March 27, 2010
From time to time, friends- in- fragrance send me articles of interest that spark ideas questions or validate my own thoughts on scent and how we interpret our world through its language.
Ca Fleure Bon will devote a column, “Excerpts”, to these thought provoking features and research studies.
Hernando Courtright sent me an article that appeared in today’s New York Post,written by Sabrina Ford and Rita Delfiner; the article is excerpted here:
“New Yorkers rank vanilla as the most pleasant smell and sweaty socks the foulest. That’s according to Dr. Leslie Vosshall, who led a five-year study of what smells please or annoy New Yorkers, how we interpret odors and how does smell affect our daily experiences.
Isovaleric acid — the odor of sweaty socks — has the baddest bouquet, according to New Yorkers who rank it as the least pleasant essence.
They also find the smell of buttered popcorn “pretty unpleasant,” Vosshall said.
Vosshall, a Rockefeller University professor who heads its Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, outlined her group’s study “An Olfactory Demography of Metro NYC” at an all-day conference on “Scent and the City” at the New School.
In the unpublished study by Vosshall’s group, an ethnically diverse group of up to 500 volunteers found through Craigslist whiffed 66 odors in vials, and rated each on a scale of “very pleasant” to “very unpleasant.”
They were also given a list of more than 100 adjectives to describe the smells, from “putrid” to “sweet.”
The research turned up a “strange correlation between smelling and body mass,” Vosshall said. “Underweight and overweight people have less olfactory acuteness.”
The study also found that men and women tended to sniff differently.
The best noses belong to young females who don’t smoke, the study found.
Another finding was that Asians, Caucasians and African-Americans sometimes differ on what they consider pleasant rather than strong-smelling.
Caucasians tend to find nutmeg more pleasant than African-Americans do and blacks rank sandalwood higher on the “pleasant” scale than do whites, the study found.
There are many thought provoking conclusions one can draw that goes beyond the pleasant, comforting smell of vanilla. A follow up article to this is story in order.
– Acknowledgement to Hernando Courtright