The Library of Fragrance
This is the first time I’ve reviewed a brand rather than a single perfume, and it may be the last, but there’s a reason for that. The Library of Fragrance describes its products as ‘Simple. Subtle. Singular Scents. Each Day. Everywhere’, and I wouldn’t quibble with any of that, other than the word ‘subtle’, which not all of the fragrances can really claim to be.
There are over 300 scents to choose from in the full range, and most of them are based on a single idea, from Apple Pie to Wet Garden. They’re cheap, cheerful and, above all, intended to be fun: something to spritz with or spray into the air for a quick hit, whether it’s as conceptual as Moonbeam, as simple as Mango or as playful as Play-Doh or Paperback.
I like them a lot, since they’re a reminder that perfume can be silly and fun as well as sexy and sophisticated (and occasionally pretentious and pestilential). They’re a great introduction to the world of fragrance, especially for anyone who can’t afford to spend £80 a time, and some of the conceptual scents are genuinely interesting – Dirt is deservedly popular, as is Snow and Thunderstorm.
Given their price compared with the stratospheric cost of top-quality raw materials, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend their takes on so-called ‘naturals’ like Neroli or Iris, but The Fragrance Library makes no great claims for its ingredients, unlike some brands that really should know better. The bottles are small (30ml or 1 fluid ounce) and the perfume concentration is low, between 2% and 8%, which in industry jargon counts as a ‘cologne spray’, but then in the UK they currently sell at just £15 a time. Part of the range can now be found in larger branches of Boots, which I think is great, and the rest is available online.
Some of the scents I’ve mentioned may sound familiar, and that’s because they used to be available in the UK under the Demeter brand, which was founded in Pennsylvania in 1994 by the maverick perfumer Christopher Brosius, who’d previously worked for Kiehl’s. Demeter’s early fragrances included Tomato, Dirt and Grass, and the brand quickly gained a cult following, in Britain as well as the USA, but management disagreements led to Brosius leaving in 2004 to set up on his own as CB I Hate Perfume. Demeter is still going strong in the USA, but because of trademark restrictions it can’t use the Demeter brand name in Europe– thus The Library of Fragrance. Start exploring it here.