Fragrance Houses Harnessing the Power of Neuroscience

‘Wellness’ fragrances aren’t a new thing – the first Colognes claimed health-giving properties – and aromatherapeutic suppositions have been linked to scents for centuries; but something that is very new are fragrance houses employing neurologists to look into the ways that smelling something has a direct effect on our brain chemistry.

This fascinating new era for fragrance design not only takes into consideration our pleasure in wearing the finished product – of course they have to smell nice for us to be attracted to using them – but dives far deeper into what’s happening in our brains when we smell some of the particular ingredients used, or when we inhale the finished perfume.

When founding edeniste, the key motivating factor for Audrey Semeraro was ‘Blending the science of emotion and the art of perfumery,’ because ‘…the link between scent and mood has long been known and talked about, but never been scientifically proven when it comes to perfume. Now for the first time, the worlds of cutting-edge olfactory neuroscience and classic fine fragrance are brought together.’

 

 

 

 

Though new scientific discoveries to do with our sense of smell were out there, Audrey says, ‘no one was using it to create luxury fragrances.’ What followed was a gruelling yet fascinating four year scented research stint in which she was ‘reading medical journals, speaking with neuroscientists, meeting with R&D teams in fragrance companies…’ Learning of the true impact fragrances can have on the structure and function of the brain, nervous system, and related physical responses, the final result of all that hard work is edeniste: ‘a fragrance brand that infuses scientifically proven olfactive molecules into a unique active fragrance collection that improves wellbeing.’

Neuroscientist Dr. Gabriel Lepousez was one of the experts Audrey reached out to when conducting the research used to inform the compositions of edeniste fragrances, and they explain: ‘From the beginning of the Edeniste project, Dr. Lepousez has guided and supported Audrey in her enterprise. For Edeniste, he discusses the vital connections between our nose and our emotions, and recent discoveries can help us innovate in fragrance.’ You can read a full interview with Dr Lepousez here, and you can also read much more on the methodologies they used. But for how it works, in a nutshell, Dr Lepousez explains:

 

‘The olfactory system is the only sensorial system to be directly connected to the seat of emotion, the part of the brain called the amygdala. Between the perception of a smell in the mucous membrane of the nose and the centre of emotions, there are only two synapses, whereas there are four to six for all the other senses. Olfaction truly has an intimate, almost unconscious connection with emotions.’

 

Of course, even though so much work has already been done, there are vast areas of research yet to do, and so many more exciting ways that we can use our scents directly connected to our emotional responses, utilising our sense of smell as the superpower it truly is. But what an exciting time this is for the science and the fragrance industry – and for we fragrance-lovers, who may have always instinctively felt that some scents truly seemed to help us more than others, but didn’t understand how (or why).

Let’s take a look at just some of the fairly recently-launched fragrances that go beyond merely smelling nice, to being perfumes with a greater scented significance, and more even more emotional impact than you may first have realised…

 

The Lifeboost® essences can be worn alone or layered with any of the eaux de parfums as an extra shot of whatever you need right now. For Relax, the mellowness of ylang-ylang melds with creamy monoi – the name means “sacred oil” in Tahiti – and the pure jasmine sambac simply sighs into the smoothness of Madagascan vanilla absolute. edeniste says: ‘Relax, feel the sun shining up above, let yourself be rocked by the sound of the waves and trees swaying in the breeze… You’re in Eden.’ And honestly, don’t we all need that feeling, currently, more than ever?

edeniste Relax Lifeboost® £68 for 30ml eau de parfum in our shop

 

 

 

 

Vyrao‘s founder, Yasmin Sewell wanted to offer ‘the power of nature to amplify energy, tapping into the science of scent and its potential to activate the parts of the brain where memories and emotions are processed.’ And for The Sixth, she collaborated with Irish perfumer Meabh McCurtin who used neuroscience via ‘scientific protocols from the Science of Wellness program at International Flavors & Fragrance (IFF)’ to guide her composition. Apple, patchouli and basil radiate positivity; juniper, cedar and fir add balance, while angelica, fennel and wormwood counteract negativity.

Vyrao The Sixth £150 for 50ml eau de parfum vyrao.com

 

 

P.S: For even more emotionally-supportive scents, read all about Vyrao’s High Five Discovery Set!

 

 

 

Using IFF’s Science of Wellness computer programme for the design of Phantom, it was ‘conceived by a team of perfumers — Loc Dong, Juliette Karagueuzoglou, Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo — who were assisted by AI and powered by neuroscience.’ Identifying key emotional benefits for the chosen ingredients, the styrallyl acetate molecule (which smells green, slightly metallic, and can be found as a component of gardenia and tuberose, among other floral notes) was used at 10x the usual dosage – as suggested by AI to increase alertness – but woven with lavender to calm and create a harmonious balance.

Paco Rabanne Phantom £60 for 50ml eau de toilette pacorabanne.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launching with two wellness fragrances harnessing the power of neuroscience and experienced to their fullest potential using an app – 85% of people studied wearing them achieved a more focused state, while 90% reached a more meditative state. AI generated programmes of well-being rituals use smell, calming or stimulating visuals, and sound. Red Skies is a ‘functional fragrance’ designed to re-focus and energise via vibrant orange blossom, rose, pink pepper, mandarin and neroli in the top notes, blissfully enlivening jasmine, carrot seed, sap, iris and spices in the heart, resting on a grounding, earthy base of patchouli, oakmoss, resin and cedar.

Øthers Red Skies £90 for 50ml eau de parfum + 6 months app subscription others.co

 

 

 

 

This ‘scent and sound ritual’ was partially designed by AI for those ‘desperately seeking clarity of thought’ and feeling overwhelmed by ‘a rising sense of panic.’ [That’ll be most of us, then!] Using notes of cut grass and ‘green canopies’ entwined with soothing green tea, the heart resonates incense, wild mushrooms, worn leather and spices on toasted woods, while the base sinks into spiritual Palo Santo, shady vetiver, smoked amber, Hinoki wood (prized as sacred, native to Japan, with unusual hints of citrus) and a silken sandalwood. They suggest the scent and app are used in combination to ‘create a gearshift in your day.’

Øthers Mystic Zingaro £90 for 50ml eau de parfum + 6 months app subscription others.co

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Paper Trail: why we love paper’s smell (& perfumes evoking it)

Paper is something we have increasingly infrequent contact with in this relentlessly digitised world, and perhaps nearly as importantly, smell far less frequently in our every day lives. Could this be why perfumers are seeking to evoke the scent in the fragrances we wear?

There’s a functional sterility to the burgeoning ‘metaverse’ that’s abhorrent to sensorialists – those of us who revel in our senses, welcoming the smell and comforting caress of books and paper (and you know, food, fabrics, the infinitesimal layering of textures that IRL [In Real Life] offers us), as we might a lover’s touch.

For book (and printed paper) lovers, particularly; while E-Reader devices and scrolling on phone screens certainly have huge benefits – instantaneous access to literature is not to be, pardon the pun, sniffed at – but they lack the tangibility of literally burying your nose in a book, or feeling a piece of paper as you write on it (in pen! How very old school). Indeed, research shows that, while levels of comprehension are similar no matter how you read a text; people struggle to accurately recall events or timelines of a long story on a screen, as opposed to reading on paper.

The report concludes that it’s the ‘kinaesthetic feedback’ of holding paper in your hand that connects us to the perception of what we’re reading; that is, using our sensory organs to better locate and store vital information. I’ve previously written about the concept of vellichor – what makes the smell of old books so special – so want to widen that thought, here, to the more literal smell of paper itself.

Explains scienceabc.com:

‘…over a period of time, the compounds within paper [break down to] produce the smell. Paper consists of cellulose and small amounts of lignin(a complex polymer of aromatic alcohols). Paper that is even more fine contains less lignin than cheaper materials, like the paper used in newspapers.’

 

 

I would argue the smell of paper – old and mysterious or newly seductive – is also a huge part of our emotional intelligence, our interconnectivity, scent and memory combined.

In those ancient library type fragrances (which I still absolutely adore) it’s often the combined smell of crumbling leather bindings, dust and polished wooden tables that conjure a feeling of being in a particular space. But the smell of paper itself needn’t always be musty.

We might be in a shiny new bookshop, or have just cracked the spine of a sensorially satisfying weighty magazine. The paper might be that of an artist, awaiting the stroke of a brush, or of a writer’s virgin sheet, greedily thirsting for the first drop of ink…

 

 

Paper does have a unique smell. In those dusty old tomes it’s the breaking down of paper compounds that releases lignin (similar to vanillin, the primary component of vanilla, which has been proven to be a remarkably calming smell). In new paper, explains perfumer Geza Schoen, who once created a limited edition Paper Passion fragrance, in collaboration with Wallpaper* magazine; recreating the scent ‘was hard’ he admits. ‘The smell of printed paper is dry and fatty; they are not notes you often work with.’

Difficult though it may be to replicate, the smell of paper is something we yearn for, a comfort we crave in our hyper-digitally-connected yet progressively solitary lives. Comically satirising a future in which we’ve become so disconnected with paper’s scent that it repels us, author Gary Shteyngart’s novel, Super Sad True Love Story, imagines a time ‘Books are regarded as a distasteful, papery-smelling anachronism by young people who know only how to text-scan for data…’ as The New York Times review puts it.

Well, I’m very glad to say, we bibliosmatics are not there yet. The yearning to smell paper is still real, and these perfumes prove it…

 

 

 

Diptique L’Eau Papier

Rice steam accord melded with white musk cleverly evokes the paper’s creamy grain; drifts of mimosa tracing the outline of torn edges while deeper notes appear fleetingly, like freckled ink drops in water, punctuating the clarity with sheer shadows before the paper comfortingly subsumes.

£90 for 50ml eau de toilette diptyqueparis.com

 

 

Rook Perfumes RSX/03 School

A limited edition project in which participants imagined the smell of school, this pleasingly avoids boiled cabbage, instead exploring the heady rush of opening new books, cold air, pencil shavings and the textural thrill of fingers tracing wooden desks scarred with names, love hearts, learning.

£99 for 30ml eau de parfum rookperfumes.co.uk

 

 

Commodity Paper (Personal)

Achingly soft, especially in the ‘Personal’ (most hushed) version, this suggestively whispers of stationery, passing a letter to someone, your fingertips barely brushing, but a gesture that says so much. The molecular wonder of ISO E Super sighs to skin’s warmth, an amber trail beckons.

From £22 for 10ml eau de parfum commodityfragrances.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carner RIMA XI

Inspired by Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer’s passionate poem, Rhyme 11, the paper of this perfume feels fresh with possibilities at first. Then, the cool kiss of mint is seduced by spices and Indian jasmine petals, a discovery of crumpled, tear-stained, love letters slipped under a mattress.

£100 for 50ml eau de parfum bloomperfume.co.uk

 

 

 

Gri Gri Tara Mantra

Playing with the power of words, monastic incense curls beguilingly, a trail of promise leading to the temple you seek. It could be a church, might be a library, but let us say instead we are in a bookshop, gleefully thumbing piles of temptations, a woody path of patchouli and potent escapism.

£95 for 100ml eau de parfum shymimosa.co.uk

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The first gourmand: Brillat-Savarin – an 18th Century chemist who knew you are what you eat (and smell!)

Long before ‘gourmand’ foodie-inspired fragrances were even dreamed of and while smell was still perceived as the poor cousin of our other senses; one 18th Century polymath was championing the exquisite pleasures that taste and smell bring to everyday life. And more than mere pleasure alone: in fact, he heralded the proper appreciation and scientific study of these so-neglected senses…

‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’ So said Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1755-1826, a French lawyer and politician whom, apart from law, studied chemistry and medicine, and eventually gained fame as an epicure and gastronome.

His seminal work Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), contains Savarin’s philosophies and observations on the pleasures of the food, which he very much considered a science – long before the birth of molecular gastronomy and serious studies of taste and smell had begun.

And smell was very much at the forefront of the gastronomique experience, Savarin had worked out; exclaiming: ‘Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose.’

 

past-writers-Brillat-savarin-21-e1490182893127

 

Previously considered the least important of the senses – indeed, smell remains the least scientifically explored, though technology is making huge leaps in our understanding – Savarin proclaimed that, ’The sense of smell, like a faithful counsellor, foretells its character.’

Published only two months before his death, the book has never been out of print and still proves inspirational to chefs and food-lovers to this day. Indeed, he understood that taste and smell must work together in harmony for full satisfaction of the senses, Savarin observed that ‘Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose.’

 

brillat1826tp

 

Preceding the remarkable leaps in knowledge high-tech equipment has allowed and revealing how entwined our sense of smell is to the taste and enjoyment of food, Savarin also observed how our noses protect us from eating potentially harmful substances, explaining ‘…for unknown foods, the nose acts always as a sentinal and cries: “Who goes there?”‘ while coming to the conclusion that a person’s character may be foretold in their taste and smell preferences… ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’

 

cultura-jean-anthelme-brillat-savarin-aphorismes

 

We once devoted an entire issue of our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter to taste and smell – as of course we are gourmand fans in ALL the senses. And so it is heartening to know that Brillat was on our side here, with this extremely useful advice we selflessly pledge to carry through life:

‘Those who have been too long at their labor, who have drunk too long at the cup of voluptuousness, who feel they have become temporarily inhumane, who are tormented by their families, who find life sad and love ephemeral… they should all eat chocolate and they will be comforted.’

 

Screenshot-2017-02-07-15.54.49

Wise words, indeed. We plan to enjoy all the sweet temptations that come our way, in scent form and in chocolate. Talk about having your cake and wearing it, too!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

How to make a fragrance work harder (even if you think it doesn’t suit you!)

Have you ever found a fragrance you love, but it just doesn’t last long enough? Or, maybe you’ve been given a bottle as a gift, but it’s just not ‘you’? These are problems that feel even more prescient in the current economic climate, when we’re all looking to ‘waste not, want not’ and make the best of what we have.

Perhaps you have scents you used to adore, but you’re not in a current relationship with them anymore because your tastes have changed? Or you want to be braver in 2023 and break out of your comfort zone, but don’t know where to begin? If any of these apply to you – or you’d simply like to know how to make any perfume work harder for you – this guide allows you to get the very best from any fragrance

 

 

#1 – Improve your sense of smell

Absolutely everyone can benefit from this – we’ve had people from normal perfume-lovers, complete novices to industry professionals telling us how trying these techniques have changed the way they smell for the better (for good). This doesn’t mean suddenly gaining the ability of being able to detect every single ingredient within a bottle of perfume, but rather learning to train your nose the way a perfumer does: by deeply exploring the emotions it makes you feel, colours, textures, places and people it reminds you of.

Here are a few simple tips to try every day:

– Spray a scent on a blotter, preferably; close your eyes and keep sniffing for several seconds, then take the blotter away, inhale deeply, and re-sniff the blotter again. Repeat this for a minute or so, and then begin writing a few words in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a description, and it shouldn’t ‘list’ notes – try to use words that make you think of other things. For example…

– If this scent were a fabric, what would it be? What colour? If you made someone an outfit from that fabric, who would they be, where would they be going?

– If it were a piece of music, what instruments would be playing? Is it classical, rock music, pop, rap or jazz?

Really attempt to get past trying to pick out individual notes, or (if you’re not initially keen) thinking ‘I don’t like this’. Focus instead on the mood it’s creating. The images that come to mind, memories that are triggered, places it makes you think of. Thinking about fragrances in a more abstract (but still personal to you) way helps evaluate them more clearly.

 

 

 

 

#2 – Make your perfume last longer

If the reason you don’t like a perfume is because it just seems to ‘disappear’ on your skin, you’re not alone. We often find those with dry skin have this problem, and it’s even thought genetics and things like hair colour may play a part. Scientists are still finding this out, but while they do, there are ways you can make perfume last far longer:

– Try using a body oil, rich body balm or moisturising lotion before you put any fragrance on (and even afterwards, too), as scent takes longer to evaporate on nourished skin. This helps the fragrance ‘cling’ to your skin more easily, and so you get to actually smell if for more than a few minutes without frantically re-spraying.

– Spray pulse-points you might not usually think of. Behind your knees is a good example – it’s a warm spot that, once spritzed, will mean you leave a fragrant trail…

– Spritz the perfume at the nape of your neck, even into your hair and on clothes – BUT do check by spraying a tissue first that it isn’t going to mark your hair or fabric a strange colour, or leave an oily residue! We adore this way of wearing perfume, as hair and fabric are porous without heating up as much as your skin, allowing the perfume to stay all day.

Spraying a fragrance on to a scarf is a particularly good idea if you want to ‘try on’ a new (perhaps rather more personally challenging) scent but don’t want to commit to it all day.

 

 

 

 

#3 – Store your fragrances correctly

Fragrance certainly doesn’t last forever – but storing it correctly will help preserve the quality and lifespan of your perfume. The key is to keep it away from light and heat – so a bathroom, or a sunny dressing table, is NOT the place for your fragrance stash: higher temperatures affect the top notes of fragrance, making them musty, or more sour.

– If you have a dark cupboard to store perfume in, or a drawer, that’s perfect. (Ideally, keep in the box, or – if you’re using a drawer – wrap bottles in a scarf, or even plastic, unglamorous as that is. Be aware that perfume that’s never been opened and kept in a dark place can last more than 40 years…!).

– If you can’t manage that environment, store on a shelf that doesn’t get direct sunlight, in a not-too-hot room. Then once a bottle is open, you should get up to two years’ life out of it (we’ve had fragrances that last much longer…) Lighter, citrussy scents deteriorate faster than opulent florals…

– You may find you get a better life out of a spray bottle than a splash: if you touch the glass to your skin, and oil from your body gets into the bottle, that can affect the lifespan of your perfume, too: touch your skin to the rim of the bottle – and don’t use stoppers for application, as they are in contact with the contents. NB Dark glass preserves scent for longer than clear versions.

 

 

 

#4 – Learn how to layer

Layering fragrances used to be seen as a scent sin, but we’ve all gotten over ourselves a bit (well most of us have). You don’t have to do this to a perfume you already love on its own – why would you need to? – but there are brilliant ways of beefing-up a sadly flimsy fragrance, or adding a zing to something that’s a bit too dark or cloying on your skin. Give it a go, because, as we always say: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!

– Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.

– Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).

– Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.

– Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!

For layering any of these, you can either try wearing them over other fragrances you have in which the above notes dominate, with a single-fragranced ‘soliflore’ (one main note) fragrance oil or spray, or try layering the scent you don’t currently like over a differently perfumed body lotion or oil.

 

#5 – Turn it in to a part-time perfume

There are days we feel the need to try something completely different, but perhaps don’t want to be stuck with that scent all day, so what to do?

– Consider spraying a scarf (preferably not silk or a light colour, unless you’ve patch-tested it first!) with this perfume you’re unsure of, that way if it gets a bit ‘too much’ or you want to wear something different, you can simply take the scarf off and you’re not committed to having it on your skin for hours. If you’re unlucky enough to work in a place that’s banned the wearing of strong scents (or even, in some offices, all perfumes – quelle horreur!) this is also a really useful way to wear a perfume you can quickly remove.

 

 

#6 – Consider the climate (and your mood!)

Did you know that the weather, your mood and even what you ate up to *two weeks ago* can dramatically alter how scent smells on your skin? Skin and climate temperature are vital to a perfume’s performance, so even your favourite fragrance will smell different based on the time of year. When perfumers test the scents they’re creating they often use climate-controlled booths to check how they smell in hot and colder conditions (depending what countries they’ll be selling in). Don’t re-gift until you’ve tried the perfume again later in the year, or even on holiday (remember those?)

– Similarly, strongly spiced foods can change how a perfume smells on your skin, and when testing fragrances under lab conditions, the ‘skin model’ volunteers they use are often specifically asked to refrain from eating such foods up to two weeks prior to testing, so the perfumers can smell a ‘true’ representation of the scent. Though sometimes the reverse is true: if a fragrance is to be mainly sold in a country where people eat lots of spicy foods, the ‘skin models’ are asked to replicate that diet to ensure the scent works efficiently.

– We now know that mood and hormones play an important part in how we select a fragrance – try a scent when you’re feeling a particular way, and it colours how you feel about the fragrance itself. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, a bit under the weather or just overwhelmed, these are not ideal conditions for testing out something new. Wait until you’re feeling calmer, or simply have more time to really explore what you’re smelling.

 

 

 

#7 – Give it time

If you follow all this advice and still find yourself out of love with a fragrance, keep it awhile and come back to it. If you still hate it, hold a scent swapping party with some pals. But BE SURE. There’s nothing worse than waking at 3am in a cold sweat because suddenly you’re craving that scent you so kindly passed on to a friend, and then having to buy another bottle. So, don’t be too hasty. Every perfume lover has, at some point, made this mistake, and it stings. Oh how it stings. And that somehow makes the longing all the more intense, like guiltily having lurid fantasies about a distant ex who’s since hooked up with someone else. I once did this with a bottle of perfume that’s since been discontinued (now changing hands for silly money on eBay), and it still haunts me to this day. Learn from my perfume pain!

 

You can read more expert tips and tricks in the Frequently Asked Questions section, but if I could just ask one thing of you before you go? Don’t save all your favourite fragrances ‘for best’, or feel guilty about wearing and loving them. Of course you can change them up with more affordable scents, and make them last longer by doing all the above; but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to allow yourself pleasure whenever you can get it. A really wonderful fragrance gives you a far greater bang for your buck than the majority of things (legally) available out there, so yes, make them work harder; but god let us enjoy them exuberantly, too!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Can fragrances make you feel better?

Can you bottle the smell of happiness or use fragrance to elevate your everyday mood? It’s something fragrance fans and aromatherapists have claimed for years, but now science is directly being used to develop fragrances that go beyond simply smelling good – making you feel good, too.

The connections between wellness and scent are fully explored in our just-published magazine, The Scented Letter – click here to subscribe to this award-winning magazine for free… You’ll have it sent to your inbox on the day it publishes, and never miss a copy again!

 

 

 

 

In the issue you’ll find the article Fragrance’s Feel-Good Factor, in which we were incredibly excited to learn about the revolutionary house of Edeniste, whom you can read more about in our page dedicated to Edeniste, and who are, in their words, ‘Blending the science of emotion and the art of perfumery.’ For founder Audrey Semeraro, it’s about ‘redefining the mission of the perfume industry with the first generation of active wellbeing fine fragrances…’ Because edeniste are far more than a luxury fragrance house, more even than a company seeking to tap into that feeling we all get when wearing a scent that seems to resonate with our soul. Each edeniste fragrance has been ‘charged with active molecules clinically proven to boost our mood and elevate our emotions.’

Meanwhile, authorAlex Whiting delves into the fascinating word of ‘chemosignals’ – odourless transmissions we give off which are believed to trigger particular emotional responses – in a piece for the scientific magazine, Horizon; exploring ‘the ways smell impacts people’s social interactions.’

 

 

Says Enzo Pasquale Scilingo, a professor at the Department of Information Engineering at the University of Pisa, Italy: ‘It’s like an emotional contagion. If I feel fear, my body odour will be smelt by people around me and they may start to feel fear themselves, unconsciously.’ Similarly, the smell of happiness can inspire a positive state in other people, he explains. ‘If we had a spray of happiness … If we can find some odour which can induce a happy state – or a general positive state – I think we can help many, many people,’

 

‘We humans use our sense of smell more than we think. It’s more unconscious, and a little bit taboo – we are not very comfortable with it – but there is more and more evidence that smell is important in social behaviours.’ – Dr Lisa Roux, Interdisciplinary Institute for Neuroscience, France

 

As fascinating as the science undoubtedly is, you don’t need a degree to know that wearing your favourite fragrance – or experiencing a new scent that sparks joy – will undoubtedly lift your mood and give you an emotional ‘boost’ of comfort, confidence or strength. During lockdown sales of fragrances (unexpectedly, to some) soared, and no wonder. Now we have the science to back what we’ve always felt: fragrance can simply make you feel better.

So, why not treat yourself to some samples to try at home, today…?

International Women’s Day – celebrating female founders of fragrance houses

Celebrating International Women’s Day, in previous years we’ve flagged up female perfumers who’ve shaped the scent world. For 2022 we wanted to give a particular high-five to some amazing women who’ve founded and continued to successfully run some of our favourite fragrance houses, during what has been one of the most challenging periods for retail – and the world! – in history.

So, let’s raise our glasses and support just some of these incredible and entrepreneurial women who strode their own paths in the world of perfume

 

Imogen Russon-Taylor – Kingdom Scotland
From a distinguished career in the aromatic world of Scotch whisky, Imogen founded Scotland’s first fragrance house. Using perfume to share old narratives in new ways, tapping into the rich stories associated with perfume and natural ingredients, she’s also inspired by the Arctic explorer and Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison – a woman ahead of her time, whose own tale inspired one of the initial trio of fragrances, Albaura.

 

 

Kate Evans – Angela Flanders
‘I’ve inherited this incredible legacy and I want it to live on,’ Kate Evans explains, having been bequeathed the award-winning London perfumery her mother, Anglea Flanders founded. Angela was a fragrant phenomenon: an utterly incredible woman with a life-long passion for perfume, who was still working – and creating beautiful scents – into her eighth decade. A costume designer turned interior designer turned perfumer, she passed her knowledge of ingredients and exquisite sense of style to Kate, who proudly continues at their Columbia Road boutique.

 

 

Amanda Connock – Connock London
Born of a love and respect for ‘nature, native folklore and family’, Amanda’s parents supplied hare to find ingredients to the perfumer industry – growing up surrounded by the world of scent, ‘‘I would sit in Dad’s office while he worked and smell the different bottles of fragrance on his desk’ she remembers. Blending samples and making bath salts as a child progressed to earning a business degree. Only four years after joining the family company, sadly her father died, but Amanda’s perfume passion blossomed afresh within her own fragrance house.

 

 

Marina Barcenilla – AromAtom
Part perfumer, part Space Scientist, having won awards for her aponymously named perfume house; after completing her studies in Planetary Science and Astronomy at the University of London, Marina created the house of AromAtom, because ‘As a Planetary Scientist and Astrobiologist I have thought deeply about what kind of strange and alien experiences humans might have on another planet. As a Perfumer, I know that memories and olfaction are intrinsically linked, and I have always found it easier to express my deepest thoughts and emotions through fragrance…’

 

 

Tonya Kidd-Beggs – Stories Parfums
A full-time mother of four, with two boys and twin girls to keep her busy, Tonya’s family played a significant role in her scent story: the twins inspired the brand name, that Tonya explains, ‘…pays tribute to the stories that shape our lives, from pain to beauty and from struggle to freedom.’ Having been born into the heart of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’, herself, and struggling to come to terms with thinking about the future curated each blend personally as a testament to the power of fragrance in her own life; Tonya’s turned her fragrant story-telling into a successful business – an inspiration to us all.

 

 

Amy Christiansen Si-AhmedSana Jardin
A former social worker whose c.v. includes time with the Bill Clinton Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation and the Cherie Blair Foundation; Amy set about ‘changing the world, one bottle of perfume at a time.’ Working with perfumer Carlos Benaïm, she sources ingredients via a women’s co-operative where, locally, they can now market orange flower water, candles made from flower wax, and compost made from the waste flowers.

 

 

Mona KattanKayali
Huda Beauty have been wowing the world for over a decade, building an empire that went from a humble beauty blog to a blockbusting makeup and beauty business. Believing ‘scent is our most transformative part of our beauty routine, It has the power to completely change how we feel’, Mona and sister, Huda, are American-born to Iraqi immigrants, both now running their businesses from Dubai, embracing diversity and often opening up about the bullying they faced in childhood. Truly inspirational.

 

 

 

Holly HutchinsonMemoize
On her seventh birthday, Holly was gifted her very first set of miniature perfumes. As her mother was ‘an avid collector of unusual scents’, perfumes were almost indelibly linked to scented snapshots of her childhood memories. Having joined a prestigious niche fragrance brand, after several years Holly says she ‘knew immediately’ what her own concept should be: sharing the emotionally evocative memories that launched her own fragrant career, while helping perfume-lovers explore their own scented memory banks.

 

 

Olivia da Costa  – Olfactive O
From Chelsea College of Art, Olivia went on to become fascinated by scent as a literary device in turn of the century novels, while then studying English Literature. The psychology of perfume led her to working her way up from shop assistant to buyer at John Lewis, and when a friend introduced her to a distinguished perfumer, the passion became reality in her personality led, story-telling scents.

 

 

Michelle FeeneyFloral Street
Following her time at the Estée Lauder Companies, then revolutionary tanning name St Tropez, the always enterprising Michelle Feeney unveiled a fragrance line ‘built on the streets of London’. With an ethos of sustainability, the vibrant fragrances celebrate florals in a so-modern way, and from a flagship Covent Garden boutique to huge success in Sephora, these bouquets are blooming.

 

 

Ruth Mastenbroek
Having discreetly created fragrances for many famous private clients, she made the famous Grapefruit candle for Jo Malone (which Jennifer Lopez loved so much, she bought 300 for her hotel room). The first perfumer to use advanced micro-encapsulation (in a scented bathrobe) she now has her own fabulous fragrances evoking treasured memories, perfectly balanced and captured forever.

 

 

Sarah McCartney4160 Tuesdays
Having written for LUSH for 14 years, Sarah studied essential oils, acquired a small kit of rare ingredients and made her first fragrance. She then wrote a novel about ‘a woman who makes perfume to remind people of a time when they felt happy’ and turned her hobby into a business. There are 4160 Tuesdays in the average lifetime, and Sarah squeezes the scented juice out of every single one.

 

 

Emmanuelle MoeglinExperimental Perfume Club
Completing her extensive training at the French perfumery school of ISIPCA, Emanuelle worked as a Scent Design Manager for various global fragrance brands, then become an independent perfumer based in London. Wanting to make the fragrance world more inclusive, she runs incredibly popular workshops which led to her own line of exceptionally exciting scents, including kits to make your own.

 

 

Rebecca RoseTo the Fairest
Inspired by storytelling and female strength, Rebecca first explored perfume via treasured vials from her grandmother. Later, still scent-obsessed, meeting fragrance expert Lizzie Ostrum encouraged her to launch her own company. Dedicated to giving back, Rebecca donates funds to charities, including a horticultural project working with vulnerable people; and during the pandemic, Head to Toe, who support people receiving mental health, community and social care.

 

 

Nancy Meiland
Apprenticed to one of the UK’s experts in custom perfumery, Nancy began her career creating bespoke fragrances, she took her dream and made it reality – all the while, dividing her time between town and country and raising a family. Now with her own artisanal line, she has the knack of conjuring emotional responses with lyrical fragrances that are contemplative yet so effortlessly sophisticated.

 

Whichever of their fragrances you choose to explore, you will be amplifying and applauding the hard work and bravery of these female founders, every single time you spritz…

By Suzy Nightingale

What would Santa smell like…?

Responses to the question ‘What would Santa smell like?’ have revealed a wide range of answers from children all over the world, depending on their age and where they live. Perfumer Penny Williams took the most popular answers and turned them into a fragrance that teachers can use to engage school children in discussions around their sense of smell…

Lisa Hipgrave, Director of IFRA UK, who undertook the research, says ‘We are working with a group of people across the fragrance industry to develop ways to help people understand and benefit from a greater awareness of their sense of smell. Whilst this is a lighthearted approach to get us all in the Christmas spirit which we hope people will try at home, it is part of a wider piece of the work of that group. We have created a new website called fragrancematters.org to help people find out more about the importance of their sense of smell  – from new and quirky facts, to taking a deeper dive into the world of olfaction through highlighting wider research, activities and events.’

So, what were their answers? ‘Soot and sweat’ was a popular response, while others answered ‘leather, boot polish and velvet’ and ‘pine trees, from brushing past them on his journey, and from Christmas trees as he places presents under trees in hopeful homes.’ More poetically inclined children decided he might smell of ‘nose-tingling magic and moonlight’ or ‘starry nights from his journey through the night sky’ and even ‘like space, perhaps with a little whisky’. Contributions from the USA included ‘the New York night sky just before snowfall’, and Canadadian children said ‘the first snow of winter on the pine woods’, while responses from Australia included ‘countless beach barbecues’.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, food and drink was a major theme, with cinnamon, gingerbread and mince pies appearing most often. Many children think that Santa smells of milk and biscuits, until they reach around 14 years of age, when Santa’s snacks switched to ‘sherry or brandy and mince pies’.

 

British perfumer Penny Williams, Chairperson of the IFRA UK working group, Vice Chair of the IFRA UK Technical committee and founder of Orchadia Ltd, says: ‘The human sense of smell is incredible. We take around 20,000 breaths a day and each one is an opportunity to learn about our surroundings. Inside our nose are olfactory bulbs, which are linked directly to our brain and create a memory link. That is why our sense of smell is so important to our wellbeing and feeling connected. Through our noses, we can also sense temperature and humidity. Both also affect how well we can smell – and smell is also the flavour of food. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how losing our sense of smell can make us feel disconnected. Our sense of smell isn’t just about the present, it’s about the past and can create feelings of happiness and nostalgia.’ She continues:

‘We want to bring back that innocent joy, comfort and sense of happiness to pupils in the schools we are working with. However, this is such a fun experiment for anyone of any age, so we are inviting people across the UK to spark up the discussion with family and friends. Using everyday objects and a few Christmas treats you can quickly get your olfactory sense working. Our nose is connected to a part of our nervous system which is responsible for detecting heat (chilli) and cold (menthol). So, menthol, found in peppermint and often in toothpaste, has a physical cooling effect that we can feel and mince pies might create a feeling of warmth. The different sensations and feelings evoked by our sense of smell comes from many places and somehow comes together in a wonderful way: rather like Christmas.’

Using these responses, Orchadia created a special fragrance that follows Santa’s journey with a mixture of 48 traditional and modern ingredients that have made an intriguing and bold scent. Most noticeable on first spray are smoke and ozone –using the uniquely woody smokey scent of vetiver and an ingredient that smells like fresh water. Menthol hints at snow flurries in cold air. Also featured are pine needle and davana oil, which is reminiscent of Christmas pudding. There’s even the leathery scent of reins next to reindeer fur, accompanied by earthy patchouli oil. The fresh forest notes are extended with cedar, eventually fading to vanilla and soft moss. 

Victoria Osborne, Teacher at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, says ‘The children are going to have so much fun discussing what Santa smells like as part of their STEM learning. It is a really lovely way to get them to use their own personal experiences and memories whilst also learning about the science of smell. We are going to have a science lab that smells like Christmas has come early as we will be taking time to properly breathe in the different layers of smells in mince pies and to take time to notice if something created a warm or a cooling smell.’

Children respond amazingly and often explain smells in the most creatively imaginative ways, so if you find yourself desperate for a way to entertain the kids during the holidays, why not gather together some ingredients from your pantry (and toothpaste from the bathroom!) to create a sensory station in your own home, where children can explore their sense of smell?  Ask them to smell each ingredient and describe how it smells. you can use questions we ask people to think about at our How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops:

If this was a material, would it be velvet, suede, linen, fluffy towels…?

If this was a musical instrument, which would it be?

Would it be loud or quiet? High or low-pitched? Fast or slow?

What colour would this smell be?

And… which of these would Santa smell of?

 

The scent of climate change – perfumed ‘polution pods’ on display at COP26 Glasgow

Polution Pods are capturing the smell, quality and exact air temperature in places around the world via geodesic domes at the COP26 forum, where major world leaders are desperately discussing how we can work together to limit the devastating effects of climate change.

On display in Glasgow, where COP26 is currently taking place, it’s hoped that people actually stepping into the Polution Pods will dramatically evoke the conditions people are struggling to live in right now – a brilliant example of how smell can be used to engage all of our senses in artistic and politically provocative ways.

 

 

‘The Pollution Pods are a series of geodesic domes whose air quality, smell and temperature accurately recreate the pollution of five different locations on three continents: London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra, a remote peninsula in Norway. Michael Pinsky created the pods in 2017 to test whether art can change people’s perceptions of, and actions around, climate change. Now they face their greatest challenge yet – to shift the debate on air pollution and climate change to help secure real change at COP26.’

The Pollution Pods’ have been travelling to reach as many people as possible with their scented message, their journey beginning in Granary Square, London, then drifting to Birmingham, Lancaster and Newcastle and where ‘accompanied by Ride for their Lives – staff from six UK children’s hospitals who cycled 800km from London to Glasgow to deliver messages from the international health community including the Healthy Climate Prescription Letter, signed by 450 medical organisations across the globe.’

The Pollution Pods have been constructed by students from the University of East London and have been generously supported by the Clean Air Fund with additional sponsorship from Airlabs and BuildwithHubs.

If you’re anywhere near Glasgow, we usrge you to experience the scents in person – it really is extraordinary how smell can allow us to travel immediately, via our noses. Obviously we usually prefer doing this with fabulous fine fragrances that take us to exotic locations and happy holiday memories, but it behoves us all to take climate change seriously, and to appreciatel how scent can be used in more artistic, environmentally important ways. 

 

The Polution Pods will remain on display – FREE to enter – in Glasgow until November 12th, and all details of where and how to experience them can be found at whatsonglasgow.co.uk 

By Suzy Nightingale

IFRA Fragrance Forum 2021 – Hidden Depths: Memory, language & the sense of place.

We’re always excited to attend the annual IFRA Fragrance Forum – a symposium of scent at The Royal Institution which delves 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 research.

This year, we’re even more thrilled, as it will be held in-person again (although online streaming options are available), the topic being Hidden Depths: Memory, language and the sense of place.

Even better news: YOU can buy tickets to attend!

Event details

IFRA says: “This year we celebrate our 10th Fragrance Forum which will be chaired by Professor Barry Smith, Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the Centre for the Study of the Senses. With Barry at the helm we will be exploring the many hidden depths of olfaction through a fantastic line up of speakers including:

Professor Noam Sobel from the Weizmann Institute in Israel – a leader in research relating to olfaction, he will be talking about some of his latest work.

Mr Peter Andrews, Consultant Rhinologist, Facial Plastic and Anterior Skull Base Surgeon, Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital and National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery. As the lead for smell in relation to long-Covid, Peter will be talking about post-infection olfactory disfunction, its wider impact and new ways we can tackle it.

Omer Polak, Studio Omer Polak, Berlin. Omer will talk about the multidisciplinary approach of his studio using a variety of projects that examine the use of the sense of smell as a tool for design through images, video, sound, and smell.

Professor Asifa Majid, Professor of Language, Communication, and Cultural Cognition Department of Psychology, University of York will be focusing on olfaction and language.

Dr Tom Mercer, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Professor Sebastian Groes, Professor of English Literature, University of Wolverhampton will be talking about two studies they have done that provide new insights into the connection between smell, memory and place, and they highlight the value of exploring region-specific smells within the context of the Proust Phenomenon.

We look forward to seeing you at The Royal Institution as we explore the hidden depths of smell together.”

Why do essential oils exist? Scientists discover plants detect insect attacks by ‘sniffing’ each other

Why do essential oils exist? Did you know that the gorgeous smelling essences we so prize in perfumes are actually a way plants communicate with each other (and defend themselves from insect attacks?) This fascinating report reveals all…

‘Plants have nowhere to run from their enemies – flying, crawling and jumping insects want to eat them alive. But plants are not defenceless. They deploy chemical toxins to deter insects. These can make the plant taste bitter, inhibit the herbivore’s digestive enzymes, disrupt their metabolism or poison them.

But they have a more subtle defence too – perfumed chemical compounds, known as volatiles, that they emit into the air to warn neighbours of danger or convey when they’re hurt. An example is the smell of cut grass, a mix of molecules called ‘green leaf volatiles’ which are released when a plant is damaged.

‘Plants are nature’s chemists. They take a few simple inorganic molecules and produce thousands of different organic molecules by just adding (energy from) sunlight,’ said Professor Matthias Erb, a plant scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He investigates the volatiles that plants emit when attacked by insects for a project called PERVOL.

‘Some of these volatiles attract natural enemies of the herbivore, so, friends of the plant,’ said Prof. Erb. For example, if a caterpillar attacks a plant, these volatiles may attract parasitoid wasps or trigger defence responses in neighbouring plants. He says plants don’t help one another by signaling ‘I’m under attack’. Rather, they snoop on one another’s chemical signals to warn themselves about imminent threats.

Insects

Decoding these signals could teach us how to better protect crops against insects, according to Prof. Erb.

Insects are responsible for destroying one-fifth of the world’s total crop production each year. This is predicted to rise further for grain crops with climate change, hitting the temperate zones hardest.

‘These (plant-derived) molecules can be useful for agriculture in that they are natural protective mechanisms of plants. We could use them instead of synthetic chemicals,’ he said.

Prof. Erb works with maize, a strong emitter of volatiles. One chemical it emits is indole, which has a pleasant flowery aroma in small concentrations. Indole is not released by cutting maize. It requires the presence of a molecule in moth caterpillar saliva that activates defence responses in the plant. ‘(Healthy) maize plants do not emit indole. It is only triggered by herbivory,’ he said.

Prof. Erb and his colleagues found that when indole wafts towards the part of the plant that is not under attack, it triggers what he calls a primed state. ‘(Indole) doesn’t induce a defence response, but it prepares the plant, so that when the plant is attacked by a herbivore, it will respond quicker and stronger,’ he said.

Doing this means it can fend off its attacker more effectively, he says.

 

Why do essential oils exist?

One limitation of indole, however, is that it is also released by some flowers, such as jasmine and orange blossom. To prevent confusion, as a single volatile might be misleading, maize plants often tune into chemical mixtures to deduce attacks.

‘We have shown that indole and green leaf volatiles act synergistically to induce defences in an even stronger fashion than an individual volatile,’ said Prof. Erb.

‘Plants are nature’s chemists. They take a few simple inorganic molecules and produce thousands of different organic molecules by just adding sunlight.’

Professor Matthias Erb, University of Bern, Switzerland

 

To paint a fuller picture of plant behaviour, scientists are also exploring the impact of insect saliva on green leaf volatiles.

This is something that Dr Silke Allmann at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has investigated in her work looking at how the green leaf volatiles of hurt plants is perceived by both plants and insects.

She experimented on tobacco plants by mechanically cutting them and applying water or the saliva of a tobacco hornworm caterpillar. The results surprised her: overall, the amount of green leaf volatiles did not change much, but the composition of the volatiles shifted dramatically. An enzyme in the caterpillar’s spit changed the compound, causing it to shift from a grassy to a sweet smell.

 

Why do essential oils exist?

 

She then discovered that a shift to the sweet-smelling compound attracted big-eyed bugs, which are natural enemies of the hornworm caterpillar, to the tobacco plant. This seemed puzzling to Dr Allmann, as the caterpillar’s own enzyme helped alert its presence to its enemies.

However, the sweet smell also warned adult tobacco hawk moths that a tobacco plant had already been colonised by caterpillars and steered them towards those with fewer competitors and fewer predators.

Dr Allmann is now studying this compound further as part of a project called VOLARE, and exploring practical uses.

‘A big challenge with plant volatiles is finding applications in agriculture. That is the holy grail,’ said Dr Allmann.

These chemicals can help farmers in a greener way, say the scientists.

‘You could imagine applying plant volatiles at the right moment to trigger specific reactions in a plant, for instance, resistance to herbivory,’ said Prof. ‘That would be a far more environmentally friendly strategy of boosting plant immunity or resistance to stress than applying a bioactive chemical to kill insects.’

Such natural chemicals could be released into fields under threat from pests to activate plant defences at the right moment. Insights into how plants detect warning smells could also allow breeders to develop crop varieties that are responsive to the signals.

Nose

What remains puzzling for scientists is how plants sniff out volatiles in the first place. They don’t have noses like us but can smell.

‘Our hypothesis is that volatiles enter through the stomata, small pores in leaves. We expect that there are sensors inside the leaf, perhaps proteins on the surface of cells, that the volatiles bind to,’ said Prof. Erb.

Dr Allmann is also hunting for these sensors. ‘If we found these receptors, we could find ligands (a type of molecule) that bind to them and switch them on. We could perhaps breed plants to be more or less sensitive to volatiles,’ she said. Plants could be bred that are easily triggered and could serve as sentinels to warn other plants nearby.’

The research in this article has been funded by the EU’s European Research Council. This post Plants can detect insect attacks by ‘sniffing’ each other’s aromas was originally published on Horizon: the EU Research & Innovation magazine | European Commission.