Scent Diary : Orange Blossom and Flemish Paintings

The other day I finished work early and took a long walk through Musée des Beaux Arts in Brussels. One of my favorite halls contains a long enfilade of exhibition spaces, where one can spend hours peering at Hieronymus Bosch’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony or the elaborate still lifes by Osias Beert, very different in subject matter but equally compelling. Standing in front of this painting and admiring the mouthwatering collection of pastries, Jordan almonds and candies, I could distinctly smell the sweet orange blossom and strawberry perfume. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my imagination, but the Guerlain Insolence on a woman who was likewise drawn to Beert’s extravaganza.

museeba

Scent Diary is a place where we can share fragrances we encounter, good and bad, perfumes we wear and the scents around us. It’s a way to sharpen our sense of smell, but also just to enjoy the fragrance hobby in a richer way. Whether you write down 1 recollection–“I smelled coffee this morning”–or 10 matters less than simply reminding yourself to smell. You can add as many comments as you wish. You can comment today or over the course of the week; this thread will always be open. Of course, do share what perfume you’re wearing or what particularly good scented products you’ve discovered.

Osias Beert (c. 1580–1624), Still Life with Oysters, Pastry and Fruits. Detail, photography by Bois de Jasmin.

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80 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: I know what you mean! When I see a painting of oysters, white wine and lemon, I must really swallow my saliva. I can smell the painted objects. Remedy: Declaration de Cartier. October 10, 2014 at 7:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Flemish still lifes. There is another painting in the Museum that has a plate of waffles and I can’t walk past it without getting hungry. October 10, 2014 at 9:23am Reply

  • Michaela: Funny story 🙂 October 10, 2014 at 7:56am Reply

    • Michaela: How, from a mix of strong scents of boiled wheat grains and rice, fresh parsley, fresh garlic, cumin, fresh cucumber, the faint scent of basmati rice stands out and seems the most noticeable?! The same happened to me with olive oil. I just can’t understand how an ethereal scent may be more stubborn and noticeable than a mix of strong ones.
      Well… scent diary today: the smells above; a whiff of Kenzo Jungle in the street, which I loved (maybe the only perfume I recognize in a blind smell); some patchouli-sugar perfumes; toasted bread from some neighbours, really appealing; my coffee; bracing Lalique Encre Noire for men, mine – perfect day with this one; fresh chrysanthemums telling autumn; pink grapefruit; a watery perfume in the subway, feminine; something like Le Male on a man walking his dog, nice; spinach. Such a mess. And yes, I love this mess 🙂 October 10, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

      • Victoria: That’s a pretty interesting observation. The secret is in the aromatic components of basmati rice, which are pyrazines, some of the strongest, most powerful aroma-molecules around. Even if other scents are around you, anything with a hint of pyrazine will stand out. I just love the smell of basmati and jasmine rice, and cooking it is a pleasure on so many levels. October 10, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

        • Michaela: Very interesting, thank you, I had no idea. I’ve googled a bit and I found something so suggestive in a post on pyrazine in wine:

          ‘Imagine one single grape in 500,000 metric tonnes of grapes changing the smell of the entire batch. This is the strength of pyrazine.’ October 10, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

          • George: I think Victoria’s Jeaux de Peau might be of interest too. October 10, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

            • George: *Jeux de Peau review October 10, 2014 at 10:32am Reply

              • Michaela: Oh, yes, it is! Thank you very much. October 10, 2014 at 10:37am Reply

            • Victoria: I know that perfume is somewhat polarizing, but I find it so addictive. October 10, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

              • George: I found the anisic aspect a bit too prominent the one time I tried it. I still found it fascinating. Your review was great for pointing out why it was so interesting. I know someone who regularly eats toasted hot cross buns for whom I think it would be perfect. Researching aroma compounds with double or single nitrogen atoms sure makes me think pyrazine is the best looking member of a particularly unattractive family. October 10, 2014 at 3:47pm Reply

                • Victoria: And pyrazines are not easy to work with! October 13, 2014 at 9:01am Reply

          • Victoria: Imagine how powerful it is! In wine, pyrazine is not a good note, because it makes it taste like green peanuts. October 10, 2014 at 3:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: I thought that it was a figment of my imagination, but then it smelled too much like Insolence and I had to look around. Funny, since we just talked about Insolence here on the blog recently. October 10, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

  • Ajda: I smelled Coco Mad on a woman passing by, other than that, my baby’s musky head, curdled milk, dry leaves and the drydown of Santal Majuscule on my forearm. October 10, 2014 at 8:54am Reply

    • Victoria: You smell very good, Ajda! 🙂 October 10, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

  • Victoria: –tangerine peels drying in the sun, whatever sun we still have remaining
    –oolong tea that smells surprisingly like green lilacs
    –a whiff of vanilla waffles from a cart near subway
    –coffee, cigarettes and the usual musty subway scent
    –different grades of lavender oil on blotters that I’m comparing and testing
    –no perfume yet, but it will be Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily tonight, because I’m craving something lush and smoldering.

    Happy Friday to everyone! October 10, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

  • Kat: I finally got the chance to enjoy a tree-ripened persimmon yesterday…something which I haven’t tasted/smelled in a few years, now.

    This morning, cleaned out an ash-tray–can’t say I enjoyed it, but it did remind me to get out my sample of Encens Flamboyant, to try again… October 10, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you! You reminded me how I used to visit our family friends in the Black Sea coast. They had a persimmon orchard, and it was so incredible to see the bare black trees covered with orange fruit. October 10, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

  • zari: drying, damp leaves of a oak and a eastern redbud tree; diesel from trucks; dark roast coffee and french vanilla; distinct sweet sour smell of our office microwave (gross I know). Have a beautiful day everyone where you are and whatever you’re smelling. October 10, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

    • Victoria: What does redbud tree smell like? October 10, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

      • zari: It’s beautiful visually in the springtime – but I’m not sure of the smell. I guess green and woody like many other trees. It’s spring flowers don’t have a distinct smell that I remember. Right now it’s surrounded by a smell of leaves starting to decay, and the smell of surrounding woods. October 10, 2014 at 4:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: This is one of the best scents for me! Being born in the fall, I also associate it with birthday celebrations. October 13, 2014 at 9:02am Reply

  • irem: Woke up to the dry down of Cuir de Russie which I had put on before going to bed. The warm cinnamon of the breakfast bars was another olfactory treat (didn’t eat any though). We accidentally mixed up our coffees with dear husband. The sticky scent of his artificially flavored coffee creamer turned my stomach (without even drinking it). When I was reading the blog I was looking for my Bois des Iles decant – which I sadly left at home. I have a sample of the new Narciso with me, after sniffing the vial I am still contemplating whether I should put some on or not. Its smell reminds me of some perfume but I cannot put a name to it. When I squirted some on a tissue it smelled like a mishmash of trying on too many fragrances at the perfume counter.

    Last “Recommend me a Perfume” session I had asked the dear BdJ readers for an easy to wear perfume complaining that I always go for the the acclaimed classics but do not wear them. I have ordered samples of several recommended perfumes. But for some unknown reason I have also included decants of Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles with my order. I have been wearing those two exclusively since I received them (to the extend of wearing CdR with work out clothes at the gym) and feel like I am living inside an olfactory bubble filled with CdR and BdI. I decided that life is too short not to wear the most beautiful perfumes even if they are out of place in my daily life (CdR at the gym, so what?). October 10, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t agree more! I also don’t believe in saving perfumes for special occasions. I did my workout wearing Nahema the other day, and it motivated me even more. 🙂 October 10, 2014 at 3:06pm Reply

    • solanace: The other day I kept catching whiffs of Oriental Lounge at Pilates class, and it felt great!
      Happy to hear you are enjoying the Chanels. CdR and BdI are beautiful, so elegant and satisfying. October 12, 2014 at 5:37am Reply

  • Jennifer C: I went to a botanical garden last weekend, and while most wasn’t terribly aromatic, the standout smell was the ginger lilies. The scent wasn’t strong individually, but in this one area where I was completely surrounded by them, it completely filled the air. It was slightly soapy, like a light, clean interpretation of jasmine (made me think of hedione, actually).

    There was also the smell of fertilizer in other parts of the garden, which was kind of nice in its way. October 10, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: I smelled a perfume base the other day that reminded me of ginger lilies, but the semblance was mostly in the top notes. Those flowers really smell amazing. October 10, 2014 at 3:08pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: Just came home from an early evening walk in the woods with my 4 legged companion, and there is always such a striking difference in how the forest suddenly smells once the sun sets and humidity levels rise. As if you enter a dramatically different scent world, the sweet dry scent of autumn decay turns into something moist, sandy, dampy, scent trails of game, sweaty but not sour. October 10, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m imagining this scent, and it really sounds so wonderful. October 10, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Maren: I wish I could find a perfume that captures the scent of the woods, with pine, damp decaying leaves, mushrooms and rich humus soil. Know what I mean? Although it may not be a fragrance that would be good to wear! October 12, 2014 at 10:58am Reply

      • Victoria: Or at least to have a candle that smells like it! October 13, 2014 at 9:18am Reply

  • Joy: I so enjoyed our article today. Your mention of Flemish painters brought back the memory of the most mesmerizing film, The Mill and The Cross, The Way to Calvary. In the telling of the story, the people and animals on the painting transition in and out of the painting to living figures. You are fortunate to live in such an art center!
    Today while gardening I kept brushing against the rosemary plants on my rockery. There is something about the scent of rosemary that brings to mind dark, crusty roast meats with browned sprigs of rosemary and a glass of dark, red wine with a tobacco top note.
    One needs the same sensory skills to enjoy good food and wine, and although I live in a perfume desert, I am on the periphery of wonderful wine and food country here in Northwest Oregon.

    Today I am wearing Jo Malone’s Dark Amber. It seems to suit this overcast, autumn day. I enjoy this thanks to Limegreen’s inclusion of this fragrance in my Diptique samples. I love the opening notes of cedar and graphite. It reminds me of sharpening Ticonderoga pencils. The dry down gives way to jasmine and rose. Now I smell sandalwood and patchouli on my wrist. October 10, 2014 at 4:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dark Amber has plenty of twists for such a simple blend, and I’m glad that you got a chance to try it. Enjoy your samples!

      I haven’t seen The Mill and The Cross, The Way to Calvary, but your description is enough to set me searching for it. October 13, 2014 at 9:04am Reply

  • allgirlmafia: Awoke to the warmth of Samsara on my skin and rising off my cotton sheets. So comforting I lamented leaving my bed.

    Hours later, I’ll be off work soon. Ordered chinese food that I am certain I buy more for the smell than anything else. Think fumes of Garlic and Red Pepper delight me. October 10, 2014 at 10:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yum! Can’t beat garlic and red pepper. 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I have got a sample of Le Parfum de Thérèse. Love at first spritz. Oscar the Cat loves it as well, he licks my hand. October 11, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

  • Solanace: Wearing Eau de Pamplemousse Rose today, which I find pretty perfect. Just made a body scrub with coconut oil, vanilla sugar, salt and eucalyptus honey. It smelled heavenly, left no mess in the shower and worked wonders on my poor skin – the weather is so dry, hot and aggressively sunny! Thank’s for the inspiration, Victoria, this was much needed fun!
    Today, walking to the market, I could smell a house’s beautiful white roses, frying under the blazing sun, the poor things, but exhaling this big cloud of heady, yet fresh, perfume. Beautiful. My jasmine bushes, on the other hand, are totally happy in this weather, stronger than ever! 🙂 October 11, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

    • Solanace: By the way, this picture is great. October 11, 2014 at 10:49am Reply

      • Victoria: I just love all of this sugar overload. 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:07am Reply

    • Andy: That scrub sounds so indulgent! Inspired by yours, I think I’ll mix one up to use in tomorrow morning’s shower. October 11, 2014 at 10:50am Reply

      • Solanace: Oh, please do it, a little pampering is always good! 🙂 October 11, 2014 at 5:23pm Reply

    • solanace: The smell of the neighbour frying garlic, preparing lunch. Her food always smells delicious. Wearing Vitriol d´Oillet. Love the spicy opening and the musky dry down, this one is really growing on me. Will carnations be the next big thing? All I know is that I need to try Caron Bellodgia! October 12, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

      • Victoria: And Aedes’s Oeillet Bengale! That’s another great carnation. October 13, 2014 at 9:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Now, this scrub sounds fantastic–coconut, vanilla, honey. I’d be tempted to eat it. 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:07am Reply

  • Andy: – Burying my nose into the blossoms of a confused apple tree the other day–springtime in autumn (tree had both ripe apples and some flowering branches!)
    – A tiny bit of tonka bean, grated into my morning tea
    – A refreshing spray of orange blossom water on my face, such a nice toner.
    – Coconut oil for my hands after a shower
    – Deliberating, with my nose pressed against the sprayer–Mitsouko today? October 11, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

    • Figuier: Andy, I’d never thought of grating tonka into tea – sounds fascinating! What morning tea do you drink? I have some tonka bean and would love to try this. October 12, 2014 at 6:08am Reply

      • Andy: This was actually Victoria’s suggestion to me, after I was lusting over a Zubrowka (buffalo grass) black tea from Kusmi. I found you really only need a few specks of tonka grated in to soften the character of strong black tea.

        For a black breakfast tea, I’ve been liking Palais des Thés Saint James, a tea from Ceylon. October 12, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

        • Figuier: Thanks Andy! I’ll definitely try this. In the past I’ve always preferred coffee in the morning, but lately I’ve been enjoying tea also. October 13, 2014 at 5:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, you’ve tried it! Isn’t it amazing how little you need to taste that roasted almond-candied cherry flavor of tonka bean.

      Our cherry tree is similarly confused. It started sprouting buds! October 13, 2014 at 9:08am Reply

  • benvenuta: I spent most of this week in Florence and Tuscany with my mother. This was a sensory avalanche of sights, smells, sounds and tastes, as you can imagine. I didn`t always have capacity to focus on scents but I have a few scent memories:
    – whiffs of perfumes on people passing by in Florence streets. For some reason i encountered many distinctly woody perfumes
    – occasional whiff of sewer
    – lovely autumnal smell of the wind in Tuscan countryside near Monteriggioni
    – mouthwatering smells of pizza, bruschetta and tomato sauce
    – hotel shower gel, which smelled of powder, soap and white musk October 11, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

    • Esra: Oh just love this! Lucky you.
      Today I smelled the cake I baked. October 11, 2014 at 2:50pm Reply

      • Victoria: What kind of cake did you bake? 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you! Florence in the fall is beautiful, as is Tuscany in general. You’re making me crave bruschetta with lots of tomatoes and olive oil. October 13, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

  • Tati: I love reading these comments. They’ve made me so much more aware of moments throughout the day.
    —last night baked a rhubarb crisp which was tart fruit, baked walnuts and brown sugar
    —walked the dog this morning in the fog and the eucalyptus was astringent
    —went to the cafe and drank a rich, bitter cappuccino
    —wore MFK’s APOM Pour Femme October 11, 2014 at 5:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like a lovely Saturday! And your rhubarb crisp sounds mouthwatering. October 13, 2014 at 9:11am Reply

  • Figuier: My new favourite smell is of old-school furniture polish & hits me in the morning as I arrive at my new office. A bit of orange, a bit of linseed? Not sure, but it’s a great mix.

    Other smell
    – fallen chesnut leaves beginning to turn to mulch
    – espresso coffee in the morning, very different from fileter, so much deeper, richer, sharper
    – it’s Autumn: that means PG Indochine!
    October 12, 2014 at 6:02am Reply

    • Figuier: Sorry, typo central. “smells” and “filter”! October 12, 2014 at 6:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I think I know which scent you mean. There is nothing like a bit of linseed oil on wood scent. It really makes me think of school. October 13, 2014 at 9:16am Reply

  • Hannah: Today was mostly bad smells. A large group of people who smelled like stale cigarette smoke and unwashed clothes surrounded me on the U-Bahn today. Yesterday the person beside me on the U-bahn smelled like fresh flowers, however. On the positive side, I had a panini with basil.
    Right now I’m at my friend’s cafe so I smell feijoada.
    And today I am wearing Tubereuse Criminelle, which I bought last weekend. Yesterday I wore Shanghai Lily and Sahara Noir. Wearing both at once is a bit overwhelming

    Two days ago, I went to a Korean restaurant/bar. I was at the bar, and being surrounded by the smell of Korean food when I only had 5euro was torture!! I had a herbal tea with angelica and cinnamon, which tasted and smelled delicious but made me very sleepy. Then I had a shot of soju. I forget what soju smells like, but probably just alcohol. October 12, 2014 at 7:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Are you sure it was the angelica tea that made you sleepy and not soju? Because soju has that effect on me! 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

      • Hannah: Yesterday I went to a waffle place because I wanted a cappuccino for under 2eur. The outside is very kitschy and twee and then inside they were playing very obscene rap music videos. Someone ordered a waffle with nutella, which was also covered with rainbow sprinkles. I wouldn’t be able to eat something like that, but the smell was almost tempting.

        All alcohol makes me sleepy, so it was both. Luckily the apartment I’m staying in is a 5 minute or so walk away, so I went home and went straight to bed. Which is really saying something, because I’m so close to one of the busiest nightlife areas in Berlin, so sleep on a Friday night doesn’t come easily. I actually didn’t chose my accomodation; if I had, I’d be in a boring neighborhood XD.

        I saved 30 bucks by buying Tubereuse Criminelle here and not in the US! The Serge Lutens sales associates at Galeries Lafayette Berlin are so nice and the best I’ve dealt with. October 14, 2014 at 7:00am Reply

  • Maren: This morning I am cuddled up with my dog on the couch. I am smelling:
    Dusty fur (he needs a bath)
    Coffee
    Chocolate babka bread (chocolate, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, oh so good)
    The musks from the fabric softener dryer sheets on my pajamas (I wish I could find a brand I like better) October 12, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: This sounds wonderful and cozy. 🙂 October 13, 2014 at 9:19am Reply

  • Kat: I dusted off my bottle or Origins Ginger Essence. I know this is normally categorized as a summer fragrance but I bought it in December and I’m only using it during the colder seasons. The spicy combination of ginger and citrus reminds me of gingerbread and various cookies traditionally prepared during the weeks before Christmas. So this is my way to welcome my two favorite seasons: autumn and winter. October 12, 2014 at 3:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it’s perfect anytime you need a boost! October 13, 2014 at 9:20am Reply

  • Diana: My band played a show in an old mansion last night – a very unique and beautiful venue that smelled of mature wood infused with an eon’s worth of cigarette smoke. I wore Tubereuse Criminelle (I have a penchant for stage diving, and like to pick scents that may surprise the audience), and its mysterious hoary/heady aura befitted the dramatic setting so perfectly. October 13, 2014 at 12:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Wow, that must have been great! What a cool venue too. October 13, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

  • Therése: It’s still only morning here in Sweden so so far I’ve only smelled the deep clean aroma of my Earl Grey tea and the creamy tropical scent of the banana on my sandwich, the wet leaves and clear skies on my way to work and the very anonymous smell of my office. October 13, 2014 at 2:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Now that you mention Earl Grey and banana together, I can imagine this as a great perfume pairing. Have a nice Monday! October 13, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

      • Therése: Oh, that is an interesting idea for a perfume! Thank you, I hope your monday was good too. October 14, 2014 at 3:26am Reply

  • Aurora: What a beautiful still-life, you must have thought for a moment that you were experiencing synaesthesia. I bet you can recognize any Guerlain perfume.

    Only 1 weekend scent dominated. The scent of damp fallen leaves all of a sudden turning a corner: sweet earthy mushroomy. It made me so happy to smell it again for the first time in so many months. October 13, 2014 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: I was wearing Insolence not long ago, so it was still very clear in my mind, but it’s a really memorable perfume. I can’t spot Idylle, but Insolence stands out for me. October 13, 2014 at 10:33am Reply

  • Kate: I’m so excited and I have to gloat: At an antiques mall this weekend, my friend handed me a little plastic bag and said, “Look at this.” Inside were five tiny sample bottles — not just sample vials, but tiny GLASS versions of the kinds of bottles they might have come in — of Estee Lauder fragrances: Knowing, White Linen, Beautiful, Spellbound and Youth Dew. The bottles are about as big as the first joint of my thumb.

    I tried to control my drooling by saying to myself, “They might’ve broken down, they might not be any good.” So far I’ve worn the White Linen and it smells great. I’m pacing myself — I might try a little bit of Beautiful today. October 13, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • Victoria: What treasures! Kate, you’re in for many interesting discoveries. October 13, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

      • Kate: I’m reading your reviews of all of them (except Spellbound, which I couldn’t find) to see if I can smell what you smelled! It’s proving once again what a wonderful resource this site and your expertise and passion are — thank you.

        So far Beautiful seems VERY ’80s to me (especially when I smell my wrist directly) but when I turn my head and catch a whiff of the sillage, it’s almost as though I can smell its complexity more. October 13, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t have a review of Spellbound up yet, but it should be in the works. It’s actually a very good perfume, especially for those of us who like spices, carnations and amber. October 13, 2014 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Jordi: I came to my parents for the weekend and they greeted me with a basket full of a kind of mushrooms that have a smell so particular (fruity/floral/mossy) that makes me wonder if they could be used in a perfume. We call them camagrocs (yellow-legs, I’d post a pic but can nkt figure out how lol)

    Since I have been reading this blog and following your advices Victoria, my smell sense has sharpened incredibly: my dad was eating some macerated olives and was able to pick the herbs smell from across the kitchen. And at work, a coworker sprayed some perfume and I picked up it wass Boss Bottled lol.

    My perfume today? Terre d’Hermes feels like smelling home after being away for sometime. The break not using it has helped me appreciate it nuances again.

    Thanks Victoria for all the help and suggestions. October 18, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s great, Jordi! I’m sure you already have a sharp sense of smell to begin with, but it’s still amazing how much you can improve it by simply smelling consciously more often. It makes life so much more interesting, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. October 20, 2014 at 9:44am Reply

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