I am doing a lot of scent consultations lately and it is always very inspiring. It gives me a reason to stay in and smell things and google fragrances for hours, which is of course amazing. It is also a very inspiring challenge to tune into people in the right way so I can really feel their vibe right. But one of the best parts is that through their descriptions of their preferences and sensory references clients give me the most amazing creative images and worlds. I really love reading or listening to someone sharing their ideas with me when they describe what sounds, textures etc they like… And just the other day, as a result of posting the image below on Instagram I found myself in a conversation and scent quest that is just too good not to share.

Want to play with me?

The photo of a sample of a Code Deco perfume evolved into a conversation about musical elements translated into scent notes. (You know I love this topic…) I have promised to find a perfume that is the scent format of a musical description a person (Hi Jimmy!) gave me. I will definitely enjoy doing this… But I thought maybe some of you would enjoy joining me?

Here are the clues (amazing brief huh?): classical, jazz, Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise and Pathetique by Beethoven, Mozart Amadeus. Violin, piano, cello. Abraham Laboriel & Justo Almario. Bobby McFerrin. Mali Music, extremely high pitches, low base notes, Andrea Bocelli. Peace, sunlight, a plane in the sky. A soft caress of silk on fresh skin after a shower. Emerging after holding breath under water. Green hills, blue skies, colors. Playful but soft and slow. Turqoise and aquamarine. A forest, whispering wind, streaks of light, forest sounds.

What do you think…? Any notes come to mind? Or specific fragrances?

You can use the comment field here or go to the Sense of Scent Facebook where perfumer Dana El Masri, who has created a fragrance range based on inspiration from music, has shared some inspiring thoughts on this…

Skärmavbild 2014-11-10 kl. 4.31.04 PM

The scent is “B Minor” from Code Deco, an artisanal perfumery in Singapore. I discovered it through beloved MiN New York’s excellent member’s club. B Minor has a top of dry gin, bergamot and white grapefruit. Middle notes are cardamon, clove buds and a white flower accord. Base is Haitian vetiver, amber and musk and something Code Deco call Jazz Base. It has been marketed as a masculine fragrance but for the sake of freedom of creative exploration (and consultation research) I am not too bothered about that.

The last two weeks I have seen a lot of news covering the area of olfactive research from different perspectives. I really love seeing this development. It seems to me that there have been a few decades of relatively low interest in the sense of smell from the research world. At the same time magazines have published so much superficial fluff on scent and attraction and whatever. But now we can see multi-disciplinary research resulting in both books and articles that are accessible also to a wider audience. And this pushes pop-communication on scent in a better more educated direction. As worlds meet we will share more perspectives and scent will be taken more seriously. This should have an effect also on how we talk about fragrance choices and end that arbitrary mass-market sales-mania for good. Ok, that last part was really wishful thinking… But this is the direction. There is a more interesting path opening up and it is wide enough for many to join.

I wanted to share some facts from an article in today’s Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Some of you know if you have been reading my posts that I am really interested in learning more about the brain, psychology and the sense of smell and how this could be used to treat for example memory loss or depression. I have a long long way to go here but it is a path I pursue step by step and someday I hope I can do some good things for people with this. So I am grateful when a good article comes my way. More and more people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease which has led to research that focuses on early discovery and treatment. There is currently an international congress on Alzheimer’s in Copenhagen where different methods to diagnose the disease have been a big topic. Amongst other methods, two research groups have worked with scent. When an a person of age starts to loose their ability to detect scents this can be linked to Alzheimer’s effect on the brain cells. Two studies are described, one is done at Harvard where 215 healthy persons without memory defects went through a test with 40 different odors. This was followed up with complex tests and examinations on their brains. The conclusion that was drawn was that the persons that identified less odours also had the most plaque. The parts of the brain that are significant to memory were also thinner. If this method is indeed good enough to be used, it offers a solution that is substantially less expensive than many brain examination methods used today. The researchers stressed that there could be other reasons for the memory loss than Alzheimer. A similar study was conducted at Columbia where 1037 people participated. The 757 persons with lowest odour identification ability also had a more rapid development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Now what I am thinking is… if smell can be used at an early stage… and we know that olfactive sensations trigger activity in the brain: can then olfactive therapy be used to slow down the development of dementia? And can it be used when the disease has progressed to somehow break through and stimulate some memory connections? I would like to try some things out….

Photo by Fredrik Persson

Photo by Fredrik Persson


As I return from some magic days with old and new friends in my beloved happy place Amsterdam I carry many scented memories with me home. Some of these are related to the music experiences. This was truly a music-filled trip and the highlight was seeing Kenyan band Sautisol live, something that I have been looking forward to so much (more on my love for Kenya can be found in this post…). For a synaesthete (great explanation can be found on Olfactif) its more than natural that music and smells resonate and create some really good mind travel. But then you also obviously have the leather of jackets and straps, the metals, the particular sweat of excitement and dance, the rain, the way venues smell both a bit rough and comforting somehow… All this reminds me of something I wrote a while back… “What does a G minor chord smell like?”.

Some time ago I was so happy when some Jasmin Saraï creations arrived in the mail. The perfumes are made by perfumer Dana el Masri (remember when I posted about her brilliant interview with Mandy Aftel way back?) and they are all inspired by music. Love the idea. It’s not uncommon to use music for inspiration but Dana has done so much more through how she incorporates and communicates the links between the fragrance and the song. My favorite so far that I also for some reason really like to bring with me when traveling is Otis & Me.

Sauti Sol soundcheck

Sauti Sol soundcheck

Quite recently Hermès announced that nose Christine Nagel would be joining Jean-Claude Ellena as new nose to create new fragrances together for this legendary luxury brand. It was interesting news for many reasons. One is that Jean-Claude Ellena has been alone in his role for a long time (a decade) and it is hard to distinguish what is Hermès and what is master Ellena in an Hermès fragrance. Each fragrance is permeated by his artistry and endless choices down to the most detailed detail. Some were surprised by the choice. I am not familiar enough with Christine Nagels character as a nose to say anything about it other than that it is obvious that taking in a new nose to work with Ellena at Hermès must be a very particular process since everything about this brand is an homage to detail and perfection. So I am curious to discover what this new phase will bring and what Christine Nagel will bring to it. She is the nose behind many Jo Malone fragrances and Narcisco Rodriguez For Her so not at all a typical French haute parfumerie artist but more contemporary in her style.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

The Cut recently did an interview with the new nose team that includes some really interesting statements. Direct and art-focused, just like the fragrances that monsieur Ellena makes.

I do recommend you to read the interview but let me share some highlights. The description of their collaboration is something many creative professionals can relate to and be inspired by. It’s great to hear a master such as Ellena describe their differences as an asset and then their generous way of working as a strength of their team work. They describe progressing together and surprising each other.

The discussion on luxury is also very interesting, this is really a core question in today’s market and zeitgeist I believe. We are becoming more globalized and more ethical consumers which leads to a decreasing interest in show-off luxury items in informed markets. Consumers want something else than a shortcut that mainly signals affluence, the “specialness” in luxury has changed. Jean-Claude Ellena says: “There is no scent that is luxurious. It’s what we do with it that makes it luxurious. Otherwise, how will we know when something is luxurious? The supreme luxury is to take time, and we have time at Hermès” and adds, “the thing that is important at Hermès is that it is the perfumer who decides whether the perfume will go on the market”. He concludes, “this is really the luxury, the freedom”. There is another perfume house characterized by this rule, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. A much anticipated launch can be delayed because the perfume is not ready. If this is considered luxurious working conditions for the perfumer, than how luxurious is it not for the person who wears the perfume to know that this is the level of dedication and ambition behind it? Does this mean that these perfumes are better? If I look to myself, definitely these two perfume houses take up more space in my perfume collection than other ones and I made many of those selections before knowing these facts behind them. Not surprising of course that Malle’s fragrance range includes two creations by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Jean-Claude Ellena's photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

For Hermès fans it should be interesting to read the description of Hermès as a day and afternoon brand. To be honest I had actually never thought of this aspect. When I think about it though I realize that in fact I never wear Ellena perfumes in the evening or night, it never felt right. Voyage, Bigarade give me fresh air and energy as I embark on a new day. Ambre Narguilé comfort for an afternoon that closes circles. There is one exception though, Poivre Samarcande, this one I love for a dinner with conversations about life and travel!

I will not reveal more, read the interview. It’s great. And then you will also find out what smelled of vanilla and mold.

For more Ellena I suggest this interview at Perfume Shrine and this one or even better, reading monsieur Ellena’s own books.

There is much wonderfulness to say about fragrance and drinks. Not too long ago I shared this great piece on whiskey from Samir Dave and just now I heard about a great event in Berlin.

"Whiskey is a journey, not a destination", quote and photo from Samir Dave.

“Whiskey is a journey, not a destination”, quote and photo from Samir Dave.

On Thursday, June 12th, Ritz-Carlton Berlin will open Fragrances, a mixology/olfactory experience where patrons use their sense of smell to select their drink of choice.

Designed by “Cocktail Whisperer” Arnd Henning Heissen, the menu’s alcoholic beverages are presented with a bottle of perfume. The drink will not only smell like the scent, but will also reflect that smell in its taste.

There will be a display of the drinks’ ingredients, placed in glass domes next to the perfumes. Each drink will be served in a unique way to augment its individuality.

PSFK write: “Smells evoke memories and create strong emotional bonds with the environment. They have an immense influence in product and experience association, and the Ritz-Carlton is evidence that brands are capitalizing on this idea.”

Ingredient display. Photo from PSFK. article.

Ingredient display. Photo from PSFK. article.

I have decided to change my way of working with this website a little bit. Up to now I have used the Sense of Scent Facebook for daily quick updates and news sharing, and this space has been reserved for more lengthy personal articles that appear with some time in between. I notice though that there are more people here than I thought and that the Facebook and this website/blog has different followers. So from now on you will not only find my own lengthy reflections on scent aspects of travel and life but also some interesting perfume industry news, articles etc. This will create more variation in the posts for you and make it easier for me to add new content more often. Just as before, I am entirely independent, I am not sponsored or paid by any company, and I choose to highlight the kinds of products, brands, research and people that I find interesting.

On that note – let me share some nice perfume news that I received in the inbox today from Le Labo.

The Le Labo Marais store in 7, rue Froissart will have “Coffee, Perfume, and Cigarettes” evenings throughout the year. The evenings will be lead by perfume developer Elisabeth Carre. Le Labo describe these evenings as “a gathering and lieu of nonchalant learning, a moment of perfume stories shared amongst friends and scent addicts, smelling and getting backstage details on rare and less-rare ingredients”. (What’s not to like!)

The price is 50 Euros. 7 people per session and each session lasts for about 1 1/2 hours. These are the themes:

White Flowers : from virginity to perversion…
May 14th, 2014 – 18:30

Woods : eternal icons to novel structures
July 9th, 2014 – 18:30

Colorless, odorless and tasteless: water … and perfume
Sept 9th, 2014 – 18:30

Sweets anyone ?
Sept 24th, 2014 – 18:30

Comfort in perfume : the musky way…
Oct 23d, 2014 – 18:30

Le Labo's treasures.

Le Labo’s treasures.

Le Labo stands out in many ways, it is an inspiring brand to follow which offers both really nice content and surprises. For example in terms of communication they excel since the start, in a business where generous dialogue with clients is not at all standard. When Le Labo was launched their style and personalized offer was very unusual and keeping this strong innovative position is a good challenge. A nice example of storytelling is the Community of Craft section on the website. For more about the idea behind Le Labo I recommend this interview with one of the founders Fabrice Penot.

Each Le Labo is built around a main ingredient. The perfumes are named after that main ingredient plus have a number that indicates how many ingredients were used. So Rose 31 is a rose perfume with 31 ingredients. I like many of the Le Labo fragrances. Ambrette 9 is probably my favorite and I admire the softness in it. However another favorite is Vetiver 46, a true no-nonsense super-vetiver.

Their manifesto gives good insight into the essence and what drives the creative work and brand.

Le Labo Manifesto taken from the Le Labo website

Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadow(s), hair, playlists, scallops, weather, tents, napkins, wines, cakes, cookies, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… The list of things that can be part of planning a wedding is endless.

If you ask me an important sense is often neglected. There are perfumes advertised in wedding magazines, and every now and then a story about a particular perfume and a related love story of someone famous, or a perfume created as a love declaration. But I can’t remember a more dedicated piece on the scent aspects of a wedding. (If you have, please share). Some perfume writers and bloggers have addressed this topic in an ambitious way though. I have also not seen proper consultations offered in retail (I don’t count “there is a new romantic lily of the valley out on the market, the perfect scent for a bride” as a wedding scent consultation).

Now you may think, well maybe it’s just not as important and prominent as the dress, music, place, flowers etc… My answer is: are you sure?


Smells have a very powerful impact on our memories, moods and feelings. So when selecting the details that will create the atmosphere of a wedding, it should be natural to consider also how scents will contribute. It is easier than you think.

The scent of an occasion like this (the thoughts in this post can be applied to any event of significance) is just as significant and influential as the music or scenography. It’s just that there is no tradition of working with it. That however does not mean that we are not affected, and making more personal, emotionally valuable, romantic and wise choices would indeed make a difference.

So, what should you think about? Two things mainly: yourself and your partner (that is one thing) and the other smells at your wedding. The other ones are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, surrounding flowers and plants (both decorations and already existing ones), the setting.

Choosing a scent is not very different from the other choices you will be making in that the same criteria should apply. At some point you probably sat down and made a list of what you want your wedding to be like, for example romantic, elegant, unusual, playful, sweet, decadent, personal, sophisticated, relaxed. And you had some ideas on what that would lead to, for example if you and your partner love nature and you want your wedding to be personal you’ll want to incorporate some nature elements into your wedding in setting and menu and clothes. If you are a couple from different cultures you probably put some effort into coming up with ideas on how to add different elements and symbols based on that. If you want a Rat Pack wedding that has influenced your choice of DJ and dress and venue. Etc etc. All these kinds of thoughts and ideas can be translated into scents.

Skärmavbild 2014-05-06 kl. 3.08.23 PM

Your fragrance
Let’s start with you. If you like to wear perfume (or other fragranced products), you will want to wear some for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be special and right. A wedding is usually an event that lasts for a few hours and as a bride or groom you want to feel fresh and uplifted not tired, uplifted. Maybe you prepared the day before by doing sports and eating and drinking healthy, you have gone to a spa or beautician to add some glow. Scents too, affect our energy, they can help us feel fresh. A scent can also soothe or even make us tired. I would be very surprised if there have not been some people getting married wearing a perfume that either made them tired or maybe even allergic. A wise fragrance choice is one that keeps you in the right mood and supports energy – for example a nice clean cologne or other citrus fragrance for the day and the emotional moments that easily make your body send off extra heat, and then for the evening something more sensual, gourmand or spicy. These two fragrances should be selected so they go well with each other though.

If you feel tense and a little more nervous that you want to feel – it might be unwise to have a fragrance that is too complicated, a more clean fragrance with balanced calm notes will help you relax and feel centered. On the other hand if you are exhausted from preparations, support yourself with something that keeps your mind awake. And of course… coordinate your scent with your partner. You will be close all day, don’t expose yourselves to a scent collision that will not smell nice and give you both a headache. These are just some aspects to consider from a more practical point of view.

Choose a fragrance synchronized with your wedding bouquet. A perfect perfume and a perfect bouquet might clash when in combination if they include smells that don’t go well together. Choose flowers in your bouquet also from a scent perspective; avoid sedating or too strong smell. Co-ordinate your perfume provider and your florist.

Generally, I would say that for your wedding day – don’t go complex. Choose something light, soft, intimate and personal but easy. There will be so much going on, so many people, so many emotions and hormones. Trust your preferences. While its never right to make a perfume purchase too fast (too fast in this case means for example without taking the time to experience more than top notes) this is really really not the time for a hasty risky purchase. Other things to consider can be looking for a perfume house or creator that you identify with, associations to geographical places (for example places that are part of your romantic history together), perfumes created in a romantic contexts (By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved.) And if you can, maybe consider creating your own fragrance for this day with the help of a perfumer.


Smell an(d) emotion
Now from an emotional and romantic point of view (and what occasion is there more relevant for that than a wedding) there is so much you can do with scents. It is a fact that regardless of whether we are interested or pay attention to it, scents are very powerful because of the brain’s design. Scents are connected to memories and feelings. If you think about it, you probably have some scent memories that you connect to a person, a place or a situation.

This is the same mechanism that teleports us to places and times when we smell something and suddenly get an image in our head. So imagine how beautiful to use this brain force at your weeding and connect this day to those particular moments. During a wedding scent consultation process I talk to a couple about their romantic history to identify one, or several, particular scents that we can work with. Maybe the scent of the first flowers your partner gave you, maybe there is a spice in your favorite meal to cook together, maybe a smell in the apartment or something from a trip together.
A scent that creates an instant connection to the feeling of “us”.

Not only will highlighting such a scent detail during the wedding add emotion from the past, which will intensify your experience, it will also be coded in the brain for the future. So in one or ten years when you want to relive some of that feeling from your wedding day using that scent will help you.

Scent scenography
Naturally, we are not talking just about perfume but also about the food, the setting, floral arrangements etc. What we are looking for is a consciously created scent scenography for your wedding which supports atmosphere, emotion and well-being. It should be functional and personal.

Here are some concrete things to consider:

– The place your wedding ceremony and party are in already has/have some scents – take them into consideration. If it’s a church maybe don’t wear incense-like perfume, it will be too much. If you are in a garden with trees and flowers – be careful when adding more flowers so not to create an overdose.
– Synchronize the smells in food, fragrance and flower decorations.
– Avoid smells that guests might react to. For example big lilies give many people a headache and they take over so if you have a lovely plate in your menu with delicate tastes it might not get the attention it deserves.
– If you are giving guests gifts, a scented candle can be really special. Create a red thread, for example if you had roses in your bouquet and fragrance a nice scented rose candle will make the day live on. (Scented candles deserve a post on their own…, they are often used to create an atmosphere, sometimes a shortcut. A good candle is great but no candles by the food! And choose carefully.)
– Create a sensory frame that is comfortable for the senses for guests – everything from food to scented candles in wash rooms should be treated like members of one ensemble. Think of scent as a scenography tool.

If reading this made you interested in making scent scenography part of your wedding and you would like some help with that or if you are a wedding coordinator and would like to incorporate this into your process please feel free to contact me for a consultation using the comments section below or by e-mail sylvia(at)interabang.nu

ODOU Magazine is an amazing project created by Liam Moore, a graphic and web designer living and working in London, UK.

I am so proud and honored to be featured in Issue no 2 with a piece on smell, memories and loss. This piece is dedicated to my father who died in an accident a few years ago and I share some thoughts on how the sense of smell has supported me both in losing him and in some ways in keeping him.

Issue no 2 of ODOU can be ordered as a printed magazine or downloaded from this page.

This is Liam’s own description of what ODOU is about:

“Smell is the understated sense, the underdog, the riddler; it’s elusive, familiar and arresting. Exploring the sense of smell is so fascinating because it conjures up the deepest memories and strongest emotions. It’s a magazine that explores scent and perfume through themes such as memory, science, art, design, personal reflections, photography and many more.”

ODOU recently got a Jasmine Award for it’s contribution to scent discourse. I hope Liam will receive many more acknowledgments for his passion, ambition and wisdom.