Fragrant reads we recommend: Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein

This week we’re diving in nose-first to Catherine Haley Epstein‘s Nose Dive – a brilliant book for adventurous noses. We have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads we recommend, so do please feel free to browse at your leisure, from literary to scientific and everything in-between.

Meanwhile, let’s get up close and personal with our sense of smell, and re-connect our sense of wonder as we read…

On the back of the book, author, artist and scent-maker, Catherine Haley Epstein, introduces her book in a way that intrigued and delighted us immediately. Describing it as a handbook for taking ‘…Adventures for your nose in art, anthropology, and science, the book Nose Dive is a broad introduction to olfactory culture meant for artists or anyone curious about the power of scent.’ Well that’s pretty much a checklist of our intersts, so we were eager to learn more, and Epstein contnues: ‘Something is in the air with respect to our most powerful and least regarded sense. This book demystifies the world of scent, provides springboards for further study, and presents exercises for shifting gears with your nose. A must-read for anyone intrigued by the superpower right under our noses.’ Consider us sold!

Epstein was lovely enough to send us a first-edition copy of her book with a letter, saying further that she wrote it because she wanted ‘…to invite dialogue from the different aspects of the scent arena.’ And also explaining the cover of the book is ‘Tiffany blue… not for the reason you might think – it’s actually the colour of my favourite smell, a pool toy.’

You know what they say about finding kindred spirits? We think she’s definitely one of us

Reading Nose Dive is an absolute must for anyone of us who’s wanted to dive deeper than merely smelling nice by spraying something beautiful, deeper still than having a particular memory connected to smell – Epstein manages to express both a childish glee at this super-power right under (and in) our noses, while explaining some complex theories and inviting the reader to explore. There are short, easily digestible chapters on Art, the science of smelling, things to consider when making a perfume and on extolling the utter joy that our sense of smell can bring. On that first thorny issue of art, and in answer to the on-going debate as to whether perfume ‘deserves’ to be classed as such, Epstein puts it perfectly by saying, simply, that ‘Art is translation. Art is a human-specific activity for translating our experiences, using whatever mediums we can.’

Along with theoretical discussions, pondering on her own years of research and development, Epstein also offers some practical exercises for those interested in making their own fragrances, or things to think about, study and and enjoy in your own time. Half the joy of Nose Dive, in fact, is that it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or place itself on a pedestal to preach about perfume to the already converted. Neither does it simply re-hash historical references and methods of making fragrance or only focus on new, exciting niche houses. This is a well-considered work that manages to pack in some powerful topics and truly thoughtful themes into such a slim volume, you can practically feel the waves of excitement about perfume and smell pulsating from every page. Not only to read and enjoy for yourself, we suggest this is one to press into the hands of everyone who’s ever asked you why you’re so obsessed with scent… Spread the love!

Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein, $25 catherinehaleyepstein.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Smell, Love & Memory: do male & female brains react differently?

Sometimes we love to get super geeky and take a deep dive in to the world of smell – the work on our sense of smell, memory and emotional responses triggered by smelling certain things is constantly revealing further insights into this ‘fallen angel of the senses’, as Hellen Keller once desribed it.

The 2019 Francis Crick medal was awarded to Dr Gregory Jefferis for his fundamental discoveries concerning the development and functional logic of sensory information processing, and he recently gave an utterly fascinating lecture at The Royal Society explaining his work, asking: how does the genome encode behaviour through the development of the nervous system? What makes male and female brains different? What is different about brain circuits for learned and unlearned behaviour?

Luckily for those of us who weren’t able to make it there, The Royal Society recorded the entire lecture and have uploaded the video to watch online – just click below to have your mind blown…

Ignored for years as our least important sense (and often the one people say they’d give up first), thanks to modern technology, scientists are only now beginning to uncover smell as a possible super power, and the impact that smell can have on our every day lives. The more we learn, the more we hunger to know, and although we can’t pretend to have understood all of the information, lectures like this simply set that fuse smouldering.

By Suzy Nightingale

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

The Digital Future of Fragrance

In the just-published latest edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, we focus on The Future of Fragrance – a fascinating topic encompassing ingredient trends, design, technology and those people whose jobs bascially involve looking in to a crystal ball and working out what we’ll be wanting to smell like in the coming years.

One of the fragrance experts companies we’re regularly in touch with is CPL Aromas – a world-leading fragrance house whose focus is on innovation and creativity, forging the way fragrances smell with exclusive ingredients and fragrant design that eventually shapes what scents we choose to spray on our skin. In the Novel Ingredients feature, we explain several of their fascinating new notes – heading to your nose any day now! – but we’re also thrilled to share with you, here, the future predictions and insight of CPL UK’s Group Marketing Executive, Fomina Louis

”Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will.” Patrick Suskind in his 1985 novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Our digital world is soaked with moving pictures, words and sound. But scent, one of our most powerful senses from an emotional perspective, is often neglected by our online media. Whilst digital imagery uses just red, green and blue to create every other visible colour, it is considered far more complex to recreate a smell, since it doesn’t have the equivalent of “primary cartridges”. However, scent technology is making headway as the sense of smell seems to answer many of the demands of our present culture.

Enhancing uniqueness

Today we value sharing our personal experience with others around us, to claim our uniqueness. Often the consumer is presented with the possibility of ‘engineering’ individual moods for particular occasions or times of the day, in a similar way that a playlist would or making your own cup of coffee.

The answer to this in scent is a device made by the brand Cyrano. It is a scent speaker which uses a range of scent capsules to emit “playlists” of smells. Cyrano also allows users to create a mood melody and then send the combo to a friend through their app. The scent is paired with a video on the app so they travel through each scene: kind of like a scent-o-gram.

NOTA NOTA is another new concept of mixing perfume, a concept by which perfume becomes part of the user’s daily routine like coffee from a coffee machine, allowing the user to prepare and wear unique perfumes for every day, night, mood and event.

In terms of enhancing our experience, for theme park designers and filmmakers scent has long been another storytelling device, just like 3D or immersive audio. Amusement parks use scent projectors to evoke a sense that would otherwise be ignored. AR/VR developers are now investing in scent technologies. The advantage here is that to create a scent of “burning tyres” for a car racing video game, it’s not necessary to replicate every different note found in the odour of “burning tyres”, a heated rubber note along with smoky notes will be sufficient when the user sees a car racing in the VR headset at the same time the scent is released.

Subliminal Comfort

Over the last few decades, brands have used scent to give us something to associate them with, but also to make us feel at ease. We are always breathing; therefore, we are always smelling – but without us realising. The sense of smell is directly hardwired into our brain. We unconsciously use this information without awareness.

The brands doing it effectively are doing it without you realising. Take Nescafé, who have embedded the smell of ‘Nescafé coffee’ in their labels for decades, so you smell it off the shelf.

A similar tactic is also used by the London toyshop Hamleys, which pumps out the smell of piña colada during summer because it makes the parents linger longer. Smells can be distributed through a store as simply as with a fan, or via complete integration with an air-conditioning system. A lot of retail companies use this, and its purpose is to keep customers in the store, by creating this welcoming environment. And studies show that it works. It keeps people in the store longer, it helps people feel anchored in our personal space, making them feel comfortable with their shopping and in a lot of cases causing them to spend more money!

The Home & Nostalgia

Focusing on the sentimental values of individual customers is the new marketing mantra. Japanese device “Scentee Machina” is called the next generation smart room diffuser equipped with AI technology, allowing users to control the fragrance via smartphone. This diffuser can integrate with the users’ calendar to prepare the house when he or she comes home. The device has two parts; the top carries the fragrance oil and the base connects to the internet, meaning that the users can tailor the program and control it through their smartphones based on their personal preferences. And, as the world’s first olfactory alarm clock, SensorWake has the potential to revolutionise our morning experience by a smell of hot croissants or coffee rather than a loud beeping noise!

Recently at the creation site of IKEA, Sweden, Students from the Royal College of Art, London attended a 2-day workshop to find new ways to express scent in the different parts of the home. The group projected numerous ideas like framing memories by scent – using doorframes and window frames. “The swing of a door will create the smell” said the student “but it will also support the particular memory in the future when you remember entering the home”.

It’s clear that smell is always modulating our mood and experience and that product developers have ample technologies and techniques for leveraging the sense of smell. Some of those exist today, but even more exciting ones lay ahead!’

[This article first appeared in Forecast, the trend magazine published by CPL Aromas vol 16 / Autumn Winter 2018 2019.]

Eau dear what can the matter be? (How to spray away the January blues)

There’s only so much a body can take, isn’t there? Once we have worked our way through a glut of Christmas cheese, weaned ourself off eating handfuls of chocolates for breakfast and drinking a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream before midday (possibly while still wearing pyjamas), one begins drooling over the thought of a salad leaf or a fresh tomato. Similarly, in these darker days while we stumble through that twilight zone between New Year and the distant thought of more daylight or anything nice happening ever again, our spirits may need some manual help with lifting – and luckily for us, fragrance is one of the most direct ways of doing this.

The problem is, for me, this time of year also brings a certain type of well-meaning advice about ‘wellness scents’  – a somewhat shudder-worthy phrase that has recently, along with ‘clean eating’, appeared in our modern lexicon. While there are definite wellness benefits to wearing the right scent, I’m here to tell you that just as nobody really cares about your kooky dreams or what your New Year’s Resolutions are (again), neither do we need that peculiar sense of smugness that can be served up as side while basically talking about what to spray to perk you up a bit.

Lads, 2018 felt as though it was five years long, and we’ve a while to go before venturing outdoors without a coat again; so can, in fact, spritzing a scent truly alter your mood?

For anyone who’s had a terrible day and reached for the bottle – the perfume bottle, that is – the answer is resoundingly in the affirmative. Little wafts of a favourite scent throughout the day can be a perfumed treat for you, or worn as a fragrant shield against the world in general. And now we have some research to back up those beliefs.


When you take a deep breath and inhale aroma molecules, they’re detected by the olfactory receptors in your nose and immediately stimulate some of the deepest, oldest parts of the brain – in ways that we’re only just starting to understand.

‘This process produces nerve impulses which travel to the limbic system, the part of the brain which is most concerned with survival, instincts and emotions. It’s thought by scientists the activity of the nerve signal passing through this region causes mood change by altering brain chemistry,’ says Christina Salcedas, of Aromatherapy Associates London. Our ability to smell ‘…is a window into parts of the brain related to core functions, like pleasure, emotion, and memory,’ agrees Jayant Pinto, MD, author of the study and an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at University of Chicago Medicine.

‘Pleasant ambient odors have also been found to enhance vigilance during a tedious task and improve performance on anagram and word completion tests’ reports scientificamerican.com, going on to explain that, conversely, ‘…the presence of a malodor reduced participants subjective judgments and lowered their tolerance for frustration. Participants in these studies also reported concordant mood changes. Thus,’ they conclude, ‘the observed behavioral responses are due to the effect that the ambient odors has on peoples mood’

Scent alters mood, mood increases creativity and productivity: it’s a win-win. But what exactly should you spritz to give yourself an olfactory boost for the spirit? I don’t necessarily want to reach for bottles of perfume I normally associate with winter – you know, those fragrances that seduce you into a state of langorously scented stulification, with rich, velvety florals swathed in spices and cosseted in cashmere. No, it’s time to be gently jolted a little, to kick-start your senses when your spirits are low, or whenever you just need a dose of extra sunshine in your life…

Still going strong since 1792, I’ve heard some wise French grandmothers advised leaving this in the fridge and splashing your breasts with it every morning, to tone and invigorate. Lemon, orange, dewy fresh rose and sandalwood oil combine with some sort of alchemy to take the heat out of a situation and ease the onset of a headache – particularly useful for those of us constantly tied to our computers. Did you know this is the only scent that Holly Golightly wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? In the mailbox of her apartment, she keeps her everyday essentials – a mirror, lipstick, and bottle of 4711. Quite right, too.

4711 Eau de Cologne Cool Stick £5.99 for 20ml
Buy it at Boots

A revolutionary fragrance and body treatment that was first launched in 1987, the invigorating aroma was unisex way before the word became trendy, and offers uplifting essences along with the promise of moisturising, firming and toning. Containing essential oils of lemon, patchouli, petit grain, ginseng and white tea, it leaves you feeling like you’ve just bounced out of a spa treatment (while avoiding awkward small-talk and the need to pre-wax your lady garden).

Clarins Eau Dynamisante £50 for 200ml Eau de Cologne
Buy it at clarins.co.uk


Abandon all thoughts of “grenade” in the sense of pulling a pin and hot-footing it in the opposite direction, for pomme grenade in French is what we know as “pomegranate”. An exotic melange of intensely fruity notes for a feeling of exuberant light-heartedness. Orange gets zesty with the mango-like davana, hypnotic neroli flowers fall like confetti on a base of vanilla – a scent now proven to calm startle reflexes and is being used to help patients undergo stressful sessions of chemotherapy in some hospitals. Spritz, breathe and dream, exotically.

Weleda Jardin de Vie Grenade £21.95 for 50ml eau naturelle parfumeé
Buy it at weleda.co.uk

Whisking you to the light-filled royal courtyards of Seville, bitter orange, sun-drenched bergamot and mandarin giggle into neroli and the cardamom-flecked, florist-shop freshness of galbanum; while ylang ylang is (unusually) found in the base, making for a giddily joyous landing. Wrapping cedar with flirty floral tendrils, the musky trail of sunshine-infused happiness surrounds you like a much-needed hug.

Molton Brown Orange & Bergamot £39 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk

If you’re anything like me, you spend half your life searching for plug points to charge up whatever electronics you’re lugging around – if only our own batteries were boosted so simply. Consecutive days of not enough sleep and hectic lifestyles can really take it out of you, as can eating your own body-weight in dairy products, I have discovered. Book me in for a barrel-load, then, of crisply revivifying grapefruit, lemon & rosemary to help refresh and re-energise.

Neom Energy Burst £49 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at neomorganics.com

Sparkling fresh, this citrus scent with a rich floral heart is ‘perfect for spritzing any time your spirits need a boost,’ as they put it. It’s that sudden throwback to summer memories, a snapshot of yourself laughing while dancing in a garden, the fizz of Champagne bubbles still on your lips, a warm breeze swirling rose petals at your feet. Spray whenever you need reminding that better days will come again.

Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.1 £54 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at uk.lizearle.com

Written 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

Smell-X installation explores future of smell

What does the future hold for scent? This was the question posed at a sensory installation called Smell-X, recently held at the Figment NYC festival at Governor’s Island in New York City. We used to rely on our sense of smell to stay alive, but as Helen Keller commented, this once-vital ability became something of ‘the fallen angel of the senses’ when we no longer needed to smell a sabre-toothed tiger or forage for food with our noses as the guide.

We teach people techniques proven to enhance our olfactory abilities in our regular How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops (keep an eye on our events pages and newsletter) attempting to re-connect those neural pathways and genuinely get more pleasure from smelling things in a different way each day. But what if we lived in a future where smell had become so dismissed, we forgot the emotional connections and time-travelling memories that scent can tap in to…?

Olivia Jezler is a designer and scent strategist, who invited guests’ to save the future of humanity’ in the multisen­sorial installation. Having worked for fragrance houses including IFF, Symrise and Robertet, working with brands and participating in academic research in Human Computer Interaction at the SCHI LAB at University of Sussex, Olivia wanted to see how members of the public interact with scent in a series of  hands-on (or rather ‘noses-on’) experiments.

Participants were asked to imagine a future where, ‘…there is no need for the sense of smell and thus our smelling abilities have been genetically engineered to not exist. However, it has become noticeable that people have become joy-less, feelings of enjoyment, connection, beauty and emotion have disappeared and most worrisome, rates of suicide have increased…

Yet, there is hope. There are a few people who through a genetic mutation have retained their ability to smell, those in possession of the gene family Smell-X. Special agents search the world to identify these rare individuals who can perceive through their noses to be a “smell translator”. They are invited to a competition to translate basic smells into shapes. This is the first step to bringing humanity back into balance – giving them the ability to experience the elusive and emotive sense of smell through one of their other senses.’

We so wish we could have been in New York to see the exhibition in person, but for the rest of you who also couldn’t be there, luckily the Smell-X experiments are written about in great deatail on their website.

We’re completely fascinated by these ‘cross-modal’ explorations of smell – finding out the myriad ways our senses overlap. Indeed, we dedicated an entire issue of our magazine to the subject, including our award-winning feature on Synaesthesia. If you’re interested in discovering more, buy your magazine here!

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

IFRA's Fragrance Forum put our sense of smell on the map…

Every year, IFRA – the trade association promoting the safe creation, development and enjoyment of fragrance) organise a Fragrance Forum – an utterly fascinating coming together of highly engaging speakers with experts from just about every sector you can imagine – all of whom are linked by their expertise and interest in the sense of smell. We were thrilled to be invited along for their seventh Forum as part of the fragrance press, and so found ourselves learning the power of Medical Detection Dogs, how to make a Mosquito Invisibility Cape, how to smell-map a city, how the Pre-Raphaelites responded to the stench of the river Thames (by linking it to paintings of fallen women, it turns out), the difference between Synaesthesia (one of my favourite subjects ever) and cross-modal correspondences, and font-sniffing (as in: can you smell/taste/hear typefaces? Short story: yes.)
To give you a taste of the breadth and diversity of the subjects covered, here’s a little more about the speakers and the topics they spoke about so passionately. In a Fragrance Forum for which the theme was Scents & Sensibility (a nod to this year marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death), we left with a renewed excitement of the sense that some neglect, but which many of us have built our careers and, indeed, our lives around…
Dr Claire Guest – Sniffing it out
CEO Medical Detection Dogs
Claire has been involved in the training of dogs for tasks involving scent for over twenty years. Since 2002 she has been professionally involved in training dogs in the detection of human disease through scent. She is now the CEO of Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) the leading charity training dogs, pioneering both medical assistance and disease detection, and is not only a pioneer of the training but committed to carrying out empirical research to improve operations and to inform future medical technologies.

Professor James Logan How to make a mosquito invisibility cloak
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
James has more than 10 years of experience in the laboratory and field – in the UK and overseas – of controlling insects of medical and veterinary importance. He has an award-winning PhD investigating why some people are bitten more than others by mosquitoes and midges. Mosquito-borne diseases affect more than half the world’s population, diseases transmitted by insects account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than one million deaths. By understanding more about mosquitoes and their incredible sense of smell, we can develop better ways to control one of the world’s most formidable forces. One day, we may even be able to make ourselves completely invisible.

Key theme: Scent and our surroundings
Kate McLean – Programme Director for Graphic Design at Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr Daniele Quercia – Bell Labs, Cambridge
On the Impossibility of Mapping the Smellscape
Kate McLean is a British artist and designer and mapper of urban smellscapes – the term used to describe the odour landscape around us. She runs smellscape mapping workshops, leads smellwalks around the world and has co-edited a book, Designing with Smell: Practices, Techniques and Challenges (2017). Her talk looked at how interative design research can be used to investigate how the general public perceives and reacts to smells in public spaces.
Daniele Quercia leads the Social Dynamics group at Bell Labs in Cambridge. He has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 2014 Data All-Stars, and spoke about “happy maps” at TED. His research has been focusing in the area of urban informatics, focussing on the fact that, although humans are able to potentially discriminate thousands of different odours, smell is simply hard to measure. SmellyMaps have recently proposed a new way of capturing the entire urban smellscape from social media data (i.e., tags on Flickr pictures or tweets). The SmellyMaps project aims at disrupting the mainly negative view of city odours and being able to celebrate the complex smells of our cities.

Dr Christina Bradstreet – Art, Smell and Sanitation
The National Gallery
Christina is Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery and she has taught 19th-century painting at Birkbeck College as well as guest lectures at Sotheby’s Institute, Royal Holloway College and the Courtauld Institute. So, how did the Pre-Raphaelites respond to the stench of the River Thames, in the summer of 1858? This talk explored how the urban stink influenced artists in Britain and beyond in the nineteenth-century.

Key theme: Scent and psychology
Dr Clare Jonas – Synaesthesia – a blending of the senses
University of East London
Synaesthesia is a fascinating condition in which the senses become entangled so that music might appear to have shapes, or smells have colours. In this talk Clare explored what synaesthesia is and how it relates to mechanisms of multisensory perception in the general population. She also explored visual aspects of art, advertising and packaging and how psychological research links them to taste and smell.

Sarah Hyndman – Wake up and smell the fonts!
Founder and Director, Type Tasting
Type Tasting founder Sarah Hyndman is a graphic designer, author and public speaker, known for her interest in the psychology of type. Her main area of expertise is multi sensory typography, she works on collaborative research studies with the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. In her talk Sarah explored how visual language influences all of our senses as it tells the story of a product. The visual translation of luxury, gender or smell creates anticipation, informs our choices and enhances our experiences.
Innovative new research into crossmodal perception is now mapping the typography of smell – understanding this enables us to use visual language to accentuate nuances and nudge behaviour… just one of the many subjects we left wanting to explore in more depth, so stay tuned for our further investigations!
Written by Suzy Nightingale