If you've ever lived in France, you've encountered those weird little green and yellow notebooks made of sheaves of blotting paper, in three perforated strips: the Papier d'Arménie. They're folded up into accordions and slow-burned to chase noxious smells: the benzoin they contain is antiseptic.
Papier d'Arménie was invented in 1885, but still sells well in French drugstores. In 2006, to celebrate the Year of Armenia in France, the brand asked perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who is himself of Armenian descent, to create a limited edition of this cult product.
At the time, I'd made a mental note of finding some. Then I forgot. I only stumbled today on some old stock at a local pharmacy, got a couple of booklets, forgot about them again while running other errands, wondering all the time what sample they'd put in my bag that smelled so damned good.
It was, of course, my Kurkdjian Papier d'Arménie. The stuff is so deliciously pungent that it's filling up my fairly large living room. And it's not even burning. The strangest thing is, although it lists incense, myrrh, benzoin, wood accords and vanilla, it smells mostly of the heaviest, most redolent Casablanca lilies, when you've got a huge bouquet in full bloom and the blossoms drip with honeyed, almost meaty fragrance.
Oddly, today is the 400th anniversary of Quebec city, where my own ancestors come from. And the flag of Québec bears four fleur-de-lys, i.e. lilies, the emblem of French Royalty. I call it serendipity. Either that, or an olfactory hallucination.
If you can find it, run, don't walk, and snap it up.
I'm buying the whole stock at my local drugstore.
Image: Papier d'Arménie, courtesy of http://capu-aboutnothing.blogspot.com/