Why there are more food-scented flavors
In March, independent perfume brand DS & Durga launched an eau de parfum called Bistro Waters, inspired by 90s restaurants in New York. There is a base of basil, nutmeg and moss water, with a heart of tangerine, green pepper and pea flower, complemented by top notes of lime blossom, coriander seed and pear. . The scent is light and crisp, but decidedly tasty too.
“This is a snapshot of a 90s-00s New York bistro where tourists ordered peartinis, vegetables got fancy and people wore cool water vapers,” writes DS & Durga co-founder David Seth Moltz, in the perfume’s lining notes.
The team has confirmed that the name of their new fragrance is a nod to a recent QG trending story about what writer Jason Diamond (who has written for Eater in the past) calls Bistro Vibes. “Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s signature restaurant in Beverly Hills – in its heyday in the 80s and 90s – is the spiritual center of Bistro Vibes. It’s the clothes, the sounds and the general mood. It’s not just about the restaurant’s dated but elevated food, or the funky, mass-culture version of celebrity that has thrived there,” Diamond writes. “It’s also about the clothes famous people wore in places like Spago, and how they wore them.”
Diamond here refers to a specific iconic location in Los Angeles, but the same could apply to the swagger of the biggest restaurant scene at the time – and it’s that same spirit that the fragrance hopes to embolden wearers. to feel. DS & Durga co-founders Moltz and Kavi Ahuja Moltz told Eater that they actually sparked their relationship at one of the most notorious restaurants to open in the wake of that time: Moltz was a waiter at Pure Food & Wine, the restaurant filled with celebrities. raw food restaurant that is the subject of a new Netflix crime documentary series, where he first met then-customer Ahuja Moltz.
Food-themed fragrances are by no means new. Years ago, Virginia’s Pork Barrel BBQ released a flavor inspired by the smoky scent of its meat rubs. In 2012, Pizza Hut launched its own flavor, ostensibly for rabid fans looking to keep the stream of dough and tomato sauce lingering on their bodies long after they’ve finished a slice. Scents like these are sort of extensions of other kitsch food scent experiments popularized in the 1990s and early years and marketed to young people — like scented markers and scratch-and-sniff stickers. A decade later, however, perfumers are launching their own culinary-inspired scents into the luxury sector, with bottles priced upwards of $200.
New Jersey-based scent studio CB I nHate has launched Here Piggy, infused with a scent of white truffle. In San Francisco, the Ministry of Scent perfumery offers a whole section dedicated to gourmet scents, including Laromatica’s interpretation of kulfi. Meanwhile, Le Labo has a scent meant to evoke matcha. DS & Durga, for its part, has long been inspired by offbeat ingredients. In 2019, he released a scented candle that turns the smells of coffee and almond croissants into a luxurious home accessory — an elevated Yankee Candle, if you will — and its pistachio scent immediately sold out when it launched. earlier this year.
These perfumes are not gimmicks. Rather, they reflect the ever-increasing role of food in a larger culture. More and more, food is in fashion. You can wear a sequined burger-shaped handbag or a $300 t-shirt emblazoned with an image from a popular cookbook. And now you can smell your favorite Indian dessert or even your memory of a restaurant from the 90s.
Technology is catching up to meet the growing desire for experimental fragrances like those made by DS & Durga. Perfume designers often use what’s called an accord – several scent notes blended together – to create the scent of a hard-to-estimate ingredient. Previously, it was not possible for perfumers to simply squeeze a fruit and turn it into its distilled oil version. But the world of fragrances is changing to allow for more infusions of culinary ingredients. “Green pepper extract was just launched last year using a new biotechnology,” says Moltz, of the recently patented process he used for Bistro Waters. He adds that it has the potential to inspire more “gourmet” fragrances in the future.
There is an inextricable link between flavor and smell. Neuroscientists have long studied the connection between smell and memory, but taste also plays an important role. “[Food molecules during chewing] make their way retronasally to your nasal epithelium,” writes Venkatesh Murthy of Harvard, chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, in the Harvard Gazette. More simply, he adds: “Anything that you consider a flavor is a smell. When you eat all the beautiful, complicated flavors… they’re all fragrant. It is therefore normal that perfumers strive to bottle the flavor.
Recreating memories of past restaurants via scent also seems particularly ripe in the age of COVID-19 where retaining smell, and therefore taste nuance, is in some ways a privilege. But if food-inspired scents become a trend in their own right, it’ll be thanks to scents like Bistro Waters. “We don’t follow perfume trends, I just like being influenced by things outside of the perfume world and looking to other influences like restaurants,” says Moltz, explaining why he found himself drawn to food flavors. “Just like painters try to capture a moment with their brushes, I just try to do it with an aroma.” Right now, it seems, the time is about food.