Relationships

What Smells Do You Love?

dog out a car window

This weekend, I ducked into a home store, when I was stopped in my tracks…

I picked up a soap to smell through my mask, and suddenly I was transported to my Michigan home three decades earlier. The soap smelled exactly like my dad did when we were growing up — a mix of shaving cream and musky aftershave. I felt like I was 10 years old again!

Scents are incredible for their ability to whisk people through time and space. The New York Times just wrote a story about meaningful fragrances. “Every time you notice a smell — fresh bread, your best friend’s house, a wet dog, garlic frying in butter — it means volatile particles in the air have entered your body and, just for a moment, become a part of you,” says restaurant critic Tejal Rao.

Other people piped in with their scent memories: “For years I’ve been in search of a candle that smells like Nuts 4 Nuts, the infamous New York City cart that serves these treats all over the city,” says Marc Rosenberg from Brooklyn. “I’ve never actually cared for the nuts themselves… but the aroma is pure magic.”

Another sweet answer? “I am a retired teacher,” says Janet S. Bryan from Sioux Falls, S.D. “One of my distinct memory smells has to do with children playing at a table while I play along, too. The scent is the smell of new Play-Doh.”

(Do you know you can actually get a perfume that smells like Play-Doh?)

What would you add? What scent memories come to mind? I’d love to hear…

P.S. What sounds do you love, and what has inspired you lately?

(Photo by Eva Plevier/Stocksy.)

  1. Tara says...

    I don’t usually cook with butter out of an effort to try and eat healthier. Whenever I do my husband will come into the kitchen and say longingly, “It smells like my grandmother’s house.” I always say, “It’s just butter!” And yet…

  2. kiki says...

    Fresh cut grass, a wheat field after a heavy rain, an evergreen forest cloaked in fog, puppy feet, coffee, books, freshly sharpened pencils, my grandmother’s garden in SoCal, and…Nordstrom’s.

  3. Monica says...

    I love this question!
    1. Mimosa tree scent on a summer breeze.
    2. Coppertone sunscreen and cigarette smoke (childhood memories from the Jersey shore!)
    3. The smell of cold climate marina – fish, fuel, salt, cigarette – it’s a homey smell to me.
    4. Cigars and original Old Spice (that would be my grandfather’s smell)
    5. My boys hair the day after church that still smells like incense

  4. Frankie Rose says...

    I’m in my first trimester right now so most smells make me nauseous right now! I normally would love this post but will have to revisit the comments later haha. My favorite holiday scents are fresh pine greens and pomanders (oranges studded with cloves).

  5. Louisa says...

    On a walk this summer my daughter stopped and said “I smell Miss Cindy!” (her preschool teacher) and then she was beside herself as she described standing in preschool with her beloved teacher looking at a globe, little friends all around. “Mom, it’s like I’m right there!!”

  6. Rosalie says...

    I love the smell of a person coming inside from the outdoors, especially when it’s cold outside, and especially when it’s nighttime. There’s something almost otherworldly about them bringing this fresh outdoor smell with them, on their skin and clothing, as if they’re bringing in news from the rest of the world. I love to hug that person and breathe in their smell.

    • Sarz says...

      Ohh, yes, this is wonderful! It’s particularly bittersweet to remember when we could do so with outdoor-fresh folks that we don’t share a home with! XD

    • kd says...

      As if they’re bringing in news from the rest of the world… Wow, what a beautifully written description. Xx

  7. Molly says...

    The smell of a desert rain–I grew up in Arizona, which is full of creosote bushes. Their leaves produce an oil that gets wafted into the air during the monsoon rains. It’s sweet and musty, and so distinctly reminds me of home.

  8. Carolyn says...

    It wasn’t until lockdown in NYC in April that I was able to locate one of my favorite smells: linden blossoms. Linden trees are all over the neighborhood I grew-up in in Brooklyn, in many city parks and lowly sidewalk tree pits. It was definitely one of those ‘background’ smells that marked the change of the season for me, but it wasn’t something I was able to locate. Now I can’t wait for the trees to bloom again.

    Favorite packaged scent:
    Budlet’s Florida Water (a Chinese cologne water that’s also used for treating bug bites and comes in a nostalgic green bottle).

  9. Colleen S says...

    I love the smell of the ocean. That salty almost fish-like scent. It’s indescribable and I have yet to find a candle that encapsulates it right. I also love the smell of a Christmas tree, hotel rooms (I don’t know why), new cars, and a first rain.

    • Becs says...

      Okay, can someone please recommend a candle with that “indescribable” salty ocean smell? Like the crisp smell of ocean, not warm humid coconuts and palm trees. I want to feel like a wave is going to sweep me away when I smell this candle.

      P.S. Colleen, for me it’s the smell of hotel room sheets. So fresh.

  10. Laura says...

    Right now, the scent memories that feel particularly sweet aren’t my own, but those of my children: my son has a particularly good nose and he can “smell” even after a first wash, who we got hand me downs from. Like he’ll put on a shirt for the first time and say, this smells like Lulu, or JR, or Julian, or big Clio. It feels like love for us to pay a little homage to these families that keep us dressed in this way.

  11. Zoe says...

    The smell whilst making lard will forever be the my Granny’s smell. Even after 24 year’s it brings comfort to the soul and sometimes tears..

  12. Nancey Carroll says...

    I love the smell of print shops, reminds me of interning in NYC in the 80’s, walked everywhere and I was just a gopher but they kept sending me to the print shops for brochures, that smell, it’s indescribable I miss it so much.

    I love the smell of this sweet scent of some kind of summer wildflower, I don’t know what it is, but I used to drive from my boyfriend’s house and back to mine so many times a week on summer nights and there was that smell in the air with the car windows open.

    I love the smell of my cats head, he smells like a sack of potatoes mixed with some sort of mint, sounds weird but I love his head so much.

  13. Stephani says...

    I have lotion from Kauai that I bought on our honeymoon. It is also the same place we took our daughter on her first vacation as a baby. It smells like plumeria and the open air resort we stayed at (Grand Hyatt-magical place). Every time i open the tube and place a tiny bit into my palm i’m transported to such a happy and tranquil time that is so needed right now.

  14. Tyler says...

    Gardenias! They remind me of my mom. She had a giant gardenia bush under the kitchen window. Every time I came home from college there would be a little vase of them by my bed.

  15. Anya Oberdorf says...

    I love so many woodsy smells: the smell of a cedar dock drying in the sun, the smell of pine trees at the top of hiking trail on a hot sunny day, the smell of campfire and cold air on people’s clothes (which I’ll be getting a lot of this winter as we try to navigate safely spending time together outdoors)…

  16. Mollie says...

    There was a lilac tree next to my house growing up. It was right next to a little treehouse my siblings and I used to play in, so whenever I smell lilacs in bloom (they have a short Chicago season!) it brings me back to spring, lighter days, and the joy of being a kid playing in the backyard.

  17. Megan says...

    Balsam! My parents would always buy those little pillows full of balsam pine needles to put in our drawers at home, to remind us of summers spent in Maine.

  18. AlexiswithaG says...

    Tomato plants. All time favorite scent- I cannot pass a plant without stopping to rub a green leaf and inhale deeply. It takes me back to my nana’s house where the tomato patch was right under my bedroom window, and I would smell them in the morning and then run out to walk into them (being as small/tall as the plants themselves) to bring in the days best tomatoes for lunch.

    • Monica says...

      I do that too!!

    • Deb in Oklahoma says...

      Yes, yes, yes! Tomato plants a hot summers’ day in one sniff. There’s nothing better.

  19. Anya Oberdorf says...

    Me too! So cute and cozy.

  20. R says...

    I went to Spain for vacation a few years ago, and as I walked up the stairs of the apartment building I was staying in I caught the smell of my grandparent’s house from when I was a kid (they lived in the LA area). I honestly can’t put my finger on what the smells are exactly, because it’s a mix of faint scents, but it’s the smell of garlic and onions cooking mixed with tobacco (faint, sort of cigarette-like). My grandpa loved Spain too, and had passed away the year before I went, so it felt like a special little reminder. I stayed at that building for a few days so it was lovely to come ‘home’ to that comforting scent.

  21. Maddy says...

    These comments have sent me down a rabbit hole of nostalgia! Whenever I get a unexpected whiff of cigar smoke it always reminds me of my Grandpa; it was never unpleasant, just very familiar and weirdly comforting. Combined with the smell of the woods around our family cottage, it was magic.

  22. Ramona says...

    finger paints (takes me back to kindergarten), popcorn (every time I walk into a movie theatre), shampure shampoo (aveda salon), thieves oil (so many reasons), coconut (for eating and for sunscreen) orange blossoms (pure bliss) 🍊

  23. Karina says...

    My mum sadly died six years ago but there is a nearly full bottle of the perfume she always wore in my parent’s bathroom cabinet. Every time I visit my dad I go to the bathroom and open the bottle to smell it. And I can smell her and it’s like she is in the room. It’s sad and comforting at the same time. I can’t take the bottle with me. It doesn’t feel right.

    • CS says...

      It probably comforts your dad, too.
      This was so touching.

  24. katie says...

    My toddler was able to return to daycare after 4+ months at home. End of the first week when they sent back the nap sheets, I just wanted to inhale the smell of his them; they always take on a unique industrialized cleaner/bleach scent. It suddenly communicated the wonderful love and care he gets onsite that I had missed so much.

  25. Emma says...

    I absolutely LOVE the smell of chlorine. My older brother was a swimmer all through middle school and high school, and every weekend my family would go to his swim meets. Those days were long but filled with eating snacks sold at the home team’s concession stand, reading books, and listening to mix cd’s that my brother would make for me. It’s silly, but I love cleaning my bathroom or bleaching my sheets because it takes me right back to my childhood every time. :)

  26. Lauren J says...

    Bayberry. Bayberry. Bayberry.

  27. Nat says...

    The smell of outside after it rains
    Crayons
    Christmas trees
    Basmati rice while it’s cooking
    Onions and garlic in olive oil
    The smell of firewood on a cold crisp night
    A new book

  28. Kathryn says...

    Ok– don’t we all remember the smell of our first boyfriend’s cologne? And the perk we would get when we smelled it at like Target or something? Or is that just me? Lol

    • Beth says...

      His deodorant! One of the old spice varieties, I could pick it out if I saw it. So evocative, makes me feel nostalgic and also a little self-conscious? As If I’m 16 again? Woof.

  29. Emily says...

    I love the scent of dogs’ paws.

  30. Kristen says...

    Even though I’ve only visited twice, the smell of Sante Fe, NM sticks with me and is something I absolutely love! There was even a since-closed spa in NYC inspired by smells of the Southwest that I loved to visit. Maybe someone can tell me what that smell is? Pinon maybe? Sort of smoky and so so nice!

  31. Taja says...

    A few weeks ago I was chopping garlic and as I grabbed my (still morning) coffee, the mix of garlic and coffee immediately made me think of my beloved grandma (she passed away two years ago). I had no Idea this was her smell!
    Also, my mum is soaking up my kids sweaty heads all the time, saying it’s the sweetest smell of all :)

    • Laura says...

      Love this–that you found the smell of your grandma! While I assume doing something she probably did: food prepping before the day has even really begun.

  32. K says...

    Dial soap (the orange liquid kind). It was the soap my grandfather had in the bathroom on his farm. He passed away this fall and it was special to wash my hands with it one last time after his funeral.

  33. Hilary says...

    I live in dusty, dry, snowy Colorado but grew up outside of muggy, soggy, cloudy Boston. I don’t even know what the smells are, but anything wet or moldy or semi rotted makes my stomach flip flop with homesickness. There are so few smells in this arid place, the piney mountains being a notable exception. I don’t miss the winter dreariness, especially not as we head into a long winter, but I sure do miss those wet smells…is there a candle for that???

    • Emma says...

      Magic Candle Co’s Port Orleans candle might do the trick. It has sort of a mossy watery-ness to it, in a really pleasing way.

    • Nancey Carroll says...

      You can get a candle from Homesick that smells like Boston (I’m here in Boston) not the biggest fan of the winter though!

    • JR says...

      I so so so relate to this! Grew up in the humid upper midwest, live in Colorado. I truly pine for the humidity (I know, I know). The smell of the sidewalk right after a rain is HEAVENLY. The smells here are so different and dialed down—the most notable outdoor smell here wafts down from Greeley right before a snowstorm (if you know, you know).

    • Lisa says...

      I always wanted to spend time in Colorado (went through it by train almost eleven years ago, and the landscapes I saw where stunning), and it just gained additional points on my imaginary list – love, love, love dry weather, hot or cold :)

    • Danielle says...

      haha JR- I live in in Longmont and I know the smell of which you speak :)I’m originally from the midwest with several years in San Francisco. I don’t miss humidity too much- especially after the moldiness of a San Francisco apartment. That being said I do miss the smell of rain on the sidewalk. I think that smell is called petrichor I’ve always wanted to order this candle but never have: https://dsanddurga.com/collections/candles/products/concrete-after-lightning

    • Hilary says...

      Love all these suggestions, thank you! And yes, the smell wafting from the north on certain days is not my favorite 😂!

    • kd says...

      Lol I was born and raised in Colorado, but on the northeastern plains. I have attachments to my own nostalgic CO smells, but I will admit that the smells are stronger where I grew up than they seem here in the city… likely because of the humidity from the rivers and farms. :)

  34. Elizabeth says...

    When my babies were newborns, I would practically stick my whole nose inside their little gummy mouths to sniff their milky breath. My husband thinks it’s so weird, and maybe it’s hormonal, but it is my favorite smell.

    • Colleen S says...

      Baby necks. My sisters smelled heavenly when they were babies. They were bottle-fed, which some think makes them smell rank, but my sisters smelled great after being fed.

    • Anna says...

      100% yes, Elizabeth. What I would give to smell that milky breath again!

  35. Julia says...

    When my husband and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time in his car, which smelled mysteriously and strongly of crayola crayons. That smell still gives me butterflies, even though the car itself was sold for scraps years ago.

    • Kristy says...

      Was his car a VW Jetta? Everyone always comments on how my (very old) Jetta smells of crayons.

    • Emily R says...

      I was going to say the same. I could never smell the crayons, but until I donated it in 2018, everyone commented that my 2001 VW Jetta smelled like crayons.

    • Ella says...

      Similarly my husband’s car smelled very strongly of new car smell air freshener for the first few months of our relationship. Makes me feel all those new relationship feelings whenever he gets a new air freshener now!

  36. Julie says...

    Because I was in elementary school in the early nineties, many of the books in the school library (maybe most?) were mass-market paperbacks from the 70s and 80s, and some from even earlier. I don’t know anything about paper or publishing, but the smell of the books published in that specific time period (with the gray paper) is my number one best smell. If I smell it now, it’s the emotional equivalent of an episode of Call the Midwife, or the GBBO, or the first bite of chocolate chip cookie dough out of the bowl. MAN I love it.

    And yes, I buy these paperbacks when I see them and I take deep whiffs whenever I remember.

    • Swissmiss says...

      I know exactly the smell and love it so much as well! My best years were spent in the library and in thrift shops where you could buy paperback books by weight (5 CHF per kilo, oh the memorie)

    • Julie says...

      swissmiss, this makes me SO happy!

  37. Erica says...

    When I was a little girl, my family moved to southern Africa. While my brother and I would ride down our little mountain to attend school in the city, my sister spent her days with our dear nanny, Busie, while my parents worked. Busie was the most beautiful, joyful woman – full of laughter and smiles and love for us three kids (despite our shenanigans, or that she had 13 of her own children!). She made the best crepes around, as an after-school snack. She often carried my sister tied on her back, in patterned market cloth (and I can still see my sister’s little blond baby head poking out from her swaddle, and Busie clucking at her gently). She sang a lot, and I’d watch her like this while she hung laundry, and we’d play in the damp sheets, getting temporary relief from the unrelenting African sunshine.

    Years later, we returned to Canada. It was only then (as a middle school student) that I realized how strongly Busie smelled of B.O. And of course, I quickly learned other people did not find this smell pleasing at all. But for me, this was the comforting, lovely smell of Busie – this unbelievably hard working, playful woman who took amazing care of us all. So, when I catch a whiff of someone’s deodorant-free armpits, I’m transported right back to Africa, back to Busisiswe, and I can’t help but smile.

    • Courtney says...

      This was lovely

  38. M. says...

    Sawdust. I grew up in a craftsman fixer-upper, full of woodwork that my dad restored and replicated throughout my childhood. The smell of fresh sawdust takes me straight back.

    Loving all the others here too, just the cozy thing on a gray wintery Monday.

  39. D says...

    My first job after college was a barista at a French bakery. I’d get there every morning and the smell of croissants coming right out of the oven was just heaven. The raisin croissants especially. Mmm.

  40. Em says...

    I love the smell of cherry tomatoes picked fresh from the garden in August. Every summer I go around sniffing the tomato plants in my garden to get that particular hit of childhood nostalgia.

    I’m a big perfume person so most of my favorite smells are perfumes from my collection. At the moment I’m particularly fond of Hermes eau des Merveilles (smells like oranges on a sparkling crisp fall day), and Le Labo The Noir (smells like jammy fig + black tea).

    • Em says...

      I thought of another one! I love the smell of good leather. I am always taking a whiff of my handbag :P

  41. I love the smell of Play-Doh! I drove a VW Beetle as my first car and oddly enough, the inside smelled exactly like Play-Doh. If I left a drink in the car, it would even taste like Play-Doh! Now that smell always transports me back to carefree high school days with friends.

  42. Gitty says...

    The vinegary smell of cucumber salad, pickles, olives, mixed with the faint smells of challa and grape juice, while my father says Friday night Kiddush…

  43. The smell of freshly sharpened pencils. . Murphy’s Oil Soap-my clean house smell. Yardley English lavender soap-reminds me of my grandmother.

    • Nisha says...

      Oh Julie! My late grandmother also wore Yardley English Lavender. It’s been four years since she died and reading your comment instantly reminded me of hugging her plump, petite frame and breathing in that comforting smell. Thank you.

  44. Jesse says...

    When I was 20, I lived next door to a Ben and Jerry’s that made their own waffle cones. Even though it’s a warm and fuzzy kind of fresh baked goods smell, it reminds me of being young, broke, and reckless- in a good way!

  45. Laura F says...

    Ponds Cold Cream and Estee Lauder Youth Dew = Grandmother
    Lanonin lotion and cigarettes = my dad
    Coppertone sun cream = childhood
    Sage and red chili = growing up in NM
    Knockoff Chanel #5 = high school (and Obsession by Calvin Klein)
    Damp, warming spring earth = indefinable optimism
    And my dog’s head smells like waffles.

  46. I love this post. I have so many!
    Chanel no.5 will always remind my of my late Grandmother. I have a necklace of hers that is a vintage perfume bottle necklace. Sometimes I open it just to smell ‘her’.
    Petrichor (the smell of rain on warm pavement or dry soil). Old books and the smell of a library. Newborn babies after a bath. Satsuma. Fresh Christmas trees. Campfire on my clothes.
    Hands down, the best smell, is walking through the door of my Nana’s house when she is making her home-made spaghetti and meatballs. I have so many fond memories of not only making the sauce with her but enjoying that particular meal with my family.

  47. A says...

    The smell of diesel in cold weather mixed with burnt knishes brings me back to the first time I stepped foot in NYC. The smell of linseed oil and turpentine, both tangy and astringent, reminds me of the year I spent working as an art model. The smell of my son’s neck is a warm, floury biscuit. My dog’s fat, black paws are Dorito-scented. Incense and prayer books and anise remind me of the church I grew up in. For the Christmas bazaar, they made stained glass candy in the kitchen. A certain rich perfume that I first smelled in Europe takes me back to my teens. I once followed a chic woman for a few blocks in Brussels, just to smell her! I now know it is Guerlain’s Samsara. I bought a bottle and sometimes spray a little on my wrist to take me back to that time of travel and discovery.

  48. Two scents stand out in my mind among many others: The smell of a pet after they’ve been outside or sitting in an open, sunny window. Warm fur and that fresh outside smell. And the second is the smell of my mom: two-stroke engine fuel and fresh air.

  49. Madeleine says...

    There are lots of smells that I love; one particularly distinct one is the smell of cement after rain. I’m not sure, but I think it goes back to a favorite children’s museum that had an interactive water exhibit that somehow smelled like wet cement. One time I was walking through a parking garage that had a faint wet cement smell and I mentioned to a friend that the scent of cement reminded me of my childhood. He quickly retorted, “Did you grow up in a jail??” Only then did I realize that my favorite smell was kind of an odd one!

    • Elizabeth says...

      Yes! The smell of sprinklers hitting hot pavement smells just like playing outside at my grandma’s house in the middle of summer.

    • Emma says...

      I don’t think this is strange at all! The smell of wet pavement makes me think of summer, of a heavy burst of summer rain steaming on the driveway. :)

  50. Jo says...

    This story made me think of two times in my life when smells have transported me right back into the past.
    The first one is when I returned as a young adult to the house I’d grown up in and hadn’t visited in 10 years. The smell of the lavender in the front garden made me feel like I’d been transported back into my childhood.

    The other time was when I was at a drumming class at University. One of the students had a pouch of rolling tobacco and it was the exact smell of the elderly man who used to come into my nursery school to teach us woodwork when I was 4 or 5. I felt completely hypnotised by it. This man, Mr Davies, was such a gentle and kind person. I felt a weird connection to this random student just because he smelled like Mr Davies, someone I probably hadn’t thought about since I left nursery school. Smell is powerful!

    • Kathryn says...

      Semi unrelated, but this just reminded me of the Winnie-the-Pooh watch my preschool teacher wore. Wow, what a *woosh* back in time.

  51. Hali says...

    My sister runs a skincare business that started out of her home. It’s been years since she moved production out of her house but every time I open a jar of her Honey Love cleanser, I’m transported back to her living room. She’s even moved houses a few times! But when I visit (at least, the last time i visited in 2019) her house still always smells of Honey Love! A mix of honey, lavender and hibiscus: tart, sweet, earthy, and like being 16 years old again visiting her in Hawaii for the first time, getting facials sprawled out on the floor.

    My mom runs a soap company out of her home in Hawaii- you can smell her parcels from the time the reach your doorstep and they smell exactly like mom and dad’s house! Which is funny, before they started that business in their retirement, I’d say the smell of simmering lentils remind me of “home.”

  52. jane says...

    The smell of the kitchen after juicing is the best smell I know. But as to memories – sometimes I will be thinking strongly of some event and weirdly its fragrance will come to me so distinctly that it’s been a little freaky. I am accustomed to it now but the first few times it happened I looked everywhere convinced it was coming from real-time – but it was just my memory – speaking to me. Very interesting.

  53. I also love the smell of Play doh, and Lush salted coconut hand scrub smells JUST. LIKE. IT.

  54. Cate says...

    The smell of a professionally laundered and starched shirt preferably intermingled with the smell of a desirable neck – ooh! la! la!
    And Lanvin’s Arpege pefume which reminds me of my Mother coming in to kiss me when she returned from being out for the evening. It always made me feel so safe to know she was home>

  55. Agnès says...

    I love the smell of a chocolate cake, of cardamome in coffee, the smell of the perfume that my favourite aunt wears (I will steal it soon), but above all, I love the smell of the metro, in Paris. The one smell that always makes me happy is the mexican soap Rosa Venus, that you get at cheap hotels from the beach, it brings memories of su and sunsets, and of making love in the middle of the afternoon under the fan…

    • jane says...

      so evocative, your description; a true mood: “The one smell that always makes me happy is the mexican soap Rosa Venus, that you get at cheap hotels from the beach, it brings memories of su and sunsets, and of making love in the middle of the afternoon under the fan…”

    • Agnès says...

      Hi Jane! it made me really happy to think about that particular smell, yesterday!

  56. marcella says...

    It’s funny, the return of Purell everywhere now brings me back to my kindergarten classroom!! I’m 27 now but that smell just reminds me of our classroom on the second floor and peeping at the trees outside.

  57. Cheryl says...

    Fresh cut grass, Country Time Lemonade mix and the smell of a muggy wool scarf against my face will definitely bring me back to childhood.
    Laundry exhaust pouring out onto a city sidewalk will always be NYC years for me.
    And now my daughter identifies her smell of childhood fun simply as smelling like “outside” which is a sweaty mix of earth, humidity and a touch of B.O.
    Where would we be without those smells?

  58. Michelle says...

    I have never had a good sense of smell. If I put my nose right in a bottle of perfume I can tell you that it smells different than the world around it, but couldn’t begin to describe why. I’ve always been a positive person and looked on the bright side of my sensory deficiency (my husband loves that he can fart with abandon) but posts like this remind me of what I miss. Smell is inextricably tied to memory and I’m afraid that my memory is also worse than average, especially when it comes to scenes from my own life. There are so many things from my childhood that my family has mentioned but I can’t recall. Again, looking on the bright side, I am “fully present” for most of the moments in my life and don’t find myself second guessing old mistakes or dwelling on past disappointments.

  59. Megan says...

    The eight year old girl I babysat in college absolutely LOVED the smell of freshly baked Subway sandwich bread. If we ever drove by a Subway, she would BEG me to pull over just so she could get a whiff of the rolls baking in the oven. She even went so far as to suggest that Subway should bottle that smell so she could wear it as a perfume! Always cracked me up.

    • karen haha says...

      Well, those rolls are like %50 sugar so I’m sure they do smell sweet, lol

  60. Hillary says...

    1. Wrigley’s doublemint gum and a powder compact (cover girl?) remind me of my grandmother
    2. Cigarettes – I know, it’s terrible! But it reminds me of my grandfather and many of my older relatives
    3. Garlic in all its forms – I come from an Italian family and it always smells like home.
    4. A box of Crayola crayons – reminds me of childhood and school
    5. My uncle’s house – I have no idea what the scent is, I could never define it, but walking through the door gives me immediate comfort. It could be the combination of books, leather, wine, and other things.

  61. Heather says...

    Mandalay Bay in Vegas… Smells like coconut and vacation.

  62. Emily says...

    My kids are 3 and 5 and when my second was a toddler, I was going to switch from the baby shampoo I had used with both of them to a different shampoo. I didn’t quite use up all the baby shampoo, though – I saved some in a little bottle in my memory box. Now I can go smell my babies’ heads anytime I want.

    I also saved some of the Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea scent that I always used as a teenager when I first met my husband. I guess I’m all into the scent memories!

  63. Katie says...

    Love this post! When I was in college, some high school friends and I rented a house on Cape Cod for a summer. The house came with a skunk, unfortunately, who seemed to live under the porch. Twenty years later, I suddenly find myself randomly thinking of my high school friends, and then realize it’s because I can smell a skunk! It’s a lovely association with a truly terrible smell, but it always brings me back to being nineteen again.

  64. Lauren Lebata says...

    i love that rain on the streets smell!

  65. Lauren E says...

    There’s a scratch-n-sniff Christmas book I loved as a child. It has smells of oranges and pine trees and candy canes (and so on). I took a whiff of a new candle at Target a few weeks ago and BAM! It smells just like the trees in that book! Bought one for myself and for my sister, who, without my telling her, had the exact same response to the candle. It was so funny! (Winter Citrus & Pine candle from the Everspring line – highly recommend.)

    • Annie K. says...

      I had that book! I loved it, and had forgotten about it. Now I want to search it out. The smells were delicious!

  66. lauren says...

    stale cigarette smoke. it isn’t a nice smell, but it reminds me of my grandparents, who i dearly miss.

    • Louisa says...

      Same. 💕

  67. alison says...

    Fresh cut for Christmas pine trees…not sure if it is growing up with a small tree farm but whenever I walk by any pine trees for sale, I always stop and take a deep inhale.

    Same for lilacs-walking around the neighborhood I have been known to stop (and embarrass my children!) and smell my neighbors’ lilac bushes!

    • Anna says...

      Alison! I do the same thing with lilacs and my kids get so embarrassed. My Mother’s Day
      present this year was a lilac tree for the backyard so I can smell them in private whenever I want.

  68. Megan Lec says...

    The smell (and feel) when a big rainstorm is coming. I’ve lived in Florida all my life and late summer rains always bring me right back to the Augusts of my childhood. Cheerleading and football started in early August when the summer storms are in full effect and I can instantly picture those days sprinting to duck under the stands.

  69. Meg says...

    The playmats in my preschool! It’s one of earliest sense memories, and when I want to feel comfort or generate nostalgia of a time that felt safe and calm (with all of the adults in charge who surely knew what they were doing!) that’s what I conjure.

  70. Eli says...

    Chlorine. Heavy, suffocating, indoor natatorium with the humidity hanging in the air chlorine. It sticks to your skin and hair. And if you swim enough, it never quite comes out of your skin when you shower. I dated a guy in college that was an SEC swimmer; he would shower and I would still smell it seeping out of his pores. I was a lifeguard from 16-24. The smell is as comforting as diving into the water and swimming endless laps, a cap with ears tucked in so all you can hear is the whoosh of water.
    Also the smell of muriatic acid in powder/tablet form. Used to “shock” the pool, we would wet a t-shirt in the chlorine pool, tie it around our faces so we didn’t breathe in the acid, as it causes lung damage, but you could still smell a hint of it.
    It’s weird to love those chemical smells but they give me comfort. Like smelling my boyfriend’s sweat or musty cedar chests with moth balls, it makes me feel calm.

    • jane says...

      I totally have the chlorine=comforting smell memory too. I don’t know why as swim practice was never super fun for me but it still smells noticeably comforting. I suppose it has something to do with loving being in water, the origin of humanity?

    • Lauren says...

      It might sound crazy, but the smell of a pee diaper reminds me of waking up and snuggling my babies. The picture of a baby bum in the air with their sleeping faces .

      The smell of a Rain and wet dog stirs memory a beloved pit bull.

      The smell of Sunday sauce reminds me of waking up as a kid to banging pots and pans early on a Sunday morning.

  71. Jenny says...

    After my badass cowgirl grandma Phyllis died, I was packing up her makeup brushes and dropped to my knees on the bathroom floor. They smelled exactly like her— Oil of Olay, bacon, and fresh air (trust me, it’s a lovely combination that speaks of Wyoming high desert and good cooking as the organizing principles of her life). I kept them in a ziplock to try and hold onto the smell, but now it’s gone. Even just thinking of the smell transports me to her kitchen, where I’d perch on the heater with my coffee for warmth while she told me about all the news from old timers and animal sightings. I miss her gruffly calling me little toad as a term of endearment so much. Her skin was incredible, so wear Oil of Olay and be a ferocious outdoorswoman to age gracefully

    • Hayley says...

      This is so beautiful.

  72. Jennifer says...

    Everytime I go on a special “big” vacation, I bring a small amount, rollerball or a few samples of a new fragrance and then wear it every day on the trip. When I smell the fragrance in the future, it immediately brings me back to the special memories and feelings of that place

    • Marilee says...

      Jennifer,

      That’s a wonderful idea!

      Marilee

    • M says...

      I did the same for my wedding!

  73. Stella says...

    The smell of my kitty’s belly!!!!!

    • Britta says...

      Yes! There is also that smell after my kitty has been outside and I kiss the top of her head – it’s like fresh air and sunshine!

  74. Elise says...

    My mom worked for a major airline for 30 years. She worked long, irregular hours, and some days I would see her for only a few brief moments. She used to come into my room at night in her uniform (a navy blue skirt suit with a neck scarf and pantyhose) to give me a hug and kiss, and to smooth the covers, no matter the hour. She always smelled so distinctly of airplanes — stale air, coffee, and jet fuel. To this day, every time I board a plane, I’m instantly reminded of my mom kissing me goodnight, or saying goodbye in the early morning hours before the sun came up.

    • Cait says...

      I love this so much. It’s so unique! My dad is a pilot, so the feel and smell of crisp, dry-cleaned uniform does the same for me.

  75. Hayley says...

    I LOVE this post! I have a strong nose and have always had a fascination with the power of scent.

    Here are some of my favorites…

    -Honeysuckle, magnolias and lilacs (lilacs will always remind me of summer visits to Maine)

    -Fresh tennis balls (nothing nostalgic here, just have always loved the smell)!

    -The smell of osmanthus intermingling with grilled burgers that I often smell walking through my neighborhood on a spring or summer night. An unusually perfect combination.

    -The smell of fresh coffee grinding.

    -Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with butter and onion (but pretty much just the smell of garlic and butter frying).

    -My Granny’s house (a mixture of Dove bar soap and other scents I can’t quite identify or articulate other than that they smell just like her and her home). I just unwrapped a gift she mailed me and the tissue paper literally just transported me!

    -The way my husband’s aunt & uncle’s NYC apartment smells. It’s super nostalgic for me.

    -Bakery smells (while many smell very similar, I find the nuances in each. Most notably, I’ll never forget the way that lobby of Arcade Bakery smelled, or The Blue Stove Bakery (where I used to work).

    -I love walking through a neighborhood (anywhere) and smelling dinner cooking or laundry going, just emanating from home to street.

    -For some reason, catching a whiff of cypress always reminds me of the beach.

    -A tad embarrassing considering I’m a 34 year-old, but I still have an oversized t-shirt from when I was a kid that I used to sleep in and I’ve been sleeping with it (it always smelled so good) since I was about 11 or 12. It’s unbelievably tattered and yellowed but I’ve always loved the smell and it’s just gotten better over time (it especially smells the best when it’s cold). I know, I’m a weirdo. :)

    • Liz says...

      I haven’t smelled the Herbal Essences scent since I was young, but omg, if I did, I imagine it would be intense.

  76. Emily says...

    the one that always stops me in my tracks is “Herbal Essence” shampoo. It smells JUST like summer camp and 10 preteen girls sharing a bathroom in 1998.

    • Meg says...

      Oh man – yes!! That smell transports me back to summer camp in the 90s. ❤️

    • Sadie says...

      lol, yes! this is such a good one.

    • Eline says...

      YES. The bottle with the flower print inside and the green lid! Seemed like everyone used that shampoo. White Musk from the Body Shop and CK One perfume also remind me of that era. Ah memories…

    • Hilary says...

      Yes, me too!! Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic for a different version of myself – a much younger one – I buy a bottle of herbal essences…

  77. Lisa says...

    Oh my, soso many! The woods, skin that has been exposed to the summer sun, rain on the streets after it hasn’t rained for a really long time, some kind of Boss perfume for men, old books printed in the GDR, my grandparents’ garden hut, my husband’s very own smell, a scented candle I bought problably 17 years ago, coffee beans, the fumes from two-stroke engines (I know, not healthy!)… I really appreciate my sense of smell!

  78. Chelsi Rodriguez says...

    When we went to Disney World in the early 90s when I was 9, Bath and Body Works had just opened not too long before, and I remember my mom packed a bottle of Cucumber Melon and a bottle of Plumeria lotion for the week. I used the lotions everyday that week, and to this day if I smell Plumeria or peek in a Bath and Body works, I will search the store just to sniff these and be transported to getting ready for the day in our little Disney hotel room.

  79. Kimberly says...

    In the fall, when school supplies are out in stores, it’s my tradition that I pick up a Crayola crayon box and inhale deeply (like a crackhead), which takes me back to my childhood days of lying on the floor with my coloring books and Crayola crayons. I would listen to Disney stories on my portable record player and save my favorite colors, Midnight Blue and Dandelion Yellow, for the special pages.

  80. Neela says...

    The smell of a lemon-scented gum in the Australian bush after rainfall. It’s intoxicating, fresh and makes me tear up everytime I smell it when visiting home (since I’ve been living abroad for 16 years). Ocean spray is also loaded with nostalgia for me- though the smell of a European beach is completely different to the smell of a Sydney beach in winter <3

  81. Caitlin says...

    Mine are very basic 90s scents, haha. I’m not even sure if people wear it anymore, but there were two colognes all my crushes wore in middle school and high school. I think they were called Tommy and CK1. My grandmother also liked “moonlight path” from bath and body works. They did a reissue of old scents a few years ago and I happened to see some displayed at the mall and it was such a special treat to smell it, 20 years after she passed away. I bought some just to hold onto.

    • ML says...

      CK1… omg! You just took me back! : )

    • emily says...

      CK1 ahhh!!! When my husband and I were first dating, he shared a house with his younger brother who was obsessed with that stuff. He burned CK1 incense all the time. That smell takes me back…and kinda gives me a headache. Ha!

    • Nina says...

      CK1 for EVER! Turns me into a horn-ball preteen every time.

    • Emma says...

      Yes! Moonlight Path! I walked into a Bath and Body Works a few years ago when they were promoting the old scents and was nearly brought to my knees – I hadn’t realized it was my childhood best friend’s grandmother’s scent. I had to leave the store, could NOT pull myself together.

  82. Karen says...

    The smell of rosin wafting up when I open my violin case.

    • Neela says...

      Oops, mine stopped doing that- thanks for the reminder to buy a new one 😂 (just had 2 years of maternity leave and haven’t played regularly during that time, buy now that I’m back to work, even if without audiences, I should restock!)

  83. Sarah says...

    My orange tree when it blossoms. I walk by it on the way into my back door and it makes me smile so brightly as I cross the threshold. It is heaven on Earth.

    • emily says...

      That is one of the best scents ever. I used to live in CA and I miss the smell of orange blossoms so much.

  84. Brenda says...

    I visited Big Sur for the first time a few years ago. The day we arrived it had been raining for a few days. I was overwhelmed and moved by the scent of the forest where we stopped. It took my breath away….dare I say it even felt spiritual. It was a heavy perfume of greenery and woods and earth. I still think about it whenever anyone talks about favourite smells, candles, fragrance etc. I hope I can smell that again one day.

    • A. says...

      I know they’re extravagantly pricey, but DS&Durga makes a candle that is called Big Sur After Rain, and it’s truly transportive. I, too, happened to be in Big Sur after the rain a couple years ago and it was magical.

    • Megan says...

      D.S. and Durga agrees! Check out their scent Big Sur After Rain. I have the air freshener in my car. . .which I heard about on this blog!

  85. T says...

    So many scents transport me:
    -bleached fabrics (reminds me of my mom)
    -brewing coffee (reminds me of my mom and also of the comfort of my caffeinated recurring AM beverage)
    -freshly cut grass (summer!)
    -sunscreen (you are almost *never* doing something boring when wearing Coppertone)
    -my dog’s ‘cornflake’ paws
    -the inside of a old fashioned candy store: buttery, chocolatey goodness
    -that dusty smell of a box of Ticonderoga #2 pencils (school supplies FTW!)
    And probably my favorite: sun-warmed bed of pine needles (hiking!)

    • Sadie says...

      Having someone help apply sunscreen is such a tender and vulnerable moment, I think that care is tied up in the smell for me.

  86. Emily says...

    I had a similar moment maybe 5-10 years ago walking into a frame shop in my college town and INSTANTLY recognized the smell of my grandparents’ home in New Hampshire from when I was 5 years old. There’s no way I could describe what the smell was, I just KNEW.

  87. Julie says...

    I’ve always loved the smell of skunks because to me it is an instant time machine to summer holidays a.k.a. the smell of pumping up our old school red and blue floating air mattresses that we would take out onto the lake. Bliss.

  88. b says...

    Polo cologne. My grandfather used to wear it. When he died, there was a bottle in the medicine cabinet that was, at a minimum, 5 years old. My uncle put it on to wear to the funeral. Friends, Polo goes bad and it’s not pretty. It was both the saddest thing and the funniest thing.

  89. Maddy says...

    On a funny on the opposite side of the smell spectrum: when I was taking perception psych in uni, we learned about smell, and that quote “it means volatile particles in the air have entered your body and, just for a moment, become a part of you” is true. In fact my professor said a friend of hers thought that’s why smelling farts is so gross – think of another person’s rectal particles entering the air and becoming part of you!!! Still makes me laugh!

    • Neela says...

      I often wonder about that- especially in a stinky toilet stall!

  90. Diane says...

    The smell of my grandmother’s vegetable beef soup. She died when I was 12, and still every time I make it I’m transported back to her house. Also the smell of my old dance studio.

  91. M says...

    Library smell! How is that wherever you are, they smell the same?? From childhood gathering story books, to college researching papers, to adulthood traipsing through with my children – libraries have always felt like a peaceful, welcoming home and their smell brings me back and grounds me.

    • Laura says...

      I know! That’s my favorite too… wish there was a candle that smelled like yellowish pages in books

  92. SN says...

    Before I got married my sister’s biggest ‘tip’ was to get a scent JUST for that day. I went with Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia (and splurged on candles to burn while getting ready, and soaps & lotions for our guests). The smell instantly takes me back to my wedding day more than anything else. It’s truly magical. (And I only wear that scent on our anniversary.)

    I have since gotten specific scents for other special days or trips… and it’s like a memory book in my mind every time I smell them.

    • jrg says...

      love this idea so much! if we ever go back to bridal showers in person, it’s a great one for the inevitable advice cards you’re asked to fill out.

    • Amy says...

      Genius! Wish I had done that!! This is a keeper.

    • Megan says...

      LOVE this idea! (Also love Jo Malone, it’s the only perfume wear now. . .they are generous with samples so you shouldn’t have to splurge if you’ll just be enjoying it for the day.)

    • Alice says...

      English Pear & Freesia is my every day perfume. I ADORE it. Glad you had it with you on your wedding day!

    • Allison says...

      I did this too!! I can imagine the smell so perfectly. Such amazing memories!

  93. Diana says...

    I love the smell of sawdust. My dad’s a carpenter and it always makes me think of him. My daughter’s head (she’s now 10 but her smell still makes my heart content). Sunscreen brings back such good memories too. Hugo Boss makes my heart beat with memories of first love.

  94. Tai says...

    The theater where my studio performs our annual Nutcracker has a very distinct smell that I’ve never been able to describe. I am so going to miss that smell this year due to Nutcracker being cancelled, although I won’t miss the crazy amount of hairspray I inhale each year :) It’ll be the first year in 20 years that I won’t be a part of a Nutcracker production and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.
    Please support your local ballet companies and studios and purchase a ticket to virtually watch a Nutcracker production this year!

  95. taylor says...

    oh this post is so lovely! i love how smells can bring the strongest wave of nostalgia at the most unexpected time. some of my favorites: freshly mowed grass on a humid day, gin and tonics with lime (reminds me of what my dad smelled like in the summer), sheets hung outside to dry in the sun, a library full of old books. scents can be so comforting!

    one of the best books i read this year was the scent keeper by erica bauermeister. it was so magical and well written; i didn’t want it to end!

  96. Charlotte says...

    My first grade teacher’s perfume! I have no idea what perfume it is. I think it’s fallen out of fashion since the 90s because I don’t come across it very frequently in public anymore, but when I do–wow! I feel like a golden retriever because I instantly perk up. It’s a very comforting smell. Whatever brand it is I sincerely hope they haven’t stopped making it. I would sorely miss experiencing a whiff of my childhood from time to time!

    • honore says...

      I love old style fragrances like Chanel 5 (but I’ve worn that too much and can do so no longer). The other day I went to Nordstrom because I suddenly felt like wearing perfume for the first time in **years** and all the new ones they had were fruity fruity fruity. Which all smell exactly like expensive dimestore shampoo and therefore incredibly unappealing to me. Eyuck.
      I need to return to Le Labo but it’s not sold near me so it’s difficult to try before buying.

      I need to cruise Etsy and try some of the artisinal ones like, “For Strange Women”. Anyone have rec’s? Thanks in advance!

  97. ML says...

    Root beer (smells like happiness to me – because we always had it with Mexican food! – and my mom’s Bonne Bell chapstick), Dutch black licorice, chlorine, and just the other day I was hiking with my daughter and I smelled a smell in the forest that instantly reminded me of the holidays! It was a crisp wintery smell.

    Also wet swimming suits, sunshine, pine trees, and lake water…

  98. Erika says...

    Fried eggs – but not every time. I fry eggs often but every once in awhile, I don’t know what it is that I get the combination of butter, heat, and timing right that, it reminds me of my Grandpa who would fry eggs for us every time we visited and he made the best fried eggs. He also made the best fudge and would send it to us every Christmas.

  99. Christina says...

    New tennis balls right after you crack open the container!

  100. Laura says...

    The smell of the California redwoods. Heavenly.

    • emily says...

      Yes. Also eucalyptus trees. Both in Santa Cruz. Best smells. Ah!

  101. Onions sauteeing in butter. Yummmmm.
    And I just bought my best friend a candle that smells like “tomato leaves” – so brilliant! (Lita + Ro, small business, check them out!)

  102. Britta says...

    Cloves is my favorite scent ever. It reminds me of being a little girl and helping my mom in the kitchen. She had these lovely little sachets filled with cloves and you would set your mug on them and they would release their perfectly spicey scent. She would also put whole cloves in oranges and leave them by the sink – I still do that to this day and it takes me right back to my childhood house.

    • Diane says...

      Yes! I’m putting an orange with cloves in the oven right now. To me it’s what the holidays smell like.

  103. Allie says...

    1)smoking tobacco barn on a crisp fall morning
    2) fresh lilac
    3) the scent of Mom’s pot roast-she’s been gone 14 years now and I still haven’t mastered cooking a pot roast as well as she did.

  104. Peggy D says...

    Last year while I was Christmas shopping, I saw a candle by Mixture called Balsam and Spice. I smelled it and almost cried in the middle of the store, because it was the exact smell of my grandmother’s house. She died in 1993, but the smell was so like hers that I felt like I was back at her house, baking boozy fruitcake with her and waiting for her to offer me a “Cokey Cola.” I bought every candle the store had and let my brothers both smell one without telling them why. They both immediately said, “That’s Mammo’s house!”

  105. julie degans says...

    Onions and shallots frying in butter… The smell of Sunday mornings, when my mom was making lunch and/or dinner… sigh. It comes close but it never smells the same anywhere else. I don’t know why.

  106. Alex says...

    The smell of Juniper bushes take me right back to running barefoot through my grandparents’ yard when we’d visit every summer as kids. <3

  107. Denise says...

    Horses, leather and hay.

    • E says...

      Yes!!! They each smell good separately, but the combination is wonderful. Shavings are in the mix for me, too, because I grew up with that as stall bedding, not straw.

  108. Alyssa Leister says...

    While not smells that I could bottle up or describe exactly, I distinctly remember the smells of the following:
    -My grandparents coat closet (sort of smelled like when you vacuum, plus a little mustiness maybe)
    -The smell of our church growing up
    -The smell of the 3rd floor where I used to work (I still work at the same place, but my office area changed and it doesn’t have the same smell)

    I love when you hear a song or smell something and you’re instantly transported. What a gift that memory gives us.

    • Charlotte says...

      Alyssa, I second the church smell! Ours growing up had a particular scent too–not bad, a bit like library smell but perhaps… tidier? Maybe it’s because of everyone getting dressed up on Sundays ;) That’s a really distinctive and memorable one.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes!!!!! The grandparent’s coat closet. Lots of good hiding spots in there, which is probably why that smell is so distinct!

      Similarly, I can’t remember where I was or what I was doing but in the last year there was a time where I was walking through somewhere and suddenly it smelled like my great grandma’s house and I just about lost in. So powerful. Also yes to churches. Would spend a lot of time in my grandma’s church basement as a young child.

    • Anna says...

      I recently walked into a horse barn with my daughter and instantly my eyes filled with tears. That wonderful smell of horses, hay, and yes, even manure brought me right back to all my years of childhood riding. My joy in sharing horses with her was even more complete with that first sniff.

  109. Marieke says...

    Such a lovely post and hard to read because I lost smell due to COVID-19. I hope I will be able to smell my husband and the smell of flowers again. It is so nice to read all the memories people have of smell, lucky you!

    • Maddy says...

      Ugh! I am in the same boat. I long to smell anything – even my dogs farts! Wising you a full recovery soon!

    • Naomi says...

      So sorry to hear – it’s so surreal (and awful) that this is happening to people. I hope you gain your sense of smell back again soon!

    • Emilie says...

      Me too! I am so, so grateful to be through with the other symptoms (and was lucky to have a mild case), but especially at this festive time of year, I am missing my sense of smell! And eating is so much less enjoyable, too. Silver lining is that I will never take my sense of smell for granted again!

    • p. says...

      me too, it’s so depressing. I didn’t realize how much joy I got from scents and eating wonderful food. Everything tastes sort of blah and I’m eating faster since there is nothing to savor.

    • Madame says...

      Just to give you all hope: I had a horrible sinus infection 20 years ago that obliterated my sense of smell. It took a long time… a year later, but it gradually came back. I have a very good nose, and have always been acutely aware of odors/flavors.
      It was brutal to lose what amounted to fundamental pleasures for me! I was mourning what seemed to be a permanent loss…. I think about how grateful I am to have had my odorat restored almost daily. Be patient, it may be long, but it might come back when you are least expecting. (I truly hope for you all )

  110. M says...

    Coffee – because it signifies a new day, a fresh start, eyes wide open, a small indulgence during the scurry of get up and go – and love, because historically it’s been made for me by a beloved someone (when I was younger, my mom, and now my husband).

  111. Trish says...

    Petrichor! It’s the scent of rain after a long, dry season. I love the smell, and I love that there’s a word for it!

    • sarah says...

      I live in New Mexico and petrichor very comforting scent here as we hardly ever get any rain! I can always smell it before it even starts raining where I am and I get so excited.

    • Karen says...

      One of my favorites!

    • Cedar says...

      I’m so happy to know there’s a word for that!

  112. Cherie says...

    The smell of a bookstore. Not only do I love books, but I met my husband when we were both working at Barnes and Noble. We celebrated our 20th anniversary this spring.

    • Anna says...

      I met my husband working at Barnes and Nobles too! He was my last customer of the night and we struck up a conversation over his purchase. :)

  113. Maggie says...

    Freshly cut grass, Sharpie markers, gas stations, my husband’s cologne (Aqua), and freshly bathed babies

  114. Kate says...

    In the early 90s one of the required school supplies we had to get every year was clay. I don’t remember hardly ever using it, but the smell of that clay is still so stuck in my memory.

  115. Monica says...

    Smells are fascinating! Memories of shopping malls in the 80’s – the smell of a Hickory Farms store or an Orange Julius stand!! :) Colognes from the 90’s transport me to college dorms – CK One, Polo, and Cool Water, haha!
    My favorite smells, though, are from crisp autumn days – smelling the first woodsmoke outside signaling the change in seasons, and catching a whiff of a neighbor’s warm dryer sheets when going for a walk in cooler weather.

    • emily says...

      Cool water…hahaha! This kid in my class in high school bathed in that stuff. Holy cow. It gave me the worst headache. I finally asked him if he would please tone it down a bit bc it was killing my head. And he did! I was so surprised, I thanked him.

  116. Lindsay says...

    My grand-parents’ basement where my grandfather would do wood-working and my grandmother would do laundry. Mixed with dampness and things stored in boxes.

    my mom’s lipstick when she would kiss me before leaving for work. It was a creamy, deep red color and smelled pleasantly distinctive the way “old-fashioned” makeup smells

    • jill d. says...

      oh my mom used to put on oil of olay at night (the pink colored one in a glass bottle)…that smell…oh how i loved that on her…. thank you for reminding me of this by telling the story of your mom…

  117. Calla says...

    We had a meyer lemon tree in my childhood home and smell of lemon blossoms instantly transports me back to that suburban backyard on warm summer evenings, playing the lawn with my sisters.

    One of my more recent favorite scents is the smell of fog on clothes and skin. I live in a foggy neighborhood of San Francisco and have an ex that would always bike to my place through the fog. Whenever he got here and we would hug he had this really distinct, fresh rain-like smell. I later realized that hanging clothes outside on misty mornings imbues them with this scent temporarily as well.

  118. Annie says...

    I love when I make chicken stock overnight and wake up to the smell in the morning – it always feels like I’m walking into my grandma’s kitchen!

  119. Jessica says...

    Cherry Almond lotion. My grandma always wore it when I was younger, now I buy it myself and am reminded of her every time. She lives in Assisted Living and I hardly get to see her now because of the pandemic, so the smell of it has become very comforting.

  120. Krystyna says...

    Growing up my dad would always cook dinner right as All Things Considered would come onto the radio. To this day, every time I hear that theme song, I am immediately reminded of the comforting smell of onions sautéing in butter. Yet another reason why, just like my parents, I’m an avid NPR listener!

    • Sara L. says...

      Same!!! Theme song and onions/garlic in a sauté pan! ❤️❤️

  121. my dog’s yeasty frito paws are absolutely # 1, but fresh woodsmoke from a campfire and sizzling butter eggs come in as close seconds

    • Lauren says...

      What strange things love does. I am not the owner of your dog and your description made me literally gag xD

    • Sarah says...

      I am 100% on board with all three of these!

    • Alice says...

      There’s a quote from the English patient by Michael Ondaatje about the smell of dogs’ paws that I love:

      ” Her father had taught her about hands. About a dog’s paws. Whenever her father was alone with a dog in a house he would lean over and smell the skin at the base of its paw. This, he would say, as if coming away from a brandy snifter, is the greatest smell in the world! A bouquet! Great rumours of travel! She would pretend disgust, but the dog’s paw was a wonder: the smell of it never suggested dirt. It’s a cathedral! her father had said, so-and-so’s garden, that field of grasses, a walk through cyclamen–a concentration of hints of all the paths the animal had taken during the day.”

  122. Amanda says...

    Waffle cones cooking

  123. Eve says...

    Growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan, I lived next to an Italian bread bakery and my bedroom faced the back extension where their ovens were. Waking up in the morning to the scent of fresh baked bread is the best ever! Also, the smell (and sound) of coffee percolating on the stove!

    • Mac says...

      Oh, this reminded me of a smell from college—I lived next door to a Taco Time. Waking up to that scent was not the best ever! Warm bread sounds much better

  124. Joanna says...

    Fresh coffee grounds. Gasoline.

    Scents that bring me back – Leather (I had a leather jacket that I wore nonstop my freshman year of high school). Certain perfumes bring me back to certain times. The scent of vanilla perfume products always reminds me of my freshman year of college living in a dorm with a bunch of girls. Winterfresh gum brings me back to my high school boyfriend who would chew it all the time.

  125. Betsie says...

    A particular woodfire smell that I fail to describe any better – that smells just like my memories of Benin as a Peace Corps volunteer fifteen years ago. Every once in a while a restaurant here in the US will be smoking something over a woodfire and it brings me right back to the morning cook fires, with neighborhood ladies serving porridge and fried pea flour beignets.

  126. Carrie says...

    So torturous to read as I’m waiting for my smell to return post-covid hah seriously missing all the smells of the holidays (pine trees, Thanksgiving cooking and Christmas baking!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, carrie, I’m so glad you’re okay!

    • Emilie says...

      Me too, Carrie! How long has it been for you?

  127. Sara says...

    The smell of cigarette smoke and chocolate chip cookies baking always brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen and I love it. (Bonus if there’s a baseball game on the radio!)

  128. jillian says...

    woodsmoke. fire smoke in her hair. Nag Champa from the headshop where I worked in college. Love’s Baby Soft. Low tide. Garlic steak in the street at night. cinnamon donuts at the fair.

  129. Toni says...

    Oregano and garlic sizzling in olive oil. The smell is my childhood kitchen. So is the sound!

  130. Claudia Nieto says...

    Coco Chanel and cigarettes’, it takes me back to the days/nights when my mama would be getting ready to go out. Watching her do her make up, do her hair and put on her fabulous outfits was (and still is) such a magical moment to me. My mama is 73 years old and she still does this, except that now its Clinique Aromatics and no cigarette. The best part was/is that when she leaves the scent stays and so does a little piece of her. I love my mama Catalina.

  131. iz says...

    Gasoline and the ocean.

    • Lucy Wyman says...

      Oh my goodness, I love the smell of gasoline too!! My family and friends always thought I was crazy, but I love the smell of gas stations and gardening power tools. There’s a great video by Hank Green explaining why this happens for some people: basically, gas has a similar molecular structure to sugar, and so some people’s brains connect the two. It’s not that gas smells sweet, or even edible, but just ~good~.

  132. Emma says...

    In middle school I moved to the Netherlands for two of the sweetest and transformative years of my life. On the first day at my international school, my classmate who showed me around wore this incredible perfume. 3 years later back in the states, I sat down for my first day of chemistry my sophomore year and was instantly transported back to the Netherlands. I couldn’t help but tap on the shoulder of the girl in front of me and ask her what perfume she was wearing. Sure enough it was the same one; something her dad had brought back for her from a trip to Paris. It was so sweet to have that olfactory memory in the midst of a turbulent time when I was really missing the Netherlands and struggling to find any joy in my high school. Got a friendship out of it too!

  133. Debi says...

    Does anyone remember Loves Baby Soft?! It’s not so much the smell itself, but the remembrance of being on the playground with my girlfriends, jumping rope, laughing and without a care in the world!

    • Dawn says...

      And Love’s Lemon Soft! Stoli’s Lemon Vodka smells exactly the same!

  134. Katrina says...

    The smell of my baby’s scalp (now 1 omg). A mixture of sweat (mine from lying in the crook of my arm), dust, laundry detergent, and a smell unique to her that I cannot describe. My son who is 3 has his own scalp scent as well.

    • Annie K. says...

      THIS!!! My son’s scalp smells toasty and I love his yogurt breath. My four year old has a smell to her cheeks that is like dirt and fresh air.

      The smell of crisp leaves takes me back to elementary school, every time.

  135. M says...

    My mum always wears Chanel Cristalle. As a kid in the late ‘80s, I remember smelling it while sitting in the back seat of our car, and to this day it reminds me of going out to other people’s houses and feeling faintly car-sick.

  136. Erin says...

    When I walk into a house and smell brewed coffee I am immediately transported to my grandmother’s home when I was a child. The scent memory is intense and immediate and I’m so happy every time it happens. It’s like a little gift from the universe when it happens and I’m always so appreciative to be reminded of that sweet lady and her delightful and loving home.

    • Betsie says...

      Same! The smell of coffee and a bit of wood paneling – right back to Grami’s house as a child!

  137. Sunny says...

    My husband’s. You know, that warm, could-only-be-his skin scent that I’ve known and loved for so many years.

  138. Natasha says...

    Right now I’m obsessed with the smell of toast—not French toast, not baking bread, just simple white bread being toasted.

  139. Mac says...

    Pine. Rain on pavement, fresh crayons, sagebrush warmed by the sun on a hot, dry mountain. And just this weekend, I was at my city’s botanical gardens. It was a misty day and there was a wet lemon tree, heavy with lemons, surrounded by wet rosemary bushes. The SMELL, it was heaven.

    • This is so beautiful! And now, in addition to visiting a botanical garden alone, I want to carry crayons around in my pocket.

  140. Liz says...

    I will always love the smell of clay and paint supplies from art classrooms. I found those art rooms to be a break from the anxiety in academic classes and awkward social dynamics at lunch or recess. I felt safe and encouraged and had fun there. I would totally buy a candle that smelled like art classroom! I have considered buying those metal stools with the fiberboard tops just for the nostalgia.

    • E says...

      Omg, are you me?? You described the safe space of art classes perfectly. Pre-covid, some of my favorite socializing was art nights with friends. :)

    • Sarah says...

      As an art teacher, this brings tears to my eyes. Thank you during a rough covid year!

  141. Marki says...

    After my grandmother passed away, I got to keep all of her table linens. They smelled exactly like her – I’d stop by my linen closet and deeply inhale them whenever I felt like I needed a hug from her. The smell has now faded and I can’t remember exactly what it was like – I’d give anything to get that exact smell back (although it was probably just whatever laundry detergent she used!).

  142. Loren says...

    Mine are mostly cliche – Red Door perfume (both my grandmother and mother wore it), the smell right before it’s going to rain, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and fresh cut grass. What I find fascinating is that my son is very perceptive when it comes to smell. He’ll know who I’ve spent time with based on how I smell when I come home – oh, you went for coffee with Cora? Or when we get hand-me-downs for our daughter, he’ll know which family was generous to us!

    • Jane says...

      Wow, that is really interesting about your son. What a wonderful and wondrous world we live in.
      Thank you for sharing, you brightened my day.

    • Nicki says...

      I was the same as a child! Every time after a birthday party, whenever my mom would find a forgotten scarf or jacket or sweater, she would give it to me to smell and I would tell her without fail to whom it belonged. My family was always entertained by this game, and I felt like I had some sort of magic powers.

  143. R says...

    My dog’s paws! I know its weird, but makes me so happy.

    • Joanna says...

      Yes! My old dog’s paws used to smell like Fritos and I loved the smell.

    • Sadie says...

      Yes! Fritos! So weird…

  144. Janey says...

    My dog Monty’s paws smell of warm digestive biscuits. I’m always sniffing them. My husband thinks I’m weird. To me it’s such a cosy, homely smell

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha so cute.

    • liz says...

      haha I get it! I always swear my dogs’ paws smell like Doritos! lol

    • Sophia F. says...

      My dog’s paws smells of warm corn chips! My husband hates it and I LOVE it.

    • Emma says...

      My dog (also Monty!) has the best hot ear smells. Like slightly worn socks and pencils.. in a good way? My whole family is obsessed with the smell. The dog definitely thinks we’re nuts!

  145. Hope says...

    Diesel fuel at the harbor, men’s Old Spice deodorant, and my daughter’s hair in the morning.

  146. Kat says...

    My favorite scent that I’ve never been able to recreate is how the library smelled at the elementary school I went to for kindergarten. There was the scent of the paper pages and the wooden shelves but it also smelled a little like honey and milk. I can remember it to this day and I swear it’s where my love of reading began. Burt’s Bee’s honey lotion gets a little close but it’s not quite it. I’m on a quest to find an approximate one day.

    • Yes! Library smells are so comforting. Mine in elementary school had a giant covered wagon (think Oregon Trail) with beanbag chairs students could read on, and I would give anything to smell that sweet-woodsy scent again. LIBRARIES FOREVER.

    • Calla says...

      libraries really do have such a particular scent!

    • M says...

      I wish I could find the smell for my elementary school’s art room. We had art class only twice per month but every time I walked into the room I would breathe deep and felt so happy. Aaaaah.

  147. Cheryl Strong says...

    this is probably not a good thing for health purposes, but the smell of a gas leak and musty walls reminds me of my great grandmother’s trailer from 40+ years ago!

    • E says...

      Haha same, my great grandparents had those (terrifying, in retrospect) heaters that were set into the wall and used some sort of gas. Very cozy memory, but also probably a fire hazard. Shruggy emoji!

  148. Tess says...

    Lilacs, coffee, rosemary, vetiver, and coconut scented sunscreen. Ah, I’m smiling just thinking about those smells.

  149. jill d. says...

    my mom’s homemade tacos…..I can’t even really describe it but she would fry the corn shells (to make them into hard shells) and all of the ingredients that were combined…the scent – it’s so distinct – so comforting – and well, to be honest it’s a bit hard to remember exactly as I haven’t had them well over 20 years now but I would know it if i smelled it again…and once in a rare moment i might catch that scent and I swear it’s her reminding me she’s still around after all of these years.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      <3 <3 <3

    • Hannah says...

      Yes to family recipe smells! I made meatballs and sauce and garlic bread yesterday. Our eight year-old son stepped out to pick up the mail from the mailbox, and came back inside said, “It smells like grammy’s house.” No higher compliment.