Can You Smell the Rain?

Can You Smell the Rain?

We can all imagine the appearance, feeling, sound and even taste of rain but do you know how it smells?

That fresh and distinctly earthy aroma after rainfall is called petrichor (petra, meaning ‘stone’, + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology)

A combination of natural factors contribute to the petrichor essence. One factor of the fragrance is from oils exuded by certain plants during dry periods which is then absorbed by soil and rocks. The other factor is geosmin (derived from the Greek γεω- “earth” and ὀσμή “smell”). The organic compound is derived from chemical reactions between several microorganisms and bacteria found in soil and is the reason for the earthy aroma and flavor of beets and some freshwater fish. Studies have shown that humans are particularly sensitive to geosmin and can detect its scent in concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion.

During rainfall, the oils absorbed by the soil and geosmin are emitted from the wet ground and become diffused into the air, creating the truly unique and memorable aroma. The smell of petrichor resonates with all humans, and some believe it is so pleasant to our palate because historically, our ancestors must have associated rain with survival.

Due to the popularity and appreciation of this after rain scent, many perfumers have synthesized the petrichor fragrance to create a truly unique sensory experience. Air Aroma also developed their own petrichor fragrance featuring earthy top notes and patchouli evoking thoughts of fresh beginnings, with gorse bush and moss nodding to feelings of adventure and connection with nature.

With the development of synthetic fragrances, perfumers have been able to capture and recreate some of the most extraordinary fragrances. In turn, these fragrances can evoke an existing and personal connection through memory, experience or emotion.

Following petrichor, some of the most creative and unexpected scents have been synthesized and used in main stream perfumery. A few examples include Commes des Garcons 2011 Commes des Garcon use of industrial glue and brown sticky tape, The Soft Lawn Imaginary Authors feature the smell of tennis balls, and Parisienne Yves Saint Laurent has a bold undertone of vinyl.

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