When Your Sense of Smell Differs

by Nathalie Allard July 30, 2015

When Your Sense of Smell Differs

Have you ever wondered why you find the smell of lavender soothing while your best friend can hardly smell its sweet scent? Or have you ever walked by another woman and found her ‘light’ fruity perfume overbearing while she finds it complements her personality – sweet and playful? You might be quick to condemn her taste and brand her chosen scent ‘cheap’, but it might be something more complex than her taste – her genetics.

Your nose is more complex than what it seems. Your nose and its function is almost an enigma; because what you might smell, someone else may not even notice. Your nose’s receptors may be highly sensitive to vanilla, cardamom, or apple, and then on the other hand it might not even be able to detect certain smells. In fact, research shows that every single person has at least one odorant they’re unable to detect, and this odorant is known as anosmia, or an olfactory ‘blind spot.’ Call it what you like, but there’s actually a good reason why your mother’s face didn’t flinch when she smelt her new aromatic candle you bought her.

It's A Genetic Thing

We’re born with our senses, and just like your appearance and character, your senses and their abilities differ from person to person. Your olfactory ability is inherited, and this is why you might find your Cinnamon Wax Melts the perfect accompanying luxury around the fire. You’ll feel delighted by the rich blend of essential oils and the apparent cinnamon and clove blend. Perhaps you might even pass a comment to your visiting guests, hoping for a compliment on the aromatic welcome, only to be met by blank stares.

"Unless you’ve got an identical twin, no other human in the world has the exact same genetic make-up as you do"

While you might be offended that your friends don’t find your new luxury scent as appealing as you do, it could just well be that they simply can’t smell it. The human nose is amazing. It contains approximately 400 different olfactory receptors, which is surprising in itself given the size of the average human nose.  Each individual receptor responds to a few odorants, which is controlled and encoded by different genes. Unless you’ve got an identical twin, no other human in the world has the exact same genetic make-up as you do, meaning how you smell one thing another smells differently.

You might wonder why you find musky smells sensual and romantic while your partner can’t bear them, and yes, it can be quite confusing, especially if you’ve gone to that extra special effort in creating a pleasing aroma for a romantic night in. Genetics is to blame, and this dates back to the dawn of the first human. Over the years, evolution has played a role, creating mutations in genes and receptors, with the result being a unique you with different sensitivities, including smell.

Having the ability to sense something is special, especially when there’s 1 in 5000 people who are born without any sense of smell at all. We use our noses every day. You smell the sweet fresh flowers growing in your garden. You smell the toast that’s accidentally burning. You smell the powerful smell of petrol when you fill up on your way to work. You smell the aromatic candles at a person’s home you visit…the list is literally endless.

But in fact we use our noses more than what you may realise. They’re also directly linked to our taste buds. That sweet crunchy apple you like to have on your way to work is partly related to the taste, but there’s also the subtle sour apple smell that many people enjoy, allowing you to enjoy the taste even more. This is also why your taste might differ to your best friend’s.

Scented Gifts: Make Sure You Get It Right

The science of smell often makes it different for us to buy scented gifts for our loved ones. The aftershave you might buy your husband for his birthday might be too weak for his nose. This doesn’t mean that we should stop buying fragrant gifts for our friends and family, because these will always make perfect gifts. Instead of rushing out to buy what you like, do a little research into their preferred scents. What candles do they already have? What kind of perfume does he or she wear? You can never have enough scented candles, bath salts and the like – the key is to discover what their nose likes and go from there.

What’s your favourite  scent?

Nathalie Allard
Nathalie Allard


Nathalie Allard is an Artisan Perfumer and the founder of Petits Rituels. She’s known for creating beautiful room-transforming 100% natural fragrances with real therapeutic benefits.

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