The Complexity of Scent

Strawberry flower

Strawberry flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think of different, beautiful sources of scent – smells and tastes – in our daily lives we think of the smells of roses, of lavender, jasmine, gardenia, lilac – and we think of the tastes of orange juice, grapefruit juice, fresh-picked strawberries, blueberries – the smells of sandalwood, cedarwood, fresh cut grass –

and the smells of freshly-brewed coffee, a freshly-baked croissant, just to name a few.  And, if we have ever thought about it, we might assume that there is some ingredient that represents each of these discrete, unique smells but that is not the case.
The ingredients that make up the smell of any given species of rose number in the hundreds (over 500); the ingredients that contribute to the odor of lavender are more than 200; for the taste of strawberry, many hundreds.  For the rose several of these “rose ingredients” when smelled by themselves will be suggestive of rose but when you put all of them together your nose knows it is the “real” thing.  And, going back to our last blog, more than one of these ingredients actually is a fecal note, and if this (in isolation) “bad note” is present we respond favorably due to its critical effect at very low levels! The odiferous/tasty ingredients that make up strawberry contain no single item which suggests strawberry – but when most if not all of the ingredients are present we are reassured!  However, even here the smell/flavor is “not correct” in our minds without a very small amount of a foul smell that in slightly larger quantities is approximately reminiscent of rotten eggs.  Nature is economical if it is nothing else – some but not too much is frequently Nature’s best recipe when we are looking for scent accuracy and approval!
The freshly brewed coffee and the freshly baked croissant are twists on scent experiences that we love or learn to love.  Both of these flavorful products start with smells that are further developed and enhanced when heat is applied.  For both of these certain critical odiferous ingredients are created by the heating process and many of these start to decompose within seconds of their creation making it an absolute truism that fresh croissants (and breads) and fresh coffee remain fresh for relatively short periods of time while their respective freshness marking ingredients go from easily perceptible to no longer perceptible.  For coffee it results in a generally assessed “bad” (old coffee) flavor while breads become more muted but not repulsive.
Enjoy your pleasant olfactory surroundings today and every day whenever possible!

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