Scent profiles and scents in the cinema

How does one “give shape to” or “reify” perfumes when describing them? A picture of a pretty bottle is relatively easy, but how does one describe what is in the bottle? One can use words that describe tastes, smells, colours and textures, as well as images, both of the compounds that make up the top, middle and base notes of the perfumes, and the overall experience and connotations that the combined ingredients would conjure up.

The combined “feeling” or “tone” of the perfume could also be matched in music or sound effects. In other words, you basically use your visual and auditory senses to describe an olfactory sense.

Each of the videos associated with the perfumes that Max Millies of Earthgro Fragrances has created, is a mini “fragrance profile” of the perfume, illustrating the perfume’s top, middle and base notes, and the overall fragrance category into which it falls – woody, floral, oriental, etc. The videos for Unrestricted Man, Unrestricted Woman, La Vie and Leaf, were created specially for Earthgro. The objective was to create something that is brief but visually appealing and relevant to the actual ingredients of the perfume. (In other words, not just sexy and pretty.)

Any description of a perfume would be limited in effectiveness. If only someone could invent something that would enable you to smell the fragrance that you see on your computer screen! (Come on people, there should be an app for that.)

Video fragrance profile  – Essence of Poetry

The video below is for Essence of Poetry, a perfume with notes of Sage, Blonde Woods and Cashmerans, as well as Old Rose – a classic but also sexy, earthy fragrance. The soundtrack is definitely funky and sexy.

Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama

Something like this was actually invented for cinemas. Smell-O-Vision was a system that released odours during the projection of a film so that the viewer could “smell” what was happening in the movie. The technique was created by Hans Laube and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by Mike Todd. The process injected 30 odours into a movie theater’s seats when triggered by the film’s soundtrack.

The previous year, Charles Weiss had been rushing to finish his invention of AromaRama. The first film that would be accompanied by AromaRama was Behind the Great Wall, a travelogue through China, made by Italian director Carlo Lizzani. The ideas as that AromaRama  would send scents through the air-conditioning system of a theatre.  Weiss stated that “…more than 100 different aromas will be injected into the theater during the film. Among these are the odors of grass, earth, exploding firecrackers, a river, incense, burning torches, horses, restaurants, the scent of a trapped tiger and many more.”

Behind the Great Wall was released on December 2, 1959, just three weeks ahead of Scent of Mystery, and the competition between the two films was called “the battle of the smellies” by Variety magazine. For one reason or another – the expense, adverse reactions by cinema-goers, bad quality of the odours – these inventions were quickly discarded. For now, the media which we can use to experience perfumes is limited to print magazines and the cheap, chemical reproductions of magazine scent strips.

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