Monday, 25 October 2010

A Failure To Communicate

"Absolutely typical" are two words that have been on my mind since Friday. I was looking forward to a few days off work, I'd set aside some time for perfume formulation and I'd also decided that over the weekend I'd actually wear some fragrances from my own collection - as opposed to those I've been sent for review - but the micro-universe of germs and bugs obviously had other plans for me: I've got a cold and I can hardly smell a thing.

Well, that's not strictly accurate. What I should have said is that there are certain smells I can't detect at all, whereas others are coming through quite clearly. I'd never really given this much thought before, but it appears as though the problem is centred around the area of base notes: I can detect tops and hearts just fine, but when it comes to vetivert or sandalwood (or, to put it in other words, some of the heaviest molecules found in perfumes), things start to get fuzzy. I'm no chemist, but I wonder if the likes of Luca Turin - and other scientists who've tried to understand our olfactory system - have ever considered the significance of the ill-effects of colds and flus.

As I reach for another mug of Lemsip, I'll leave you with this question: do colds really affect your personal sense of smell in a major way, or do you think the whole phenomenon has been exaggerated?



  1. Hello P,

    Lovely to meet you at the Tauer Scents and Scentsability gig. I've just finished a long cold whilst smelling the most fantastic perfumes. I felt I was able to recognize the edge of certain strong perfumes such as some of the Lutens range, but only for a micro second. It was like listening to music from another room, only for a door to slam shut.

    The way I was breathing in and out also affected what I smelt leading to all sorts of phantom smells. I felt I could smell cold crystaline scents such as Louvre all the time or marine smells when the fragrances were actually much warmer.

    My sense of smell also reminded me of sucking a boiled sweets when its almost gone and your tounge cant register the taste any more.

    All best,


  2. Well, I haven't had a cold or flu since I was 20, so I can't speak to the effects you're noting, but I can intuitively sense that the base notes you can't detect are the heavy molecular weight aromatics, they don't diffuse easily. Ergo, the lighter weight aromatics, the top and middle, are able to waft up and into your olfactory bulbs. Non-scientific reply, just intuitive, as I said.

  3. hope you are smelling/feeling better soon!

  4. Jason, it was great to meet you too. I like your image of listening to music coming from another room: a very accurate analogy, in my opinion.

  5. Frida, thanks very much indeed. I'm feeling much better today.

  6. Anya, thanks very much for leaving a comment. I suspect your intuitive reply may well have a scientific basis.

    But here's a question for you: how do you avoid catching colds?

  7. Garlic caps w/ all meals, and Pau d`Arco caps on an empty stomach in between meals, plus all the cinnamon you can handle!! I speak from a lfetime of sinus troubles :-0 Lots of TLC from the Peach State to you :-) Concentrate on the beautiful BOTTLES & JARS (please see Ormonde Jayne`s divine powder box w/ puff!!)you wish for while you decongest!

  8. Linda, thanks very much indeed; I am feeling a lot better today.

  9. Jason, I believe my great immune system is a combination of genetics and the fact that I typically have a little bit of some herb in the Lamiaceae family (mint, includes rosemary, sage, thyme, etc.) every day. The EOs in them are known to be anti-microbial. I think I just built up a critical mass in my bloodstream.


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