Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scent Memories- The Husband's

Written by the husband, AKA The Blond:

It is a well-documented fact that I did not own any perfume until I met my wife. She not only got me to use deodorant on a regular basis but also bought me Minotaure by Paloma Picasso, which was interestingly appropriate in more than one way. I’m a farm boy and while the Manly Men I grew up around used aftershave here and there, perfume was for girls. That said, the world of a dairy farm is wonderfully fragrant and many of these unique scents are still with me and shaped how I perceive and feel about perfume today.

While nature in general does not agree with Gaia, she was fascinated with the pleasant smell of my hands after a few hours of cow milking. It is a unique mix of leather, milk and cow feces that I have not smelled in almost 20 years but is still seared into my mind. The scent of grass and cut grass has always been my favorite. Together with damp earth it is the essence of Mother Nature. Sharp, comforting, relaxing and invigorating all at once. Is it any wonder I have never met a vetiver I did not like?

Modern dairy farms are not a pastoral setting where cows graze on grass in open fields but a business where various feeds are brought to cows in pens / corrals. The dominant smell of the dairy to anyone visiting was the various feeds on hand. The sharp, citrusy, boozy, half rotten orange peels that are left after the juice was extracted (nothing is wasted in the world of agriculture. Any organic material left after initial processing into human food is then sold to farmers as feed). There is something in the opening of Atlantic by Strange Invisible Perfume that always reminds me of this in a good / bad way.

Hay in its different varieties is a staple of course. The one I (and the cows) loved the most was peanut hay. I’d spend way too much time fishing for leftover raw peanuts in the hay and the smell is a combination of dry, warm hay and said raw peanuts in their shells. Intoxicating. I’d love to see someone try to create a similar combination in perfume. (BTW, never try to “roll in the hay” without clothes or several blankets. Hint: it scratches like hell.)

To make the cow pens more comfortable they would be padded with some dry materials including straw, cotton and the most abominable byproduct ever : sawdust. It gets into every pore of the body and stays put for a few days. You can’t smell or taste anything but sawdust for days after working with the stuff. That’s why perfumes that have a “shaved pencil” note that is too strong like Anat Fritz immediately make me sneeze.

My world today is so different it makes me wonder sometimes if I remember it right but it seems like scent memory is stronger than the visual one as the scents of my childhood are as vivid as ever.
What special scents from your childhoods biases and influences your scent preferences today?

Art by Karin Skallsjö.


  1. Lovely - I could smell the scents you mentioned. Except the peanut hay (I'm a European, no peanuts growing here :-() - I'd love to smell that one. But that world with its smells is a lost one, as you mentioned : farm life smells different these days, unfortunately.

  2. I loved reading this! My dad's family are all farmers in the Midwest, and even though they didn't make their living primarily off of livestock, there were always lots of cows, pigs, goats, chickens and barn cats & dogs around. So many amazing (and not so amazing) smells on a farm! I grew up far away from this family, but I would spend weeks there in the summertime every year. These are some of my favorite memories, and I find that I have so many scent associations from this time/place. I wince any time I walk in to a new place and it smells like my grandparents' house. I too love the smell of fresh cut grass, my grand mother's sewing room in her basement, the rain of an impending thunder storm, my grandmother's hairspray, and the white musk perfume she used to wear. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  3. This post was so nicely written! I cannot believe that a perfume named Minotaur exists, and that you bought it for your husband, Gaia. That's too good.

  4. What a beautiful post! I also grew up in the country, though not on a working farm, and I love all the natural smells. I also remember some specific old-fashioned scents like Ivory and Camay soaps and Johnson's baby powder, which definitely shape my perception of perfumes with soapy notes or baby powder musk. In fact, Andrea Maack Craft smells exactly like a hot soapy bath at my parents house, which is hilarious compared to its artsy description on LuckyScent. ~~nozknoz

  5. Awesome post, Ari! Thank you for sharing your scent memories.
    I am too familiar with sawdust and it's a smell that reminds me of childhood too. My father was a woodworker. Sawdust got everywhere, even the house, we couldn't avoid it. I think this is why I'm not a fan of dry woodsy fragrances or cedar fragrances. It reminds me too much of work.

  6. Hooray for farmers! I love them, and all that goes with it. My husband comes from a farming family in Upstate New York.

    It is wonderful that you posted with your opinions on scent.

  7. I loved this post! I grew up with horses, and chickens and turkeys. I love the smell of animals. Especially when they are healthy-I find I can still almost smell a disease in an animal, before any symptoms show up.


  8. Spices! My German mother, grandmother and uncle were all wonderful cooks and bakers. They would let me "cook" by mixing together whatever smelled best to me as soon as I was able to handle a spoon, and I was always able to roll dough and chop vegetables under their supervision. The smells, esp of baking spices like cinnamon and cardamom remain some of my favorites today.


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