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Perfume experts' perceptions of body odors: Toward a new lexicon for body odor description

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Caroline AllenORCiD, Jan Havlicek



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Human axillary (armpit) odors are highly diverse and have potential to reveal a wide range of individual information. This is echoed in gas chromatography findings, which show that axillary odors are comprised of many volatile compounds. Despite this, only a small number of verbal descriptors are used when investigating the perceptual qualities of body odors. We set out to develop a lexicon that would capture these perceptual qualities in more detail, working alongside perfumers and fragrance evaluators in order to benefit from their expertise in olfactory perception and semantic labeling of odors. Four experts developed a list of 15 verbal descriptors based on an exemplar set of male and female axillary samples, and then rated 62 samples (31 men and 31 women) using these. We explored the predictive value of these ratings, finding that subsets of descriptors distinguished male from female samples, appearing to be more reliable than explicit judgments of odor sex.Practical applicationsThis lexicon was successful in discriminating sex of odor samples and could enable improved understanding of other perceptual qualities of human odor. For example, it could be possible to link specific perceptual qualities to specific cues (e.g., symmetry, masculinity) or to manipulate odors based on perceptual qualities in experimental settings, with direct practical implications for odor researchers. Furthermore, the existence of such a lexicon will allow body odors to be categorized for practical purposes. For example, such categorization will facilitate exploration of how fragrances, ingredients, or accords may interact with and complement different body odor types.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Allen C, Havlicek J, Williams K, Roberts SC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Sensory Studies

Year: 2018

Volume: 33

Issue: 2

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Online publication date: 22/01/2018

Acceptance date: 08/01/2018

Date deposited: 27/03/2018

ISSN (print): 0887-8250

ISSN (electronic): 1745-459X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/joss.12314


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