Smell is one of the most mysterious, complex and subjective forces in our existence. Just as fascinating is Darío Sirerol, a smell creator of Catalan origin who seems to have stepped out directly from a Renaissance painting. His elegance, highly cultivated manners, and refined sensibility belong to another epoch altogether. Though his modesty would not claim it, he is indeed a Renaissance man in his multifaceted savoir faire in photography, olfaction, chemistry, inventions, and in his penchant to crossover between the scientific and the artistic worlds throughout his life. Darío views himself as "un scientifico peculiar" because of his love of creativity and artistry. Adding to this, his singularity as a person is just as recognizable, celebrated, and appreciated in his everyday life by the kitchen staff of restaurants that he frequents.

His dedication to smell had its roots in a chance encounter with Rosa Bulgara. When his nose encountered this rare natural essence it was a moment of powerful epiphany. "It had the effect of a strange drug. I had never smelled such exquisiteness in my life!"

Dario is the man behind the conceptual smells for the world famous restaurant El Bulli of celebrated chef Ferran Adria. He is also the name and the brain behind one of the longest travelling exhibitions "Por Narices", which ran for 20 years in 204 cities in Spain. Despite his impressive and broad list of credentials in gastronomy, thematic exhibitions, and contemporary theatre, Darío does not—and will not—admit to his genius. Yet, in the tradition of honorable professors, another aspect of his life's journey, Darío generously transmits his knowledge and his savoir faire of this art and science through his impeccable and articulate Castellano.

Smell as Smell, “Pas” Perfume

As concepteur of smell, Darío recreates or imitates the smells that emanate from our environment, whether they be from nature or from synthetic sources. A large part of his work involves recreating the molecular structure of an element from nature, such as the sea or a forest for example, and analyzing and imitating its components and proportions on a molecular level.

The distinction between creating a perfume and creating a smell is that the latter is highly conceptual. A designed smell triggers intended reactions, emotions and even memory, whether used as a subtle ambient presence to subliminally immerse us or employed with more intense concentration through an object that emits smell to encourage the voluntary act to smell, or not to smell.

Smell as a Chess Game

The atomic weight of hydrogen is 1 unit. Substances with smell properties contain molecular weight between 1 to 750 units, which is very little in relation to other elements in our physical environment. Anything above is too heavy to be a smell. In addition to other minor elements, substances that produce smell must have these four essential elements in varying combinations: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. In this sense, concocting smell is a science with almost infinite possibilities. "Renowned perfumists and specialists are familiar with more than ten thousand substances. Yet in our world, the substances that can produce smell are staggering in number."

On board his indoor elevator, Darío vanishes to his second floor laboratory with a formula written on paper and pencil in hand. He opens a series of mysterious bottles, decants its contents into flasks, and weighs each according to the formulas written on the paper. "This mechanical part is neither difficult nor charming." Darío's point is that its "simplicity" is the result of a more important and complex part of the work that precedes it. "It is comparable to a chess game in paper and pencil. I have a lot of substances in my head that I believe can work. This smell, how can it be? Or which chemical substances that create smell would work? I make a list of twenty or so substances, put them in an alphabetical order, and then think about how to proportion each to sum up to a 100%."

Darío Sirerol is a chemist. His speciality is the design and composition of figurative, recreational and abstract scents, and he researches and develops systems of their presentation and dissemination. He is involved in projects for museums, exhibitions, interpretive centers, gastronomy events, bespoke venues and businesses. Darío also creates specialized or corporate scents, integrating design and implementation of the support that contains them. Several of his scents and their mode of diffusion that touches both time and space has been trademarked and patented. He collaborates with companies in the fragrance and perfume sector as well as consulting on projects that involve scents and sensory communication.

( * ) From article ""Las grandes decisiones se toman con el olfato" An interview with Darío Sirerol by IMA SANCHÍS, La Vanguardia, January 31, 2004.