April 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM ET
You may now have Grand Canyon National Park in your bathroom, Denali National Park in the kitchen and American Samoa National Park in your den. Not the parks themselves, of course, but their scent, because in honor of National Park Week (April 20-28) the Air Wick fragrance product company and the non-profit National Park Foundation (NPF) have rolled out a new set of National Park Collection candles, oils, automatic sprays and reed diffusers with scents said to be inspired by “the unique flora and fauna” of six of the country’s national parks.
“There are over 400 national parks in America to discover and explore, each unique in its own right,” said an NPF spokesperson. The parks featured in the new collection “engage consumers and offer a variety of seasonal scents.”
Those parks are: Grand Canyon National Park, Hawaii’s Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Virgin Islands National Park, the National Park of American Samoa (the only national park south of the equator) and Denali National Park in Alaska.
And while the NPF receives some of the proceeds from sales of the national park-scented products, at first whiff the partnership strikes some as a bit odd.
“With many kids content to not even go outdoors, much less experience the parks, do we need new efforts to replace real park experiences with idealized commercial substitutes for fresh air?” Kurt Repanshek wrote in National Parks Traveler magazine when the initial licensing agreement was made.
But the National Park Foundation hopes the air freshener line increases awareness of the national parks and “inspires families to experience the parks first-hand.” And Air Wick’s perfumers are confident they’ve created fragrances that evoke these iconic destinations.
Fragrance experts walked the parks, studied how visitors use and view the national parks and, using “headspace” technology, took air samples from the parks to capture the scent molecules at specific locations.
“We can capture a scent anywhere; a flower in the jungle canopy or the air sweeping over the alpine meadows of Yellowstone,” said Richard Koontz, home fragrance manager for Reckitt Benckiser, which produces Air Wick.
“Those ‘olfactive bits’ can be put on a map and reconstructed by a good perfumer,” global scent expert Roger Schmid told NBC News, “And if the work is well done you can recreate a scented trail that corresponds to the geography of a park.”
Koontz said Air Wick’s fragrance experts created “aromascapes” of the parks by using a mixture of scents. “For Grand Canyon National Park, we worked from a headspace of an actual cactus flower, so we could be sure the final creation was authentic and true. The perfumer added a touch of citrus to make it sparkle, like dew on the cactus flower, cool marine notes to evoke the rapids in the Colorado River, muguet [Lily of the Valley] and a touch of white peach – just for beauty and harmony.”
Tropical plumeria and sweet honeysuckle were used in the aromascape of Virgin Islands National Park and coconut and island palms were used to evoke American Samoa National Park.
“These air fresheners are usually not that expensive, so the rendition could be difficult,” said Schmid, “But what is certain is that scent is linked to memory and can make you travel.”
For those that want to experience - and smell - a national park in person, National Park Week runs through April 28 and a wide variety of special events such as birding tours, living history encampments, talks and walks are scheduled at parks throughout the country. From Monday through Friday, April 22 to 26, every national park is offering free admission.