Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scents You Asked

[Ed. note: This post is for Milly and all the other great-smelling Lords and Ladies of the Realm.]

I love smells. Well, not all of them. But I do love the idea that invisible molecules wafting through the air can create intense reactions of pleasure or aversion.

{Disclaimer: The author of this post appreciates all 5 senses equally and would not want to be deprived of any of them. The above paragraph is just his goofy attempt to begin a blog post which focuses on the sense of smell and in no way intends to slander or diminish the importance of any and/or all of the other 4 well-respected senses. Thank you.}

When you visit someone else's house or ride in their car... or get closer to them than you usually do... you are introduced immediately to the curiosity that is their personal smell. Maybe the smell is dominated by pets, or exotic foods, or candles, or poor hygiene, or fantastic hygiene, but in any case there it is... confronting you.

This smell could be a repulsive odor or a haunting fragrance, but regardless, your nose runs (not as in dripping) through your accumulated smell memory banks frantically searching for a match or etching a new entry which will never be forgotten.

The smell could be an obvious repeat offender. The smell could be deliciously mysterious: an olfactory puzzle to be solved. The smell could trigger past associations with another time and place. Or the smell could prompt evasive maneuvers.

Scents you're still reading and not because you asked me, here are my very own categorical smell rankings. See if they pass your sniff test, and then give me your own aroma winners and losers. Please don't think that because you've smelt it that anyone here will think you dealt it.

And by all means, if you have a funny smell story, do tell. I'm sure I'm not the only "smeller feller" around here.

Top 5 Best Smells (Overall)

  • A clean baby
  • Chocolate chip cookies baking

  • The mixture of plumeria and sugar cane in the Hawaiian air

  • A Spring afternoon shower

  • Model airplane glue

  • Honorable mention: The smell of the beach when you first arrive

Top 5 Worst Smells

  • A paper mill

  • Vomit in a hot car

  • Sour milk

  • Nursing homes (sorry)

  • A football locker room

  • Honorable mention: Coffee/beer breath

Top 5 Parfumes/Colognes

Top 5 Food Smells (other than above)

  • Pit barbecue

  • Fresh peaches

  • Chili

  • Fresh-baked bread

  • Bacon

  • Honorable mention: Vanilla extract

Top 5 Plant/Tree Smells (other than above)

  • Roses

  • Sassafras tree roots

  • Coffee beans

  • Drying tobacco leaves

  • Cinnamon bark

  • Honorable mention: Spruce trees

Top 5 Worst Plant/Tree Smells (other than above)
  • Bradford pear blooms

  • Dead leaves

  • Freshly-cut grass

  • Geraniums

  • Scotch broom

  • Honorable mention: Wild onions


Joanna said...

My favorite smells are desert rain and bread baking.

And for some reason I really like the smell of crayons.

And freshly-cut grass smells GOOD!

I LOATHE the smell of vinegar and cilantro (not sure why).

Diabolical Genius said...


Welcome !!

Crayons. Yes, that's a good one.

We had some discussion about crayons here recently when we debated the primary colors, and it turns out that folks are pretty passionate about crayons.

I don't mind admitting that a good coloring session is sometimes as therapeutic as a good cry.

I realize that I may be in the minority on grass, but YUCK!!!

Vinegar is a strange one. Sometimes I like it and other times I'm with you.

I like it when dying Easter eggs, but I still have nightmares about the smell of vinegar and raw cucumbers (which would have been in my Top 5 worst food smells) from childhood canning/pickling traumas.

I like eating cilantro at Tex-Mex places. Can't get a smell picture of right now.

Diabolical Genius said...

Hey Wanda,

Don't want to hijack the post, but Joanna (who commented above) is a fellow writer. I've linked her blog in our blogroll, and she's a big NaNoWriMo proponent.

Get to know her.

Rich said...

I'll go over this whole post later -- it's late and I'm very tired -- but I did want to say, if you've ever had chicken or eggs sit in your sink -- or sit in the sink at a place you've lived (i.e. dormitory at college) with others (i.e. it's their fault, not yours) -- for over a day or two, I'm not sure that there's one on your bad scent list, besides the vomit one (which sort of takes the cake, imo), that compares disfavorably (well, maybe sour milk is about even). There's a reason people talk about rotten eggs, which are a little different yet related, and it's because they're unbearably malodorous.

Good night.

Diabolical Genius said...

Who was your loser of a college dorm roommate?

That kind of behavior is simply unforgivable.

Milly said...

if her smell comes into the room before you do, it's way too strong. If it stays after you leave you might hear from your wife's attorney.

DugALug said...


Great smell: The thanksgiving turkey.

Not so great: When the same turkey is sitting in the garbage all weekend.

Great smell: mega-ditto to coffee beens

Not so great: cigarette smoke AND butts. <== I think there is little in the world more disgusting

Great smell: The smell of my wife when I come home at night (no kidding... she smells great).

Not so great: B.O. (no not Jackson)

Great smell: Super Honey Crisp Cereal

Not So Great: Sauerkraut

Great Smell: A good merlot

Not so great: Old beer (or the smell of most frat-houses).

God Bless

Rich said...

Also, not to be juvenile or crass -- and I know this takes what was a fine post with fine comments, save mine, down a few notches -- but I also wanted to note one other awful odor. On the basketball court, you're playing with purpose, and then all of a sudden you get hit, smacked in the face, with sports gas... probably the worst of all flatulences. It ruins the game. (Let Jonathan know that, btw.)

Also, I'll mention Chef Boyardee Spaghettios - opening a can of those horrid inedibles is like opening a can of whooparse all over your olfactory senses.

Back to pleasant aromas:

-- You hit the nail on the head with bacon. Really, the smell of an old country or southern breakfast is hard to beat.

-- Actually, you hit it twice with the salty air of the beach. It's like when I drive past the state line and into Florida, especially when I'm close to the beaches. It always smells like home... and it's been a long time since I lived there.

-- Peppermint is nice

-- For whatever strange reason, I always liked baby's breath when my kids were infants.

-- And then I know they use a lot of herbal mixtures, but I love the aroma when I walk into Bed Bath & Beyond. I'm sure there are other such stores like that, but that's the one I can remember. Not that I go there often, but I have bought some of the herb mixes for my house and to put into my vacuum cleaner.

-- Then, I like the smell of pipe tobacco - you know, when people smoke pipes. Since I was a child, I've always been partial to that scent.

Diabolical Genius said...

When I was a kid, I mowed Old Lady Gussage's (RIP) lawn, and she had a patch of fresh mint growing up near the house.

I used to love mowing over that stuff (oops) because it made the whole yard smell great and covered over the horrible smell of the freshly-cut grass.

BTW, don't be so hard on yourself, Rich. I've kind of gotten used to it.

Rich said...

BTW, don't be so hard on yourself, Rich. I've kind of gotten used to it.

Sometimes you're funny. And then there's now.

Milly said...

We like

Burning leaves
Cooking burgers out on the grill
Micky Ds (The boy’s good smell)
Pizza (The boy’s good smell)
Molasses cookies
Porter Peaches
Wood fire
New Car
Fresh baked Apple Pie

Diabolical Genius said...

Milly, do I see a little fire bug theme?

Just think how good Porter peaches would smell if they were on fire. ;-)

(Ed. note: This comment should in no way be construed to condone or encourage setting puppies, new cars, or McDonald's restaurants on fire. This would be deviant and inappropriate on many levels. However, the peaches had it coming.)

Diabolical Genius said...


Were your "juvenile and crass" comments intended to be the promised going "over this whole post later" or is there more goodness to come?

Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

Honeysuckle! I absolutely love the smell of honeysuckle. Ane the smell of a salty sea breeze. Mmm. And woodsmoke - especially camp fires, and popcorn, and real christmas trees, and things baking with cinnamon.

If you blindfolded me and took me to Aunt Dot's house or my grandmother's, I could tell you where I was just by the smell. Neither place smelled bad -- they just had their particular aroma. And I can't smell PineSol without picturing my mom mopping the kitchen floor.

And my mom loves to tell how the first time we crossed over the Banana River down in Florida, I gave my dad a look full of accusation. :o)


Rich said...

Were your "juvenile and crass" comments intended to be the promised going "over this whole post later" or is there more goodness to come?

Just askin'.

Are you really "just askin'"? Because from you I smell (a):

-- rat
-- skunk
-- garlic
-- outhouse
-- landfill
-- foot odor
-- dead fish
-- onion breath
-- cooked cabbage
-- dirty cat litter
-- sulfur and brimstone


-- fear

Which is unlike what I smell with our fellow commenters. With them, I smell (a):

-- puppies
-- cinnamon
-- fine wine
-- pumpkin pie
-- movie popcorn
-- new car leather
-- campfire roasts
-- ground coffee beans
-- freshly copied paper
-- everything Christmas


-- victory

Diabolical Genius said...

Honeysuckle and PineSol.

That sounds like a good name for a country music song.

Both excellent smells.

Love what you said about your relatives' houses.

Diabolical Genius said...


You smell dirty cat litter from me? Really?



Rich said...

Now that was funnier, an inside joke, but humorous all the same.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I love the smell of Old Spice or Paul Sebastian on my husband. Mushy sigh.


Milly said...

Porter Peaches cooking over a camp fire on a crisp fall night Oh now that's live'n my friend.

I got the camping gear in the divorce anyone up for it?

Anonymous said...

Tonight would be a perfect camping night except for the stupid burn ban. :o(


Diabolical Genius said...


I don't know Paul, but as long as you're OK with his smell on your husband, I guess I am too.

I also like the smell of isopropyl alcohol.

Anonymous said...

And Hoppy's #9


Diabolical Genius said...

OK. That took some digging.

Maybe that wasn't obscure to the 10-code community, but it was to me.

However, I love obscure references like that. I always learn something here in the Realm.

How would you describe the smell?

Anonymous said...

Like me and my family have just had loads of fun in our backyard gun range. Cleaning up after a shoot is groan-worthy fun.

I tell Scott he ought to put some behind his ears. Mmm.