Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Blame it on the Whales

It’s not often that our Google Alert for “higher than normal volumes of mullet breeding” returns a news item, but when it does it’s a doozy. Today’s story is from Cape Town, South Africa or more specifically Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, billed as “a place where crowds gather to eat, drink, shop, socialize, and admire breathtaking views of Table Mountain.” Apparently a new breathtaking feature is the stench of rotting fish. These have accumulated in the harbor due to HTNVOMB along with a pair of humpback whales who chased a school of mackerel to an oxygen-starved demise in the shallow waters.

Thursday, March 18, 2021



This guy in Brooklyn has jumped onto the non-fungible token craze by selling digital recordings of his own farts.

This is brilliant on so many levels.

While giving Alex Ramírez-Mallis all due credit as a (f)art world innovator, I do have some reservations. Having listened to a few of his audibles, he seems to be—if not a true squeaker—a short-burst specialist. The type Dr. Raymond Stantz might classify as “a focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm or a class-five full-roaming vapor. A real nasty one, too.”

You can spend your crypto-currency on ARM’s staccato output, or you could wait for someone in the basso profundo category with a more sostenuto style of delivery. It’s all a matter of taste.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

You Better Listen to the Radio


I’ve known Saskia Wilson-Brown since she first began organizing the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles almost eight years ago. The IAO is now a thriving center for perfumery training, workshops, seminars, and scent-related events. Saskia’s latest innovation is Perfume on the Radio, a twice-monthly broadcast that is also available in podcast here and from the usual sources (Spotify, iHeartRadio, etc.).

I am one of the guests on Episode 5, dubbed “The Vice Show.” Saskia and I talk about the aromas of cannabis, how strain names get in the way of consumer experience, and the developing parallels between weed and aromatherapy. My segment begins at around minute 16. It’s free and it’s about 10 minutes long.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Coming Soon: A Live Virtual Appearance


The Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision of the American Chemical Society has been incredibly active in organizing symposia and publications on key topics in the cannabis sector. One of their ongoing events is a monthly “journal club” held as a live webinar.

I’ve been invited to give this month’s presentation on March 25 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. My topic is: Cannabis terpenes: Cultivar markers, aroma sources, or active ingredients?

(Yes, I’ll push all three hot buttons in one talk.)

There’s a Q&A session following my presentation, to be moderated by Nigam Arora, PhD. The webinar is free and open to the public. To register for it go to this link.

Hope to see your there!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sommeliers Take It on the Nose


Robert Camuto, the Wine Spectator editor who interviewed me about his COVID-19-related smell loss, has a new piece up at the magazine. He surveys the experiences of sommeliers who have had the illness and how the olfactory disturbances have impacted their professional lives.

I thought of Camuto a few days ago when I found a paper in The Laryngoscope by a multi-European group of clinicians including Thomas Hummel and Carl Philpott. The study examined recovery from post-infectious olfactory dysfunction (PIOD) among patients who undertook olfactory training—a regimen formulated by Hummel and others which has shown promise in speeding the return of smell. The new paper, based retrospectively on 153 PIOD patients, finds that the presence of parosmia—altered smell impressions—at the initial visit is, somewhat paradoxically, a marker of better eventual recovery in odor identification and discrimination.

The study discussed here is “Parosmia is associated withrelevant olfactory recovery after olfactory training,” by David T. Liu, Maha Sabha, Michael Damm, Carl Philpott, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Antje Hähner, and Thomas Hummel, published in The Laryngoscope 131:618, 2021. The paper is available for free download at the link.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021



My exploration of the interplay between scent and the other senses began when I ran a sensory psychology research group for Givaudan-Roure fragrances. The company’s perfumers and fragrance evaluators talked about notes and accords using remarkably precise and vivid language. After taking part in smell training sessions, and meetings where we discussed potential fragrance submissions to clients, I began to think that these multisensory metaphors might have a measurable empirical basis. That was the hunch that sparked a research program that established the links between scent and the domains of color and auditory pitch.

I used those results to create practical commercial applications for the company, and later used similar techniques to help my own clients incorporate multisensory alignment in their product development work.

Over the years, cross-modal perception has really taken off as a research topic. The studies have come thick and fast: Does the color of the plate influence your liking of the food? Does the weight of a glass impact the flavor impression of your drink?

While these studies have been done by dozens of labs around the world, by far the most prolific and influential researcher is Charles Spence, a professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. Spence has created a Crossmodal Research Laboratory and spawned a number of very successful students. He has also been generous in citing my earlier work in his papers.

So I was pleasantly surprised to receive an advance copy of his latest book along with an inquiry from his publisher asking me to blurb it. In Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living, Spence applies the principles of multisensory perception to everyday life—he wants to help people declutter their sensorium in a practical way.

I liked the book well enough to offer a blurb. Lo and behold, not only did the publisher use it, but it made the front cover, beating out blurbs by five other Big Names who were relegated to the back of the dust jacket. </gloat>

“Spence does for the senses what Marie Kondo does for homes.”

Put that in your blurb bong and smoke it.

Sensehacking goes on sale in the USA on March 5. May he sell a million copies.