While doing research for my recent post “Smells That Sell”, I encountered an fascinating article by the Social Issues Research Centre on the scents most prized in non-Western cultures. Fried onions, manure and rain are highly desireable odors in certain places for reasons making perfect sense in those environments.
Many non-Western societies regard smell as “the emperor of the senses.” For them, noses play a central part in communications and local customs. This sense can be so finely honed that people know who is related simply by sniffing body odors.
The article also explains how the modern Western world came to devalue the sense of smell (outside of the realms of perfume-making and wine-tasting). Perhaps the popularity of aromatherapy will eventually lead our society back to a deeper appreciation of our noses.