Professional smell tester - am I part dog?
July 5, 2009 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Could I be a professional smell tester with my dog like nose?

My sense of smell is quite elevated. I pick up on scents and then ask those around me "can you smell that [insert scent]". Most of the time their answer is no, and I search for the source or ask them to move closer to a certain direction so they can confirm that they eventually smell (usually they really have to inhale) the same scent.

My nose is like a dog, please help!

This has been going on for years and amongst several different locations, groups of friends and scents. Its all in good fun and I recently picked up a smell while back in my old neighborhood for a 4th of July party. When I worked my magic and identified the scent/source, a few of my old friends suggested that I should attempt to get a job as a professional "smell tester".

Is there such a job? If so, how do I apply? I've searched the askmefi forums but only found questions about human vs. animal (i.e., dog) sense of smell, and nothing about a human "smell tester" job. I picture something similar to a possible old wives tale my father told me when I was younger that all ice cream companies have professional taste testers who scoop samples of the frozen treat into their mouths using gold plated spoons that did not retain the taste of the previous flavor of ice cream.

I digress... I'm turning to you hive mind! Can you help me find out if there is such a job as a professional Smell Tester? If so, where do I find out more and can I schedule an appointment to at least quantify my olfactory sensation abilities?
posted by WhereAmI to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know of a professional "smell-tester" roles other than those who determine the correct balance of perfumes and such, but I would think that it is less about being able to detect minute amounts and more about being able to discern the correct balance of factors that can be easily detected by "typical" folk. Having the ability to smell something easily that others can't may make it hard to be a tester for what others would enjoy - since they won't be able to smell exactly what you smell. It seems like you are more of an "early detection system" for smells. Not necessarily the same as a connoisseur of smells, if you get my drift.
posted by qwip at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2009

Maybe you could be an "odor judge", but would you really want to?
posted by orme at 11:22 AM on July 5, 2009

Along the lines of what qwip says, note that most chefs (including many who smoke) have duller taste buds and sense of smell than average people — which results in them making intense flavors in their foods. A chef whose senses were highly sensitive would probably underuse spices.

That said, I have heard of companies that can find the sources of foul odors in homes. Given that people usually call them when the smell is readily apparent, it's hard to say how your skill would come in handy.

You may just be a novelty item. Sorry.
posted by argybarg at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2009

The best noses I know are sommeliers, and they are in a sense professional smell testers.
posted by foooooogasm at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2009

Professional smeller jobs DO exist. My mother has worked for one part time for more than 10 years now. The company she works for goes to different sites world wide, takes air samples from problem areas or of a specific product a company is developing. They have a panel of trained smellers who smell and rate the samples. Then, depending on the job, the lab folk may try different ways of covering up or neutralizing said odor, and then they will send it back to the smellers to see how good a job they did.

I have no idea how common these companies are. She sort of fell into the job just by answering a classified add in the paper and going in for a smell test.
posted by Captain_Science at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of what qwip says, note that most chefs (including many who smoke) have duller taste buds and sense of smell than average people — which results in them making intense flavors in their foods.

That's crazy talk. That's like saying most opera singers sing loudly because they're deaf.
posted by foooooogasm at 11:41 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Professional smellers exist. You could also look into the perfume industry, or take a (good) sommelier course, or become a taster for the food industry, or... 95% of the sense of taste is smell, actually. Of course, as with every natural talent, you'll need training, specific with the area you're interested in.
posted by _dario at 11:49 AM on July 5, 2009

I remember reading years ago (in an article on perfumes) that women's sense of smell is affected by hormones, so your gender could be relevant here.
posted by Lolie at 12:01 PM on July 5, 2009


Notice I didn't say chefs don't have discernment. The good ones can taste very fine differences between similar flavors. But I mean that a person for whom a very faint flavor would be strong would find a mild flavor overwhelming. WhereAmI would probably find a little hint of oregano to be sufficient — and most people wouldn't taste it.

An analogy: My wife has remarkable long-distance vision. She can read road signs on the freeway five seconds before I can. But I wouldn't want her judging whether lettering on billboards was readable or not -- I'd rather rely on someone with average vision, even if that person was a very fine judge of color, typefaces, etc.
posted by argybarg at 12:03 PM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: I found an article about people who do this for a living by googling. There's a name in the article. Maybe you could try to find that person and e-mail them.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:22 PM on July 5, 2009

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