I was given the amazing opportunity to sit down and have a quick chat with Liam from AromaPrime and below is that interview!
It’s my job for people to smell me.
You are probably the only person who can get away with saying that (as he encourages me to smell things). We had these smells at IAAPA. (I asked what smell).
Sometimes I don’t say, because if customers have their own interpretations it makes them less inclined to think hmm that’s not like the smell I’m used to. Especially with a sample and the way it gets labelled. A label can have a big psychological effect and influence on how customers perceive the smell. If you use broad terminology it opens their minds more. One smell, in a sweet shop for example, could also be paired with something horror, if you don't limit yourself to what is says on the label.
So I’m guessing to you, smells play a huge part in any experience?
Yeah. I think a good part of smell use is knowing when not to use them too. Take for example a scare maze like Creek Freak Massacre at Thorpe Park. That is just a bombardment on the senses, so it is constant smells and red lighting and sound, but if you want to be more subtle and build up the tension, you could have an introductory smell that is maybe unsettling or creates a false sense of security, and then maybe have a break, because if you have too many smells after one another your nose just adapts and you won’t get the effects later on. So, you could have a pause and then an impactful smell for a climactic scene, like someone being cut in half, and have a horrible rotting flesh smell, and then have another pause before something for finale. Sometimes, not using smells can be just as important to make sure the smells that you are using are as effective as possible. I’ve never really thought of it like that. There’s a whole new dimension to smells now.
So obviously I’m guessing Aroma Prime was established in 1973 as its on your briefcase?
Yes! And it’s our 50th birthdayAre you doing a special smell to celebrate your 50th birthday?At IAAPA, we launched some new smells. (Hands me another thing to smell). This one isn’t on our website yet but it’s fruity ice lollies that you might buy at a waterpark. You could get addicted to snorting this smell Possibly. And this is also the Aroma Block which we’ve sold in the past but it was made of plastic so we took it off the shelf and redesigned it to be metal so it’s more eco friendly. But we also launched Dodo which is slightly historically accurate, or as accurate as we can get it based on the information we’ve got. We also did pumpkin spice, which I think will be popular at Halloween. There was another good one, what was it, oh, blocked urinal. We already had quite a sweet urine scent, but there are different types of urine odour, and I wanted to make an alternative that might be more familiar to some.
What do you consider to be the most interesting smell you do?
Ummm. I find the historical ones very interesting because they are often informed by lots of different elements like, sometimes you might do something called gas chromatography, which we don’t work with so much, but you take a sample from an artefact like a Greek Vase and then you put it in a machine and that kind of splits up all the molecules so you know all the individual components that make up the smell. You can then use that to recreate the exact smell of that vase based on the molecules you analysed. You could in theory do that with say Mozart’s glove and find out what he smelt like, so there is lots of exciting potential with historical smells. Normally ours are more interpretations. We talk to experts, like at Jorvik Viking Centre, there was an archeological dig and it was really water logged so everything was really well preserved and they found possibly the largest fossilised human poo ever found, so that helped us know what the Vikings ate so we could make those smells for the Viking village. There’s lots of learning with historical smells. It’s as close as possible to exactly what people smelt like back then which is really cool.
That’s so cool. Who would have thought there would be so much to smells.
And that’s cool for attractions as well. We have our Egyptian mummy smell which is very historically informed and that’s in Tomb Blaster, which just gives it a lovely kind of accuracy that you might not get otherwise. How long does it take you to create a smell and get it to the point where you are happy with it? It’s tricky to tell these days because it is our 50th birthday, and we’ve now got over 500 smells, so normally what we have in our library does the trick and if someone wants a custom smell we can mix together from our existing stock. If they wanted a candy floss flavoured cadaver we could mix some rotting flesh and candy floss together to produce that and normally that would work. Or like with the Dodo smell, it was informed by the environment that they lived in which was kind of humid and tropical and they would have been in the dirt a lot, so we have our earthy smell which probably matched that one well and other smells that are similar so we could use pre-existing interpretations to combine for something new. But then if we are making something from scratch, which is a bit rarer, it can take a few months.
Out of all the attractions and events you’ve done smells for, which has been your favourite and why?
Hmmmmmmm. The Time Walk which used to be in Weymouth, I really liked that but it’s not there anymore. AromaPrime did the smells for it. They did the Black Death smell and it was all musty and I have strong nostalgic connections to that as I’m quite fond of our musty smells. Musty is often used in haunted houses and stuff like Duel, so I have this nice familiarity. I’m trying to think of other favourite projects. I guess the Alton Towers ones are always fun and interesting.
Have you already been approached for Halloween smells?
I think because Halloween attractions are normally quite independent, they tend to be a bit more last minute. It’s normally around August that the Halloween enquiries trickle in and then always in October there will be tons of last minute ones where people are hurriedly wanting poo smells, so we always make sure we are fully stocked for Halloween and then fully stocked up for Christmas as well as it’s another busy time with Santa’s grottos and the light trails that places do.
What sort of smells would you do at Christmas?
Christmas tree, which smells like a pine tree, and all sorts of different spices and ginger bread, cinnamon and peppermint.
When you have clients come and test smells, is that such a joy for you watching their reactions?
Seeing people react to disgusting smells can be quite funny to some, but I generally know how they'll react at this point in my career, so I think I’m immune to it! I’m usually just focussed on how to help them in the best way.
What’s the strangest place you’ve put a smell?
I guess they are all kind of strange places. I’m not sure. Like with being immune to reactions, you kind of get immune to strangeness, so anything weird is normal and I think that’s an important thing because sometimes people will come to us and they almost seem to be a bit embarrassed like ‘I know it’s a bit weird but we are looking for a giraffe poo smell’ but it’s part of the job talking to people like it’s a very normal thing so they don’t feel weird about asking for these things.
What’s the weirdest smell you’ve actually been asked for?
No smell is too weird for us. We are happy to provide rotting flesh, vomit, penguin vomit and I don’t think you can get any more weird than that. Even if smells seem weird they can be a very important tool in telling a story. Some people don’t realise how much attraction design thinking goes into it when we are advising. Our founder Fred Dale, he was involved in our first big project; the Jorvik Viking Centre has this big dark ride and he was involved in the design of that to make sure the smells came across in a certain sequence. He had all the blueprints and they adjusted the walls and ride route to make sure the smells didn’t overlap. Working with Shaun at Dead Walk Designs has also helped me understand other attractions and theirs structures and guest flow. There is so much to think about.
I also saw that you’re using your smells to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. How did that come about?
From what I’m aware of, that’s something our founder pioneered as well. He started making historical smells and back then elderly people were younger in the 1920s and 1930s, so he would make the smells of those decades and he would take them into care homes. The company started out making nice smells and he sold a lot of hospitals and care homes, but because he was also making historical smells, and he had that connection with care homes, he would go in and hand them out to the elderly people and spark conversation and nostalgia. So a fish mongers smell that could be used in a scare maze could also be used to help bring back memories for a fisherman. Smells are so flexible!
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Liam for taking the time to chat with us. If you want to find out more about AromaPrime you can visit their website here!