Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's Talk Sense and Scents

Jo Robertson

I have a nose like a bloodhound.


I can smell a stinky in a toddler’s diaper at fifty paces. Or something burning at 100 paces.

As a new bride I was in the kitchen while my husband watched TV (a black and white on spindly console feet can hardly be called a telly, but that’s another story). He was eating sunflower seeds in the shell. Suddenly I smelled a terrible stench, a cross between a burnt match and a rotten potato.

I rushed into the living room. “What’s that awful smell?”

He bent double, laughing. “I just bit into a rotten sunflower seed, but you couldn't possibly have smelled it from that distance.”
Uh, yeah.

This gift of “sense” is a mixed blessing. One, my husband could never, ever cheat on me. But, on the other hand, when my sweaty little boys ran in from outside, I had to pretend their sweaty little boy smell from all kinds of gross dirt-things was the scent of heaven.

Still do.

I'm amazed at how many people choose their fragrances from celebrity endorsements.

Because I’m ultra sensitive to smells, choosing a cologne is as serious as building a missile. The scent must be light and clean. I must not be able to detect it myself (it'll give me a headache), but I want others to be able to enjoy the delicately mild and pleasant odor.

My granddaughter Annie calls it “Grammy Jo’s smell.” She hasn't yet learned the concept of branding. My sons and daughters hug me, burrow into my neck and say, “Ummm, mommy smell.”

I’ve worn Jovan Musk oil for decades and strangers still stop me to ask what I’m wearing.

When I recently saw an ad of celebrity scents – at very expensively prices – I wondered if and why someone would buy a cologne or perfume based on someone’s celebrity status.

How about you?

Do you have a good nose for smells or not? What are your favorite odors?

Any favorite colognes or do you eschew them all and rely on nature’s scent? Are you willing to experiment with fragrances because they're endorsed by celebrities?


flchen1 said...

My favorite odors are food ones :)

I used to love the scents I associated with my mom--Jergen's lotion, Noxema, Chanel No. 5, and later Estee Lauder White Linen. As I've gotten older, I find that many fragrances give me a headache, so I avoid most of them :)

flchen1 said...

Oh, and so no, I doubt I'd choose a fragrance based on celebrity endorsement; I might make it a point to avoid ones endorsed by celebrities I don't like though...

Maybe if they made a scent like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies... Would that be Christopher Kimball? Alton Brown? Rachael Ray? ;)

Helen said...

Well done Fedora have fun with him he probably likes the cooler weather it is really hot here in Sydney again today


I too have a keen sense of smell although not as good as yours and I never buy perfumes because of celebrities I buy what I like and I don't like them too strong either I usually wear Red Door to work daily and I have Angel and Beautiful for when I am going out, depends what I fancy at the time LOL.

Don't you just love the scent of little kids at times I have just had all five of my grandkids here over the last couple of days what fun LOL

Have Fun

PinkPeony said...

Hi Jo!

Hee..I'm with Fedora...maybe a scent that smells like sweet butter on fresh baked bread? No celeb perfumes for me. I rarely wear it, but I like clean, citrusy scents. L'Eau de Hadrien by Annick Goutal is the only cologne I own. I was crazy about Love's Lemon when I was in high school. It's weird but I actually like mens colognes better. To me, cologne smells better on men than wimmin. :)

Congrats, Fedora!

flchen1 said...

LOL! Yes, Helen, I do love the little kid smell! And I'm so sad that my littlest no longer has that--he's clearly graduated to regular smelly kid scent!

You know, PinkPeony, I do agree--I do like a little scent on guys better (and tend to prefer women to be unscented ;))

SiNn said...

personally i dont do heavey scents in perfums if itys endorced by acelb then more then likely i wontbuy it im more of a body spray girl gimme a light airy scent and im good to go but thats just me

PinkPeony said...

Okay...Fedora, I'll cop to wearing mens cologne samples once in a while!

flchen1 said...

Sounds good to me, PinkPeony! ;) Or rather, smells good :)

Sheree said...

Gah, no perfumes or colognes for me! (although I liked Emeraude for a long time because it smelled like something my father used to wear) I don't mind natural essential oils though so maybe it's just the man-made stuff that gives me a headache. Actually, sandalwood gives me a headache as well as the terpenes in narcissus and those are natural. Hm...

No baked goods fragrances for me either; it'd be too yeasty.

Tawny said...

I'm with you, Jo!! I'm very over-scentsative *g* and certain smells make me wrinkle my nose - others (like fish) actually make me ill. Going into candle stores or past perfume counters can give me a major headache if I don't move fast, too.

My mother makes deliciously scented candles for me to write by, though (I love writing with a specially scented candle - I'll use the same candle scent for an entire book, so that each time I light it, it sparks a hypnotic habit that says "get to work").

As for perfumes, I've worn the same scent since I was in high school. Once in awhile when I was in my twenties (just yesterday, uh huh) I'd change it up, but it never felt right. I didn't smell like myself to me LOL. So I wouldn't be buying any new scent no matter who was hawking it, but I have to say I agree with Fedora. If I was in the market, there are definitely celebrities who I wouldn't support.

Cath's Chatter said...

I love vanilla and coconut and The Body Shop used to do a nice vanilla oil.
Now if the could do a 'new baby smell' or 'playdough smell' cologne I'd probably wear that!!!!!

Susan Sey said...

My mom wears Blue Grass (Elizabeth Arden, I think?), & it's totally her mommy smell. I think they discontinued it some years ago and I personally mourned for ages. She hasn't found a replacement scent--nothing steady--and I'm okay with this. I don't want her to replace that mommy scent that was the rock of my childhood. Crawling in between mom & dad in bed was the safest place in the world & it always smelled like clean sheets & Blue Grass.

This makes me with I wore perfume, sorta. I don't but maybe I should, for my kids' sake. I have no idea what I smell like to them but I suspect it may be sweat. (I'm not great about showering immediately after a jog.) :)

Anna Sugden said...

I'm another one who's very sensitive to smell/scent. Stood me in good stead when I worked for a company that made toiletries and air fresheners. I used to do a lot of work with fragrance houses and could distinguish the fragrances well.

For myself - I'm a Chanel No 19 gal - did veer off into some of the YSL perfumes like Rive Gauche and Paris, but they got too heavy for me. I also used to like a light fragrance called Eau Jeune in a green bottle - which isn't made any more. I tried the new apple DKNY, which is nice at first, but the dry-down is not so good. I also quite like Romance.

In truth I don't tend to wear much fragrance these days. And I get headaches from people who wear too much scent or from those soap and candle stores.

For home fragrance I LOVE Macintosh by Yankee Candle and some of the scents like sea breeze and fresh cotton. There was a lime-y fragrance I liked too. Nothing too sweet or spicy though - not berries or cinnamon or vanilla.

My Mum's fragrance was L'Air du Temps and L'Oreal Elnett *g*

Christie Kelley said...

My favorite aromas are cinnamon and nutmeg.

I can't wear perfume because my husband is sensitive to them. I now find that since I stopped wearing a scent, I have a difficult time being around people who wear perfume or cologne.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I prefer softer scents myself, like you Jo, I favor Jovan Musk.

I like the vanilla scents as well. I did find a scent once that I loved but have not been able to find it anywhere here. I can find it online but haven't bitten yet as a person's chemistry can change and I don't want to buy it just to discover I can no longer wear it. It is Shiara Mandarin Vanilla. A little citrus, a little vanilla, reminds me of the kitchen when I was little and my mother and aunts were all in the kitchen doing their thing on holidays.

My mother's scent was Midnight, found at Bond's Drug Store in Clendenin, years and years ago where I grew up. All of the above long gone now.

jo robertson said...

Good morning, everyone! WTG on capturing the rooster, Fedora.

Hmmm, Jergens lotion. My husband won't let me buy anything but that one and it has to be the original scent.

Isn't it funnny how memory and scents are tied so closely? My husband's that way with eucalyptus and honeysuckle reminds me of home.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, and no, I don't do celebrity scents. That is fine for them if their chemistry can handle it but just trying them on can be a disaster for me. I have worn Beautiful but a very little goes a long way on me and that is special occasion wear for me. Another one that is not vanilla or musk that I can wear is Estee Lauder.

jo robertson said...

Flchen1 said, "My favorite odors are food ones :)"

Yes! Especially around the holidays. I swear if I just saute onions and green peppers, my men come running like it's their last meal!

They make candles with scents that are supposed to smell like different foods, but it's not the same for me . . .

jo robertson said...

Helen said, "Don't you just love the scent of little kids at times I have just had all five of my grandkids here over the last couple of days what fun LOL"

Wow, Helen, you're a saint! Five at a time. I love snuggling the babies and smelling their sweet baby scent.

jo robertson said...

Pink said, "I like clean, citrusy scents. L'Eau de Hadrien by Annick Goutal is the only cologne I own."

Me too! I'll have to try one of those. I enjoy men's fragrances more than women's too. Do you think they do that on purpose? LOL

I bought my husband one called La Male, I think. He only wears it occasionally as he doesn't like strong scents either.

jo robertson said...

Fedora said, "he's clearly graduated to regular smelly kid scent!"

Ha, that's nature's way of cutting the apron strings, I suppose. It's also the point at which the little guys HATE to shower or bathe. My guys went to endless lengths to pretend they were bathing -- until they reached puberty, of course, and the whole girl thing set in.

jo robertson said...

Hi, SiNn! I agree, plus celebrity scents tend to be more expensive.

jo robertson said...

Pink said, "I'll cop to wearing mens cologne samples once in a while!"

ROTFLOL! Hey, go for it. It's not against the law!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Sheree! Many women get headaches from fragrances; that's why I like mine very, very light. I do NOT want to smell it all day long. Do you think they use too much? Or is it the ingredients?

I don't know why women overuse colognes because all the men I know hate those strong smells.

jo robertson said...

Tawny said, "I'm very over-scentsative *g*"

Oy, here we go with the puns again. Shhh, don't get Anna started!

There's this lovely candle shop in Carmel, Tawny. It's below ground, but I can only remain in there about 5-7 minutes before my head starts to explode -- all those scents in one tiny place, you know.

For those of you who don't know, Carmel by the Sea is a lovely little town right on the ocean. It has magnificent shopping and eating areas and one of my fave places to visit. Plus, Clint Eastwood once was mayor of Carmel, tee hee.

jo robertson said...

Tawny, that's an absolutely lovely idea -- writing each book by a candle designed for it!

Can I borrow the idea? On second thought, I'd probably burn down the house!

jo robertson said...

Cath said, "Now if the could do a 'new baby smell' or 'playdough smell' cologne I'd probably wear that!!!!!"

LOL, I'm with you on the new baby smell, but playdough smells freak me out! I think there are tiny balls of playdough hidden throughout my house where the grandkids left them. Slippery little stinkers! I had to put a ban on playdough at my house. I tell the kiddies that playdough went to heaven to play with the angels (devils, more likely!)

jo robertson said...

Susan said, "I don't want her to replace that mommy scent that was the rock of my childhood."

What a lovely sentiment, Susan!

LOL on the late shower after a jog. I force myself to exercise by saying that I don't want to waste a good shower and after a workout, I REALLY need to shower.

jo robertson said...

Anna S, I'm absolutely wowed by the varied kinds of knowledge you have. I've never heard the term "dry-down," but I'm going to start using it and pretend I know what I'm talking about.

Louisa Cornell said...

Back with you, Fedora! Maybe we should come up with an Eau de GR. What would it smell like?

Wow, you have quite a gift there, Jo. I can see how it might be a curse at times too.

Sand and Sable always reminds me of of maternal grandmother.

I wore White Linen and Halston for years, but several years ago my brother and SIL gave me L'Air du Temps and I really love it.

Of course most of the time I smell like fresh baked bread and cake icing! My dogs love it.

I have to laugh at the number of people who make excuses to walk through my bakery during the day. The smell of bread baking stops them in their tracks every time.

I will always smell celebrity scents to see what they have come up with, but I never buy them. So far they just don't grab me. For me the actual scent of the scent is the selling point.

In my home I love the smell of Fresh Linen - any of the candle and air freshening scents along those lines works for me. I don't like heavy scents in candles. I have a gardenia candle someone gave me that I burn on occasion, trying to save it as I LOVE the smell.

One of the girls in my writing group makes her own soaps and lotions and her lemongrass soap is HEAVENLY!

jo robertson said...

Christie said, "My favorite aromas are cinnamon and nutmeg."

Those scents always remind me of the holidays, Christie. I used to simmer Red Hots, which have a cinnamon flavor, on the stovetop with a dash of nutmeg.

I don't even know if they make Red Hots any more.

jo robertson said...

Dianna said, "I prefer softer scents myself, like you Jo, I favor Jovan Musk."

Yay, a fellow-sister in scents! One of my fears is that they'll stop making Jovan Musk. I think I'll go odorless then LOL.

PJ said...

I usually wear light, citrus scents from Bath & Body Works. I have nasty reactions to many perfumes/colognes (headache, eyes burn and water, sinuses fill, throat hurts) so I steer clear of them as much as possible. A woman wearing Poison got on the elevator at work with me one time. By the time we reached my floor I had tears streaming down my face and had completely lost my voice.

Cassondra said...

Great blog Jo!

I, too, am this way about scents. I don't think I have the sense of smell you do--at least not any more--like all other things, with the years, it's starting to...well....sag. :0(

There are only certain fragrances I can wear. Certain ones make me downright sick. And what with the understanding that a lot of people are this way now, I seldom wear much perfume, and when I do, it's very, very light. I can't stand anything heavy. I have a hard time finding body wash because every time I find one that's light and clean (Lavender scent is my favorite) I'll settle in and purchase it for a few months, then they change it and turn it into something that smells like overpowering bubble gum. I literally get physically sick.

I don't understand why the manufacturers think EVERYONE likes those heavy, sweet, gummy fragrances. Blech.

I buy cologne (haven't in years, but when I do) because of the scent. Not because it's endorsed by anybody. That makes no sense to me since every fragrance is different on every person.

Cassondra said...

Flchen1, congrats on the rooster!

Don't let him into your perfumes.

Cassondra said...

Tawny said:

I'll use the same candle scent for an entire book, so that each time I light it, it sparks a hypnotic habit that says "get to work").

Ooooo....Tawny, that's a great idea!

I might have to try that. But there are so few I can smell without getting sick. And they ALL have to be natural fragrances. Any fake fragrance and I have to get away from it.

So if I can find a fragrance that's pine or light lavender or some kind of outdoorsy, woodsy scent like that, I'd be good--but that's only one book. :0(

Cassondra said...

Pink and Jo said:

"I'll cop to wearing mens cologne samples once in a while!"

ROTFLOL! Hey, go for it. It's not against the law!

I've done this. I like a clean, woodsy scent, and I found one once I thought smelled good on me so I took it from my husband. *grin* Got lotsa compliments on it too.

PJ said...

I like to have fragrances in my house but have to be careful because of the headaches, etc. that I mentioned earlier. The brand I use that I've never had trouble with is Aromatique. I stumbled upon it at a local gift ship and was hooked. I love their candles and natural potpourri, especially in the "Cinnamon Cider" and "Orange and Evergreen" scents.

You can get information about their products at

catslady said...

Apparently I inherited a sense of smell from my dad. As a child I didn't understand why he hated perfumes. It didn't take long for me to understand. Most manmade smells give me a horrible headache. I have given up on perfume and most cleaners are even worse. Natural smells are fine - such as vanilla, spices, etc. I also have allergies and I've used nose drops and such for so long, I think I no longer smell as well as I should (unless it's strong but I can still get the headache).

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT blog, Jo!

I think I've actually become MORE sensitive to strong smells since I've gotten older. Weird, I know. Maybe it's because I use very few scents any more. Or maybe the manufacturers make them stronger.

My mom was an Avon lady for 25 years so we all had a constant supply of smells. LOL! I must admit that my favorite of them all was the Skin So Soft lotion in the yellow bottle. Don't even know if they make it any more, since I stopped using Avon after my mom passed away.

My DH has allergies so I seldom wear any fragrance any more. I do use scented body wash (I like the ones that smell like the ocean) but that's it.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OOO Tawny!
Love the idea of writing to scented candles. But like Jo, knowing me, I'd probably burn the house down. :-P


Pissenlit said...

Wow, that's some nose, Jo! It's like you have a superpower! My sense of smell is okay but it's nothing as good as yours.

I love the smell of roses and rain...oh and chocolate. :D As for perfumes, like Anna, I love Chanel's No. 19. I'm also partial to Christian Dior's Diorissimo(my mum's perfume of choice), Givenchy's Organza Indécence(only very rarely and only on Winter evenings) and my current go-to fragrance at the moment, Christian Dior's J'adore. I tend to avoid scents endorsed by celebrities.

Tawny said...

Tawny, that's an absolutely lovely idea -- writing each book by a candle designed for it!

Can I borrow the idea? On second thought, I'd probably burn down the house

LOL- borrow away. My mother's worried that I'll burn the house down too (we had that happen once, but I swear, it was my brother, not me! And it was the fourth of july) so she also makes those cute little tarts to burn in the electric burner. I can't write by those, though. I need the flickering flame to stare at (and the melting wax to play in) when I get stuck *g*

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Jo robertson said...
Yay, a fellow-sister in scents! One of my fears is that they'll stop making Jovan Musk. I think I'll go odorless then LOL.

Another scent that I like is Vanilla Musk but I seem to have trouble finding it now. It has the underlying musk scent but with vanilla as well. It ends up with a spicy scent when all is said and done.

jo robertson said...

Ouch, PJ. That perfume was aptly named -- POISON indeed!

I know many people have allergies to perfumes which is why I guess the RWA National folks asked attendees not to lather themselves up at conference. You can imagine thousands of women jammed together spewing their heavy scents through the air.

Makes me sneeze!

jo robertson said...

Dear Cassondra of the saggy scents (thank goodness it's not saggy sense LOL)!

Makes you wonder why, if so many people get headaches from scents, how the perfume industry remains such big business. Every sample I ever try is like "Whoa, get it off me, get it off me!"

jo robertson said...

LOL, Cassondra, the GR's probably allergic to perfumes too. No, wait, not the GR. I think he lurves all things female.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Louisa, I think I can smell your bread baking from here LOL! Yummmm!

jo robertson said...

Poor Catslady! Having a strong sense of smell is a curse and a blessing. Mine is strong, but it doesn't make me sick or anything. I just run like hell. And if there's a fire in the house, I've got it before the smoke detector LOL.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Cindy! My mom sold Avon too and I remember the fascination of all the products lying around the house.

jo robertson said...

Pissenlit said, "Wow, that's some nose, Jo! It's like you have a superpower!"

Great, of all the super powers in all the world . . .

Smell wasn't the one I'd have chosen LOL.

I love the smell of roses too, but only my pink roses give off a scent. Does anyone know why? Is that how they breed them?

jo robertson said...

Thanks for the tip, Dianna. Is Vanilla Musk made by the same company?

jo robertson said...

Tawny said, "I need the flickering flame to stare at (and the melting wax to play in) when I get stuck *g*"

Ah, the hypnotic effect of the fire.

Look into the flame, Tawny. Deep into the flame. The idea for a best seller is entering your subconsciousness.

jo robertson said...

Hey all, I titled the blog "Sense and Scents" because I wanted to talk about sense (not like brain matter, ha ha, but like the five senses).

Which is your strongest sense? I read a study once that claimed men and women are very different in this area (Uh, no surprise there).

Apparently men are attracted to women based on a particular sense. And women are attracted to men based on another sense.

Wanna guess which was which according to the study?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

jo robertson said...
Thanks for the tip, Dianna. Is Vanilla Musk made by the same company?

It is made by Coty Jo, I can't wear a lot of their scents but that is a fav.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh and my strongest sense is hearing, my children have yet to figure out how I always knew what was going on (daughter is 32 son is 20) when they thought they were so clever. I heard them.

My guess is the men's sense is sight. Most men I know are very visually orientated.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Jo! I had to wince for you - and right along with you - about the sweaty little boys. Grins. I've got that same sharp sense of smell and sometimes it is MUCH more of a curse than blessing. I know when the milk's off, or the diaper thing, or the least bit of spoilage in anything. That said, if anyone's sicking it up, I'm usually right behind them, based on the whiff of it. I can usually catch it before something burns or gets too hot, just because I can smell the change from merrily cooking to merrily burning. Snork.

But oh, yeah, that downside...and perfume? SO hard! They discontinued my fav of all time a few years ago - Victoria, by Victoria's Secret - and I've yet to find another I like. Sigh.

jo robertson said...

Oh, yeah, Jeanne, another sister in arms. You're grateful you'll smell the fire and get the kids out of the house straight away, but the sweaty boys -- nothing quite like that.

My daughter, however, LOVES that smell. She says it's like sweaty b**ls, but I just stick my fingers in my ears and yell, "La, la, la, la, I can't hear you."

Really, there are some things a mother should never know.

jo robertson said...

Dianna said, "My guess is the men's sense is sight. Most men I know are very visually orientated."

Give the girl the prize behind door number one! You're absolutely right, Dianna. The study said for men it's sight -- no surprise there -- and for women it's SOUND. I'm thinking that's a two-fold blessing. Hearing your kids up to something naughty AND listening to the sweet nothings your partner whispers in your ear.