When sniffing a flower, odour molecules from it are drawn to the top of the nose.  They then dissolve in a layer of mucus membrane known as the olfactory epithelium.  This ‘drawing in’ of air is aided by the turbinates; bony cushions inside the nose which not only help direct the airflow but also warm, humidify and filter the air as it passes over them.  The more we sniff the more it aids this process and enables us to smell better.


When a smell is detected, the olfactory neurones in the upper part of the nose generate an impulse that is passed to the brain along the olfactory nerve. The part of the brain this arrives at first is called the olfactory bulb which processes the signal and then passes information about the smell to other areas closely connected to it.

The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, more than any of our other senses. Thinking of smells evoke particular memories; for example the scent of an orchard in blossom conjuring up recollections of a childhood picnic.


In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a motive likely that much of our emotional response to smell is governed by association, something which is borne out by the fact that different people can have completely different perceptions of the same smell.

Take Oudh for example; one person may find a particular brand ‘powerful’, ‘aromatic’ and ‘heady’, with another describing it as ‘overpowering’, ‘sickly’ and ‘nauseating’. This is takes origin from our individual associations with scent and entity. If a person likes a brand, it is more likely that they will be swayed to also enjoy fragrances from that brand, even though they may not be as good as other brands. Despite this, however, there are certain smells that all humans find repugnant, largely because they warn us of danger; the smell of smoke, for example, or of rotten food. Other scents conjure an array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation. Such is the power of smell.

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