The current generation are the last to have the opportunity to smell the aroma of paper money, as the £10 and £20 banknotes are soon to move over to polymer construction, just like the £5 note already has.
Admittedly the £50 note may remain paper for a long time to come, as it rarely enters ordinary circulation, but the vast majority of the notes we all handle on a daily basis will be plastic, rather than the current cotton paper.
That means that the aroma of paper money – a combination of the natural scent of the cotton fibres used in making the paper, the smell of the ink used to print the design onto it, and the oils from the human hands that have held it over the years – will soon be a thing of the past.
But while money in circulation will no longer have that same distinctive smell, one world-renowned perfumer has worked hard to capture the unique aroma of paper money and recreate it in artificial form.
Roja Dove was at Guerlain in Paris for two decades, and was recently commissioned to capture the smell of money for a single bottle of perfume dubbed the ‘Cologne de Cash’ in an article in the Sunday Times.
He told the newspaper that the scents that combine to create the smell of paper money range from the mundane to the expensive: “You’ve paid for the Tube or the car park, you’ve handled keys and coins, and you’ve ended up having a bacon sandwich.
“You pay with the £10 note and it’s given in turn to the woman who’s wearing some terribly expensive hand cream.”
Hints of leather and tobacco have also been included into the recipe, to give an authentic recreation of the kinds of scents a bank note might encounter by the end of its lifespan – usually around two years in circulation for a traditional cotton paper note.
The new polymer £10 note has not yet entered circulation, but is due to be unveiled within the next few weeks, featuring Jane Austen – ironically a name closely associated with the paper on which her books are printed – in place of the current Charles Darwin £10 note.
Its official launch date has been set for July 18th at Winchester Cathedral, where Austen is buried, on the 200th anniversary of her death, and those attending the ticket-only event will be the first members of the public to handle the new note.
Polymer notes have their own distinctive aroma too, but it is very different from that of the traditional cotton paper notes.
The smell of a polymer bank note is noticeably sweeter, with an almost waxy tone to it – and its resistance to dirt, stains and other contaminants means it is much more likely that any two notes of any ages will have a much more similar smell to one another than has been the case in the past.
However, when the polymer £20 note is introduced at the end of the decade, it may have a much more tropical scent – as the Bank of England are currently investigating the options to replace animal-derived tallow in the polymer compound with sustainably sourced palm oil or coconut oil instead.