When The Nue Co. launched its Forest Lungs fragrance last year — a scent inspired by the smell of being outside in the woods — the brand had a runaway hit on its hands. The perfume (or as the brand likes to call it, a "fragrance supplement") was meant to do more than just make you and your space smell woodsy. Through the very specific blend of notes (vetiver, cedarwood, benzoin, pine, patchouli, and bergamot, in this case), The Nue Co. aimed to replicate the effects of phytoncides, which are the molecular compounds produced by trees that can have positive mental and physical health benefits for humans, like reducing stress.
Whether or not a spritz of Forest Lungs was affecting people's cellular activity in the way phytoncides do can't be substantiated (the brand ran subjective consumer trials but not quantitative ones), but based on how fast the fragrance flew off the shelves, it made one thing crystal clear: people were obsessed with the perfume and how it made them feel (this editor included . . . I'm staring at a bottle of it on my desk as I type this).
Fast-forward a year later, and the brand now has its sights set on boosting our mental energy with the launch of its third fragrance, The Nue Co. Mind Energy ($95). Housed in a bright ruby-red bottle, Mind Energy contains notes of clary sage, juniper, pink peppercorn, and clove, creating a fresh-yet-zesty scent that is meant to help invigorate your mind when you're experiencing brain fog or mental exhaustion; or as anyone who has worked in an office environment may know it by, the 3 p.m. slump.
"This is our third fragrance, and we actually developed it a long time ago," Jules Miller, founder and CEO of The Nue Co., told POPSUGAR. "However, we were questioning whether people really felt that pull toward needing a fragrance, or really anything, for focus. This was pre-COVID, and then post-COVID, the feedback that we were getting from our customers is that mind fog is something that people are really struggling with."
Like Forest Lungs, the Mind Energy fragrance is also based on the conclusions from a scientific study, this one coming out of the Brain and Behaviour Lab at the University of Geneva and sponsored by the French fragrance company Firmenich. The study ran for about five years in 20 different countries and used MRI scans to look at the impact of smells on brain function by reviewing people's reactions to certain scents and identifying the chemical reactions in the brain triggered by those scents. "We wanted to see whether we could create something that was more invigorating and induced energy," Miller said. "So within that research, we essentially pulled out the notes and ingredients that lent themselves to simulating the brain and invigorating mental energy."
So does Mind Energy really help cut through brain fog and help you keep alert? While the notes in the fragrance were all found by the study to help with alertness, there was no quantitative data collected on the scent as a whole. The brand did, however, run consumer trials over a 30-day period and found that 86 percent of respondents reported having increased level of focus, 76 percent of respondents felt more alert, and 76 percent of respondents felt their productivity levels improve. I've been spraying it for the past two weeks throughout the day, and it certainly is an uplifting scent. Spray Forest Lungs, and you start to feel quiet and zen. Spray Mind Energy, and when it hits your nose, it's basically the fragrance equivalent of opening the blinds to let the sun into the room or getting that first whiff of coffee in the morning.
In classic fragrance terms, the scent is fresh and peppery but also has a soft, soap-like quality from the juniper. While they are two very different scents, Mind Energy has the same earthy quality as Forest Lungs. These aren't sparkly, luminescent florals or sugary gourmand fragrances. They have a natural quality — as if they've emerged from the earth rather than been produced in a perfume lab.
While the notes of the fragrance were inspired by the findings of a study on scent and the brain, it's important to note that it's a singular study in a field that needs more research around it. "In this case, any claims about these smells doing anything out of the ordinary on a scientific level should be treated with extreme skepticism — there's nothing magical going on there," Oliver Robinson, a professor in neuroscience and mental health at University College London, told Dazed in an interview about the launch. "On the other hand — as someone who studies anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions — smells are meaningful and important to people. It can relax them, it can make them less stressed, and it can do all sorts of things."
And that's really what fragrance is all about, isn't it? Whether it's a perfume developed by a celebrity that smells of vanilla and amber or a fragrance supplement created by a wellness brand, what is undeniable is that fragrance affects our mood and our mindset — and The Nue Co. is quickly showing it does a damn good job of it.