Smellosophy: What the nose tells the mind

written by A.S. Barwich

published by Harvard University Press

Have you ever wanted to know why wine smells the way it does? How do all those aromas get into the glass from something as humble as a grape? I did and still do. This book goes a long way to summarise the situation at hand, and if you are a wine nerd or even a science nerd, like me you will enjoy this book.

The book covers the historical background of perceptual research, because we soon learn there really has not been much research or consideration for our sense of smell until quite recently. It is regrettable, however, it is understandable. Consider this, how would you even begin to study scent? Does the same rose smell the same to me as it does to you? Will it smell the same tomorrow and the day after?

So would I recommend this book to find out why and how we smell? Yes, and no.

Yes, because it is written well, absolutely fascinating and gives you fantastic background and for a basic level chemistry student, it is fairly understandable. (I did occasionally have to google a thing or two… its been 16 years since CHEM101, after all!) It is also, for those like me who love texture and the feel of a real book, very well presented (…and smells great). You learn a few things a long the way, around molecules and how complex the concept of wine chemistry is and even more complex when you bring in the interaction with the human brain and individual’s perception. Ahhh!!! You also go on a journey of human perception, and how we interact with the world and the smells around us. It’s definitely on the recommend list if you are at all interested in the sense of smell and the wonder it gives us.

No, because it doesn’t answer the question I wanted it to. That’s not the author’s fault, though. There is not yet an answer to the question of why Pinot Noir from one vineyard smells like the most incredible thing on the planet or why Chenin Blanc can be off-putting for aromas that I normally find attractive. I will continue the search!

You can buy the book directly here, or find it through your usual channels.

If you’re not a reader but still to get a gist of the content watch this great interview with the author, here

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