My favorite smells

It is probably obvious that my overarching love of smell dictates both my love of perfume and of food. Both perfume and food combine basic or simple smells  in varied ways to create a layered complexity that I find completely bewitching. Sometimes I can decompose the complex smells into their component parts and sometimes there are unified and impossible to separate. But at all times, they intrigue and move me to the point that I find myself questioning my sanity.

I love the trail that scent memories follow. Like the breadcrumbs that traced their path in ‘hansel and gretel‘, each smell too seems to trace some path- following a string of memories: of faces, places, a touch, a taste  or of  another smell.

Here are a few of my favorite smells.

I love the smell of:

1. Rajnigandha at night

2.  mustard oil

3.  the earth after the first rain

4. the warm air just outside street-side shops that sell snacks like mirch bajji

5.  onions and garlic frying in ghee

6.  my mother’s old sarees that she stores in those steel godrej almirahs

7.  risotto, especially while it’s cooking

8.  cheese fondue

9.  my mother in law’s aavakkai/cut mango pickle

10. freshly toasted and ground corriander seeds

11. melted dark chocolate or a sticky chocolate cake baking in the oven

12. rosewater

13. My mother’s Rasam ; and my great grandmother’s rasam powder

14. dried figs

15. whole cinnamon, cloves and star anise heated in coconut oil

16. the drawer in which I store all my perfume samples.

17. fresh mint, cilantro, basil; and sage in butter

18. the small sandalwood box from Honavar, India, that my aunt gave me as a present years ago.(I don’t have the box any more but remember the woody smell).

19. a  baby’s skin

20.  black salt; and the tangy ‘pani-poori water‘ that contains it (especially those served road-side, in leafy bowls  in India)

21. crispy potato chips

22.  raw mango (kili mooku mangai/parrot nosed mango) sliced and lightly dipped in chili powder and salt

23.  the mixed scent of holy water (theertham), kalkand (big sugar crystals) and jasmine flowers, that hovers in south Indian temples.

24. ripe juicy mangoes with the juices dripping down my chin

25. water when I  am thirsty; and the salty sea air

Now, it is your turn! What are your favorite smells?

Image via Express Monorail



  1. Great list- smell is more closely connected to memory than any of our other senses.

    A couple of my favorites:

    My husband, who smells wonderful even at the end of the day somehow.

    Spinach and garlic sauteed together.

    Fermented dosa batter (because it tells me there are good eats in my future) 🙂

    • I love my husband’s smell too and wanted to include it- but he refused to allow
      Yes, you are right- especially with food smells it is often difficult to say, whether you love the smell or the memory of the taste (that is associated with the smell)

  2. Nice one.

    Off the top of my head some of mine are:

    1) Old books.

    My father built up his collection from his late teens and most books that are there are yellowed. The smells are interesting. I can claim that I literally nose through books !

    Crumbling paperbacks with phoren and Indian paper smell different till today. Tamil literary magazines from the 70s were even cheaper newsprint – as the they were largely shortlived endevours suicidially fastidious attempts of ideological litterateurs who were financially hardpressed. They have been saved and bound together (the smell of glue can be felt mildly in the spine even after years)

    Some Sovier literature books (great paper quality subsidized and sold in India in the 60s-70s), Raduga publisher fables I bought in School bookfairs have the vazha-vazha softness and pleasant smell.

    In comparison – the smell of new books in a bookshop – I find less enticing. Perhaps because I have lesser reading memories associated with them.

    2) Old Temples
    Bats – yes I have somehow developed a liking for the smell when in mild doses.

    Camphor, burning ghee lamps, butter balls smashed on veerabadhra (bordering on rancid, but not yet offensive)

    Green, mossy tanks which are still wide enough to be airy and open to the sun.

    • As usual, your comment deserves to be a post..:)
      I love the ‘sight’ of yellowed books/pages. I remember as a kid (I think this was in Madurai) picking up only those books in the library which had yellowed what you wrote about the smell of books)

      the minute I read ‘butter balls smashed on veerabadhra’ I smelled (and saw) exactly what you were describing- I love that smell too..oh and camphor!

  3. my boyfriend would describe me as a smell-o-holic haha. i have a sensitive nose (meaning that i can smell things that most people around me can’t).

    things i love to smell include: lilacs (which are almost in season yay), essential oils (lavender is my absolute fav), green tea, my boyfriend’s cologne.

    hope your tuesday is tranquil. hugs!!

  4. Beautiful list! (And sorry to be so late with commenting…I am WAY behind on commenting on my favorite blogs.)

    Some of my favorite scents are: garlic and onions sizzling in olive oil, neroli, jasmine, lavender, freshly brewed coffee, and fresh laundry.

  5. Lauren

    I love this! Never really thought too much about my favorite smells but anything citrus or watermelon is up there. 🙂


  6. mridula

    hi, I just found your blog only to realize its maybe been abandoned. What a shame. But I thought I’d share – and I hope you have a comment alert – that in Delhi if you wander down the perfume lanes of Chandni Chowk you will run into a perfume shop – Gulabchand. Ask for a bottle of earth after rain. Its beautiful, one of their more expensive creations.

    • Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I am definitely planning to go to Delhi the next time I visit India – I spent the first 9 years of my life there but haven’t explored Old Delhi as much as I’d have liked to. Thank you so much for the info about the shop. Is this mitti attar you are talking about? I will check this out.

      oh- and haven’t really abandoned the blog- sort of on an extended unplanned break- but I will be back..:)

  7. Pingback: Tubéreuse Criminelle : Capturing the Intangible | Pieces of paper, squiggly lines

  8. Pingback: Seven Questions on Beauty : Mridula Koshy, Writer | Purple paper planes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: