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.”
Across many industries, people are preparing for a seismic shift as the metaverse coalesces with everyday life. While tha range of emotions, these unified and all-encompassing worlds, experienced through various augmented and virtual realities, present ample
Think about the scent of your favorite fragrance. Chances are, it’s a variation on a long-established olfactory concoctiinula, a common weed in his native Corsica, the mountainous Mediterranean island. “In French, weeds are called mauvaises herbes, or bad herbs,” he said in a statement. “I think it’s unfair, because they are bountiful and have many healthful properMal-Aimé, a scent he created for his fragrance house Parfum d’Empire. In Corticchiato’s deft hands, the plant, which sprouts clumps of small, hairy yellow flowerheads–produces a startling
Born into a Franco-Sicilian restaurateur family, Gabriel Di Bella traces his passion for food and wine to helping his chef father, Giuseppe, run their family operation in the French cit Daniel Humm’s opening team at Davies and Brook, at Claridge’s London, as the wine director, a position he held until Humm and the hwrote of the decision on Instagram, “and this is the path we must take”). Since landing in New York City and starting this spring as the winEleven Madison Park flagship (which transitioned last year to an all-vegan menu), Di Bella has been overseeing its 200-plus-page, 5,000-selWhat role does scent play in the wine experience? A major one. We think of the mouth and taste buds as the primary aspect of drinking wine or eating food, but I believe tequally important. Once you look at whatever you’re going to eat or drink, the next sense you’re going to use is your nose. As How does scent interact with the other senses in our appreciation of wine? Tasting wine is one of the few activities in which we use all five senses. You’ll even use touch when feeling the liquidWith wine, does a linear relationship exist between smell and taste? Wine experts and even nonprofessional wine lovers will test a lot of wines in different years, or the same specific prodIs our memory with wine triggered by smell or taste, or a combination of the two? It’s the smell for me, one hundred percent. I put my nose to the glass, inhale the first breath, and feel completely traCan we learn to appreciate certain wines more through their scent? There are definitely a few producers or grape varieties where this is true. I’m a huge lover of syrah wines from the NorJean-Michel Stéphan, the wine always surprises me. From the first smell, the wine seems a little shy. A little closed, even. The more time Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, one of those iconic “unicorns” of the wine world. I was an extreme novice back then, yet just smelling the wWhat about the impacts of the climate crisis? Can we smell them in the glass? Yes, some wine growing regions are reviewing their grape varieties in response to warming climates and less water. Obvioespecially in California, climate change presents a really big challenge. Not knowing if you’ll even have a harvest and how that will impact theRacines Wines, an experimental collaboration between Justin Willett, from California’s Tyler Winery, and vignerons Étienne de MontillHow does Eleven Madison Park’s transition to an all-vegan menu affect your work? This does not make my job more complicated. In fact, I think it makes my work more interesting. The old way was about paMarkus Altenburger and Claus Preisinger. They each make such delicious wines that are worth showing off and sharing. Both are very versati
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Mosquitos don’t mind how badly we stink in the summer. In fact, the more we sweat, the easier it is for them to find us: The naturally occurring lactic and uric acids on our skin serve as lighthouses for the hungry little ladies (only femascientifically proven not only to make you smell delightful, but also to repel the pesky biters.
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Walk into any bowling alley, and you’ll quickly find yourself caught in an olfactory battleground. Whiffs of floor polisStorm Products.
Scents are among the most powerful, and the most personal, sensory triggers. Because the olfactory nerve connects directPerfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent, deeply understands the connections between smells and feelings. A driven, self-taught student of fragrance and its hisThe Black Narcissus—a captivating combination of technical and historical analysis of scents, pop cultural musings, and personal memoir—he illuminates the myriad facets of scent and its powers, revealing his encyclopedic knowledge of
In a world in which fitful sleep is all too common—more than a third of American adults don’t get enough rest—any serenity-inducing bedtime ritual is worth giving a go. But if listening to white-noise machines and banishing your science proves that the ingredients typically used in the sprays produce measurable effects that help facilitate relaxation: Lavender
Tucked between a seafood market and a dumpling shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a small storefront showcases a suite of exGlade: To Touch Painting” (through April 30), an exhibition of scented paintings by Brazilian artist Luiza Gottschalk, currently on view at the Olfactory Art Keller.
The Italian writer and thinker Umberto Eco, when explaining how he came up with the title of his beloved novel The Name of the Rose, wrote that he chose it “because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it has hardly any meanin
It’s been two years, three months, five days and a few hours since I last set foot in a five-star Paris hotel room (but Papier d’Arménie. After tearing off a thumb-length strip, I fold it up like an accordion, place it on a ceramic dish along the paper’s t
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Ginger is beloved by many for its peppery scent, clean taste, and wide-ranging health benefits. Lesser known is its couszingiber zerumbet), a tropical plant with reddish, pine cone–like forms that contain a fragrant gel that’s more likely to show up in a sh
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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
A solitary island nation marooned between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, Iceland is known for its extraordinary naturalÚtilykt, released earlier this fall.
After working for luxury fashion houses including Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, Baptiste Bouygues joined forces with his mOrmaie. Now, three years later, the brand is a veritable leader in environmentally conscious scents, which, unlike many other
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In 2015, former cheesemonger and self-proclaimed cheese evangelist Erika Kubick founded Cheese Sex Death, a blog and online resource for all things related to the fermented dairy product that has been revered for thousands oPlate magazine. What started as a Google search turned into a deep dive into the domain of pressed curds and milk, and Kubick
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This London Studio Draws on Smell-O-Vision as a Tool for Promoting Social and Environmental Advocacy
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From scented candles to aerosol sprays, the home fragrance market is filled with sweet-smelling devices that have found
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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
“Most of my memories are strongly shaped by smells,” says Mackenzie Reilly, who became captivated by the fragrance worldInternational Flavors & Fragrances, Reilly routinely thinks about aromas in terms of a specific field of creative expression—architecture—as she builds a
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Chances are, you’ve smelled perfumer Yann Vasnier’s work without even knowing it. The French fragrance virtuoso, who has
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
The Nihon Shoki, one of the oldest written records of Japanese history, traces the origins of incense in the nation to a single log of Ha Ko, a brand that offers delicate, leaf-shaped incense made from Japanese washi paper.
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.
Drawing on the West Coast’s fresh atmosphere and spirit, Louis Vuitton’s ongoing Cologne Perfumes collection conjures upoud, a heady essence derived from agarwood trees.)
How did people in the Middle Ages think about smells? It’s a question that Dr. Katelynn Robinson avidly explores in her Visual Odors, a website she created to trace how scents were depicted in medieval European art) and her book, The Sense of Smell in the Middle Ages: A Source of Certainty (Routledge), out next week in paperback. It’s the first comprehensive investigation of the period’s olfactory understan
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.
If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by the aroma of freshly ground coffee upon walking into a café, or the particular bouqueDr. Michael Bull, one of the leading air quality and odor experts in the United Kingdom, has dedicated more than three decades of his ca What led you to choose a career in assessing odors and their relationship to architecture?
“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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Tumultuous times often lead to creative new measures. For Ben Gorham, founder of the luxury brand Byredo, the drama of 2Mixed Emotions, a new unisex fragrance made to evoke the bewilderment of a roller-coaster year. A spritz of it starts out with the str
If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious process of perfume-making, you’ll delight in watching Nose: The Most Secret Job in the World, now streaming on Apple TV, following last year’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the hour-long documentary, nez, or nose—perfume industry parlance for an expert perfumer-creator with a finely attuned sense of smell—and his sensoria
In the 15 years since the French high fashion house Hermès released its Terre d’Hermès men’s fragrance, the scent has coH24 perfume, marked by a lively yet delicate bouquet, based on Nichanian’s ready-to-wear collections. But how, exactly, doe
In a year so necessarily and intensely domestic, it’s especially easy to appreciate the beauty and singularity of somethki-oke, wooden buckets traditionally used in Japanese onsen that have found alternative uses throughout the world, such as stoLes Atelier Courbet.) A seventh-generation master woodworker and artist, the elder Nakagawa, Kiyotsugu, and his son, Shuji, have collaborat
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The mysteries surrounding our olfactory systems have been the focus of Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center since it opened, in 1968, more than 20 years before the discovery of the odorant receptors that we use to perceive scencreating and administering smell tests as soon as olfactory impairment emerged as a primary symptom for the novel coronavirus. We recently asked Dr. Dalton ho
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
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 histoOdorbet, an ever-growing online database of terms they collect from various sources to describe smells. It also includes invent Why should we describe smells in nuanced, specific ways?
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