What is Fragrance?
‘Fragrance’ is a term used to refer to aromatic chemical mixtures, created for specific applications to appeal to the human sense of smell. Fragrances are created to influence the smell of an environment, or a product. The influence may be in the form of neutralizing or ‘masking’ a certain odour, or to give off a desired scent. Fragrances today have diverse uses personal care, home care, fabric care, health care, aromatherapy and even religious applications. Such a wide range of applications of fragrance emanates from the fascinating, intricate relationship between the human sense of smell, and the human body and mind. An understanding of this relationship will help us to appreciate the efficacy of fragrance, and why it is an indispensable part of our lives.
Each of our five senses allows us to experience and interact with the world in countless ways. Combined together, our senses enable us to detect our environment and to respond to it appropriately. Each sense is associated with a part of the body: sight with the eyes, smell with the nose, hearing with the ears, taste with the tongue and touch with the skin. Understanding how each body part functions helps us to appreciate the effect of each associated sensation on the human mind, and on other parts of the body.
Jointly, our senses create rich, wholesome and potentially boundless experiences with our world.
Having understood this since 1970, Al Haramain has created countless fragrances inspired to excite, nurture and soothe the human spirit, engage the senses and meet the most demanding of fragrance tastes from its wide, opulent range. Exploring the human sense of smell will help us to appreciate how fragrance shapes our experience of the world.
Our Sense of Smell
On a basic level, our sense of smell enables us to detect chemical substances in the air we breathe. Since the primary function of the nose is for breathing, which involves taking in air into the body, the nose can detect substances that may be harmful for the body, thus prompting a primal response such as coughing or sneezing in order to expel such substances and sustain our lives. The detection of substances in the air, which include fragrances, is done through millions of receptors located in the part of the nose called the olfactory epithelium1, which tells the brain the different smells that it detects, enabling us to distinguish between different kinds of smells1.
Now, as with the rest of our senses, when the brain detects a sensation, it triggers a response. The response can be primal, such as closing one’s eyes to too much light, or learned, such as dancing outside in rainy weather. Primal responses do not vary significantly from person to person, whereas learned responses may vary significantly from one person to another. When the sun scorches the earth, one might decide to take cover in the shade, while another might decide to take a sunbath on the beach. In like manner, our sense of smell can trigger both primal and learned responses, with the latter being the subject of interest throughout much of the fragrance industry. The following section explores the relationship between our sense of smell interacts with fragrance.