Thanks for the Memories: Why There’s More to Scent Than Smelling Good

Manmade perfumes have captured a wide range of scents, from the bright and flowery to the warm and reverent. However, when it comes to the power of fragrance, sweet vs. somber is only the tip of the iceberg. As we enter a new age of cologne, here’s a look at the industry’s untapped potential.

Since 2,000 B.C.E., perfumers have blended oils and scented extracts to serve a wide range of purposes. Ancient Israelites used myrrh and cinnamon to enhance religious rituals. The Greeks applied sweet-smelling oils to inspire passion in lovers. Early Islam espoused perfume as a symbol of purity and pious respect. However, while these fragrances were probably a pleasure to sniff, they all had one thing in common: They all smelled—unmistakably—like perfume.

This may not sound like a misstep, until you consider the multitude of other things that a manmade substance could smell like. It’s no secret that olfaction is the strongest sense tied to memory, and with all that power at your fingertips, crafting a fragrance that simply smells good is like using your iPhone as a Candy Crush machine—sure, it’s pleasant enough, but it doesn’t even hint at the product’s true potential.

That’s why I have a fondness for colognes that take things one step further, harnessing the fickle-but-potent force that is human nostalgia. A recent example is Clean Shower Fresh, a citrus-based fragrance that smells (almost unnervingly) like that first refreshing breath when you step out of the shower. The scent itself is light and crisp, but it also carries the fresh, bracing feeling of a morning rinse, which your companions will experience every time they get a whiff. You could almost consider yourself a modern-day wizard—casting subtle spells to control the hearts and minds of those around you. Just don’t get carried away with the comparison.

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