Fragrances & Memory: Exploring the Connection Between Scent & How We Experience Memories


Exploring the Connection Between Scent & How We Experience Memories

Though just about anything can create nostalgia, there’s something special about fragrances’ ability to evoke fond memories. Something about memories triggered by scents seems to reach much further back in our minds and conjure up much clearer images than almost any other sense. So, why is that? How are scents linked to memory, and how do smell and memory interact? Let’s take a closer look.

The Olfactory System Explained

The olfactory system is responsible for your sense of smell, using specialized sensory neurons to detect different scents. Anything that emits a scent is actually emitting scent molecules, and when these molecules come into contact with an olfactory receptor neuron, an electrical impulse is transmitted to the brain, where it is interpreted and registered in your memory. Most of these cells can be found in the olfactory bulb, a small lump of nervous tissue found in both nasal cavities.

Though not directly linked to your memories, the olfactory system plays a role in recalling certain experiences. So, where exactly does the connection between odors and memory occur? To answer that question, we’ll have to delve deeper into the biology of the brain itself.

What is Scent Memory?

Once your brain has been given a new scent and registered it as a memory, coming into contact with that scent again may remind you of the first encounter, especially after many repeated exposures. This is why we may get hungry when we smell food cooking or leave the room when there’s an unpleasant scent. More importantly, however, this allows us to associate long-term memories with scents, often causing certain scents to be our favorites as a result.

Here, we need to take a look at the brain as well as the nose. Explicit memory, which encompasses memories of sights, sounds, experiences, and the like, is stored in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, while the limbic system handles emotional responses and instinctual reactions to these memories. As they are closely linked, the limbic system often carries an emotional memory of sorts, where the emotions one felt during a certain experience are felt once more when that experience is recalled.

Our brains are designed to recognize patterns, and though its original purpose was likely a survival instinct, it now serves as the driving force behind our likes and dislikes in general. When we undergo certain experiences that we associate with a smell, we may form an opinion of that smell based on the positivity or negativity of that experience. The result of this is a conditioning of sorts. A smell causes memories to be recalled and those recollections cause an emotional response. After numerous exposures, recollections, and responses, we often begin to associate emotions with the scent itself, firmly cementing the emotional response in our minds.

Nostalgic Scents

Now that you know what goes into the process of scent memory, you may be looking for the perfect fragrance to recall your favorite moments and relive the best times of your life. If so, take a look at a few fragrances that may remind you of different times, moments, or experiences in your life.

Burberry London for Men by Burberry

For people who are always waiting for the holidays to roll around again, Burberry London for Men by Burberry is the perfect fragrance. Described by many wearers as a cologne that smells like Christmas, it features warm, comforting, and nostalgic scent notes like spicy pepper and cinnamon, soothing lavender, dry leather, and rich, smoky tobacco. It’s perfect for reminiscing about the holidays on a chilly winter day.


Petrichor for Women & Men by Demeter

If you, like many people, can’t get enough of petrichor, the scent of rain on fresh earth, Petrichor for Women & Men by Demeter is just the thing you’re looking for. Featuring only two prominent scent accords, water notes, and an earthy tincture, it’s a fragrance that finds beauty in simplicity, perfect for someone who takes life slowly and appreciates the little things like the first few delicate moments after the rain has passed.


Wood Sage & Sea Salt for Women & Men by Jo Malone

For those with fond memories of the ocean, Wood Sage & Sea Salt for Women & Men by Jo Malone perfectly captures the feeling of a day out on the coast. It’s a sharp, aromatic marine fragrance that features titular notes of sage and sea salt with a few subtle hints of citrus for added complexity. Its light, airy, almost ephemeral nature is the perfect choice for a hot summer day and is sure to bring up calming memories of a day out on the water.


Whether you want to find the perfect fragrance for the sake of nostalgia or to add a new signature scent to your wardrobe, we at Fragrance Market are here to provide, so feel free to visit our shop!


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