French Company Plans To Make Custom Perfume That Smells Like Your Loved One

Immortalize the scent of a dead relative

Smell familiar?

Credit: Vetiver Aromatics via Flickr, CC by SA 2.0

People find all sorts of inventive ways to continue the legacy of their recently deceased relatives. Some start charity funds; others hang on to photographs or old keepsakes. But as Katia Apalategui, a 52-year-old French insurance saleswoman, mourned the death of her father seven years ago, she was inspired to try to capture his scent in a perfume. She teamed up with researchers from the Université du Havre, who have also been working on distilling the human scent.

Though no one has disclosed exactly how the technique works, one of the researchers said that all they needed was a piece of the person's clothing from which to extract the few hundred distinct molecules that make up his characteristic scent. But it's reasonable to think that they may be using some version of the classic perfume distillation process, which involves passing steam through an object at high temperatures and capturing what results.

Apalategui's goal might seem a bit on the morbid side, but a numberof studies have shown that our sense of smell is deeply tied to memory. There might be other applications for this type of product, to aid with parent-child bonding or romantic attachment. But for now, Apalategui is more focused on capturing the scent of the deceased than the living; by September, she and her son hope to start offering their service to grieving families through funeral homes, offering a helping of "olfactory comfort" for about $600.