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Scents X Memories


Scents are known to trigger memories. They remind you of people, places and situations so vivid it’s like you’ve time travelled to the past and beyond. The scientific explanation: Our olfactory nerve (responsible for our sense of smell) is a budding neighbour with the amyglada, the area of the brain that is connected to our emotional memory. But enough about science, let’s talk scents.


In my final year of school, I wore L’occitane’s Pivoine Flora Eau de Parfum. It’s supposed to smell predominantly of peonies and magnolias. (Note: While I’m able to translate my sense of taste into words as a food writer, I’m hopeless when it comes to chemical fragrances. Labels are necessary. The exception comes with lavender – just who doesn’t recognise lavender?) Using it again today brought me back to the last semester, the three months I spent largely alone, travelling between faculties and growing immune to daily shuttle bus woes. More specifically, a whiff of this fragrance flashed a moving image of me exiting LT 52 in Utown – yes, my memory imprints exist in GIFs. Why that particular class? Perhaps it was because I left the lecture every single time without knowing what those 2 hours were made of. While my mind lingered in nothingness, my sense of smell must have been heightened at that expense.

The Starbucks scent: If you’re a Singaporean student who studies over a Caramel Macchiato or a Java Chip Frappe while hogging seats for hours to come, you might relate to this. That distinct Starbucks smell arrives with every crusty quiche or bagel ordered, which blends in with that of coffee beans and strong espresso shots. I would spend my long breaks in the YIH outlet, at my usual corner with notes sprawled wherever I could — the tables were tiny and it didn’t help that my laptop and coffee took up half the space. Still, I thrilled over studying in a cafe and the familiar scent was welcoming every time I set foot in there. Almost as if it were saying, “Welcome home.”

Unscented Plans
In our fifth city, Cliff and I jolted to the realization that we should have assigned different scents to each of the 9 cities we would be covering during our Europe escape. Spray the room with a specific fragrance in hope of vivid memories rushing back to us like waves to the shore every time we came across that particular scent. That didn’t pan out but my 34 GB worth of photos sure helped me in documenting my great escape (still halfway through that – whoops).

Memories in the make

For the recent Christmas, Cliff got me 2 fragrances: Marc Jacob’s Honey and a Yankee Candle, Stargaze. The former was one I’d been yearning for since July – even before smelling it – just because it sounded amazing and anything that followed the Daisy Eau So Fresh had to be just as good, if not better. Brand confidence, I say. Also, I am a true sucker for adorable bottles. Receiving the latter from him revealed how well he knew me. I loved candles and how their scents reaffirm their silent presence in the background. Also, it was just what I needed to rid the stale smell in my room. Oh he knew. 

For now, these two fragrances are just fragrances waiting for memories to attach upon. And that, my dear readers, is just truly enticing. How about you? What do you remember when that particular whiff comes floating on by?

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