did not neutralize the smell in the bedroom. Nothing did...except time. Maybe six weeks later the odor seemed to disappear completely.
Francis Kurkdjian, a celebrated French-Armenian perfumer based in Paris recently came out with updated versions of the papier d'Armenie. They do not smell of bensoin. They are scented with Kurkdjian's own perfume blends. Strips are thin and perforated to aid in the accordian-fold procedure. They burn beautifully and quickly fill a room with an intense, pure perfume.