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Perfume notes, mystery of the sense of smell

In perfumery a mixture that smells different from its components is called an accord. However the nose retains its capacity to analyse the accord in order to detect each component.
This is very stange.

Let us remark that the accord will be perceived as a smell of its own by everybody, but only the persons who know the ingredients will be able to analyse the accord.
Analysis of smell requires the help of the evolved part of  the brain, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex and the language center.

I have met people who are able to detect the presence in a perfume of the smallest part of an essence that they abhor, rose or Frankincense for instance.
Their nose does not detect the smell of rose or frankincense in the perfume, there is too little of that in the perfume to be detected, I know it well enough, having composed the perfume myself.

What they detect is the emotion that these smells associate.
These persons did hate rose or Frankincense due to a trauma. They had been exposed to them in a situation of stress and distress and had memorized these smells associating them with the negative emotions lived during that situation.
Their nose acted as a detector, it detected the presence of the essence associated with distress and notified the danger they represented (according to their personal experience) by reproducing the record of the emotion.

The facts about the nose illustrated in these reflections are three:

The nose has a synthetic perception of scents, thousands of aromatic molecules are identified as a single odour.

The nose has an analytic perception of scents, and can be used as an instrument by the brain in order to split an odour in each of its components.

The nose can act as a gas chromatography instrument, informing us about the presence of some components in a scent that are of particular relevance for our survival.

Mechanism of olfactory memory


Psycho-Aromatherapy is by Robert Tisserand

The perfumer invites people to smell perfumes, this can be a daily routine.I have a customer who smells the raw materials for his fragrance. I have it tried out by the barman next to my office, I diffuse scents during my didactic conferences. My pockets are always full of perfumes, I do not miss an occasion to spray them on other people’s hands, I leave behind me a sillage that stuns people who do not know me.
A perfumer never has to ask to someone what he thinks of the perfume: he has just smelt it is enough for him to observe and read the faces. Facial expressions are infinite, liking, repulsion, appeals to me but I wouldn’t wear it, doubtful, skeptical, intrigued, reminds me of something long ago but I do not know what, reminds me of something that I don’t like.

At the end the expressions are only of two categories: smiling and negative. If the person smiles it means “good”, if the person does not smile she will never buy a scent that will not make her happy, unless she wants to rid of the scent and make a gift to someone.

The only way that we have to understand odors it is to go fishing into our olfactory memories for the emotions to which they are tied. A strange thing that I keep on verifying every day while making people smell scents is that they are not able to give a name to the most familiar aromas when they smell them out of their context or when they do not see the image of the object that emanates it. They say about any citrus that it is the smell of lemon, they cannot guess the name of scents such as chocolate or tobacco, and when I reveal to them the name of the aromas that they cannot name, it is for them like an illumination; True, it was so obvious! They exclaim.
This is because there are no direct connections between our primitive brain, our “crocodile brain “, and the neocortex where the center of language resides.
In order to identify a odor by its name we must first of all remember which emotions have been memorized in our olfactory memory with this smell. From these emotions we can then remember the situations in which they lived, and finally we identify the source of the smell and therefore its name.
It is curious that our mind, so intelligently sophisticated as it is, has to follows such a complicated track in order to give a name to a smell.
This is because our sense of smell has preceded our intelligence, and because in some way it is independent from it.