Smell

What's your favorite scent?

I'm always curious about the scents people respond to, and how those smells influence other areas of one's life.

Me? I like woodsmoke best. (Apple cider is a close second and cake-y smells are third.) When I think of woodsmoke I think of mesquite or juniper in a cabin fireplace in the distance on a frosty night.

We're having one of those here in LA -- it's pouring -- and a few fireplaces are going. It can surprise people that May and June lean cooler in Los Angeles, but we have two local terms for the weather phenomenon: May Gray and June Gloom.

Monty does not care for either period, because then he has to cheer up guests who find the pool too chilly to use. Fair enjoys cooler weather. Gomery doesn't mind it, and Sutton complains a bit, because the fruit stand is essentially outdoors.

So, woodsmoke. I like it so much I set some Very Big Moments near The Redwoodian's fireplace. I can smell all of those scenes.

Yeah, I said it.

Tell me your favorite scent and why. Maybe I can find a way to work those into "Fairwil"? We'll see. :)


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14 comments:

Kelly said...

Ooh +1 vote for woodsmoke, definitely one of my favourite smells.

Cider is a great one too. My friends and I found a lovely cosy pub a few weeks ago that had mulled cider, with loads of cinnamon and sprigs of rosemary in it, and it both smelled and tasted divine.

I love the way it smells right after a big rainstorm as well, all fresh and clean and earthy.

And books. The lovely musty old book smell is the main reason I refuse to give away my books even though I have a kindle and I could really do with freeing up the major chunk of my living space currently occupied by stacks of paperbacks.

Caitlin said...

Baking bread (baking anything, really -- even just the baking aisle at the grocery store), pine trees (Christmas trees!), lilac, freshly mown grass, grapefruit, the ocean, and yes, woodsmoke. I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

I am a weirdo who can't stand that post-rain smell. I only know two other people who feel the same way I do on this point, and both are related to me. I'm convinced it's hereditary (seriously).

bess said...

The ocean may be number one for me, the smell of the salt and hot sand.

Also fresh jasmine outdoors - it's just one of those things that doesn't smell as nice once it's cut and in your house. I like taking a walk and coming upon a cloud of the scent.

A weird one for me is those little wax birthday candles, the swirly ones that come in pink, blue and yellow? The smell of those burning and after they've been blown out is wonderful. Of course, that smell is linked to the scents of cake and frosting so it might not all be in the candle.

Also, hi! Sorry I've been gone so long!

do dah said...

mountain mornings. i haven't smelled all the mountain ranges yet (new life goal?), so we'll specify cascades or rockies. this is a mix of evergreen trees, whatever makes the slightly too-cool air so ridiculously fresh, maybe some sweet flowers or leaves, campfire smoke, and perhaps a hint of the kind of awful smell that tents have.

simpler answers include matches (weird, i know), lilacs, hyacinths, laundry detergent, a mix of citrus and sage (or citrus and cloves in the winter), red licorice, cinnamon, cumin, and cherry-almond (like original jergens lotion).

i like how much overlap these responses have so far. i wonder if people who share preferences for a certain type of stories also tend to prefer a certain set of scents (because brains are awesome), or if there are some scents that are really just the best smells in the world?

Nikki said...

Any sort of baking scent. BIG fan of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus. Combine those smells with woodsmoke? Heavenly! (We have people around here that still burn their trash and some of them choose to use cedar in the mix, which makes the entire neighborhood smell amazing for several hours.)

That ozone smell, just before it rains? YES! I can't even say why, other than it is perfection itself.

The coffee aisle at the grocery store! I don't drink coffee - went through a phase as a 90s teen where I sort of had to for awhile, though - but the smell of coffee beans is splendid.

And honeysuckle! It's short-lived but I'm looking forward to the next few weeks when it should appear. I remember taking a long car ride a few states over, with the windows down, and hitting a patch along the highway that was just overrun with it. All you could do was breath it in deep, and smile.

I also have a very nostalgic connection to the smell of a gas stove heating up, before food even starts cooking. It's when just the tiniest bit of that odor they add to gas (mercaptan) gets out and mixes with the open flames... it triggers the emotion felt when you have fun family dinners with some classic comfort food.

Chiara said...

Vanilla and coconut are my faves but I also love the smell of freshly baked bread or freshly made popcorn. Coffee beans or ground coffee smell is lovely as well and when it comes to spices I absolutely love the smell of garam masala. Also garlic. And chai, oh and tonka!

myrandaroyann said...

I love the smell of Bergamont (ingredient in Earl Grey tea). Mmmmm! I also really love the smell (and taste!) of basil.

Flower-wise, I love the smell of carnations (one of my fave flowers, love that spicy scent) and lilacs. I remember going to visit my grandfather at his house and he'd cut me off some lilac from one of his bushes to take home with me.

Another scent that means a lot to me is Jovan Musk for Women perfume. My Grandma used to wear it for as long as I can remember and since she passed away ten years ago, the scent has been very comforting to me. I have a bottle of the perfume that I used to spray on a stuffed animal that I gave to her while she was in the hospital so that I could sleep while smelling her scent. I also use the perfume on myself when I'm really missing her or wanting her close.

Scents are powerful!

myrandaroyann said...

Oh, Nikki! I love honeysuckle, too! We used to have some growing outside the first house I lived in and at my grandma's. We'd always pull the stamen (?) out so we could eat the tiny amount of syrup/dew/honey inside. Yum!

Nikki said...

Myranda - I have a candle sitting next to me that is "bergamot cyprus"... whenever I smell it I think of an old library with worn, overstuffed leather chairs.

And I'll let you in on a little secret - I still eat the syrupy insides of a honeysuckle. ;)

Wilfair Book said...

Wow! THESE SMELLS! I sat back for a bit and let these comments flow in, like scent on a breeze, because it seems like you definitely have strong picks in the olfactory arena.

It is very interesting to me, what people respond to and what they ick out over.

Kelly! Let's go to that sweet little pub together and cider it up! Speaking of pubs, don't they have a distinctive smell, too? Old beer, yes, but wood and paper and sometimes cologne. I was going to say "darts" but that's stretching it. Although I suppose if darts had a smell it would be metallic.

Also, rosemary is my favorite herb. Well, it's a toss-up with dill. But probably rosemary. I'm going to stick a sprig in my next cup of cider and raise the glass to you in thanks.

Caitlin: This is a true thing about grass smell: I'll sometimes stand next to the juicing station at Farmers Market, because the guy is always making wheatgrass shots. (Hi, this is LA, so that's one truth about us, we have to drink our wheatgrass.) So I keep near the juicer because I have to smell that grassy smell. I'm so happy they've never asked me to leave, because standing around the juicing station and sniffing air is not typical behavior.

bess: JASMINE. We get two blooms here in the springtime, a few weeks apart, and it is heady stuff. In fact, the street behind where the Motel Fairwil is located in the alternate Wilfairverse is loaded with jasmine, so I'll call that one of the official smells of the books.

And those wax candles! Those are distinctive, right after you've blown them out.

HOT SAND. Temperature does impact odor. Totally.

Uh-oh. This is getting long. Continuing in the next comment...

Wilfair Book said...

do dah: I can't believe you said the cherry-almond of Jergens lotion. Oh my gosh. I thought that was just my secret obsession! I don't want to gross you out but it kind of makes my mouth water a little bit, in a weird way. I wonder why? (I've never tasted it. Well, I might have when I was 3 or 4, but we sample more random stuff when we're 3 or 4, right?)

Cumin. YES. Mountain mornings. YES. I'll take a polite pass on matches, though I can't deny that they have a singular scent.

What you pose in your final paragraph is interesting. There may be stuff ahead that isn't too far from that. Shhhh.

Nikki: I'm so into your gas stove memory. I don't know the scent personally, but I like when unexpected items give off an odor which then produces a feeling. We all expect a banana to smell like a banana, but having an association with something that we think of as lacking an odor does fascinate.

I just learned the word "mercaptan" from you! Hooray!

You mentioned cedar, which I'm a bit obsessed with. I'll add that to my much-loved woods list. Maybe not with burning trash, but it probably smells deep and green.

Down with that pre-rain smell, too.
I spent my childhood in Arizona, which can get some epic thunderstorms (they're brief, yes, but powerful). The waxy-leaf creosote bushes put off such a strong and spicy scent during a rain, and right after, that the moment I happen to smell one now I'm 5 again.

Chiara: I'm down with you on coffee, oh, and Nikki, too. The bouquet of whole beans gives me a happy jolt.

And garlic, too. Did you know there's a whole garlic festival here in California? It is serious stuff. Like, there's loads of garlic in everything, including the desserts. I also ate deep-fried garlic there, just the cloves in batter, and I will say it was one of my top five most memorable food experiences. Not for the faint of palate.

Garam masala! Mmm.

myranda: Love that story about your grandma and Jovan Musk! So sweet. Funny enough, I was just thinking about my grandma and scent this week. She lived in Arizona but she'd always keep a few rose bushes, because she enjoyed tending to them so much.

Roses are not easy to keep in desert heat, and I remember that the flower heads would get very hot. And roses that are hot put off a whole different sort of vibe.

So we had a warm day here this week and I stopped in a neighbor's yard to smell their hot roses and it took me right back to my grandmother's backyard.

I'm glad you have that warm memory of your grandma, too.

I'm down with lilacs, too, like you, but I never seem to come across them enough. I also like carnations, but haven't thought much about their scent. I just like their frilly appearance, especially white ones with pink edges.

Nikki and myranda: Okay, I don't think I've ever typed this in a public place, but I've eaten the honey from inside the blossoms of the ocotillo cactus. Those are the cacti with the very long thorny spines, and you have to pull the spine toward you to reach the flower. I did that all the time when I was a kid and got a few thorn injuries along the way.

Thank you for summoning that memory for me! Too funny.

And I loved loved loved reading all of these! Thanks, everyone! I don't know if I'm done, honestly. I want more smells.

Chiara said...

There is a garlic festival?! One of my life goals will now be to attend that. I'm a garlic addict, I can put it in any food and be happy. Well I don't think I can find a way to work it into a dessert but I'd happily try it :D

The mentioning of rosemary made me remember I forgot to list thyme, I absolutely love the smell of it. Especially fresh thyme, and I love how the smell lingers on my fingers after cleaning some sprigs.

Chiara said...

So obviously I had to look for garlic desserts and this sounds all kinds of good:

http://theletmeeatcake.com/2012/03/garlic-rosemary-pine-nut-brittle-dinner-at-eight/

I think I need to try that. I also think I need to try and make garlic ice cream.

do dah said...

so there's a jasmine plant sitting in my front hall right now, waiting to be planted and filling the entire house with its scent. and i must say: good choice, jasmine favorers!

also, myranda, good choice on the bergamot. earl grey is wonderful for exactly that reason, and it's the scent i cannot refuse in a perfume.

alysia, i'm pretty sure i've licked the jergens. i... can't actually remember why, so we'll pretend it was an accident. in any case, it is not advisable. and hooray for upcoming stuff!

 
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