I've become transfixed with the power of the sense of smell, and I've also been on an Andy Warhol bender lately—not looking at his art, which I don't particularly admire, but reading his writing and his interviews. He is brilliantly thought-provoking.
These two interests intersected as I was re-reading, for the third time, Andy Warhol's The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again).
I love his notion of creating a "smell collection."
I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection.
Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting are just not as powerful as smelling if you want your whole being to go back for a second to something. Usually I don’t want to, but by having smells stopped up in bottles, I can be in control and can only smell the smells I want to, when I want to, to get the memories I’m in the mood to have. Just for a second. The good thing about a smell-memory is that the feeling of being transported stops the instant you stop smelling, so there are no aftereffects. It’s a neat way to reminisce.
I wouldn't have the discipline to limit myself to one perfume and then switch every three months, but it's certainly true that certain smells recall certain times very powerfully for me. For instance, the perfume I wore my senior year in college—Perfumers Workshop's Tea Rose, a very distinctive fragrance—transports me back that time. I would love to be able to capture the smells of certain periods or places in my past: the art room in my grade school; my family's favorite Kansas City diner, Winstead's; summer camp; and so many others.
Fun fact, perhaps apocryphal: Andy Warhol was buried with a bottle of the Estee Lauder perfume, "Beautiful."