Can You Smell ALL the Smell out of Something?

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“DON’T TAKE ALL OF THE SMELL!” is often exclaimed during our free Aromatic Tastings at the Aroma Lab. It happens as each tasting group passes around little cups containing invisible clouds of the scent molecules that make up Aromas such as freshly cut Cilantro or warm Chocolate Birthday Cake. Inevitably, this exclamation is followed by the question: Wait, can you even smell up an entire smell?

What is a Smell and How Does it Travel?

First, a smell is created when a substance releases volatile (able to vaporize) molecules light enough to be lifted and carried through the air. To find out what a smell looks like, researchers at CU Boulder’s Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory pumped a fluorescent chemical that mimics the physical properties of an Aroma into a 50-foot long tank of water. Cue psychedelic art show, including high powered lasers. Check out a video of the scene published by PBS: Science Hour.

The study revealed that when airborne scent molecules diffuse through the environment, they don’t move in a tight uniform. Instead, they swirl around like a wild mash up of an octopus blob and a multi-tentacled sci-fi creature. Long arms haphazardly shoot about, stretching and thinning into long curling filaments. These taffy-like strands churn, folding back into themselves until it’s impossible to tell which strand is which.

Discover more about how Aroma behaves in these Odor Navigation studies sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the White House Brain Initiative.

What Happens When Aroma Meets Nose?

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The odor molecules drift along the air, slowly integrating into the world. Should even a few of these nano-sized molecules happen to reach an inhaling nose, the human body essentially absorbs them. Once sucked up into a nasal passage, the odor molecules bind to olfactory receptors that lie in the far back of the inside of the nose. This causes an electrical response that transmits a signal directly to an area of the brain called the Olfactory Bulb. There, the chemical composition of the Aroma is determined and identified. For example, a single whiff of our Feast of Field and Forest Aromatic Mist triggers the savory & hearty experience of garlic, thyme, oregano, mushroom, black pepper, butter and white truffle.

So, Can You Sniff Away an Aroma?

When you inhale an aroma, an odd kind of tug-of-war happens.

“The odor essentially gets stretched out, so you end up with very thin regions of strong, concentrated smells” Says Aaron True, a postdoctoral researcher in CU Boulder’s Environmental Fluid Mechanics Lab, “But then right next to it, you’ll have a region with a very low signal, very low odor.”

The very act of sniffing may actually create pockets of empty, scent-less space within an aroma cloud. But because Aroma is dynamic and constantly moving, these empty spaces are soon flooded and filled in with new scent molecules.

When a scent is contained in the headspace of a cup or glass (like A&M’s Aromatic Mists over a cocktail) it is possible to identify how long it would take to smell up all of a smell.

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A&M Aromatic Mists and Elixirs are highly concentrated expressions of botanicals that naturally emit high frequencies of Aroma. We’ve captured and bottled these molecules, closely studying how they interact with the human olfactory system.

Yes, we actually can tell you how long it takes to smell up all of a smell. Following our recommended two spritzes of Aromatic Mist per use, it takes exactly 15 minutes for all of those Aroma molecules to be swept up into your nose. Which, by our measurement, is how long it takes the average person to reach the final sip of a delicious cocktail. Coincidence? Definitely not. Cheers!