feeeel... the smell..™

This is a more familiar term to those that have visited us in Bangkok or participated in our live Workshops.

These very words are actually on our Don Mueang facility, that houses our offices and showroom, in foot high letters just below our logo. It could be said that this is what PerfumersWorld, The Art and Technology of Perfumery and The ABCs of Perfumery are all about.

There is a theory that at birth our senses are inter-linked. As babies when we heard sounds, we saw colours or patterns, when we touched we experienced smells. Then sadly as we developed, the theory goes, we learned to differentiate the sensual experiences and compartmentalise each sense into definite separate sensations. There are a handful of people, however, who have maintained some of these links between apparently separate senses into adulthood.

About 1 in 100 keep some of these links to adulthood and in around 1900, when it was first reported on, it became a "thing" and the doctors defined the condition as "Synaesthesia" as if it was an abnormality. Then interest in it waned and nobody really talked about it for almost a century, BUT it was still there. Then in the early 1970's when I was already working in perfumery I read articles in the Dragoco Report where Edmund Roudnitska wrote about odour vs shape analogies and the oft talked links between odour and colour. British Neurologist Oliver Sacks, of the movie "Awakening" fame, really started to talk about Synaesthesia in the 1990s. The Art World revived it as a "thing" in the early 2000s. In my May/June 1999 article "Training the ABCs of Perfumery" in Perfumer & Flavorist, I spoke about waking our long lost Synaesthesia responses as a tool to create perfume.

Since then we have had a few true Synaesthetes study courses or attend Workshops with us.

The ABCs classification (especially as pie or donut graphs) acknowledges that smells have more than one facet. Then organising them by their dominant characteristics (ABCs) rather like a composer organises his orchestra into groups of soloists, piano, strings, bass, cello, woodwinds, percussion, choir etc., the method becomes a powerful model to manage the composition of complex multi-ingredient perfume formulas, using the ABCs of Perfumery to group materials.

When we smell we don't just smell e.g. Hedione. We not only detect different odour aspects but also experience feelings, connections, memories, emotional, visual, auditory, tactile and taste triggers. In our live Workshops we try to not only awaken the synaesthesia responses but also awaken the whole body to the experience of smell. We call it "Whole Body Smelling" and participants "feeeel..." how specific parts of their body experience each sniff.

Anyone that knows me personally, after a short time, knows that I have a fascination for Kaleidoscopes and the very best gift I can receive is yet another Kaleidoscope as there are so many variations on their design and materials used.

The Kaleidoscope for me represents how a few pieces of coloured pieces of glass, beads, buttons or gems can produce an infinite number of patterns rather like notes used in a perfume.

So the "feeeel... the smell..™" rendition of an odour rather than representing it as a static linear description tries to recreate the way different facets of a real smell pop up and fade in and out in waves. There is still much work to be done on it, which will take a few years more. Please let me know if you like it, hate it or have ideas for it's development.

Geranium Essential Oil "feeeel... the smell..™"

For example in Geranium Essential Oil first we get a trace of greeness (from Dimethyl Sulphide) then a stem like minty green note (Menthone and woody sesquiterpenes) followed by the light pink rosy character (Geraniol and Citronellol). The notes then just dance, "feeeel... the smell.."

Stephen V. Dowthwaite