smell the one you love


Forget about Tinder’s flashcard approach to dating. Images are now old school. An underground trend of scent-based dating is making its way around the globe. The latest pheromone parties have reignited interest in tapping into our animal side for better mating. Next up, Los Angeles-based Institute of Art and Olfaction is hosting a Valentine’s for singles of all sexual and gender orientation. Host Bettina Hubby brings an artistic spin to scent dating at the IAO event. Hubby will combine the art and scent preferences of participants in an experiment on how a scent persona might help them select dates or mates.

Thursday February 12th 7-10p
3023 W 6th St, LA CA
SIGN UP HERE to participate

where the air is sweet


Harvard University professor David Edwards continues to up the ante on multi-sensorial immersive experiences. His O-Phone made smelly waves earlier this year as the first olfactory messaging system available on smartphones. His work at Le Laboratoire – Paris design think tank – has landed in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. This US sister lab has everything to delight modern gastronomes, designers and scientists alike. The most exciting feature is the stunning Le Whaf at Le Laboratoire’s dining lab, Café ArtScience.

11324_whaf_bruno_cogez4Photo by Bruno Cogez

Designed by Marc Bretillot, Le Whaf is a bulbous glass vaporizer which liberates flavor and aroma from their solid material form. It’s various air concotions enhance dishes and drinks as well as offering a calorie-free after-dinner mint.

young americans


When Bowie sang about American youth in 1975, he probably didn’t realize that their carefree ignorance extended to their sense of smell. According to a recent study by a Dutch researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, olfactory knowledge varies significantly from culture to culture and generation to generation. Read this lovely New York Times article by TM Luhrmann. For some of the team’s publications check out Prof. Majid’s site and Prof. Levinson’s site.

Of the global study groups, Americans had great difficulty identifying common smells like cinnamon or turpentine. Younger people across the globe also had a more limited smell vocabulary than their elder compatriots. The good news is that training your nose is possible. Memory games can help individuals build their personal scent database. Simply smelling more things and paying attention to odors in general will help. Get ideas here on

a natural history of smell

During the next few weekends, kids and adults in New York can delight in the hands-on exhibits on the evolution of human olfaction at the The Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins in the American Museum of Natural History.

The creators of the new scent app oPhone are promoting their new scent messaging technology through a series of demos and activities throughout July, including a chance to interact with their brand-new iphone app.

Entrance is free with museum admission
Saturdays and Sundays
July 12–13, July 19–20, July 26–27
Noon–5 pm
The Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins

smell the scene

4DX is the next level in cinema – 3D + technology that brings viewers more into movie scenes than ever before. We checked out Transformers: Age of Extinction last week at Regal Cinemas in Los Angeles. It’s the first US theater to feature the new cinema technology already very popular in Asia with theaters across Europe, and in Israel and Brazil.

When you walk in, the theater looks normal until you sit down. It’s even more important to get there early so you and your friends can sit in the same row. Seats resemble a roller coaster ride with drink holders and a small illuminated sign that reads, ‘water on.’ I started to get excited.

As far as the senses, touch is the most aggressively stimulated. The seats have the ability to whip and rotate, vibrate and punch, which enhances the chase and fight scenes. It’s something in between a roller coaster and a turbo-charged massage chair. Fog, rain, and puffs of air intensify fear of bullets whizzing and other creepy crawly things on screen.

The weak spot of the 4DX experience is the olfactory stimulation. What didn’t help was the excessive odor of Cool Water Cool_Water (1)on the guy sitting next to me.

Still, there were two distinct and strong aromas: explosion scent – a mixture of melted metal, gasoline, and smoke; dusty plains – an excellent replica of dry dirt road. Perhaps the movie itself didn’t inspire much in the minds of the olfactive creative team.

All in all, this technology made an otherwise terrible movie a fun, exciting experience. Next up in 4DX is a movie called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in theaters July 9. I think we can already imagine the funk of our furry neighboring species.


Transformers: Age of Extinction costs $27 and is playing now at LA Live Regal Cinemas 1000 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

framing emotions

Photo courtesy of Fürcho GmbH

Here’s a delightful video on a recent immersive exhibit on shifting visual and olfactory perception. “Emotions” was at the Mianki Gallery in Berlin and featured Jakob Kupfer’s beautifully blurry plays on light and Christophe Laudamiel‘s scent squares. If only the video had smell-o-vision cards or atomizers, or the splashy new Ophone duo to go with it.

EMOTIONS (subtitled) from mianki. Gallery on Vimeo.

memory and smell

Even before Proust, scent has played an integral role in memory-making and memory recall throughout history. One has only to consider the vast tomes of naturalist fiction, only the tip of the iceberg. It is one of the key senses in creating an immersive experience whether on the page, in conversation, and now, in the virtual realm of screens. The rising popularity of digital scent memoirs is also strong testimony.

Alzheimer’s researchers are continuing to investigate the relationship between olfaction and memory. For some time, they have known that the loss of smell or anosmia is a sure sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Now teams are trying to determine how special scents can be used strategically as stimuli in patients struggling with dementia and memory loss.

Belgian fashion collective Margiela is tapping into the rich digital space for scent memory. Their fragrance line replica has spurred a social project to mine sensory-rich, smell-inspired or evocative photos via Instagram. All are invited to share their personal smell images like this lovely post by Mimi Frou Frou  by tagging photos with #smellslikememories.

Here’s my very first scent memory  and a smell image to accompany it:maplesyrupPhoto courtesy of

I will never be able to separate the smell of maple syrup from my unsophisticated yet eager five-year-old nose, from my five-year-old skin. My tiny curious self, trudging through a maple farm in the bright, crunchy snow, puzzling at the plastic jugs parasitically strapped to the maple trees’ wispy figures. These dainty giants stood at attention in service of the warm glowing cabin and its endless stream of billowing white smoke. I remember wondering if the trees were in fact bleeding. The smoke filling my nostrils with warm woodiness, goodness of the  slender forest overtook the tingly icy chill of winter’s air tickling my bare cheeks. The dim light of dusk cast an overwhelming blanket of mystery over this place, which at that moment seemed to me as secret and profound as the other side of the coat closet in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe must’ve been for those fictional children I would read about a few years later. These great clouds of smoke filled my wool scarf, wrapped tightly around my neck, over my coat, catching the condensation of that fantastic new scent dripping from my nose. How amazed I was by the rich sensations. How strange that in my memory, I am virtually alone, except for the incredulous, excited glances fired between my sister and I. Stranger yet that my memory is absolutely silent, and that this heavy silence is a crucial part of the experience that is today only awakened by the accidental thought that I love the smell of maple, but not its taste. Perhaps this is because no bottle I’ve opened to this day has had the power to bring me back to the feeling I’ve just described, the intoxicating novelty of witnessing the magical birth of maple syrup in the New Hampshire countryside. You see, the scent of maple is vision, quietude, sensation, and awe. It is too rare to be plucked from the shelf out of a crude grocery store lineup, too precious to be cavalierly spilt in public, among strangers, over pancakes or waffles or bacon.


Take a small stick of cinnamon, or a maple branch, if one is handy.

Put a dram of very peaty scotch into a small glass or bowl. A very smoky cognac, brandy or armagnac will do.

Drizzle a bit of maple syrup into the scotch. It will sink to the bottom.

Get a match (ones that light fire logs are even better).

At dusk, preferably during the winter or fall, bundle up in coat and wool scarf.

Gather your scotch-maple glass, stick and matches and go outside.

Light the stick or branch just until it smoke a bit, like an incense stick and wave it under your nose.

Throw back the scotch and maple, making sure to lick the last bit of maple from the bottom of the glass or bowl so it is the last taste you have.

Enjoy the warm. smoky, sweet, stickiness of maple against the chilly mystery of winter dusk.

For maximum enjoyment, do this alone.

scent tourism


Photo courtesy of Steve Hill Photography

Environmental olfactory advocate, Victoria Henshaw, is on a mission to elevate the odors of various cities and landscapes to a new level of cultural import. She has authored a book on the subject, Urban Smellscapes, and offers guided olfactory tours in her native England. Her website contains tips for smell-walking along with an exciting catalog of the smell walks, some including DIY smell tours, with a handful of tours outside the UK. These delightful forays into the olfactory experience of a geographical location are perfectly in sync with graphic designer Kate McLean‘s wonderful sensory maps of primarily European cities including isolated sensory taste, smell, and tactile maps. We hope to experience some of these smellscape guides this side of the pond one day soon.

scent stories

From the personal to the political, stories about smells are proliferating over the waves and wires. Check out these short but sweet narratives to inspire your own scent journeys on and off the page.

Photo courtesy of

A lovely bicyclist gives us a tour of the coast of Northern Ireland through photo and smell images.

Beauty editor Cristina Mueller invites us into her personal journey with perfume.

Writer and musician Martin Cook takes us to Melbourne on a Saturday night.

Writer and writing coach Maria Berg tours the olfactory experience of home.

Finally, John Herrman raises eyebrows about a New York City scent guide as political propaganda.