The Perfumes of Dorian Gray: Scavenger Hunt for Scents

Watercolour sketch by Alastair

Watercolour sketch by Alastair

Now that I have completed the series of scents referenced in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I thought it would be fun to track down perfumes that best match the references. It’s quite a list, and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Let’s take a look at what I need to hunt for…

Chapter one: The scene is set with the scent of rich roses and Lord Henry’s chain-smoking. Lilac, honey-sweet laburnum and pink-flowering thorn are also mentioned. After a bit of research, I believe that pink-flowering thorn is pink quince, which is said to have a fruity smell.

Chapter two: a cool, calming lilac

Chapter five: a timid orris root fragrance

Chapter seven: a heady lily (lys) scent

Chapter ten: brain troubling incense

Chapter eleven references quite a few. Ideally it would be one perfume that has all of the below, but I doubt it exists:

  • A mystical frankincense
  • Passion stirring ambergris
  • Violets of long dead romances
  • A brain troubling musk
  • An imagination stirring champak or magnolia
  • Sweet smelling roots
  • Pollen-laden flowers
  • Aromatic balms
  • Dark and fragrant woods
  • Sickening spikenard (spikenard is said to have a warm, herbaceous scent)
  • Maddening hovenia (hovenia is a plant native to Japan that is reported to be a great hangover cure – always good to know)
  • Melancholy-expelling aloe

Chapter fifteen mentions two scents: Dorian’s Parma violet boutonniere and the smell of burning leather from the clothes he burns later in the chapter.

Chapter eighteen: revitalizing pine

Chapter nineteen: an avant garde white lilac perfume


It seems that I have a lot of samples to hunt down, but I love my little smell related projects. I’ll post updates as I make my selections. Stay tuned!

Illustrations throughout by Alastair (Baron Hans-Henning von Voigt), my favorite Decadent period illustrator, found on


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