Sensational Technology

Trendincite icon NoseTidbits Issue 39 April/May 2014
This originally published on May 19, 2014

One of my favorite subjects is multi-sensory products and services. Trendincite examined this exciting topic in various Tidbits issues: High-Tech Sensory Sensations (March/April ’13), Sensory Sensations (November/December ’11), Multi-Sensory Experiences (October/November ’10), You Fill Up My Senses (May/June ’09), and Sensory Overload (February ’08). A year later, there are a variety of new, unique and interactive experiences driven by  technology.

Bookworm: Seems like literature goes hand in hand with food. In Amsterdam, there’s The Bookish Banquet, a culinary event for bookworms that serves five course meals inspired by themes in literature with narration between courses. Dinah Fried, a graphic artist, published the Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals, in which Fried cooked all the meals, staged all the shots and took “literary food” photographs.

Touch to Smell: In Australia, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal launched a new range of food products named Heston for Coles, which highlights indigenous ingredients. For the launch, the company introduced a national, scented print advertising campaign for the Lemon Myrtle Hot Cross Buns. AROMAFORK™ is a new patented cutlery designed to create a novel and intense olfactive experience. In fashion, Naked & Famous Denim’s newest release is its mint scratch-n-sniff jeans, which is said to last for up to five washes. In beauty, Revlon introduced Parfumerie™ Scented Nail Enamel in 24 scented colors, while Bitty Bettys is a collectible fragrance line with ‘Touch to Sniff’ cartons. CVS even offers a scratch n sniff chocolate scented gift card.

Tech Smells: There has been a lot of activity in scents and cell phones as well as other technological categories. Dr. David Edwards engineered the oPhone, a new device that will send scents like text messages. Oscar Mayer created a Wake Up and Smell the Bacon app and device, which was an alarm clock with a sizzling bacon sound and scent. Scentee from Japan is a round device, which plugs into an earphone jack and releases different fragrances with each incoming notification. Crowdfunded on Indiegogo, the Atomyzer iPhone case holds “60 sprays” of fragrance or hand sanitizer in a refillable cartridge. Sensabubble is a new programmed system, which will enable users to feel colors, icons, texts, and mentions from twitter in a bubble filled with a “scented fog.” Scent Rhythm is a chemical-based watch that emits fragrance in minute doses that are in tune with your circadian cycle. Mercedes-Benz 2014 S-Class sedans offer a built-in fragrance atomizer in four custom colognes – Freeside Mood (light citrus),Nightlife Mood (spice, oud), Downtown Mood (floral, musk), and Sports Mood (green, citrus). Although not scented, an interesting limited edition product is Nescafé’s Alarm Cap, which features a built-in  alarm clock that wakes consumers with seven different sounds synchronized to lights. To turn the alarm off, one must open the lid.

Vending is Trending: Vending machines are not new. In fact, the first US vending machine was built in 1888. However, technology has advanced and now there are a slew of new vending machines with a focus on food. The much anticipated Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, which launched in Chicago in 2012, is now in NYC on the Upper East Side. Located in CA, Burritobox is a new vending machine that delivers five different types of burritos on demand while Let’s Pizza kneads dough, mixes fresh ingredients and adds select toppings in three minutes. For a piece of luxury, Los Angeles Beverly Hills Caviar has three vending machines that offer high-end food such as caviar, escargots and truffles. For the health conscious, Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge is self described as a “veggie machine” that prepares daily salads made from local farm produce. Any leftovers from the previous day are donated to a foodbank.

Food is Fashionable: Fashion and food are being paired and the newest trend is the opening of restaurants inside department stores as a part of the shopping experience. Guerlain Le 68 restaurant inside the Champs-Elysées flagship store highlights Michelin-star French chef Guy Martin who uses Guerlain perfumes as an inspiration for the menu. For example he offers dishes like foie gras with Madagascar vanilla in puff pastry, or pearly cod in “little black dress” licorice, and macarons from the garden of Shalimar. Both Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue have recently launched restaurants inside their stores – Stella 34 Trattoria in Macy’s NYC and Sophie’s in Chicago’s Michigan Avenue Saks. This summer, Brooks Brothers will launch Makers and Merchants, a steakhouse. A new one to watch is Bouley Botanical from Chef David Bouley. It’s an “indoor farm” and restaurant that has 24 growing boxes, which use organic soil and feature 70 plants and herbs. The space hosts yoga classes and wellness events.

Want more tidbits? Read Eurocosmetics spa and hair care articles or Visit 4 Latin Countries Without Leaving NYC . See what’s trending from Sniffapalooza’s Spring Fling or get inspired by watching MarketingProfs Take 10: Three Ways to Find Creative Inspiration Outside the Office video. Attend an upcoming NYC Trendincite presentation at HBA on June 12, 2014 or SFC Symposium on October 9, 2014.

Let Trendincite custom-design or curate a sensational trend excursion to engage your five senses and stimulate new product ideas. So what are you waiting for?
Contact us at inquiries@trendincite.com or at 888-561-1229. Feel free to forward this e-mail to friends and colleagues who need to be in the know or have them subscribe to Tidbits.

My Sensory Journey To Baltimore, MD

Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)
Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)

When I was planning my family weekend trip to Baltimore from New York City to attend the Digital Family Summit (an interactive conference for young digital media creators and their parents) in early October, I was asked if I’d like to test drive a Chevrolet Equinox.  I’m a big fan of experiences and trying something new.  I would not describe myself as a car person, but thought, sure why not?

My business’ tagline is “Inspiration For Creation” and the core values are to capture inspiration from unexpected places and enjoy the creative process.  To facilitate creativity, I often tell my clients that you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. My most acute sense is smell, which is fueled by my work in the fragrance and flavor industry for the last 20 years. Fragrance is such an integral part of my daily experiences, but I think for many its overlooked or an afterthought.  Everything I do is a sensory journey, whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or weekend getaway.  I approached my Baltimore visit as a fragrant sensory experience, while I assume many of techies and professional bloggers who attended the conference had an analytical and logical perspective.

I was excited and curious to explore the Chevrolet Equinox car that was dropped off on Friday morning before we headed to Baltimore.  The first thing I did was open the car door and was delighted to get a whiff of the “new car” smell, which had a masculine, leather like scent. I expected it and would have been disappointed had the smell not been there.  For those marketers and brands out there, don’t underestimate the power of scent. After I futzed with the navigation system and pressed some buttons, I was done exploring. The car would meet my immediate needs for the weekend.

Sporty Equinox Car
Sporty Equinox Car

In our typical fashion we hit the road an hour and a half later than planned and spent five hours in traffic driving to Baltimore.  The weather was chilly, foggy, humid and misty that evening – it rained on and off.  While driving with the windows rolled down after it had rained, the air smelled a bit dirty, it was wet with damp, earthy nuances.  My daughter liked the scent and thought it was reminiscent of East Hampton after it rains, where we spend our summers.

Being a native New Yorker, without fail whenever I drive on the New Jersey turnpike by exit 13, this industrial, putrid metallic smell of factory waste permeates the car.  Visually the landscape of the factories spewing dark clouds of waste looks like a page right out of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax book best described by my late father as “robot vomit.”  The rest of the ride was scentless except for a quick stop for gas (I happen to like the smell of gasoline).

We finally arrived at the Hilton Baltimore at 10:30pm.  My kids were particularly fascinated with the large and wide revolving door, which they circled multiple times.  Besides, observing a few guests clumsily bump into the glass revolving door because it was awkwardly designed and not intuitive, I was intrigued by the scent of the lobby.  At first, it smelled citrusy and reminded me of bug spray, which lead me to think it was a hotel guest wearing Jessica McClintock perfume.  However, it was an ambient scent that lingered.  There’s a trend for public spaces such as hotels, casinos and retailers to scent the air to create positive experiences for their guests.  In hindsight, I realized that the Hilton is known for its “olfactive branding” program and I’m guessing the fragrance I smelled, which was fresh, citrus and green tea-like was the “Eau de Hilton.”

Knowing we had a busy day ahead we went to bed.  Although exhausted on Saturday morning, I felt compelled to wake up motivated by the loud and cheerful applause I heard outside.  Blurry eyed and a bit confused, I looked down from 16 floors.  To my delight I saw a sea of brightly colored fluorescent shirts, which belonged to the marathon runners gearing up for the Baltimore marathon. Go runners!  I wondered if the air smelled like sweat yet and giggled to myself remembering the scene in The Lonely Guy movie when Steve Martin jogs into a dinner party wearing fake spray-on sweat to pretend he had just worked out.

Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13
Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, my senses were enlivened by the diffusive scent of Peter Thomas Roth’s Mega-Rich Shampoo (exclusive to Hilton Hotels) that my daughter was lathering in her hair.  The aroma was also fresh, citrusy and green.  Keeping up with the citrus theme, I showered and then spritzed myself with my new favorite fragrance Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which is a bright and juicy scent. It smells just like a fresh-squeezed orange – pithy and rindy.

We made our way to the 2nd floor to attend the Digital Family Summit.  I joined my eight year old daughter for a Food Blogging, Styling & Photography workshop with Laura (Lolli) Franklin of Better in Bulk and Robin Zachary of Prop Closet.  This class was as aesthetically appealing as it was sensorially stimulating.

Fresh-baked unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were the foundation for our hands-on session. I expected the room to smell like the cupcakes had just come out of the oven, like the vanilla-like baking scent that is pumped into NYC’s Crumbs bakeries, but because we were in a hotel conference room and not a kitchen, they had been prepared earlier and the room was missing the aroma.  However, the brown and yellow cupcakes were neatly placed on a tray in rows by flavor waiting to be iced, decorated, photographed and eaten. Single colored sprinkles of red, pink, orange, green, blue, yellow and white were individually cupped and lined up monochromatically next to the unfrosted cupcakes. After a brief lesson about the do’s and don’ts of food blogging, styling and photography we broke up into small groups.  Using a simple recipe, each group got to craft their own colored frosting using food dye.  My daughter’s group created a muted lavender colored icing while other groups created slate blue, Kelly green, turquoise and hot pink colors.  The smell of the freshly whipped icing was palpable. It tasted even sweeter than it smelled – sugary sweet, cavity inducing sweet. The kids unleashed their inner designers and decorated their cupcakes with sprinkles, flags, confetti, and polka dotted candles.  Using props such as solid-colored napkins, cupcake stands, baking utensils and backdrops cleverly made of patterned wrapping paper glued to foam core boards, they styled their cupcake creations for a fabulous, fashionable and flavorful photo shoot.  Practically salivating, the kids could finally reap the rewards of their hard work and taste the long anticipated, tantalizing and tempting results of their masterpieces.  Proud, ecstatic and sugar-buzzed, the creative kids and parents left the session on a super, satisfying sugar high.

Masterpiece from my daughter's group
Masterpiece from my daughter’s group

On Sunday we had a little downtime and opted for a little R&R by visiting the hotel pool. The minute I stepped off of the elevator my nostrils tingled from the pool smell.  As I approached the entrance to the pool area, the smell intensified and my nose was assaulted by the overpowering Chlorine odor.  I wonder if a fragrance house can create an odor neutralizer to combat Chlorine or fragrance it to create a better scent. My acute reaction to the scent didn’t stop me or my family from enjoying splashing and playing in the pool.

I typically like to visit off the beaten path restaurants and sites when traveling in another city. But when attending a conference, it doesn’t matter where you visit; you rarely get to experience anything but the inside of the hotel.  I knew that my family would spend most of our time at the Hilton Baltimore.  However, before we left I wanted at least one meal that was representative of Baltimore.  Baltimore is known for crabs, which I enjoy eating, but rarely order because they require too much work and the payoff isn’t worth it. Mo’s Crab & Pasta Factory in Little Italy was close by and recommended. As a grand finale to our trip ten of us went there for dinner.  We feasted on Crab Cakes, Crab Imperial and Crab Dip in addition to other local dishes.  The two things that struck me when we entered the restaurant were the old fashioned cigarette machine with the pull handles and the alluring and distinct aroma of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.  Since savory scents are kitsch and on trend such as Pizza Hut’s “Eau de Pizza,” White Castle’s Original Slider scented candle and most recently Yankee Candle’s Turkey and Stuffing candle, Old Bay Seasoning should consider creating a signature scent.

We had a great, educational and interactive experience in Baltimore during the Digital Family Summit.  Luckily our drive home was smooth and only took three hours with no rain and no traffic.  Our visit to Baltimore was brief, but intense.  I definitely would like to go back to explore the local flavor and discover unique restaurants and shops adding new scented, colorful and flavorful memories to my sensory journey.

Flash In A Bottle

Fragrance Flash
Fragrance Flash

In May 2013 I presented Olfactive Trends Quick Peek at Sniffapalooza’s Spring Fling and mentioned “Flash” as the newest naming convention in fine fragrance.  September is quickly approaching and you can now get your hands on many of the recent launches inspired by the word.

Olfactive Studio’s Flash Back scent is described as “a memory in motion and in action” while Cacharel’s Amor Amor In A Flash is “the feeling of love at first sight: magnetic, addictive, electric… a moment of never-ending intensity.” Jimmy Choo’s second scent Flash, is the newest player and is a “solar” floral that is “about the thrill of the red carpet, the fun of the nightclub, the glamour of dressing up.”

In flavors, the closest interpretation is Oddka Vodka’s Electricity flavor, which Pernod Ricard states is “a tongue-tickling blend that tastes of fire bolt.”  Inspired by the Flash scent, Belvedere Vodka and Jimmy Choo partnered to create a Kuala Lumpur cocktail-fragrance crawl with fun cocktail names such as “Parading on a catwalk” and “Jimmy’s shoe.” The most far fetched recent introduction is Cornetto’s fluorescent ice cream across the pond.

Keep your eyes peeled for more “flash” inspired consumer packaged goods launches. I wonder what will ignite the next catalyst for inspiration.  Any thoughts?

Sensory Gems in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago
A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago (photo by Dan D’Errico)

As a board member of Women in Flavor & Fragrance Commerce (WFFC), I recently organized our sixth annual sensory trend excursion with my colleague Jeanine Pedersen of Takasago. We chose Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In my industry career, this by far was the most challenging tour to design. The biggest obstacle was finding local retailers to participate. For more details, read my recent Fuhgeddaboudit! post.

However, the five retailers that did participate are gems! Without a doubt, add them to your must do list when visiting Williamsburg.

Fabiane's Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Fabiane’s Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D’Errico)

For our first stop, 29 attendees gathered outside Fabiane’s Cafe & Pastry. Fabiane greeted us as we delighted in an iced coffee or tea and homemade Yucca cake, a gluten free pastry made with Yucca, coconut milk, milk, sugar, eggs, and coconut flakes. Fabiane addressed each guest and discussed her Brazilian background with her French culinary training and gave a little background about her cafe. Additionally she surprised us with a bag of granola as a parting gift, which took her 10 years to perfect the recipe.

Juice Press Samples - Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Juice Press Samples – Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D’Errico)

We mosied on over to Juice Press, a growing chain of cold-pressed juice bars; this location was brand spanking new, it opened in May. Liz shared the company’s history and explained the cold-pressed process. Then we sampled the Watermelon Super Cleanser, Mother Earth, Dr. Green, and Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, all which only contain “organic calories.” The Watermelon was the group’s darling and my personal favorite. It tasted just like you placed a straw in a fresh watermelon. The Almond Butter Cup Smoothie was tasty with a creamy, nutty banana flavor and hint of cinnamon, but some couldn’t get past the gritty texture. The two green drinks were more of an acquired taste, a bit bitter and astringent, but nonetheless fresh, flavorful and healthful.

Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D’Errico)

Moving to the fragrance side, our third destination was Woodley & Bunny. If you like niche, hard to find beauty products, look no further. Devon, Zeek, and Summer graciously hosted us as we explored, smelled and tried a variety of fragrances, skin care, bath and body care, and hair care products as well as candles. An aside, I often read and write about indie brands, but because of limited distribution I don’t always get to experience them. I’ve never seen so many products that I’ve read about or written about in one place. It was like a curated, indie beauty emporium.

WFFCAllswell Menu
WFFC Allswell Menu (photo by Dan D’Errico)
Flatbread with kale fried egg
House-made Sourdough Flatbread with Ricotta, Kale & Fried Egg (photo by Dan D’Errico)

By now our group had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Allswell restaurant. Based on the farm to table concept, the menu changes daily and is dependent on what’s in season and locally available. If you’re looking for a quaint, comfortable and warm restaurant with fresh food you’ve come to the right place. We started with a Ginless Wonder mocktail crafted with fresh squeezed lime, honey syrup, ginger syrup, club soda, cucumber, fresh strawberries and Oro Blanco. I learned that Oro Blanco (white gold) is a type of grapefruit. Let’s see if this becomes a trend. For a starter, we feasted on homemade olive bread with house-made Ricotta cheese and a crisp, hearty beet salad. For lunch I had their signature crispy chicken sandwich. Others enjoyed their proprietary burger made with Vermont Quality Meat or their homemade sourdough flatbread with Ricotta, kale, and fried egg. As if we weren’t full enough, we concluded our meal with a strawberry rhubarb slab pie with fresh whipped cream. Delicious!

Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D’Errico)

The perfect finish to our sensory excursion was a final stop at Mast Brothers Chocolate. The overwhelming, raw smell of chocolate wafts through your nostrils as you approach and enter the artisan shop. Meghan explained that the shop only uses two ingredients – cocoa and cane sugar; hence the wide array of dark chocolates. We sampled the limited edition Vanilla Smoke and Maple Cream bars as well as other flavors such as Olive & Sinclair Sea Salt, Stumptown Coffee and Chile Pepper. I’m a sweet, cheap chocolate fan (Oh Henry candy bars are my favorite) and my palette is not sophisticated enough to get past the bitterness of the dark chocolate to taste and appreciate the subtle sweetness nor the smoke of the vanilla and maple flavors. My personal favorite was the sea salt. That combination worked for me because the salt alleviated some of the bitter flavor. Regardless of my preferences, for chocolate fans, this shop is a no-brainer.

Our WFFC guests experienced a truly unique sensory trend excursion in North Williamsburg where their senses were engaged and tickled as they left full and satiated.

A very big thank you to all of the retailers who participated! I look forward to returning; I know I’ll be back and I’m pretty sure others will too.

Summer Bearing Fruit – Trend Alert

Fresh fruit is popular during the spring and summer months and is inspiring new fragrance and flavor introductions. Cherry and watermelon are the in vogue fruits of the season.

Cherries
Summer Cherries (photo by Paolo Neo)

In fine fragrance, as a spring limited edition, Escada launched Cherry in the Air and is described as “an initial burst of cherry and raspberry is tempered by hints of marshmallow, coconut orchid, and sandalwood — moving from fruity to sweet to warm.”  British perfume house Floris released Cherry Blossom made with bergamot, orange, pink pepper, cherry blossom, osmanthus, rose, peony, juicy cherry, sandalwood and musk.

The flavored vodka craze continues. Grey Goose introduced Cherry Noir, which is crafted with “100% natural essence of the finest ripe black cherries” and Absolut launched Craft Bitter Cherry, which is described as “a subtle hint of sweetness and bright, authentic cherry flavor [that] is countered by notes of bitter, dark chocolate.” It is one of three flavors, which are sold exclusively to bartenders in limited quantities. Cherry has even tapped beer. Old Dominion released Cherry Blossom Lager as its spring seasonal brew available in March and according to the company “is conditioned on a bed of 300 pounds of Michigan cherries for 48 hours.”

Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)
Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)

Watermelon is popping up in men’s fine fragrances. Lacoste’s latest addition Eau de Lacoste L.12.12 Noir highlights a “living watermelon” accord while Tommy Bahama for Him opens with “a revitalizing burst of juicy watermelon.” Limited edition Annayake Love for Him uses bergamot, grapefruit, bitter orange and watermelon top notes while Calvin Klein’s CK One Summer 2013 limited edition features citrus, waterfall, watermelon, cucumber, water lily, musk and moss accords.

Pucker Vodka unveiled Watermelon Wow as the newest flavor and “combines the luscious flavor of watermelon with the invigorating aroma of candied fruit and melon for a unique sensory experience” while Salty Watermelon joins the UV Vodka range. Watermelon is even trickling down into non-alcoholic beverages, specifically water.  Fruitwater offers Watermelon Punch and Fruit2O offers Natural Watermelon.

Watch as these juicy fruits continue to inspire new summer products and emerge in consumer packaged goods.

 

Eau De Trendincite – A Scent of My Own

Eau De TrendIncite
Eau De Trendincite

I was so inspired by our last hands-on TrendIncite Xchange meeting that I decided to continue the “creativity and inspirational me” theme and reached out to Sue Phillips of Scenterprises. Sue lead our group on a creative fragrance journey, where each of us created our own custom scent. I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for 20 years and until now I’ve never created my own signature scent.

Eight of us gathered at Sue’s apartment where she explained the seven major olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Fruity, Oriental, Chypre, Woody and Fougere. Sue compared fragrances to food and music and explained that each had a beginning, a middle and an end.  In fragrance terms that translates to top notes, middle notes and base notes. We were then given a lifestyle questionnaire with 11 questions about our preferences that ranged from fabrics to seasons to vacation spots to film icons.  We individually tallied our responses, which corresponded to four olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Oriental and Woody. Then Sue shared 14 fragrance accords with us such as Balsamic, Citrus, Green, Mossy, Ozonic, and Rose Floral.  After evaluating the accords on blotters we were encouraged to choose up to four of our favorite fragrance directions, which would be used to create our custom, signature scents. I choose the Citrus, Gentle Floral, Balsamic and Woody accords and voilà Eau de Trendincite was born.  It is rather sweet and smells differently than I expected. It does have a sweet figgy and plum accord, which I like. The verdict is not out yet as I’m still getting accustomed to the fragrance and evaluating it. However, my mother and daughter love it!

Working for three leading fragrance houses, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Fragrance is a very personal experience and much more complex than one may think. I thought I would be formulating my own scent with my favorite accords – Bergamot, Orange flower and Vetiver with a hint of Musk and Vanilla. This was not the case. Sue uses a predetermined set of finished accords.  I enjoyed my experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to create my own scent. Sue’s fragrance exercise is perfect for fragrance novices who are looking to creatively express themselves with a custom signature scent.

 

Opulent Saffron Making A Comeback

With the growth of the beauty industry in the Middle East there have been a slew of spicy, oriental and woody fragrance directions emerging, some of which are specially developed for this market. Estee Lauder’s Aramis Perfume Calligraphy and Estee Lauder Wood Mystique are two current examples.

Perfumers and marketers continually look for inspiration and new ingredients. Following the trend to spicy and woody scents, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is making a comeback, particularly in fine fragrance.  There have been quite a few new launches that highlight the luxury ingredient such as Byredo Black Saffron, which I mentioned in my Black is Still Black post, and Byredo Bullion.

Rose an already popular flower in fragrance, seems to be the trendy combination of choice. The Fragrance Kitchen introduced fifteen exclusive fragrances, two of which feature saffron – War of the Roses and Scent In A Bottle. Grossmith London recently launched the Black Label Collection and Saffron Rose is one of four scents, which is described as a “wonderfully rich and opulent scent.”

Although not in the fragrance name, saffron is also appearing as notes in fragrance creations such as Bond No. 9 Manhattan, which uses “worldly saffron” and  Viktor & Rolf Spice Bomb is made with “incandescent spices.”

In flavors, saffron has long been used in cooking and gives food the golden yellow-orange hue.  Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite Biscuits & Spices uses saffron in six of his forty-one different blends – N.19 Salvador, N.20 Dali, N.21 Moruno, N.25 EscabecheN.30 Mousa and N.33 Mishmish.  Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea is a new line of five Greek, saffron-based herbal teas.  The flavors are Greek Herbal Tea with thyme, rosemary and saffron; Greek Green Tea with ginger, licorice and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with honey, orange and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with mint, lemongrass and saffron; and Greek Herbal Tea with cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Saffron has even trickled into vodka. Saffron Vodka by Sub Rosa Spirits is distilled with eight spices – “toasted cumin, lemony coriander, a hint of ginger, and just a touch of heat and the aromatics of saffron.”

Keep your eyes peeled as saffron emerges in new flavor and fragrance products.  Have you noticed any new products with saffron? Tried any new dishes from chefs using saffron in unexpected places?

The Scent of a Memory

L-R: Amy and Gaby

I orginally submitted this article for Vol iii: The Social Olfactory, The State, but it didn’t make the cut.  I thought this would be an appropriate place to post it.

I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for twenty years, the last seven years as the founder of Trendincite LLC, and I’ve yet to write about my own personal experiences with scent and scent memories. Whether I write for Tidbits, Trendincite’s bimonthly newsletter, or for Forward Thinking, my column in Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, the material focuses on the parallel relationship between fragrances and flavors. Like several colleagues, I fell into the industry and once here, I stayed. I have a keen sense of smell, which was always there from childhood, but was refined by working in the industry with experts.

When I think back to childhood, there are several familiar scents that take me to a certain place and time.  In elementary school, I distinctly remember the scent of vomit. I had a visceral reaction…when a kid in school vomited, the smell alone created a knee jerk reaction and often caused me to gag and then puke. I have a seven year old daughter and four year old son and to this day if they throw up, I gag and it takes every ounce of me to hold back my smell instincts. I feel similarly about the smell of garbage, particularly on a hot summer’s day in New York City – I flash back to the foul smell of rotting fish and spoiled food in Chinatown or urine soaked New York City subways.  In East Hampton when the wind blows in the wrong direction, the smell of dank, wet salty and dirty seaweed wafts into my nostrils. As you drive along a country road, the quick, passing whiff of a skunk is unforgettable.  And I’d be remiss if I left out the smell of mulch – manure combined with a sweaty, salty body odor note, most unpleasant.

In contrast, I absolutely love the scent of fresh baked bread – a little sweet, salty and yeasty. I’ve been trying, as I’m sure others have been, to have a perfumer create a fresh baked bread fragrance that accurately captures the yeast accord. I can’t wait until a perfumer nails this scent. Mark my words – it will be an instant success.  There’s also nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass even if there is cis-3-Hexen-1-ol. Or the smell of potato fields – dry, starchy and a bit earthy. And the sweet, honey hay-like scent that I smell while passing open fields.

These are just a few examples of my scent recollections. My personal scent memories and specific scent associations help me recognize certain fragrances or ingredients based solely on what they remind me of.  When I smell a grapey note like the one used in Giorgio perfume, it takes me back to Dimetapp, the cough medicine I took as a child, and I recognize Methyl anthranilate.  I disliked Dimetapp as a child and therefore I do not like the cloying scent of Giorgio now. Anything with orange flower strikes a chord and brings me back to Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee sun tanning lotion; some feel this way about Coppertone. It’s the signature smell of summer, which I loved as a child and am still fond of today.  In the 80’s when I was a teenager, my peers wore Tea Rose perfume, an aldehydic rose floral, which I thought smelled like old ladies. Today when I analyze fragrance market research data, respondents frequently describe aldehydic floral notes as “old lady” and “grandma like.” This reaffirms my teenage evaluation of Tea Rose perfume before I even had “aldehydic” in my vocabulary.

In hindsight, who knew that my childhood scent experiences would be the stepping stones that launched my career in fragrance?  Unbeknownst to me, all of these childhood scent memories have directly impacted my sensibilities. I now recognize that creating signature scents and worthy scent memoires for consumers is a tall order to fill. I appreciate a scent that is polarizing and recognizable, often a blockbuster signature like Angel, because whether you love it or hate it, you remember it. I applaud perfumers who are able to create these signature scents that stand out from the crowd. Knowing that fragrances can create such an emotive response intrigues me and makes the fragrance and flavor industry exciting and ever changing.

From my twenty years of industry experience, I am hypersensitive to smell – both good and bad.  I’m grateful for this ability and find myself at any given time instinctively and habitually smelling products, foods or beverages prior to buying, ingesting or using.  Today my children mimic me and smell everything from fresh flowers to public restroom soap. They’re so scent aware that they can both recognize cherry almond because more than half of New York public restrooms, particularly restaurants use it.  And when they don’t recognize the smell of the soap, in surprise they ask, “Mommy what does this smell like?”  By this process, they are creating their own scent memories.

Smell is such an integral aspect of our being, but we often take it for granted.  The odd thing is that I have an identical twin sister who is anosmic and lost her sense of smell due to a childhood accident. We are similar in so many ways, but one defining difference is that I have an acute sense of smell and she has none.  I can’t imagine life without smell nor working in any other industry.

Black is still black

When you ask my kids, “What’s mommy’s favorite color?” without hesitation they will answer “black.” Perhaps growing up in NYC is where I learned to love black.  My entire wardrobe is black. However, when I was growing up as a child, they didn’t make black clothes for babies or children.  It was considered taboo. Today my daugther’s wardrobe consists of a variety of fashionable black clothes from head to toe.  Sadly but fittingly, when my father passed away a year and a half ago, my daughter wore a silky black blouse, black skirt, black tights and black patent leather shoes to the funeral. When asked by a guest, did I buy this outfit specifically for the occasion, I replied “no, fortunately we had it.”

While on the subject of fashion…the LBD never goes out of style and is constantly being reinvented through new materials and designs. Tonight I had dinner with my family in Ridge Hill (new shopping center in Yonkers) and I happened to pass a White House / Black Market shop. I hate shopping, but was familiar with the store (my close friend raves about it), so I went in. I have to admit the “black” attracted me to the store.  To my surprise, they had some very nice clothes.  The materials, textures, and designs were classic yet contemporary and well tailored.  The concept was simple, the clothes were merchandised well and the staff was friendly. The store offers black and white clothes and each season they focus on an accent color such as red, wine, and now metallic gold / silver for the holidays. I walked away with a new black and white patterned dress and the store gained a new customer.  I think I’ll be back.

Moving to packaging…when I was in art school at Washington University in St. Louis (many years ago) we had an advertising project to design a new dog food package for Purina.  Purina invited us to present our concepts.  At the time, I designed a sleek black package. This was unheard of – food wasn’t ever packaged in black, not even dog food. Flash forward.  Here are just a few examples of current black dog food packages …Walmart Pure Balance, Merrick Grain Free and ProBiotic Live.

Black is now a standard packaging color in beauty care products.  About seven years ago I remember when black was the “it” package color and naming convention in men’s fine fragrance with the likes of Polo Black and Double Black, Kenneth Cole Black and Vintage Black, and Kiton Black.

Black continues to be a popular naming convention used in fine fragrance, but now the emphasis is on an ingredient.  Recent introductions include Byredo Black Saffron, Demeter Black Bamboo and Black Ginger, and Comme de Garcons Black Play. However, the most exciting new black product out is Lady Gaga’s Fame fragrance. It’s touted as the first of its kind because the juice is black and once airborne it applies transparent on skin.

The English word black isn’t good enough and the newest buzzword is “Noir” (black in French).  A few new honorable mentions are Chanel Coco Noir, which the company describes as “nocturnal Baroque – a celebration of Gabrielle Chanel’s use of black and Venice’s influence on her designs and her life,” Tom Ford Noir and Agent Provocateur Pétale Noir.

We are even seeing black packaging in household products such as Downy Unstopables “an in wash scent booster” and Method Home Dish+Hand soap in a new eco-friendly package made from ocean plastic.

I look forward to seeing the continued use of the color black in design across industries and finding new places it hasn’t been used yet. Have you seen black used in new markets or new ways?

P.S.  My idea of mixing my wardrobe up is wearing black and white patterns (new for me), venturing into grey and if I’m feeling really crazy, adding a dash of red.

My closet ( it’s all black with a sprinkle of white and grey)