Sniff! My Favorite Smells

Grasse, France, home to many delicious smells! Image via Wikipedia

As spring sunshine slowly warms the earth, you can smell the new season. Where I live, in  a small town north of New York City, the pungent and specific odor of fresh wild onion — their thin, bright green sprigs poking up everywhere — is one I look forward to every year.

One of my most powerful scent memories, decades old now, was driving through the North Carolina night down a winding rural road when a huge, delicious whiff of wild jasmine suddenly filled the car. Yum!

Some of my favorite smells:

Good leather

Clean dog

Warm horse

Old wool

Jet fuel (I’m going somewhere!)


Balkanie Sobranie pipe tobacco, lit or unlit



Maja soap, a classic with the most elegant black tissue paper wrapping

Oilliet-Mignardise soap by Roger & Gallet, a spicy smell of carnations. Heaven in a box!

Tiempe Passate, a super-hard-to-find perfume made by New York perfumer Antonia Bellanca

Sun-dried pine needles

1881 cologne, the 1955 classic by Nino Cerruti, the one my sweetie wore the night we met 11 years ago


The ocean

Moist earth

A well-made gin martini

Earl Grey tea, freshly steeped (yes, it’s the bergamot)

Grasse, in the south of France, has been a center of the perfume industry for many years and has a museum of scent.

Here’s a link to a Mallorca museum with some rural smells of the past.

What are some of your favorite smells?

If You Smell Great, Come Sit By Me! The Power Of Scent

Perfume bottles II
Image by Stepheye via Flickr

If I had to choose between almost any other luxury and knowing there is a bottle of lovely perfume in my closet, scent would win. Today’s Financial Times’ magazine, whose nose-thumbingly grandiose name is “How To Spend It”, carries an interview with Serge Lutens, one of the world’s greatest “noses”, the men and women who create great perfumes. (The link, unfortunately, doesn’t include that interview for some reason.)

To those of us who spend our lives drafting behind people who smell really good on the street or subway (trying not to be scarily obvious about it, of course), Lutens is a little like Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. A legend; here’s an interview with him.

It’s well-known that scent can weaken our knees with specific memories. Whenever I catch a whiff of Kouros, a distinctive man’s cologne from the 1980s, there’s the oooh-la-la memory of Bill, one of the ex’es in my pantheon, who chased me down the Rue de Rivoli. My sweetie caught my attention as much with his wit, kindness and humor as his signature scent, Cerruti 1881. Yum.

Have you read Luca Turin? He explains perfume, how it’s created, why it affects us and how great scents are made. Here’s an interview with him and some helpful links. Scent-lovers thumb through his guide to perfume, eager to see if their beloved has won a nod or a sneer. Check out Sniffapalooza, the place where scent obsessives hang out.

On October 21, at Barney’s in Manhattan, four perfumers, American Antonia Bellanca (creator of hard-to-find Antonia’s Flowers and Tiempe Passate, which I wear), Ben Gorham, of Byredo Parfums, Frederic Malle (Editions de Parfums) and Fabrice Penot of Le Labo will speak on a panel chaired by Elle magazine EIC Roberta Meyers and beauty director Emily Dougherty.  Talk about your all-star team. Can’t wait!