24 November 2021
24 November 2021
Sabine Engelhardt says that many stairwells in the city of Berlin have a particular scent that just makes her happy. Everyone knows of places like that in their own lives, places you go where you immediately feel a sense of contentment.
For some, it might be in the early morning on the beach, or perhaps in the woods after a summer rain shower, or maybe even in your grandparents’ house where you spent much of your childhood. “Smells are closely linked with our personal memories and emotions,” explains Sabine – a futurologist and scent expert.
That’s precisely why the perception of scents is very individual to each of us: “What calms one person down can get another excited.”
Among the countless sensory inputs we encounter every moment of every day, olfactory stimulation – or sense of smell – has its own special status. Smells encompass complex information that is then directly processed by the longest-existing part of the human brain, the paleocortex, without being diverted through the thalamus, where our conscious mind is located.
In evolutionary terms, this process enables us to react very quickly to what could be a potentially dangerous situation. In the highly rationalised world which we live in today, it means our perception of scent is coupled with instinctive behaviours.
“It’s the subconscious which determines whether we feel comfortable in a certain situation,” Sabine emphasises.
For this reason, the fragrancing of vehicle interiors requires a highly sensitive approach. In vehicles such as the new EQS from Mercedes-EQ, the ENERGIZING AIR CONTROL Plus feature includes a highly advanced HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which cleans the air of fine dust, pollen and viruses – as well as odours.
To fill the neutral aroma space this creates, Sabine has formulated several exclusive Mercedes-Benz scent moods. The new AIR-BALANCE special feature allows passengers to control the scent intensity, with three levels available – or switch it off entirely if they desire. “It’s like listening to music in a car: sometimes you play it really loudly, and other times you need the quiet,” she says.
A new demand for quality
A new awareness of quality is one of the positive impacts to come out of the pandemic, says Sabine, who believes people are now making much more mindful decisions about how they want to invest their money and time.
“During lockdown we had time to reflect on what is really important to us. We no longer want mass-produced goods.”
Like fast food and ill-fitting clothing, cheap and cheerful scented products no longer offer the experience that most consumers are looking for.
“Lower-cost products are unsatisfactory for the mind and body because they are deceptive,” she says. “And while it may be possible to deceive the eyes, deceiving the nose is unforgivable because it also means betraying our memories and emotions.”
What’s more – unlike images or music, for example – high-quality scents resist any attempts at being digitised.
The human brain, Sabine explains, can accurately distinguish between billions of smells.
“There are always attempts being made to integrate experiences of smell into the entertainment industry, for example through the scent cinema,” she says. “But in the end, it doesn’t work because it requires substances of lower quality to be used. To be experienced as a luxury, scent can only be real perfume – or even nature itself.”
Scents tell stories
At the heart of Sabine’s scent research for Mercedes-Benz is her desire to create unique scents that capture the vehicle’s essence. As such, the first step in her creative process is always to try to understand the designers’ vision, and, with that, the position the vehicle holds within the Mercedes-Benz product range: “I do not develop scents, I develop ideas,” she says.
“An all-terrain vehicle needs to tell a very different story compared to that of a fully electric luxury saloon such as the EQS. Only when I take up this story and all of its facets am I finally able to create the right scent, so that the vehicle interior and the scent experience itself melt seamlessly into one another.”
These stories are then translated into scent moods by a perfume specialist. To select the final composition for the scent, Sabine tests the aroma in the vehicle model: “The fragrancing technology for the model immensely influences how the scent unfolds.”
Set for its world premiere, Sabine’s latest creation is called No. 6 Mood Linen, a scent designed exclusively for the EQS, inspired by the aroma of fresh linen and figs. At first glance, this might seem like an unusual combination, but it actually fits in perfectly with a new idea of luxury: travelling off of the beaten path and leaving yourself open to new experiences.
By Diana Weis