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Scientists have revealed the world’s most universally-loved smell

New research has revealed the most universally-loved smell in the world, and it’s an aroma that oenophiles will be well used to detecting in their wine.

most loved smell

A study conducted by researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the University of Oxford has found that vanilla is the world’s most universally-loved scent. This indicates, the research teams noted, that cultural background does not influence individual response to smell as much as was once thought.

The researchers presented 235 people from nine different cultures across the world with 10 scents deliberately chosen to represent all odours found in the world.

The participants were drawn from a wide range of cultures, from urban areas of Mexico to isolated farming communities in South America. This was to ensure that the study included a range of individuals with little or no prior experience of typically ‘Western’ odours.

“Since these groups live in such disparate odiferous environments, like rainforest, coast, mountain and city, we capture many different types of ‘odour experiences’,” said study author Dr Artin Arshamian from the Karolinska Institute.

“We wanted to examine if people around the world have the same smell perception and like the same types of odour, or whether this is something that is culturally learned.

“Traditionally it has been seen as cultural, but we can show that culture has very little to do with it.”

The 10 scents in the trial included vanilla – the winner – lavender, a chemical that produces a peach-like scent, as well as sweaty feet, mushrooms and decaying fish.

The scents, ranked in order of preference came out as follows:

1 Vanilla

2 Peaches

3 Lavender

4 Cloves

5 Rose

6 Mushrooms

7 Sweaty goats

8 Green peppers

9 Pungent garlic/decaying fish

10 Sweaty feet

Vanilla is a prevalent aroma in many red and white wines, and is typically introduced during the ageing process – especially in American oak barrels.

Red wines from Rioja in Spain are typically a good example.

Last year, Portugal’s Sogrape wine group produced a kit to help Covid patients recover their sense of smell. You can read all about that here.

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