PHILOSOPHY OF PERFUME, part 2. The language of scents.

frankincense

 

How natural raw materials are different? Part one of three

1). There is a language of scents based on olfactory archetypes. A basic, instinctive, deep and compelling language in which meanings are emotions.

How do smells get associated with emotions? Through our olfactory memory. It memorize them through the emotions that were experienced in its presence.

This is the part that we share with animals, we identifies smells as being simply good or bad in function of the emotional context in which they are perceived. Often with basic emotions such as fear, hunger, anger, joy, satisfaction, love…
This is why we may love some smells that other people hate, because we lived opposite experiences with that scent.

Whenever smelled again, the odors will reawake the emotions associated to them in our memory so that we can identify the meaning that they bearfor us in absolute terms of being good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.

From each individual, his experience of life will make some smells awaken positive or negative emotions. These are the olfactory memories individually acquired.

This explains also why some smells entirely disgusting to Americans are lovely to Chinese. Or why French cheese stinks to all others than French preople.

They have been memorized as “good” since childhood because they accompanied positive emotional situations. These are called olfactory memories acquired through a culture, mostly a culinary one. They are olfactory memories culturally acquired.

Did it occur to you that the odors that we never smelled might be as important for awaking emotions as those that we have experienced and memorized?

The proof is in a simple experiment. Have a new born baby smell different essences by approaching scented strips to his nose.
You will see his face expressing all sort of sentiments, from pleasure to disgust, because the smells evocate for him memories that he has inherited.

These are the olfactory memories congenitally inherited. This is my personal hypothesis in the field of olfactory research.  The existence of such a memory is understood by the fact that smell perception, the chemical sense, is fundamental in the process of learning for all living organisms, and the process of learning is fundamental to survival.

When does a smell become an olfactory archetypes? When an odor acquires a significant emotional  value for a large enough number of persons for  a long enough period of time, it becomes an olfactory archetype. Some of them are antique, like the smell of fire or of the sea, some are new, like the smell of kitchen gas or cinnamon.
some are natural, like pine or rose and some are artificial, like vanillin used in the babies talcum powder since 5 generations.

Some archetypes who were only local for some regions of the world have spread all over the planet, either through trade or through acclimation of the plants that produce them. For instance Cinnamon that originates in hot countries of the southern hemisphere have spread with commerce to all countries, particularly in the northern regions where it would never grow, but where it is extremely useful for its medical properties against the diseases of cold.  Cinnamon has become the archetype of spices because it is used to aromatize the best and noblest of all foods, the sweets. It symbolizes the sunny exotic countries but also the security of home and family. The smell of Cinnamon is a little bit like travelling with Alpitour, adventure but in all security.

Oranges never grew in the cold weather countries, but through the diffusion of soft drinks and sweeties, its aroma has become the  archetype of fruit all over the world as far as Lapland, supplanting the apple, that was in the past the symbol of fruit, because it is so widespread in all climates, it  is sweet  and so perfumed.  A basket of apples can perfume a whole room.
But in modern times, sweetness is much less rare and symbolic of the fruits as it was  that a few generations ago, orange soft drinks are much sweeter than apples, much more perfumed and in the meantime, agronomic selection have made them more beautiful than they once were, but also much less perfumed. This is how archetypes can die and others are born.

The existence of an olfactory language based on our scent memories is the reason why fragrances composed with natural essences make perfume with meaning, not just smell.
They can narrate human stories, make us live emotions and they  have a dimension unreachable to  chemical new molecules, alien to our memories, or to chemical imitations of the  scents of nature, mere surrogates.

This is the first way in which natural ingredients of perfumes are different from synthetic ones and how they generate a philosophy of perfume, simply because natural scents have a meaning for us.

To be continued…

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