If your vision is imperfect, you wear corrective lenses to be able to appreciate the visual world. If your hearing is impaired, you wear devices to make your conversations more enjoyable. To savor life to its fullest, we need all our senses operating in top form. Here’s the problem: If you are an “ordinary” person, your sense of smell is mediocre to poor.
In fact, studies show that most people use only a fraction of their smelling senses. That’s why I talked KFF into giving me, for Christmas, something called Le Nez du Vin. Packaged as a large textbook in a boxed cover, Le Nez du Vin is actually a chemistry kit containing 50 individual vials of scented lotion. One vile smells like lemon, another like leather. One has the aroma of burnt toast, another of strawberry.
The purpose of Le Nez du Vin is to train your nose to be more discriminating. The idea is that you will one day be able to detect the oak aroma in a good Cabernet or the essence of peach in a Montalpuciano. I haven’t gotten very far into the program, but it’s a lot of fun — great for get-togethers, and an unbelievably shocking revelation of how poor a nose I really have.
Out of the 50 scents (and most are very common — cherry, vanilla, musk, etc.), I could detect only three or four when I began sniffing. I’m better than that now, but a long way from knowing what I’m smelling about. But I’m eager to improve. Imagine spending your life looking at paintings without being able to distinguish between yellow and orange. Imagine listening to music if you couldn’t recognize a flat note. It’s the same with our noses.
As important as they are to our enjoyment of life (and especially food), we do nothing to educate them and much to damage them (smoking, mostly). You can spend the big bucks ($500) on Le Vin du Nez or get a $99 version called Bacchanales. Either is a small investment in having a better, smarter nose for the rest of your life.
[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]