BMW 7 Series special

“Fragrances improve our feeling of well-being”

The new 7 Series is the first BMW to feature a scenting concept. Fragrance designer Annabelle Kanzow-Coffinet talks about the aroma of leather upholstery, the Madeleine Effect and aromatic chords.

Uwe Düttmann
Christian Kain

What does the new BMW 7 Series smell like?

Annabelle Kanzow-Coffinet: The only car-specific aroma in the interior of the new BMW 7 Series should be that of quality leather. In developing the various scents, we were careful to ensure that the exclusive fragrances blended in smoothly with the smell of leather.

Can you describe these fragrances?

Kanzow-Coffinet: We’ve put together a selection of eight fragrances. They are split into four categories, each comprising a lighter and a more complex variant. Blue Suite and Green Suite venture toward the refreshing end of the scale, while Golden Suite and Authentic Suite are more woody scents. That was very important for us, as wood is also a key element of the interior.

Are those all masculine fragrances?

Kanzow-Coffinet: They’re unisex. It’s important that they are perceived as pleasant scents by customers around the world. But this range of fragrances will doubtless be applied differently in different countries.

Annabelle Kanzow-Coffinet was involved in the development of the Ambient Air Package in the new BMW 7 Series. The aim of the designer and her team is to optimize comfort by means of fragrances, as their effect is both psychological and physiological: they enhance the feeling of well-being and reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

“We remember things we smell far longer than things we see.”

Annabelle Kanzow-Coffinet

Is the choice of fragrance associated with personality or time of day?

Kanzow-Coffinet: As everyone registers fragrances differently and they are something very personal, it’s a mixture of both. The lighter variant of Blue Suite No. 1, for example, contains a lot of melon, while the stronger version has more patchouli and elenee, a type of pepper. The Blue and Green Suite, with their refreshing characters, are arguably better for mornings. Golden and Authentic come into their own in the evening.

How exactly does the scenting system work?

Kanzow-Coffinet: The desired fragrance is activated by using a button in the center console. You can choose between three different grades of intensity. In contrast to perfumes, the fragrances do not feature different classes – i.e., a top note, middle note and base note. The whole “chord,” as we call it, comes across as one. But the hits of scent waft over you at intervals. Otherwise, you would quickly get used to them – and no longer be able to smell them! The molecules are very light – they don’t linger in clothes, and the fragrance quickly fades.

Why is fragrance so important nowadays?

Kanzow-Coffinet: As city dwellers, we have forgotten how to smell. However, for some time now, there has been a trend towards returning to our primal sensory perception. Luxury hotels and spas have built up years of experience in developing fragrance concepts. We know that fragrances work both psychologically and physiologically. They improve our feeling of well-being, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate. We remember things we smell far longer than things we see – that is scientifically proven. This is known as the “Madeleine Effect,” after a famous passage written by Marcel Proust.

Eight fragrances in four categories: the refreshing Blue Suite, the Green Suite with natural notes, the warm, rich Golden Suite and the Authentic Suite that evokes wood and leather.

Ambient Air Package

At the press of a button, the Ambient Air Package suffuses the entire cabin with a subtle and pleasant fragrance. The eight scents were especially composed for the new BMW 7 Series by Annabelle Kanzow-Coffinet and her team. The intensity of the fragrance can be regulated at three levels, activated via the iDrive Controller and the iDrive menu, or directly by using the relevant buttons in the air conditioning control console. The Control Display indicates the chosen setting. While the interior is fragranced, the outside air is filtered and purified. Ionization, furthermore, noticeably improves the air quality.

If I climb into my new BMW 7 Series after not having driven it for a while and activate Blue Suite, will I experience the Madeleine Effect?

Kanzow-Coffinet: You will indeed. BMW has composed a sensual experience befitting a luxury brand, where the sense of touch, sight and smell all work together.

How long have people been doing what you do?

Kanzow-Coffinet: Getting on 50 years now. I went to the school founded in Versailles in 1970 by French perfumer Guerlain, where perfumers and fragrance designers – but also researchers developing whole new fragrance molecules – learn their art.

What fragrance do you wear personally?

Kanzow-Coffinet: Oh, it varies. I do prefer something woody, though. Having said that, I can’t wear any fragrances when I’m at work, as they would only distract me. Strictly speaking, you can’t smoke or chop onions in my profession either – but, obviously, not everyone sticks to that. [laughs]