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Thoughts on Olfactory Transcendence

An interview with Belinda Smith, the creative directive and founder of ST. ROSE natural artisan fragrances, on the important of exploring scent’s role in our physical and emotional well-being.

Of the five senses, only one is uniquely linked to memory and emotion. It has been shown that the impression of scent lingers longer in memories than that of any other sense. That may be because the part of the brain which deals in emotion in memory, known as the limbic system, holds within it the olfactory bulb, where scent carries from your nose to the cells of our brains in an instant. Belinda Smith, the creative directive and founder of ST. ROSE natural artisan fragrances, expounds on the important of exploring scent’s role in our physical and emotional well-being.

natureofthings

How does scent make a lingering impression in one's mind? How does it touch us deeply within?

Belinda Smith

The transportive aspect of fragrance is probably my favourite part of my work. An invisible artform but such a powerful one, fragrance is truly instant armchair travel having this magical ability to send us off to distant places or to another time. Intrinsically intimate, scent recall is also entirely personal based on our own life experiences and the memories that certain aromas evoke for us.

A romantic notion that has appeared in literature countless times and perhaps most famously by French novelist Marcel Proust whom, in his ‘Remembrance of all Things Past’, wrote that a bite of a madeleine vividly recalled childhood memories of his aunt giving him the very same cake before going to mass on a Sunday.

The intimate connection between emotions, memories and scents is largely due to the way our brains process scent. An aroma molecule floats in through the nose and into the brain's olfactory bulbs, where the sensation is first processed into a form that's readable by the brain. Brain cells then carry that information to a tiny area of the brain called the amygdala, where emotions are processed, and then to the adjoining hippocampus, where learning and memory formation take place. Scents are the only sensations that travel such a direct path to the emotional and memory centers of the brain.

The Latin meaning of the word perfuma means “by smoke”…Using aromatic smoke has been used as a way to clear and clean spaces and energies, make offerings, and carry intentions and prayers out to the divinity in all its forms.

natureofthings

Scent, in the form of sacred smoke, has been used for centuries. Why does scent play such an important role in the purification of space and the body?

SMITH

The Latin meaning of the word perfuma means “by smoke” and was originally applied to the burning of incense, sacred herbs, resins, or wood and used in ceremony practiced by cultures the world over. Using aromatic smoke has been used as a way to clear and clean spaces and energies, make offerings, and carry intentions and prayers out to the divinity in all its forms. Smoke permeates the air both in visual and olfactive form. You can see its path and how it spreads, evaporating into the ether. This transportive aspect serving as a symbol for all life matter traveling from the physical to an otherworldly state.

From Native Americans using white sage to palo santo or “holy wood” in South America and sandalwood in Australia, ancient wisdom has always turned to the Earth for transcendent elements to heal and protect mind, body, and soul.

natureofthings

How is scent linked to the human experience, or moreover, what can it do for our well-being?

SMITH

The term “functional fragrance” is becoming a bit trendy but this is far from a new concept. Aromatherapy and Ayurveda practices of using aromatic materials to improve one’s health is as old as antiquity. Modern studies of neuroscience have shown that these ancient wellness methodologies are not just mere folklore substantiating the fact that scent can significantly promote stress reduction and improve mood. Studies on lavender show that it can treat insomnia and reduce anxiety. Inhaling rose or orange essential oils can increase feelings of comfort and relaxation.

natureofthings

Our noses have been subjected to synthetic scents for the past several years. Why is important for fragrances to be from derived from natural scents?

SMITH

For ST. ROSE we feel that there is a beautiful harmony in working with natural botanical materials from plants and flowers steeped in the ancient wisdom. Every ingredient on our perfumer’s palette has a story, a history and the mystery and allure imprinted from where these aromatic elements are grown offers more than just a cosmetic indulgence but rather reaches into the ancient realms of the spiritual and ritual aspects of perfumery.

From the fragrant cliffs of Calabria, Italy where our citrus orchards overlook the sparkling crystal waters of the Ionian Sea that breathes a bright uplifting sparkle to our citrus ingredients to the vast red earth of Western Australia, that nourishes our soulful rich sandalwood with an aroma of the sun beating down on a desert terrain.

Everything we apply to our bodies is either absorbed or washes off into the ocean.

natureofthings

Is there a health benefit to clean formulations?

SMITH

Everything we apply to our bodies is either absorbed or washes off into the ocean. Our clean formulation approach encompasses both people and planet. The quality of ST. ROSE fragrances is the result of rigorous selection of ingredients. We are ever vigilant about devoting exhaustive efforts to ensure that every single ingredient on our perfumers' palette has been vetted against the strictest criteria available. We also proudly share our ingredient list with full transparency.

natureofthings

What exactly does it mean for a fragrance to be natural and artisan-made?

SMITH

Our compositions are composed with raw botanical materials from plants and flowers as well as naturally-derived and nature identical aroma molecules ... ST. ROSE natural essential oils are ethically sourced from around the world. Often rare, they are gathered and harvested by modern and ancient methods. Seasonal crops and delicate processing through steam distillation or extraction is a laborious and time extensive art to yield the final essence.

Driven by the innovation of green science we use aroma molecules to incorporate vegan musk as well as naturally-derived and nature identical molecules when there is a hypoallergenic or eco-beneficial purpose.

Gentle to skin and Earth ... the base of our perfumes is organic sugarcane alcohol which provides a highly pure blend for our fragrance oils and it is also an energy efficient crop.

natureofthings

How do you ensure that your materials are sustainably and ethically sourced

SMITH

Creating relationships directly with farms and suppliers at origin ensures that raw materials are sourced responsibly, with a stable supply and that local producers and their communities benefit as well. One beautiful story of this is our sandalwood farm back home in Western Australia that received the 2019 highly coveted United Nation’s Equator Prize not only for their incredible environmental initiatives but also due to their 50/50 business partnership with the local Aboriginal community which has had an incredible socio-economic impact.

natureofthings

What are some of your favorite raw materials to formulate with? Why?

SMITH

I am always personally drawn to woods and spice aromatic notes like peppercorn, ginger, palo santo and vetiver. I also love bergamot and neroli for their uplifting properties. However my favourite is sandalwood, it has been a highly coveted ingredient in perfumery for thousands of years. It has also been used
for medicinal and spiritual purposes by the First People of Australia for over 60,000 years. Our supplier in Western Australia have become beautiful friends and the gift of wisdom of the healing and protective aspects to sandalwood has been such a gift to me. So much so, that I incorporate it into each of our scents as our olfactive signature. It is in the highest concentration in Desert Nomad.

To inspire is literally from the Latin “to breath in.” Taking a moment to spray on your fragrance while setting an intention for the day or using it as a moment for gratitude.

natureofthings

How can one make a ritualistic moment out of applying their fragrance?

SMITH

To inspire is literally from the Latin “to breath in.” Taking a moment to spray on your fragrance while setting an intention for the day or using it as a moment for gratitude. Taking a few extra deep breaths is such a simple but powerful way to begin a day.

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