Link to the article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/01/how-to-make-sense-of-scents
In early 2021, The New Yorker published an article by Rachel Syme arguing that our experience of the olfactory world may be much more private than we think, due to the fact that it is shaped by the individual property of our memory.
“Shaped by the idiosyncrasies of memory, our experience of the olfactory world may be more private than we think.”
The author recalls her experiences with perfumes – the ones she took from her mother as a girl, then bought from her earnings as a nanny as a teenager, remembers collecting perfume samples and regular spilling of tuberose from a vial carried in her coat pocket.
Years of interest in the subject allowed Rachel to acquire a vocabulary to describe “scented landscapes.” She thought she knew she loved the scent of violets – their “chalky chocolate shades,” but the moment she sits at the keyboard to write down her experiences, doubts arise – “Was it more like talcum and linden honey? Or like a Barbie doll’s head sprinkled with lemonade? ”
She notes that conversations about smells can be like talking about dreams – “often tedious, rarely satisfying”. He recalls situations known from perfume forums, where for one person the same composition will be like “a fairies dance in the depths of the forest where everything revolves around light and shadow”, while another says “my 5-year-old son said the perfume smells disgusting. > like something dead
The author concludes that the fragrance challenges our ability to express in a way that other senses do not. In the following paragraphs, Rachel wonders if the language of science is helpful in talking about smell? (“If we all knew about indoles, the foul-smelling natural ingredients found both in jasmine flowers and in human excrement … then could we better understand our shared airspace?”
He continues with the discoveries and works of Harold McGee, an American writer who, as Rachel writes, began by dismantling gastronomic smells, but soon went outside the kitchen to document the smells of asteroids, asphalt, urine, wet earth … And who in 2020, as a result, 10 – years of work on naming and categorizing every scent noticeable on earth, he published the book “Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells”. (We definitely plan to reach for it.)
What’s more, it touches on topics such as the relationship between smell and business; influence on the history of perfumery of leather tanners, fish sellers, cutters and one of the largest epidemics in the history of mankind in the fourteenth-century Europe; describes what the smell after rain consists of and much more, but in order not to reveal everything, we will stop at this information and recommend that you look at this article, full of tenderness and awareness for the sense of smell, to everyone interested in the topic.