The beauty of decay

For her latest project, commissioned by the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum for the fifth installment of its Design Triennial, she tackled the scent of Central Park. Tolaas has done location-focused works in the past, capturing the scents of places such as Istanbul and Greenland, and with Manhattan’s most famous park in the Cooper Hewitt’s backyard, it made sense to develop a work based on that area.

But as the theme of this year’s Triennial is “Beauty,” Tolaas sought to play against what she calls “the classic clichés” of the word. When someone tries to imagine a “beautiful smell,” he or she might imagine perfume, fragrant food or some other pleasing scent. But for this show, Tolaas says, “I wanted to show the other side, and look at the beauty of decay.”

— Scent artist Sissel Tolaas has a touch-and-smell wall at the Cooper Hewitt's Design Triennial, open now through August 21. Read more at Can Smell Be a Work of Art? at Smithsonian Magazine.

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Parfums Raffy

The putrid odor

The “Exhilarated Room” is a funhouse of crystalline mirrors, like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, dotted with flower-like patterns and accompanied by the putrid odor of what’s described to me as “Blooming Peony and Cherry.”


The museum is not a museum at all. It is an elaborate, walk-through advertisement for Glade products, complete with some very attentive brand ambassadors dressed in costume. But the marketing aspect has not stopped visitors from standing in a line that snakes around a luxury mall.

— Jared Keller of the Smithsonian ("Fear and Loathing at the Museum of Feelings") and Katie Rogers of The New York Times ("Selfies and a Sales Pitch at the Museum of Feelings") are not amused by Glade's popup museum in New York City.

Enfleurage Sanctuary, Roses & Amber ~ fragrance reviews

Enfleurage house blends

Was it really six years ago that I wrote a shopping report about Enfleurage, New York’s most specialized purveyor of natural aromatics? Yes, apparently. The boutique has since moved to a new address (237 West 13 Street, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood) but its staggering selection of essential oils and natural incenses remains unchanged. I still sniff individual oils during each of my visits, but I’m also very fond of Enfleurage’s “house blends.” They’re available as concentrated oils and as “roll-ons to go,” diluted in a base of organic jojoba oil for ready-to-wear use.

My favorite house blend is Sanctuary, a blend of ylang ylang, chamomile, patchouli, clary sage and black pepper…

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Fragrant, fresh-roasted coffee

One particularly effective display shows how perception shifts . Press the top button, and you get a whiff of old, cold coffee, stale grounds in a soggy filter at the end of the day. Press the bottom button, and you get a noseful of real skunkiness, furfuryl mercaptan. But press both buttons at once, and the two unpleasant compounds blend together to evoke fragrant, fresh-roasted coffee.

— The new Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn features a number of smelly items in their inaugural exhibit, Flavor: Making It and Faking It. Read more at This Smell Synthesizer Lets You Sniff And Play Flavors Like Music at Popular Science.