The Neuroscience-Based Fragrance Brand Pairing Scent With Soundscapes to Create Calm
Olfaction is our swiftest sense. Unlike new information detected by the eyes and ears, which is absorbed by the thalamus, a structure inside the brain, then relayed to the organ’s interpretive regions, smells zoom along dedicated pathways directly into the brain’s olfactory cortex for immediate decoding. That area of the brain also contains the limbic system and the amygdala, where emotions are made and memories of them are stored—which is why scents, feelings, and memory are closely intertwined.
Fragrance developer Elsa Bustamante and product designer Youmna Aoukar, who both practice meditation, wondered if they could harness the relationship between scent and memory to promote well-being through a perfume—one that triggers a positive recollection every time it’s put on. In 2020, they co-founded the fragrance brand Inara, which creates roll-on scents with corresponding soundtracks that serve as portable tools for creating calm.
Inara’s path to tranquility begins inside the bottle. Its inaugural perfume, Inara Signature, was designed by Bustamante and Aoukar’s longtime friend Mackenzie Reilly, an up-and-coming perfumer at New York’s International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). Using an IFF proprietary tool called BrainEmotion, a database of psychological effects that various perfume ingredients have on the brain, Reilly selected scents that promote peace of mind. A sunny central note of bergamont, enveloped by fresh, exhilarating layers of sandalwood, vetiver, rose, and cedar, form the resulting perfume.
The fragrance comes with a 10-minute violin soundscape, performed by Brazilian musician Andrei Matorin and accessed via a QR code. Users are encouraged to listen to the meditation as they apply the perfume for the first time, creating a memory of the scent and the emotion brought about by the track. From then on, the perfume can be used to conjure up that feeling.
Three additional scents, each with its own audio, are currently in the works, including 528 Hertz, a spicy, floral aroma accompanied by a different violin melody. For a more lively experience, look out for Arbol del Tule, a forest-like bouquet paired with a recording of drums, or Ikaro, which smells of woody incense and is amplified by a track of rhythmic chants.