Whispers in the Library is a recent addition to the Maison Martin Margiela Replica fragrance collection; it "evokes the memory of a mysterious library made of antique woodwork perfectly waxed. The slowing down of time between books and the whispers of turning pages." Its remembered or imagined setting is "Oxford 1997" and it's categorized as an "oriental woody" scent for men or women.
I've spent a significant portion of my adult life in libraries — in graduate school, during dissertation research, and in various jobs — and I love the idea of a perfume inspired by libraries and old books. However, it's already been done. In 2012 Kevin reviewed two perfumes for book-lovers, Wallpaper/Steidl Paper Passion and CB I Hate Perfume's In the Library. (I'm very fond of the latter, dating back to 2000, "a warm blend of English Novel, Russian and Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth and a hint of wood polish.") At the high-priced niche end of the spectrum, we also have Byredo Bibliothèque; at the affordable end, Demeter Paperback; somewhere in the middle, Commodity Book.
So, what does Whispers in the Library bring to the (book-stacked) table? Its listed notes are black pepper, cedar and vanilla. It starts off slightly boozy and androgynous. The pepper gives the smooth cedar an edge. The vanilla accord is mild, initially, and it later becomes more prominent and takes on a maltier quality. Whispers in the Library begins as a piquant woody blend and ends up as a quiet gourmand, more conventionally feminine than it was in its opening stages. The vanilla is there for a thematic reasons, I'm guessing: in 2011 the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers shared the results of a 2009 scientific study about the smell of old books, revealing that the organic polymer lignin, "which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.” (Or maybe someone just thought that this fragrance would sell better if it had a vanilla note somewhere in the mix?)
Whispers in the Library has low sillage and average longevity on my skin. It feels a bit "front-loaded," starting off competently enough and then losing my interest. It would be suitable for the office or, yes, even the library; but why bother, when there are already earlier and stronger variations on this theme? For me, there isn't anything particularly wrong about the Replica fragrances. But why bother with Lipstick On when you could have Lipstick Rose, or spend time on Funfair Evening when you could enjoy 4160Tuesdays What I Did on My Holidays, etc., etc.? Perhaps I'm not the target audience — but as someone who loves perfume and libraries, I can't help having an opinion on this one.
Maison Martin Margiela Whispers in the Library is available as 100 ml ($126) or 10 ml ($28) Eau de Toilette.