Why do we struggle to smell some scents? Are they more subtle?

The intensity of AROMAS. When we smell something, the first thing that we consciously notice is the different intensity with which the individual scents manifest themselves. When using TasterPlace aroma samples you will find that some are more intense and immediate, while others require more concentration and repeated sniffing to detect and discern the scent. The ease with which we perceive an odor is due to several factors, some depending on the smell itself and others not. A first factor is the concentration of odoriferous molecules in the air, meaning the greater the number of molecules that affect our receptors, the more intense the perception will be.

A second factor is the volatility of the molecules, that is how quickly they pass from the liquid phase to the gaseous phase (in the air) so they are "captured" by our nose. This factor depends on the mass, structure and size of the chemical molecules as well as on the temperature at which they are found: the warmer they are, the more their quantity increases in the air and the more they are collected by our nose as we breathe. Ultimately, the more volatile they are, the faster they stimulate our sense of smell. The phenomenon is widely used in perfumery to describe perfumes and has led to grouping odors into 3 types: top notes, heart notes, and base notes. To represent the smells of the three types, the figure of the olfactory pyramid is used, with the top notes at the top and the base notes at the base.

The top notes are the most volatile and we immediately notice them (just 2-3 seconds from inhalation), and often they are fresh and pungent odors due to citrus fruits, spices, medicinal herbs; just as they are quick to manifest, they are also quick to vanish.

The middle notes are generally volatile odors and are often the flower, fruit and green herb scents; their perception peaks after the top notes, but they remain in the environment longer, up to a few hours.

Finally, the base notes, are less volatile, are felt after the heart notes, and have an even greater persistence. They're able to be perceived for days. These smells are characteristically the wood, spice, moss, amber, resin aromas and the "animalic" notes such as leather.

Other factors that influence our olfactory perception depend on our physiology and are the threshold of personal olfactory perception, the momentary fatigue of the sense of smell, and the experience associated with the smell:

Perception threshold - This factor depends on the minimum quantity of odorous molecules that "activate" our sense of smell: it is possible that, for the same smell, each individual is sensitive in a different way and therefore the perception of the smell is differently modulated.

Fatigue - With continued olfactory exercise our sense of smell "saturates" and  stops working: if we have sniffed a series of intense smells, it is very likely that we will no longer be able to subsequently smell others. The only way to "refresh" our sense of smell, to get it working again, is to stop our study and take a break outdoors, breathing deeply.

Experience - If in the course of our olfactory experiences we have associated strong, positive or negative emotions with an odor, it is very likely that our brain will recognize and alert us immediately as soon as it feels the slightest trace of that smell in the future.

When using TasterPlace Aromas collections to train your sense of smell, you will encounter aromas with a lot of intensity and persistence and those that are more subtle. Therefore, for optimal use of the aromas, and to learn quickly without straining your nose, our advice is to start with the aromas that seem the most subtle or difficult to perceive, and then move on to the intense aromas. If you find it difficult to perceive certain aromas, warm the mini-bottle in your hands a bit in order to help the smell intensify some. Indeed, the volatility of odor molecules increases with temperature. 

Click here to discover TasterPlace aromas collections!

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