Tag Archives: Fragrance

Nothing like springtime in the south-west of Western Australia, or should I say Djilba?

For most of my life I’ve lived in Perth, Western Australia and have thought of my hometown as a pretty ordinary place, unique only for it’s isolation from the rest of Australia and the rest of the world. In the last decade or so it has become a boom-town due to mining and the competitive economy of Australia, but now the boom is busting, but among the spring flowers I care little about harsh economic realities. It is true, but a thing that I’ve not always appreciated, that WA is a world-class wildflower show in spring, or as our local Noongar Aboriginal people might say, the season of Djilba. 

Today I’ve had the opportunity to check out the delightful scent of local native leek orchids, quite a treat as they aren’t the kind of thing you’d see outside of a bushland reserve, and they apparently tend to bloom following fire events. I think the Anthocercis with it’s star-shaped masses of yellow flowers might have a similar habit. I didn’t know there are WA native orchids that like to laugh or yawn till I saw a webpage about WA Prasophyllums. Could be another case of botanical facial pareidolia.

Story on Catalyst makes many references to cross-sensory experiences in taste and smell

This is one of those pop science journalism media stories that make me think that everyone must be a synaesthete to some degree:

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4145918.htm

That smell….

This week I had the pleasure of being in the midst of a mass-planting of some low bushes which had masses of white flowers on them. I think it might have been a Rhaphiolepis species or a White Hawthorn, and the flowers were giving off the most refined but strong scent. At first I thought the delightful smell was the same as the one given off by a highly scented winter-flowering blue scaevola which I have growing in my own garden, but later I perceived a sweeter smell, a lacey pure white cake icing kind of smell. The floral fragrance was exactly the same scent that I wrote about in this post: https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/another-subtle-and-unobtrusive-type-of-synaesthesia-noticed/ Why does the scent of a white hawthorm make me think of white cake icing? An ancient trace of a childhood memory? Synaesthesia?

This is a French webpage noting the wonderful fragrance of a Rhaphiolepis: http://www.leaderplant.com/acheter,rhaphiolepis-blanc,FR,223

 

It’s good to know I’m not the only person who sees perfumes

Laura Feinstein Famous perfumer uses rare neurological ‘gift’ to create new scents. psfk. January 2 2012. http://www.psfk.com/2013/01/frederic-malle-perfume-2.html

Wistful yellow masterpieces

http://youtu.be/kP5nOTYk4Ac

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naples_yellow

http://www.basenotes.net/ID10211632.html

The unusual, wistful, slightly sad vocals in the song Suture Up Your Future by the Queens of the Stone Age are the same colour as the smell of the classic Guerlain fragrance Shalimar. The general, background colour of the music of QOTSA is black. They have a distinctive, grating guitar sound that is black, and often the vocals evoke in my mind something like a graphic design in black with curly bits, or something like a writing script from the Islamic world in black ink, but in some songs QOTSA vocals can be quite yellow, like a wash of yellow watercolour or a glowing yellow sky, when the vocal sound is gentle or sad or falsetto. The colour of the song Suture Up Your Future is a pale, gentle, unassertive colour which I would describe as a pale version of Naples yellow. This piece of music, the Guerlain perfume and the gentle yellow colour go together as though they were created as expressions of the same thought, the same emotions, in different senses. It’s an experience that seems at first to be quite a weak and gentle thing, but the effect is surprisingly persistent, with a beauty that is, in the end, quite unforgettable. Well, that’s how I see, smell and hear it.

Some unusual types of synaesthesia which I have experienced only rarely or during a limited period in my life

Coloured flavour / Coloured smell synaesthesia / taste – colour synaesthesia

Most taste experiences are an amalgam of taste sensation on the tongue and smell sensations in the nose, so to be completely correct this isn’t purely triggered by a taste, smell is certainly an element, but in plain-language terms, the trigger is a novel taste or flavour.

This only happens during the unusual situation in which I am at a public swimming pool or some other place where I have the smell of chlorine in my nose and I am also drinking iced coffee, and there is some kind of chemical reaction between the chlorine and the coffee in my mouth/nose resulting in a peculiar smell/taste that is somewhat like a floral or perfume smell. It is a black-coloured smell/taste. Sometimes the image of a black-coloured flower flashes into my mind, shaped something like a simple lily. Upon reflection I believe that it is the surprise or novelty of the modification of the usual flavour of iced coffee that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer. Often as an afterthought after this experience I realise that the normal taste of iced coffee is a brown-coloured taste, but I never notice this as it is such an ordinary thing that it kind of stays below the level of consciousness.

Viewed facial expression – flavour synaesthesia

It is hard to know for sure what the exact trigger was. It was only ever triggered by one person when they were preschooler-aged, giving me one of those big hugs that parents get when they pick a young child up at the end of a kindy day, the kind of hug that has a run-up with open arms, involving an incredibly cute young child wearing a huge smile, not your average hug situation at all. What was the exact trigger? The emotion? The situation? The hug? The child? The time in our lives? I think it was the image of that incredibly cute individual young child’s face with a big smile on it, but I’m not really sure. I have a number of kids. This experience only ever happened in relation to one child, and I believe this is because of facial appearance. The period in time when this used to happen was many years before I had ever heard about the concept of synaesthesia, and I had no idea why I was experiencing a pleasant phantom taste in my mouth in this type of situation, and I thought it was most odd, but also rather nice. Sometimes this very rare experience included a kind of other-worldly feeling, like a very short visit to a rather nice alternative reality. It has been many years since I had this experience and I don’t expect I will ever experience it again. Why do children have to grow up?

The Strange Phenomenon or image of one person’s face evoked by viewing another’s face in a synaesthesia process

Described in great detail here: https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/a-most-peculiar-experience/

Smell/taste – concept synaesthesia

Two different pleasant and specific sensory experiences have triggered the same subtle and rather vague conceptual experience. I’m not completely sure what the synaesthesia trigger (inducer) and the synaesthesia anomalous experience (concurrent) are. It’s a vague and subtle and quite mysterious thing. A couple of years ago I started drinking tea more than I had been in the past. It was Twinings tea, because that was the only brand on the market offering a range of different types of teas, genuine old tea varieties made from different types of tea leaves from different countries, not the modern ridiculous teas with synthetic fruity flavouring added. I had been drinking some of the more popular tea varieties like the breakfast teas and Orange Pekoe, and then I tried out Prince of Wales tea, which is a black tea with a quite different and a much more refined and subtle taste. For a short period of time, perhaps a few weeks, my first sip of Prince of Wales tea would reliably trigger an idea that would spontaneously jump into my head, a strange nostalgic feeling that is hard to describe. The  image and the smell of old, pale-coloured paper notes of currency (which is hard to identify) would come to mind, along with ideas of my maternal grandmother, the fine, old French perfume that she wore, finely scented old varieties of roses (which might have once grown in her now-demolished rose garden), an old saying that she used to use “I wouldn’t trade you for all the tea in China”, notions of fine things from the Orient in the “olden days”, the concept of exotic delicacies from foreign lands, and a generally nostalgic feeling of having visited a better world for just a small moment.

Upon reflection, I think this very specific variety of tea (Twinings Russian Caravan tea has a very similar taste to the Prince of Wales variety but does not act as a trigger for my synaesthesia) is not the only sensory experience that has triggered this weird nostalgic sensation/concept. Many years ago on a beautiful day I was testing the scents of different varieties of roses at a specialist plant nursery, and I recall that the subtle but beautiful smell of the Buff Beauty variety of rose, a pale yellow-pink hybrid musk rose that was bred in 1939, was unusually evocative, triggering thoughts of pale old paper bank notes and a peculiar sense of nostalgia that seemed to extend beyond my own years on Earth. This interesting experience was not enough to sway my purchasing decision, and I ended up buying a similar variety of hybrid musk rose which had a stronger smell and a prettier colour, but with fairly limited powers of evoking conceptual thinking.

It appears that sadly this is another type of rare synaesthesia which I will never be able to experience again, because a few years ago something changed.  My first sip of Prince of Wales tea no long packs a beautifully subtle punch. It no longer evokes anything but a tea flavour. Perhaps the trigger of the strange experience had actually been the contrast between the taste of this type of tea and the more full-flavoured varieties of tea that I had become accustomed to back then. The trigger might have been the novelty of the new taste of a more refined tea, but I’ve got to wonder why I experienced no synaesthesia triggered by drinking a full-flavoured tea after drinking Prince of Wales for a while. I’m inclined to think that the quality of the Prince of Wales variety of Twinings tea dropped off or changed, causing the end of the odd phenomenon. I’ve tried countless other varieties of tea to see if they evoke that odd experience to no avail, and even though boutique tea shops are popping up all over Perth stocking all manner of horrible brews, none of them carry any Prince of Wales variety tea. I give up! I just give up!

Touch – emotion synaesthesia

When I was a teenager I had the habit of wearing a favourite item of clothing almost non-stop till it fell apart. I guess that as a result of this practice, by brain built up a substantial touch-memory of how my favourite garments felt when I wore them, an unusual type of memory which I possibly don’t possess these days and which most people never possess.  Back in those days I found that something weird would happen when I was in the change room of a department store or boutique trying on new clothes. As I put on the new garment I would feel a spontaneous, involuntary, unexpected, weird, sudden, dramatic wave of something like a hybrid of an emotion and a bodily sensation. It was something like a shudder. Even the emotion itself was hybrid-like and hard to describe, perhaps dread, perhaps intense homesickness, maybe it was a sense of adventure, or maybe loneliness. Weird! At the time I assumed that this thing happened because it violated my unconscious expectation of the familiar touch-memory of my old, well-worn clothes. As is often the case with types of synaesthesia that I rarely experience, sensory novelty or change appears to be the real trigger or the synaesthesia inducer. I’m not sure how often or for what period of time I would have this odd experience while trying on new clothes, but I am sure it was limited to my teenage and possibly early adult years. It is no longer experienced, presumably because I no longer in the habit of wearing a favourite items of clothing constantly, or conceivably it could be because I have less sensitive senses these days.

Another subtle and unobtrusive type of synaesthesia noticed

The other day my umbrella broke, so I went shopping for another one. I wanted another one that folds up and fits into a handbag. I went to those stores that sell cheap stuff, but the umbrellas looked like they’d break in a minute. Variety stores only had black umbrellas, which is an uninspiring colour and a stupid choice for safety and visibility. So I paid a bit extra and got a nice pretty umbrella from a gift shop.

I got to use it the next day, and when I did I noticed a lovely smell. After a while of wondering where that lovely smell was coming from I figured out that I’d bought a scented umbrella. Funny thing – I couldn’t identify the floral-type fragrance except that it had a sharpness that was reminiscent of some essential oil from an Australian native plant, and it was a scent that seems to be the archetypal smell of gift shops. I’d never realised that gift shops have a typical smell, till I’d smelt it outside of the usual context of a gift shop. After a while of sniffing my umbrella I noticed something else, that the smell was making me think of the concept of delicately ornate pure white cake icing. I can think of no logical reason why this scent should remind me of cake icing. The umbrella wasn’t white. It isn’t a flavoring smell, and I’m sure I’ve never eaten icing that smells or tastes like that. This appears to be a case of (fragrance) smell -> (food) concept synaesthesia. Almost as strange as a scented umbrella.