Noting that "the role of smells in how we perceive heritage has not been systematically explored until now," researchers at University College London have developed a "Historic Book Odour Wheel."
They tested it on visitors to St Paul's Cathedral's Dean and Chapter library in London, who characterized the smell of the library as 'woody,' 'smoky,' 'earthy,' and 'vanilla.'
The researchers say, "the Historic Book Odour Wheel could potentially be used to recreate smells and aid the design of olfactory experiences in museums, allowing visitors to form a personal connection with exhibits by allowing them to understand what the past smelled like."
If a pregnant rodent is exposed to the scent of an unfamiliar male, she will often spontaneously abort. This is known as the Bruce Effect, after researcher Hilda Bruce who discovered the phenomenon while working at London's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1950s.
It's thought that the female rodent does this in order to make herself ready for mating with the new male — because the new male would probably kill the children of the other father once they were born, so why bother carrying them to term. The trick doesn't work with the scent of a castrated male.
The history of the NIMR (pdf - page 208) offers some interesting details about Bruce's research. The Parkes mentioned was Alan Parkes, her boss:
The Bruce Effect implied that every male mouse smells different to every other male mouse, at least to female mice, and that he produces a spectrum of odours that vary slightly between individuals of the same strain and differ markedly between individuals of different strains. With lateral thinking on how to prove their theory, Bruce and Parkes turned to Boake, a world famous perfumery.
Knowing how skilful perfumers must be in distinguishing between thousands of different odours, they persuaded some Boake representatives to visit NIMR for the purpose of smelling the mice. They invited them to sniff at pieces of cloth that had each been exposed to different cages of various mouse strains. The perfumers had no difficulty in distinguishing the different strains as all had a unique aroma; they even commented that four of the strains were quite similar – all of which had been bred from one original colony at Hampstead. They also noted that the CBA mouse strain, which was fairly new to NIMR, had a wonderful and pleasantly musky smell that could be of commercial interest in perfume manufacture!
February 1972: There was a popular outcry after Jacques Leal, London Chairman of Chanel Ltd., revealed during an interview that one of the ingredients of Chanel No. 5 perfume was the "sweat of the whipped Abyssinian civet cat."
He explained, "We don't usually like to admit, but it's one of those ancient techniques the Chinese invented. They put the cat's head into a sort of torture chamber, whip it, the cat gets mad, and it gives off a glandular secretion."
However, Leal assured the interviewer that the Chanel company itself didn't whip the civet cats. "We just buy the stuff in bottles."
Other Chanel No. 5 ingredients included castoreum from the Canadian beaver, ambergris from the sperm whale of Chile, and musk from the Tibetan deer.
When the astronauts of Apollo 16 re-entered the lunar lander, they reported that the moondust they tracked in with them had an intense smell, like gunpowder.
French perfume designer Barnabé Fillion attempted to recreate and bottle this scent, but not as a perfume. What he created was "a sealed borosilicate glass vial containing scented artificial lunar regolith."
You can buy it for €75 (around $80). But once you buy it, you face a dilemma: "break open the vial and the scent will dissipate over time and just like all the material brought from the moon by NASA it will become devoid of any smell; or leave it sealed and preserved forever, enjoying the precious idea of an out-of-this-world scent."
In 2004, Donald Trump lent his name to a perfume — DONALD TRUMP: THE FRAGRANCE. Now that he's going to be President, that means he's the first U.S. President to have a perfume named after him. The stuff is no longer for sale, but if you really want some, there's plenty of it to be found on eBay.
The marketing literature that came with it promoted it as, " Luxurious. Confident. Persuasive. The compelling new scent for men. Power attracts."
Wendy Donahue, Chicago Tribune reporter, reviewed it and wrote:
The scent that emerges is floral and fruity and green — as in plant matter — not money-money-money, as the opening to "The Apprentice" theme song goes.
Even Trump describes it as such: "It's a rose flavor; it's an orange flavor; it's lemony... What I did was I really relied on the great people of Estee Lauder. You know, so many companies wanted to do it. They gave me 30 different scents, all of which they felt were good, and I chose the one I liked."
In a case of satirical prophecy, back in 1992 MAD magazine had imagined a Trump fragrance line. They called it "The Smell of The Donald."
The Flicking Candle Company has staked out an unusual niche in the candle market. Instead of offering candles with the scent of a summer beach or a field of wildflowers, it sells ones that "celebrate the fresh scent of failed marriages, ruined friendships, rejection, criminal activity, unprotected sex, and unexpected weight gain."
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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