Exercises to Sharpen Sense of Smell : Cloves and Roses

Starting one’s morning by smelling consciously is the best and the easiest way to sharpen your sense of smell. I’m sure that many of you who are reading this blog on a regular basis are already using your nose to its full potential, but if you would like to improve your olfactory vocabulary, distinguish scents better and learn to smell with more focus, I would like to share short videos with professional tips. The sense of smell becomes less acute with age, but by introducing such exercises into our routine, we’re ensuring that our noses remain as sensitive as can be possible given our genetic makeup and lifestyle. I’ve already posted a video on the basic principles of smelling in Bois de Jasmin’s YouTube channel, and the next installments will cover different techniques in more detail–smelling in images, looking for nuances in scents, etc.

Today’s video is a typical exercise I use in the morning. I pick anything scented–it can be a box of spices, a packet of coffee or a blotter dipped into an essential oil and think of images it evokes. It’s easier to do this exercise blindly (place spices in unmarked jars and smell with your eyes closed), but even if you know what you’re smelling, try to think only of the smell. What does it evoke? What does it smell of (other than the object you’re smelling)? It helps to write down your impressions, and if you like, you can share them in the comments here.

It’s a simple exercise, but it’s effective. It also gives you a chance to start your day by smelling something pleasant, and that by itself makes a difference for our mental state. As I did in the video, this morning I used cloves, and smelling their rich, sweet perfume made me think of being caught in a shower of rose and carnation petals. I then used a pinch of cloves and a teaspoon of rose water to flavor my morning tea. And so the morning started off on a good note.

Please share what aromatics or perfumes you’re smelling.

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23 Comments

  • Anne: I tried it with vanilla extract, but I didnt smell it from the bottle. I dabbed it straight on my wrists my nan’s way. Guess what, it smelled of Amaretto to me. April 10, 2020 at 8:47am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s lovely! Some varieties of vanilla extracts have a bit of almond nuance from coumarin, so maybe that’s what you’re picking up. April 11, 2020 at 7:30am Reply

  • Matty1649: Love Amaretto, got a bottle somewhere….must find it XX April 10, 2020 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you drink it straight or make cocktails? I have a bottle, but I only use it in desserts. April 11, 2020 at 7:30am Reply

      • Matty1649: I have it over ice or with something like tonic. It’s nice in coffee as well April 11, 2020 at 7:34am Reply

        • Victoria: I’ll have to try it with tonic. I like the scent very much. April 11, 2020 at 7:36am Reply

    • Anne Seagull: I find Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet is the ideal perfume equivalent of cloves and roses: I prefer the more youthul pink sugary white raspberries notes to rose, the cloudberry note is extraordinarily cinnamon like and satisfyingly pervasive – and cloudberries are more oxygenating then cinnamon – the daisytree petals and jasmine milk middle notes are sweetly floral yet never too flowery dominant, and the musk, iris and wood notes add the smoothest warm sweet base. So Daisy Love Eau So Sweet is skin-harmonious, uplifting and an ideal pink ambery ambience – a touch of cozy cookie spice gourmand elevated to balanced upbeat elegance! April 11, 2020 at 8:19pm Reply

  • jenni: Thanks for the post… keep the coming.
    I’m off to smell. April 10, 2020 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Jenni! April 11, 2020 at 7:30am Reply

  • ALICE: This is great!!! April 10, 2020 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear it! April 11, 2020 at 7:31am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Great idea. I’ve been doing this with new spices I’m using. I wanted to try a Persian recipe so I bought some sumac spice. Very interesting smell, bright and citrusy was my first impression, but there’s more to it. I’m continuing to smell unfamiliar spices to sharpen my discernment of scents. April 10, 2020 at 2:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s one good way of doing it. What recipe are you cooking? April 11, 2020 at 7:32am Reply

  • Erica Tannor: No better time than now to exercise our noses and experiment to our heart’s content. I love your blog and though this is the first YouTube I’ve seen please keep them coming! April 10, 2020 at 10:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Erica! April 11, 2020 at 7:32am Reply

  • Muriel: Hello Victoria, I’m following a training in aromatherapy this year (there are no perfumer’s trainings in Belgium, or not that I know of, but since aromatherapy is based on essential oils, I thought it would be interesting, and it is!!) and this week we had to chose an essential oil we like and smell it consciously 3 times a day and note down our remarks, feelings, images associated… I picked up Roman Chamomile, and I must say that it was a great discovery: it is fruity (it has an apple smell) but also spicy and even a bit minty. It made me think of a clear water pond. It also has a calming effect which was what I needed in these troubled times. I hope everyone is going good! It is always a pleasure to read from you all! April 11, 2020 at 3:32am Reply

    • Victoria: What a great idea! I’ve enjoyed your description of Roman chamomile. Do you also notice a honey like nuance? April 11, 2020 at 7:33am Reply

  • Nick Li: This is exactly what I have been taught. I would receive unmarked vials of raw materials and must study their development, trying to describe and associate them before being told what their identities are. This way the imagination is given free reign and would After that, I could discuss the descriptions, adjusting them for the purpose of communication. I am rather surprised by what I could come up with and how poor our breadth of olfactory vocabulary is! April 11, 2020 at 6:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like you’re well on your way then. Your olfactory vocabulary will widen significantly the more you do these exercises. I see it even in my students who spend 3-4 days with me doing similar drills. That’s why I recommend writing everything down. April 11, 2020 at 7:35am Reply

  • Ali: I smelled lemon pepper. It made me think of Italy and eating Italian food in a cool, shady court yard. I set me off to go and cook something really yummy with fresh veggies and a twist of lemon. Oh and to make lemonade. April 12, 2020 at 8:19am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: A slightly different angle, but it makes you think about or analyze scents as well: Think of a specific person and which perfume could be a signiture scent for him/her. It forces me to look at character traits of that person, and then equal them with specific scents; or perhaps smooth out or soften those traits. It is always rather disconcerting when at the end of the exercise one doesn‘t come up with a perfume! What does that say about that person, or about me …? April 12, 2020 at 9:25am Reply

  • Jodee: So lovely to see a video! Is this the first one on the blog? I didn’t realize that you have a YouTube channel. I will try this exercise in the coming days. Perhaps I’ll have my daughter select the items to smell so that I don’t already know what it will be. Thank you for this recommendation! April 12, 2020 at 10:06pm Reply

  • Karen A: Great videos! Your great-grandmother’s embroidery is amazing. I’ve been grinding cardamom for my husband’s coffee and adding lemon zest to my espresso. Both scents (coffee+cardamom and espresso+lemon) are so beautiful. Cut a branch of flowering wild cherry but it was so strong, bitter, rich almond but too much for inside. April 13, 2020 at 6:24am Reply

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