Hello everyone, I hope you’re all having a good weekend. It’s time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from news articles on popular fragrance genres, top Arabian perfume brands, synaesthesia, and the science of smell, to the more personal things occupying my attention this month.
Scientific Articles on Smell & Scent:
The Guardian had something really interesting to me: “Smell, evolution and the sex brain: why we’re monogamous and use perfume.” The piece argues that “Today we have a global fragrance market equal to the GDP of a medium-sized country, because of a gene mutation that made smells less sexy to us.” Basically, we used to have a gene — nicknamed “Adam” by its discoverers — that transmitted sexual scent messages (largely about ovulation) to our brains, but we lost it about 16m years ago because of evolutionary pressure to maintain monogamy and the family bond. However, the neural pathways that responded to such messages will still respond to “sensual perfumes made from – among other things – the sexual signals of musk deer, beavers and civets.”
From Science News: “Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests.” The article’s focuses primarily on genetics, neuroscience, and how we have “olfactory fingerprints,” thanks to a “new test [that] can distinguish individuals based upon their perception of odors, possibly reflecting a person’s genetic makeup[.]” However, there are obviously indirect implications that support what most perfume bloggers always say, that smell is subjective and subject to wholly personal variables.
From Aeon Magazine, a really fascinating piece asks “Are we all born with Synaesthesia?” It covers synaesthesia in literature (Nabokov’s Lolita, Mary Shelley, and the Enlightenment philosopher, Rousseau) before looking at the neuroscience, child psychology studies, and different forms of synaesthesia (musical notes, numbers, letters, or one poor woman who reacted viscerally to mere fabric textures). It’s a really interesting, in-depth piece that covers some unexpected issues.
I hope you’re all having a good weekend, whether you’re simply relaxing, plan to enjoy the Eurovision finals, or are doing something fun over the long three-day holiday in American and the U.K. It seemed like a good time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from perfume articles on Roja Dove, CB I Hate Perfume, and Frederic Malle, to blurb reviews of two white floral perfumes that missed the mark for me, and the more personal things occupying my attention this month like music, films, a great cookbook, and The Hairy German.
A look at random things from perfume news to some of the things occupying my attention this month.
Training Your Nose: This should be in the perfume news section below, but I wanted to devote more focus on an article in The Telegraph called “How a ‘nose workout’ can unlock the power of smell.” The significant part is this: “The average person is capable of recognising around 10,000 scents and women generally detect more than men. So how can you improve on that? “Smell and write at the same time,” says Fairley. “That’s what you do in perfume school. Words fix the smell in your brain. Make associations.[“…][¶] Fairley quotes Prof George Dodd, who set up the Olfaction Research Group at the University of Warwick, and who affirms that with this practice “you actually strengthen the neural pathways in the brain itself and in turn that helps you to become better at smelling things”.”
This is essentially what I do when I test a perfume, and I think it makes a significant difference. I don’t jot down cursory descriptions, key words, or summations; I take pages of detailed notes in full sentences on a large, yellow legal-pad. For a recent review, there was 8 pages of analysis. Now, I am NOT saying that you should do anything as intense, OCD, or extreme. However, I don’t think the sort of analysis that consists of something like a simple Excel spread-sheets with keywords (something I know a lot of people do) is sufficient if you want to really hone your nose for the finer nuances and to lock the details in your memory. In my opinion, to expand your mental and olfactory Rolodex, the best way to “strengthen the neural pathways” is to take detailed notes on the finer points so that your mind locks in the connection between an ingredient and a particular smell. Not simplistic keyword summations, but full sentences just as you would do in school when analysing a book or science project. It’s just a thought for the most obsessive amongst you if you’re truly keen on developing your sense of smell.
One of my favorite things that my friend, The Non-Blonde, does on her website is a monthly series called “Currently” in which she does a brief round-up of various personal things in the area of books, music, television shows, cooking, or random thoughts. I look forward to each month’s entry, particularly to see what she’s reading or listening to (’80s music forever!) or because I’ll know that I’ll smile at one of her random thoughts. (“Why are there gummy bears in the soda of Candy Crush soda?” or “Please tell me that the Oscars are a Kanye-free zone.”)
So, with full credit to her for her wonderful idea, I’d like to do something similar, though with a few differences. First, because it’s me, I’ll never manage to have any entries that are just one sentence long. Second, I don’t have time to read books any more, alas, but I do read a lot of things around the web, so I would like to share instead articles or sites that have caught my interest lately. So, here’s March’s Grab Bag.
General Perfume News:
From The New York Times: “Designing a Bespoke Perfume” and the general cost thereof. Interesting tidbit: in the 1970s, roughly 90 fragrances were launched a year. Today, according to Michael Edwards in other work, more than 1,600 fragrances are released each year.
From The Smithsonian Magazine: two allegedly fake pheromones submitted by a perfume company for study back in 1991 caused scientists decades of wasted research into human pheromones.
From UPI: A Nielsen report states that American Latinos have become a key consumer in beauty (and fragrance) sales, showing a “staggering” difference in their purchases as compared to how low sales are in those areas for other demographic groups. One quote: “The Nielsen report also indicated Latino men take their beauty and appearance very seriously. Compared to non-Hispanic men, sales on shaving cream, hair spray, mustache dyes and after-shave all grew significantly, especially when it comes to fragrance as sales increased by 15.5 percent.“