My Favorite Scents

Phyllis Inspiration 41 Comments

I don’t know if you remember (or if you were ever forced to read) the short story “The Smell of Chrysanthemums” in high school. I am reminded of that story so many times. The short synopsis is this: a women recounted moments in her life where these flowers were present. Her wedding flowers, the birth of her child, and the funeral of her husband. I don’t remember the fine details, only that she hated that distinct smell, as her life was filled with sorrow.

On to happy times! I love fragrances and it is true that we can be reminded of times in our lives by certain aromas and fragrances. Who can forget the delicate smell of your Mom right after she put Jergens lotion on her hands? It was a staple in our house growing up. It is labeled “cherry almond” in small print today to identify it as the original!

And baby lotion and powder. I kept a gigantic pink bottle of Johnson’s baby lotion right by my boys’ beds and when they were tiny babies, I applied it liberally to their delicate skin. I continued that tradition with my grandchildren. And I powdered their little feet, only their feet!

When Neal and I were married, we chose to have our ceremony by the beautiful evergreen Christmas tree at the ranch where we were going to live. Neal built the house and it was just perfect for us and our family for the wedding. I will never forget the amazing smell of the evergreen tree that evening. It was magic. The tree was enormous and filled the house with a fragrance that lingered for weeks.

This time of year I love the gardenia scent in my garden. It’s a lovely feeling to enjoy this annual offering as the breeze carries it nicely. My English roses have a wonderful scent too and I enjoy each blossom so much. Lavender makes me happy too.

Inside my home, I love more spicy fragrances and I will opt for potpourri that is comprised of apples, oranges, and cinnamon. One of the things that I enjoy is simmering fruit peels and cinnamon on the stove. When you peel apples and oranges, store the peels in the refrigerator until you have enough to use. In a small saucepan, put about two cups of water, peels from four or five fruits, and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Simmer, being careful to add water throughout the day as it evaporates. This makes a wonderful fragrance that wafts throughout your home. But be aware, your family and guests will be expecting an apple pie when they arrive!

Surround yourself with lovely fragrances. It will make a difference in your day.

What is your favorite fragrance or aroma?

Comments 41

  1. We had lots of honey suckle around my house when I was growing up and the sweet smell of it on a summer night is unforgettable to me. I have some in my own yard and it is so comforting when I catch a whiff ! There is also a scent we encounter when we are hiking on mountain trails but I don’t really now specifically what it is. I think it is probably some sort of moss or fern that gives the scent but we know when we smell it, that we are in the mist of nature and having fun in the mountains. When my husband was a child, hiking with his Dad, when they would smell that scent, his Dad would say, “I smell a bear!” Of course, we know that was not true but to this day ( we are in our mid 60’s) when we smell that scent on a trail, we turn to each other and say, ” I smell a bear.”

  2. Lilacs bring me back to my childhood! We were living in New York City in a tenament building where everyone knew each other and they were our extended family…. Our dear neighbor Nat owned a florist with his family and he was ever so thoughtful as to bring my mom a bouquet every Spring! My mom would take out her only vase to place them in and I would just savor that scent!… So whenever I get a hint of that scent it transports me back to a wonderful memory of life in my mom’s apartment that was filled with so much love and of course springtime in New York and the everlasting scent of lilacs!

  3. A freshly mown lawn in the summer, wood smoke from a campfire, lemon verbena, the top of a babies head, salt air & ocean water, bread baking, citrus blossoms.

  4. High school graduations always smelled so awesome and spring like back in the day when we were graduating in the 70’s. Our English teacher lived close to town and had a large flower border of iris’ and peonies. She would cut them and place them in large floral bunches all across the front of the stage on commencement night. The entire gym would smell of those two flowers….the song “Halls of Ivy” and those flowers take me back. It makes me lonesome now to think of that time…some 50 years ago. I also love the smell of rain on a warm summer night which is happening as I post this. I work in a resthome and “sensory” is important and often overlooked. I am all about lilacs as well. May days and lilacs…thanks for reminding us about these by-gone smells which we hold dear to our hearts.

  5. My grandmother loved Kiss Me at the Gate, usually called Winter Honeysuckle. The sweet smelling little blossoms came while the bush was entirely bare of leaves. She would pick a short twig with blossoms and tuck it into her up-swept hair. Often in the Springtime with flowers in her hair, she sang “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” as she cleaned house, sewed or cooked. When ever I see Kiss Me at the Gate as I drive through the neighborhood I think of her and her love of all beautiful things.

    Water color paints and ink make me think of Granny, too. She made her own Christmas Cards with pen and ink sketches of winter scenes, using black or brown ink and with highlighting touches of white snow or green holly or pine, always adding lines of Christmas Carols or Scripture.

  6. When I was a child, we had a huge Mimosa tree on the side of our house, and my parents put a porch swing under it. I whiled away many hours under that tree with a book in my hand! Many people dislike Mimosa trees because they are messy, but to this day, I remember the scent of that tree and cannot keep from smiling whenever I see a Mimosa tree in bloom!

  7. Creosote. Odd? Well I never realized it was creosote until I was in my 30’s and purchased some old railroad ties to use in landscaping. The smell instantly reminded me of summer vacations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where the piers were built on pilings that were apparently treated with creosote. I just thought as a child that it was the delicious smell of warm summer days playing in the water or fishing and crabbing from the pier.
    I live near a railroad track now where the ties have recently been replaced. Apparently the other day the breeze was just right and I was transported back in time some 60 plus years to those fun memories when my parents , grandparents, siblings, and I were all together in the Mississippi summer sun.
    I also love each time I am greeted by my oldest granddaughter, who lives in another state, says “I love the way you smell.” I think it’s the White Linen I have worn for years. It’s definitely not creosote.
    Thanks for the memories, Phyllis.

  8. The scent of lilacs brings me back to my childhood in St. Louis where a huge lilac bush grew outside my bedroom window. How I loved those light purple flowers that smelled wonderful in bouquets in our house. As an adult, I add lavender to my list of favorites, with a memory of my first lavender perfume purchased in Windsor, England. Today in California I love a lemon scented perfume by Dior called Escale a Portofino. How soothing all of these scents are!

  9. Amazing that so many have the same favorites! My first perfume as an adolescent-Evening in Paris-I had to order some from The Vermont Country Store a few years ago! My late husband wearing PS. The smell of wood being sawed. Wood smoke on a frosty night. The old-fashioned white Spirea bushes around my parents home that I would hide behind when we children played hide & seek. Succulent ham roasting in the oven. BACON! Of course the usual foods, apple pie, pumpkin pie, bread, the list goes on. I noticed many list gardenias as favorite…sorry, I can’t! My freshman year in high school, my date was a junior for the prom. He brought a lovely gardenia corsage for me. I was wearing a strapless formal, there was no way to pin it on as usual and it was not a wrist style. My mother suggested pinning it at the side of my waist…it became so squished and brown as we danced the evening away, I was almost overwhelmed by the scent. I haven’t been able to appreciate that scent in the fifty-eight years since!!

  10. Nobody has mentioned citrus blossoms. Being from California, I am blessed by the scent in our neighborhood of lemon, orange, and lime blossoms, especially at nighttime. I also grow sweet peas for their delicious sweet fragrance.

    Not sure who wrote this, but so true:

    Smells are surer than sounds or sights
    to make the heartstrings crack.

    Happy Independence Day to all!

  11. Thank you Phyllis and thank you all for bringing to mind all the most wonderful scents we all can relate to. All the comments were so heartwarming and brought back such wonderful memories of days gone by. I’d like to add a few more to the wonderful comments you all shared.
    Growing up on Long Island, my heart will always hold the salty smell of the early morning ocean as you hear the waves gently breaking or sometime smashing on the shore.
    Later in life and living on the water on the North Shore, the smell of salt water and (believe it or not), clam mud at low tide, early in the early morning or at dusk gives me such peace. I will forever love the smell of each and everyone in my family. My husband, our daughters and now our grandchildren … I just love to hug them and “absorb” them all!!!
    Recently, my daughters and I fell in love with Vintage Gardenia by Jo Malone but much to my dismay, it has been discontinued and there is nothing else like it! Phyllis, it seems like we all love the scent of gardenias and being who you are and with your special “Clout,” maybe you could convince Jo Malone to bring back their Vintage Gardenia????
    It’s Heavenly!!!!!!

  12. I have worn Youth Dew perfume by Estee Lauder since I was eighteen and I have now turned “just” 67! It has become my signature scent and have had so many compliments over the years. I do believe that this scent in particular smells differently on different people. Many have commented that they tried this scent and said that it was not at all like what I smelled when it interacted with their skin.
    My husband adores this scent on me and when I skip a day, he notices. When I taught school, my elementary students would always sidle up to me and would tell me how they loved how I “smelled “. It is a scent that is distinctive without being overpowering or offensive to others. That is a real testimonial to this classic scent. If they ever stop making it I will be very very sad and inconsolable!!!!

  13. My childhood wasn’t always happy, but I am someone who is keenly aware of scents & so they always remind me of good times, thankfully. My dad did leather repair work & although he wasn’t always kind, I love the smell of leather. Peonies & the scent of grape Iris reminds of me spring & decorating graves at the old cemeteries where so many lovely flowers were growing. My best friend I grew up with, we always talk of our favorite smells from childhood, summer rains, mown grass, crayons, fireworks, watermelon, the mix of sun tan lotion & clorine at the swimming pool, fall leaves as we trick or treated. We didn’t have air conditioning & my mother would can & make pickles in the summer, so I would awake to the smell of vinegar when she was making pickles before it got too hot during the day. My dad would take me along when he delivered horse tack to the people he repaired it for & I loved the smell of the horses, because we couldn’t afford to have one. I still love all those smells! One smell I never gotten used to – my mother was a smoker! I hated the smell as a child & I’ve only become more sensitive to the smell of it as I’ve aged! Some of my new favorites are smells of the sea, lavender, apple & pumpkin in the fall, cinnamon at Christmas (I’m allergic to real Christmas trees), gardenia on my deck in the summer, the smell of lumber when I walk thru the home improvement store with my husband, my dogs (they are comforting to me & don’t smell bad), coffee (I didn’t like it when I was younger), finely aged whiskey & rum, new books, fresh laundry. Most kinds of fruit & most kinds of meat on the grill! Thanks for the reminder of the memories that scents invoke!

  14. Violets, Sweet Betsy’s, honeysuckles, fresh mowed grass, clothes dried on a clothes line, bourbon fruit cake baking in the oven, anise cookies, cape jasmine , David Austin roses. I could go on and On as nothing touches my heart like a memory stirred by one of the above. Thank you Phyllis for bringing this to mine.

  15. Ah, for me it is Yardley’s lavender soap which my Nana always used. Lilacs recall April in my hometown in Idaho. And, yes! Honeysuckle! I now have two plantings in our back yard and relish the scent as we sit on our deck. It is the fragrance of childhood memories.

  16. How delightful to read of many wonderful memories that have been shared! God really knew what He was doing when our brain olfactory and memory areas were placed near one another !!
    Oh the negative side, Mother loathed the smell of Carnations. Her daddy died when she was five and apparently the house was filled with that fragrance.
    On the positive, two of our family’s favorite fragrances are rose and gardenia.
    Grandmother had a huge rose bush outside her dining room window that filled the house with that delightful aroma. Family and friends always went home with at least one perfect beautiful deep pink blossom.
    The gardenia bushes were outside my bedroom window. My goodness, how many wondetful memories that fragrance evoked just a few days ago when I unexpectedly smelled the gardenias in my current garden. Priceless to know that these bushes are offspring of ones that originally came from Grandmother’s garden by way of Mother’s!!
    Thank you for your sweet reply last week. It is never easy to lose dear friends; but, lose several so very close together has been heartbreaking.
    Ah! So many wonderful fragrances we are blessed with and the memories they evoke ! As always, thank you for starting this wonderful time of sharing among Ribbon friends!}

  17. I love fragrances like lavender and Tunisian sandalwood, especially when meditating because they are so calming. I also like to use Nag Champa incense.

    If I had to pick only two smells it would be frankincense and bread baking. Frankincense because I associate it with certain churches where I find my serenity when I am facing stressful times. Baking bread always reminds me of my mom who bakes the best bread I have ever tasted. She would let us stay up later on baking nights to get a taste while it was still warm and the butter had melted into it.

  18. I grew up with a father who smoked pipes. I always loved the scent and when he passed away, I asked for his recliner and rocked in it for years until the fragrance faded away. I still love the smell of vanilla pipe tobacco and use it in my vehicle as a deodorizer.

  19. My dad, who passed away at the tender age of 57 was a gardener and worked for the local council. Getting ready for the summer planting he would always come home smelling of geraniums. Now every time I smell a geranium I think of my dad and his presence is all around me. I was born and grew up in London but am now a proud USA citizen and I am happy to say that geraniums are not only found in the UK and Europe but also here in the USA. So it seems where ever I am in the world there will always be geraniums and my dad looking over me!

  20. I love the smell of lilacs because they always remind me of home. After I married & moved to my own home, my mother always gave me a bouquet to bring home with me. The beautiful smell lingered in my car for a few day. I also like clean scents because they remind me of laundry day & the Spic ‘n’ Span my mother used to mop the floors.

  21. Oh Janet, you have just given me a good chuckle. I forgot all about the moth ball smell. My grandparents used it in their closet upstairs…and yet I think, one year they still ended up with moths!!

  22. When I inhale the fragrant blossoms of the old garden hosta ‘plantaginea’ or its newer offspring “Aphrodite’ – I am instantly transported back to standing under the dining room window of my Grandmother’s brick farmhouse in rural Wyandot County, Ohio. She had those planted the entire length on that side of her house. When I am near someone wearing “Muguet – Lily of the Valley’ parfum – I am near my mother. I love when these times happen.

  23. What a wonderful post and what delightful comments from your readers! Some comments of my own: the day I married, I wore Chanel 22, a gorgeous perfume composed of only white flowers. I am sad to say that I can no longer find this perfume and I assume that Chanel stopped making it.
    As for carnation scent, my favorite soap was Carnation by a French company, but, again, it appears to be no longer made. I loved it so much.
    Lastly, I wore Jessica McClintock perfume every day while teaching. I am now retired and the other day I was in a restaurant with a friend. Suddenly, we heard a young man say, “I can smell my teacher.” The waiter was in my third grade class years ago, but he still remembered the smell (and says he loved it).
    Smells really do trip our memory triggers, don’t they?

    1. Have you tried Vermont Country Store? They carry all kinds of old things that are no longer found in other stores. Good luck!

      1. Alice–Yes, I have tried Vermont Country Store and, sadly, no luck. It seems to me that the newer perfumes have a less floral, more alkaline smell, and that seems to be popular now. Wasn’t it fun looking through everyone’s favorite scents? Thanks for your suggestion. Mary

    2. Chanel still makes 22,but you have to order it from them online, or get it from one of their stores.

      I’m guessing your Carnation soap was Roger Gallet? They re-release it occasionally; I check Amazon now and then!

      1. Thank you so much for your information! I’m really excited and will try both suggestions. In particular, I am anxious to get some Chanel 22, and you were right–the soap WAS Roger and Gallet. Thank you so very much for your help.

  24. This may sound strange, but I love the smell of mothballs! 🙂 My Bochie (Polish for Grandma) had mothballs all over her little apartment in my Aunt’s house. Bochie threw mothballs under the bed, in the couch, under the dresser and in the closet. It’s a strange smell memory but it still puts a smile on my face!

  25. I love how scent can trigger a memory in seconds be it happy or sad. On my wedding day 28 years ago on this coming New Years Eve I wore White Linen , the happiest of memories and the wonderful scent of sweet peas in my garden that my daughter’s and I planted when they were little girls.

  26. My grandma Lilly always used Jergens lotion too! I still buy it for the cherry almond scent! I love the smell of lilacs in my yard on spring evenings, strawberries in the summer, your apples and cinnamon scents in the fall, and fresh pine and smoky wood-fire in the winters. It is amazing how our memory is tied to scents, and how easily a waft of fragrance can transport us to that memory almost instantly.

  27. The scent of lilacs from my childhood home.When I married and moved out,every spring time my parents would bring me a bouquet for my new home. Sadly, my dad has passed away and my mom has moved,but the lilac bush still blossoms,alas, for someone else…but oh, how that scent brings back such memories. And yes, Jergens cherry lotion. This was a staple at my grandparents’ home and I still to this day have some on hand in my bathroom. Of course, there’ s also my mom’s apple pie in the fall, my dad’s 4711 German after shave cologne and my grandfather’s Aqua Velva. These scents and aromas still take my breath away!

  28. What a wonderful post. I will have to find that story.
    Yes, Jergens. And my mom wore Avon’s Cotillion cologne. I took some of the bottles when she died, so I can sniff them as needed.
    When my parents decided I was old enough to wear cologne, my dad gave me a bottle of White Shoulders. He gave me a bottle every year for my birthday, for the next 30 years or so, until the company stopped making that scent.
    I was in a fancy hotel recently that smelled divine. The soaps said bergamot, jasmine and sandalwood. I would love to find it here.

  29. I always wore the same perfume through the years that I was a teacher. For a short time I changed the scent not realizing that the children would even notice. One day after going back to the familiar scent, one of the students hoped up on lap to read a story.
    He looked up at me and said, “Now you smell like teacher.” It was a precious moment.

  30. Oh, yes, I remember the smell of Jergen’s lotion as a child. The most memorable scent is probably the freshly washed laundry hanging on the clothesline. Those linens flapping in the breeze made that clean scent float constantly through the air during my carefree childhood days. Maybe that is why I gravitate today toward clean scents and the fragrance of soft florals when choosing soaps, lotions, candles, and colognes. Sea Island Cotton is one of my favorites. Thank you for this pleasant memory.

  31. My Mother has worn Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew for as long as I can remember. When my youngest daughter was about 6, we were waiting in the check out line and she started sniffing the air. I asked what she was doing and she replied “Mommy, I smell Granny!” Sure enough, the lady behind us was wearing Youth Dew. It’s still a favorite, as are fresh cut grass, sheets dried in the sun and the smell of a country evening as the sun is going down. Wonderful memories!

  32. My favorite fragrance is lilac’s. Growing up It was hard to resist not picking some
    from different gardens that I passed on my way to my grandma’s.
    She would have a vase full of lilac’s and on the aroma.
    Still lingers wit h me today. Now have a bveautiful white lilac bush in my garden.

  33. When I was a little girl my aunt would bring me fresh-cut carnations from her garden. I looked forward to those visits and smelling that wonderful spicy, clove-like scent, It was heavenly. Today’s carnations barely have any fragrance at all, which is so disappointing. I still try to find colognes and perfumes that use the old-fashioned carnation scent in them.

  34. To me the combination of the smell of sweet olive and the crunching sound of walking on pea gravel paths immediately brings back memories of childhood in New Orleans Uptown. When my husband had built a parterre garden for my herbs, he knew I wanted pea gravel for the paths.

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