Bad Smells: It’s All Relative

Lauren who is a professional fragrance evaluator shares her insights into what makes us perceive some smells as unpleasant. 

My dog smells like Saltine crackers: bleached white dough, a touch of yeast, and a generous sprinkling of salt. Her doggy scent, while unexpected, is not altogether unpleasant – and really quite appropriate, since she is snow-white. Historically, I never liked the smell of Saltine crackers—it conjured anxiety-filled memories of being sick with a stomachache—but today, I inhale my dog’s Saltine odorprint, and I’m filled with all the light and sweetness that her little spirit exudes. Whatever my associations with the aroma, it begs the question: how can my pet really smell like a processed cracker?

coffee

It turns out that many things we come into contact with on a daily basis do, in fact, share flavor or fragrance compounds. This explains why large tomatoes, if unripe, taste metallic like fish to me; or why, if I’m awakened by tempting odors luring me into my grandmother’s kitchen, I can never pinpoint if it’s brewing coffee, frying bacon, or both – bacon and coffee smell extremely similar to me.

People have told me this can’t be right; instead, it’s a mere association, since coffee and bacon are often served simultaneously. In response to this, I’ve scowled in confusion, because I have always trusted my nose to reveal the truth. In a previous job when I developed “fresh-brewed coffee” scents, I frustrated both perfumers and clients by describing the “coffee” fragrance blindly as “roasting meat.”

Coffee is one of the great pleasures of my life, but I have a friend who refuses to consume even a drop, because he finds the odor totally repellant – as he describes it, “like stinky feet.” For me, coffee never smelled like anything unpleasant, until once again, my dog broadened my life experience when she got sick. One evening, after a long day at work, I entered my apartment and was immediately greeted by the pleasant but alarming scent of dark-roast coffee. The “coffee” turned out to be various bodily fluids and emissions from a sick puppy, making it impossible for me to brew or drink coffee for several days. It seemed to me then that there was no denying a powerful connection between things we deem fit for consumption, and even enjoy, and substances we immediately decide to avoid and never consume. Could it all really be the same stuff?

An article in the September 2013 edition of Scientific American finally confirmed for my reasoning brain what my nose has known all along: the same compounds can be found in many different foods, across a broad spectrum of what different people may classify as positive or negative. (The article demonstrates many connections visually, with an impressive graphic called “The Flavor Connection”). As it turns out, coffee and roasting beef share over 100 different flavor compounds. So it’s not simply the “breakfast” association hindering my ability to distinguish coffee from bacon; I am in fact smelling some of the same molecules in both! (Yes, bacon is profiled in the article, as well as beef).

When I think of fragrance compounds this way, it’s difficult to maintain only positive or negative associations with any one substance, because the same compounds are in things that are equally delicious or disgusting. I once read that the government has struggled for years to develop a “stink bomb,” because no one concoction is equally repellant across all cultures. When I lived in Japan, I watched my supervisor go cross-eyed and nearly faint from the “horrific” odor as I happily gobbled one of my favorite foods: goat cheese.

Clearly, one man’s repulsion can be another man’s delicacy. What are some examples of the cross-over from your own life?

Astor Market Demonstrating Coffee, between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915, George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). No copyright restrictions.

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154 Comments

  • Therése: Great article!

    I’m a beginner at this smelling thing, but I sometimes think coffe smells like blood. It’s a little disconcerting. November 24, 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    • Lauren: Therese, perhaps a metallic or earthy note is in both! November 24, 2014 at 6:42pm Reply

      • kaori: Oh, agreed. I sometimes fell annoyed metallic smell of coffee. Not often. November 24, 2014 at 9:12pm Reply

      • Therése: Yes, it’s definitely a metallic, iron-like note, that makes me think of blood. November 25, 2014 at 2:06am Reply

  • Michaela: This article is very, very interesting! I especially liked the parts about your dog.
    The flavor connection graph is a total surprise.
    I’ll try some examples.
    For me, the same fish smells really good when I cook it, and I’m hungry, and terrible after meals. Similarly, cheese, onion and garlic are sometimes very good and some other times very bad smells for me.
    Now, about me and the others… Cilantro leaves smell exactly like stinking bugs for me, but I know people who eat it with great pleasure. I love spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, cloves, pepper, sumac, but I can understand there are people who just can’t stand them. I hate hot milk scent that many people adore. November 24, 2014 at 9:03am Reply

    • Susiebelle: I agree with you regarding hot milk! It’s a no-no. Add to that cigarette smoke and what I think is tempura. I really can’t step foot into a Japanese restaurant. Before I took the tests, I knew I was pregnant with my first because the smell of soy sauce was brutal. For my second – Carvel ice cream. The smell of the store sent me running. And I love Carvel! Great article! November 24, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

      • Lauren: Susiebelle, this is interesting since I’ve never heard anyone complain about a Japanese restaurant or a Carvel. I love Japanese food and soy sauce, but I can see how it might be overwhelming. November 24, 2014 at 6:48pm Reply

        • Susiebelle: Soy sauce is fine when not pregnant but I think it’s teriyaki – it just smells foul to me. I can’t put my finger on why. I’m loving all of the comments on this article. Fascinating! November 25, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • limegreen: What a wonderful article, thank you! Like Michaela, I also love the part about your dog! When my dog comes in from the very cold air or heated from sunning, his fur smells like fresh laundered linen just off the clothesline. Wonderfully fresh! I’ll have to check his paws for toasty biscuits. 🙂
      The Japanese describe umami as another sense that allows us to enjoy certain things like mushrooms. Some people like my husband does not seem to have it as he does not care for mushrooms (he can’t taste the aromatic part) whereas I’m part Hobbit! But unfortunately this part of my sensory toolkit makes certain smells unbearable for me, to the point of nearly throwing up. We discovered the urine-laden areas under the bridges along the Seine and I nearly lost my dinner in the Seine!
      I’m afraid this is my problem with some citrus/patchouli earthy combinations like Eau de Rochas, it smells like aged urine to me. November 24, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

      • Lauren: Limegreen, I believe umami is the cure-all for every ailment. Maybe it’s because my first job out of college took me to Japan (so that was my first “real world” experience), but for the last 10 years there is no comfort food for me like anything umami – especially miso ramen soup! November 24, 2014 at 6:50pm Reply

        • limegreen: Oh, I know exactly what you mean, Lauren! And seaweed salad! November 24, 2014 at 8:46pm Reply

    • Lauren: Michaela, I have the same issues with chicken! Freshly-cooked chicken is okay; but re-heated or microwaved chicken smells so unappealing to me it nearly makes me sick! I don’t like the milk scent, either…but I LOOOOOVE cilantro. To me it’s like “the new cheese,” as they say in the US, “cheese makes everything better.” For me, cilantro makes everything better! November 24, 2014 at 6:44pm Reply

      • Joy: I can’t bear the smell of those low calorie microwaveble meals. It must be the cheap cheese and reheated chicken. People brink them for their lunch at work. I have to leave the building, but the smell lingers. November 24, 2014 at 10:05pm Reply

  • bell: I loved your article. And I totally relate to your love of how your dog smells. My doberman’s paws smell toasty and while I wouldn’t normally willingly breathe in any other creature’s foot odour I will happily bury my nose between her paws to get a whiff of it.
    Thanks for a great and thought-provoking read :=)
    bell November 24, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

    • Annette Reynolds: Bell, Toasty Dog Paws must be common; you’re not the first person to say this in a Bois de Jasmin comment. And I have to agree with you: my dog’s paws have that toasty smell too. And I love it. November 24, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

      • Hamamelis: Another big fan of Toasty Dog Paws, must be one of the most comforting scents for a doglover…and also my dog’s (big) ears smell so utterly sweet and gorgeous. November 24, 2014 at 3:07pm Reply

        • Annie O: For me, dog paws have always smelled like buttered biscuits just out of the oven. Very comforting November 24, 2014 at 4:46pm Reply

          • Lauren: Annie, now when you make a connection between butter and paws, it reminds me of butter and feet. When I was a teenager I remember thinking that when boys took off their shoes after a baseball game or soccer match, their feet smelled of melted butter. Strangely, this is also a marker for sandalwood for me: a sour or rancid butter note is how I distinguish it from other similar woods, like cedar wood. November 24, 2014 at 7:45pm Reply

        • Lauren: I have actually never noticed my dog’s PAWS smelling of anything in particular, but I’ve heard them compared to Fritos before! Maybe it’s something like oil, or corn oil, in chips? Once I had a “fragrance free,” “natural” laundry detergent, and when I hung my laundry up to dry, I swore my clothing smelled like corn tortilla chips. November 24, 2014 at 6:52pm Reply

    • Martyn: Toasty — Ha! I call my dog “Biscuit-feet”! Just like your doberman’s, his paws have the most delicious smell. Is this just because we love them, do you think?

      As for the rest of him, being a whippet he has no odour other than, perhaps, the smell of warm hair. November 24, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

      • Bell: Eau de Paw, anyone? There’s a market for this, we have proof! 😆 November 24, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

        • kayliz: Oh-oh, my dog’s paws smell of mice. I love that too, but Toasty Dog would be just the biz!
          A woman on the bus the other day in the rain commented that here was no wet dog smell: and had I shampooed my dog. I proudly announced that I didn’t need to wash the dog because she doesn’t have that dog odour.
          We got off the bus and — no prizes for guessing — Ginger rolled in the first bit of cack she could find. November 24, 2014 at 4:57pm Reply

          • Bell: Way to go Ginger :=) We are not alone. I googled ‘toasty paws’ and found long discussions of ‘Frito Feet’ and ‘Taco Toes’!

            Martyn, I’m sure it’s because we love them. When I brought my dog Alysia home at 8 weeks I was so surprised that she smelled so wonderful and not at all ‘dog’. It’s addictive. November 24, 2014 at 5:11pm Reply

            • Tara C: Ditto – my dog has this wonderful smell about her fur and especially her ears, I just bury my face in it and inhale deeply. It’s not just me either – her vet has made the same comment about how good she smells. My male dog on the other hand smells like a dog, and it’s not always good. November 29, 2014 at 7:15pm Reply

          • Michaela: Ha, ha, well done, Ginger! 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 8:28am Reply

        • Michaela: Count me in, too. Beautiful idea 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 8:29am Reply

      • Lauren: Martyn, I definitely don’t think it’s just because we love them! There must be a cross-over between their scents and OTHER things we have already grown to like. 🙂 Though you may be partly right. 😉 November 24, 2014 at 6:53pm Reply

    • Lauren: Bell, thank you…I felt I was taking a risk to admit that and I’m surprised by how many people have similar thoughts! Though, when it comes to scent and emotion, nothing should surprise me. November 24, 2014 at 6:45pm Reply

  • Bastet: Indoles are one of the most obvious examples, being found in both flowers and feces. November 24, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

    • Lauren: Bastet, correct! This is actually the first “cross-over” I learned about in my fragrance career. I’ve heard indoles are found in cadavers as well. November 24, 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

  • Elisa: I often think dark roast coffee smells like fish; I blogged about it once (http://thefrenchexit.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-does-coffee-smell-fishy.html) and people still find that post from googling “why does my coffee smell fishy” 🙂

    Similarly I think peaty scotch smells like old-school Band-Aids (they don’t have the same smell they used to) November 24, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Once I lived next to a coffee house and I was stumped by the fishy smell emanating from its building every morning. Took a few days to recognize it as coffee! November 24, 2014 at 10:34am Reply

      • Elisa: I’m glad you noticed it too! It must be some compound released in the roasting process. November 24, 2014 at 12:14pm Reply

        • Lauren: I have definitely noticed a connection between coffee and canned tuna, too! Not exactly fish, but specifically, canned tuna. Though my favorite association is easily noticed at the bottom of my cup once the coffee has cooled to room-temperature: then, it tastes like caramel. YUM. November 24, 2014 at 6:56pm Reply

    • Jennifer C: A friend of mine lives not too far from a coffee roasting plant, so I always drive by it on the way to her house. If you pass by at the right time, you can smell the coffee. Sometimes I think it smells like skunk, but not others. November 24, 2014 at 2:04pm Reply

      • Lauren: Jennifer, this reminds me of the chicken processing factory in my hometown. As a child when that awful scent would waft through the air, and I’d ask my mom what it was, she would reply, “It’s the chicken plant.” I wondered why anyone would plant such a stinky tree! 🙂 Now I know better. November 24, 2014 at 7:47pm Reply

        • Michaela: Very nice story! 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

      • Lisa: I’m always thinking skunk! when I smell my husbands freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Crazy how the semi awake brain smells the tiniest particles and then when fully awake..they are almost gone. Indoles got me my first job as a perfumers assistant. I described the perfumers blotter as smelling Horsey(jasmine-like). Green peppers are so repulsive to me..in salad dressings in condiments…the galbanum ruins it. And forget Ambrette seed oil it turns my stomach. November 24, 2014 at 11:43pm Reply

  • Patricia: I like the soapy smell and taste of cilantro, and all but the most stinky of cheeses smell good to me.

    What I don’t like are industrial smells. Gasoline and paved blacktop driveways are turn offs, but my husband likes the smell of both! November 24, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

    • Lauren: Patricia, I have a family member who likes the smell of gasoline…as for me, I love the scent of chlorine and especially chlorinated pools. Which is pretty strange since I don’t even enjoy swimming in them! November 24, 2014 at 6:58pm Reply

    • Claire: There is a gasoline-like (sometimes burnt rubber) hit I smell upon first application of Chanel Cuir de Russie, Le Labo Ylang 49, and Caron Coup de Fouet, which soon settles down into the leather aspect. I love all of these, but not always that first whiff.
      I can understand why people might like the smell of gasoline, but only at a safe distance….like skunk and horse manure, which can remind me of the woods or outdoors and is comforting AT A SAFE DISTANCE. The smell of hot tar and asphalt, especially as used in roofing is nauseating, and can leave me feeling quite ill, especially in warm or humid weather, but again, it is quite different at a distance. November 25, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

    • Rowanhill: Petrol and car wax smell fantastic. 🙂 November 26, 2014 at 5:33am Reply

  • Betsy: I love this article! It is so interesting the individual perceptions of smell and how drastic they differ. My husband and I still talk about how my son’s dirty diapers had a distinct aroma of hot apple pie. Sweet, warm and delicious. I even knew in my delirious state of sleepless motherhood that this was bizarre but true. Of course we never asked anyone else there opinion on the matter! Similar molecules perhaps?
    I too can not tolerate the smell of warm milk, it is utterly stomach churning. November 24, 2014 at 10:53am Reply

    • sunmisun: That’s so interesting that you get hot apple pie. Our son’s diapers smell of movie theater popcorn! November 24, 2014 at 11:59am Reply

      • Betsy: Ha, so I am not the only one! I wonder if a non-parent would get the same delightful smell. 🙂 November 24, 2014 at 1:06pm Reply

      • Lauren: Sometimes I think sweaty feet smell exactly like the butter in movie theater popcorn! There must be some shared compounds there. November 24, 2014 at 7:50pm Reply

    • Lauren: Betsy, well, this is a new association for me! But I currently don’t have children, so the future possibilities are endless. I will say that I love baking apple tarts, and I think they are best eaten for breakfast, with coffee. November 24, 2014 at 7:49pm Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: I love eggs! But i hate the smell of raw egg on the fork that was used to beat them. And especially after washing it ( somehow it brings the smell even more), it needs to be washed several times for me to be happy. It s a very very strong metallic and cold smell.
    I though I was really weird for a long time until a friend of mine confess this to me…. ( or maybe we are 2 weirdos ???).
    Great article! Thank you! Anne November 24, 2014 at 10:53am Reply

    • Lauren: Anne, I know exactly what you mean about the smell of raw egg on the tines of a fork! But I always wondered if it was just the egg, or some kind of reaction between the egg and the stainless steel fork that gave it an especially potent metallic odor. For some reason, that scent also reminds me of the color yellow. November 24, 2014 at 7:00pm Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Is it not sulfur that is created in the reaction between egg and metal? I know my silver cutlery tarnishes to a black when I used it to eat eggs. And sulfur is a bright canary yellow (you can sometimes see huge yellow piles of it getting ready to ship by rail). November 25, 2014 at 8:31pm Reply

  • Polly: I have a terrible problem with some flower fragrances smelling like the toilets at a camp sight from a 100 feet away (does that make sense?). It makes me quite desperate because I really, really want to like Cristalle (both EdP and EdT) but I can never shake the association. From comparing with other perfumes that give me the same impression, I think it is something to do with melon, lily or cucumber. Sigh. November 24, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

    • Lauren: Polly, sometimes cucumber or melon scents can have a very waxy or fatty, oily odor (much like melon rind or cucumber skin). Perhaps that is related to the indoles that Bastet mentioned – there are indeed molecules that occur both in flowers and in feces. You may be especially sensitive to them! November 24, 2014 at 7:51pm Reply

  • Allison C.: Interesting subject! I can’t go anywhere near papaya because it smells like it’s rotting to me, but a lot of my family members have no problem with the smell and really enjoy eating it! I can’t bring myself to try it.

    It’s also interesting how the power of suggestion can affect how you smell. I used to like the scent of the original Trussardi for Women until I read a comment from someone saying it smelled like goat cheese, now that’s all I smell when I try it! November 24, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

    • Elisa: I think most cantaloupe smells like acetone. November 24, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

      • Tiffanie: Oh! My grandmother always said cantaloupe smelled like “getting her nails done.” But Grandpa loved cantaloupe and ate it all the time for breakfast. I like cantaloupe most of the time, but sometimes it just smells odd and I skip it. November 24, 2014 at 4:20pm Reply

        • claire: The acetone/cantaloupe association is interesting.
          I’ve always enjoyed cantaloupe, most melons, and cucumber, but I am absolutely intolerant of contemporary perfumes with a melon or cucumber (related) note. There is a very distinct chemical smell I detect. I am very sensitive to acetone and have to avoid prolonged exposure, so it is interesting that I may recognize the “acetone” or solvent note in some perfumes and react negatively as a result. November 24, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

        • Lauren: Elisa and Tiffanie, this association is new to me! I will pay attention the next time I eat melon. November 24, 2014 at 7:52pm Reply

      • Elena: I agree! it is so nice to know it was not just me. December 3, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Lauren: Hi Allison, I like papayas, and I LOVE mangoes…but my parents can’t go near mangoes. When I ask them to describe why not, they say that mangoes smell “chemical” to them. But they are one of my all-time favorite fruits. November 24, 2014 at 7:01pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Everyone has their own bete-noire when it comes to smells. It’s fascinating!
    I have a few, but the only one I can think of right off the bat is the smell of chlorine bleach, especially on damp towels. I go running from the room!
    My significant other manages a restaurant and many times he comes home with his hands smelling of bleach. I can’t bear it! I make him go wash his hands until the odor is gone; not an easy thing to do! November 24, 2014 at 12:03pm Reply

    • Lauren: Hi Allison, I like papayas, and I LOVE mangoes…but my parents can’t go near mangoes. When I ask them to describe why not, they say that mangoes smell “chemical” to them. But they are one of my all-time favorite fruits. November 24, 2014 at 7:02pm Reply

      • claire: Mangoes, especially when green, are often said to smell like turpentine. I can smell it, but solvent adverse as I am, I actually rather like it. They can also can smell a bit like pine sap, but a bit sweeter. November 24, 2014 at 7:14pm Reply

  • Jackie heslop: Hi!
    I’m a new subscriber, Victoria, and LOVING your blog.

    This wonderful article by Lauren is the first post I’ve received and so apropos. This morning, the aroma of coffee my husband was making wafted upstairs, and I thought, as I often do, that it smelled like pot (damn neighbours!), or skunk. Those three often overlap for me, especially when it’s fresh, dark coffee beans in the grinder. Although I’ve made the skunk/pot mis-smell many times, it still took me a minute to realize it was coffee, glorious coffee.

    I’m not crazy am I: do other people get pot/skunk from coffee?

    For this reason, there’s an element of both pot and skunk (at a distance) that I find strangely pleasant.

    Speaking of the power of suggestion, Allison: I once bought my sister a bottle of body lotion from the health-food store because I thought she’d like the light, fresh scent as much as I did — it was a peachy thing — but her husband read it as cat pee. As soon as he pointed this out, yep, that’s exactly what it smelled like: cat pee soaked into a hardwood floor. November 24, 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

    • Jennifer C: Hi Jackie, you’re not the only one that gets the pot/skunk thing with coffee. I mentioned that above as well. I get it frequently when driving by a coffee processing plant not to far from a friend’s house. November 24, 2014 at 2:06pm Reply

    • Lauren: Hi Jackie,

      Yes, black current (aka, cassis) is a popular fragrance ingredient and it smells VERY close to cat pee, so this parallel is often made in the fragrance industry if the cassis is “overdosed,” or if the evaluator is particular sensitive to it. Personally, I love it in small doses, it’s a tangy, juicy red berry with a hint of dark green leaves for me that can really give a fragrance a sparkle! Or, it can just be summed up as “cat pee.” 🙂 November 24, 2014 at 7:05pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: The cat pee smell of black currant is also very noticable when they are still on the shrub in the garden! November 25, 2014 at 7:11am Reply

      • Michaela: I think the less I know, the better it is sometimes 🙂 My beloved First could read… cat pee (Blackcurrant) and feces (jasmine indoles)?! Hmmm… 🙂 Well this is cross-over, indeed, the same compounds could be brilliant or terrible. November 25, 2014 at 9:06am Reply

    • Lauren: Also Jackie, I love the smell of skunk. But I believe this is a learned association from my father. We grew up in a small town near the mountains, and if we encountered the scent of skunk, my father would always inhale deeply and say, “Ahh! It smells fresh, like the outdoors!” My gut reaction to skunk was to recoil, but after hearing him say that so many times, I now have his same reaction. “Oo, fresh!” 🙂 November 24, 2014 at 7:54pm Reply

      • Jackie: What a friendly place this is! Thanks for replying to my questions! 🙂
        Lauren, the cassis/cat pee connection makes sense now that you mention it. (Funny how that works!) I love the taste of cassis (Pernod & black, mmm) but not fussy about the fragrance note.

        I agree with your father about skunk, at least at a distance, to me, it’s “fresh” and oddly comforting. November 25, 2014 at 1:44am Reply

  • Jackie heslop: Elisa, I get a note of old-school bandaids in Atelier’s Silver Iris. Can anybody tell me what that note is? (I love it!) November 24, 2014 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Lauren: I haven’t smelled this fragrance to suggest anything for certain, but for me, the white floral note ylang ylang (similar to jasmine) has a “band-aid” note. So perhaps the fragrance contains ylang. It could be related to the spicy notes in it, as well. November 24, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

      • Jackie: Thanks Lauren. Ylang ylang’s not listed, so, yes, maybe something in the spicy notes. Could it be the tonka bean? I don’t know; I’m a neophyte here, but I’ll look for that “band-aid” note now in other ylang ylang perfumes. 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 2:00am Reply

  • Esra: Interesting, never got fish or bacon odours from coffee. And I adore coffee smell. But it might be related to the type of coffee or where it comes from.

    Sometimes I go on Makeupalley to read some perfume reviews. And there is always someone who will say it smells like pee. This happens especially with dated perfumes. I used to think they are exaggerating their hate for the scent but it seems people do smell differently.

    As for me, I really hate the smell of eggs and bacon… I use a little bit of Domestos to wash the cutlery that’s been used to cook eggs. That takes care of it. November 24, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

    • Lauren: Esra, this made me smile, simply because…I cannot imagine hating the smell of eggs and bacon. 🙂 November 24, 2014 at 7:08pm Reply

  • Sandra: For me I never got over the smell of swiss cheese, to me it always smells like feet, and I have tried really hard to find one that will do, but to no avail.

    I also don’t like the smell of Dill- my husband loves to cook with Dill but for me the smell is gross.

    I happen to love the smell of tobacco, which many people don’t. I think because my dad smoked a pipe when I was younger and he would let me smell the different flavors. November 24, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Lauren: Sandra, I LOVE the smell of tobacco as well. In fact, this is becoming a popular note in many men’s fine fragrances! For me tobacco combines earth, dried leaves, dried fruit (especial prune), spices, and often vanilla. Delicious! I really like dill; for me it shares something with lemon, and I love citrus in cuisine. As far as the Swiss cheese, though – I agree. It often smells like feet, or just rubber. November 24, 2014 at 7:10pm Reply

  • Katie Farris: For me, it’s skunk-spray and bananas– or more specifically, banana-breath. And of course, Corso Como and pickles. 🙂

    On another strange note: I recently found out that most people can’t smell bronze. It smells extraordinarily strong to me, especially if it’s at body temperature or warmer. It’s tangier than copper and somehow nauseating. Anyway, fascinating article! Thanks! November 24, 2014 at 1:19pm Reply

    • Jennifer C: That’s interesting about the bronze… I guess I’m not around bronze that much, but I never thought of it having a particular smell, beyond just “metallic”. Now I wanna go sniff a statue or something.. lol November 24, 2014 at 2:09pm Reply

      • Lauren: Me neither! I don’t think I’ve ever been close enough to bronze to smell it. I will notice next time, though. November 24, 2014 at 7:10pm Reply

    • claire: I used to knit with some circular metal knitting needles that were made, I think, from a brass alloy. They left a terrible fishy odor on my hands and I later switched to a different brand, made with nickel, which in this case is odorless. Likewise, my daughter used to complain of the smell on her hands after touching/playing on metal play structures (like jungle gyms or metal swing chains), and I sometimes notice a similar smell after holding metal handled tools. Distinctly fishy, very persistent, hard to get rid of.

      There is another smell I find off-putting which is somewhat metallic and difficult to describe. I also recognize the raw egg white on metal utensil smell Ann S. mentions. Metallic. cold, and very persistent, exactly. Sometimes I detect a little bit of sulfur, and occasionally this same odor is present on dishes clean out of the dishwasher, especially noticeable in drinking glasses as you bend in to drink! I have to rewash or rinse them before use. Not everyone seems to notice…. November 24, 2014 at 6:00pm Reply

      • Lauren: Claire, yes!! When I was a child, I used to complain that my milk tasted like fish – it was especially prominent if we were eating outside in the fresh air (though to this day, I’m not sure why). But I eventually realized that I was not crazy, I was picking up on the soap that was left behind in the glass, from which I was drinking my milk.

        What you say about the needles fascinates me! My Mom uses wooden needles most of the time, but I’ll have to ask her if she’s ever noticed that with the metallic ones. November 24, 2014 at 7:13pm Reply

        • Hamamelis: I recognise this from copper (coloured) zippers on coats or sweaters, I don’t buy clothing with copper/bronze zippers, it always leaves me a bit queasy when I am exposed to that for a long time. November 25, 2014 at 7:15am Reply

          • Claire: Wow! Hamamelis, that brought on a sudden memory for me! I also experience that queasy feeling from the odor on clothing zippers! no wonder I don’t like the current trend for zippers on sweaters and tops, and it’s not just the physical discomfort. Clunky brass zippers are the worst! November 25, 2014 at 11:39am Reply

            • Lauren: I am impressed by your noses if you are bothered by zippers! They’ve never posed a problem for me. November 25, 2014 at 9:02pm Reply

  • Mel: I’m with Allison – the scent of papaya makes me literally gag! Having said that I can eat it if I douse it with lemon juice. Other smells that tweak my gag reflex are American cheese, Velveeta, CheezWhiz, basically any processed “dairy” product, and I’ll jump on the warm milk bandwagon too. November 24, 2014 at 1:20pm Reply

  • Fiona: Freshly ground coffee beans smell like Macaroni and cheese to me. I love that smell! The strange thing is I can not stand the taste of coffee but Macaroni and cheese is one of my favourite guilty pleasures! November 24, 2014 at 1:34pm Reply

    • Lauren: Fiona, wow, that is a new association for me. Perhaps there’s a similar compound in the roasting coffee and the baked or slightly cooked cheese? November 24, 2014 at 7:14pm Reply

  • Terry: I once owned a condo and I had a neighbor, below me. She adored, Calvin Klein, “Eternity”…I could smell it in my house and on my deck and walkway. I kept thinking, “I KNOW that smell! I puzzled over it, for months. Finally, one day, I realized where I had smelled that same fragrance, Raid bug spray. I went to the store and bought a can. Indeed, it was the SAME scent! Now I understood why I hated her fragrance! How funny! November 24, 2014 at 1:43pm Reply

    • claire: This is a wonderful discussion. As someone who has always experienced a heightened sense of smell (a blessing and a curse), I am really enjoying that scientists are finally beginning to address the complexity of the olfactory experience!

      Before I learned how to properly protect myself from errant department store sprayers, I was once liberally doused with CK Eternity against my will. Aptly named, I thought I would be stuck with that repellant odor forever. Try as I might I couldn’t seem to remove it. Most CK fragrances have been too brash for my taste. I understand why Obsession was popular (in the 80’s) when my own preferences leaned toward Boucheron, YSL’s Opium, Guerlain Shalimar, and Magie Noire (a gift I had a love hate relationship with because ultimately I ended up with a headache).

      I didn’t make the Raid bug spray association with Eternity, but years earlier my college room-mate wore YSL’s Rive Gauche. That is exactly how I described that fragrance. Just a pure dose of “Raid!” I suppose that very aspect may be the metallic quality some have described with affection. I am very curious how it would smell to me today, now that my sense of smell has matured and changed. That same Raid, bug spray scent did not seem limited to Rive Gauche, but seemed to be present in many fragrances of that time. That very “Modern” quality I found so off-putting was what turned me toward vintage French Perfumes, mostly Guerlain and Caron at that time.

      Similarly, there was a melon/cucumber/ (and sometimes) apple note in many fragrances in the 90’s that equaled instant migraine for me.
      While these modern fragrances didn’t smell exactly like “Raid”, they also had a very strong chemical, solvent quality that made me, and still makes me, recoil. It wasn’t the fruity quality, it was the way I felt assailed with a solvent-like blast that hurt my nostrils and seemed to freeze my brain with an instant head-ache. I wonder now if it was the solvent-based substitutes for pure flower extractions used in these modern perfumes that I physically rejected. I know that most contemporary perfumes are made with solvent based fragrance compounds, but I seem to be able to tolerate some of them.
      Any thoughts? November 24, 2014 at 5:41pm Reply

      • George: http://www.fragrantica.com/notes/Calone-423.html

        Most likely this? November 25, 2014 at 6:54am Reply

        • Claire: You nailed it! That’s definitely one of them. In fact when I hear “aquatic” used in a description I usually run in the other direction. It is certainly very popular. Another illustration of how personal the olfactory experience is. November 25, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

        • Claire: So, George, any insights into what Terry identified as “Raid” bug spray when she smelled CK Eternity? I had the same association whenever I smelled YSL’s Rive Gauche, and a few other perfumes (especially from that era). I’m not sure if I identified the “Raid” in Eternity, but I do know that it was a scrubber for me! November 25, 2014 at 2:08pm Reply

      • Michaela: Claire, I totally feel what you mean about modern melon/cucumber/apple/’marine’ note in perfumes. No migraine for me but I just can’t stand them, I feel these perfumes from a the distance and I steer away from them.
        Thank you, George, yes, it’s that calone… I can bear no ‘aqua…’ I had no idea what it was.
        And I like melons so much, I love to smell the real fruit and eat it. November 25, 2014 at 9:14am Reply

        • Claire: Absolutely, Michaela. The real fruit is wonderful, but the synthetic equivalent something else again. I also steer clear, but have suffered in close proximity (concerts, etcetera.) I am happy it seems a bit less popular or prevalent.

          There are so many flower scents I adore that I don’t like in perfumes (lily of the valley, hyacinth, lilacs). I used to think that the difference was “real” perfume (vintage) made from real plant sources as opposed to synthetic formulations, but is there anything “real” anymore in contemporary perfumes? Are some formulations just better tolerated? November 25, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

          • Lauren: Claire, there are definitely real oils, extracts, absolutes, etc. in many fragrances still to this day. 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 9:03pm Reply

    • Lauren: Terry, in this case, it’s unfortunate for Calvin Klein that you had such a good nose to notice the similarities. 🙁 November 24, 2014 at 7:56pm Reply

      • Terry: I can imagine that Calvin Klein would be horrified. *laughing* I really have a tough time with many modern fragrances. I enjoy most of the older, classic scents, depending on my mood. November 26, 2014 at 8:43pm Reply

  • kate: i find this subject very fascinating, though coffee and bacon smell different to me, i can kind of see how they smell similar.

    sometimes certain cheeses smell like vomit to me, it’s very strange. not sure which cheese though, but someone had heated up something in the microwave at work recently and it smelled like vomit or spoiled milk. there must be some enzyme (or something) i would guess, but i am no scientist! November 24, 2014 at 2:19pm Reply

    • Lauren: Kate, I have occasionally noticed a connection between cheese and vomit as well, though it’s not nearly as prominent to me as the connection between vomit and certain fruits. Very acidic fruits – pineapple in particular – can really turn my stomach if they catch me at the wrong time. November 24, 2014 at 7:17pm Reply

      • George: (it’s also in Pineapple) November 25, 2014 at 6:57am Reply

    • George: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw0KbGi4gH8

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butyric_acid

      Most likely this……. November 25, 2014 at 6:56am Reply

    • Rowanhill: Kate, I have had the same reaction from oven heated “parmesan” back in the eighties. It was evil and put me off of parmesan for a long time. Odd, as in my books parmesan can do no wrong. November 26, 2014 at 5:47am Reply

  • Joy: When I was in elementary school, each of the students was required to take a carton of milk and drink it. I did not like the smell of milk. The lunch room monitor would stand over me and make me drink it! I would hold my nose and chug it down. To this day I can’t drink milk, although I use it on my oatmeal.
    Goat’s milk cheese is another dairy product that I intensely dislike. If I forget to mention to a waitperson not to put it on my salad, I can’t eat my salad. It smells like a goat stable. Yet, I love very stinky, French cheeses, “the smell of the feet of angels”.

    I run/cycle in many events that use port-o-potty’s for the crowds of people. At one point the blue fluid was scented with a smell that I recognized. It was the scent of Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew. It caused me to re-think the use of that scent! I used to really like it, but have not bought it since.

    I too cannot bear the smell of raw egg or egg white. In fact cooking eggs triggers my gag reflex. Although I am not a vegetarian, I cannot bear to walk through the meat department of a grocery store. I have to send my husband to buy any meat products.

    Sometimes a smell will trigger such a sense of nostalgia that it causes me to stop in my tracks as my brain is flooded with memory.

    Thank you so much for a provocative article! November 24, 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Lauren: Joy, interesting what you say about meat in the grocery store. I don’t find raw meat nearly as offensive as I find COOKING meat – ground beef, in particular. Occasionally I’ll cook ground beef, knowing I like the final product, but I can hardly get through the process that turns it from raw to cooked. It nearly makes me gag. November 24, 2014 at 7:58pm Reply

      • Joy: That is so funny that you used the phrase, ” nearly makes me gag”. I use that very phrase all the time with my husband. I am so sensitive to the smells of food items, such as raw meat. He has constant hay fever and can hardly smell anything. I don’t even have to completely say the phrase anymore. He fills in the blank for me. It has become a standing food joke with us. November 24, 2014 at 10:13pm Reply

  • claire: My husband and I love Blue Cheeses, and not surprisingly our children loath the smell. While (the cheeses) really do have a strong, somewhat unpleasant odor, but the taste completely transforms the experience into a pleasurable sensation. Also the contrast of the earthy, smelly cheese with fruit (fresh figs, apricots, raspberries) add another layer of complexity to the smell and taste sensation! November 24, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

  • claire: When I was a very young girl, my father and I used to take long walks in the woods or along the road, observing and commenting upon all the trees, wildflowers and seasonal changes along the way. When we first moved to live in this particularly wooded setting, we were unfamiliar with many of the trees and wildflowers which were less present in our former more urban neighborhood. There were beautiful trillium, virginia bluebells, hepatica, blood root, skunk cabbage, spicy sassafras bark and leaves, bittersweet, and many more. One day for a party my father brought home an armful of blossoming Hawthorne branches! Whew! I thought they smelled horrid, now I would say like carrion, but it didn’t seem to bother him. I wonder how others felt! Now when I see a Hawthorne note mentioned in a perfume description, I recoil at the thought, but I know there are many “dirty” or animalic notes that, used with discretion, are wonderful in perfumes. A friend once pointed out that some flowering trees are pollinated by bees, some by wasps, and some by flies. The fly pollinated blossoms always have that carrion smell underneath the sweetness, though some people don’t seem bothered by it, even like the smell. November 24, 2014 at 6:27pm Reply

    • Courant: Après L’Ondee was unusual in that it carried Hawthorn scent, which is considered to be wild rosy. November 24, 2014 at 6:43pm Reply

    • Lauren: Claire, I am not familiar with Hawthorne in particular, but one interesting thing to note about flowers: the fragrance they emit can change significantly, and quickly over time, once they are picked…because indeed they transform from a living and growing flower into a living flower that is dying. When I was in perfumery school, we were charged with recreating the scent of wisteria. So we went outside, smelled wisteria on the vine, and then picked it to have as a reference in our lab as we worked to develop a true “wisteria” fragrance. But as time went on, sadly the wisteria smelled more and more like spicy sausage! By the end of the assignment, the dying wisteria stank! November 24, 2014 at 7:21pm Reply

      • Courant: So true. The flowers of firethorn, Pyracantha, smell strongly of cat pee November 24, 2014 at 7:30pm Reply

      • Claire: Lauren, this has been such a great topic! Thank you, and thank you for all your comments! I should probably apologize for my excessive responses, but it really is a fascinating angle on our very subjective reactions to scent. Your observations about the stages of scent are so true. I’ve noticed that roses in particular can change so much even from bud to full opening (by the hour, by day, by time of day) even when still on the plant. I’ve also noticed that the micro-climate can make a difference (warm & dry, versus cool & moist, etc.) I’ve planted the same roses in different climates and it definitely alters the way they smell. Not to mention the process of decay you mention. For years I thought I didn’t like rose perfumes because I really don’t care for the smell of dried roses, but I love the smell of the same petals just before they are fully dry. November 25, 2014 at 3:34pm Reply

        • Lauren: Claire, no need to apologize! Exchanging new ideas is part of the beauty of this blog 🙂 I’m happy to know my post was thought-provoking. I really enjoyed reading your observations of flowers in different stages and locations…it makes me want to set up my own experiments. November 25, 2014 at 9:06pm Reply

  • Courant: I bought a bottle of pure perfume Je Reviens from an online discounter recently. It was the everyday perfume of my Mother in law and I knew it well although I never wore it because it was hers. On opening it was petfumey but not JR I remembered. After a couple of minutes I swear it smelt like a carton of Pringles or crisps, vegetable fat. Yuk, yuk. Comments? November 24, 2014 at 6:39pm Reply

    • Lauren: I wonder if some of the base notes in this fragrance (animalic, leathery, ambery, or woody notes) had gone “off” to give it the fatty odor. Or perhaps the aldehydes on top. Aldehydes are light top notes that often add a sparkle to green or citrus notes (and they are arguably the signature of Chanel No. 5). But for me, aldehydes always smelled like unwashed skin and dirty scalp oil, in particular. Maybe that reminded you of Pringles? November 24, 2014 at 7:23pm Reply

      • Courant: Gone off, I’m sure of that now. Perhaps Je Reviens belongs in the past. November 24, 2014 at 7:28pm Reply

        • Lauren: Courant, haha! 🙂 The irony. En fait il ne revient pas? November 24, 2014 at 8:00pm Reply

          • Courant: Rumpelstiltskin? LOL November 25, 2014 at 12:05am Reply

  • claire: Sorry, I can’t stop, I have to include Cumin, and to a lesser degree Coriander in this discussion!
    While very fresh ground Cumin and Coriander can smell almost lemony and sweet, both develop a musty, dusty quality as they age and dry. I enjoy both in many dishes, but more often than not the odor of Cumin reminds me of nothing so much as very strong, acrid male sweat. The kind that you sometimes experience in a public space as an unwanted blast that nearly knocks you over on impact!
    I’ve read some perfume reviews that include this note, and figure I should steer clear. I neither want to smell it, nor, even worse, be perceived as smelling like it myself! At the same time, one of the Amouage (Woman) perfumes includes a cumin note, and I find many of the Amouage fragrances very compelling. I suspect as with most fragrance, it’s all in the “mix”. November 24, 2014 at 6:45pm Reply

    • Lauren: Claire, we seem to view a lot of scents the same way. I love touches of cumin in dishes, but in a cologne, it smells just like a sweaty man! I am almost repulsed by Terre d’Hermes due to the strong cumin note. Smelling it for me is like being in a men’s locker room. November 24, 2014 at 7:25pm Reply

      • Courant: Tania Sanchez finds cilantro/coriander in Noa by Cacharel. I don’t get it…(gets bottle) ..no, don’t get it November 24, 2014 at 9:18pm Reply

      • Jackie: Loving this discussion and can’t resist jumping in on the cumin thread! I also love it in cooking, but, yes, smells to me like strong male sweat, the sudden repellent blast Claire speaks of. But I also find the scent, like skunk, oddly pleasant in doses small enough to be elusive. I’m adding Terre d’Hermes and Amouage Woman to my must-try list. November 25, 2014 at 2:34am Reply

      • Claire: Ha-ha. It’s hard to imagine purposely dousing oneself in that scent (smell…)! November 25, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

      • Claire: Ha-ha. It’s hard to imagine purposely dousing oneself in that scent (smell…)! November 25, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

    • Therése: Totally agree on the cumin. I have a very hard time liking it in perfume, it does smell like sweaty unwashed man … November 25, 2014 at 2:39am Reply

      • Esra: Haha this made me laugh. I always thought cumin smelled like sweat. November 25, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Katyk: That’s funny! When my dear dog was alive I always used to think that she smelled like tostitos tortilla chips. Thanks for bringing me that memory. November 24, 2014 at 8:56pm Reply

  • Olivia: What an interesting discussion! My dogs both smell “toasty” too (except after eating bones obviously!) and I love that warm smell of their fur. The only smell I find particularly off-putting is that fermented smell which is common in Japanese foods and Sake.

    I agree with Joy’s comment: “Sometimes a smell will trigger such a sense of nostalgia that it causes me to stop in my tracks as my brain is flooded with memory.” Best example of this is the smell of a Cabbage Rose (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_%C3%97_centifolia) which instantly transports me back to childhood – lying on the front lawn with gorgeous scent of this rose wafting over me from the bush which grew over our water tank. Love it best of all to this day. November 24, 2014 at 11:21pm Reply

    • Lauren: Olivia, this is how I feel about peonies…so lovely. I remember being so excited as a child to find them blooming in the yard. November 25, 2014 at 9:08pm Reply

  • Sophia: Hi everyone! I’ve never imagined that my very first comment in Bois de Jasmin would be as “stinky” as it could get! I live in Greece, a country famous for its beaches and olive oil among other things. Every time I pass by an olive processing mill I can’t help but think of the same thing: it smells like a sewage plant! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE olive oil! And its smell has nothing to do with the mill’s scent! November 25, 2014 at 3:12am Reply

    • Courant: Olive oil, such honesty in the trees and their production. In my country olive oil is an emergent sideline for artisans and dreamers, much like our wine, in its infancy. How many of us know the bitter taste of an olive from the tree? I didn’t know the processing/brining plant released smells but I still love the oil! November 25, 2014 at 4:31am Reply

    • Lauren: Sophia, thanks for the tidbit! I love olives and olive oil, as well. But occasionally when I taste a “fine” olive oil, it has a special combination of metallic and earthy notes that remind me of…dirt. That’s not as bad as sewage, but unpleasant still… November 25, 2014 at 9:10pm Reply

      • Sophia: Thank you for your responses! As a child I used to try and taste ANYTHING but my lunch. Chalks (especially the pink ones because I had convinced myself they tasted like strawberry), Vick’s VapoRub, raw lamb liver seasoned with salt and pepper (I had my first “stake tartare” at age 4!) are such cases. My mother was desperate because “I was never hungry and I steadily refused to eat”. Eat “normal” food that is. The ONLY “normal” food that I used to eat and even beg for it, was olives! Any king of olives – we have a huge variety of them here in Greece. Of course I wouldn’t miss trying them freshly cut from the olive tree. Very bitter indeed with an intense earthy or soil-y aftertaste. This aftertaste is present in brined olives also, and it reminds me of the aroma of the forest soil when the rain begins to fall. I adore that aroma along with rain, forests and fall/winter! – one of my favorite perfumes is Ormonde Woman. So, I must say that after trying olives of all kinds and (un-)preparations for so many years, I have come to the conclusion that the sewage/manure fertilizer odour outside the olive mills most probably comes from the cold-pressing process of the olive pits – a much lower grade oil is produced this way. A final note on the metallic and dirt notes of olive oil: Try and use only Extra Virgin olive oil fron trusted sources. This one lacks any acidity or metallic notes. The earthy/dirt notes are more “round” as well. November 26, 2014 at 3:37am Reply

  • Fiona: There are not many odours that turn me off, but I have a strong reaction to chai tea. It doesn’t have another scent association for me, it smells like chai tea! As soon as I catch a whiff of it I immediately feel ill and light-headed. I am not sure if it is a particular spice or a combination of.

    I recently had the same reaction to a perfume. I have heard so many good reviews for Lolita Lempicka. After reading all the amazing comments on this blog I ordered a small 5ml. Well, I am sad to say I had to wash it off as it was making me feel so ill and dizzy. Has any one had a similar reaction to this fragrance? November 25, 2014 at 6:13am Reply

    • Lauren: Fiona, are there anise or licorice notes in the chai tea you smell? I’m not aware of any, but Lolita Lempicka (a fragrance I find intriguing despite how sweet it is) has a strong licorice accord for me. Perhaps that is the connection. November 25, 2014 at 9:12pm Reply

      • Fiona: I have read that many chai teas do include aniseed. Perhaps that is it? Thank you for the suggestion. I will do some investigating. November 26, 2014 at 2:50am Reply

  • Aurora: Oh I agree with what is said of cumin in perfumery in several above comments. I love all spices in perfume especially cardamom but the cumin note has ruined the current version of Femme although I keep fond memories of the vintage one which never had that d***ed cumin note.

    Your post is great, Lauren, and it obviously triggered many thoughts and associations for many of us, thank you. November 25, 2014 at 6:40am Reply

    • Claire: Likewise (cumin aside), I adore spice in fragrance, especially clove and cardamom. I would also include carnation, since it has a similar spicy quality. I also like anise and tarragon in small doses. I think Victoria mentioned a clove note in Guerlain Vetiver, which is one of the few men’s fragrances I love. After V’s review of Habit Rouge, that is also on my “to try” list. November 25, 2014 at 1:09pm Reply

    • Lauren: Aurora, thank you! 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 9:12pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: I dislike dill and cellery. Nasty, thin metallic taste in both of them. Mangos taste like soap, and originally I thought the same of coriander but now I love it, fresh and cooked. November 25, 2014 at 6:56am Reply

  • Rowanhill: Cumin in food is wonderful but in perfume unbearable. November 25, 2014 at 6:57am Reply

    • Aurora: I should have said, like you I like cumin in food especially carrot – it reminds me of a trip to Algeria. It is only in perfume that I mind it.

      But then it’s all quite subjective and I can understand people who love it in scents as for sure it is very distinctive. November 25, 2014 at 7:30am Reply

    • Lauren: Rowanhill, here is a case of “one man’s trash; another man’s treasure.” I completely agree with you about the “thin metallic” taste of both dill and celery, but unlike you, I enjoy both of them. 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 9:14pm Reply

      • Rowanhill: Lauren, I will gladly allocate my lifetime quota of dill and cellery to you. 😀 It is truly bizarre how we taste exactly the same thing and our reactions are the polar opposites. November 26, 2014 at 5:08am Reply

      • Victoria: I adore dill. In Ukrainian cuisine, dill is one of the most important herbs, so it was so common at home. When I came to the US, I discovered with much surprise that some people can dislike dill. Must be the anisic-aldehydic nuances. November 26, 2014 at 7:44am Reply

        • Rowanhill: Dill certainly is an essential element of the Finnish cuisine as well, especially in the summer when it can be found on top of every fish and new potato and therefore it grows on everyone’s garden amd balcony and is harvested into the freezer for all the winter dishes. Unfortunately growing up surrounded by it made me no fonder. Fortunately however, my mother takes pity on me when I visit and puts the dill aside and at christmas pickles some baltic herring with chives instead. 🙂 November 27, 2014 at 4:09am Reply

  • Carla: Rotting leaves smell like sour milk to me. Also, Futur by piguet smells like urine to me; can’t stand it. Finally certain herbal teas make me feel nauseous, like green matcha.
    This piece was interesting! November 25, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: My spouse says my hands smell metallic and awful after I’ve peeled a tangerine. I don’t smell it but even washing my hands doesn’t get rid of it. I’ve always wondered what the chemical reaction might be that triggers the effect. Any ideas? November 25, 2014 at 8:44pm Reply

    • Lauren: MontrealGirl, well, fruits are like perfumes in and of themselves; they may contain hundreds of different compounds. Maybe your husband is sensitive to the aldehydes in the tangerines? (I mentioned them in a previous comment as being especially prominent in Chanel No. 5). For me they aldehydes smell primarily oily or fatty, but “metallic” is certainly another descriptor for them. For somebody else they could smell sparkling, soapy, or fresh! November 25, 2014 at 9:17pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Basil has that strange double personality for my nose. I usually have a pot of fresh basil in my kitchen and most of the time it smells of its wonderful self, and sometimes very distinctly of cat pee. My two apartment panthers have on those occasions received a questioning look about their toilet arrangements. Fortunately the stinker was of the window sill variety. November 26, 2014 at 5:20am Reply

  • zane: I ADORE smell of tar (so comforting), turpentine (inspiring) and cumin (i find that sweaty man you are talking about very sexy)!!! The most pleasant tar notes i have found: Cuir Amethiste Armani Prive and Image Cerruti. The most euphoric cumin notes are composed by Amouage (Jungle Elephant Kenzo is also nice). I am still looking for my perfect turpentine fragrance.

    I love the smell of my close relatives (including pets), but i have noticed how that smell is changing when someone gets sick (no good!) or – yes! you’re right – when drinking too much coffee. The smell of acetone is pleasant to me (in perfumery: modern chypre with patchouli-vetiver notes, for example, chance chanel). I like the smell of glossy magazines (in perfumery: american fragrances… let’s say donna karan, carolina herrera; as i remember, note described as “cashmeran”). I mostly like garlic and sulphur notes are ok (described as “violet+ginger” or “musk+ginger”?)

    Paradoxally, smells that i dislike the most, are contemporary fashion perfumes. Popular ingredients that are described simply like “musk” are mostly nauseating to me. For example, Narciso Rodiguez “musk” notes makes me think of meat/dead animals on the metallic tables at the market place from my soviet childhood. I like lemons, but it is hard to believe to those “citrus” notes in perfumery (the most awful example is Light Blue D&G, i hate it). Ambroxan, iso-e-super, ambrolux et cetera… i thing those chemical molecules respond to contemporary european cultural concept of “sterile-clean” more than they are truly pleasant and appealing. I prefer the natural smell of healthy sweat than those “fresh” parfumes.

    Indole is kind of guilty pleasure to me, i don’t wear such kind of perfumes, but i like to explore them. Most fascinating example is Lust Lush, it is that smell of flowers&feces&cadavres, smell of Love&Death, the smell of India. I have a perfume oil from India “Lotus” which is somehow very clean and very dirty at the same time.

    Aldehydes are strange – at first I didn’t understand them at all and they smelled to me like cheese and horse-milk. That was only after testing Kind of Blue Xerjoff when my nose and my reason approved them, describing as “bright”, “giving-light”, “reflecting-light”, “sunlight/moonlight” and kind of cold-metallic like gold/silver. Such perfumes make me think of photosynthesis, too, blue+yellow=green colours. November 28, 2014 at 7:52pm Reply

    • Tara C: Comme des Garçons Monocle Hinoki has a great turpentine note. November 29, 2014 at 7:27pm Reply

  • zane: Worst smell = smell of perfume shop ))) November 28, 2014 at 7:56pm Reply

  • Sofie: Sometimes carrots taste like soap to me. I like the metallic smell and taste of blood (my own mind, when biting your lip for instance) but very much dislike the rusty metallic smell after cutting up a sour apple (Granny Smith, boskoop). Sometimes I get a nasty rusty, metallic smell in brewing coffee (love the smell of coffee otherwise). Aldehydic perfumes all smell like soap to me. Nice soap, but still soap. I’m looking at you N°5, N°22 and even Coco, which smells like spicy soap. My youngest sons head smells like buttered toast sometimes, or warm biscuits and the breath of little babies only drinking milk, lovely too, a bit milky, a bit metallicy, and sweet. I like the smell of warm sand on skin or of warm stones after a bit of rain. It smells warm and toasty and incredibly comforting. As a child I LOVED the smell of gasoline, glue and black markers. I still like the smell of ink, which I sometimes find in plants and strangely associate with mushrooms…
    Very interesting topic and so nice reading other peoples experiences :-). December 2, 2014 at 5:35am Reply

  • Kaitlin: I really loved this article! I have wondered about this as well. My cats’ paws smell like corn chips to me and one of my cats, Schmaltzy, smells like crisp green apples after laying in the sun. Meanwhile, the aroma of brownies fills me with dread because I got a horrible stomach bug after gorging myself on brownies once. January 26, 2017 at 4:40pm Reply

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