Anyone who has spent precious days of their childhood in an Australian landscape may be able to lay claim to a series of shared olfactory memories.

The sense of smell memory attached to the landscapes of our youth are enigmatic, often rendering us full of yearning – and yet at times, they’re bewildering or strongly specific.

The human sense of smell is highly emotive, complex and nuanced. It is estimated that our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste. When it comes to individual scent preference, it’s common to have an emotional response linked to memory, and this scent recollection when identified and associated with an emotional, or otherwise meaningful memory is known as an olfactory memory.

For those of us who grew up in Australia, the mineral tang of sunscreen and chlorine might transport us back to spirited summer days at the beach or pool, wistful jasmine on the verandah post serving as a reminder of after-school play in the backyard. It might be the sweet, malted smell of a melting paddlepop, or the sharpness of tea-tree oil as it was gently applied to a graze; the scent of running through sprinklers on freshly mown grass or a scent particular to the house of a much-loved grandmother (for us it’s the scent of chicken broth brewing on the stove) that can render us emotional, reflective or soothed.

The science of smell

The fascinating power of odours to trigger strong evocations of autobiographical experiences both positive and negative, has inspired considerable research into the relationship between the olfactory bulb (the part of the brain that processes scent recognition first) and the closely anatomically linked hippocampus (the part of the brain that neuroscientists have identified as responsible for storing long term memories).

Odours enhance our perception of the world, adding a richness and complexity to our experiences, however, smell memory seems far more obscure than our understandings of visual and auditory memory. Even so, numerous studies suggest that our smell memory is as enduring as it is resilient, and that some of our earliest and most vividly recalled memories from childhood often remain for life.

What’s known as odour-evoked autobiographical memory has also been called the “Proust phenomenon”, in reference to the famous story of Proust’s Madeleine and the vivid childhood memories that flood Proust's narrator when he eats a madeleine cake dipped in tea.

The expression “Proust’s madeleine” is still used today to refer to a sensory cue that triggers a memory.

Home is where the scent is

Southern Wild Co was built upon the same narrative as Proust’s Madeleine – that the comfort in “home is where the scent is” – can be evoked in the conjuring of specific autobiographical memories imbued with strong emotions or observations that inspire a feeling of “home”. In view of this, each Southern Wild Co fragrance blend has been carefully formulated around our own olfactory memories with particular scents and experiences that may be familiar to those who also spent idyllic childhood days between the country and the coast.

From slow summer days spent in the shade of the verandah to curling smoke from a crackling campfire beneath a starry sky punctuated by the branches of gumtrees; memories of salted skin, diving beneath waves and running barefoot in summer’s humidity to that place where our scented gardens meet the wild bush on our doorstep – each Southern Wild Co blend is intended to comfort and inspire.

Discover the collection