Celebrating the sense of smell – top 10 scents

It’s in the air. A certain exhilaration has come upon us as we look forward to a post covid spring, the future, and enjoying life at its fullest.

For me there is one thing that I really want to celebrate and that is the sense of smell, for those of us who still have it and no longer feel at threat of losing it.

 As you well know the sense of smell is not only a delight for smelling flowers, essential oils, and the fresh sea air, but it also alerts us to danger: a gas leak, pollutants in the air, and importantly food that might make us sick.

 What you might not know is that the sense of taste is actually far less nuanced than the sense of smell. In fact, we can only taste five different flavours, these being sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami, which means “essence of deliciousness” in Japanese.

So our tongues detect these tastes but it is our sense of smell, working through the olfactory bulb way up our noses, that distinguishes a whiff of frankincense in the air or a hint of cardamon in a dish.

 So, these are my top 10 natural scents which make life joyful, and which should be sought out at every opportunity:

  1. Roses – possibly one of the best known and recognised scents on the planet and grown throughout the UK in private gardens and public spaces, so you will all appreciate what this scent is like. Rose petals have been collected and distilled to make rose essential oil for millennia. It was the waft of rose petals from Cleopatra’s barge which first attracted Mark Anthony, and the rest is history. Out of season, if you crave this scent, you can buy the essential oil, but the real stuff is expensive for a very good reason – it takes 5 dozen roses, hand-picked at dawn and steam distilled to make a single drop of Rose Otto essential oil. So you can expect to pay almost £50 for 2.5ml or half a teaspoon of this exquisite oil – worth it if like me you are obsessed, but otherwise perhaps just enjoy the roses when they are in bloom.
  2. Orange blossom – another summer bloom, more prevalent the further south you go into Europe, or perhaps to be found in conservatories, but a heady aroma which is, like roses, very romantic and promoting of happiness. Many scents are derived from the orange tree, be it the blossom (neroli), the fruit (sweet orange essential oil), or the leaves and twigs (petitgrain) . The blossom is always the most difficult to extract and therefore the most expensive, but very much like roses, worth every penny if you are fragrance obsessed.
  3. Log fire – more of a winter smell you can’t put this one in a bottle, and it will depend what wood you are burning. Perhaps not so eco-friendly to do on a large scale but certain woods, such as Palo Santo, known as holy wood, are burnt for the sheer pleasure of their smell, as well as the soothing nature of watching the flames. You will probably be familiar with the smell of burning vines, used so much in cookery for the infused fragrance it provides, or possibly pines, which don’t have to be burnt to enjoy the strong outdoorsy feel of a walk in the woods.
  4. Cut grass – this scent announces that summer is here, and for so many people remind them of childhood when we were possibly closer to the grass and more inclined to roll around in it. It certainly conjures up carefree times and positivity for me.
  5. Sea breeze – much like the smell of the rain this is tricky to explain or to replicate, but when you smell it you know you are by the sea, and again all those positive vibes which relate to holidays, family, freedom all pop into the mind.
  6. Lavender – this is the overall “people’s” favourite essential oil, used worldwide for its calming and sleep-inducing properties with scientific evidence now emerging as to how this oil works as a relaxant. I diffuse this oil at night where I find it supremely relaxing and added to any natural scent blend it is very strong, overpowering, and as it is grown close to home and through a simple production process, it is much more affordable than some of the flower-based essences.
  7. Oud – to be used in limited quantities, and a bit of a marmite oil, oud is very strongly associated with the middle east and Arabia. It has a powerful, almost animalistic smell, although it is extracted from the agar tree. Again, a precious oil so one to try before you buy, but certainly worth getting to know as it is unique in its exotic scent.
  8. Lemon – on the occasions when I want to lift my energy levels, I always turn to citrus fragrances, and particularly Lemon. There are quite a range of citruses and citrus like scents to choose from, from Lime to Grapefruit to Bergamot, extending into May Chang and Lemongrass. They all life the spirit and combine really well with other uplifting oils to give a real boost when it’s needed.
  9. Peppermint – many scents are primarily associated with food but are also a joy simply to smell. I would include peppermint here which you can grow or buy easily and is such a fabulous fresh scent. I would also include other uplifting foody scents such as fennel, basil, and rosemary in this category. You don’t have to use them in cooking – you can simply enjoy them for their fragrance – and then cook with them!
  10. Apple – I am constantly intrigued by how many fragrances are marketed as “natural” when it is not possible to extract these fragrances from nature. This applies to lilac, lily of the valley, and apple. So, if you see these fragrances in anything, be warned that they will have been synthetically manufactured to mimic nature. We are again limited by the seasons to our enjoyment of many wonderful natural scents, but the good old apple, grown throughout the UK and always available in shops, is a scent you can always enjoy, and for me epitomises simple pleasures.

So there you have it. 10 of my favourites which sits amongst hundreds of essential oils and unlimited fragrances that you can enjoy in and out of the home to remind you how lucky you are to have the gift of smell. Here’s to all the noses out there and the joy that they bring.