There is an article well-worth reading in the December issue of Perfumer & Flavorist. Written by Stephen Douthwaite of PerfumersWorld, it makes the point that even professionals in the industry do not necessarily possess the right techniques or work in the right conditions to smell perfumes and flavors. The piece then proceeds to present a number of technical and methodological approaches. Here is a particularly eloquent passage to pinpoint one aspect of the problem,
"...please take a moment to consider this question: "Where is the worse place to smell a perfume compound sample? Places that likely come to mind include kitchens, bathrooms, coffee shops and smoking rooms. Few people would cite the truly worst place, the place where most professional perfumers actually do their initial smelling evaluation of samples -- the odorotheque, the perfumery laboratory. There may be hundreds of perfumery materials lining the shelves in these spaces, all of them emanating tiny amounts of odorous molecules. Trying to smell analytically in such an atmosphere would be like trying to listen to Eric Satie's "Gymnopes" piano piece on a noisy playground. Yes, it's possible to do so, but not truly conductive to getting the most from the music."
Here is P & F's own excerpt,
"Over the past 10 years I have had the pleasure of instructing more than 6,000 students via online courses and in-person workshops and private courses. Their ages have ranged from eight to 80, from complete beginners to some of the most experienced professionals in our industry. One of the first questions I ask in the workshops is, "Have you ever had lessons in how to smell?" I usually raise my hand in the hope of encouraging a positive response. Usually receiving none, I will dig further and add something like, "Maybe your mother sat with you and went through smells with you." Still, without fail, I will receive no response.It seems incredible that the most important and fundamental of techniques to the perfumer's and flavorist's skill--smelling--is hardly, if ever, systematically taught, even for those in the industry."
If you are interested in smelling better, more analytically, it is a very useful read. Even if you do not subscribe to P & F, you can purchase a digital version of the article from $9 here.