This fragrance is the bee’s knees – literally!

Scientists have discovered that certain types of bees actually create their own ‘perfumes’ in order to attract a mate. And what’s more, a niche brand has just launched a Bee fragrance that’s already creating a buzz…

A new article in Science Daily reveals that scientists at the University of California have discovered male orchid bees don’t sipmply flit among the flowers collecting pollen to make honey back at the hive – they’re also using their wings ‘…to disperse a bouquet of perfumes into the air.’ And their studies have concluded that ‘the aromatic efforts are all for the sake of attracting a mate.’

Associate Professor Santiago Ramirez, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, explained that while they already knew many animals produce pheremones, the unique factor for the orchid bee is that ‘the majority of their pheromones are actually collected from plants and other sources like fungi.’ Science Daily suggests that ‘Orchid bees are master perfumers,’ and goes on to explain that the scientists reserach suggests that ‘the perfumes males concoct are unique to their specific species’.

Ramirez,and recent Ph.D. graduate student Philipp Brand, from the Population Biology Graduate Group, have been studying the mating habits of orchid bees for some years, in the course of their studies, ‘unraveling the complex chemicals responsible for successful procreation.’ What they didn’t expext to find, though, was a brand new discovery that possibly explains the evolutionary divergence of bee species: environmental perfumes (and we’re not talking ‘clean’ or ‘green’ beauty claims here, folks!)

In the study, which was first published in Nature Communications, Brand, Ramirez and their colleagues set out their case to suggest that the evolution of sexual signaling in orchid bees can directly be linked to ‘a gene that’s been shaped by each species’ perfume preferences.’

Brand commented that, ‘Our study supports the hypothesis that in the orchid bee perfume communication system, the male perfume chemistry and the female preference for the perfume chemistry can simultaneously evolve via changes in a single receptor gene.’ And this could explain why a single species split into two distinct species that we knew were linked, but had no idea why they had diverged. Ah yes, the power of that scent sillage is strong, it seems, even for bees. But how did one bee’s perfume-making prowess suddenly woo more of the female bees to his partiular, er, honeypot?

 

Green Orchid Bee

 

Explains Ramirez: ‘Imagine you have an ancestral species that uses certain compounds to communicate with each other,” said Ramirez. “If you have a chemical communication channel and then that chemical communication channel splits into two separate channels, then you have the opportunity for the formation of two separate species.’

Do make time to read the full article in Science Daily – it’s a fascingating read, and yet another notch in our understanding of the power of smell. But let’s not only focus on fragrances that makes bees feel like getting busy (buzzy?) with it; we perfume-loving humans have a brand new sweet-smelling scent to explore that’s perfectly themed – and although not inspired by the reasearch, as far as we know, happens to be perfectly timed, too. The Canadian-based niche house of Zoologist have just launched the latest in their animal-centric scents: behold Bee

Perfumer Cristiano Canali has created a perfume that showcases luxurious amounts of labdanum, dollops of honey, a leathery orange blossom dusted with powdery mimosa, delciously rounded by nutty tonka and heady heliotrope.

Zoologist Bee, £195 for 65ml extrait de parfum (1ml samples £3)
Try it at Bloom Perfumery

So which honey-based fragrances are likely to get you buzzing? Read our page all about the history and use of honey as a fragrant ingredient, and discover other perfumes to try, for the scent perfumer Christine Nagel describes as ‘half devil, half angel…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Leonardo da Vinci’s secret scented formula

Art experts use x-rays and scientific tests to help determine the authenticity of a masterpiece painting, but soon they could well be using their noses, too…

While researching a painting called Donna Nuda – believed to be by a contemporary follower of Leonardo da Vinci rather than the artist himself, but conducted under his close supervision – experts were greeted with a unique smell of the materials used within the painting, described as ‘…the fresh smell of a forest after the rain.’

The technique used is, necessarily, non-invasive, and Martin Kemp – a leading authority on da Vinci, based at Trinity College, Oxford, has excitedly commented that this method of scented investigation, when used as a prototype to test the authenticity of other paitings, could hold enormous potential for the future of art attribution.

Gleb Zilberstein and his co-authors had previously used the technique to discover traces of morphine on the manuscript of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, as well as analysing Anthony Chekhov’s blood-stained shirt, and finding evidence of tuberculosis. The team will publish their full findings in the Journal of Proteomics, but for those of us not quite up to the technical language, a more basic explanation of the way it works is this:

Acetate film embedded with charged particles is placed on sections of the painting. The film is analysed by gas and liquid spectrometry and chromatography – run through a computer which can separate and identify every component the object is composed of, allowing researchers to pick out particular areas of interest and actually smell them, individually.

The same technology is used to analyse traces of vintage fragrances, or to capture the smell of a thunderstorm, for example, and allow a perfumer to recreate it. But this is the first time it’s been used to analyse and identify the materials of a painting. This way, the tem discovered a unique mixture of egg yolk, linseed and rosemary oil had been used by Leonardo’s Protégé, and as they were learning his exact techniques, they would have used the same paint mixtures – perhaps even mixed by the hand of da Vinci himself.

Researchers concluded that rosemary oil had been used in some sections to ‘enhance the sense of depth’ by blurring a background – just like the Portrait mode on a modern iPhone – and that they hope to use the technology to create a ‘decay curve’, so as to further help pinpoint the date of a painting by studying the smell and decomposition of organic materials.

Zilberstein commented that it was a ‘magical moment’ to smell odours that had been trapped beneath the surface of the painting for over 400 years, and explained that now, ‘for the first time the deciphering of the recipes used by Leonardo was possible…’

By Suzy Nightingale

IFRA Fragrance Forum 2018 – we were there…

We’ve long known our sense of smell is associated with well-being – from eras we strewed sweet-smelling herbs and flowers to mask foul odours (back when we assumed bad smells spread disease), to now using scented candles and personal fragrances to enhance how we feel. But something the IFRA Fragrance Forum always does so well is delve deeper into current scientific research, bringing together experts from around the world who may never usually meet, but who all share the sense of smell as a common theme of their reserach.

We’re always thrilled to attend the IFRA Fragrance Forum, and last week once again had our minds’ blown by the fascinating lectures we spent all day listening to, this time at the Wellcome Institute, and fittingly for World Mental Health Day, each speaker centered on the importance of smell not just on our emotional responses, but how it might be used to detect, research and even treat many neurodegenerative diseases.

We cannot possibly recount all of their research and statistics here, but urge you to seek out the speakers and read more about what they’re doing. Meanwhile, here’s a mere snapshot of the smell-studies that made our jaws drop to the floor…

The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. Tilo KunathTilo Kunath from Edinburgh University talked about the extensive research he’s undertaken into the smell of Parkinson’s disease having met Joy Milne – an incredible woman who was able to detect the difference in her husband’s odour before he was diagnosed. We now know, as she’s been tested, that Joy is a ‘super smeller’ – someone born with a superior sense of smell, comparable to trained sniffer dogs.

Joy spoke so movingly about her journey of discovery, from being dismissed as a ‘a bit of a weirdo’ to finally convincing doctors to take her seriously. Joy had always loved her husband’s natural skin smell, she explained, and one day she realised he smelled completely different: ‘Odd. Sour-smelling… just not his smell.’ It was only when she and her husband (who’d then been diagnosed with PD) attended a conference for Parkinson’s sufferers, she was hit by a wall of that same smell when she first entered the room. Turning to her husband, she remarked ‘Les, they all smell like you…’ And it was at this conference she met Dr Kunath – which then led to his research. We also heard from Professor Perdita Barran from Manchester University whose mass spectrometry unit was an important part of the research.

 

Joy and Les Milne

Alzheimer’s and Smell Dysfunction
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia  – something many of us will experience in family members or deal with ourselves in our ageing population. Olfactory dysfunction (mixing up smells) in general and impaired odour identification in particular, have been reported in AD and, importantly, are found to occur at early stages of the disease – so can act as warning signs. Dr Latha Velayudhan, a Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist working at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscienecs (IoPPN), Kings College London demonstrated how she tests for smell identification dysfunction in people with AD compared to people without and the pattern of smell identification deficits (common smells affected) in individuals with AD.

Professor Keith Wesnes is the Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Exeter Medical School, and alsoruns Wesnes Cognition Ltd, a consultancy on the conduct and evaluation of cognitive testing, which provides its proprietary online cognitive test system, CogTrack to clinical trials worldwide. His talk explored the link between olfaction and cognitive function and how large-scale online studies offer highly efficient and cost-effective platforms for scientifically assessing the short and longer term cognitive and mood benefits of fragrances and essential oils in targeted populations.

 

As part of the same session, Dr Mark Moss, Head of Department of Psychology, Northumbria University then discussed why he thinks certain smells are ‘hard wired’ into our brain and how that then affects our well-being. Dr Moss’ research revolves around our ability to recognise and distinguish between many different plant aromas, and their practical use for the promotion of health and wellbeing – including stimulation and relaxation. Fascinatingly, his research suggests that ylang ylang slows down our reflexes and may help to relex us, while certain breeds of sage aid alertness and recollection. His study shows the species Sage Officinalis, in particular, was most useful for aiding memory function.

Pollution Pods

There’s a growing use of ambient scent used in everyday experiences – from scenting public spaces to more dramatic uses in art exhibitions and stage performances. Pollution Pods is a touring installation which, in a series of geodesic domes, accurately recreates the terrible air quality of five major cities – through scent, temperature, ozone and humidity, and cleverly using fragrance to make utterly visceral the effects on our physical and mental health of pollution. The artist behind Pollution Pods, Michael Pinsky, and fragrance specialist Lizzie Ostrom, gave us a into the look (and smell!) of the installation, which caused much coughing, though some seemed very fond of the re-created polluted smells – something Lizzie explained was comforting to many visitors, as they’d grown up surrounded by these smells.

Sharing thoughts on where ambient scent and fragrance in public spaces might be heading next, and what the industry could be doing to take advantage of growing interest from brands and institutions, this, along with the weight of fascinating medical research and hopefully leading to clinical advances and medical help available in the future, really left us with much to ponder the pongs of.

All the experts agreed that, past the age of 65, it has been shown that nicotine patches (!) may significantly slow down some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and, in the case of Parkinson’s it seems, prevent it all together. They also suggested the imbibing of wine to aid longterm memory function (however counter-intuitive that may seem), and so perhaps our senior years may at least be spent indulging in vices, as well as lavishing ourselves with fragrance.

Most of all, the day highlighted once again how the sense of smell is so vital – there’s still so much we don’t yet know about it – truly, as Helen Keller once desribed our ability to smell, it’s ‘the fallen angel of the senses…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Givaudan bring together fragrance, flavour & body language…

What’s your body language saying about the fragrance you wear…?

Givaudan‘s Fine Fragrance perfumers have created a new ‘Delight’ collection in collaboration with flavourists – the first fragrance house to specifically use body language research in order to better understand the pleasure we feel when wearing perfume.

The idea began when Givaudan encouraged a close collaboration between their flavourists and perfumers in Paris, New York, São Paulo, Dubai and Singapore. Two arms of the industry who never usually work together, the project also required the input of a non-verbal communications specialist. And their goal?

‘Imagine your favourite flavour and the great feeling you get when you taste it: a powerful physical and emotional reaction that makes you crave more. Now imagine if we could bring that same level of desirability and moreishness to fragrances… That’s exactly what Givaudan has been doing as part of a new global initiative called Project Delight.’

Intriguing, right? There’s a definite correlation between that heady rush of pleasure we’re consumed with when smelling a scent we love – we might describe it as ‘delicious’, ‘moreish’, or even ‘addictive.’ With no true language of its own, we liken fragrance to food and taste all the time – and of course many of the same ingredients are used across flavour and fragrance – so it completely makes sense that Givaudan are focusing on studying the two together.

As a starting point, they analysed ‘…those moments where lip-smackingly good flavours collide with equally delicious aromas,’ composing evocative fragrance bases such as the candyfloss memories of a fun fair, the perfect buttered croissant we associate with a Parisian breakfast, the smoky-creamy mingling of a Brooklyn brunch and the glittering fizz of night out with cocktails. And Givaudan report ‘the result is a revolutionary and exclusive set of bases for perfumers to work with… scents that are both aromatic… and appetising.’

Senior Flavourist for Givaudan, Arnaud, explained the exciting thing for him was that, ‘as a flavourist, I work in a realistic, true to life way, while a perfumer works in the world of abstract and interpretation. In our collaboration on Project Delight, we wanted to mix these two strengths and add a realistic touch to our fragrance palette.’

As part of their research, Givaudan carried out a groundbreaking consumer study, assessing non-verbal responses (such as salivation, surprise or swallowing) to different fragrances. The first time this type of methodology has been used in fragrance development, the research enabled their perfumers to develop a new range of special ‘Delight’ fragrance bases which, rather excitingly, further tests went on to reveal ‘…triggered higher levels of pleasure and craving than other bases currently available.’

In the future, will we be craving certain scents with the same hunger we feel for food? Well according to Givaudan, you’d better tuck in your napkin and get ready for the pleasure in a whole new way, because ‘we have begun a voyage of discovery and will continue to explore further, opening up new possibilities for perfumers to entice consumers with new fragrances that spark pure pleasure…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale