Last week, Space Doctors HQ was treated to a feast of scents courtesy of a very special guest, Odette Toilette. Odette came to talk to us about smells; from Lynx Axe to jasmine as represented in Raymond Chandler’s 1920s noir detective stories, and the mysterious and significant ties that link our senses and our experience.

Odette Toilette, aka Lizzie Ostrom is a smell enthusiast. Pioneer of the ‘Scratch & Sniff’ olfactory adventure evenings and now author of the beautiful, ‘Perfume: A Century of Scents’, she is an expert in experiencing the world through her nose. Space Doctors HQ was lucky enough to host Lizzie for a session in which she guided us through the world of perfumes, examining the legacy of smells and probing at the associations that we hold.

The world of perfume has come a long way since the days of lingering next to advertisements for contraception in the papers with their descriptively ascribed names (‘New Mown Hay’ or JFK favourite, ‘Jockey Club’). However, it is remarkable how many of the seemingly anachronistic ways of looking at the world still hold our imagination in the arena of smells. Scents evoke within us a sense of different behaviour and character traits, and we often judge what smell would suit someone based on a number of inconsequential factors such as hair colour, skin tone or personality (though we have moved on from handwriting analysis). It has been a long time since a 1915 play was inspiring an actress to act by giving her a perfume jag, but we still rely on these ‘olfactory truths’ to interpret our nasal surroundings and this demonstrates how easily we can be led, like a bull with a nose ring, from smell to conclusions.

However, there are legendary fragrances from the last hundred years, which seem so familiar to us, behemoth bouquets such as Black Narcissus, Aramis and Drakkar Noir can tell us so much about the world, from how gender expresses itself to the impact of cultural change. But perhaps more interestingly, these scents allow us to explore ourselves, who we are and were, and the memories that we have that imbue meaning into the world around us.

Odette is an inspiring and wonderful speaker who opened our noses to the power of scent, and inspired a renewed zest for a total sensorial approach to analysing the world.

You can follow Odette on twitter @odettetoilette and her events and her book are most definitely worth closer inspection.