The art of perfumery may be as old as human civilisation, but perfumers have only 3,000 ingredients in their repertoire to create products. How then does an industry that generates nearly US$28.95 billion (S$39 billion) in annual sales across the world up its appeal to consumers who are constantly on the search for novelty?

Thankfully, today’s top noses are breaking new ground by unveiling new scents and accords. This is done using headspace technology, a technique discovered in the ’80s but used only in commercial perfumery in recent years as consumers covet innovation. It records and analyses the molecular makeup of fragrances through an airtight bell jar holding the object. A gas is then passed through the jar to push out the pure aromas for a perfumer to analyse and re-create in scent.

All this means fragrance creators have a larger repertoire to play with in the future, while buyers get far more interesting scents.

Take Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, for instance. The brand’s latest men’s fragrance, Intenso, released last January, features moepel accord, a new discovery in the olfactory world. It is re-created from the leaves and flowers of the milkwood tree, a species native to the southern region of Africa, and has notes of balsamic and honey.

British fragrance firm Jo Malone, on the other hand, has taken a more adventurous track and introduced ink accord in its Birch and Black Pepper cologne. The fragrance is part of a five-item collection released this month, meant to showcase the various periods of British history. The ink accord in the cologne represents the punk rock bands of the ’70s and has an unmistakeable whiff of ink embedded in the mix.

Says Celine Roux, Jo Malone’s fragrance director: “We like to create fragrances which are a bit different, always with a twist, and new ingredients and innovation are key to this.”