Making Perfume From The Rain

The village of Kannauj in the state of Uttar Pradesh has been perfuming India’s emperors and mere mortals for centuries. It thrived under the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658), the aesthete and arts patron who left the world the Taj Mahal and many other pearls of architecture. In the refined Mughal culture, the use of fragrance was part of daily life, and every courtier knew how to blend perfumes. Today Kannauj continues to produce attars, co-distillations of rose, jasmine, camphor, henna, and vetiver with sandalwood, most of which are used by the chewing tobacco industry. One of the most remarkable local specialties is mitti attar, the smell of rain.

rain flowers

This unique aroma is the subject of Cynthia Barnett’s article Making Perfume From the Rain for The Atlantic. She’s also the author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, and in Kannauj she discovers how the artisans process the local clay to capture the fragrance many people find evocative. Of course, rain smells differently around the world, and this is another topic she discusses.

“Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff. To continue reading, please click here.”

Is there a perfume that captures the scent of rain for you?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Cornelia Blimber: Interesting text and beautiful picture.
    Geosmin comes near to what I smell when it rains in Amsterdam, but steaming asphalt does not. Amsterdam smells of wet sand, because of the work on the metro (will that ever be finished?!). In some parts of the city you can smell wet grass, in others wet stones, but not steaming asphalt in my opinion.
    A perfume that gives me the sensation of rain is Opium Vapeur de Parfum. April 29, 2015 at 7:25am Reply

    • Hamamelis: I feel for you Cornelia where the work on the metro is concerned!
      Did you smell Eau d’Amsterdam which was made by the ladies of the perfumelounge if I am correct? Supposedly it smells of the ‘grachten’ (canals) but in a good way I hope! Another water scent there… April 29, 2015 at 11:19am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Hamamelis! thank you for the information, I never heard of Eau d’Amsterdam, googled it. Yes, by the ladies of Annindrya.
        What a funny idea. The grachten stink, I hope the perfume is better! April 29, 2015 at 12:39pm Reply

        • Karen: Too funny, let’s hope they were creating /capturing the concept and not the reality then! April 30, 2015 at 7:11am Reply

    • Victoria: In Brussels, I also don’t remember noticing the smell of steaming asphalt that often, now that you mention it. April 29, 2015 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Michaela: I get steaming asphalt on hot summer days when a sudden dense shower cools the air for some minutes. April 30, 2015 at 4:19am Reply

  • Kat: I’ve always dreamed of a petrichor perfume – but I had not realized that the scent varies so much because it depends on so many variables.
    For me ‘green’ scents – more precisely green chypres – come closest, somewhat tart (in the metallic sense) and yet fresh but not necessarily sweet. April 29, 2015 at 8:03am Reply

    • Victoria: For me, vetiver based scents also remind me of rain, probably the combination of green, earth and salty notes. April 29, 2015 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Brainfodder: A flowery peppery gin and tonic (more Bombay Sapphire than Gordons) on a warm wet day – Angeliques sous la Pluie.

    Rain on hot stones, grass, scented climbers and flower beds… with storms threatening – Matin d’Orage.

    Rain on a spring morning, snapped green stems and cut grass – Eau de Celeri. April 29, 2015 at 8:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Love these ideas! Also, I completely agree that Angeliques sous la Pluie smells like gin and tonic. April 29, 2015 at 2:13pm Reply

  • The Scented Salon: It is difficult to find a rain-smelling perfume precisely because of the reason you gave: every rain smells different. The only perfume that immediately comes to mind is Un Jardin Sur le Nil: it is green, ozoney and full of soaking flowers.

    I personally love the smell of wet clean clay. Some beauty products have that smell, such as Fresh Umbrian clay and Rassoul, as well as real wet clay. It is soothing. April 29, 2015 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the scent of wet clay, and it feels so comforting. I use Rassoul clay for facial masks, and it’s one of my favorite treatments. April 29, 2015 at 2:15pm Reply

      • The Scented Salon: Me too. I find it clears up breakouts pretty well: you can leave it on at night as well. Just make sure it is the colorless clay because most of the rassoul clays I’ve used were highly pigmented. April 29, 2015 at 3:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: Mine is colored, but it doesn’t leave pigment on my skin. I also have plain white clay used for cosmetics, and it’s also great. April 29, 2015 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Sandra: I actually read this article last week and sent it to my in laws via email to read (who are Indian) and they really enjoyed it. My mother in law got a bit nostalgic when she talked about the Monsoon season and how the smell in the air is like no other. I don’t think the smell is quit the same as a rainy NYC day! I am hoping when the little one is older we will all travel to India as a family and maybe I can experience it first hand. April 29, 2015 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: My Indian mother-in-law does too, and it makes sense, because monsoon is preceding by the infernally hot period. When the rains break, it’s such an amazing release of pent up energy. Then the greenery comes, and the world is lit up in different colors. April 29, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

      • Lindaloo: There’s an excellent scene of this “release of pent up energy” in Sturla Gunnarsson’s 2014 documentary “Monsoon”. The whole film is a beautifully shot study of the annual monsoon from the anticipation through to its full passage and effects on cities and countyside. April 29, 2015 at 3:19pm Reply

        • Victoria: I really like that movie!
          By the way, the start of monsoon (or just sudden rain) is a classical Bollywood tactic to convey a sexual encounter between characters. Plus, it’s a great way to show off the heroine’s curves as the wet sari clings to her. April 29, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

          • angeldiva: Loved the film ,”Kama Sutra.” April 29, 2015 at 8:45pm Reply

            • Victoria: I also loved the film called “Water,” but I’d warn that it’s tragic. April 30, 2015 at 12:08pm Reply

  • solanace: Rains here are huge, with lightenings, wet earth, steaming asphalt and happy trees, all releasing their smells. I’ve never found a perfume evocative of it. But now I absolutely want to smell that attar and visit Kannauj, which sounds even more wonderful than Grasse! April 29, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: From what I hear, Kannauj is quite a dilapidated, run down place (Uttar Pradesh where it’s located is one of the most corrupt and ill-managed states), but the attar makers would be worth a visit.

      Your rains sounds incredible. April 29, 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

  • spe: Here we have frequent rain, asphalt, beautiful forests, grass, flowers, mud, the ocean, rivers, and mountains. We are “water smell” experts and, despite never having been to India, I can imagine exactly how mitti attar smells. Thank you for the great post! April 29, 2015 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m now curious to read the book about rains I mentioned in the post. I glanced through it, and it sounds really interesting. April 29, 2015 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Teddee Grace: Is it possible to purchase mitti attar in the U.S.? April 29, 2015 at 10:05am Reply

    • Victoria: Someone mentioned White Lotus Aromatics, and I agree on it. It’s a trusted source on many attars from Kannauj. April 29, 2015 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Katy: Mitti Attar is usually available from White Lotus Aromatics but since the launch of the afore mentioned article there has been more interest and they are presently out. I can recommend purchase from this U.S. based company, they have a sampling program, and also stock varied and marvelous essential oils. It might be worth checking at Eden Botanicals, also a U.S. based company. Outside of that, your local Indian Grocery store might prove helpful. My favorite rain perfumes are Terre d’Hermes Parfum and Encre Noire. I think green Chypres are nice for evoking Spring Rain. April 29, 2015 at 10:15am Reply

    • limegreen: It’s available online, such as amazon. (just checked)
      Good idea to look in the Indian grocery stores! April 29, 2015 at 10:29am Reply

    • Hamamelis: Hi Katy, when thinking of rain perfumes I thought of Terre d’Hermes Eau tres Fraiche, and Vetiver Extraordinaire. But reading your comment Encre Noire would indeed also qualify for me, as well as a chypre/cologne like O de Lancome. It may be they are more ‘watery’ than rain.

      In a different way Chanel 5 eau de toilette, (a vintage I inherited) also reminds me of water, but not rain, more big lakes or misty cool forests. April 29, 2015 at 10:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Enfleurage in New York might have it too. April 29, 2015 at 2:21pm Reply

  • limegreen: Wow, Victoria, thanks for an intriguing conundrum, it makes you think, doesn’t it? It’s the earth and ground that it falls on (and therefore the grass or leaves or blossoms) that I smell and associate with a rainfall, though living in the city, I do know that metallic smell, too. (Don’t want it in my perfume.) Even before it’s about to rain, I always think “smells like it’s going to rain” (not “looks like rain”), it’s those molecules that I’m smelling!

    Sometimes I see products (soap, freshener) that come in “African” or “Chinese” Rain (insert “mist” or “shower” here) or something like that and I wonder exactly what exoticized or stereotypical smell they are going for. I’ve yet to see American or Canadian rain as a scent offering! 🙂

    The Jo Malone “midnight rain” of the London rain series was Black Cedarwood and Juniper and that was interesting for evoking rain at night on the “London” streets, not asphalt or concrete per se but close. I’ve yet to smell Demeter Rain but Wet Garden has that post-rain moist greenery smell (for me). I like spraying it in the air for fun now and then. April 29, 2015 at 10:26am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re probably right that those “African rains” are made up things. Yes, I’m still waiting for “New Jersey rain”. 🙂 April 29, 2015 at 2:23pm Reply

      • Mel: And I’m literally waiting – and praying – for California rain. April 29, 2015 at 6:38pm Reply

        • limegreen: 🙂 April 29, 2015 at 9:52pm Reply

          • angeldiva: Hi Limegreen!
            Was it you that was asking about Amouage pricing in Oman?
            Today on there are 3 new Amouage perfumes in the $150- $165. dollar range.
            The first one (Gold) started at $170. then leaped up to $211.
            🙂 May 1, 2015 at 7:06pm Reply

            • limegreen: thanks, Angeldiva! I’m just looking for Journey Woman and may just be happy with what’s left of my sample vial. 🙂 May 2, 2015 at 2:25pm Reply

        • angeldiva: Oh! Mel!
          Thank-you so much for speaking of our rain. In the Perfume Giveaway- I mean’t to put out a request. “Could each of you spend a few moments visualizing rain in California?”

          Our situation is becoming dire. Other countries may not know that our officials have instructed us to let our lawns and foliage die…
          I’m restricted in when I can use outdoor water. My neighbors have a call in number, and are encouraged to report one another! People are ripping out their lawns , everywhere. Replacing all things floral and green with foliage that doesn’t need water.
          I’m instructed to only wash my car when it is backed with dirt. Cities have to reduce water usage by 25%. No more flower beds along the road.
          The super -rich in towns like Montecito ( where Oprah and Tom Hanks live) are paying to have water trucked in from other areas to maintain their landscape designs.
          There is a town in central California who’s sole reservoir is almost if not entirely dried out.

          When it rains- and it’s almost never -the smell is the smell of hope, and life itself. It almost makes me weep.
          On a brighter note: the perfume that reminds me most of rain is an unexpected one. Annick Goutal- Ninfeo Mio! It also smells cold to me. Like cold rain has just fallen on a green plant, and the silage is Ninfeo Mio!
          Thank-you ALL!!!!!!

          Angeldiva April 29, 2015 at 10:18pm Reply

          • limegreen: It’s going to affect produce supply for the entire country in a dire way soon, as in shortage, if California doesn’t get out of the drought. I am not concerned about lawns!
            So visualizing rain showers for CA! April 30, 2015 at 11:13am Reply

            • angeldiva: I do miss the magnificent stalks of orchids from my late fathers orchid bush! We would get 15-18 long stocks per spring with large orchid buds everywhere.
              We would arrange them with other flowers, and different varying stalks of greens. These were truly the most beautiful floral arrangements I’ve ever seen. All things green would just emerge from the earth to great my dad. He planted more trees than any human I know- they were like additions to his (tall) human children.
              These arrangements would be gifted to his lucky lady friends! My elderly neighbor would have her yearly photograph portrait taken of her with her orchid arrangement. She would put on a dress for this occasion.
              Another woman spoke at his rosary about hearing her door bell ring one day after moving to the street 24 before. There was my dad with a gigantic orchid arrangement welcoming her to the neighborhood.
              I miss being able to carry on this tradition, which I was only able to do the first year after his passing.
              But, there are always folks with worse problems than this ( God help Nepal), and this is just how our lives are for the time being.
              Peace April 30, 2015 at 10:15pm Reply

              • Karen: Wow! How incredible that must have been! May 1, 2015 at 6:34pm Reply

                • angeldiva: Thank-you, Karen! It truly was wonderful! May 1, 2015 at 7:03pm Reply

              • Victoria: I know I mentioned it already, but really, your father warrants a book about him. What a character he was! May 2, 2015 at 9:03am Reply

              • limegreen: Wow, what a memory! Orchid are such elegant and visually stunning flowers. May 2, 2015 at 2:29pm Reply

                • angeldiva: Thank-you Victoria , and Limegreen. That’s pretty great advice to write my stories down!

                  Once my Dad, and I got locked inside a mausoleum. The Santa Monica Police had to rescue us. May 2, 2015 at 8:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: I hope that it comes! April 30, 2015 at 11:56am Reply

  • limegreen: “subjective memory of the nose” — how true for so many things! April 29, 2015 at 10:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes! I liked that phrase. April 29, 2015 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Danaki: It depends where I am. In the countryside in Lebanon, where I’m originally from, it is quite rooty smell, like orris root dusted with patchouli. When in Beirut, it smells of burnt asphalt a bit, but I also get a metallic burn and lots of smokiness that has been diluted. The fact that Beirut is coastal, hot and polluted, makes the petricor more complex. I love it.
    In Manchester UK, things are a bit more linear but still interesting. April 29, 2015 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Orris and patchouli sounds like a wonderful combination for a perfume.
      Apropos to nothing, but you reminded me how much I want to visit Lebanon some day. April 29, 2015 at 2:25pm Reply

      • Danaki: Ha! We should arrange a trip: me, you and the Black Narcissus (he said the same when I was commenting on this blog the other day), and of course anyone here on the thread who wants to come too.

        We’ll have lots of sniffing fun! April 30, 2015 at 12:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’d love it, Danaki! 🙂 April 30, 2015 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Diane: For me, smelling Frederic Malle’s “En Passant” transports me instantly to my garden when the bushes are heavy with fully blooming lilacs that are dripping from the rain–spring, flowers, rain–so fresh, delicate and beautiful!! April 29, 2015 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: En Passant is one of my favorite fragrances, and nothing matches better the perfume of wet lilacs for me than this fragrance. April 29, 2015 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Karen: After reading the article, I went in and sprayed some EP on. It’s so so beautiful. April 30, 2015 at 7:17am Reply

  • Austenfan: Short answer: No. It’s one of the few smells that I wouldn’t even wish for in perfume, as real life is so wonderful in this respect.

    Did you take the picture? They seem to be Gaura’s. I just planted a whole bunch of them, as they flower endlessly and don’t take up a lot of room. April 29, 2015 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Austenfan: I’ve only just now finished the article. What a lovely glimpse into another world. I remember the discussions over on the Posse a few years back about attars. Mitti was mentioned. But it’s very instructive to read about it put into it’a historical context. Thanks for the link! April 29, 2015 at 12:50pm Reply

      • Victoria: The context is the main reason I liked Barnett’s article, and it was fascinating to learn more about the process of making attars. But how sad that it’s a vanishing craft, crowded out by Axe body sprays. April 29, 2015 at 2:29pm Reply

        • Michaela: Yes, terribly sad. I wish attar makers survive these globalization days, Far and Middle East.
          Loved this article a lot, it’s a fascinating world. April 30, 2015 at 4:30am Reply

          • Victoria: So many unique crafts are dying out in this fashion. April 30, 2015 at 12:14pm Reply

            • Neisha: My father-in-law’s family has lived in Kannauj for generations. After reading about it here, I asked him to bring me back a vial of mitti attar last time he visited UP. He happily compiled and threw in a vial of hina attar as well. The mitti attar does smell like wet clay and India. It’s fascinating. I prefer the hina attar because it somehow smells like my grandfather’s study in Rampur, all polished wood and ancient books, through an Indian lens. There is something transporting about it. It has an oud-like fragrance to my nose. May 2, 2015 at 6:50pm Reply

              • Victoria: Lucky you, Neisha! The scent of these attars is very poignant, and mitti attar reminds me of my grandmother’s shed.
                You now make me want to smell it again. May 4, 2015 at 6:17am Reply

                • Neisha: There *is* something poignant about them. They recall memories and it’s hard to imagine that they were worn regularly as royal court perfume. It’s even harder to think that they are mainly being used to perfume tobacco these days! I feel like I should try layering them with something lighter, in the Middle Eastern style of perfuming oneself by starting with an attar and then layering with French perfume followed by a waft of incense. May 8, 2015 at 1:42pm Reply

                  • Victoria: I find the Middle Eastern way of wearing perfume inspiring and much more creative than what we generally do in the West. I once met a Saudi lady who layered Shalimar over oud, and the combination was fantastic. May 9, 2015 at 4:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, living in the Low Countries one gets enough of the smell of rain, I suppose. 🙂

      I took the photo a couple of years ago in Strasbourg. Thank you for pointing out the name, which kept escaping me. April 29, 2015 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Well the past few weeks have been so dry, but we had some rain this weekend, and the smell afterwards is just wonderful. I always find it very restful.

        Yes it’s a pity that the craft seems to be disappearing, like with a lot of local craft. If somehow we could convey that these traditions are worth preserving and that there is no point in striving for Axe body sprays!

        As a teen I loathed rain as it meant getting soaking wet cycling to and from school. Our rain suits always seemed to leak and managed to make our shoes overflow with water, at the same time. April 29, 2015 at 3:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: It all comes down to the price, and attars can’t compete with Axe on that point.

          I’m writing about rain while it’s raining. 🙂 April 30, 2015 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Anne-Catherine: Great post, it fits my quest for a substitute for THE first perfume of Valentino, which to me has a magnificent airy, rainy maybe watermelon quality, but not fruity.
    To me un matin d’orage smells a lot like rain and iT comes very close to Valentino.
    Reflections by amouage is also very close but I don’t like the ozon which appears after a while, though it’s really wonderful the first minutes.
    Does anyone have a suggestion for a substitute for valentino valentino? April 29, 2015 at 1:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t smelled Valentino in such a long time, but I should revisit it, since I have a small sample at home. Hope that we can find something that matches it for you. April 29, 2015 at 2:38pm Reply

  • JoDee: Serge Luten’s de Profundis has always reminded me of wet, rich, humid earth after the rain. A scent that reminds me exactly of the rain though is perhaps something I have not yet encountered. Un Matin d’Orage by Annick Goutal is bright and sunny to me, nothing like a Morning Storm and that is the only other rain-related scent that comes to my mind. April 29, 2015 at 1:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Un Matin d’Orage also making me think of a garden drenched in rain as does Goutal’s other perfume, Duel. April 29, 2015 at 2:40pm Reply

  • leathermountain: Name-wise I think of Demeter Thunderstorm and Apres L’Ondee. Rain does have so many smells, not all of them pleasing. April 29, 2015 at 2:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Some cities smell acidic and sharp after it rains, so yes, not a smell I’d like in a perfume. Also, the countryside once the fields are fertilized don’t smell that great during the rainy spells. April 29, 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Andy: Loved the article, and it reminded me of the best rain scent I have ever encountered–It was in the Sonoran Desert, near Tucson, during their “monsoon season.”In what seemed like an instant, the sky clouded up and darkened, the rain splashed down, and I was caught in the middle of it, all one could do was surrender. The storm passed soon enough, and what was left, rising across the sunlit vista of Saguaro and brush was a ghostly, diaphanous steam. And in that air clung heavily the herbal scent of creosote bush, above all. For a place that had minutes before appeared totally desiccated by the 100F+ temperatures, that smell after the rain was so alive, there was no mistaking it. April 29, 2015 at 10:23pm Reply

    • limegreen: What an evocative image and hard to imagine smell! The steam must have been so interesting in the desert, very incongruous! April 30, 2015 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Gosh, I can just imagine the scent and even the electricity in the air! April 30, 2015 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Aurora: A very informative article, thank you for posting it.

    Now, I suppose it’s partly under the influence of the name but Un Jardin Apres La Mousson evoques the smells after a warm rain to me but only when I used it with such pleasure in the dry heat of Provence, I have tried wearing it in the UK where it doesn’t work at all and stays a long time in its ‘melon’ stage, quite unpleasant in fact. It just shows the influence of climate.

    Also, there is something in the earthy vibe of the original Cabochard that makes me think of wet warm soil after the rain. Apres l’Ondee which JP Guerlain linked to Cabochard in an interview means after a summer rain and I would be curious to try La Pluie by Miller Harris (I have to explore that line as well as Jo Malone). April 30, 2015 at 5:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is an odd one, because on some people it never settles down and stays on the melon note. I like it, but I prefer Jardin en Mediterranee. April 30, 2015 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Karen: What an incredibly interesting article! Thanks so much for posting it. No rain-inspired perfumes come to mind at the moment (besides the idea of lilacs after a rain storm in En Passant), but look forward to exploring some of the ideas suggested.

    And just a guess, but perhaps there will be a small revival of these attar making techniques as the interest in high quality perfumes and fragrances grows. April 30, 2015 at 7:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that there will be a revival, but the local perfume industry is too small to support the trade, and with the tobacco industry shrinking, the attars also suffer. I also understand that the Middle Eastern perfume companies use them.

      You’re making me crave En Passant. I don’t have any with me, but our lilacs will bloom soon. 🙂 April 30, 2015 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Gentiana: Very good article, full of information and impressive.
    I clearly remember the different smells of rain occuring: in my yard, in my garden, on the street in my small town, in the big city, in the forest, at the sea, in my granparents village…
    For me, the perfumes that envisages the smell of the rain are (in no particular order, or analogy to the places I mentioned): Noa by Cacharel, Fidji, Cristalle, Y, Silences, Acqua Allegoria Pivoine Magnifica, AA Cherry Blossom, AA Angelique Lilas, Arpege. Sometimes, Mitsouko reminds me of wet fur, it is like having a nice fur coat in a late winter when snowing is very wet and heavy, or turns suddenly to rain and the fine perfumed coat exhales a wet animal smell… April 30, 2015 at 8:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I love your description of Mitsouko as a wet fur coat, which is just perfect! April 30, 2015 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Gentiana: And I forgot to say Apres L’Ondee , the supreme after-rain beauty… 🙂 April 30, 2015 at 8:27am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a lovely perfume in all aspects. April 30, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Annikky: I’m too tired for any insightful observations, but just wanted to say I love the title of the article. April 30, 2015 at 9:59am Reply

  • Hamamelis: Last night after reading this article I sampled Apres L’ondee for the first time. I had it for some time, but as a first year perfumista I felt I needed to be a bit more experienced before starting to explore Guerlain. Now I took the plunge ; -)
    As an exercise I did not look up Apres L’ondee’s notes beforehand, and smelled carnation and hawthorn, both of which I have had in previous gardens. A very feminine, almost fragile scent. Like a soft rain in May in the lowlands. April 30, 2015 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: A gorgeous description! I like to do this kind of exercise, because smelling even familiar fragrance blindly opens up new facets or elements I didn’t notice before. April 30, 2015 at 12:40pm Reply

  • Joy: So interesting to read about the process for creating attar. The photo of the clay pots was fabulous. I really enjoy reading about ancient crafts that still exist. The photo of the gateway was also beautiful.

    Here in the Northwest of the U. S. when the rain hits the many bodies of water such as Puget Sound and the Columbia River a fishy smell is released. It is as if the rain is puncturing the water and the scent is pouring out. Also the slight smell of creosote treated pilings will be released.
    When I hike on mountain trails while it is raining, a very vegetal smell is released. It is not just a green woody fragrance, but the smell of mashed leaves.
    I agree with Andy above, that rain on the Sonoran Desert releases an unbelievable fragrance. However, in the city, it raises the smell of hot asphalt.
    Thank you so much, Victoria, for this educational post. Also, thanks for all of the suggestions for fragrance that smells of rain. More for my wish list! April 30, 2015 at 4:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also love those Moghul style gateways, and the North of India is full of them. What a fascinating period it was, and what did India do to the fierce Central Asian nomads to turn them into effete aesthetes. Nothing that existed before or that has come since can compare to the splendor of Moghuls.

      Loved learning thanks to all of the comments how rain smells different in different places! May 2, 2015 at 9:03am Reply

  • rainboweyes: I love the smell of an approaching thunderstorm and the smell of rain – but only in the summer. As we get far too much rain here during the cold season, I’m not very enthusiastic about the smell of autumn or winter rain.
    We had an unusually dry spring this year and the first rain after five weeks or so had the most wonderful smell – you could literally smell the delicate green of the young leaves and opening buds. A scent that beautifully captures this atmosphere is Deja le Printemps by Oriza L. Legrand.
    My favourite thunderstorm perfume is Fulgor by Calé Fragranze d’Autore. May 1, 2015 at 5:26am Reply

    • Victoria: The winter rain just smells metallic and sharp to me, but the spring showers are an olfactory experience in the category of its own! May 2, 2015 at 9:04am Reply

  • Marsha: Is this story in “The Atlantic Monthly”? If so, which issue? May 1, 2015 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sorry, I don’t know off the top of my head, but if you follow the link, I’m sure it’s mentioned there. May 2, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: Challenging question : most perfumes remind me of a costume, and not of the weather. They smell made-up for an occasion and a suit, and not as free and un-artificial as a whiff caught passing by.
    I thought around violet leaf, but “Goeffrey Beene” reminds me too much of a tweed suit.

    Nowaday “Après l’ondée” is too thin, a high quality iris note that fails to feel rich and then fade away.
    The vintage is symphonic, pine, anis, jasmine, iris, mimosa like and carnation accord and sandalwood *sigh*.

    Petrichor must be “amber-like”. Because plants are produicing such sap that must smell like the labdanum, like the one that clinged to sheep frolicking in countryside and inspired the chypre accord.

    And to anchor the choice to what I like
    => Iris Nobile from Acqua di Parma. Because I like “eau de lentisque”, the iris wibe, and the elusive and rich amber ground of it.
    It feels natural too me, beautiful yet wistful, and a brainy choice.

    The other would be “Black” from Bulgari for the rain in the city. It smells like gasoline washed away from the pavement after a hot day in the city. (Does “Black” sink into oblivion?)

    For the mysterious vibe, I’d definitely pick up something with narcissus, which feels always moist and elusive to me. “fleurs de narcisse” (l’artisan parfumeur) for day, and “vol de nuit” (guerlain) EDT for a late encounter.

    And to go back to violet leaf, “the unicorn spell” from Les nez is one odd ball. Smells like pea, and iris, and melon, and violet leaf all around. You must be high on something but it will transcend all you can expect from rain.

    Or “XII l’heure mystérieuse” (Cartier) that smells like the raindrop knocking at the windows, while you’d be safe alone at night inside a church.

    Hay absolute could lend to a wonderful countryside rain scent, but I can’t figure how to make the twist. May 2, 2015 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: This is a fun list! I guess it’s true, most perfumes don’t smell natural enough to mimic nature, but you can fill in the blanks with your imagination. Or think about perfume as a costume, which is also interesting. May 2, 2015 at 9:13am Reply

  • Pamela: For me, “Je Reviens”, Eau de Toilette, by Worth, reminds me of rain…
    It doesn’t smell like rain, it just seems to match it.

    I like to wear it during the rainy season, which is also when the irises bloom… May 6, 2015 at 9:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: A gorgeous image, Pamela! May 8, 2015 at 3:50am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: ”…the setting in of rain one evening, with a fresh smell, and its coming down faster and faster between me and the church(..)”
    David Copperfield, p. 70 in the Pinguin ed. May 19, 2015 at 4:34pm Reply

  • christine z: Does anyone remember Coty’s Rain scent? Back in the early 70’s, this smelled just like rain to me. It was light and fresh, and lasted for about 20 minutes. I just ordered some, we’ll see what I think 40 years later. June 8, 2015 at 11:54am Reply

    • Victoria: I’d love to hear what you think of it now. Please post your thoughts when you try it again, Christine. June 9, 2015 at 9:57am Reply

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