Do you have scent memories?

As with others, tons of such triggers reside in memory:

• One particular girlfriend’s perfume
• The combined smells of the chemical plant where I worked
• Another SO’s place: she had a kennel, and always many dogs - she kept it very well maintained, so it was never nasty, but it was doggy (not a bad thing if you’re accustomed to it)
• Blood everywhere
• It would be impossible to describe, but I’d include the permanent aroma of my taxicab

And too many more to list.

I have scant memories.

I think I might be a replicant.

I should be leaving now.

There is a particular lady’s fragrance that will invariably stop me in my tracks and fill me with memories.

I was out of town once and realized I’d forgotten to bring any hand lotion. I went to pick some up and saw “Jergens Original Scent.” I bought a bottle and when I got back to my hotel, used some. WHAM! I was instantly transported back in time to being at my grandmother’s house. She always used Jergens (back when they only had the one scent.)

When I got home and my mom came over, I told her to close her eyes, then squirted some in my hand, held it up and told her to sniff. She immediately thought of her mother.

Shalimar perfume and lily of the valley always make me think of my mom. She wore both scents at different times in my childhood.

The smell of a freshly-opened tin of Danish butter cookies makes me think of my dad opening up the box at home, sitting at the table.

Tire rubber at Sam’s Club reminds me of, well, shopping at the Warehouse Club (precursor to Sam’s) with my dad. There was some sort of powdery coating on the floors of those aisles that made them really slick and fun to slide on.

I know what my My Little Ponies smell like, too. Now I have a longing to open up the little suitcase they’re stored in and taking a big whiff. Mmmmm …

Mothballs: reminds me of my “evil” grandmother.

Cinammon, especially any kind of spicy potpourri: my dad used to boil cinnamon sticks when he was staying at home and had cleaned the house for my mom.

Blueberry muffins: winter sunday mornings

gasoline, motor oil, and Old Spice: I don’t smell this one much anymore, but my Grandfather always smelled this way.

Really cold, clean air reminds me of Christmas morning when I was about six.

The best scents are ones that you haven’t smelled in years that trigger the memories.

With everyone using “gas” grills these days, I was immediately taken back to my dad’s house when my neighbor started up his “charcoal” weber grill. I had to buy one the next day.

My sister was with me at a Walgreens and told me to “close your eyes and smell this”. I immediately thought “wow, that’s grandma’s house from when we were kids, what is that?” It was mothballs.

The smell of crayons takes anyone back to kindergarten. And even more amazing is the smell of “Play-dough”. If you ever get the chance to open a can and smell it you’ll be swept right back to your childhood.


You’re right on target about the ones that catch you by surprise. I once smelled some Tamiya-brand model kit paint and it was like I was a kid again, working on plastic models in the garage.

The other day on the freeway there was the distinctive scent of skunk, but faint enough to not be noxious.

I loved it, it made me feel like I was back in rural Wisconsin in the summertime. Our dogs would smell like that because they’d always tangle with a skunk in the first few days of summer vacation. I was kind of sad when the scent faded.

On the other hand, the scent of rubberized plastic - the kind that you find on the grippy areas of “sport” electronics (my Garmin eTrex GPS has it on the back, for example) reminds me of… something. I don’t remember what it was that I had as a kid that smelled like that, but I was very fond of it. I have no idea what this item was, but when I smell that smell, I want that thing back and I miss not having it.

Summer of 1996 I was a bus counselor for the camp I worked at. After we’d drop off the last kid, my bus driver would light up a cigarette and I’d take out a bagel and cream cheese to eat. For a long time after, if I smelled cigarette smoke I’d crave a bagel with cream cheese. Eventually it went away, but then a few years ago I smelled cig smoke and couldn’t understand why I was craving a bagel with cream cheese. Took me a bit to figure out.

Cigar smoke puts me right back at being 5 years old at the beach club.

Hmm. These were the first two that came to mind. Strange that they both involve smoke of a sort.

Not too long ago, I was in a grocery store’s deli section and became emotionally overwhelmed by the combined smell of several various meats. I understood at the time that I was experiencing a negative scent memory, but I couldn’t remember any more details than that.

Upon further reflection, I realized that the smell was one I had associated with my genitals at a very, very young age. Why it was a bad memory, I really can’t remember. Said genitals have never really been involved in any kind of trauma or other badness. I can’t figure it out to this day.

Deisel - my dad, who just bought a new boat!

When I lived in Key West, you’d occasionally catch this organic smell - sort of moldy yet not unpleasant. Someone told me it was a tree that made the smell, but I’ve rarely smelled it anywhere else.

Polo cologne - everyone I ever dated in high school (class of 80).

There is a particular brand of perfume that stops me dead in my tracks as I am transported back to 2nd grade in Okinawa. My homeroom teacher, whom I loved, wore that perfume. I’ve never had the nerve to ask the women wearing that perfume what brand it is.

When I smell of pine cleaner, I am back in the dimly-lit, red-tiled waitstaff area at the restaurant of the first job I ever had, surrounded by stacks of plastic-wrapped plates, the clink of silverware being put away in the background.

Vicks reminds me of late nights when I was sick as a child and my mother would rub it on my chest. A very comforting smell to me.

There is a combination of spicy Asian ramen noodle odors that takes me back instantly to a busy street with small food stalls in Naha City, Okinawa. I get this dizzying rush of happiness when that happens.

The smell of pot reminds me of Christmas. My parents never indulged, but at Christmas, my aunts and uncles and, on one memorable occasion, my great-grandmother would pass around a joint. I don’t smoke pot, but I love the smell. It reminds me of being a little kid, feeling very safe with all of my favorite adults gathered together.

The smell of fresh dill reminds me of Russia. I was there in the summer, and fresh dill was often used as a seasoning.

Mine is of a car accident I was in at a very young age. It’s probably my earliest memory. I remember being in my car seat in our white SAAB when some other car popped out in front of us and we T-boned it. The smell part is the awful smell of the carseat (latex, maybe? some kind of smelly rubber?) mixed with the smell of vomit, because I was constantly carsick as a baby. This was in the early '70s, when I think you only had to use a carseat until age 2, so I must have been younger than 2. Just thinking about it makes me vividly recall the smell. The fact that this is my first memory, and that it is so very vivid, probably goes a long way to explain my driving phobia.

The smells of various chemicals, particularly burning ones, particularly accompanying faint wisps of steam or smoke, remind me of when I briefly experimented with smoked methamphetamine. Just boiling some water for ramen this morning, I could almost feel the rush hitting me again.

At the beginning of winter break my freshman year of college, I went on a trip to London for 10 days. When I got back to Ohio, I spent the next three weeks of break at home. I was jet-lagged for awhile and spent the days watching the video I had made there and putting my scrapbook together after I had gotten my pictures developed. A couple years later, I was visiting home and washed my hands and immediately the smell of the soap brought me back to December of 2000, getting back from London, being on a weird sleep schedule, and pasting photos. I don’t even know what particular soap it is, but I’ve gotten it a few more times since then, and I always recognize it right away. It’s funny because it’s not even a scent specifically attached to the memory (like maybe a smell on the airplane or the tube would be), but it really transports me back in time.