Glass Petal Smoke has posted a Sensory Questionnaire, a questionnaire that takes one of a personal sensory journey. I’ve spent weeks thinking about these questions. I’ve really done some sensory exploration here. I’m sure it’s more than you want to know, but it does give some insight on my fragrance personality.
1. What does your sense of smell mean to you?
I’ve always been a very smell and taste orientated person. As a child, I would smell everything and categorize it in my scent memory. I also put everything in my mouth to see what its taste was like. Not a good idea. The sense of smell is important to me. It’s safety, recognizing hazardous odors of smoke or chemicals, and it’s pleasure, helping me enjoy flavors and perfumes.
2. What are some of your strongest scent memories?
My dad made Shaker furniture reproductions. I grew up in woodworking. If I smell Eastern white pine sawdust (actually any saw dust), then I’m transported back to childhood. The same with his homemade stain: a mixture of paint thinner and tar.
I grew up in antique shops (parents owned), so that “old” dusty, musty smell of old stuff takes me back. Also, furniture restoration products like Minwax and Howard’s Orange Oil take me back. Because of their business I was introduced to many strange smells since friends of the family were wreath makers, weavers, milk paint makers, you know the Americana folk art crowd. I have the scent memory of a 19th century Shaker.
The smell of chalk and that gross “people” smell on desks (like sweat and lead pencil shavings) reminds me of elementary school days.
My grandpa had Ultralight planes and other “gadgets” like that. I’ll never forget the smell of his barn. Mechanic stuff: oils, fuels, dust, rust, and vinyl.
Air conditioner mildew and humidity reminds me of growing up in the South.
Foods of youth: Everyday I swear we ate dried beans, usually pinto or black, and cornbread. My house always smelled like peppers, pintos, onions, and cornbread growing up. And really strong black but super sweet tea brewing in an American coffee pot. Also, everything was pickled from beets to onions to watermelon rind, lots of vinegar aromas.
3. What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your
Adriatic fig trees, pipe & chewing tobacco, wild mushrooms such as chanterelles and matsutake, the smell of cedar and the PNW forest floor, floral waters used in cooking, and leather. And the sorghum that my grandparents grow, harvest, and make.
4. Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
Tar, “industrial smells” like adhesive, hair salon, mildew, LP vinyl, and strangely, really ripe durian (so gross that it’s worth sniffing). Oh, and in perfume: cumin, civet, and ambergris.
5. Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
Chanterelles sauteed in butter, cardamom, brewing coffee, and the herbaceous spring-time aroma of kookoo sabzi.
There’s a Southern dish that doesn’t have a consistent name, but popular in certain cultures, sometimes referred to as “Sticky Rice” or “Sugar Rice” and served for breakfast or lunch. It’s a blend of long grain rice cooked in cream, tons of sugar, vanilla bean pod, and tons of butter. It’s the best cooking smell ever.
6. What smells do you most dislike?
Nothing grosses me out more than the smell of natto (fermented soy beans). I also dislike sulfur wells/water, moth balls, bacon, and maple syrup. And just to be contrary, I really dislike the aroma of artificial cherry, apple cinnamon candles, and DKNY Be Delicious.
7. What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
Ylang ylang which for some reason reminded me of baby wet wipes. Powdery perfumes are growing on me. I’m also learning to love citrus and freesia in perfumes (especially together)
8. What mundane smells inspire you?
So many , many listed as likes in #3 and #4: tar, city streets in the summer, biomass rotting in the PNW rain forests, fresh herbs like epazote and tarragon, wild mushrooms
9. What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?
Fig trees, gardenias, honeysuckle, and tobacco plants remind me of summers growing up in the South.
L.A. Looks Hair Gel, Dana Exclamation, and the powdery smell of old-school Wet n Wild lipsticks reminds me of the early 90’s. CK One, the smell of worn out leather combat boots, and musty army surplus jackets takes me to the mid-90’s. Basement-smelling, moth ball vintage clothes and the old-school scent of Revlon lipsticks remind me of the late-90’s.
Bvlgari Rose Essentielle takes me back. It smells just like a little perfume that came with a bikini-clad Barbie in the 80’s.
10. What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
My grandmother has always worn Estee Lauder Youth Dew in large amounts. I’ll always associate rose perfume and cigarette smoke with my other grandmother. She also had a Cadillac with leather scents and my cousin and I would just lay in the back seat, sniffing the leather and new car smell. My mom always wore the “original” Liz Claiborne Realities and Bain de Soleil . She also would change her nail polish to match her lipstick daily. So, I also smell nail polish and think of her.
When my husband and I were courting, he used to wear amber resin and all of his clothes smelled like nag champa.
All of the strong, independent women I know and admire wear Mugler Angel.
11. What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
Bain de Soleil, honeysuckle, Adriatic fig trees, hound dog musk, Dana Exclamation, the gourmandy notes of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, tobacco drying in musty 200 year old barns, pickled beets, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Swedish Fish, and Dove bar soap.
12. What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation/lived?
Beignets, headshop incense, vomit, sweaty garbage, and hot piss steaming in the streets reminds me of New Orleans.
West Germany smells like heavy whipping cream, sugar, and iron.
Seattle smells like salt air, oysters, roasting coffee, and those oily notes in Dior Fahrenheit.
The Gulf Coast smells like “boiled p-nuts”, hot sand, and Queen Helene Cocoa Butter.
13. Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.
This will have to wait. I just can’t come up with one right now and I don’t want to rush it. But, I do have lyric that defined my generation. It all started with Slick Rick but fast forward to Snoop Dogg’s version of La-Di-Da-Di: “For all the bitche$ I might take home /I got the Johnson’s Baby Powder and the Cool Water Cologne” Now, this is why I dislike clean smells 🙂
I suggest that you take this questionnaire. It’s fun to do a bit of sensory soul searching or the sensory quest. It helps one remember where they’ve been and where they want to go. Many other fragrance bloggers have participated in this scent-sory exploration:
El Perfume (in Spanish)