Everyone loves a list.
Here is our riposte to all those endless 'must do's' - 100 things to see/read/eat before you die - always so popular in the Bank Holiday Newspapers.
Yet so many of those recommended experiences are curiously passive, depressingly automatic: they involve buying a ticket, taking out a subscription, visiting some sort of restaurant, theatre or other places of entertainment. "You pay your money and you take your choice". A bit lifeless maybe?
Smells are different. They are trickier to seek out; they take you by surprise at unexpected moments; they rocket you across time and space; they resist control or manipulation. With smell you must take your pleasures where you find them.
Most of the following scents are delicious; some are startling. A few are revolting but arresting. Only one I have not yet smelled...
Smells never fail to amaze: if you let them.
Anyway, here’s our list:
A new bar of soap – minimalistic elegance and grace with a pure simplicity, there’s no surprise this is regarded as an essential foundation for cleanliness and basic luxury.
Box... & phlox: pink & white phlox was introduced into Europe by the Empress Josephine - a hot white peppery scent; the smell of childhood.
A traditional eau de cologne – Frederic Malle’s Cologne Indelebile or Les Eaux Primordiale’s Champ d’Influence. Both these scents offer traditional top notes of citrus, falling onto a bed of soft musks and amber. Each as compelling as the other; each as distinguishable too.
Orange peel & marmalade – a timeless combination, bitter and sweet orange citrus notes intertwined.
Clean/Fresh sheets – laid up in lavender or simply air dried.
Fresh cut spring grass – vividly reminiscent of summer weekend afternoons relaxing and taking in the sun with the scent of cut grass carried on the breeze.
Cowslips – With a faintly fruity smell, not dissimilar to that of an apricot, the cowslip takes its place as one of the best-known spring flowers and with this, the scent brings with it nostalgic mental images of the rural England of old with its flower-rich pastures and rolling fields.
Pigs – quite probably the last thing that would come to mind when pressed to name desirable scents however it certainly is memorable and a very much distinguishable scent of nature in the countryside.
The silk lining of a vintage fur coat – echoes of C.S Lewis methinks!
Apple blossom – a delicate and soft floral scent that is punctuated with the slightest of hints of sweet apple coming to the fore, a truly beautiful scent that is undoubtedly one of the treasures of springtime air.
New books: hardback & paperback edition smell quite different yet each, when opened, have that unmistakable smell of expectant wonder and adventure.
Chanel No. 5 – it changes all the time like so many classics. 4160 Tuesday’s founder Sarah McCartney smelled the 1929 version, “curiously like Lux soapflakes”.
Jasmine – in a pot, in the garden or on the streets of Damascus
The hills of home – that indefinable smell of your native air
Lilac – once warmed, lilacs will give off a strong, sweet, heady scent that most find to be very appealing.
Ether – a strong, heady, intoxicating and narcotic scent. For some, the smell is a pleasant experience yet can cause light-headedness and is less popular with others.
Fried onions – there’s something special about the smell of onions being fried, is it the association with the fact that a great meal usually follows the frying or that they simply just smell great when pan-fried in butter? Either way, it’s definitely a scent to enjoy, although perhaps not to wear.
Russian airports – once redolent of over-ripe apples, cigarettes & petrol. Have they changed?
Toast – there’s just nothing that can compare to the smell of toast in the mornings, simplicity itself to prepare and a smell recognisable anywhere, able to conjure relatable memory after memory. Just don’t burn it!
A greenhouse of ripening tomatoes – that summer stalwart of salads the world over.
Sweet peas – which is lovelier? The colour or the perfume?
White sugar – would you be surprised if I said it was a sweet smell?
Tomcats – the feral masculinity, truly the urban musk of today’s society.
Hyacinths – though to some they smell of tomcats.
Scarlet geraniums – more properly called pelargoniums but you know the plant I mean.
Christmas and Easter – something indefinable in the air. Unmistakable, impossible to pinpoint.
Privet hedges – a scent guaranteed to bring childhood to mind.
Shalimar by Guerlain – at least in its glory days. Like many traditional perfumes the composition has been changed many times over the years. Mona di Orio’s Vanille puts a modern spin on this classic. Mona’s use of pure orchid vanilla gives the perfume a dark, woody and rich scent.
Suede gloves – with a scent to match their feel; soft, sensuous and smooth, with a subtle underlying smell of leather.
Vinegar – sharp and acidic, I’m sure this one needs no descriptor as everyone can associate memories with the smell, be it overly cheap wines in youth or fish and chips by the sea.
The sea – a fresh salty aroma carried on the sea air with that heavier siren song of the boundless water promising adventure and exploration. Whether the sea reminds you of a holiday or home, there is no doubt its air of depthless mystery is alluring to all.
Icy iron – an iron railing with a hard January frost on it.
Honeysuckle – heady, sweet, intoxicating with a fruity honey characteristic. Smelling this in the air is a sure sign spring has returned, this mouth-watering fragrance is sure to bring back pleasant memories.
Lily of the valley – sweet and floral but don’t get too drawn in by the sweetness as the entire plant is poisonous if consumed!
A convent chapel – inner cleanliness.
Prison – I have yet to smell this and trust I never shall, but the awful miasma is something that everyone who has been banged up infallibly mentions.
New shoes – a delight due to the notes of the scent itself or more the little luxury of spending on oneself? Either way, a smell that has many positive associations!
Ripe pineapples – warm fragrant golden sweetness.
Bluebells – bluebells are thought of as a quintessentially British flower. Their subtle spicy, yet floral aroma really captures the imagination allowing one to truly picture the carpets of the beautiful blue-violet flower. Emerging ethereally from the haze, found when walking through ancient woodlands on a soft dewy morning.
Backstage of any theatre – sweat, greasepaint and first night nerves.
Olive oil – close your eyes and in that instant the scent can briefly transport you to the sun of the Mediterranean, the sea air carried on a light breeze, surrounded by olive groves.
Snuffed candles – in the second they are extinguished; hot wax & burned wick.
Rosemary, lavender, thyme – the glory of the herb patch.
Cocoa butter – unrefined cocoa butter has that wonderfully distinct smell of chocolate, that sharp bitterness encompassed by the rich sweetness of the chocolate, it’s no surprise that historically it was seen as a luxury and the scent still ought to be viewed as such.
Fear – a sour, foxy reek.
Chamomile – the real deal, not in chamomile tea.
Bacon, coffee; cigarettes at the moment of lighting – all notoriously smelling better than they taste.
A gardenia + a magnolia flower – often talked about; seldom experienced for real.
An iris bed in bloom – the flowers do have a scent, an unforgettable smell.
Jonquils – the strongest of the Narcissus, or daffodil, species. These wonderful yellow or white flowers are used to produce narcissus oil which is found in many modern perfumes.
Laburnum – whilst the tree itself may be poisonous, the scent most certainly isn’t for this beautiful golden tree. Emitted is a wonderful ‘yellow honey’ scent that isn’t particularly overpowering whilst still being strong and sweet enough to be noticeable in the summer air.
Stargazer lilies – while being perfect for some yet too strong for others, this is definitely a plant worth smelling. With a very rich, heavy, almost honey-like sweetness to their scent, the flower can definitely prove overwhelming in closed environment however the sheer richness of the scent definitely makes it one to experience, especially for fans of other lilies.
Hot tar – tail to tail, no respite in sight, AC turned up to the max, summer motorway madness.
Indian basil – extremely aromatic, herbal and green scent. There are sweet, leafy and spicy notes blended together to create something truly special and memorable.
Creosote – this is a scent that is very easily distinguished by one’s olfactory senses, it has a strong, smoky scent reminiscent of tar or new asphalt.
Narcisse Noir de Caron – Created in 1911, one of the great perfumes of history. Daring, exotic and bizarre. Daffodils and orange blossom offer a purity with rose, jasmine, ambergris and musk throwing sensuality into the mix.
Guelder rose – that gorgeous viburnum shrub reminiscent of expensive vanilla & peach ice cream.
Broad bean flowers – sweet and slightly nutty.
Methylated spirits – first love, first home, first DIY project.
Tuberose – a powerful, narcotic, sweet, rich white floral scent. A wonderful fragrance that is truly able to stand out on its own, there’s no surprise it remains such a popular note for many perfumers.
Vanilla pods – soft, sweet and sensual. Vanilla is one of those scents that although not overpowering in nature really takes a hold of one's senses and paints a picturesque, relaxing mental image when inhaled.
Gorse – coconut frosted with sea salt in May sunshine.
Incense – heady and intoxicating, breathe deeply and be transported to another world.
Lemons – like the sweet peas, the colour and scent are mutually enhancing.
Clove pinks – a wonderfully spicy floral scent, peppery and unremarkably similar in part to clove yet distinguishable with the deep floral notes throughout.
Fresh oysters on ice – unmistakably of the sea.
Celery – Bloody Marys and picnic lunches in the sun.
Nail polish remover – one I’m sure many people know well, nail polish wearer or not, a sharp, acrid, heady smell that people seem to either love or hate.
Hot custard – from school dinners to after-dinner dessert indulgence, the warm vanilla-infused aroma is undoubtedly accompanied by feelings of pleasantness and satisfaction.
Marlene's hands, 1972 – covered in Youth Dew.
Linseed oil – when fresh, the oil has that typical scent of fats as with other oils however due to its omega-3 content there is a light fishy smell to accompany the scent. As it ages the scent can bring memories of painting or woodwork as many traditional paints use oils such as linseed as a paint binder.
Parma violets – a rich, wonderfully floral scent with a light sweetness to it.
Bonfires – whether the smell of wood-smoke reminds you of traditional paella or summer nights under the stars, everyone always has associated memories.
A well-soaked sherry trifle – layers of scents from the cream, onto the custard, sherry-soaked sponge and then fruits below. This sweet treat could almost be associated with perfumes and their layering with how the different notes combine to create this irresistible dessert.
Rain – Petrichor, the wonderfully pleasing aroma that is produced from the combination of plant oils and chemicals released from soil when rained upon.
Marigolds – unlike other floral smelling flowers, marigolds give off a distinctively strong, musty, almost bitter scent. Perhaps not one to have around the house but an interesting and different smell nonetheless.
New potatoes boiling with mint – starchy freshness or culinary excitement?
"Iles Flottantes" – that exquisite delicacy first tasted at a French service station.
Kaolin & morphia – a scent of fresh clay reminiscent of purity, an air of formality but shapeless grace.
A rose – by any other name, would smell just as sweet.
Sealing wax – signed, sealed and a scent that delivers.
Newly washed hair – something of a simplistic elegance here, a scent so easy to experience however often overlooked, take a minute and relax next time.
Hot mince pies – this evokes the feeling of warmth and comfort when surrounded by the frozen airs of winter.
The bitterness of poppies – whilst poppies themselves don’t necessarily have the strongest of smells, they can be described as slightly earthy, the seeds are more exciting as they have this wonderfully bitter-sweet smell that is intermingled with other slightly nutty and smoky notes.
Scalding hot tea – few things are comparable to a mug of hot tea on a cold day, warmth and comfort, perfect for those winter months if not all year round.
Linden blossom – with a lightly honeyed scent surrounded by greener, slightly sweet acidic, grassy tones, the blossom is reminiscent of concentrated pollen.
The inside of handbags – musky, rich, an embracing scent.
Myrtle – always a cutting in a royal bride's bouquet.
Freshly baked bread – a tantalising, mouth-watering smell.
Raspberries – a sharp sweetness.
Fresh mint – an often under appreciated scent nowadays with how it can be found in many a variety of products. However, this is testament to how clean and distinctive the smell of fresh mint is. Comparable to a cold spice, mint can evoke feelings of clarity and purity, painting that mental image of blue, clear skies on a crisp and bright day.
Rhubarb crumble – another combination of sharp, almost bitter, notes combined with a light sweetness that is bolstered by the crumble. A lovely, homely and very warming dessert, guaranteed to have positive associations.
Sun cream lotion – sun, holidays, relaxation, sea, let the good times roll.
Cherry blossom – a wondrously fragile and soft floral scent with the slightest hint of cherry coming through. A very relaxing and beautiful fragrance.
Hot leather seats – stuffy, overpowering, the air becomes thick and heavy, this is definitely not a scent appreciated by all yet definitely one that isn’t forgotten.
Hospitals – whilst not the most inviting of settings, there is definitely a scent to hospitals that you can’t quite find anywhere else and will certainly come to mind when mentioned.
Turkish spa – Pine, scented oils and heady ouds, an olfactory experience to remember.
Home – uniquely indefinable, wraps around you like your favourite old dressing gown.
Strawberries and cream – is there any sweet treat more suited to the summertime than strawberries and cream? Sunny afternoons spent under a bright blue sky, relaxed and enjoying life.
Anything from LES SENTEURS...