If I ever need a pick-me-up I go to a stationery store. Logic is gone and I rarely write on paper anymore, but the ranks of writing tools and notebooks are comforting and lately I need to be reassured. So I found myself at CW Pencil Enterprise last Sunday and was greeted by pencil enthusiast and shop owner Caroline Weaver. After a brief purell, I eagerly began picking up pencils, examining the different colors and shapes of each, and imagining what it would feel like to use them for italic bows. Anyway, that was before I saw the scented pencils. The pencil smell is amazing, but I’d never wondered if it could be improved. When I started turning a package in my hands, Weaver explained that these pens actually had a funny story – their business is one of the few in the US that offers them.
The pens are made by Viarco, the only pencil manufacturer in Portugal. It was founded in 1907 when a Portuguese politician asked a French engineer to make Portugal a worldwide pioneer in writing tools. They opened a factory together and were successful for about a decade – after that Portugal entered the First World War and was then badly hit by the Great Depression. The business stagnated until the 1930s when it was bought and reinvigorated by a famous hatter to diversify its profile. His family built a legacy that made the kind of innovative (and often bizarre) pens that Viarco still makes today. Some of their inexplicable current offerings include pencil tips for your fingers, pressed blocks of pigment like colored pencil soap bars, and those scented pens that are perfumed by soaking the wood in essential oils. The collection is titled Quintais e Jardins de Portugal, which translates as “The backyards and gardens of Portugal”. Weaver told me that she tried to request certain fragrances (specifically a rose wrap “because it’s the state flower of New York”) but Viarco refused. The collection is said to smell like Portugal, and apparently Portugal smells like jasmine, lily of the valley, peony, orange blossom, lavender, fig and nothing else.
I got the fig smell because I’m a sucker for that bright green cutie – Diptique Figuier is probably my favorite candle, and Premier Figuier Extrême from L’Artisan Parfumeur is heavy on my spring / summer fragrance rotation. Weaver told me that some of their clients like to put the pens in a jar and leave them in their bedroom to scent the air diffuser style. But I prefer to use them for actual writing – if I put one to my nose between sentences, I alternately get a whiff of those delicate fig tree notes and a leathery smell that must be the wood itself. I wish someone could bottle the combo so I can give the Vicaro treatment to any surface or object, but at the moment fig sticks are my weekday treat. If only I could have used one to write this review.
Photo via ITG