One of my science pals alerted me to recent publications on Olfactory White. What is it? A smell-molecule blending bland-out comparable to white light or white noise. Researchers concocted a series of 40-compound mixtures, named each blend “Laurax,” then had study participants smell and distinguish one Laurax from the next. It turns out that a sort of olfactory overload sets in when the human nose takes in so many smell compounds at once: it ‘s all Laurax to us. The findings are considered fundamental for understanding “how the olfactory system deals with mixture,” says Donald Wilson of New York Langone Medical Center (quoted here). Out of respect for the science savvy I will not summarize the research in my own words. You can read more about the studies on Olfactory White at Nature or The Huffington Post.
Olfactory White (the phenomenon, the term) has me thinking about perfume. First of all, wouldn’t Laurax be a nice, strange anti-name for an eau de toilette? Reporters give no details, but call the moniker “made up.” I want to know how: any links to a woman named Laura? Laurel? Bay leaf? The mossy Lorax? Until today, I associated white in perfume, with big, loud, screechy. I suppose Olfactory White is just the opposite: not the asphyxiating sillage cloud of the cosmetics aisle on Black Friday, but something smaller, less intrusive, easy to miss. Conceptually, I think of Olfactory White as being comparable to Antimatière (LesNez). Of course they must be quite different from one another. I do hope to smell the Laurax some day soon. But wait. Am I already smelling it every day? Apparently not, according to the reports. Olfactory White is new smell.
You know that someone, somewhere right this minute is contemplating the launch of “Olfactory White EDP.” I’m thinking Indie. Maybe CB I Hate Perfume? In the meantime, reviewers weary of bland releases will now be able to damn with freshly coined faint praise: If you’ve been wondering where to find a sample of Olfactory White, smell no further.