Many of us take our sense of smell for granted without a second thought about how the smell is made.
From the sweet bitter smell of that first cup of coffee to the gentle scents which reassure us we are home, we’re exposed to an endless tapestry of different smells every day – many of which have a significant impact on our mood and outlook on life.
To celebrate the wonderful organ which is our nose, here we’re sharing some of our favourite facts about scent and smell, some of them strange, some of them shocking.
Although the exact number is yet to be determined, scientists revealed in a 2014 journal that humans can identify at least one trillion different smells. It is thought that the actual number may be significantly higher than this, however, thanks to the 10 million smell receptors in everybody’s nose.
Our own smell is personal to us, and completely unique. How we smell is predetermined, and comes from the same genes which determine our body’s tissue type.
We all have our ‘scent blind spots’, smells which we cannot pick up. This means that we all smell things differently, and the scents we enjoy are entirely unique to us.
Amazingly, our sense of smell is so developed it has been discovered that we can smell fear, disgust, happiness and even sexual arousal on other people. A 2012 study found that smell signals exist in our sweat, helping others empathise with us when we’re experiencing certain emotions.
The battle of the sexes rages on, but one category has a clear winner: tests have found that women have a more developed sense of smell than men, and are capable of identifying a greater number of different odours. This is thanks to women’s orbital prefrontal region of the brain, which is more developed than their male counterpart’s.
Around 18 or 19 is when our sense of smell is at its peak. After this age, our sense of smell gradually declines.
Thanks to the additional moisture in the air during the spring and summer months, it is easier to identify different smells than during autumn and winter. Furthermore, our sense of smell improves after exercise, which many of us are more likely to do during the longer, warmer days of spring and summer.
When pregnant, a woman’s sense of smell becomes heightened and hypersensitive. It’s thought that this heightened sense of smell could be the reason behind the strange food cravings of pregnant women.
Moving away from the human race for a moment, our canine friends put even the best human nose to shame. With just shy of 44% more scent cells than humans, dogs have a far more developed sense of smell than we do – capable of discerning more subtleties in odour and picking up scents from a greater distance.
A 2015 poll of 2,000 UK adults found that a freshly-baked loaf is our favourite smell in the UK. This narrowly pipped the likes of roses, vanilla, lavender, lemon and scented candles (our personal favourite, of course) to the top spot.
Not so bothered about the freshly-baked bread, our animal friends each have their own favourite smells. Cats favour valerian, lions prefer mint and camels love tobacco.
And your pet pooch’s favourite smell? You, of course!
It has been discovered that we remember smells for much longer than sights, sounds, tastes and feelings. Amazingly, people can remember smells with a 65% accuracy after one year, whilst visual recall is only 50/50 after a quarter of the time.
Smell is the first sense to develop, with unborn babies enjoying fully-formed and functioning smell. This sense then continues to play a major role in our early development, with the smell of crayons routinely noted as one of our earliest memories from childhood.
During those peaceful slumber hours, we close down our sense of smell completely. So, no need to worry about waking the rest of the family as you brew your morning cup of coffee.
It’s no secret that the smell of food massively impacts our taste perception, accounting for up to 95% of the flavour. However, did you know that without a sense of smell it would be almost impossible to tell the difference in taste between a potato and an onion?
We thought it was bad enough suffering from anosmia, the condition in which you cannot identify any smell, but that’s nothing compared to cacosmia. Sufferers of cacosmia will only detect disgusting scents, and even those traditional smells (freshly-baked bread et al) will smell like vomit or waste to these poor individuals.
To reach the pinnacle of the perfume profession, perfumers must successfully identify at least 250 different scents as part of their induction test. This difficult initiation is why there are only 50 fully-fledged perfumers (also known as Noses) in the world.
That’s four tonnes of roses, concentrated into just 1kg of rose oil, used for perfumes, candles and more. No wonder it’s one of the most coveted scents around!
Fragrance oils are derived from just about everywhere in nature, from barks, blossoms and roots to seeds, fruits and leaves. No stone is left unturned in the pursuit of the most wonderful scents for perfumes and candles!
Like the five different tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), some scientists believe there are seven different main smells – musky, putrid, pungent, camphoraceous (similar to mothballs), ethereal, floral and minty. It is thought that all scents are a mixture of these seven basic ingredients.
Perhaps the least surprising fact about scent. If we smell something we find pleasant, it can have a positive effect on the mind and help to lift our mood. So, we believe it’s always a good idea to have a candle or oil diffuser to hand for when we need a little pick-me-up.
Helping you enjoy your favourite scents and smells, the Parks range of candles and oil diffusers boast the finest fragrances.
Did you enjoy these facts about scent and smell? For the full Parks range of eco-friendly products, Click Here or call our friendly sales team on 0208 830 6300.