Olfactory Report 10: Art/Science/Industry Roundup (Includes a Perfume Analysis!) by Catherine Haley Epstein


While I was unable to visit the Venice Biennale, I have scoured the internet, badgered friends who attended, and consulted various resources to unearth the one work that most directly pointed to the olfactory sense and olfactory material. Many of works included in the exhibition had tangential, suggestive and material aspects of scent.

Image of Simone Leigh’s Work in Venice at the US Pavilion, courtesy the Art Newspaper. Large black sculpture outside of the thatch covered pavilion with people milling around.

Simone Leigh’s extraordinary re-imagining of the US pavilion is called  Sovereignty. Culturally potent materials like cowrie shells, plantains, raffia, and tobacco leaves have natural olfactory tones that were combined in the service of portraying a black woman’s body as a place of multiplicity.

Melanie Bonajo’s installation for the Dutch Pavilion that includes a painting featuring naked people pouring olive oil over a naked woman. The room is ornate and ancient with pillows for people to lounge with a rainbow light coming in through the window.

An explicit scent component might have been exciting in the Dutch pavilion where artist melanie bonajo framed notions of intimacy in her exhibit titled, When the body says yes. That said, the absence of the olfactory in art makes for excellent space for one’s imagination to roam.

Detail of sculpture by Candice Lin, from video still. Two doors cut into a tree trunk open to reveal bottles and murals inside.

The work that directly points to the olfactoryverse is Candice Lin’s piece in the Arsenale. I’ve included a screen shot of the detail of the larger installation, and here is a video to do a walk-through of the piece. The artist is known for her brave use of materials, where she explores ideas including artisanship, labour, ritual, botany, global trade, and the violent power of Western colonial desire to consume them all. If you are not familiar with this artist, I highly recommend looking her up, she has a strong practice where research and alchemy co-exist in the name of fine art.

Olfactory Art Keller continues to have an interesting run of creative programming in the world’s first art gallery dedicated to scent art. One of their recent exhibitions was reviewed in the New York Times Styles section.


Food + Perfume

Sunday July 17 was International Ice Cream Day and Portland, Oregon’s Salt & Straw ice cream shop launched edible perfume for your ice cream. The owner of the playful and adventurous ice cream shop, Tyler Malek, noticed that you can’t actually smell ice cream. He figured the added perfume would create an enhanced eating experience. He teamed up with local perfumer at Imaginary Authors to create three scents to be sprayed directly on the ice cream. The three scents are a citrus, a cocoa and a floral. They are not available for purchase at this time, though you may try them in the stores.

While adding scent to food is not a novel idea—it happens in factories everywhere for many of the foods we eat daily—giving the consumer an opportunity to curate the scent experience on foods is a new approach. Mandy Aftel has been creating and selling Chef’s Essences sprays and drops for some time with flavors ranging from geranium to litsea cubeba. Bar tenders have been using flavor spray for cocktails for some time as well. Now it’s time for the consumers to have some play time with edible fragrance.



The science of smell is stepping into a spotlight: there is an excellent collection of articles on the science and smell front sponsored by Firmenich and published in the journal Nature this past June. Articles include Olfactory receptors are not unique to the nose, Sniffing out smell’s effects on human behaviour and How to bring back the sense of smell. The articles are all online and free to review.

Rhinologist Zara Patel uses an endoscope to visualize the olfactory cleft in a patient’s nose. Credit: Zara Patel and Nature.

An update on the intrepid Smellicopter being developed in my home state: NPR recently did a video updating the work and world of the moth powered smelling device. They are building this as a way to sniff out disaster where humans may not detect it, or if the area is unsafe for human entry.

Smellicopter from NPR science story that is a central circuit box with four legs that each have a propeller. There are cartoon explosions in the background.


The world of smoke and mirrors is not actually an insult to describe the industry – perfume is “through smoke” and it is often a mirror of our collective sensory conscience. This past month the Esscence Festival in Milan, Italy was rebooted after a pandemic hiatus. This 12th edition of the niche perfumery exhibition boasted over 9,000 visitors this year. And yes, the theme this year was “through the mirror.”

The World Perfumery Congress (WPC) resumed in Miami, Florida after a four-year break. The WPC congress is meant for industry to show off new molecules, network and talk about industry concerns and curios. Speaker topics ranged from “how to think like an indie”, “fragrance stewardship” and “lost flower smells to “diversity discussions” and the future of the industry topics. A must attend for those in the business of fragrance, and likely an overwhelming avalanche of information for the lay person. I’m most curious about how large corporations may learn from the “indie” crowd, and the talk about how the neuroscientist reframed the aromatherapy discussion on “fragrance in everyday life”. We’ll never know though since this information is privileged and for those in the nose. You can find an article about the industry conference in Art Forum online, though you will get the large gist versus a critical discussion of the topics. You can also follow Scent Festival (Yosh Han) who has posted many descriptions of vendors and materials on their Instagram feed that they experienced at WPC.

This image marks the commitment to the Perfumery Code of Ethics, and features a scale and a bell.

Last though never least, from his lab in NYC, Christophe Laudamiel launched the Perfumery Code of Ethics last month along with three seminal articles written with Carla Seipp dispelling myths and practices of the industry in Beauty Matter. Christophe continues to wave the flag for perfumers as artists who should be entitled to royalties and attribution. His effort is important, and hopefully with time and education consumers will begin to support products sold with “perfumers inside”. In honor of Bastille Day, a day of upending and dismantling, Christophe and fellow perfumers have boldly shared the Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of the fragrance Fierce (Abercrombie & Fitch) that was ruthlessly copied and sold as Legend (Mont Blanc).

Christophe frequently uses the music industry as an analogy to understand that like music, perfumers publish work often, and the work is not attributed to them. This is like coming out with a song that was immediately copied detail for detail, beat for beat, note for note, and no one recognizing that the artistic creation was rooted somewhere else invisibly. Perfume and authorship have a long, contentious history that does not support the evolution of perfume into a fine art as it wishes to be.

As Christophe and his fellow Fierce perfumers put it: “Fragrance analyses have been made wildly available to staff perfumers for the past 40 years. Successful fragrances on the market get deconstructed and “reengineered” with no copyright laws enacted to limit this practice. They call this “inspiration,” in music it is called stealing. Some perfumers do this daily. Hence why a lot of fragrances smell the same, especially in commercial perfumery. Now independent labs make it possible to have GC-MS analyses available to the public.” The perfumers purchased  several to show the public what a fragrance and a typical well-known copy look like—one such comparison (Fierce and Legend) are included below. “You don’t need to be a judge nor a master perfumer to see the plagiarism.”

Post script: I’ve recovered from COVID this past month, and am thrilled to report I have had no long term symptoms or loss of smell. In fact I would say that my sense of smell feels like it has been rebooted where there are different/new outlines when I smell things now. Phew! I hope the note finds all of your noses safe and happy. XO


—About Catherine Haley Epstein—

CATHERINE HALEY EPSTEIN is a multi-disciplinary artist, award-winning writer, designer, and curator. She wrote a book titled Nose Dive (2019) which explores the intersection of creativity with the science and anthropology of scent. She is the co-founder of the Odorbet, a growing vocabulary for our noses which resides online and in a growing database offline for now. Articles of note include “Primal Art: Notes on the Medium of Scent”, Temporary Art Review (2016). She writes about contemporary art and practice and culture at her platform Mindmarrow. She conducts workshops on the use of scent in creative practices, advises companies on scent-related projects, and continues to collaborate with artists and writers on unique initiatives that explore intersections between art and other disciplines. She is currently a candidate for her master’s at Northwestern University. You may follow her on Instagram @mindmarrow, or email her at catherine@mindmarrow.com with questions on the nose front, or if you are interested in contributing to the Olfactory Report!

Read Catherine’s previous Olfactory Report: “Poetics of Scent.”


Perfume Analysis: Fierce Vs. Legend

FIERCE ABERCROMBIE & FITCH 2002 2 different bottles around 2018-2020
Perfumers: Christophe Laudamiel, Carlos Benaïm, Bruno Jovanovic
Recording Studio: IFF                 Order and Packager: Boom, Inter-Parfums since 2014
Perfumer: Olivier Pécheux, 3 perfumers above should also be credited
Recording studio: Givaudan        Order and Packager: Inter-Parfums
No. FIERCE GC1 % FIERCE GC2 % Fierce Comments LEGEND GC % NAME(EN)
1 0.0040 1-Octen-3-ol, acetate
2 0.1640 Allyl Amyl Glycolate
3 0.0316 Amberketal
4 1.0808 1.0503 1.6467 Ambrettolide
5 0.2220 0.2023 1.5465 Ambrox
6 0.2836 0.2363 Sunscreen 0.6499 Avobenzone
7 1.0544 1.0194 1.0000 0.8855 Bacdanol
8 0.0094 Bergamotene Alpha
9 5.1181 4.8170 <–GC too high!! 0.4114 BHT
10 0.0251 0.0236 0.0210 Borneol
11 0.0023 Bourbonene Alpha
12 0.0055 0.0074 Camphene
13 0.0807 0.0616 0.0495 Camphor
14 0.0308 0.0283 0.0111 Caryophyllene
15 0.3806 Caryophyllene acetate
16 2.0900 1.9770 2.0000 1.5852 Cashmeran
17 0.1005 0.0881 0.0425 Cineole
18 0.1956 0.1603 0.0966 Citral
19 2.3862 2.0069 1.5694 Citronellol
20 0.0109 0.0103 Copaene Alpha
21 0.5921 0.5206 0.3676 Coumarin
22 0.0244 Cuparene
23 0.0027 0.0117 Cymene Para
24 0.7281 0.3982 in original? Damascol
25 0.1206 0.1035 0.1548 Damascone Alpha
26 solvent 4.0494 Diethyl Phtalate
27 0.0041 Dihydrolinalool
28 9.6518 8.9134 5.9661 Dihydromyrcenol
29 0.1892 Dimethylbenzylcarbinyl butyrate
30 4.1507 3.2517 solvent 1.4016 Dipropylene Glycol
31 0.0868 0.0656 0.0578 Dynascone
32 0.3813 Ebanol
33 0.0055 Eth 2 4 DiHydroxy3 6 DiMe Benzoate
34 0.3920 0.3484 original? or impur. 0.5337 Eth 2 Hexyl Salicylate
35 0.0361 Ethyl Atrarate
36 0.0017 Ethyl Salicylate
37 0.0162 0.0092 typical impurities 0.0229 Geraniol
38 0.0299 0.0298 in 0.0491 Geranyl Acetate
39 0.0074 0.0086 citronellol Geranyl Ethyl Ether
40 0.0257 0.0309 Germacrene D
41 18.4502 19.9307 11.7585 Hedione
40 4.2127 Hedione HC or Paradisone
41 0.5469 Hexenyl Salicylate, cis 3
42 0.0019 Hexyl Acetate
43 0.0047 Hexyl Butanoate
44 1.1384 1.0796 Hexyl Salicylate
45 45.0066 47.1073 35.8832 Iso E Super
46 Solvent 0.4283 Isopropyl Myristate
47 0.0053 Lavandulol
48 0.0259 0.0206 0.0180 Lavandulyl Acetate
49 0.0020 cis-3 Hexenol
50 0.2564 0.2203 0.2000 0.2547 Limonene
51 0.7189 0.5911 0.9672 Linalool
52 0.0055 oxydation Linalool Oxide
53 1.5526 1.2726 in original? 1.5029 Linalyl Acetate
54 woody ala Iso E 10.2470 Methyl Cedryl Ketone
55 0.0276 0.0259 0.0164 Myrcene Beta
56 0.0090 0.0141 citronellol 0.0132 Nerol
57 0.0219 0.0223 impurities 0.0398 Neryl Acetate
58 0.0154 0.0115 0.0063 Ocimene Beta
59 0.0022 Ocimene Neo Allo
60 6.2672 Ortholate
61 1.8264 1.9457 3.1136 Parsol MCX
62 0.0023 Phellandrene Beta
63 0.1609 Phenoxyethyl Isobutyrate
64 0.0082 0.0103 0.0149 Pinene Alpha
65 0.0055 0.0047 0.0725 Pinene Beta
66 0.0107 0.0085 0.0100 0.0105 Pinoacetaldehyde
67 1.1871 1.2932 2.0000 0.6478 Polysantol
68 0.0741 Pomarose
69 solvent 0.2852 Propylene Glycol
70 0.0050 0.0019 0.0043 Sabinene
71 0.0131 Sandalore
72 0.1741 0.1167 0.2? 0.1156 Scentenal
73 0.0078 Sclareol
74 0.2920 0.2267 0.2188 Styralyl acetate
75 0.0042 0.0337 Terpinene Gamma
76 0.0259 0.0242 0.0339 Terpineol 4
77 0.0313 0.0245 0.0236 Terpineol Alpha
78 0.0060 0.0037 Terpineol Dihydro Alpha
79 0.0064 0.0035 Terpinolene
80 0.0042 0.0061 Terpinyl Acetate Alpha
81 0.0069 Terpinyl Ethyl Ether Alpha
82 0.6583 0.6020 0.7252 Veramoss
only 2 naturals in original Fierce Sage Clary
missing nonadienal: too faint Lavandin in green coming from 2 naturals
TOTAL 100.0000 100.0003 100.0053