Long Lost Smell

Long Lost Smell

If you’ve been reading perfume forums, you’ll have seen the word ‘anosmia’ used casually (a little bit like a sad person might use ‘depressed’ or someone with a headache might use ‘migraine’). There are, of course, specific anosmias (many people can’t smell certain synthetic musks, for example). Total anosmia is a complete loss of smell. Being truly nose-blind.

The scary thing is that it can happen to anyone. A head injury, car accident, bad cold – and your nerves could get so damaged you lose your sense of smell permanently (or worse: get parosmia, where all smells are distorted so that food might taste of excrement and common smells like coffee might make you feel sick, so being in public places suddenly becomes pure torture). Smell and taste are part of the same system – when we eat, the majority of what we think of as taste is actually smell. Aromatic compounds are inhaled through our nose and throat. You can get a glimpse of what eating with no sense of smell feels like if you think back to a time when you had a very bad cold. The loss you experienced temporarily was not complete and that was bad enough to make all the food you ate taste bland.

Why don’t we see sniffer dogs like there are seeing-eye dogs? Why aren’t there TV ads for smell disorder charities? Smell has traditionally been treated by society as banal and unimportant. It has been thought of as ‘animal’ – ergo, not civilised. It has been ignored by governments because if a person loses their sense of smell, they can still work (whereas a blind or a deaf person might not be able to without special help).

Most of us are not really conscious of our sense of smell and even in the perfume communities where people have started thinking about smells more actively, we tend to focus on the hedonistic side of the sense – comparing our impressions and trying to work out what our favourite perfume is made of.

You know that smell they add to gas so humans can detect a leak? An anosmic person would not be made any safer by that. You know how you sniff milk before you pour it into a cup of tea? An anosmic person would not be able to tell if it’s off.

When I was a little girl (6 or 7 years old), I was playing in the second floor bedroom of my friend’s house while her mum was supposed to be watching us. For some inexplicable reason she decided to pop to the shops while we were in her care, and accidentally left a pot boiling on the gas stove.

I suspect that I’ve always been hypersensitive to certain sensory stimuli because there have been many times I’ve smelled or noticed something before anyone around me has. This was luckily one of those times. I smelled smoke and told my playmate about it. She didn’t smell anything and didn’t want to take a look. I insisted, and went downstairs. There was smoke billowing from under the kitchen door. I screamed for my friend and we ran out of the house, leaving the front door open. A neighbour called the fire brigade and took us in.

There are people who are anosmic from birth. Someone with this condition would have been trapped on the second floor of that burning house and may not have made it.

It is said that when we fall in love, we really fall for someone’s smell. Our sense of smell is very important in mate selection. When we kiss, we’re smelling each other. Imagine – what would it be like to never to be able to smell your partner? Your children?

Fifth Sense Logo

There have been charities and support for other sensory loss for decades. Fifth Sense, a charity for people with smell and taste disorders was founded in 2012 and is working to raise awareness of the impact that such conditions have on people’s quality of life and support further research in this area.

Obviously I think this is very important work – not just because of my profession, but because I think there needs to be more awareness of this issue, and much more help for those affected.

Fifth Sense is running an awareness campaign, and they have declared 27th of February as Anosmia Awareness Day. Basenotes will be participating on the day, The Perfume Society‘s Scented Letter has featured Louise Woollam who lost her sense of smell following a cold (and the Guardian will be interviewing her on the 28th of February).

Fifth Sense Founder Duncan Boak is delivering a talk at the ‘Body and the City’ symposium at Goldsmiths College on 27th February. His talk, entitled ‘Connecting Through Smell’, will focus on how the sense of smell forms a crucial emotive connection to the world around us.

Volunteers are also delivering Anosmia Awareness Day leaflets to doctors’ surgeries.

What can we do?

Please donate (even a small amount) on the Fifth Sense donation page.

Please tweet, InstaGram and Facebook about the Anosmia Awareness Day and what you would miss most if you lost your sense of smell, using the hashtag #LongLostSmell – some of your posts will appear on the Fifth Sense Storify page.

LongLostSmelltag

Let’s raise awareness of this important issue!

If today smells of roses

…what do roses smell of?

Some roses smell honeyed, some smell green; some even smell like peaches and cream. Oops, I made a rhyme! I suppose I’m in the spirit of Valentine’s Day after I was treated to a lovely bouquet of velvety-red flower shop roses which smell strongly of… phenylethyl acetate. I did what anyone would upon receiving such a gift – buried my nose in and inhaled deeply.

Valentine's bouquet

At first I thought I still had some phenylethyl acetate stuck up my nose from work (I had been working on a hyacinth accord, which is built around other materials but to which I had added a bit of phenylethyl acetate for its honeyed-green ‘flower shop’ note).

Roses are incredibly varied, not just in appearance, but in scent, too. One of the Lush founders once brought in a peach-coloured rose bud from her garden which smelled very strongly of lemons, and asked me to replicate the scent for her. I made an accord she was so happy with she exclaimed: “It smells better than the real thing!” Needless to say I was delighted she was so pleased, and it made me curious about roses as a garden plant – I am not an expert gardener and hadn’t really explored the types of roses available. Since then I’ve pinned dozens of roses from David Austin Roses and other suppliers, and look forward to seeing which ones I might manage not to kill…

The rose used in perfumery is commonly Rosa damascena which I’ve been lucky enough to smell in the field as the rose pickers deftly pluck whole blooms before sunrise. The petals are gathered in large burlap sacks and taken to the distillery where they’re spread in a large room before processing.

Rosa damascena in burlap sacks
A good rose picker can gather fourty kilos of petals a day and it takes four tonnes of roses to produce just one kilo of rose oil, and one tonne to produce a kilo of rose absolute. These figures are direct quotes from the source, and I have seen the process in action – it’s mind-boggling to see what a sea of roses it takes to fill just one small container with rose oil.

Rosa damascena waiting to be processed

Rose oil is the distillation product, with water-soluble parts left in the distillation water (which is sold as rose water). After distilling twice, a white-yellowish, waxy liquid with a heady, honeyed scent is left; precious and potent, so luckily not much of it is needed in a blend for it to have an effect.

Rose absolute is produced by washing the petals with hexane – a complex process which demands several rounds of washing and rinsing. First, a rose concrete is made, which contains everything you can possibly extract from the petals, including the wax. Rose concrete is stored ‘as is’ sometimes, for later processing (it’s better preserved that way). Once the concrete is washed, you’re left with rose wax and rose absolute. Since the yield is so much better with rose absolute production, this material is several magnitudes less costly than rose oil (rose otto). Rose absolute captures the scent of the rose most accurately, though smelling the blooms on the field, the impression was different again; strong geraniol impression in the morning dew. Roses have to be picked as early in the morning as possible to stop the sun’s rays evaporating too much precious oil. The pickers have to work fast and choose the open blooms.

Rosa damascena in bloom Volatile Fiction

If garden roses are of interest, perhaps a visit to the David Austin gardens at Albrighton might be in order – they have 2 acre gardens with over 700 different rose varieties! I’m definitely going to go there before choosing which roses I’ll plant in my garden.

Rose chemistry is fascinating – there are over 300 chemicals in rose oil, some of which are still unknown to science. While it’s really easy to make a rose-like smell from a handful of basic constituents (phenylethyl alcohol, geraniol, citral, rose oxide…), the real oil and absolute add such complexity that nothing comes close. On the other hand, if one were to aim for an accord which replicates the scent of roses in bloom, first you’d have to pick which rose (the lemony ones? Ones which have a hint of banana? Perhaps the ones that smell like wine?) – and then add creative touches to the rose accord to achieve the desired effect.

Compound Interest publishes fun chemistry posters every week and this time they’ve been looking at flowers:

Compound Interest

I adore what they’re doing (I did write an article about how everything is made of chemicals, and how the whole division of ‘synthetic vs. natural’ is peculiar when looking at safety – aesthetics aside, the origin of a chemical has nothing to do with safety).

I hope your Valentine’s Day is fragrant and if any of you have rose gardening tips, do let me know…

Volatile Fiction shortlisted in the 2015 Jasmine Awards

Jasmine Awards 2015
This blog is a great way to write quite freely; to indulge in longer articles and anything I get excited about. I am grateful that you, the readers, keep coming back, even though you’ll never quite know what to expect.

It is fair to say that the likelihood of perfume featuring here is quite high, and this year I am delighted to be in the illustrious company of some of Britain’s best fragrance bloggers on the Jasmine Blogger Award shortlist! Congratulations to everyone who has earned a nomination this year – it is brilliant to see good fragrance writing celebrated in this way, and best of luck to all nominees.

The Fragrance Foundation is uploading the shortlisted articles here, bit by bit, so do check them out (it’s a good opportunity to read articles in the print categories as well).

The award ceremony will be held at the BAFTAs on the 18th of March. I’m looking forward to cheering my friends along again. It’s going to be a really fragrant day – I am going to a BSP lecture about the mechanism of olfaction by Charles Sell that same evening. Look out for a write-up about that here afterwards.

Favourite Christmas fragrances

Favourite Christmas scentsWhat are your favourite fragrances to wear this time of the year? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, or nothing in particular, there might be certain scents that just seem right for the season and whatever you get up to. Nostalgia plays a big part for me (and, I’m sure, for many people) when picking out what to wear on Christmas Eve and on the days around it.

Although somewhat assimilated into British culture, I do still hold on to the Finnish custom of having the festive meal on the evening of the 24th, and handing out presents afterwards. In the past I’ve not always been lucky enough to get a long holiday over this period, but this year I have a luxurious two week break during which to see friends and family, and to have a cosy little Christmas in our new home.

I’m not religious, but I do very much admire the beautiful things that have come out of the human endeavours inspired by it (this is not the time of the year to focus on the ugly side); there is wonderful music, art and architecture which one can appreciate without the need to subscribe to the beliefs. Of course Christmas is one of those occasions when many atheists remind us that the holiday was hijacked in the first place, so non-religious people can relax and enjoy the celebration (and perhaps create their own traditions).

Christmas tree inside Salisbury Cathedral

Christmas tree inside Salisbury Cathedral (our least out-of-focus photo of it… the other ones could be pictures of cooked spinach). We visited yesterday, and I recommend it, if only to see the Magna Carta.

One of the things which I can’t get enough of is the smell of incense, or frankincense to be precise (we’re not talking about joss sticks here). It’s almost as though the pious meaning of my name is subconsciously asserting itself. Or maybe just because olibanum simply smells wonderful. Or maybe because it might really have some beneficial properties for the respiratory system. Who can say? Nevertheless, this is the time of the year I crave frankincense most, and the good kind; intoxicating, woody, bright, fruity. It happens to be one of the oils which seems to improve as it ages, so it’s good to smell several samples of it from different sources and of different age to appreciate it properly.

Amouage Gold Woman treats the incense note in a glorious way – my favourite framing of it in fine fragrance to date. I have been wearing it for four days running at the time of writing this, and having clouds of the expensive-smelling, ancient, gilded vapour wafting around you is the closest a human being can come to wearing a halo.

Which is why it can sometimes feels a little too precious, and so I take my heathen self to the perfume wardrobe for something wordly like Shalimar for a change. This would be my favourite vanilla fragrance, were it not for the strong association with my mother (of course that’s why I like it in the first place – but the association stops this from becoming MY perfume, and instead makes me feel like she is following me around in her best red lippie and high heels). I realise this is old news, but I must once again stress just how clever the accord is here; completely over-the-top vanilla, made inedible by the animalic edge, and the animalic edge made pretty by the vanilla.

In some ways I feel that Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle does to a saffron accord what Shalimar does to vanilla – in that a potentially sickly-sweet gourmand is piled as high as it will go; then defused by the addition of a perfect counterbalance, in this case, of dry, woody notes and a savoury, buttery sandalwood accord. DVN is a new addition to my Christmas season scent rotation, and it fits in perfectly. The starchy, overcooked rice note I so dislike in many saffron accords is also happily missing, and the drydown on my skin brings to mind milk chocolate, rice pudding and precious woods.

Shiseido’s Feminite du Bois has been a favourite of mine for years, and I am torn between tearing through the rest of the juice and wishing to preserve it. Its ginger-cloves-cinnamon-cardamom mix sounds heavy on paper, but is made transparent and almost fizzy (with that inevitable cola-aspect that appears when you blend certain spices and fruity notes). There is a hint of gingerbread, too. If I had to pick THE perfect scent for the season, this might be it; managing to reference so many seasonal aromas, yet being so uplifting, refreshing and elegant, rather than stuffy and overwhelming. In some ways, it is the winter mirror to my summer love, Annick Goutal’s Mandragore.

Dzongkha once again features frankincense, but this time it is wrapped in an iris-leather accord and spiced up, so the impression flip-flops between a spice cupboard, single malt whisky and celery. It isn’t the easiest of scents to wear, but when the days get cold and dark, and we begin to wind down (and, in some cases, sip single malt whisky), this is the perfect companion. I wore this to a whisky tasting session with Iain Banks, but the scent has found itself to my Christmas rotation, too, and fits there perfectly.

Timo with whisky

My husband with his early Christmas treats.

The hardest scent for me to wear is Y by YSL (which, until a few years ago had not suffered from reformulations, if any, though I hear has now been changed. My bottle is approximately seven years old). It was the closest my mother had to a signature scent. She wore this for many years almost exclusively, and I have very strong memories of her wafting in from freezing cold temperatures, bringing with her the green floral chypre sillage, along with a trail of sub-zero air. For some reason the scent is particularly fixed to Christmas; perhaps because when I was very little, I would be shipped off to her parent’s house for a few days before she would follow, and getting the frozen waft of Y through the door before she appeared has been forever etched to my memory. This does smell glorious in cold weather, and has that 60s/70s galbanum-cyclamen-hyacinth-aldehyde-soapy thing going on, with a gorgeous dry chypre base. If I am feeling brave, I wear it on Christmas Eve, so it is like having her there with me, even though she died in 2001.

This year we have also bought a real Christmas tree, though I now realise, a little too soon (it is a Norway spruce – the tree traditionally brought indoors a day or two before Christmas in Finland; ours has been here for two weeks and is starting to drop its needles. Oops). The smell of this tree is the ‘correct’ Christmas tree smell for me, and adds to the festive feeling.

If you are interested in chemistry, or fragrance chemistry, or both, do follow Compound Interest who frequently post nifty infographics such as this:

compound interest smell of Christmas treesWhich smells and fragrances really make Christmas special for you?

British Society of Perfumers Fine Fragrance Evening 2014

Sweet pea

It’s that time of the year again – dark days, rainy mornings (afternoons and evenings), Christmas adverts on TV, and, of course, the annual Fine Fragrance Evening by the British Society of Perfumers. The London event was held at the Royal Institution (a venue which I love, probably because the lecture is held in a library). BSP events have been fully subscribed this year and the Fine Fragrance Evening was no exception – there was standing room only by the time Virginie was ready to start.

BSP Fine Fragrance Evening 2014Nature journals

These scents were featured:

Laine de Verre – Serge Lutens – citrus, aldehydic, green
Maravilla – Bulgari – citrus, white floral, woody
Mandarino di Amalfi – Tom Ford – citrus, spicy, woody
Eau Tropicale – Sisley – floral, fruity, musk
Yellow Diamonds Intense – Versace – floral, fruity, sweet
My Burberry – Burberry – floral, fruity, woody
Karl Lagerfeld for Her – Karl Lagerfeld – floral, fruity, woody
Dolce – Dolce & Gabbana – white floral, fruity, woody
Knot – Bottega Veneta – white floral, citrus, musk
La Panthere – Cartier – white floral, fruity, chypre
Flowerhead – Byredo – white floral, tuberose, green
Narciso – Narciso Rodriguez – white floral, woody, musk
Extatic – Balmain – woody, oriental, fruity
My NY – DKNY – chypre, red fruits, patchouli
Tralala – Penhaligon’s – woody, leather, floral
Reveal – Calvin Klein – oriental, white floral, woody
Sylvan Song – Grossmith – oriental, floral, incense
Black Opium – YSL – oriental, spicy, gourmand
Bayolea – Penhaligon’s – citrus, woody, spicy
Eau d’Aromes – Armani – citrus, spicy, woody
Jimmy Choo Man – Jimmy Choo – aromatic, fruity, woody
Emblem – Mont Blanc – aromatic, green, spicy
Lavender On The Rocks – Atkinson – aromatic, leather, spicy
Karl Lagerfeld for Him – Lagerfeld – aromatic, fruity, woody
Nuit d’Issey – Issey Miyake – woody, spicy, leather
L’Homme Ideal – Guerlain – woody, fougere, gustative
Just Cavalli Gold For Him – Cavalli – woody, gustative, spicy
Bulgari Man in Black – Bulgari – woody, leather, spicy
Shisur – Molton Brown – leather, spicy, powdery

Virginie’s presentations are so useful – with over 1400 fragrances launched this year, who could possibly keep up? (Well, I know Michael Edwards does try). Add to that, the irony of a perfumista-turned-lab rat is that when I am at work, I cannot wear perfume because it would interfere with quality control and perfumery. And – AND – fragrance factories and warehouses tend to be in the middle of nowhere (read: not within easy reach of well-curated perfumeries). I am fortunate enough to have many fragrance-loving buddies who send me samples to sniff (thank you, thank you!), and every visit to London or somewhere civilised tends to include a quick visit to a perfume counter. Nevertheless, Virginie does to fine fragrance launches what my husband does to data (he’s a government statistician) – turns a lot of white noise into a meaningful narrative.

Based on the scents she had selected, it was also quite a relief to realise that despite opinions to the contrary, there really still are beautiful and noteworthy scents being launched right under our noses (sometimes it’s too easy to ‘Golden Age’ everything).

Some scents in limited distribution were included (I struggle with the term ‘niche’ these days) – and the lines between what we consider mainstream and – well – not, are clearly blurring.

Now that the Estee Lauder Group has purchased Le Labo and Parfums Frederic Malle, we’re clearly well on our way to the most popular niche brands becoming the new mainstream. Actually, this is as good a time as any to mention that I feel like the celebuscent-craze (which is still going strong) has created its own layer of the fragrance market and expanded it from what it would otherwise have been: scent as merchandise.

Back in the 80s, I would have bought a Hanoi Rocks Parfum or Eau de China Girl in a heartbeat. Instead, I had to make do with posters, sew-on denim jacket badges and pencil cases. I don’t even think we should worry too much about the monetising of celebrities and brands in this way; as consumers, we have never had it this good – there is most certainly something for everyone out there.

MossEven vintage-lovers will find brands brave enough to create divisive, retro-styled scents (Bogue Profumo, Vero Profumo, Slumberhouse if you want an indie edge, or Ruth Mastenbroek’s glorious chypre, Grossmith’s retro formulas and retro-styled new scents if you want conventionally created fragrances. We also still have many classics knocking around, albeit, reformulated, but still wonderful – the most popular classic Guerlains and Chanels can still be yours).

It is perfectly possible to create an aesthetically retro fragrance in today’s regulatory landscape, even if the tools aren’t quite the same. The reason we don’t smell so many of them around these days isn’t regulation (though regulation may occasionally drive a stake through the heart of a particular formula) – the reason we don’t see so many of these fragrances, is that they just don’t sell as well as a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel fruity florals and nose-hair-burning synth woods do. Since bigger brands still dominate the typical distribution channels (Duty Free and department stores), and because we’re still somewhat relying on traditional ways in which to get the fragrance under consumers’ noses, risk-taking is still a rare thing in mainstream. Doesn’t mean it’s not happening, but it’s not what dominates the market.

There’s already a new postmodern perfume culture (you heard it here first) – with indie/artisan perfumers and fragrance lovers/bloggers together doing their own thing and ignoring how Things Are Supposed To Be Done.

PearsAccording to Virginie, there is a new fruit trend in fine fragrance, away from straight-up-apple (we’ve had quite a few years of perfumes with a fruity shampoo accord) – and into apple-like notes of pear, quince and fig.

Freesia, sweet pea, orange flower, jasmine and tuberose dominated the floral scene – though tuberose was not of the shoulderpad-variety in any of the featured scents, but treated in a modern way. Even though I felt Dolce by D&G was a little too predictably safe (but still pretty), I did find the story behind its creation quite endearing. Apparently the designers fell in love with a white amaryllis accord based on a headspace capture of a South African species, even though their original plan had been to launch a fragrance with another, Mediterranean theme.

Coffee notes kept popping up in masculine launches, and were particularly prominent in Just Cavalli Gold For Him. The aroma was that of dark roast coffee. Bulgari Man in Black seemed to me a little out of step with its name and imagery (a hot man in hot lava); the opening was juniper-like, green, and not the smoky, tar-type accord one might have expected. There has been much discussion about Guerlain’s L’Homme Ideal, and to me it reads as La Petite Robe Noire Pour Homme. Some bloggers love it; others wring their wrists that it’s a ‘pointless’ launch – well, I think it will be popular. It smells good on a man, and is very trendy, and done with style. Guerlain already has a back catalogue of scents in a certain style, so let’s allow them to create a couple of hit records so we get to keep buying our Mitsy.

Cashmeran was everywhere, and generally, many fragrances used a skin-scent musk accord; powdery and dry notes were also prevalent. Orris-notes were featured in several fragrances, and a few had a marine theme with a hint of a coconut note.

There appears to be a little bit of a chypre revival, and Bogue’s Maai (not featured on the night) is Kouros x Aromatics Elixir x Youth Dew (Or Kouros Pour Elle); a wonderful, retro-styled, unapologetic animalic chypre. A tamer (ironically) option would be Cartier’s La Panthere (featured on the night) – with a deceptively fruity notes listing, but being definitely of good chypre character. The bottle is innovative, too, using new kind of glass-moulding technology.

My favourites from the evening were Penhaligon’s Tralala (a bonkers whisky-aromatic-leather-floral thing, which I fear will get discontinued if all of its fans don’t rush to buy it soon), Grossmith’s Sylvan Song (such a beautiful classic-style fragrance that it almost made me melancholy), Mandarino di Amalfi (a bitter, grapefruit eau de cologne-type scent with amazing longevity; staying just on the right side of too-bitter. This will be a new summer favourite), Narciso (a woody musk sans fruit; an intoxicating skin-scent), and the surprise find, Extatic by Balmain (surprise because it opens with a nearly too sweet fruit accord, but quickly transforms to a gorgeous woody oriental, albeit still quite sweet).

It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, and I am already looking forward to next year’s! (I also now have several new fragrances to buy…).

 

Ditch the coffee beans – why the popular perfume sales meme is wrong

Coffee beansOne of the most persistent myths in fragrance sales is the ‘coffee bean’ one – you’ll have seen pots of coffee beans on perfume counters to ‘cleanse your palate’ between trying out different scents. Turns out, sniffing coffee is just ‘another smell’. You’re better off popping out for a bit of fresh air, or sniffing your own, unscented sleeve (or skin).

There was even a study to check whether sniffing a) coffee beans, b) lemon, or c) air improved odour identification afterwards:

Fragrance sellers often provide coffee beans to their customers as a “nasal palate cleanser,” to reduce the effects of olfactory adaptation and habituation. To test this idea, college students smelled three fragrances multiple times, rating odors each time. After completing nine trials, participants sniffed coffee beans, lemon slices, or plain air. Participants then indicated which of four presented fragrances had not been previously smelled. Coffee beans did not yield better performance than lemon slices or air.

Avery Gilbert wrote about the coffee bean meme in his book, What the Nose Knows:

…the two founders of DigiScents, Inc. Joel and Dexster had come up with a small unit that could release innumerable combinations of scent when activated by a digital signal from a personal computer. Stanford graduates, with degrees in bioscience and engineering, respectively, they had previously started a successfull genomics company. Neither of them knew beans about smell. That’s why I had been hired a few months earlier – to bring a working knowledge of sensory science and the fragrance industry to the new venture. I thought their coffee stunt was silly. I’d seen beans at a trade show, but had never heard of a perfumer using them. Still, Joel and Dexster had an unnerring sense of publicity – a useful talent for founders of a Silicon Valley startup. So I sat back and watched with inward eye-rolling as the meme of a “reset button for your nose” was launched into digital culture.

The bean meme is now a fixture in perfume retailing. I toured the Mall at Short Hills, New Jersey, recently and marveled at how thoroughly it has taken root. At the Angel counter in Nordstrom a glass cone full of coffee beans was held aloft on a brushed metal stand. In Bloomingdale’s the beans were in a cocktail glass. The Jo Malone display in Saks had them in an apothecary jar with a metal lid. It’s all good fun and marketing, but there is not a jot of science behind it.

Read more in What the Nose Knows, and Avery’s excellent blog.

Have you ever noticed how you don’t smell what your home smells of until you come back from holiday? Have you ever wondered how people can work in smelly jobs – hauling refuse; at a fishmonger; in a fragrance factory…? Our brains are wired to mainly detect differences in our environment. So when you smell a particular smell for long enough, our brains decide that it’s safe and can now be ignored. In that sense, the idea of sniffing something other than perfume is actually not a bad punt for ‘cleansing the palate’ between trying out perfumes.

If you want to smell more than a couple of scents in one go, you could try to alternate between the types of scent you’re smelling to avoid encountering similar notes. So switch between citrus scents and oriental scents, or fougeres and fruity florals.

Drinking a glass of water and going for a bit of fresh air are probably your best bet.

Perfumers use ‘nose-blindness’ as a technique to decipher the structure of a fragrance they are trying to analyse. This can be done in a number of ways – one of which is taking a material you know to be in the scent, smelling it until you go ‘nose blind’ and sniffing the fragrance immediately afterwards – that note will appear ‘deleted’ from the scent. Another way is to sniff scents during different points in their evaporation curve.

When shopping for scent, go in with enough time to dip in and out of sniffing, and don’t let yourself be pressured into making an instant decision.

(Photo via MorgueFile).