September 10, 2016

See the scent, hear the scent

Scents strongly influence our emotions, they bring back memories, stimulate imagination, and at the same time – we have serious difficulties with describing a scent that we can smell. We are not always able to express with words the sensations that we experience when we smell a scent. Scents are therefore very intuitive and probably all of us will perceive a particular scent in a completely different way. One thing seems certain: the sense of smell can stimulate other senses.

Scent – invisible colour

When describing a scent, we often refer to other senses, associations, comparisons, visualisations of its origin: blooming rose, sea breeze, juicy papaya. Presently, scents have their colour equivalents, easily recognisable by people all over the world: red suggests a heavy, sensual aroma, blue is associated with water scents, sunny yellow and orange – with citrus scents, and brown with woody scents. We will call light and fresh scents green. This particular colour-fragrance code is often used, among others, in marketing. It is also reflected in perfumery terminology, as very often scent substances from which perfumes is made of, is called a “palette of scents” that refers to a painter’s colour palette.

To smell a rainbow

There are people among us who can see the smell. When they smell the aroma, their brain immediately assigns a particular colour to it. Often it is a colour from cool shades for fresh scents, and warm shades for warm, enveloping notes. It also occurs the other way round: some of us, when seeing a colour, they immediately smell a scent. These types of skills are considerably rare, subjective and difficult to explain. They appear automatically and unconsciously. It is a real gift that enriches perception. Scientists called this phenomenon synesthesia, which is simultaneous perceiving with different senses. The causes for synesthesia have not been entirely studied – perhaps the synesthetic have got more synaptic connections. Another theory states that the number of synaptic connections is the same; however they are connected more closely. Surely their perception of smell is incomparably richer and more complex than with an average perfume user.

Scent of music

When trying to get accustomed to a scent, we often refer to music and the terminology that is connected with it. Perfumes are fragrance compositions. Scents are composed, just like music, from fragrance notes, and the table of perfume creator is called the organ. The note is a single smell, but also a particular phase of fragrance life. A perfect combination of three or more notes is called the accord. When all notes are perfectly combined, we have the composition harmony. Features of ingredients that create surroundings to perfume are called the tone. Half-tones are nuances, details in the background of a scent, smelled only by the experts. A scent can be lighter or heavier by a half-tone. Just like some people can see the colour of a scent, others when smelling perfumes, hear sounds. And it’s not just minor associations of for example water scent with the sound of waves crashing, or modern scent with buzzing city. We can close our eyes and visualise the sound of rain drops, cicada on a sunbathed Cyprus beach, jingle of coins, click-clack of high heels, or swish of taffeta dress, but only the chosen ones can hear fragrance notes. Some perfume makers even complained that when opening a bottle with perfume, they could hear a symphony or a cacophony. Fragrance notes can shout, squeak, rhythmically pulsate… Just release them from the bottle!