Words: Emily Venables
We’ve all heard of the 4 basic taste profiles; salt, sweet, bitter and sour, but did you know there was a fifth? That fifth taste is called ‘umami’. The more mysterious 5th taste can be found in places you may be surprised about, but can it be found in fragrance? Let’s take a look…
What is umami?
Umami is described as having inherent savouriness to it and it was first discovered as a taste quality in Japan in the early 1900s. The literal translation from Japanese means ‘pleasant, savoury taste’ and is commonly associated with foods such as parmesan cheese, grilled mushrooms, flavoursome meat and whether you love it or hate it, marmite.
Here’s a little science lesson for you… umami refers to the taste of glutamate, inosinate, or guanylate. Glutamate, or glutamic acid, is a common amino acid in vegetable and animal proteins… you know, just in case you were wondering!
In non-scientific terms, umami foods tend to make you make pleased noises such as ‘hmmmm’ or ‘yummy’!
Can you smell umami?
Technically, you can’t smell umami, like you can’t smell ‘salty’ or ‘bitter, for example. It is there for your taste buds, however, you can experience the sensation of a savoury smell - therefor some people believe that you can experience umami through a fragrance.
Take a dark truffle accord for example. When its part of a perfume composition, you wouldn’t taste the dark truffle, but the scent can give you warm sense of satisfaction. If you don’t smell it for a while, you could begin to crave it. This sensation, this feeling is related to umami.
Other notes in fragrances that have been attributed to having the effect of umami are tobacco, leather, ‘meaty’ notes and smokiness.
Umami in fragrance isn’t quite as clear cut as, say, a sweet scent - but anything that gives us that feeling of gratification - we’re happy to give a go!