You walk through the door and it hits you. You immediately recognize the smell of your favorite holiday foods. Almost as quickly your body responds. Your mouth begins creating saliva and your stomach rumbles. The smell of food not only allows you to recognize it is time to eat, but it lets your body begin to prepare to digest your food. While smell is a very strong memory stimulus for all humans, it has a special relationship with taste and our concept of flavor.
Scientifically, smell (olfaction) and taste (gustation) are part of the human body’s sensory system. Specifically, they function through chemoreception, which is the ability of a body to respond to chemicals in the immediate environment. In gustation your body is responding to chemicals referred to as tastants, chemicals that can stimulate taste receptors. Similarly, in olfaction, receptors in your nasal cavity are responding to chemicals called odorants that stimulate smell receptors.
Typically when we comment on how great a specific food or beverage tastes, what we are really commenting on are is the flavor of that item. Flavor is the blend of taste and smell sensations you perceive while eating and drinking. The term flavorant can be used as a compound that uses both senses to impart a flavor.