Part One was back here

Here is Part Two:
in which How to Save the World temporarily sets aside the cares and fears of the day and indulges in some essential education, and then offers a savory segment of prose of somewhat questionable, er, taste. The item pictured at right is a taste bud, so cool your imagination.

taste bud iv. [smell] — chemistry lesson

From  jitterbug perfume by tom robbins:

Tangerine seems to work ok as the top note. It aerates rather quickly, but it rides the jasmine and doesn’t sink completely into it. With a middle note of jasmine, what we need is a base note with a floor of iron. It can’t just sit there, though, it has to rise up subtly and unite the tangerine somehow with that bodacious jasmine theme.


Scents are classified as notes based on their olfactory character. Top notes are those that are detected and fade first providing freshness to the blend. They are light scents that are usually citrus or grasses lasting 5-10 minutes. Middle notes are those that last several hours and are the most prominent within the fragrance. These are usually combinations of spicy, floral or fruit scents. Base notes give a perfume depth, last the longest and are generally animal or woodsy notes. A perfume is a unique mixture of top, middle, and base notes designed to give a particular harmony of scents.

Perfumes generally fall into several families based on the dominant note. These include spicy, leather/tobacco, woody, mossy, citrus, floral, and oriental, any of which may be formulated for men or women, although florals are not generally used in men’s fragrances. The floral scents of jasmine and rose are used in most women’s perfumes. Many of today’s fragrances contain vanilla or a synthetic form of vanilla. Most men’s fragrances contain patchouli, and musk or synthetic derivatives are used in most fine fragrances.

Essential oils are aromatic and highly volatile substances isolated from plant materials. Numerous extracts, each one having a distinctive character, are used in combination to formulate a fragrance. There is some overlap in tones or notes with some of these scent extracts. Some such as rosewood and ylang ylang have middle to base character and clary sage and fennel have top to middle character.

TOP – Cajaput, cardamon seed, basil, bergamot, citronella, coriander, eucalyptus, ginger, grapefruit, lemongrass, lemon, orange, lime, marigold, peppermint, petitgrain, sage, spearmint, tangerine, tea tree.
MIDDLE – Ambrete seed, black pepper, carrot seed, cassia, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, fir, cypress, juniper, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmrosa, pine, rose, rosemary, thyme, yarrow.
BASE- Amyris, anise, angelica root, clary sage, fennel, geranium, lavender, lavandin, balsam, cedarwood, frankincense, jasmine, myrrh, patchouli, rosewood, sandalwood, vetivert, ylang ylang.

Carrier oils are used to dilute and carry the fragrance for use as a perfume. Carrier oils come from nuts and seeds and are usually pressed out of commercially produced crops. The best carrier oils are stable to oxidation and have little or no fragrance of their own. The best choices of carrier oils are sweet almond, apricot, grapeseed, peach kernel, sesame seed, soybean, sunflower, avocado, wheatgerm and jojoba. Some of these oils can be used as the only carrier while others are only safe for skin use at 10-25% of the total. Wheatgerm oil should be avoided in those people with a wheat allergy and soybean oil can cause acne, allergic reactions or hair damage. Alcohol is added to perfumes to carry the fragrance by evaporation as well as dilute the ingredients. Perfumes contain 25% fragrance and about 75% alcohol and other diluents (carrier oils) by volume while cologne is composed of more than 90% diluent. Greater amounts of perfume concentrate translate into a longer lasting fragrance that needs to be reapplied less but at a higher price.

Fixatives are scented components that act to hold the fragrance together and regulate evaporation rate for the fragrant components. The fixatives often provide a base note and character to the mixture.Ambergis is found in tropical seas or on the shore as a concretion from the intestinal tract of the sperm whale. It is a gray to black waxy mass, very high in cholesterol and oil, with a characteristic odor. Ambergis has been in use since the 6th century. Civet is a semisolid, yellowish to brown, unpleasant smelling substance from anal glands of the civet cat. The isolated component civetone, produces a pleasant musky odor when used in extreme dilutions. It has been in popular use in perfumery since the 10th century. Musk obtained from plant and animal sources or by chemical synthesis adds a persistent musky aroma. Natural sources include the musk glands of the male musk deer, muskrat, and ambrette seeds.

The powerful “odour-memory-emotional recall” connection is called the Proust effect from his description “that sweet aroma released the vast structure of recollection”; a Scientific American study paraphrased this as “scent evokes a powerful and visceral remembrance, a rare experience of simultaneity”. Women generally have a much stronger sense of smell than men, though sensitivity varies throughout the menstrual cycle; the leading hypothesis is that this conveys selective procreation advantage as women sense and select as mates men whose antibodies (which emit distinctive smells) complement their own.

v. [taste] — guess

when i woke up i was blindfolded, and tied, déshabillé , with silk scarves, to the corners of the four-poster.

i’m going to give you ten things to taste. you have to describe each of them using purely the language of taste — sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. if you need help, remember that sweet tastes strongest at the tip of your tongue, sour at the sides, salty in the middle, and bitter at the back. in your description you can compare the flavour to other flavours, but if you use tactile, visual or any other sensory descriptions, the tasting is over. are you ready?

okay [laughing]

here’s number one. stop laughing and open your mouth.

oh, wow… mmmmm!

uh, uh… no flattery…and that’s not a description. behave. describe the flavour.

salty. sweet. floral. i can’t separate the taste from the smell.

you obviously need a lot of practice. that’s ok. we have lots of time. all day. go on…

mostly salty, like sweat. a bit sweet, like milk. the floral would break down into 30% sweet, 30% sour, 40% bitter, lovely.

good. number two. ready?

ah, exquisite. [thoughtfully] 80% sour, 20% sweet. fruity. a perfect minor chord. i wonder why sour flavours make us drool?

[slapping me] fruity is not one of the four tastes, and aural references are not allowed, it’s a terrible analogy anyway. you can’t compare a combination of flavours to a combination of sounds. and you were doing so well, too! try again.

i object. it’s a perfect analogy. if it had three of the four tastes it would be like a dominant seventh, and if all four it would be like a major seventh, dissonant, conflicted, tragic. but with just the two tastes, sour and sweet, it’s a minor chord. if the ratio was reversed, mostly sweet, like clover honey, it would be a major chord.

the japanese claim there is a fifth taste, savory, though the taste buds that would support that theory haven’t been found yet. you know what taste buds look like, don’t you. they’re voluptuous, obscene. and they just open up and taste everything indiscriminately. miniature flavour nymphos, spreading for every molecule that comes along. sense sluts. i suspect youres are especially bad, utterly shameless. here’s number three.

[long, lingering, smacking interlude] hmm. that’s not fair. that’s the gustatory equivalent of looking in the mirror, or listening to your ears ring. but i can tell you’ve been sampling some of taste number two. clear your palate and give me another taste. [another lingering, smacking interlude, even longer than the first. i wanted it to go on forever]. okay. a subdued balance of all four tastes. sweet and bitter like the floral of number one. you had chamomile tea with honey this morning, right? and sour from your sampling of taste number two and salty from… hmmm… [i blushed a little, then smiled]. damn i’m good at this!

pretty smug, aren’t we. here’s number four. and i want you to be very specific. i’m going to cover your nose at first, to see whether the olfactory senses get in the way of your taste perception. ready?

bitter, bitter, and a trace sour. no salt, very little sweetness. a beaujolais perhaps.

not bad. now try with your nose uncovered.

wow, that does change everything. much more information. not a beaujolais. maybe a merlot?

keep your day job. chardonnay. without the colour cues you’re hopeless. here’s number five. did you know that most human poisons are bitter, and that scientists think we’re programmed to automatically retch at bitter flavours, which is why they put those taste buds closest to the gag reflex point?

mmm. no retching at that flavour! all four tastes, almost in equal balance. no wonder they call it nature’s perfect food. swiss?

lucky guess. here’s number six.

mmph…ahh, delicious. let me guess. champagne. yogurt. hey, you’re covering my nose again!

shush… you’ll need to taste this very slowly and carefully to be able to identify the combination of tastes precisely. in fact the taste may change, so take your time, might need a couple of hours to keep tasting and think about it…

[laughing] i see what you mean. the taste is vaguely familiar. mmph…

shut up and keep tasting…mmm…

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7 Responses to FIVE SENSES

  1. VO? I’d say so. Bon Appetite naughty regards – rich

  2. Jon Husband says:

    I really enjoyed this. Did you write it, or is it from somewhere else? If it’s in a book and part of something larger, I’d like to know.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Jon: The educational stuff (smell) is from the website I cited in my post, and there’s quite a bit more on that site. The conversation (taste) is from my own depraved imagination. BTW I’m really intrigued by your site. Have you been following the Social Software group blog, and Gary Lawrence Murphy’s work (see my blogroll), ’cause I think you should be included in our conversations on this subject. There’s something really important happening here.Rich: Thank you — I propose to include your sensuous photos of Bellows AFB in the upcoming Hedonism VO. Military hedonism, now there’s an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one.

  4. Rob Paterson says:

    Fractal images are interesting. Usually , when you see a fractal link there is something imprtant going on. So – taste bud – looks familiar – haven’t I seen that before somewhere else? My point is really why the similarity? Rather than to show off my poor sense of observation.

  5. M. L. Foster says:

    Figs… high on my list of things that are the best. Fresh of course.

  6. Doug Alder says:

    You missed one Dave – there are 5 aspects to taste – bitter, salt, sweet, sour and umami – the last is a relatively new addition but it is often described as a meaty taste. See

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Doug: I called it ‘savory’ (as close to a translation of ‘umami’ as I could come up with) which I refer to about half-way down the conversation. I don’t understand it well enough to try to incorporate it in the subsequent conversation, though. It’s a very blunt language, with only 4-5 letters that no one’s entirely sure how they make up the ‘words’. Still playing with the music analogy, which obviously appeals to me (overtones etc.) Did you know that by contrast we can distinguish 1500 ‘different’ elemental smells, plus all the combinations thereof?

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