This is how it came about: insurance saleswoman Katia Apalategui’s father died. She missed him – and one of the things she missed most was his smell. Her mum held onto pillowcases he’d used. An idea was born: what if the smell of a person could be bottled?
Enter chemists from Havre university, who worked with Ms Apalategui to develop a distilling technique, and Kalain was born.
“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,” the university’s Geraldine Savary told The Guardian.
Kalain says the perfume can be a comfort for people who've lost someone close. It's also being suggested for working mums who miss their babies and their snuggly baby smell. The company can even distill the smell of your dog, if that's what tickles your nostrils.
I find it all a bit much.
But there is one thing I do agree with them on: smell is the most evocative of the senses. And their sales video, which shows a bereaved woman smelling her dead loved one's pillow case, does touch a nerve.
It's the mid-80s. I have just broken up with my second serious boyfriend - the first one I truly loved. I am sobbing in that way that's often described as 'wracking', propped up on my bed. My father is whistling, as he does when he's upset, and hovering anxiously at the doorway, not quite game to cross the threshold (all that female emotion), but not quite sure he should stay out.
Then, outside, the car door slams and mum arrives back from wherever she's been. She takes in the scene and in an instant I'm pulled into her ample, squishy boobs, wrapped in her soft, dimpled arms and comforted. The smell of her - Rexona, Johnston's baby powder, Cedel hairspray - combines into an unidentifiable combination that's just, well, mum, and calms me instantly. And I cuddle in like a three-year-old, not the 20-something I am, and I bawl.
Watch the full video of it's inception below. Post continues after video.
And next to it, her favourite: Safari, by Ralph Lauren, almost exhausted and the source of much amusement to me and my sister. 'I had a farm in Africa', my sister would say in her best Karen Blixen imitation, and we'd recall Meryl Streep in khaki and riding boots, staring over the veld, and then our mum, short, round, eternally reluctant to go near a horse and even more reluctant to do much at all in the great outdoors.
But when I sprayed myself with that Safari, she could have been next to me, standing in her big knickers as she pondered what to wear to Coonabarabran (our nearest shopping town), telling me to hurry up or we'd miss whatever appointment was on the cards, putting on her lippy.