01 June 2011

Scents and Mood

The affect of scent on mood and ambience has been well documented over the past 10 years. As medicine and psychological techniques have become more advanced so has our understanding of how the brain interpret odors and the profound affect it can have on our mood, our actions and even triggering memories.

It has been shown that smell accounts for 80% of what we taste. A simple test you can do at home or anywhere really, is next time you eat or drink something hold your nose and observe how the taste has changed…… Smell is also the second most important sense closely following sight. We can see how important sight is too smell and taste from a study that Marot (et al) conducted in 2001 where they artificially colored white wine red and observed that participants began to “taste with their eyes” and describe tastes and flavours that were similar to a red wine, i.e dark fruits and rich flavour.

As well as being able to affect how and what we taste smell can actually improve your mood by up to 40%. What is even more interesting is that smell is known to be a powerful trigger of memories. Far more so than sight or touch and the memories are often in the subconscious where people are not able to draw on them freely until they are triggered.

With a greater understanding of the brain and how it interprets information from our senses we now know that smell initially triggers an emotional response long before it reaches cognitive recognition and your brain says “ah yes, that is orange, or strawberry”. For example the calming effect of chamomile tea is felt before you register what the actual smell of chamomile is. Studies have also shown that certain smells hold associations with certain feelings and emotions. Basic examples include:

Romance – Jasmine and rose

Energies – Citrus and zesty

Calming / relax – Lavender, sandalwood, chamomile

Refresh / uplift – eucalyptus and mint.


The consumer and brand world has been aware of this for a while and have been pumping smells and odours through their shops and establishments since. Used for a variety of uses for everything from increasing sales and driving profit, to lowering consumers awareness and uplifting their mood whilst waiting in a cue to keeping members of staff happy.

They have been refining this process, on and off, at 69 Colebrooke row since 2009. The idea of creating an ambience in a bar is nothing new, however the medians being used for the most part have been d├ęcor, staff attitude, body language, music, furniture, buzz etc. The simple addition of adding a smell to the mix is something so glaringly obvious it is strange that it has not been going on for longer. Especially as we have just seen how powerful of an asset it can be to any bar or restaurant.

Originally inspired by research from Dr Charles Spence into how the senses can affect flavour and how both your perceptions and preconceptions are highly influential in what you taste. The smells are now used to diffuse a mood around the bar and become an extension of the service, ambience and atnosphere the bar wants to project.

For instance Leather scent was used during winter to create a warm, homely, feel, similar to being in a front room or somewhere comfortable. During the summer months leather was exchanged for fresh grass, which is no doubt bound to bring back memories of laying in fields in the suns rays and evoking that feel of carelessness and joy that summer brings.

The experimentation did not stop there as they played with mixing scents, and adding subtle notes to existing profiles to create unique and bespoke scents that can be used to invoke, potentially, any mood you can imagine.

A good example of a culmination of all the research and study into sensory perceptions came to a head at last years Bar Show, when Drink Factory created the “Havana Pod”. The pod was a home to a sensory feast, created to take you back to Cuba. Featuring circadian lighting, layered music and everyday noises played in the pod, whilst aromas pumped into the pod. Staffed by two suitable dressed bartenders to finish the illusion.

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