“We smell with our mind. Your mood affects the way you smell. The French verb sentir, ‘to smell’, also means ‘to feel’. Smells change our moods. It’s no good if you’re tired. You must be intellectually fresh,” said the late International Flavors & Fragrances perfumer Bernard Chant.
Chant was the creator of Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Estee Lauder Azuree, Parfums Gres Cabochard, Ralph Lauren Lauren, Aramis, and many other perfume classics. I love this quote, because it applies equally well to the professional perfumers’ work and enjoyment of scents in general. Creating fragrances is about the imagination, the ability of the creator to capture an abstract idea–dew covered orchids, a walk along the beach, a childhood memory–in a drop of liquid. For this reason, some perfumers resent the term “nose,” which reduces their work to a mere technique.
When wearing perfume and enjoying aromas, the same holds true. Occasionally people complain about having an “untrained” nose or being unable to distinguish notes, but neither is essential to become a perfume lover. Your ability to derive pleasure from smelling has little to do with whether you can tell jasmine apart from ylang-ylang or whether you can detect if a perfume includes Iso E Super or cedarwood essence. Much more important is to smell with an open mind, to fantasize and to be receptive to new experiences. Does a perfume conjure up a specific memory or does it evoke an image? Does it intrigue, repulse, delight? What kind of person do you imagine wearing it? Do you feel butterflies in your stomach?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin
P.S. As for being intellectually fresh, the best time to smell is in the morning when both your mind and your nose aren’t yet saturated with too many sensory impressions.