Meaning Making in Artistic Perfumery - Lecture by Dr Claus Noppeney at Esxence 2012

30th March, 2012

Dr Claus Noppeney is based at Bern University in Switzerland, he has received funding from the Swiss Science Foundation and collaborated with the perfume house Humiecki & Graf to look at how perfume is written about and how blog writers and journalists bring meaning to the experience of smelling perfume.

With the help of social science researches and economists, he has tried to break down, something which he admits is very subjective, in the most objective way possible. Part of his stated aims were also analyse trends, look at the way in which meaning is injected in each stage of the creation process, and to examine ‘knowledge related qualities’ , when writing about the sense of smell.

The perfume followed by Dr Noppeney was Blask by Humiecki & Graef, recording conversations between the perfumer and those who had written the initial brief. The concept behind the perfume he told us was the sense of trust, in particular inter-generational trust. He tracked the process from brief, to photography campaign to blogger reaction.

Some of the research presented at the lecture was a study of a wide range of perfume blogs examining the content trends they contained. He found that it is the particular perfume itself which interests the writers and not the brand as a whole, so each review tends to be on a perfume by perfume basis. [Basenotes would suggest that the research did not go into the brands that do command loyalty and attention such as Thierry Mugler, Guerlain, Chanel, Comme des Garcons, Serge Lutens and it might be profitable to look at why these Houses enjoy the following that they do.

The researchers working with Dr Noppeney also deconstructed how bloggers make meaning in writing about Artistic Perfumery.

They share in common:

  • exclusivity - they are the only ones who are smelling this
  • smell as a personal experience
  • olfactory competence as a special skill and
  • dominance of the visual sense (all contained a high degree of visual references)

And is seems that the blogs studied by the group also share some patterns:

  • Spontaneous - knee-jerk reactions, like dislike
  • Olfactory Notes - experience/ expertise (with lots of subjectivity and disagreement on notes)
  • Qualifying Scents - statements which judge the scents: originality, innovation, composition, olfactory art piece
  • Trans sensual meaning

In Conclusion:

Dr Noppeney findings regarding writing about Artistic Perfumery were that

  • Writing enables higher stages of meaning making - it is part of the creative process in perfumery
  • Meaning making is part of appropriating the scent - making it your own experience
  • Scent is more than scent!
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About the author: Lila Das Gupta

Lila Das Gupta is a London based journalist with an interest in all things olfactory. Lila also organises the Perfume Lover's London meet-up group.


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    • KarmaLee | 30th March 2012 13:07

      Very interesting to see how writers add to the meaning making of perfumery. Thanks for sharing this.

    • JGbeader | 1st April 2012 10:25

      This is excellent! Thanks to Basenotes for providing such interesting articles to read.