The other day I went into my favourite jewellery shop to pick up a repair. The space was wrapped in the most exotic aroma; a mixture of church incense, vanilla and frankincense
“What’s that smell?" I asked the man behind the counter. “Papier d’ Arménie,” he replied, and pulled out a tiny notebook with the most divine printed cover that reminded me of turn- of-the-century drawer liner (presuming there was such a thing).
‘Armenian Paper’ has been produced since 1885 in the otherwise unimportant town of Montrouge in France. Around that time, one Auguste Ponsot noticed that homes in Armenia burned benzoin resin (gathered from the styrax tree and the main ingredient of incense) in their homes – which makes me think that Armenia must be one of the sweetest smelling places on earth. With the help of a French/Armenian perfumer, he invented the papiers.
Small strips of blotting paper are infused with the perfumed benzoin and alcohol substance. The fragrance is released when the paper is burned, a ritualistic task which involves tearing a sheet out the booklet, lighting it and waving it around the house like an Ottoman monk. (The alcohol stops the papers from smoking and they burn much like a cigarette paper does). You can also put them in linen drawers (unlit obviously) or as Wikipedia helpfully points out, ‘tucked between books in your library.’
I bought my Papier d’ Arménie (the rose variety) at my local Natura store. (They were hidden, funnily enough, behind the scented candles). They sell them for 3 euros a ‘book’, though they are cheaper through the company’s website.