Norse-ty niffs – historic aroma packages trialled to bring Vikings smells home | JORVIK Viking Centre

Explore the Jorvik Group

Explore the Jorvik Group


The unique combination of Viking-age smells is one of the most memorable features of any visit to York’s JORVIK Viking Centre, and this summer, for the first time, history enthusiasts can recreate the unique aromas of a Viking settlement in their own home in a pilot scheme using the world-famous smells developed for the Viking-themed attraction.

“For over 30 years, the smells of Viking-age York have assailed the nostrils of visitors travelling around our recreation of 10th century Jorvik, but this is the first time we will enable people to experience these smells once they have left the attraction,” comments director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, Sarah Maltby.  “We’ve bottled eight of our famous smells – four pleasant scents suitable for a Viking lord in our ‘Jarl’ kit, and four of the least palatable aromas that would be familiar to the lower classes in our ‘Thrall’ kit.  You can recreate the ambience of a Viking forest, street trader or even a cesspit in whatever space you want – from a classroom to a domestic WC.”

The aroma packs are expected to be particularly popular with anyone further afield who might not be able to visit JORVIK Viking Centre for themselves; they could prove to be an interesting talking point for anyone hosting a Viking-themed party.  “2017 has been the Year of the Viking in York, with a re-imagined JORVIK re-opening in April.  This autumn also sees Norse god Thor return to cinema screens with Thor 3: Ragnarok, and the fifth series of The Vikings airing in November, so there’s never been a better time to embrace our Norse heritage,” says Sarah.

The aromas in the two kits are:

Jarl Kit:

  • Damp forest – earthy and organic to represent hunting grounds
  • Freshly-planed wood – from the cup-maker who lent his trade to the name ‘Coppergate’ (street of the cup maker)
  • Incense – Christianity was growing alongside Pagan beliefs in Viking-age York
  • Leather– used for everything from shoes to a knife sheath

Thrall kit:

  • Fish – oysters and fish made up a large part of the Viking diet, whether they settled by the coast or next to rivers. Thousands of oyster shells were excavated in Coppergate.
  • Tallow and candle wax – an essential part of any household as windows in Viking dwellings were particularly small
  • Rotting meat – butchery would have been undertaken outdoors, with inedible bits of gristle thrown into rubbish pits.
  • Cesspit – the Viking man sat straining on the toilet is one of the best-known features of JORVIK Viking Centre, and the stench is unforgettable!

Visitors to JORVIK Viking Centre hear how archaeologists excavating the site on which the attraction is built were able to experience first-hand some of the smells that would have permeated the city over 1000 years ago.  “The unique waterlogged nature of the soil around Coppergate meant that organic matter, including timber, leather and cloth which would normally rot away, was incredibly well preserved.  Fortunately for us – but in an unpleasant twist for the archaeologists – this was also true of the rubbish pits where human and animal excrement, along with other waste would have been discarded.  When these were excavated, the archaeologists experienced the full strength of a ‘fresh’ cesspit aroma, and had to sift through the waste incredibly carefully to find the traces of food, seeds, bones and even parasites that would have inhabited the Viking stools.  This was deeply unpleasant work, but has contributed an incredible amount to how much we understand about Viking diet and health,” adds Sarah.

A limited edition of ten packs of smells will be created initially, with more being made available if successful.

All of the smells available in the special kits are used within JORVIK Viking Centre itself, which is open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm.  For more details, please visit




Notes to editors:

All of the smells which feature in JORVIK Viking Centre are created as concentrated liquids, which are then diffused around the centre.  For best results, each of vials in the scent kit pots should be left open overnight in the desired location (one per room), with the door to the room closed, for an intense sensory experience.

For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins, Pyper York Limited

Tel: 01904 500698   Email: [email protected]