This Olfactory Expert Is Amassing a Vocabulary for Smells
Catherine Haley Epstein, author of Nose Dive: A Book For The Curious Seeking Potential Through Their Noses, is an artist and curator who specializes in scent and the ways our brains register it. Last year, with olfactory historian Caro Verbeek, she founded Odorbet, an ever-growing online database of terms they collect from various sources to describe smells. It also includes invented expressions submitted by Odorbet contributors, such as “doppelspritzer” (a person wearing your perfume) and “silfage” (the act of admiring one’s own scent). Taken together, the project’s vocabulary gives form to fragrance while drawing attention to the lack of words in the English lexicon to detail what our noses detect. We recently spoke with Epstein about the importance of defining scents, and why doing so helps us better understand the world, and ourselves.
Why should we describe smells in nuanced, specific ways?