Perhaps each of us has a Proustian trigger: a sensation that suddenly uncovers a memory buried in time, and by meeting our tongues, eyes, ears, or hands—or in this particular case, my nose—the trigger reveals a moment we’ve forgotten.
Twenty-five years ago, while walking through Singapore on a dark summer night with my family, we stumbled upon a barely lit jungle gym in a small public square. It was empty, save for a single food hawker closing up shop for the night, and a scent—unrecognizable to me as a child—wafting through the air from his cart.
At once herbaceous, sweet, and pungent—musky, with a verdant edge, like grassy vanilla—the aroma made its way into my nostrils, prompting me to stop and stare at the cart. My dad took me over to the man, who smiled, and placed a small pink cake into a steamer, warming it for a moment. He then slid the treat into a paper sleeve and handed it to me, a singular steamy redolence rising from the rim. Because I had no idea what it was or how to find it again, the snack’s floral scent followed me for years like a ghost I didn’t know was there.
Fast-forward to the present, when the object of this affectionate remembrance, thanks to the good folks at New York’s Kuih Café, has finally been revealed to me. What I ate—and sniffed—that night was a form of kuih, a bite-size, rice-based dessert that’s common across Southeast Asia and that comes in a rainbow of colors. Kuih often gets its delightful smell from the creative use of pandan, or screwpine, a tropical plant that grows abundantly in the region and sprouts highly fragrant, blade-shaped leaves.
According to Barnny Lim, who handles business development at the café, pandan “is used mainly to give [food] a green color from a natural source. Its juice is extracted from the leaves, and mixed with the ingredients.” Its aromatic impact, he continues, is equally striking. “Pandan, in its raw form or when cooked, has an aroma similar to vanilla, which is its unique and distinctive quality,” he says. “[It] doesn’t have a specific flavor, other than its inherent grass [taste], which makes it adaptable to other flavors.”
Perhaps that’s why the perfumy plant is becoming increasingly common in fare prepared far beyond where it grows natively. (In 2017, the prominent English food writer Nigella Lawson boldly predicted that pandan would soon surpass matcha and avocado toast in popularity in the United States, followed by Britain.) The enigmatic palm can currently be found in everything from ice cream—a variety from Morgenstern’s incorporates swirls of pandan jelly, while New York’s Chinatown Ice Cream Factory offers scoops of smooth, neon-green goodness—to jam, as in Moon Man’s sweet-smelling spread intended for topping toast or cakes. Its scent has permeated industries outside the culinary world, too: Cab drivers in Vietnam are fond of using the leaves as air fresheners for their cars, while the Indian fragrance brand Kannauj Attar offers a pandan essential oil that doubles as a refreshing, honey-like perfume.
But for those who were raised around the plant, its fragrance can be less a satisfying scent than a powerful, somatic reminder of home. “Many born in Southeast Asia grow up eating items flavored with pandan, both in day-to-day life and also during festivities,” Lim says. “When one catches a sniff of the pandan aroma, it can transport them back to that time, and allow them to reminisce about those cherished moments.”
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Aromatherapy—the practice of using fragrant extracts from trees, flowers, and other plants for therapeutic benefit—has bcertain smells can quiet the mind, and allow us to feel more grounded and at ease. The Wooden Wick Co., a purveyor of natural-scented items for the home, bath, and body, adds another dimension to the self-care tradition by
While many businesses, in the midst of the climate crisis, scramble to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the New Yospoke with us about in 2019). Recently, the company ventured into the fragrance realm with Air Eau de Parfum, a unisex, limited-edition concotion pulled quite literally out of thin air.
In 2017, Carolina Prioglio and Adrien de Bontin took over management of a farm in Burgundy that’s nestled in the rollingMaison/Made, which they launched in 2019. It’s one of the first beauty brands to achieve Biodynamic certification, an accolade awar
Around the 1500s, tanners settled in Grasse, a sun-soaked hillside town above the French Riviera, to produce leather. Th
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As the overpopulated, multibillion-dollar fragrance industry introduces hundreds of scents every year, choosing one that4160 Tuesdays, and Samantha Scriven, who runs a blog called iscentyouaday, lend their encyclopedic knowledge of aromatic liquids to their upcoming book, The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent (Frances Lincoln), out next week on Kindle and in hardcover on November 9. Fluent in the science behind the olfactory sy
Michael Hingson was in his office at the data-protection agency Quantum on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One when hethud of the first airplane hitting the building, 15 floors above. Hingson, who has been blind since birth due to an eye diso
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Tasked with transitioning electric vehicles from niche to the norm, automotive designers are confronted with a singular vroom of an engine accelerating—which details will drivers long for if left out in future models?
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Olfactive expert Dawn Goldworm believes that just as children begin to learn colors, they should also be educated on sceThe Smell of a Rainbow (Dial Books), a scented board book, out this summer, that teaches children how to talk about smell using color. Connecting all her res
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The two-year-old experimental radio website Poolsuite deftly mixes AOL-era computer graphics with disco-driven beats, channeling the cool optimism of the 1980s. Now, just inVacation, a new line of sun-care products and a corresponding perfume.
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When the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH tapped creative director Jonathan Anderson to helm Loewe in 2013, it charBotanical Rainbow, released in March, that includes myriad botanically inspired perfumes, bottled in a kaleidoscope of colors.
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“Scent and architecture both take people on sensory journeys,” says architect Héctor Esrawe. “More and more, I believe iXinú (pronounced “she-new”), a perfumery he co-founded in 2016 with architect Ignacio Cadena and his wife, Verónica Peña. Thnose in Otomi, an indigenous Mexican language, and has since developed five unisex scents with Mexican perfumer Rodrigo Flor
Among the many olfactory ways to de-stress—sniffing a bundle of lavender, lighting a scented candle, taking a breath of Functional Fragrance with notes that soothe the mind, such as green cardamom, cilantro, and violet. Ninety-six percent of users the company
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Driving requires keeping your eyes on the road, navigating a primarily visual adventure—but the right accessory can makeAiround car diffuser from Italy’s storied furniture maker Poltrona Frau and the Milan-based fragrance brand Acqua di Parma. Encased in Poltr
In the early 20th century, locals from Yame, a small city in Fukuoka Prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, duhis own.
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The name Bernard may conjure different connotations for different folks—say, Senator Sanders, your favorite breed of mouBernard is the name of his fragrance brand, which recently debuted with a collection of hand-poured candles. “This is a scent mMeli, the Greek word for honey, is warm and sweet, with base notes of orris root and leather; Eira takes inspiration from Sc
Sweaty running clothes. The litter box. That odd funk emanating from the back of the fridge. Unpleasant scents can transMoso Natural, a line of odor-eliminating linen bags filled with an unexpected ingredient: bamboo. The California-based brand is name
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From its over-reliance on packaging to its use of harmful chemicals, the beauty industry is long overdue for a rethink o
Made on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, fragrances by Di Ser appeal to more than the nose alone. Perfumer Yasuyuki Shinohara founded the company, in 1999, as two interconnected ent
The poster child for the gray-skyed Pacific Northwest, Portland is perhaps America’s most book-loving city. Reading is a
“I don’t consider myself a perfumer,” says Julian Bedel, a former musician who taught himself how to make wearable scentFueguia 1833 in 2010. “I don’t know anything about perfume. My work is more of an artistic creation, and how I create the formulas i
Dr. Kate McLean, who spearheads the graphic design program at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom,“smellscapes”: colorful diagrams made of dots and wavy, concentric rings that detail where an odor occurs in a specific place, and ho
Covering everything from a detective story by Edgar Allan Poe to the role that scent plays in racism, the new book The Smell of Risk: Olfactory Aesthetics and Atmospheric Disparities (NYU Press) investigates how, over the past 200 years, writers, artists, and activists have used smell in their work to
In the last decade, the rise of modest, product-focused scent brands has debunked the notion that the fragrance industryFanny Bal, who based her creation on the aromatic sap from the lentisc tree that grows on the Greek island of Chios, and senior sDomitille Michalon-Bertier, who designed her fragrance around the Inhotim Museum, an outdoor art center located in a Brazilian forest. Perfumer Delphine Lebeau recently learned about the Japanese pastry mochi, and used a trio of musks to embody the treat’s soft, mellow profile. The resulting 11 fragrances were unveiled at a viavailable for purchase in the U.S. on the website Luckyscent—providing a nose around what makes these master craftspeople tick.
Headquartered in Grenoble, a city in southeastern France, the six-year-old start-up Aryballe has a singular, if not entirely un-straightforward, goal: to capture, analyze, and digitally document smells. This work
Scent has the power to transport us instantly to another time or place. Consequently, the evocatively perfumed objects fHomesick enable wistful souls to travel to a cherished holiday, family tradition, or any state in the continental U.S., as well New York City, pumpkin picking, and more abstract experiences, such as a ski trip or a book club), then translates their feedback into an authentic, recognizable fragrance. More than a momentary escape, the scents suRoad Trip candle by day, and Beach Cottage by night.
Anyone who’s ever owned a dog (or been owned by one) knows that scent is paramount to how canines experience the world. Cat Warren, a science journalism professor at North Carolina State University, this observation became something of an obsession. What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, followed by an edition that translates her research for younger readers, newly out in paperback—that detail the remarkable, often life-saving power of a hound’s snout. “We humans are highly German Shepherd police dog, Trakr, who located the last 9/11 survivor in the rubble of the World Trade Center, or the pooches that find drowning victims more than 200 feet under the sea. “Dogs can help make the invisible visible,” Warren says. “We need to watch them closely, know they can help translate
Your nose knows best. So says Harold McGee, a leading expert on the science of food and cooking, and author of the new bNose Dive: A Field Guide To The World’s Smells. Developed over the course of a decade, the blockbuster attempts to unpack the science of scent by looking in great dep
According to Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, the neurologist and psychiatrist who founded Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Rehe told the medical journal Alternative & Complementary Therapies. “More than a hundred years ago Freud said that, in order for society to remain civilized, it was necessary to repress oIn a study conducted by Hirsch’s foundation, 40 percent of participants—who were each connected to a plethysmograph, a device that measures blood flow caused by se
Six decades ago, researchers at 3M and the NCR Corporation were looking for a more effective way of trapping ink inside functioned with scented oils that, when scratched, burst open, emitting their distinctive smells. The technique has since been used on stickers, stamps, and perfume-peddling magazine inserts. John Waters incorporated it into his 1981 film Polyester, when he distributed large cards that featured ten circular patches, laced with scents such as skunk and old shoes, forwine and whiskey, helps readers understand flavor through the scents of its aromatic pages, while co-authors Seth Matlins and Eve EpsteiThe Scratch and Sniff Book of Weed. Other titles employ the strategy in more subtle ways. Scent in Context, a deep dive into the work of Belgian olfactory artist Peter De Cupere, disperses hidden scratch-and-sniff odors among a journal from the California publisher Knock Knock that pairs scented stickers with writing prompts—a clever way to stimulate users’ emotions, creativity, and memory.
Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, founder of Wild Bloom Floral in Seattle, and the head judge of Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight—essentially, the fantastical floral equivalent of The Great British Baking Show—knows the power of an impactful blossom. Here, he tells us why a fabulous arrangement activates all the senses, and is
Olivia Jezler, founder of the scent and design consultancy Future of Smell, which collaborates with the likes of Byredo, Dior, and the World Economic Forum, intimately understands the psychology
“Smells can be a gateway to our history, helping us understand the sensory worlds of the past,” scent scholar Cecilia BeUniversity of College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Bembibre’s focus is rooted in the belief that smells are a crucial, if intangible, part of our cultural heritage—and hSmell of Heritage, a project that delves into the invisible layers often overlooked in historical accounts, archiving aromas that range f
Olfactory memories hold transporting qualities—a sensual power that’s oh-so welcome, as international travel remains on City Exclusives, an ever-expanding collection from cult fragrance company Le Labo, capitalizes upon our nostalgic, wanderlust desires w
“Perfume has a wonderful ability to immerse people directly inside of a world,” says David Moltz, the self-taught perfum To be parked on various blocks throughout New York City, with on-the-fly location updates posted to the brand’s social mD.S. & Durga Fume Truck will soon hit the streets. In a city known for its not-so-glamorous sidewalk odors, this is one experiment we’re eager
Smell is a highly individualized sense: The same odor or olfactory stimulus can trigger common, though not identical, reA recent study published in the science journal Nature suggests that our diverse experiences with scent have to do with how they are encoded in the brain. “All of us share a told The Harvard Gazette. “You and I both think lemon and lime smell similar and agree that they smell different from pizza, but until now, we d
Our sense of smell can cast mysteriously large impressions onto our memories—and it’s all by nature’s design. The olfactAccording to Harvard biology professor Venkatesh Murthy, olfactory signals even color other senses, notably taste. Molecules from food “make their way back retro-nasally to yo
“Our sense of smell is entirely shaped by cultural phenomena arising as a result of specific historical processes,” RobeSmells: A Cultural History of Odors in Early Modern Times (Polity). The French historian and professor—who has previously written books on subjects including the devil, violence
The saying “like a fine wine” is often used to describe something that improves with age. But, as any sommelier will telterroir, and how the wine has been stored and fermented—much of which sommeliers are trained to discern largely by scent, beforsaid on a recent episode of At a Distance, it all comes down to personal preference. “I think wine sometimes gets interlaced into geekdom, which is cool,” he told
Early August marks the start of planting season for celery. Picked in fall and early winter, it makes for a sweet and crcleansing benefits, or an easy snack on its own—though the scent of celery, curiously, is always much stronger than its taste. As a scent,
What does our sense of smell have to do with philosophy? In her new book, Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard University Press), cognitive scientist and sense historian Ann-Sophie Barwich delves into the perceptual dimen
What do gun powder, seared steak, raspberries, and rum have in common? Hint: It’s not what’s for dinner. According to th
Short of a vaccine, masks and social distancing measures are here to stay, for the foreseeable future, anyway—and your nmicrobiological auras” were once normally exposed to, in actively out-and-about, pre-pandemic times. Our bodies, hosts to a community of micr
Holiday weekend or not, summertime means grilling time. A waft of burning hickory or charcoal from a smoky barbecue grilonce explained to The Independent, “Most of the flavor of smoke is smell.” Because scent is processed through the limbic system, the sensation also persi
With the summer season come longer days, more time spent outdoors under the sun—and, unfortunately, all of the attendant the arrival of murder hornets to fear, of course (as if this year hadn’t offered enough unwelcome surprises), and store-bought repellants are often l
Rose expert Peter Kukielski, the author of Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease-Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses and former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, tells us about the rose-bloom
April showers bring May flowers, as the age-old saying goes—and with both comes the scent of freshly dampened soil that New Atlas, geosmin is produced by certain bacteria from the genus Streptomyces as a way to attract a specific arthropod, called a springtail, which helps spread its spores. Researchers suggest that ta hand soap and a hand-sanitizer spray (the candle option, sadly, is sold out, at least for the moment), offers a close-to-the-real-thing alternative in a bot
Breu resin, a shiny, white sap extracted from the almécega tree found in the Amazon rain forests, as well as from various reBreuzinho is used to enhance focus and attain peace of mind, and is scientifically shown to have various medicinal properties as breu incense from the Brooklyn-based company Incausa, in stick form, coated in resin and sprinkled with chips of palo santo; as well as in its more natural, raw form, as a hunk of solid oleoresin from Costa Brazil, fashion designer Francisco Costa’s beauty brand, which pairs it with a ceramic tray. To enjoy the ar
Smell is among the earliest senses that babies develop—long before they learn to walk, talk, or even focus their eyes toSmithsonian Magazine, this is a “carefully concocted perfume of biological manipulation, evolved to trigger maternal bonding.” Hospitals eve
Katherine Carothers, owner of the Brooklyn-based floral design studio Entriken, shares her favorite scent, tips on where to source and gift flowers in the time of Covid-19, and how to create your ow
As most of us remain stuck indoors, the spring days passing us by, inching toward summer and conjuring attendant escapisClaus Porto’s handsomely wrapped and scented soaps and let your mind wander to Portugal. Or head over to Positano by way of a bottlEau d’Italie shower gel. Famously stocked at the spectacular, immaculate Le Sirenuse hotel, it captures the salty-citrus musk of Italy’s Amalfithis beautiful green Scändic farmer soap made with stone-ground grits and geranium, patchouli, and lemongrass essential oils, meanwhile, has us imagining an endKorean Kiln Sauna Soap. Made with pine, activated charcoal, and red clay, it transports us directly to a long, relaxing day on South Korea’s J
We’re entering week five of self-quarantine in many cities around the U.S., and cabin fever is setting in for many of us4evermints, developed by a team of doctors and scientists who tout it as the strongest and longest-lasting breath mints on the marWilhelmina Peppermints, named after the Dutch princess whose profile is stamped on each round tablet, like a little gulden coin. For a much-needed chill pill during stressful times, there are also a host of CBD-infused mints to refresh both your mouth and mind. You also can’t go wrong with a mint-flavored toothpaste. Try our favorite, Marvis’s Classic Strong Mint (and, for good measure, add on its Strong Mint mouthwash concentrate).
Everyone has a natural essence—we have our pheromones to thank for that—and scientists even consider our personal odors as unique as our fingerprints. Rather than mask yours with an off-the-shelf scent, certain speciality perfumeries offer the option of buying completeLondon-based Floris, you can book in-person scent consultations with their team of experts for the ultimate bespoke experience. Afterwards,
Refined sugar is often called out as a “silent killer,” increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, not to mention aCosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief Michele Promaulayko tells us. “Food scientists often engineer products to have just the right amount of sweetness to make you crave more anSugar Free 3, which comes with an Openfit app, Promaulayko outlines a three-week plan to “reset your body and cravings,” offering recipes, videos, and tips to elimin
A species of cypress native to central Japan, hinoki is prized for its deeply fragrant scent, and its soft-wood timber is used to build a range of buildings and interiors—fHinoki is not only a material, it is a spiritual and aesthetic concept,” says Italian expat Iacopo Torrini of Kobe-based Bartok Design, a top exporter of the wood. “Hinoki grows straight. Its color is light and its fragrance is fresh but delicate.” Despite its ubiquity in modern times, he aHinoki symbolizes purity and sincerity, therefore it is the preferred choice for buildings dedicated to the gods, as in the sh
Scent has become a gargantuan global business, valued to the tune of $31.4 billion as of 2018, and predicted to grow furThe Essence—Discovering the World of Scent, Perfume & Fragrance (Gestalten) offers a fascinating look at the industry, covering the history, origins, and methods used to produce fragr
Natural perfume-maker Mandy Aftel was hiking through old ghost towns in California’s Gold Rush country when she found un
Gardener, rose expert and the author of several books on roses, Stephen Scanniello has had a hand in creating some of thPeggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden and the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West Hartford, Connecticut. Here, he shares a bit of the long and colorful history of roses.
The earliest recorded uses of incense in Japan date back to 595 A.D., around the same time Buddhism arrived to the countthe multi-colored Horin assortment packs that are nearly as compact as a matchbox, and as visually pleasing as a fresh set of pastels. It’s the small details thmon-koh, a multisensory and ceremonial appreciation that translates to “listening to incense.”
Finding a signature scent can be a challenge—especially when shopping online. After all, perfumes not only go directly oNose, a Parisian fragrance boutique, offers customers an online “olfactory diagnosis” to help them navigate its large librar