Secret Smells

1965 advertisement for the Ditto Corp. spirit duplicator

by Anita/Musette

I’m actually blushing as I type this.

Okay…I took Carmine out for a walk this afternoon so he could do what dogs do when you take them out.  He’s a healthy dog so, like most healthy mammals, his elimination is pretty normal-smelling (given that it is, uh, poop – (wow…You know, when I first started thinking about this post, I figured writing the intro would be a breeze.  Uh…I ..well, forging ahead here)

Don’t puke yet – we’re not going to stick with the dog-poop angle for much longer.  I’m hoping to segue into Weird Smells We Like; re this poop: the first 3 seconds of  bready/yeasty smell should’ve been disgusting, right?  Instead it was vaguely….interesting.  Then it turned “appropriately’ disgusting.  But that initial reaction was not something I was prepared for – even as a card-carrying Smell Freak.

… why am I grossing you guys out with this?  Well, a few weeks ago Angela over at Now Smell This did a post on Smell Fetishes, those slightly tilted aromas that captivate us – and the comments that followed were fascinating – and very comforting.  Turns out that what I always thought was just Sheer Weirdness on my part is, in fact, pretty banal.  One of mine is the fleshy part of the  knee, when it is bent and I would’ve gone to my grave with that little secret, had it  not been that at least 4 other people commented on that very thing (and I think we’ve discussed knees here before – I probably blocked it out. 1960s Childhood trauma, I’m sure).  Another is the smell of an uncropped dog’s ear, where it just joins the head.  It’s this warm, waxy, slightly oily, cheesy smell.  I never get the dog paw/Frito connection – but that ear join could give a Cheeto a run for its money.

Google groans under the weight of  sites on armpit-love.  Butts are big.  Feet…I could walk from LA to Hilo to Tokyo on the list of sites without getting my own feet wet.  Non-body perfumistas cop to asphalt a lot.  And gasoline (though that’s a no-brainer.  Anybody who loves Mitsouko after 1990 has to love gasoline).  My herpetologist pal is addicted to the smell of newly sloughed-off snakeskin (warm, right off the snake – she has about 20 pythons, the weirdo, so she orta know).    I had a moldy carpet that smelled exactly like puppy-breath and even though I knew it was likely to give me plague…I loved catching that quick whiff of baby dog breath (is there any sweeter animal smell in the world?)  The list of unconventional smell-loves is HUGE!  With the advent of the Internet (and it’s relative anonymity), lots of folks are ‘coming out’ with their love of smells.  Back in my youth,  in the Jurassic Era, you got beat down BAD if you were the booger-eatin’ Urkle who sniffed weird stuff or ate library paste – and then threw it up all over the floor.  Now that’s an early-60s scent memory from Hell.  The Urkle.  The paste.  The puke.  The sawdust (and the really disgusted janitor).  And the nuns would never let you change seats, even if the Urkle threw up in the aisle next to your desk.


But I was a little weirded-out by the breadypoop thing– then I realized  the initial smell is replicated in the first blast of Bois Farine and (Lord, I’m gonna get a beatdown for this one)..En Passant.  And Cheerios! It only lasts a second but there is this warm, fecund, internal smell that doesn’t even smell fecal – more elemental – and having little to do with the actual poop. I know Secretions Magnifique worked hard to be the Bad Dog, with it’s bloody knife, etc…but in that first blast,  En Passant is more ‘real’, more deeply organic than that poseur SM could ever hope to be. I’m not a total freak…right?  12 years of 50s-60s Catholic school can make you doubt yourself.

But let’s get back to the SMELLS! My list is long and weird, but I shared a few of them with you (in the 60s,whole classrooms were cracked-out on purple ditto ink -yeah, baby!).

Do you have any unusual smell-loves?  Don’t be shy.  After all, we are people who pay Good Money for perfumes made with cat-butt, whale poop and blue cheese .   Do any of those smell translate in perfumery?  M. Malle is probably sending the ninjas over here as I type this..(am I crazy with the En Passant?  For reals.  You can tell me.  I can take it.)





  1. Well, I had to keep my stomach contents from rising up while reading this. But what I’m about to say may make other people nauseated, too. I liked the smell of my babies’ poop while they were nursing. That’s something only a mother could love, I realize. :d

    • I wonder if that smell is particular to each baby/mom combo, like animals who can easily pick their get out of a herd? 😕

      xo >-)

    • E, I’ve heard that compared to hot buttered popcorn, and I don’t know whether it’s just that I eat a lot of popcorn, or whether it’s the (forgive me) processed fats connection, but for the first six months of my little guy’s life, yep, buttered popcorn. He’s on solids and much more stinky the last two months.

        • Exactly. Forgot to say, btw, that this was a great article, M. One of my favorites from you, very funny and true.

        • I LOVE that smilie! That’s what I was just looking for in my post about puke. b-(

      • That’s a pretty good analogy – I can’t actually remember how it smells anymore, but it doesn’t smell bad, just interesting. But after the first bite of real food, yechh. But it’s still better than puke, at any age.

    • Totally with you on the baby-poop thing, stipulating it’s only when breastfed (not formula) and before any other foods are introduced. That poop smells totally inoffensive, by which I mean it doesn’t even smell like poop, more like the yeasty smell of bread rising.

      …. and it’s not even 9am yet, who’s puking? Speaking of a smell I really, REALLY HATE.

      Also I went to a lecture yesterday morning and I thought I would have to leave — room smelled like a fridge full of sour milk. Spent an hour breathing through my mouth. Also unlike everyone else I hate the smell of gasoline and diesel/jet fuel smells (like on a bus/in an airplane), all of which give me terrible headaches.

      I like a little bit of stink. That funky gym smell. There, I said it. Feet, not so much, but sweat? Bring it on. It’s got to be pretty unwashed to put me off.

      • “Throw up in the baaaag!!!” =))


        It’s a quorum. What I was getting, in that first two seconds, was ‘yeast’.

        I’m with you re the gasoline/fuel – I get nauseous and headachy, except for that Mitsy blast.

        The gym smell. Yeah…:-? Interesting smell, not sure it’s quite 😡 for me…

        xo >-)

      • Sharing your dislike of gasoline/diesel/jet fuel smell. It makes me sick!

      • There have been several good research studies that show the most erotic smell for most women is male sweat! Clean male sweat, that is. It also helps with depression and low libido. So, feeling down, off to the gym or boxing/martial arts dojo! heh heh

      • Yep, puke smell is deadly. My son threw up at 3 AM the other night, and I was unable to go into his room after that, it smelled so horrifying. I’m even getting nauseated thinking about it. :(

  2. Asphalt for sure. Horse apples. Fresh cow manure in the spring, silage in the silo, newly laid eggs, leather, as in saddleand bridle, and cow breath (can you tell I grew up on a farm?)
    Thanks for asking!

    • Thanks for sharing! 5 years ago I couldn’t have parsed a single one of those smells. Now that I am down with the 3:-o:@)~:> I got a whiff of every single one, reading this!

      xo >-)

  3. Crayola crayons

    newborn infants – I’m talking fresh out of the womb

    ice – I know you’re thinking ice doesn’t have a scent but ice frozen in those metal ice trays of old had a unique scent.

    • OW,

      The old metal ice trays with the levers, right? You betcha they had a scent, those ice cubes of old. Ho, yus!

      Old Crayolas, yes. For me, new Crayolas, not so much. They took something out of them, alas.

      How would you describe a newly de-wombed newborn’s smell?

      xo >-)

      • My grandmother used to describe that newborn smell as fresh baked bread.

      • The original formula for Play-Doh! I actually made a roll-on in my aromatherapy lab that smells exactly like it.

  4. play doh, cardboard, packing peanuts, yeast,horseradish and dirt after it has rained. are some of the scents that are strangely comforting.

    • Yeast is very comforting – in fact, I’m thinking ‘yeast’ plays a big part in that “internal’ thing I was speaking of.

      After-rain dirt. Lovely! I get that in (sorry, March :”> Liz Zorn’s Violets and Rainwater.

      xo >-)

  5. Brilliant Anita! I love posts like this.

    Lessee-the way my sheets smell the day I change them (which is once a week)-assorted perfume smells, warm cotton, a bit of “me”, a bit of cat warmth.

    Galoshes. Anyone remember them?

    Rubber cement in the metal container. If you recall, the container is always cold to the touch and that first whiff when the cap comes off? Heaven! I never went on whiffing, though. Once an opening is enough.

    Scotch tape still on the roll.

    Tarnish on silver. Lets see Mr. Brosius do that one!

    Chlorine bleach.

    • Yes on the galoshes – funny how they’re baaack! I remember my brother and me hiding ours because we wanted to be like the cool kids and walk to school in the pouring rain, ruining our shoes.

      The moment I read ‘rubber cement in the metal container’ that scent came roaring into my nose! One whiff was always enough but it was very compelling!

      xo >-)

  6. Turpentine (art school) and diesel fumes (bus trip through Europe). Emptying the pencil sharpener.

    • Ooooh yes, the natural turpentine from trees, by far my favorite solvent! Copal and linseed are also strong and lovely smells from Art School (and later painting years) too – I am always reminded of being in the painting stacks when I spray on ‘Daphne’.

      • Turps and linseed. My studio (currently shut down for reno) is one of my favorite scent places…add in a good solid oil paint…:x

        I’ll have to look up Daphne 😕

        xo >-)

      • LOL! Now I’m going to go scratch Daphne OFF of my to sample list!

  7. Skunk, just a whiff. They’re coming out of hibernation now and I smell them in the predawn hours on my way to work and think, *yay, skunks, c’mon spring!*

    • r,

      That’s one of those ‘hate to love it’ smells for me. I know persackly what you mean, though. Skunk = Spring around our parts. And for reasons I couldn’t begin to fathom, skunk reminds me of violets, for just a mo’…

      xo >-)

    • Skunk smell will always remind me of L.A. They live all over the city — I think they forage in garbage dumpsters — and aren’t too smart about crossing the street. Releasing the scent is usually the last thing the skunk ever does. When driving around at night, especially in the canyons, you pass through veils of skunk smell. I never thought it would be pleasant, but when I go back there on visits now, it smells great to me.

      • Olfacta – I live in one of those canyons! My dog has been skunked from inches away more than once. The smell up close and personal will close your eyes and throat — BUT, I love the smell from far away, when it just wafts through the air.

        I also like the smell of manure, which reminds me of long car rides upstate. And the smell of loam – perfectly balanced soil.

  8. Wow Musette, I have really been considering this topic a lot lately! Especially the animal feet thing…they all have a smell that is quite unique, and must be part of their territory-marking and tracking abilities.
    Even the icky thrushy thing of horses’ feet is there for that reason I read somewhere.
    Most smells I can ‘deal’ with OK, with some interested ‘distance’. I suppose I’d ‘ick’ the human excrement variety…but I’ve always loved petroleum types, the whiff of kerosene smoke for instance.

    • I remember reading somewhere that smelling our elimination helps the actual process (I’m sure I’m screwing that up but it’s something like that. (I tried to find the reference for this post – you should’ve seen what popped up b-( It’s why dogs frequently smell other poop just prior to pooping themselves. I’m not big on poop (I’m the one who picks up after the dogs, cleans the toilets, etc – corprophagia is NOT in my love-lexicon) which is why I was so surprised by that 2-second yeasty smell being so not-ick.

      The only petroleum love I have is for that first blast of later Mitsouko. Actual gas makes me a bit nauseous.

      xo >-)

  9. I have this special sleeping bag that belonged to my uncle. It’s Army issue, down, thirty years old, and lived in a garage for much of that time. It’s mummy style,and I sleep under it in the bed of my freezing cold dorm room, with my comforter heaped on top.

    The smell after a night of sleeping in it is heavenly. Sort of warm and thick and ‘human’, with a little must and a tinge of my skin lotion.

    My first cat’s smell in fall. In the Fall, he’d fine crumbly dried leaves and roll in them on our driveway, which was not paved. Then he’d crawl into my bed and we’d snuggle all night under the covers. That smells like the best and simplest kind of happiness and unconditional love to me.

    Fresh paint–my grandfather was a shop teacher and is still a talented handiman and mechanic, so I associate the smell with him.

    Book glue. I worked in a library–happiness of the non cat kind is the stacks of a library.

    • Cat smell from the outdoors is bliss, as is the smell of dried saliva on the coat after they’ve given themselves a good wash then nodded off to sleep.

  10. Art supplies. SKUNK. Raw gasoline. Horse anything, even their poop. Hay/straw/wood shavings. The inside of a hot compost pile. Copper. Wet granite. Swamps and low tides. Hardware stores,the old-fashioned kind that sell sisal rope and chicken feed. Baby chicks. Newborn kittens. Cats whose bellies smell like popcorn.

    • Your list is magnificent! I’m okay with horse poop (it’s actually way less ‘fecal’ than carnivores’ poop, imo) but am so allergic to nearly everything ‘horse’ that – do you know I cannot associate many horse smells? Once they urinate, I’m outa there (bad asthma reaction – BAD) and we all know how often they do that!

      Hot compost! yeah!

      xo >-)

  11. We have cute little ferret-like creatures in the Alps that sit in your car engine and chew the wires- they are called marders. What a smell their musk has, like a skunk’s but more bearable. And cow manure, yeah, grew up with that one! And sumi ink, yum, I have boxes of incense that smell like that. Now let’s put them all together. Parfum de Ferret-Manure-Ink!

    • That sounds great! Except for the wire-chewing. That would really :-w, even if they smelled like vintage Parure!

      xo >-)

      • Our marder, which hung around our house for 3 years, was named “Marvin the Muddy”, and he didn’t chew the wires, but he left presents in the engine block, like once, there was a coconut (where did he find that in the Alps??) and another time, a vulture’s claw! They’re kind of like cats that way, they leave presents for their humans. He liked to slide down the back of the car at night, leaving muddy little butt prints and his musky smell all over the car.

  12. :o I had a customer who claimed she craved the smell of skunk when she was pregnant.She said she would drive around at night to try and get her “fix”.

    :-?This made me think that maybe one day skunk spray will be used as a perfumery element.
    I can just about see it now … In an effort to preserve skunks and still use their musk Scientsts develop a spray collection room in a lab. Lab tech brings in a fat ,fluffy ,contented and unflappable female skunk. Lab tech tries to startle skunk into spraying by going “Boo!!!”
    Skunk:Whatever I’m not falling for it . while trundleing over to a sun patch.

  13. Mimeographed (what you called purple ditto, much more evocative) papers. The first thing we’d all do was shove them up to our faces til the nun yelled “Stop that!” I also loved the way dry cleaners used to smell. I think it was some carcinogenic thing they had to get rid of. And the tar smell on the roof of the old building I grew up in. The moms hung laundry and the kids lay in the sun, hence the name “tar beach.” Also the smell of school itself. And I agree, Crayolas from back in the day. The popcorn smell of elaborate old movie palaces.
    And for me, in Kent CT, the smell of early spring is a combination of skunk cabbage (skunk lite) and spicebush. It’s not spring yet, here.

    • No Fun Nuns. They were everywhere. >:p The smell of school was very evocative – back then, it would conjure waves of anxiety. Now it’s an interesting, nostalgic smell. Funny: they all smell the same. I was just in a newish elementary school and – no difference between it and my old school, built in the early 50s.

      What did they do to Crayolas? They ruined them when they took out that smell – they also don’t color as well, either :(( (I just spent the weekend with my granddaughter so I’m all up in Crayola’s business right now)

      xo >-)

  14. I love these kind of posts! We have just come back from holiday and we spent lots of time outside and swimming ( Center Parcs, for those in the UK) so chlorine is fresh in my mind in the moment but I have loved it since childhood, it was part of the smell of summer when the local pool opened. The smell of damp vegetation that is startingto dry out in early spring sunshine and the smell of children who have been outside playing in the woods.

    Also, the fresh from womb smell but I can only speak for my own daughters but mmmm…
    Also get the poo when breastfeeding thing too.
    Horseradish , gasoline,
    A match when you have just blown it out.
    Bonfire remnants on leather jackets
    Junkyards- happy afternoon hunts with my dad. Tires, gas, oil and dirt
    Fresh cut wood – specifically 2×4’s
    And the list goes on…

    • Diluted chlorine (combined with that vaguely moldy smell that comes with every public pool area) is the smell of easy times.

      We’re in damp vegetation stage right now (Cent. IL) and I agree – that is lovely!

      xo >-)

  15. Ah yes, asphalt… and purple ditto. “Eiche” brand paste. Outdoor cats (lavender and hay, yum!). Lovage and sage. Horseradish (glad I’m not alone with this one!). Elderflower. Sweet yeast dough when it has risen. Henna – freshly henna-ed hair is great, but mehndi (aka henna tattoos) are best – I can’t keep my nose from my hands when I get one. I wish somebody would make a henna perfume with all the aspects of it. Henna on hair, on skin, henna flower….

    • I’ve never paid attention to henna smells – must rectify that.

      Horseradish really is a lovely smell, especially fresh-grated.

      xo >-)

  16. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I also like the smell of newborn baby poop. My son’s poop smelled sort of like butterscotch when he was nursing.

  17. Horse poop, lover’s morning breath (depending on dinner!), Diesel (from my Uni days in France), son’s nasty old mattress, slightly rotten fruits of various kinds, major overdose of Indian spices in sweat, some plastic.

    “We all love our own brand”

    • Wow! That’s some list, babe!

      I’m the reverse on the fruits. I like the smell of slightly unripe fruits – greenish bananas 😡 That probably explains my love of those lasery-green frags.

      I was in love with a man who smelled like dulce de leche – at least the space just below his ears did (never got much farther than that, alas)….wow, that was such an erotic blast, catching a whiff of that…

      I once dumped a guy because his breath had that weird copper tinge…

      xo >-)

  18. gasoline, blood, dirt, swamp smell, wood smoke, Mississippi River, puddle pads made of thick cotton flannel with rubber inside, train tracks, inside those monster giant concrete pipes, underneath bridges, caves!

    • You’ve got quite an interesting list there. I was just at the Mississippi (crossing at Hannibal, MO) and even with the cold weather still gripping the area, the river smells were so elemental.

      xo >-)

  19. Does anyone remember the smell of Barbie doll carrying cases in the 60’s and 70’s? That plastic had the most compelling smell. Very rarely I will find something with that same smell, and it brings me right back to childhood.

    • Oh, yes, Nancy, what a great smell. Thanks for the scent memory! And thanks, Anita, for a very cool post.
      I, too, like the odor of anything horse (coat, hay, tack, even manure), and also the purple ditto ink smell. One year in college as a part-time job, I filled in for a church secretary and had a ball mimeographing the church bulletin!

    • Yes, Nancy! I loved that smell too! That’s probably why I like alot of the plastic-y vanillas…takes me back to carefree, happy times.

    • Yes! I remember that smell perfectly. And new Barbie hair, too, that shiny plastic fringe.

    • Yes! What a blast from the past. Thanks for the reminder, Nancy.

      • I remember the hair but not the case, dangit! I remember that the Bendable Barbie (the Very First One) smelled different from the original.

        Sherri M is probably right – Barbie has a lot to do with why so many of us love plastic-y smells…:-?

        Thanks, Nancy!

        xo >-)

        • There was also a line (I don’t remember the brand) of diaries, address books, record cases (for 45’s!), etc. – all in pink vinyl with a pony-tailed girl on the front. That stuff had the same Barbie case plastic smell.

          • I had one of those. The 45 case. Remember the little discs that fit inside the 45s so you could play them on a regular turntable? Those were very cool (in red and black, if I recall and if you didn’t put them in just right you would either crack them (lots of drama then) or they would go pinging across the room!

            I don’t remember them (the discs) having a smell. The case, yes!

            xo >-)

            • Yes! The discs! I had completely forgotten about them. I was (am) the oldest of six and the youngest, as a two-year-old, loved music so much and was so very careful with my records and record player that I actually let him play them! At two he could get that disc in the records!

  20. It is way too early in the morning for me to be reading this ….

  21. * Chlorine at the pool
    * Vinegar
    * Garlic & Onions (don’t know if this is “unusual”, like the newborn baby smell, who doesn’t like garlic and onions frying?!)
    * Bleach, Lemon Pledge and Williams-Sonoma lavender cleaner = the smell of a clean house
    * Vicks Vapo Rub, Sea Breeze
    * Plastic
    * Wet Dirt & Mulch

    • Sea Breeze!

      Just came roaring back into my nose!

      Seriously ‘clean’ smell from the past (I used to rip what, 7? 8? layers of skin off with that stuff).

      xo >-)

      • The original Bonne Belle 10-0-6 had a pretty cool smell too. I haven’t smelled it in years though.

        • Was it in a brown bottle? I can smell it in my mind’s nose – it had that California Girl smell – a little beachier than Sea Breeze.

          xo >-)

          • Hmmm…. the old memory is failing a bit. I’m thinking it was brown liquid in a clear bottle. But you could be right. You’re right on the scent though.

            • Brown liquid in a clear bottle indeed! Holy memory Batman! I also loved Bonne Bell Shower 2000- anyone remember that? My mom was devastated when it was discontinued. And now I am reminds if Jovan Eau Fresh- I loved that stuff in my early teens!

              • I LOVED Shower 2000 and used it for about ten years! I wish they still made it.

  22. Asparagus pee is one of my guilty-little-secret smells. Also I like many of the ones mentioned here, particularly the plasticky, rubbery smell of new Barbies (such a nostalgic scent) and anything related to horses and cows. The smell of a swimming pool, whether indoor or outdoor, is one of the most beautiful smells in the world to me, and since it’s such a clean smell, I somehow don’t think of it as falling under the “secret scents” category (or is it that not everyone likes the smell of chlorine?).

    • Oh, it doesn’t have to be ‘ick’ to be secret. I just used ‘secret’ to denote stuff we probably don’t share with everyone. El O looks at me strangely enough as it is. I don’t need to share my scent interests with him. ;))

      Asparagus pee! That’s one you share with everyone, whether you want to or not, unless you are peeing in total solitude (i.e. in a house by yourself).

      xo >-)

      • Interestingly, not everyone produces “aparagus pee” when they eat asparagus AND, even more interestingly, but perhaps not so surprisingly to perfumistas, not everyone is able to smell it, whether or not they produce it.

        • I knew that about the production – but not about the ability to smell it. I thought everybody could smell it. On the moon!

          xo >-)

          • I’ve also noticed a difference from year to year with asparagus – maybe dependent on soil, rain, and other growing conditions.

            • The worst is when you eat a bunch of it (I love risotto with early spring asparagus and lemon zest)…and then you have to pee. In the ladies’ room at the restaurant. And ……:”>

              xo >-)

    • I dislike the smell of chlorine because it makes me anxious — it reminds me of getting water up my nose and down my throat when I was a kid learning to swim. Very primal. We didn’t have a pool, so I had to take swimming lessons at a public pool, so my first memories of that smell aren’t very happy.

  23. I can’t help but wonder how many of these strange smells trigger fond memories thus creating an attraction. Myself, I have a fondness for concrete, especially wet. There was a tunnel connecting two buildings I worked in and I spent a lot of time there getting my smellage on. I’ve got it bad for wet, just cleaned cat and wet soil. Wet really brings out the elemental, doesn’t it?

    Great post.

    • Yes it does. I watch my dogs go nuts with the smells, right after a soft rain.


      xo >-)

  24. My two biggies have already been mentioned…..chlorine bleach and Vicks Vaporub. But I have two more to add that haven’t yet been mentioned. 1-Garage. I was always Dad and Granddad’s little shadow and I remember sitting on an old three-legged stool while they did ‘man things’ with cars and tools and lawnmowers. I felt like a stowaway in a forbidden kingdom scented with the strange perfume of ‘man’. 2-Murphy’s Oil Soap. The folks who cleaned our church always cleaned the wooden pews with this product. To this day, when I get it out to use on my wood pieces, I feel an air of sanctification. :)

    • Murphy’s is weird for me, Teri. I like the smell right out of the bottle (ditto on the church-cleaning association) …but sometimes it makes me a bit queasy. I can never tell which way my stomach is going to react…:-s

      xo >-)

  25. Mine are place specific: Mississippi river in the summer and Bourbon Street in the early morning–something about all that rancid beer and smoke.

    • I’ve noticed the Mississippi smells different, in different places (though it always has a vegetal quality to it). Way north it’s less fecund, more ‘watery’ – the farther south you go, the richer and soupier it gets, smell-wise, which makes perfect sense to me

      xo >-)

      • Yep, in the midwest, I never thought it smelled sexy, but in NOLA it sure does.

  26. Oy!

    Hot tar – NOT asphalt – the gummy, chewy, taffy sort of tar
    Rubber cement – fond memories of working on the clip files at the armory.

    Da’s old B-4 bag – smells of old uniforms and starch. Tells you when he retired, doesn’t it?

    KIWI shoe polich – black, please

    Cosmoline when you unwrap the weapons

    Hot ammo shells on the firing range – subtle differences, so I think it’s one on those things where size does matter.

    Sorry, ladies – jet fuel. The smell of da’s comings and goings on active duty tours.

    The cork in in a pipe ashtray – a little stale smoke, a bit of singed cork, and oils from whatever the unsmoked pipe tobacco was.

    Chalk – blackboard size, white and yellow only. The others taste (oops!) smell funny.

    The flour drawer – tells you how old my kitchen is. Metal lined, but some must seep into the seams. Nice.

    • OMG, I didn’t want to mention Cosmoline, but YES!!!!! And Ballistol. (Odd, but compelling) And just-fired rifles….

  27. Noxema face cleanser… Petunias, no one ever mentions the scent of petunias! And my Boxer Princess, Xena, smells of maple syrup & musk (never like the typical “dog” smell!)…

    • Petunias, especially those purple ones, are slammo-sweet! I think a lot of people (er, me) forget that petunias are so fragrant – until they come face to face with them each late Spring.

      Maple syrup and musk…:-? if you could bottle that…

      xo >-)

  28. Let’s see, I think most of mine have already been mentioned:

    cow manure
    rotting kelp at low tide
    turf smoke (aka culchie smell)
    clean dog’s paws
    porridge (cooked)
    dad’s workshop (esp the smell of sandpaper)
    wine cellars
    saunas (i.e. hot wood)
    the rank wet-grassy smell of spring meadows

    • Oh yes, also seconding/thirding the smell of old-style play-doh!

      • I really am going to have to revisit a dog paw or two…:-?

        I get old-style Play-Doh in Anne Pliska. 2am revelation, there.

        xo >-)

  29. I’ll cop to being into the smell of metal–copper, steel, silver, iron, they all have a particular odor with varying amounts of what I scientifically call ‘zinginess’. Also, I like the smell of rocks and rock dust.

    • I,too, love the zingy smells of metal….as long as it’s not that copper-breath smell.

      xo >-)

  30. What a great post Anita! Most of my smells have been mentioned (Play-Doh, Elmers Glue, mimeograph ink) but add to those:

    tobacco curing in a barn
    old Silly Putty (I’ve noticed the new stuff that I keep in my desk doesn’t smell)
    Icthammol (aka “brown salve”)
    Spritz cookies (with almond extract)
    original Coppertone suntan lotion
    old feather pillows (I get this from oakmoss scents. Probably why I love chypres.)

    • Brown Salve! 😮 My nose is full of A-1 Salve and sulphur soap now! My mom used to use that (and Borofax – another distinct smell from my childhood) for scrapes and bruises. ) Stuff doesn’t smell like that anymore!

      xo >-)

      • Unlike Mitsouko, I can happily report that Ichthammol is unchanged! They no longer sell it in drug stores (that I can find anyway), but you can buy a huge jar of it from veterinary supply houses for cheap!

  31. Fun, fun post! I thought I was the only one who noticed that the first second or two of dog doo wasn’t at all smelly!

    Fels-Naptha. Definitely ditto ink. Marks-A-Lot pens. Ballpoint pen ink. Empty bids nests. My grand-daddy’s smokehouse. Well-broken in baseball gloves, ‘specially when they are attached to well-broken in baseball players….sigh.

    • Oh, and charcoals when they’re being heated up for BBQ.

      • That’s a rough one to cop to, isn’t it (the first second of dog-doo, I mean). I was a bit nervous writing that!

        I’ll bet your granddaddy’s smokehouse smells awesome! What’s not to love about a smokehouse?

        xo >-)

  32. The old humidifier that my mom used to put in my room when I was sick — combination of the sound, the cool feeling of the mist and the smell up close were so, so soothing. Wish I could bottle that whole experience.

    • I remember that, too. My mother used light (real) starch on the top sheets and pillowcases – that smell is also comforting.

      xo >-)

  33. What an evocative post!
    Mine are finished compost, an outdoor whiff of someone else’s cigarette (or weed for that matter) old style super leaded gasoline- my husband says it doesn’t smell as good as when we were kids because they’ve taken so much out of it, and God help me- chemical fertilizer. Actually, what I loved was the miasma of the KMart Garden Center in the 70s. I would go there with my mom and gather lungfuls of that stuff.

    And what I wouldn’t give for just one more huff of that purple mimeograph ink.

    • If they bottled purple ink as a perfume….forget the musk, forget the vanilla…every boomer within sniffing range would follow the wearer to the ends of the earth! 😉

      xo >-)

  34. I love the smell of shoe stores. Think Payless shoes. It’s all rubber and leather. Mmmm.

  35. Scents from childhood are, I think, imprinted on the brain like the first thing a duckling sees.

    Mine: The fresh wood shavings we put down for my guinea pigs. The smell of hot pavement mixed with chlorine from our swimsuits when we’d sit on the pavement after leaving the pool. The spearmint that grew on the side of our house. And yes, leaded gasoline.

    • I wonder what kids today will have as scent memories? 😕

      xo >-)

      and I can smell that pavement! 😡

  36. Yeee-ahh, purple ditto ink! I get ditto ink from Bulgari Black instead of rubber. To me, Bulgari Black is about as kinky as crayons, Elmer’s School Paste or pencil shavings (good smells, all). (Psst…I also like skunk smell–but only from a distance.)

    • I have never smelled Bulgari Black (ducks flying perfume bottles! :”> I will scrab some up, see if I get ditto ink instead of rubber. If it’s the ink, it’s MINE! 😡

      xo >-)

  37. Add me to the list of those who love all horse-related smells. In addition, pencil and cedar shavings, Play-Doh, creosote, dirt, wet sidewalks after a storm, floor wax (the kind they used in your elementary school).

    • I don’t think they’ve changed that floor wax brand (or type) in 50 years – and kids still smell like kids, not matter what – which is probably why schools still smell like they did in 1960.

      xo >-)

  38. Sycamore trees, sawdust, and fresh alfafa. I wish I could smell some right now. You other country girls know what I’m talking about.

  39. Wow. Where to start?

    – Creosote. Creosote or pitch oil is the name used for a variety of products that include wood creosote and coal tar creosote. The word is also used to describe the black oily accretion that builds up inside of chimney flues as a result of incomplete burning of wood or coal. In my smell memory banks, it was coal tar creosote used as a wood preservative on the railroad ties of the Munich subway system that seduced me. The smell drifted up from the depths of the subway platforms when my mother and I would descend to them on an escalator, the year we lived as a family on sabbatical in Munich. From what I understand, cresosote contains phenols, which wuld partially explain my attraction to it from a chemical breakdown perspective.

    – Orange Bonne Bell Lip Smacker. It’s seventh grade in a tube for me, but it’s also evocative of crushes on boys, endless replays of Bee Gees on vinyl, and the beach. It’s not for everyone, because it’s so violently fake-smelling and tasting; but I have a weakness for it much like people who like Peeps candies love their ersatz marshmallow candy.

    – Boxwood. It’s a musty-dusty smell that isn’t off-putting like an old attic; it’s earthy and organic and comforting and nostalgic to me.

    – Chrysanthemum. In the same musty-dusty, nostalgic category for me as boxwood, especially the off-white spider mums.

    – The smell inside a redwood forest. Chilly, clean evergreen and fern.

    – The smell inside my 21-year-old leather make-up bag. It’s a compilation of ghosts of perfume sample vials, lipsticks, miniature bottles of hand creme, and lipliner. Only years of shlepping make-up in it would lend it that smell with its leather base. It will always be in my purse. I refuse to get rid of it.

    Gee, I’ll probably think of 15 more things tonight five minutes before I fall asleep. But for now….well, it’s nostalgic for me to even verbalize how much these scents affect me.

    • Caroline,

      Those are gorgeous scent memories! I had to think about the chrysanthemum scent – but there is one and it’s similar to boxwood/yew smells. 😕


      xo >-)

  40. – I’d have to agree with whomever wrote about puppy breath. It’s wonderful, just the purest tangible evidence of growth in a sweet creature that is still in many ways pure. (Okay, that reads way more Mother Teresa than I intended it, but ya’ll know what I’m saying.)

    – Biz laundry bleach (“with blueing”) reaches far into my memory banks. I confirmed with my mother that she did our laundry with Biz when I was very small. I find it comforting, much like I do the scent of boxwood.

    – The smell of Maggi chicken bouillon cubes. It’s not widely-used in the U.S. and thus is the unexpected, but somehow familiar, alternative to chicken stock smells that are used commercially in the States. For me it’s kind of like having a reminder that Europeans eat chicken soup, too.

    – Eucalyptus trees. I will always associate them with moving to Los Angeles and rolling the car windows down on a chilly night, just to inhale their magic.

    – 4711 Kölnisch Wasser. It’s Europe in the summer, in a bottle. All-purpose, unisex, generic after-bath splash that is kind of like the Jean Naté of Germany.

    – A Japanese incense made by Nippon Kodo, with the unfortunate name of “My Sin”. The scent is no longer manufactured but the last time I smelled it, I was instantly three years old, prowling around the House of Bamboo in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a blend of woody, masculine, strong earthy smells that convey safety and exoticism and uniqueness…or at least what a three-year-old thought was unique and therefore special.

    – The ghost of saffron, the smell left inside the glass jar I use to store smaller glass jars of the spice. I’m always reluctant to wash it because I love the smell of saffron so much. So I like equally letting the smell build up again with the purchase of more saffron.

    – The perfect complimentary combination of garlic and artichoke heart baking together on top of a pizza with a tomato sauce base.

    – Bain de Soleil tanning gel. Wow. It beats Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic by a Riviera mile in its weirdness. I associate it with Vidal Sassoon haircuts, Adrienne Vitadini clothes, and Marcel Marceau bateau-necked navy & white-striped shirts. Don’t ask. :-)

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