I’ve been talking about this for years on my blog based on my experiences with testers during the process of creating scents, and the studies keep coming in to support what we perfumistas have suspected for ages: our different sets of scent receptors in our noses make us smell scents differently. A study by Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia (published in the Nature Neuroscience Journal) found that 30% of scent receptors can vary from one person to the next. That’s a surprisingly big difference.
We tend to be quick to say that a scent doesn’t smell good on our skin when we dislike something and don’t want to hurt the feelings of fans of the scent, but it can be both our skin and our noses that are different. Sometimes you can put the same scent on two different people and the same nose will smell it differently on those people. But if many different people smell the same scent on a paper strip, taking skin out of the equation, they will experience it differently. Their receptors will pick up different aroma molecules in the scent to different degrees, changing the scent experience.
This is partly why it is impossible to create a universal scent that everyone loves and why we need options to choose from (though maybe not as many options as the crazy explosion of new scent offerings in recent years!). It’s also why you’ll see different people online describe the same scent so differently, and why it’s important to try samples for yourself rather than going by what others say. And of course, personal preferences based on experiences and upbringing are added on top of genetic scent receptor differences, which further complicates the scent experience.
If you are interested in this topic, the article at the link is worth a quick read. You can find other posts on my blog on this topic by clicking on the tag “genetics” below this post.