This really nice article written in Traveller shows how our memory and fragrance are intrinsically linked. Diffusing a fragrance is a must have for a hotel which needs to be as welcoming as a home and instantly relax its guests, making them feel comfortable. It's important to contact Ambient Scenting experts as Scent Australia or the result can be not as good as expected.
Fragrance is a powerful thing. Via our olfactory membrane our central nervous systems make contact with the outside world. The scent of a room, a tree, a nursery pudding, evokes memories and moods more effectively than any other sensation our minds process.
You don't need Doctor Who's Tardis to be transported to another time and era. Whenever I smell Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps, I'm back in North Balwyn as a teenage girl, going to the prom dance at Kew Town Hall. It's amazing how clear those memories are when guided by scent.
There's a trend for independent hotels and chains to develop signature fragrances, which are diffused throughout public spaces and corridors.
I was recently in a hotel in Asia and I could have found it with my eyes closed by smell alone. It wasn't unpleasant at all, but it was overpowering.
Those fascinating people who design flavours and fragrances don't have their eye on your nose, but your emotions. Bespoke fragrances are often designed to evoke a specific mood or ambience. Hotels that wish to feel warm and a bit masculine, for instance, might diffuse notes of Russian leather, patchouli or cedar.
Ideally, for the hotel, the signature fragrance stimulates good memories each time a guest returns. And specific memories can be evoked, such as the cosy sensation of being holed up with a good book.
When the Le Meridien group asked a perfumer to create a fragrance for its hotels, it wanted to evoke the scent of a library. The perfumers found an old copy of Saint Exupery's Le Petit Prince, and formulated an ambient perfume based on it.
I'm not sure anyone would walk into a Le Meridien and declare "Oh, yes, that smells like my childhood volume of The Little Prince," but perhaps they might feel the warm, fuzzy feeling that reading an old volume stirs.
Mostly, fortunately, the art of scenting hotels is a subtle one. If it's done well, it's barely noticeable. The lobbies of Mandarin Oriental hotels offer hints of zesty orange, the Westin wafts its spaces with a white tea fragrance and you'll smell a touch of ginger and lily in the lobby of a Langham hotel. They calm or lift the spirits, according to design.
Most of this eau de hospitality is transportable, as hotels package their fragrances and sell them in their gift shops. The grand hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano has 12 fragrances now, since it launched its first, Eau D'Italie in 2008. Maharaja Gai Singh of Jaipur has collaborated with perfumer Penhaligon's to create a fragrance called Vaara for his palace hotels. If you can't make it to Rajasthan you can buy the scent of its palaces online.
Taking this concept even further, New York's Plaza markets fragrances "inspired" by the hotel but not actually used in it.
The whiff of luxury is big business. You may not be able to bring your hotel room home (although some also sell their beds) but memories of your stay are only a sniff away.