Culture

Scents and Memories – an Emotional Connection

Jun 04, 2015

Google “scents and memories” and a slew of references to why and how scents evoke memories will pop up.

As reported by NBC News, “Smells do bring back memories,” says Dr. Ken Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor Neurology and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. “Smell goes into the emotional parts of the brain and the memory parts, whereas words go into thinking parts of the brain.”

What smells nostalgic to you? Or what scents can trigger even memories you thought were lost? What fragrances can stimulate an emotion? A whiff of vanilla and cinnamon, and you are carried to your grandmother’s kitchen. Or, suddenly in a hotel lobby, a stranger walks by and the fragrance of his aftershave transports a grandmother to an off-season holiday at a deserted seaside resort with her first love in the prime of youth.

Given the importance of the sense of smell, it is interesting that it is hard to describe smells. As this post by the BBCputs it, “We do not, however, have names for all the smells we can differentiate. Smell is perhaps the sense we are least used to talking about. We are good at describing how things look, or telling how things sounded, but with smells we are reduced to labeling them according to things they are associated with (“smells like summer meadows” or “smells like wet dog”, for instance).”

This makes it all the more challenging to describe fragrances and perfumes. What does fresh or rustic or aquatic really mean? As the International Fragrance Association points out, “fragrances communicate complex ideas – creating mood, signaling cleanliness, freshness, or softness, alleviating stress, creating well-being, and triggering allure and attraction”.

The IFRA website provides some useful links where you can learn more about fragrances, or where you can study to be an expert.

This evening, take a moment to recall special moments in your life as you hold to your nose a bar of our delicate and sensual Jasmine of Arabia soap, or intoxicatingly seductive Oriental Gardenia, or Rose of Damascus, with its legendary aphrodisiac properties. As we say at Senteurs d’Orient, a time to transport your mind and exalt your body.