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 long-foregranted 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.’
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.
 

 
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.’
We devoted an entire issue of our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter (now available in print, and with online subscriptions worldwide!) 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.’
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

Little lucky charms – Six lovely Lily of the Valley scents to spritz this May Day

Now, for the fragrant noses out there that don’t know, in France, May Day is known as Fête du Muguet. It is tradition on this day, to give Lily of the Valley to your loved ones and people who inspire you, to wish them happiness and good luck.

It all began in 1561 on May 1st when King Charles IX received a Lily of the Valley as a lucky charm. He decided then to offer a flower each year to the ladies of the court.

And so at the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a definitive symbol of springtime, to your loved ones. It was commonplace for peasants to go out to the fields to pick many flowers and then hand-tie them to sell on May Day. In fact, now, because of this, the government still permits people to sell them tax-free.

Now, if you love the sweet springtime scent of Lily of the Valley, but just don’t want it to fade like a bunch of the innocent flowers will, here’s a list of our favourite Muguet fragrances for you to keep a little bit of that May Day feeling all year round.

penhaligons
Sweet, fresh and graceful, Penhaligon’s offering is akin to walking into a blooming field of muguet. Accents of jasmine and bergamot keep it fresh, whilst sandalwood in the base ensures a creamy trail on the skin.

Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley £67 for 50ml eau de toilette
At Penhaligon’s

molton b
Dewy white flowers steal the show in this meadow-like scent from Molton Brown. Silky ylang-ylang, sandalwood and a soft, sensual white musk linger for a tender, enduring finish.

Molton Brown Dewy Lily of the Valley & Star Anise £39 for 50ml eau de toilette
At Molton Brown

Annick_Goutal_Le_Muguet_Eau_de_Toilette_Spray_100ml_1403081186
Paired with red berries and rose, Annick Goutal’s Soliflore is a tender and airy floral and leaves the skin with traces of a warm, sweet benzoin.

Annick Goutal Le Muguet £74 for 100ml eau de toilette
At Selfridges

o.22058
This gentle scent from Fragonard accentuates the lily of the valley at the heart by surrounding it with other similarly delicate flowers; jasmine, neroli and freesia. Secret spring garden walks bottled.

Fragonard Muguet £18 for 50ml eau de toilette
At Marks and Spencer

guerlain
Guerlain’s newest incarnation of the dainty flower is greener, pinker and even more cheerful than previous offerings. Dewy roses and subtly sensual jasmine make Thierry Wasser’s creation oh-so-wearable.

Guerlain Muguet Limited Edition of 1,872 £370 for 100ml eau de parfum
In store at Selfridges

robbie honey
The scent of the tiny white bell-like flower is captured in its truest form here in a Robbie Honey candle. Burn it for a touch of springtime in the home.

Robbie Honey Muguet Des Bois Scented Candle £42 for 190g – 60 hours burn time
At Fortnum & Mason

Happy May Day to one and all!
By Carson Parkin-Fairley