How to Train Your Nose

Can you recognize a top note from a base note? How about Aldehydes from Aqua Musk? Being able to differentiate the notes in a perfume can increase your appreciation of it and help you choose other fragrances you’ll love. Though the journey of honing your nose may seem like a daunting task, we’ve enlisted the help of Clement Gavarry, the perfumer behind CLEAN RESERVE Lush Fleur, to show you some simple ways you can improve your sense of smell and enhance your enjoyment of your favorite CLEAN scents!

Smell Everything 

While it can be easy to go about our days without paying attention to the individual scents we encounter, making a conscious effort to stop and smell the roses is an important first step in training your nose.

“It’s imperative that you smell everything, and I mean everything,” Clement insists. “That’s how you build an olfactory library in your head and are able to remember certain smells upon re-smelling them. Many fragrances are based around the concept of ‘nostalgia’, and in order to have a large scent memory to pull from, there has to be a curiosity to sniff everything you can.” 

So whether it’s the flowers you stroll by in the park or the spices you use to cook your next meal, take a moment to close your eyes and deeply inhale the aroma. See if you can identify characteristics of the scent, and ask yourself what it reminds you of and how it makes you feel. Then mark it in your mental olfactory library for future reference!

Make Memories

As Clement has already mentioned, memory is crucial in developing your perfume nose and forming emotional connections with scents. However, it can also help you learn to recognize notes you won’t find in the real world, like accords and Aldehydes. 

“The best way to recognize notes not found naturally is to link them to something that they remind you of,” Clement says. “For example, Aldehydes remind me of a freshly laundered and pressed shirt. Sometimes you might not be able to recognize a scent or use one word or phrase to describe it, thus you’ll need to associate the smell to many different experiences or memories to recognize it as an accord. It’s not something that can be learned, but rather it’s instinctual, and will trigger something in your brain.”

Try this for yourself with a scent that features Aldehydes, like CLEAN CLASSIC Pure Soap. Spritz a little on your wrist and think about what the note reminds you of. By attaching a memory to this note, you’ll have an easier time recognizing it in perfumes like CLEAN CLASSIC Simply Clean and CLEAN RESERVE Avant Garden White Amber & Warm Cotton

Notice Nuance

This is where your curiosity will truly thrive! Start paying particular attention to how scents change over time. For example, how does the smell of a ripe apple differ from the scent of a dried apple chip? Or how does the earth in your garden smell on a scorching hot day compared to right after rainfall? This skill will help you recognize the top, middle, and base notes in a perfume because, as a perfume develops over time, certain notes will start to become more apparent.

“During the process of dry-down, the top notes of a perfume evaporate first, and these are typically very light floral, citrus or fruity notes,” Clement says. “The middle comes next, and these can be a combination of many ingredients like hearty florals or aromatic notes. Finally, the base notes that are composed of larger and heavier molecules will emerge and give depth to the fragrance. Usually these ingredients include a variety of musks, woods, and potent ambery notes.”

Observe this process for yourself by spraying the irresistibly refreshingly CLEAN RESERVE Acqua Neroli in the morning. You’ll instantly detect notes of Bergamot and Mandarin, but see if you can notice when Jasmine and Neroli start to take center stage, or when Acqua Musk and Amber become most prominent. 

Test Yourself

Think of your perfume nose as a muscle that needs regular exercise. By performing regular activities that test your ability to differentiate and recognize notes, you’ll help keep it functioning at its best. Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Next time you go to a restaurant, take a moment to inhale the aroma of your food before eating. See what scents you can detect, and try to identify spices used by referring back to your olfactory library. At the end of your meal, ask your server about the ingredients to check if you were correct!

  • Have a friend to lay out basic ingredients, like the Mandarin and Lavender you’ll find in CLEAN RESERVE Acqua Neroli, without telling you what they’ve chosen. Smell each one with your eyes closed. Can you recognize the ingredient just by using your sense of smell? 

  • Spritz a CLEAN perfume like CLEAN CLASSIC Sunshine on your wrist and try to parse out individual notes. Can you smell Coconut? How about Green Apple?