Like many struggling to get over the death of a loved one, Katia Apalategui’s mum held on to her late husband’s pillowcase to keep the precious smell of the man she loved.
It inspired the 52-year-old insurance saleswoman to think up ways to capture and preserve a person’s individual scent so people in her position would never have to long for a whiff of their loved one again.
After years of knocking on doors to try and develop her idea, Apalategui was put in touch with the northwestern Havre university which has developed a technique to reproduce the human smell.
‘We take the person’s clothing and extract the odour — which represents about a hundred molecules — and we reconstruct it in the form of a perfume in four days,’ explained the university’s Geraldine Savary.
The powerful link between smell and memory means the product offers ‘olfactory comfort’, Apalategui claims, on a par with photos, videos and other memories of the deceased.
Her son, who is currently in business school, plans to launch their business by September with the help of a chemist.
‘We are going through funeral homes to offer families a small box containing a vial of the departed’s odour that we would have extracted from a piece of material provided by them,’ said Apalategui.
‘It’s made-to-measure and will sell for around 560 euros [$A778],’ she added.
However she hopes the technology will not only be limited to the morbid, but could be used as a Valentine’s Day gift between lovers, or even for children temporarily away from their parents.