What Does Gay Pride Smell Like?

Every year, millions of people flock to Manhattan festooned in rainbows and feathers and leather to celebrate the annual Pride March in Manhattan. Many of them will traipse down Christopher Street, home of the famed Stonewall Inn, the epicenter of the modern gay rights movement in New York.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what that smells like? What scents waft through the air, mixed with the ever-present aromas of summer in the city?

No? Well, there’s a candle for that. It smells like jasmine and sandalwood.

For $45, Literie is selling “Pride on Christopher Street,” a candle made in collaboration with NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism and marketing arm. All profits — about $30 per candle after production costs, according to Literie — are going to Heritage of Pride, the nonprofit behind the city’s official Pride events. (Literie produced 500 of the limited-edition candles.)

“Most of our candles are very specific scents,” Erica Werber, 42, Literie’s founder and chief executive, said of her fragrance choices. “‘Afternoon in Central Park’ is going to smell like fresh cut grass. ‘Brunch in the West Village’ smells like a mimosa. It was hard to pinpoint what would Pride smell like.”

“I don’t think it’s very specific to, you know, feminine or masculine: I think it pleases essentially anybody,” Ms. Werber, who is straight but said she was “definitely an ally,” continued. “It’s just pretty and bright and lovely, and I think those are all the things that make up what Pride in New York is.”

Ms. Werber is not the only candle maker trying to capture Pride for the olfactory senses.

Yankee Candle’s “Love for All” is a three-wick model touted as “a fragrance of universal love for any and all identities and expressions.” It has a “deep mineral aura” and hints of driftwood and peony. It is on clearance for $10.50. This is not to be confused with Yankee’s three-wick “Love Is Love” candle, which tickles the senses with a “liberating blend of warm woods,” also on clearance.

Williams-Sonoma is offering “Inner Glow,” a candle that comes in a white jar covered with columns of tiny rainbow hearts. “This exclusive candle does more than illuminate — it glows with Pride,” reads the company’s description. Expect “uplifting notes of bergamot and neroli.”

Hotel Lobby Candle has released a Pride candle for the second year. It costs $56 and comes in an iridescent rainbow vessel.

“I was in Provincetown with one of my best friends, who is queer, and we were talking about Pride,” Lindsay Silberman, who founded the company in 2020, said. “I literally said to him, like, ‘What is Pride like to you, if I were to make a candle that smells like Pride?’ One note that kept coming up was citrus, so I kind of took that and ran with it.”

“I wanted it to feel juicy and bright and zesty and vibrant,” Ms. Silberman, 36, added. “That’s sort of, you know, my perspective of what Pride feels like as an ally and advocate.”

She described the candle as “unapologetically fragrant.” Crystallized ginger adds “sassiness,” and passion fruit provides the desired juiciness. There is also a note of “solar musk,” according to the description. What, exactly, is that?

“It was something that we took a little creative license with,” Ms. Silberman said, laughing as she described solar musk as a traditional musk but with an added layer of sun-drenched warmth.

Five dollars from the sale of each of the company’s Pride candles goes to Family Equality, a nonprofit that supports L.G.B.T.Q. families, Ms. Silberman said. Williams-Sonoma and Yankee Candle also advertised charitable partnerships with their Pride candles.

Radek Dockal owns ScentWick Candles, a small company based in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Dockal, who is gay, has a robust line of Pride candles, including specific scents for transgender Pride, bisexual Pride and an array of aromas for different pronouns.

“I’m an L.G.B.T.Q.-owned business, so it was very important for me to reflect that,” he said, emphasizing that he sells his Pride wares all year as part of his company’s standard offerings.

The “They/Them” candle has a base of vanilla and top notes of lemon, while “She/Her” smells of agave and peach. The “Gay Pride” candle offers up a whiff of “ozone,” which Mr. Dockal, 30, described as an airy odor.

Ingrid Nilsen, co-founder and chief creative officer of the New Savant, said her candle company was not releasing a specific Pride scent this year, though it has in the past. Instead, she and the company’s chief executive, Erica Anderson, have opted for what they are calling the “Loud and Queer” bundle, a discounted set of four candles from their existing stock, many of which are inspired by queerness. (Both co-founders are lesbians.)

“Supporting the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q. community is a 365-days-of-the-year effort,” Ms. Anderson, 39, said.

“This isn’t just a time to, like, slap a rainbow on something and call it a day and feel like you’ve done the work,” Ms. Nilsen, 34, added. “What I would love to see with Pride campaigns is people really making an effort to center the queer community and not making it about the people outside of the community who are allies.”

The New Savant’s latest candle, which is included in the Pride bundle, is “Sapphics in the City.” It comes in a silver jar wrapped in a soft pink label that explains the candle’s inspirations, including femme identity, lesbian pulp fiction and Ms. Nilsen’s favorite cocktail, the rosy-hued Clover Club.

What does all that translate to inside your nose?

Muddled raspberries and spicy chili pepper.

Madison Malone Kircher is a reporter for The Times. She writes about the internet for the Styles desk. @4evrmalone

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