The Vin­son View

Picky nicky dis­cov­ers the power of smell is not to be sniffed at

Wallpaper - - December -

Picky Nicky dis­cov­ers the sweet smell of suc­cess­ful ol­fac­tory ex­pe­ri­ences

When I was eight I hol­i­dayed in Fiji. At 30, I re­turned to the South Pa­cific is­land and the sec­ond the plane doors opened, the lo­cal smell, heady with frangi­pani, in­stantly brought back mem­o­ries of that visit 22 years ear­lier. Which left me stunned, as I had no idea that my ol­fac­tory mem­ory was quite so pow­er­ful. I fi­nally un­der­stood why at De­sign/mi­ami one De­cem­ber when I was in­tro­duced to Dawn Gold­worm, founder of ol­fac­tory brand­ing com­pany 12.29, and we got talk­ing about smell. Gold­worm had cre­ated a scent for the de­sign fair that year, and she is of­ten called in by banks to help make peo­ple feel se­cure, ho­tels to make peo­ple feel at home, or stores to ma­nip­u­late their client ex­pe­ri­ence. I learnt that smell tends to be our pre­dom­i­nant sense un­til we are ten years old (which ex­plains the Fiji mo­ment), and that scent and emo­tion are tightly linked in the brain.

There are two other places that I have vis­ited where I just can’t get enough of the lo­cal smell. One is at the top of the Monte San Vig­ilio at the Vig­ilius Moun­tain Re­sort (W*64), de­signed by Mat­teo Thun in lo­cal larch wood and sur­rounded by larch trees. The air 1,500 me­tres up is pretty clean, and I just wanted to swal­low as much of it as pos­si­ble. The other is Com­porta, in Por­tu­gal, which I vis­ited this sum­mer. On my first day back in Lon­don, I bumped into my Maryle­bone neigh­bour Lyn Har­ris of Per­fumer H. She told me she had been busy cap­tur­ing the very essence of Por­tu­gal in a series of new scents for Claus Porto, Por­tu­gal’s first ever soap and fra­grance fac­tory. Ex­chang­ing notes on how fab­u­lous Com­porta was, she con­firmed it was a mix of Mediter­ranean pine and eu­ca­lyp­tus that drove me crazy, but added that there were dry herbs like camomile, laven­der and thyme grow­ing wild on the ground (missed by me) and that com­bi­na­tion, along with the warm, tem­per­ate cli­mate, is what ‘hits you in the face’. Har­ris also ex­plained that it’s the ab­sence of clut­ter (the smell ver­sion) that gives you the ul­ti­mate ol­fac­tory ex­pe­ri­ence, and when you smell, it hits the lim­bic part of the brain, which re­leases so much emo­tion.

Aside from the beauty and clean­ing in­dus­try, plus the world of wine (I love the bou­quet of a good wine in a large-bowled, stemmed glass al­most more than the taste) this im­por­tant sense seems over­looked – even flow­ers don’t smell any­more (thanks, Hol­land). Ev­ery­thing today seems so fo­cused on look and feel. Think about how much we ex­pe­ri­ence on­line or through a smart­phone – and yet there will prob­a­bly never been a swipe to sniff ac­tion. I will be fol­low­ing Lyn Har­ris’ lead to tune my ol­fac­tory skills and train my nose.

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