get the led out

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Glaring sun on miles of dusty oranges, browns and blues layered as far as the eye can see. Dry thick air whipping past your face, bringing the heat up through your nose and down your throat. There’s the inimitable honeyed rock of Zeppelin crushing in your ears as you drive at breakneck speed down an empty highway. Where you’re going, you don’t know. When you’ll get you, you don’t care.

This is the Californian desert at its best. This is summer in Mojave Desert.

This extraordinary mood captured by Led IV, a fantastic summer scent dreamed up by Dana El Masri in her niche perfume line, Jazmin Saraï.

Although it was inspired by “Going to California” in particular, this fragrance is evocative of the whole glorious sonic range of the greatest classic rock band ever. This woodsy incense fragrance has the gentleness of Zeppelin’s acoustic tunes like “Tangerine” but the top notes strike as brightly as Bonham’s high hats, the guiac and labdanum provide the soulful rhythm, and the railing energy of Robert Plant’s vocals in a barely sweet bergamot-grapefruit-davana accord.

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This fragrance draws so many favorites together into a fantasy roadtrip that never ends. It should be in heavy rotation at Coachella.

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scent shopping in the digital age

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Though it’s impossible to replace the real live experience of sniffing out scents in a boutique, digital tools can make that process more fun, and perhaps even more efficient. There have been so many new developments in olfactive e-commerce, most obviously, robust sampling programs offered by individual brands or fragrance boutiques. Check out an old list of some brand-specific sampling programs. Here ‘s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.

Most Promising

Nose – boutique and website based in Paris
Monday – Saturday: 10:30AM to 7:30PM
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002
M° Sentier or Etienne Marcel

Nose stands out because of their wide range of niche fragrance brands and discovery tool. The site and shop use a diagnostic that analyzes fragrances you already wear to identify your favorite scent families and suggest similar scents. Unfortunately, at the moment, the tool only allows for up to 5 scents to analyze. For someone with a larger scent library, it’s not as helpful as it could be.

Luckyscent – scent bar and online boutique
7405 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90036
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 12-5

Luckyscent has by far the widest range of niche fragrance brands and are constantly introducing new products. Their scent descriptions are thorough and they have lots of reviews, although, over the years, I’ve noticed many of them disappearing. Perhaps this is part of shifting stock. That’s one trouble here. Luck Scent has great stock, but you can’t smell everything in store with the limited space in their tiny boutique. They send great email updates and have a fun sampling program. For $3-5 per scent, you can select and buy samples to be shipped to you. At Scent Bar, you can peruse solo, with friends, or get expert help from the staff.

The Fragrance Lab at Selfridges

Part of Selfridges’ Beauty Project, until June 27, 2014, the lab offers a unique ipad diagnostic and exploration experience that includes a bottle of perfume for £65. Selfridges perfume collection is focused more on commercial than niche fragrances. When you buy a ticket, you are fitted with the perfect original scent for you. For the fun of conversing with lab coats in a fog-filled room, until and 50ml bottle of a signature smell, it seems worth it. Buy a ticket here

Jury’s Still Out

Over the past few years, other notable boutiques have joined the perfume party, such as Bergamot, Pinrose, and Scentsa. Several apps have also appeared but need considerable more development to be truly user-friendly.

Iperfumer is an app that simply does not work. What’s more, their perfume database is predictably limited to the fragrances they create.

Perfumance looks really good right off the bat, but they have a strange database of a couple of scents per brand. For example, Frédéric Malle, Byredo, and Heeley are represented by a few seemingly random scents in the larger collection.

Sephora has an in-store app, Scentsa, but alas, is also focused on commercial fragrance.

Pinrose follows a subscription sales model with their own original collection. The program enables shopper to learn about their own unique fragrances through a synesthetic tool – seeing or tasting smells – to explore the best fragrance for her or her.

Bergamot is another company that follows a subscription model, sending you 3 different scents each month to discover. It’s a great concept, focused on niche fragrances. It’s perfect for those getting into niche fragrance for the first time. More experienced fragrance hunters will likely want to see the collection expand dramatically.

Scentbird takes inspiration from the success of Warby Parker. You get fragrances in the actual bottle, try for a few days, and keep it if you like it, return it if you don’t. Neat concept, and a fun, personality-cased discovery method. At present, the company’s offering is limited to commercial fragrances.

the scent of rock

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John Waters would be proud: Twangy 60s-inspired rockers The Black Lips are taking a cue from his unforgettable film Polyester by layering the aesthetic experience of visual art with smells. Predictable olfactory accompaniments include garbage, weed appear in a line-up with some more ambitious scents like cedar wood, squid ink, semen, and ‘moon.’ The band say that their latest shows will be enhanced by a scent diffusion machine, a device they commissioned from some French friends. So far, one concert-goer has reported no special odors beyond that of those from your average rock venue. Perhaps they should seek out venues in a more sterile environment with little to no ambient smell. A science lab? Keep your nostrils open when they blow into your town.

Polyester trailer and scent cards for sale on Ebay.

we smell a lot

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The internet is abuzz with news from a recent study at Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute claiming a breakthrough in our understanding of human olfaction. Despite long-held beliefs that human ability to smell is poor by comparison to our sense of sight and the olfactory ability of other mammals, Dr. Andreas Keller and his team now have compelling evidence that we can smell a great deal if we pay attention, up to the trillions of distinct odors. Time to start training our brains to work harder on all that enters our mouth and nostrils!

For more information on similar work defending the human sense of smell and taste, check out John Prescott’s Taste Matters, Gordon Shepherd’s Neurogastronomy, and Hervé This’ Molecular Gastronomy.

seducing visitors through their noses

The English city of York may have taken a cue from its sister city, New York, in an innovative tourist strategy. New York city recently inspired a scratch and sniff children’s book on the Big Apple, New York, Phew York. It hardly seems a coincidence that now the York tourism board is turning to a scented guide designed to lure visitors

neon sunshowers

Newcomer to the world of niche fragrance, Dana El Masri is lighting up with her mutlisensory creations. Her line Jazmin Saraï translates music into olfactory compositions. Each fragrance invites you to smell the music that inspired it.

Imagine a scent that captures the beauty and spunk of of MIA. Jazmin SaraïNeon Graffiti (2004) shimmies and slides along the nostrils in time with Sunshowers. It pops top notes of electric citrus and mango, moving slowly through an herbaceous, tropical green before eliding into a soft beach bonfire made up of cedar incense. Where the opening notes are effortlessly youthful, the dry down has the gentle woodsiness of Miller et Bertaux‘s bobo chic fragrance, A Quiet Morning. Once you get your hands on this bright scent, perfect for summertime, you’ll want to blast MIA on repeat.

marketing the drool factor

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Olfactory imagination is a powerful tool for advertising flavor. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research on smellizing, a term for selling by stimulating smell imagination, has intriguing findings for the food and beverage industry. Professor Morrin and her team found that participants who looked at both images and descriptions of appealing food showed a significant increase in salivation. When the image or the description stood alone, their biological desire was not as strong. Experiments in artificial smell diffusion has been a part of marketing for a while, but the simple strategy of combing visual and verbal stimuli has been strangely underutilized, Morrin says.