The food world has a habit of trying to fix things that aren’t broken, often for the sake of experimentation. Most of these breakages are fine. A deconstructed dessert can taste great. A croissant bastardised with a doughnut shouldn’t work but absolutely does.
Then there’s alcohol. A good drink is rarely broken. A refreshing pint cannot be bettered, nor can a well-mixed vodka tonic. So, an edible fragrance that you spray on to your drink to make it taste like something else comes with all sorts of questions: mainly who, why and how?
The first question is easy to answer. This fragrance is made by a company called Smith Sinclair (which also makes very good alcoholic sweets) and comes in three flavours/scents – the one I try is pear and vanilla – fashioned from a combination of natural flavourings, vodka and calvados. It comes in a perfume bottle and box complete with tasteful, minimal lettering and a saucy tagline, “Lick your scent”, written in capital letters. It costs £20, and absolutely smells like a perfume. No perfume I would choose to wear – pear and vanilla are dull enough, but combined create a cloying blandness – but a perfume nonetheless. If I was in any doubt over this, last Sunday I sprayed my wrists in the morning, went for a walk and returned still smelling like a car freshener. So, in one sense, success all round.
You can spray it on to your skin and lick it off, but its true calling is as a “vapour to be spritzed on to a cocktail, like a garnish”. You can spritz multiple times. With each sip, if you want, as if you had badly rolled a cigarette and needed to light it each time you wanted a drag. Gin and tonic in hand, I spray and watch the mist hover above the drink like a sad ghost, before it settles on to the liquid. There’s no film, no stickiness, just a suggestion of flavour – sweet with a hint of tartness – that disappears as quickly as it arrives.
None of this explains the why and how: why mess with such a beautiful thing as booze, and how much of this would I need to drink to get drunk? Some 60% of the fragrance is alcohol, but since the bottle contains the equivalent of a double (50ml) … I can’t do the maths, but if I drank the whole bottle I would probably be able to drive and I don’t have a licence.
An edible scent should be wonderful. Smell is animal and basic and the right scent can conjure memories faster than conscious thought. Sadly, the edible fragrance is confused. Neither a food nor a drink, it masquerades as both; containing alcohol, it is incapable of getting you remotely giddy. It’s a riddle and after a week of spraying it on to everything – wrists, wine, sparkling water, GT, tea – I am none the wiser.