How do you find a smell?

Often, if I’m out in town, I will catch a whiff of something nice.  Some cologne or perfume or something that transports me to a happy warm childhood place or an image of someone or something or just a feeling of rightness, a rightness that isn’t there all the time.  And I think wouldn’t it be nice to smell that more often.

But how do you find a smell?  Even if it’s a mass-produced thing that you can find behind the counter in Debenhams, how would you start?  How does this happen?  I’ve never done it.  I can remember buying after-shave perhaps once or twice in my life and then it was always pretty random.  Oh yes, that one will do.

I know there’s a vocabulary, “lemony”, “sharp”, “tweedy”, “high notes”, “musky” etc. but I’m not sure what they really mean – they can only be subjective can’t they? There’s one that reminds me of a playgroup I went to more than forty years ago – how do I communicate what that is?  I know it when I smell it but I can’t conjure it up in the same way as I can say, the smell of cut grass.  It’s just out of reach.  When I come across something I like, I want to say to someone, “what’s that smell?  How would you describe it?  Do you know what brand it is?” but that wouldn’t go down well on the Waterloo & City Line at 08.51 on a crisp Thursday in February.

 

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2 thoughts on “How do you find a smell?”

  1. One twist on this is that if it’s a human-mediated scent, perfume or whatever, it can be completely different depending on whose skin it adorns. I may have a friend who once spent far too long crawling the counters in House of Fraser trying to recreate a particular memory, but finding to his – I mean their – great sadness that it just wasn’t the same out of the glass, or the back of his/their hand.

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