Fragrance Context & Smell-Blindness

Posted by Dan Farrell-Jones on

One of the most common issues we encounter on daily basis at F-JAS is customer's who experience a fragrance, lets say Bubblegum, in a totally different manner to another customer.  

Customer A thinks Bubblegum is very strong, and is making them nauseous, whereas customer B is saying its far to weak?   So why is this?

Basically its because we all experience fragrance differently, and some people will actually be smell-blind to certain combinations of the compounds that make up a fragrance.  For me, I struggle to smell Vanilla.

So what can be done to help?  Well, one common tactic for fragrance manufacturers is to make as complex a fragrance as possible.  This is generally why aftershaves and perfumes can be detected so readily - they are amongst the most complicated fragrances available, known as "Fine Fragrance" and consist of hundreds of aromatic compounds in varying amounts.  In contrast, Bubblegum, consists of just a few.   The idea being that the more complex a fragrance, the lower the chance someone is going to be unable to detect it.

Context is another big issue for fragrance manufacturers.  As we offer all of our fragrances in all of our products types, we are especially vulnerable to this and rely somewhat on our customers to understand that the context of a fragrance matters.  By this we mean that a nice leather smell is all very well in an automotive air freshener, where those detecting the fragrance are expecting the smell of leather, but may give the impression of smoke or tobacco when it is detected on clothing, if for example it was used as Ironing Water or Laundry Freshener.  This is because those detecting it are not looking for that smell of leather, and when they smell the fragrance, their brain will create the most likely associated smell.   This is very common with the compound Trimethylamine which smells of fish.  

Trimethylamine in a nice fillet of Cod, is detected as a mouth-wateringly good smell, whereas the same compound in urine, is immediately registered as a very bad smell, and yet, they are the same fragrance.

So, next time you are thinking fragrance, remember context is important.  Our brains want to interpret what they expect, and this is why the same smells can smell good to one person, and bad to another, or good in one situation, and bad in a different scenario.

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