Our sense of smell is the most powerful of all! Why? Because it is the only sense capable of triggering something else beyond a sensation and the reaction to it: this plate is hot, that noise is loud, this chair is blue, this cake is sweet, this scent is heady AND it takes you back to that exact moment you fell in love with your first boyfriend (sounds familiar?).
So could our sense of smell be our most “subconscious” sense, in some way, a sixth sense? A lot of studies and scientific discoveries seem to prove this theory.
The link to our emotion ‘brain’
The reason why smell triggers emotions and subsequently memories is mainly anatomical. Our sense of smell is the only one of our senses biologically linked to our limbic system, the “brain” of our emotions.
This is what the phenomenon of Proust's Madeleine refers to, when the French author famously described how the smell of madeleine cakes triggered an (involuntary) memory of his childhood and his aunt baking.
In his bestselling book The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind also explores the wonderful, sometimes dangerous power that scents can have in setting emotions such as love, hatred, disgust and attraction.
“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearance, emotions or will”. Patrick Suskind
The smell of attraction
In French, the slang expression “I can’t smell him/her” is commonly used to express when one can’t stand someone. That exact phrase suggests the “social” role that our sense of smell plays in our natural ability to distinguish from the people we get on with from the people we don’t (by using our nose?).
This is also why Smell Dating or the concept of incorporating pheromones in fragrance isn’t such a gimmicky idea.
The issue is, in order to have real scientific leverage, it’d be much more complicated than a marketing speech and the incorporation of a “magical” ingredient.
Charlotte Tilbury has used this idea in her (trademarked) fragrance said to “create an emotional pathway to the body’s ENERGY CENTRES igniting and attracting LOVE, LIGHT, POWER, POSITIVITY and SEX to the wearer.” This statement could be quite possibly drawn from her own personal experience rather than based on a scientific exercise. While looking for some evidences that this fragrance was indeed a sex trap, I have rather found some hilarious reviews (read Lizzie Ostrom’s) about a nicely done fragrance that has failed in its aphrodisiac power.
Pheromones or odours we love?
When researching “fragrance with pheromones”, Google lists Escentric Molecules and its famous 01 fragrance as one of the possible options. This fragrance brand had the genius idea to use a parent molecule of Iso E Super as the main ingredient (btw, this ingredient is also present in Tilbury’s fragrance).
Iso E Super is universally used in perfumery and laundry products. It has a comforting smell that most people love, in fact, I've heard some people describing it as the smell of sex, or skin – could this be because your bed sheets release the clean smell of your laundry product when creased?
To be more olfactively accurate, Iso E Super has a round, ambery, mineral and velvety woody smell. Ambroxan is another molecule that has a similar profile (woody ambery).
What does the future hold?
The simple answer is, it is too soon and science has yet to unlock all the facets of our sense of smell.
In order to trigger emotions and memories, a scent has to resonate deeply.
This will depend on ones own history and culture – there are only a handful of odours universally regarded as pleasant such as vanilla – as well as taking into account biological factors such as genetics.
The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer tells the story of Grenouille, a serial killer who triggered an orgy (and was subsequently ‘eaten’ by the crowd) when wearing the fragrance he created out of the smell of the women’s skin he killed. Fortunately, the idea remains so far a fiction - but it may not be in the future? Who knows…
For now, we won’t put pheromones in our fragrances, but we'll sure make some beautiful ones! Give your favourite person a unique chance to create their own bespoke scent and learn about the art of perfumery with one of our vouchers to an EPC workshop.