We’ve all heard how smell is closely linked to memory. How does this affect our choices when it comes to lighting a scented candle? We’ll take you into the wonderful world of your olfactory system, then look at how this can help you choose the perfect fragrances for yourself and others.

How our sense of smell works

Here, as they say, is the science bit. Smells are received by our olfactory bulb, which is inside the nose. The olfactory bulb then passes through the parts of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. These belong to our “primitive brain” (that is, our feeling rather than our intellectual side), and control our moods, emotions, behaviour – and memories.

Three of our other senses – sight, hearing and touch – don’t pass through this area, which explains why smells arouse memories more keenly than sights and sounds do.

The emotional effect of scents

However, it’s not simply a case of the smell travelling through the remembering part of our brain, nudging our hippocampus on the way. This part of the brain is responsible for associated learning, so every new scent forms a link to an event, thing or person. This is why we associate specific makes of perfume with certain people in our lives, or remember a particular night out if we smell a curry.

This explains why we can all have a different response to the same smell. If you’ve always loved November 5th, you’ll have a positive reaction to the gunpowdery smell of fireworks. However, if you were scared of the bangs and flashes when you were little, you’ll have a negative reaction to the same scent.

Choosing a scented candle that connects with you

Once we understand how powerful a memory-trigger scent is, we can then choose fragrances with positive associations. Many of our favourite fragrances come from childhood associations. If you loved seaside holidays as a child or grew up by the sea, try our Rock Salt & Driftwood scented candle. Maybe you have lovely memories of your grandma’s rose garden, or walking the dogs in the forest: in which case, the English Rose or Bluebell Wood candles from our Spring range are wonderfully evocative choices.

You can use smells to create an ambience that makes you feel happy and secure, on a far deeper and more meaningful level than you’d initially imagine. When you burn that English Rose scented candle, you’re not only making your home smell gorgeous, you’re connecting with loving relationships and good times from your childhood.

Selecting a scented candle for others

If smell is so personal, how do you choose a scented candle as a gift?  If you want to play it safe, go with the flow and have a look at this recent poll of favourite smells: the freshness after rain, vanilla, sea breezes and roses all rank highly (we’ve got a candle for all of those!). However, it’s actually pretty easy to guess which fragrances will have a positive association based on your friend or loved one’s lifestyle and everyday tastes.

Choosing for a sophisticated chap who enjoys a single malt in the comfort of their leather armchair? Cuban Tobacco & Oak is perfect for them. A Christmas-loving friend will have a happy response to a Spiced Orange candle at any time of year, while the keen gardener in your life will appreciate the evocative scent of Lavender.

Have a look through our full range of evocative scented candles, and see which ingredients speak to you. If you need any help choosing that perfect fragrance, please get in touch with us at Dexter & Mason.