Some olfactory pampering while navigating chaotic roads replete with ill-mannered drivers and dodgy potholes

How do you like your car to smell? Automobile-like with notes of leather and gasoline? The clean scent of nothingness? Or of vanilla and chocolate? Besides olfactory benefits, an automobile perfume has some potential road-safety benefits.

A 2015 study at Universiti Teknologi MARA (Malaysia) indicated that lavender- or vanilla-scented car fragrances helped drivers remain calm. Another 2015 study at Institut Teknologi Bandung (Indonesia) found that peppermint fragrances held promise in increasing driver’s levels of alertness. Compliments from impressed dates or friends as they step into your car are always welcome.

Car fragrances are big business too: the market research firm Grand View Research estimated that the North American market size for car air fresheners is expected to reach almost $1 billion by 2022. However, perfuming your car is slightly more complicated than you’d imagine, with half-a-dozen different techniques and numerous options. Here’s a short guide to help you make sense of it.

Static fragrances

They are containers of perfumed material that you place somewhere inside your car, scenting the cabin through static diffusion. Technically speaking, these are avoidable on the dashboard, as they act as projectiles in an accident, so try and place them elsewhere. The main drawback with these type of fragrances is that the regulation mechanism is only mildly effective, and the fragrance diffuses into an overpowering cloud when you park under the sun on a hot summer day. If you want to stop the fragrance from spreading, the best option is to just pop the lid back on, tightly.

My Shaldan has a loud projection of natural-smelling citrus. They claim to use essential oils extracted from hundreds of orange and lemon peels. ₹305, Amazon.in, Flipkart.com

Areon Ken Black Crystal has a fragrance-infused jute block that slowly releases subtle notes of coffee and vanilla. ₹305, Amazon.in, Flipkart.com

Godrej Aer Twist is an upstart in the space, featuring a capsule design with sleek glass bottom, and a slightly flimsy plastic top which twists open. Try the soothing Petal Crush Pink and the vibrant Fresh Lush Green. The Musk After Smoke is for those apparently looking to mask the odour of cigarettes. ₹322, godrejaer.com/twist

AC-vent-clip fragrances

These refillable devices clip onto the vents of your car’s AC, and rely on the air-flow generated to circulate the fragrance. Your mileage with the refill varies with the AC fan setting. The larger devices do obstruct the air-flow to some extent, and like their dashboard cousins, the regulators are mostly ineffective. Try Godrej Aer Click, ₹224, godrejaer.com/click; Ambi Pur Car Air Freshener, ₹299, amazon.in; or Cartoon Auto Air Vent, a range of coin-sized silicone superhero vents with a little puck of perfume inside, ₹99, aliexpress.com

Plug-in diffusers

Powered by the 12 V cigarette lighter socket, these diffusers spray a small amount of fragrance at a set interval. You change the frequency of the spray in settings, and the perfumes are refillable. They’re fairly resistant to static diffusion, and only work when you turn the car on. If you find the sprays a bit distracting while driving, try using the sockets at the back or with an extension-splitter. There are several products available in the ₹400-500 range on amazon.in. In addition, there’s Ambi Car Nature (refillable with solid perfumed nuggets) that plugs into your 12 V socket but diffuses the fragrance more discreetly. ₹799, amazon.in; and Air Wick Freshmatic, a battery-powered diffuser you can place anywhere in your cabin, ₹505, amazon.in.

Hanging fragrances

Little Trees may well be the world’s first mass-market car fragrance product. The story goes that sometime in 1952, an aggrieved milkman in Watertown, New York, grumbled about the stench of spoiled milk in his truck to Julius Samann. Samann, a German-Jewish chemist, had fled the Nazis to study alpine tree aromas. The chemist tried to find a solution by infusing pine tree aroma into absorbent paper, and later filed a patent for a perfumed tree-shaped paper cutout, which could be dangled from the rear-view mirror.

This American classic also retails in India (₹569 for a pack of 3 on Amazon India). While not as redolent as perfume liquid or gel, there is an old-school charm to these Little Trees. You can also hang a small potpourri pouch, a bag of perfumed beads or a fragrance amulet (read further) for a similar effect.

Spray-on fragrances

If you are using a lighter fragrance or a mist, try spraying some into your AC-vent before you start the car, or simply dab some on a piece of cotton and leave it in the door. For more durability, spray or dab perfume oil on fabric or any material in your car that’ll absorb and retain the smell, without discolouration. Try the fabric coating on the roof, or your dashboard mat, or the spare wipe-cloth that you stuff under the seat. Avoid the seat, as it may rub off on clothes. Olor Luxuries’ Aqua Citroso Mist (created by Delhi-based indie perfumer Mridul Chopra, ₹200, email mridul@mridulsfragrances.com) is light citrus-spicy and leaves an inoffensive sillage in the cabin.

Source: Scent and sensibility

Random sensory quotes

The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about – or as a ritual like filling up a car – but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon

— Anthony Bourdain