Workout for the Nose : How to Improve Your Sense of Smell

New research conducted by scientists at Rockefeller University revealed that the human nose is much more sensitive than was previously believed and can distinguish close to a trillion different scents. Another study at Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon shows that “the regions of the brain associated with olfaction are more developed in professional perfumers than in the general population” and that with practice, it’s possible to reverse the age-related grey matter reduction that affects the olfactory regions among the general population.


“Take care of your nose and use it more often,” is the main advice I give in my perfumery classes. But the frequent question is whether it’s possible for a non-professional to improve their sense of smell. There is a belief that perfumers are unique in their ability to perceive scents that other people simply can’t identify. There is nothing further from truth; what separates perfumers from the general public is the number of hours they dedicate to smelling. It’s also no coincidence that many perfumers come from families involved in the fragrance trade, and they are taught to use their nose at an early age.

Although one need not aim for bloodhound like ability in distinguishing scents, giving the nose a workout is guaranteed to sharpen your senses. That smelling is one of the best and simplest indulgences needs no argument. Since the senses of smell and taste are related, a heightened ability to perceive scents translates into richer and more exciting gustatory experiences. In this article I will share a few exercises and techniques I learned at perfumery school. None of the exercises will take up a lot of time and you can use easily available aromatics to train your nose (essential oils and absolutes are not required.)

Starting Out

If you’re determined to give your nose a workout, start by using it in as many day-to-day situations as possible. As I mentioned in How to Make Perfume Hobby Affordable and More Fun, “if you are motivated to learn more about scents, smell aromatic things around you–herbs, tea, coffee, chocolate, olive oil, mangoes piled up at the grocery store.” It sounds simple, but such conscious attempts to smell translate into plenty of work for your nose and your brain. Don’t be discouraged if at first you’re confused by what you’re smelling or can’t remember the scents. It’s a normal part of training your nose, and at this stage, you’re mainly getting used to smelling consciously. Once you’re taking a deep inhale of your coffee or soda, without having to remind yourself, you’re ready to move onto the next stage.


This exercise is based on exposing yourself to different scents, and it’s not only used in perfumery training to learn the odors but also in clinical treatments for people with certain types of anosmia, the inability to perceive scents. Select three different types of fragrances such as wood, floral and fruit and smell them a few times throughout the day. For instance, you can select three different perfumes like Terre d’Hermès (wood), Marc Jacobs for Her (floral,) and Ralph Lauren Ralph (fruit), or aromatic objects like coffee, dried rose petals and orange peel. You can crush coffee beans  and scrape the orange peel to release the fragrant oils.

According to neurobiologist Dr. Alan Hirsch who uses this treatment on people with severe loss of smell, training the brain to discern differences in scents can spark different receptors in the nose to work and cause nerve connections to “turn on” again. In other words, it means a sharper sense of smell, and the results become obvious even after a week of exercise.


My perfumery school teacher, Ron Winnegrad, was adamant that every student, even after graduating and becoming a professional, should smell 3-5 different aromatics first thing in the morning. It’s been an excellent advice, because the early hours are when our sense of smell is the sharpest, and meditating on the aromas of jasmine, rose or cedarwood makes for a relaxing, calm start to the work day.

You can use spices from you cupboard such as cinnamon, clove, coriander, vanilla, or essential oils. If you decide to use essential oils, I recommend smelling them diluted in alcohol (1%-5% is a recommended dilution.) Use paper blotters and smell only after the alcohol has evaporated, or else you risk temporarily dulling your nose.

While essences make for a great training tool, I hesitate to recommend them due to cost and availability. Unfortunately, quality control is an issue even for large companies that have the latest technology at their disposal, and the risk of adulterated or rancid materials bought via an unknown online source is high. I’m sure there are plenty of honest, reliable retailers, but apart from Enfleurage in New York, I can’t offer any recommendations. On the other hand, high-quality spices are easy to find, less expensive and can be used in your kitchen as well as in your smelling exercises.

Crush the spices lightly and keep them in tightly sealed containers. Take a deep inhale of each jar and think of what you’re smelling. Is the odor sweet, toasty or citrusy? Does it feel cooling, or instead, do you notice a pleasant warmth? Don’t rush through the exercise and give each aroma enough time to register in your mind. Get into the habit of smelling your selection once a day. While it may be tempting to smell as many different things as possible, stick to the same set of aromatics for at least a few consecutive days.

On the other hand, please don’t feel that you need to remember the scents. It takes perfumery students a whole year of 9 to 5 smelling to recognize materials, but this is not our goal with this exercise.  The idea is expand our capacity to smell over time and to sharpen the senses. As you breathe in the aromas, think of the associations, memories, recollections. Do you associate a scent with winter and logs crackling in the fireplace? Do you envision the heat of a summer day with hot sand under your feet? Does the fragrance evoke freshly baked cookies, a Cinnabon stand at the local mall or an Indian grocery store? If you wish, you can take notes and write down your impressions.

Practice makes perfect, and by increasing your exposure to scents and smelling consciously, you not only exercise your brain, you make the world around you more colorful. Imagine  a trillion different scents just waiting to be discovered!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Sandra: Great article! I am going to give this work out a try- my nose can use more training.
    I was thinking about my morning (I am up very early) and I smelled my mandarin body wash, my fruity Eros tea, I sprayed Shalimar (vanille) and I can still smell a la nuit on my collar of my coat from yesterday. I gave my AM NY paper a good sniff. I will smell something rancid today at some point, this is NYC 😉

    Thanks again for this information. I wish I knew more about how to identify what I am smelling. March 24, 2014 at 7:20am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Just by exposing yourself to different scents, you expand your olfactory vocabulary, as it were. For instance, wet cardboard at first smells like wet cardboard, but once you have smelled vanilla, pencil shavings, etc., you realize that wet cardboard smells of those things too. It won’t happen overnight, but things will fall into place. Anyway, identifying a note of jasmine in this or that perfume is not important. Even perfumery professionals don’t smell searching for notes.

      Let’s see what was my morning exposure so far (besides the scented blotters exercise): olive oil soap, Japanese green tea, tangerines, almond milk with honey, my neighbor’s dog and blooming magnolias outside of my apartment building. March 24, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

      • Sandra: That sound like a wonderful morning!

        I have never added honey to my almond milk, do you add it cold or do you warm it up?

        Is that a spice in the photo above? Very interesting photo. When I glanced at it quicky this morning for a second I thought it was a star fish haha March 24, 2014 at 9:54am Reply

        • Victoria: I just swirled some into the cold milk, because I like the contrast in textures. You get a hit of honeyed sweetness time to time. Usually, I just eat honey out of the jar, and since I have a few different kinds, I rotate each day. You could say that I’m somewhat obsessed with honey. 🙂 Today I tried cherry blossom honey, and it was wonderful–citrusy, with a light hint of orange blossom.

          The spice is star anise, so you weren’t far off. 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

          • Sandra: Your sweet heart must find you extra sweet with all the honey 🙂

            We have a couple that is from Israel in our building and his family has a farm in Israel and they bring us some honey from there. De-lish! March 24, 2014 at 3:24pm Reply

            • Victoria: When we were visiting our cousin in India, she gave us some local honey to try. It tastes like no honey I’ve tried before–chocolate-like, caramel-like and heady. I imagined all of the tropical flowers that the bees fed on to make this treat. March 24, 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

              • Akshada: Me too! Do you know what business from? I’d like to indulge myself in it. July 9, 2021 at 7:37am Reply

          • SilverMoon: I do the same with honey in yoghurt. i love the sudden mouthfuls of sweetness. And yes, I also like to use different honeys. Moorland/heather honey is especially lovely. Recently I found a rare honey of litchi flowers from Reunion Island and another of wildflowers from Bahia (Brazil). And they are all distinctly different.

            A happy and sweet new year! January 7, 2017 at 6:04pm Reply

        • Angelina Z.: Try to blend milk with raw vanilla bean and a date- a true delicacy. March 21, 2021 at 3:54pm Reply

      • ETHEL J PARKER: Blooming Magnolia’s, Night Blooming Jasmine are two scents that I ardently wish to experience ! Thank You, ( my teacher ! ) March 11, 2018 at 3:38am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Thank you very much for the wonderful article, Victoria. It’s tremendously helpful! My spice and tea cupboards have been growing because I discovered that they are relatively inexpensive way to experience different smells, with the added benefit that I can actually consume them. Now, I’ll follow your advice and smell them in a more systematic manner and first thing in the morning. One question: How do perfumers take care of their noses? Do they use saline nasal sprays or something to keep their noses in optimal condition? March 24, 2014 at 8:13am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: BTW, I almost ‘killed’ my nose last week. I forgot to connect the pump exhaust to the main lab exhuast and ended up filling the whole lab with butanol vapour (i don’t know if you’ve ever smelled it but it’s really horrible!). I had to leave the lab with a bad headache and anaesthetized nose. Yikes! March 24, 2014 at 8:21am Reply

      • Victoria: Yikes! That must have been horrible. Your poor nose! March 24, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! Yes, spices win over the essential oils, since they can be more useful. I have a few essential oils that I use in my skincare routine as well as food (rose, jasmine, orange blossom, vetiver, sandalwood), but good quality is hard to find.

      As for your question, I have no idea. Many French perfumers smoke, so I wouldn’t turn to them for the health advice. I’ve never used any nasal sprays, and my main recommendation is just to give your nose a rest for at least one full day (ie, not smelling perfume and not wearing any.) March 24, 2014 at 8:23am Reply

      • Austenfan: I don’t think you need to nurture your nose with saline sprays unless you have a very dry nose.

        Wouldn’t you think that the olfactory rest you recommend is more about giving your brain a rest? March 24, 2014 at 1:13pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s both. Especially if one works with alcohol based scents all week long, a day of rest is a good idea. Even if you try to smell once the alcohol has evaporated, you still get a good whiff of it, and it can be irritating. Plus, some materials are irritating by themselves. March 24, 2014 at 3:35pm Reply

          • Austenfan: That makes sense, I hadn’t thought of all that alcohol. March 24, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

            • Victoria: That’s the main reason why people get tired of smelling. Generally, if someone doesn’t smell alcohol based aromas, they can hold out longer, even if they’re not a professional nose. March 25, 2014 at 8:56am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: I still find it surprising that many perfumers smoke and their olfaction is not affected by smoking. Personally, I find the smell of cigarettes unbearable. If a heavy smoker sits next to me in public transports I can smell the person’s every breath. Sometimes I have to move to another place because I feel like I can’t breath anymore. Having a good sense of smell is both a blessing and a curse because you aren’t just sensitive to nice smells but also bad ones!

        Is it possible to use essential oils (not floral waters?) in cooking? How do you use them? March 24, 2014 at 4:15pm Reply

        • AnnieA: I just watch a mini-series set in the 50’s and everybody was smoking everywhere all the time. It looked rather horrifying, actually. March 24, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: I’m glad that I wasn’t born in that era! March 25, 2014 at 7:54am Reply

        • Victoria: Smoking must surely affect the sense of smell, but people get used to it and can smell above the cigarette smoke, so to speak. My dad used to smoke all his life, but he tried quitting a few times. He said that during those times his sense of smell would improve as did his sense of taste.

          Yes, you can use food-grade essential oils in cooking by diluting them in alcohol, but besides the availability of high-quality food grade essences, there are other problems with using them at home. It’s hard to get the dosages right, and that’s crucial. 1/2 of a drop too much, and you’ve ruined the entire dish. Plus, I’m not at all convinced by black pepper or lemon oil is better than grinding some black pepper or zesting a fresh lemon. March 25, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: Using essential oils in cooking sounds like a lot of hassle so I’ll gladly stick to normal spices and ingredients. March 25, 2014 at 4:14pm Reply

            • Victoria: I much prefer using real spices, because the flavor is complex and depending on how you use them (whole, crushed, raw, toasted,) you can experience different effects. March 25, 2014 at 4:37pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I loved this article! I will definitely try these out, because it sounds like such a great way to start the day. Sometimes (okay, all the time) I smell the produce at the store, it’s just a compulsion, and my boyfriend thinks I’m a loon.

    I also took a surprise trip to Miami, and it’s so funny, because there are SO many smells here. I’m in heaven. It’s been so cold in Missouri, I think I’d forgotten that there are scents in the world. Here it’s like, POW, scents everywhere. Overripe fruit, B.O., salty air. It’s magnificent! March 24, 2014 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re not a loon, just a good shopper. 🙂 When it comes to peaches, plums, berries, etc., sniffing them is a must; if they don’t have any smell, they will be tasteless.

      Your Miami scent experiences sound fun! Whenever I travel someplace warm, it’s the scents that I notice first–blooming plants, fruit, decay, etc. It may not sound good on paper, but it’s exciting. March 24, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

      • katesonskates: I still think about the smells I encountered while visiting Niagara Falls. We were walking along the Canadian side at night, surrounded by fellow travellers. The mist from the falls mixed with wet concrete, a decorative flower garden, and the vaguely incense-y sillage of the well-dressed Middle Eastern couple about 10 steps ahead…perfect! March 24, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

        • Victoria: It sounds so beautiful, almost like a great, complex perfume in itself! March 24, 2014 at 3:31pm Reply

      • Ashley Anstaett: It has been a great scent experience! Everything feels so alive. Even though there is a smell of decay, it feels, oddly enough, like a sign of life to me and there is something very compelling about it. There are fresh mangos everywhere, and they are so hard to find in Missouri. I can smell them when we are rounding corners and it is heavenly!

        There is also yellow mimosa, jasmine, and some crazy kind of flower I don’t recognize, blooming here, so I’ve been sticking my nose into all of them. Not to mention the smell of salt and fish and seaweed at the beach. I’m in heaven! March 25, 2014 at 12:03am Reply

        • Victoria: Ahhhh! I want to go to the tropics right this minute after reading your wonderful description. Not that I should complain about Brussels’s weather, which has been very mild, but being someplace surrounded by the aromas of jasmine and mangoes would be great. 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

          • Ashley Anstaett: It was heavenly. I wish I could send all of the wonderful smells to you! I got back to Missouri today, and I have to say it’s not quite the same…Although it has been mild here too, it was definitely crazy to come back to 40 degree weather. March 25, 2014 at 7:31pm Reply

            • Victoria: Stay warm, Ashley! Here in Brussels, it’s not as cold, but we don’t have the wonderful floral scents yet. 🙂 March 26, 2014 at 6:47am Reply

      • Loren: Smell alone is not sufficient to guarantee fruit. I’ve bought some heavenly scented fruits that were dry as an over cooked baked potato and completely without flavor. My taste and smell are naturally very a cute- for good and bad. January 6, 2017 at 11:09pm Reply

  • Annikky: Good advice, thanks! For me, nothing has been more useful (and pleasant!) than simply smelling things. It’s interesting and enjoyable and it has also helped me with identifying notes in perfume. Not that the last is something one should necessarily strive towards, but I personally find it rewarding.

    My boyfriend always smells his food thoroughly before eating and I used to tease him about that. No more. It’s one of the easiest ways to give a small workout to your nose and it adds much to the enjoyment of food as well. March 24, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely exciting when scents become recognizable, especially when you smell certain fruits or flowers and realize that they smell of familiar spices or other aromatics. When you pay attention, it’s really amazing how many interesting scents there are out there. By the way, am I the only one who loves the smell of newspapers, especially wet ones? 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

      • Austenfan: I’m afraid so, but then I love the scent of horse manure so I feel a lot of empathy! March 24, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: Some of these bad smells can be so good! 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

      • Gentiana: Wet newspapers remember me of my childhood again… My dad taking from the postbox the “Scinteia” after a heavy rain, trying to dry it near the stove.
        The old gipsy man who brought wonderful snowdrops an willow branches from the forest, wrapped in pieces of newspaper…
        Dry newspaper has a very good smell, as well. And new books. March 24, 2014 at 3:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have a very similar memory of snowdrops and willow branches wrapped in wet newspapers, except that ours usually came from the ladies selling them near the metro stops. The last time I was in Kyiv, I was too late for the spring flowers, but the ladies were still there, selling wild strawberries in newspaper cones. 🙂

          And books! What can smell better than books? 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 3:53pm Reply

          • Gentiana: 🙂 I wonder if only in Eastern Europe are used newspapers for wrapping flowers fruits and diverses…?….
            You are right… The smell of new books and of old books are among the friendliest smells…. Well, depends on how did we relate to books in our early life… 🙂 April 2, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

            • Victoria: I also remember us washing and reusing plastic bags and letting them dry on a clothes line. Back then it was due to the lack of supplies, but now it’s very fashionable and is called recycling. 🙂 April 2, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: I also love the smell of newspapers but I prefer them to be dry and freshly printed. It’s strange but when I smelled Iris Nazarena by Aedes de Venustas, I found it very dry and almost inky and thought it smelled like newspapers. March 24, 2014 at 4:26pm Reply

        • Annikky: Anne, I totally know what you mean. I found IN very dry the first times I tried it, like there had been a year-long drought. And this dust-dry smell has an affinity with the fresh newspaper smell, at least it does to me. March 25, 2014 at 8:50am Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Annikky, glad to know that I wasn’t the only person who got this impression. “A year-long drought” is a good way to express it! It was so dry that it felt like the moisture inside my nose was being sucked out. 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 4:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: I see what you mean about Iris Nazarena. It does have the crinkly paper feeling to me. March 25, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

          • Gentiana: You made me curious about Iris Nazarena.
            I definitely have to smell it.

            Off topic:
            Yesterday I sort of organized my perfume empty bottle collection, on two rows of cupboard. Mom near to heart attack.
            I want to make photos of these bottles.
            I have two big bags of empty samples – I don’t know what to do with them, I don’t want to throw them away, everyone means something for me… Every smell is linked to a memory, a situation or a person.
            One small bag with samples “in use”
            Separately I have a box with perfume bottles with less than 10 ml perfume left (just for the record)
            And about 60 bottles in use.
            Am I the only THAT crazy? April 2, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

            • Victoria: Believe me, Gentiana, you’re not! 🙂 I’m sure you’ll encounter many people among this group who can relate. And brava! This kind of organization is something I aspire to. April 2, 2014 at 3:02pm Reply

      • Annikky: I happen to like the smell of both wet and dry newspapers. I even like the synthetic scent of glossy magazines. But books are the best. March 25, 2014 at 8:45am Reply

        • Victoria: I love them all too! But old books especially make me swoon. The smell of my grandmother’s library to me is like catnip to our Viola. March 25, 2014 at 9:56am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Unconsciously I was training my nose, from childhood on: always smelling at everything.
    I would not say that I have a trained nose, but I love my sense of smelling! I enjoyed your article, the nose is an underrated organ of sense (but not on Bdj).
    The funny thing is that Oscar, my cat, is also of the smelling crowd. I wish he could tell me his impressions when he is smelling everything, including me! March 24, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: My landlady’s cat also loves to sniff around and I also wish that he could tell me what he thinks of me. 🙂 I came across these funny cat videos. Hope you’ll enjoy them!
      2. March 24, 2014 at 9:47am Reply

      • Jillie: Anne, the videos are so funny! I had a cat called Holly who had a foot fetish – the smellier the better. She loved my brother-in-law’s feet above anyone’s, and if she heard his voice she would come running and throw herself at him, with all her paws wrapped around his shoe, waiting for him to take it off so she could sniff and bite him! March 24, 2014 at 11:07am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Very funny videos, thank you, Anne! And the story about Holly is very amusing too. Cats are so funny. We once had a cat who took 3 sips (always 3) sips of wodka or whisky, and then he walked in an oblique line to his basket and slept.
          I bet we catlovers could tell many tales of our funny cats. Before Oscar, I had Heracles. He drank coffee and I had to hide my cigarets, because he wanted to chew tobacco. And he jumped higher than Nurejev. March 24, 2014 at 11:39am Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: You’re welcome. 🙂 Every cat must be special but it sounds like you had some really special cats! My landlady’s cat came to visit again as if nothing has happened (since that unfortunate incident). It’s adorable how he always bumps his head against me and circles around me. March 24, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Jillie, I’m glad that you enjoyed the videos. 🙂 Their expressions are priceless. It’s like them saying “WTH! When was the last time you washed your feet?”. The story of Holly is really cute and hilarious. Were your brother-in-law’s feet actually smelly? 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

      • Ashley Anstaett: Bahaha, thanks for these, Anne! Cats are such peculiar creatures.

        Cornelia, your cats (both Oscar and Heracles before him) sound like the life of the party. What funny guys. March 24, 2014 at 11:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: My mom used to joke that my brother and I were like cats when we were little–we sniffed our food carefully before eating. Sometimes we got scolded for it, but clearly we were onto something. 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

    • Jillie: Cornelia, you know that I think your Oscar and my Symba have a lot in common. Symmie spends an awful lot of his day sniffing absolutely everything! Of course his favourite smell is my perfume, but he is quite indiscriminate – he loves Chamade as much as Eternity. Although sniffing the carpet comes a close second. March 24, 2014 at 11:11am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: How interesting that Symba loves perfume! Most cats don’t. Oscar prefers my hair and my glass of wine. March 24, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

        • Jillie: Oh, Cornelia! Symmie absolutely adores my hair – not to smell particularly, but to touch and stroke. His favourite thing in the whole wide world is to sit on top of my head …. Shortly after we adopted him, when he had already expressed interest in it, he was shocked when he first saw me with a towel around my head. The look on his face was truly comic, as if he was asking “where has your hair gone?”. Perhaps it’s because he thinks hair is a bit like fur, and I have very long hair so there is a lot of it for him to snuggle into and pretend that I am actually his cat mother. March 24, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

          • Mel: My cat Bandit LOVES my hair. Sometimes he tries to burrow his whole head into it – sniffing, licking, and biting it! He literally tries to chew it. Can’t wait to organize a morning sniffing routine with a handful of exotic spices from my kitchen! Maybe I’ll throw Bandit into the mix! March 24, 2014 at 3:00pm Reply

            • Victoria: 🙂 What does Bandit smell like? March 24, 2014 at 3:06pm Reply

              • Mel: Bandit smells like damp grass, hot pavement, salty sun baked into black fur, and lots of love! March 25, 2014 at 12:57am Reply

                • Victoria: He sounds like quite a character! 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

  • Lauren B: This is so helpful, especially since I’ve only gotten into perfume recently. I would read the list of notes for a perfume and realize that I couldn’t call up the smell of coriander in my mind’s nose. Or iris. Or myrrh. Or black currant. Et cetera. I definitely need a bigger mental library of scents. Thanks, Victoria! March 24, 2014 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: That can be confusing, because in perfumery the notes like iris may not even refer to what we associate with this plant (since in perfumery, iris essences comes from the roots, not flowers.) But by simply smelling different perfumes, you figure out some of these notes, and the process itself is so much fun. March 24, 2014 at 10:21am Reply

      • Lauren B: That’s a good point. I’ve heard it’s the same for gardenias – that the only way for the perfume to smell the way the flower does when we put our nose to it is to use headspace technology. And headspace isn’t perfect, obviously. Good perfumery really is about impressions rather than realism. Like Van Gogh! March 24, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

        • Victoria: I like how you put it, and yes, I think that way too. It’s far more interesting to smell not photorealistic vision of a flower, but a perfumer’s own interpretation. March 24, 2014 at 3:28pm Reply

    • Annikky: Lauren, one thing I found helpful – in addition to smelling spices, flowers, fruits and everything else – was sampling by note. I would for example order a bunch of samples of violet soliflores and violet-dominant perfumes and compare them. It has helped me to get to know the notes better.

      The other thing I do is to smell the scent first not knowing much about it and try to figure out what I’m smelling. Then I read the official notes and/or reviews and smell again. I don’t mind if my impressions don’t match the professionals’, but I do get a little kick if I’ve managed to identify something that’s not obvious and it turns out I didn’t imagine it 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

      • Lauren B: I had been curious about what amber could possibly smell like when I read it in the notes of a perfume. Then I smelled Elixir des Merveilles and somehow immediately picked it out. I know the name comes from ambergris, but the scent is still very evocative of the stone amber. To me, at least! March 25, 2014 at 9:20pm Reply

  • Susiebelle: I love to smell … Everything! I’m fascinated with how doctors smelled their patients as part of a diagnosis. I’ve done it myself as a parent by smelling my sons’ breath. When I smell spices, flowers or perfume I will “puppy” sniff. Three short sniffs, break. Repeat. I do long sniffs as well. My nephew is a trained chef and runs an online spice company. He sends me lots of spices – heaven! March 24, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember reading someplace that there are clinical studies that use dogs for detecting certain illnesses. That’s fascinating too.

      And lucky you to have access to great spices! Even something as common as black pepper can make all the difference in a finished dish. March 24, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

  • Nancy A.: This article restores my confidence in a new approach to the sense of smell. I always learned that as we age our senses are diminished or altered and I find this disturbing until what you point out. Now my approach to sniffing out my environment will be a bit more savvy. March 24, 2014 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s true that our sense of smell gets diminishes as we age. But the good news is that with exercising your nose and smelling as much as possible, it’s possible to reverse this process. Even for someone whose sense of smell has already diminished, it’s still possible to improve it. The best part is that smelling is fun. March 24, 2014 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Jillie: Really fascinating, Victoria. I was particularly interested in reading that it’s possible to retrain the sense of smell in people suffering anosmia.

    Now, tell me ….. is there any way I can defeat the bane of my life and learn to love laundry musks?? My nose is so sensitive to these that shopping trips and even (not that close) contact with people whose clothes have been washed with certain detergents and conditioners make me feel ill! I wonder if there is a way I can change my perception? It’s strange that I have only experienced this over the last few years, and I wonder if manufacturers now use different ingredients, or whether I just developed a sensitivity. I still like other musks (thank goodness!), but I notice similar laundry-style musks are creeping into a lot of popular perfumes. March 24, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

    • rainboweyes: I’m with you on the laundry detergent musks, Jillie. I hate the smell of most of them and find them quite obtrusive. The laundry detergent I use has a very subtle smell which doesn’t bother me and blends well with my perfume. But I have a friend whose whole house smells of laundry detergent. I’ve never asked which brand it is but it’s horrible. March 24, 2014 at 2:16pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: Thanks for the great read and lots of valuable hints how to improve our sense of smell! I try to absorb as many scents as I can in my environment during the day – food, tea, spices, wine and of course the scents of flowers and plants in my garden. I have several essential in use as well – vanilla, neroli, orange, rose etc – all from the German brand Primavera. I think their quality is good and they also offer very good organic facial oils.
      I love the idea of a morning sniffing routine, it perfectly makes sense to smell things when your nose is still fresh! March 24, 2014 at 2:33pm Reply

      • Victoria: I heard a couple of recommendations for Primavera, and it seems like they have a variety of essences. I haven’t seen any of them here in Brussels, but if I come across them, I’ll be sure to try them. Thank you!

        When the nose is not yet cluttered by other scents, it’s amazing how much clearly one can smell even the most subtle aromas. March 24, 2014 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: From what I read, it depends on the type of anosmia, but some improvement can be possible. As for liking white musks, oh, Jillie, I don’t know about that. The more I’m exposed to them, the less I like them. 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Michaela: Jillie, you are not alone… For the last several years I’m feeling sick with most floor, bathroom, laundry detergents or conditioners. The same with many, many room conditioners. I prefer incense sticks or perfume candles. March 25, 2014 at 7:19am Reply

  • Evelyn: I’m going to have to try this because I think my nose is broken. lol It’s not that I can’t smell things but to be able to tease out the different notes of a perfume is very difficult for me. The most I can tell you is if I like something or not, not why. 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Evelyn, your nose is definitely not broken! As I mentioned in my comment to Sandra, even professional perfumers don’t smell teasing out notes, and to enjoy a perfume, that’s not required at all. Even just knowing what you like is far more important. And by smelling a lot and smelling consciously, you will be able to expand your olfactory vocabulary. It may happen that you will start recognizing more different scents, too. March 24, 2014 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Cass S.: An excellent article! I definitely have to get into the habit of smelling various aromatics first thing in the morning. For my own sanity, if nothing else, since usually the first smell I wake up to is cat breath.

    Also some good pointers for someone like myself who works with tea on a regular basis. I get a number of customers who can only remember a certain tea by the way it smelled/tasted, and with straight teas especially, it helps to be able to differentiate between, say, the delicate spinachy undertone of Gyokuro versus the wispy smokiness of Clouds and Mist. (Matter of fact, I should definitely set aside a few minutes while I’m at work later to bury my nose in a few different varieties and get acquainted with them all over again.) March 24, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love reading the tea descriptions, because once you mention spinach, I can exactly imagine the taste of some Japanese teas. During my perfumery studies, we were often paired in groups of two to describe scents to each other, and we had to guess from the descriptions what the materials were. It was fascinating, but also very hard. March 24, 2014 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely article.
    As a dog lover I never stop being amazed by just how acute their sense of smell is.
    There have been dogs trained to detect cancerous/malignant cells in cell cultures. They can detect a hyper- or hypoglycaemic coma coming on in a diabetic patient. Which is probably not just based on their sense of smell alone but also has to do with their capacity to read human body language. And they don’t need any training to have this ability. The flat faced breeds tend to have a much worse sense of smell than dogs with “proper” noses. One of the reasons that a Bloodhound is such a great scent tracker is due to the fact that because of all the extra skin folds, long ears and drooling mouth they create quite a humid environment around their nose. That in turn enables them to follow very weak olfactory trails. March 24, 2014 at 1:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s so interesting! I saw a great documentary on dogs and their ability to read our body language. Unlike other animals, they also make an eye contact, which is probably why it feels like they can read our minds. March 24, 2014 at 3:39pm Reply

    • Michaela: Another fascinating documentary was about dogs which detect (without training) and signal (with training) an epilepsy attack about fifteen minutes before and the signaling is different for an easy or a dangerous one. The human knows in time if he/she must find a secure spot to rest a bit or if he/she has to call for help. March 25, 2014 at 7:31am Reply

      • Austenfan: I saw something similar. At least I watched a documentary that showed a British woman afflicted with bad epilepsy who had been given a warning-dog. ( A border collie in this case). He would always warn her 38 minutes in advance so that she could find a safe spot. Her whole life was transformed because of him. The fact that she knew she was safe in spite of her attacks actually reduced the number of attacks she had quite significantly. Wonderful isn’t it? March 25, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

        • Michaela: Really impressive, indeed! March 25, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

  • loledinburgh: Thanks for this very interesting article,Victoria! March 24, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! I’m glad that you liked it. 🙂 March 24, 2014 at 3:39pm Reply

  • Henry: I worked with someone who had undergone a surgery years ago and somehow lost her sense of smell from the anesthesia. I roast my own coffee and grind it at work for my break and I insisted that she at least try to smell it because fresh coffee smells awesome. So she tried and sure enough she was able to detect it. She said that was the only scent she could identify since the surgery — everything else smelled like polystyrene foam! I had asked her if she thought she might be able to retrain her olfactory nerves with other strong, natural scents (like cardamom, rosemary, etc.) but she didn’t think it was possible. March 24, 2014 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a terrible side-effect! Dr. Hirsch was quoted in some interviews saying that through scent training it might even be possible to repair the damaged receptors. I’m sure that it depends on the cause of anosmia and other individual factors, but it doesn’t hurt to try the exercises. March 24, 2014 at 3:47pm Reply

  • Gentiana: Thank you for this great article!
    What a good way to improve our nose – and have fun!
    Somehow, I did this instinctively since my childhood, but not as a workout, every morning/ day but for fun anytime was something worth to smell around me. And I grow up in e very colorful and scented environment – from flowergarden (all colors, incl. the Big Whites), lillac and jasmine bushes, green grass, cut grass, hay, earth, barnyard, chicken, river, mud, bushes, beech forest, fir forest, mosses, mom’s cookies, the fantastic spices in the cupboard, the mysterious attic, my grandpa’s mill (wheat flour, corn flour, old wooden trunks), grandma’s bread dough and the oven…. Well, thinking at my olfactory memories, I feel being very rich!
    Since about ten years I smell everyday at least three to five (sometimes up to eight) perfumes – as I get them – new or known, samples or from my wardrobe. It is like a cure for me – stress relief and soothing in the evening, cheering up in the morning.
    What a good idea to smell three of different categories! You gave me a fresh new start in my scents’ exploration.
    Thank you! March 24, 2014 at 2:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your description of your memories is so vivid that I could picture it all as I read. And I could even smell the grass, wet soil and mosses. The attic in our old house also had the most fascinating smell–cardboard, old clothes, old books, sawdust, pine sap and wet wood.

      I also can’t agree more when you say that smelling is like a cure for you. Smelling something wonderful is the best way to de-stress and relax. March 24, 2014 at 3:50pm Reply

      • Gentiana: As a lot of the people here, most of my memories have an olfactory component, or a strong link to a smell – agreable or disagreable.
        Yes, you guessed, you reflected so well my memories… Might be that the olfactory universe of country side in Ukraine is enough close to that in Romania.
        But attics… You described it so exactlyl… I think attics smell pretty similar all around the world… All of them are fascinating … April 2, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

        • Victoria: Although I haven’t been to Romania, I found this to be true even for Belgium and Ukraine. There are so many smells around Brussels that remind me of Kiev, especially when the seasons change–blooming chestnut trees, certain kinds of shrubs, flowers, etc. April 2, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Merlin: What a reassuring article! I often worry about how ‘blunt’ my nose is so its really good to know that there are ways of sharpening it. I get hay fever often and frequently take antihistamines which can also (apparently) affect ones nose for the worse. So often I try a perfume in a shop and simply can’t smell anything. Sometimes I need to come back repeatedly to the same scent before my nose is able to detect it!

    I remember, a long time ago, before I became seriously interested in smelling and in perfume, I was actually unable to smell Kenzo’s Flower. My nose just didn’t register anything! Now I find it quite a strong scent, so I guess that is proof that improvement is possible. Still, I fear my nose will always be temperamental:) March 24, 2014 at 3:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember if I told you this story, but one of the perfumers I worked with always said that the worst perfumer she knew was the one who had the sharpest nose in the company. Unfortunately, he completely lacked imagination, which made his work unexciting. In other words, please don’t worry about not being able to smell some notes or even some perfumes. Just enjoy smelling and smell a lot. A nice side effect is that you will start noticing more scents and recognizing them. March 25, 2014 at 8:51am Reply

  • Igor: I, personally, remember events, people, cities, situations not only by images, but by smell. Some situations have a very distinctive smell to them that I remember. For the longest time I would only remember just the major strong smell. But I read in some books about exercises similar to what you describe here. I decided to start off with very fragrant items (just as you advise), coffee, oranges, grapefruit, roses, lemons. Over a period of time, even those ingredients would offer newer and newer notes . I would further experiment, by putting them on my skin too. Training is very time consuming, but a lovely way to discover a world around you. March 24, 2014 at 3:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a cool way to memorize events and places, Igor! 🙂

      The kind of exercises I describe here aren’t time consuming at all, which is why I selected them. It really depends on how much time you want to devote to smelling. Professional training, on the other hand, is of course, another matter, and it requires a very different, systematic approach. March 25, 2014 at 8:54am Reply

  • Judy Ware: Thank you so much for the interesting and encouraging article. My sense of smell has been dulled by age and terrible sinus problems, but I am going to start (today) with the exercises you recommend. It has been frustrating for a perfume lover like me to have a less than great sense of smell. March 24, 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wish you luck, Judy, and I hope that above all, you enjoy the exercises. If you have time, writing down your impressions really helps, and you can refer to your notes to see how much you’ve improved. March 25, 2014 at 8:56am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Victoria, thanks for a great article and the assurance that with time and practice every one of us can improve their smell. Since I started my foray into perfumes 2 years ago I’ve been sticking my nose into everything. I was thrilled to get for Christmas the “Perfumery Notes Kit” from the Perfumer’s Apprentice website (cost $95). It contains 40 vials of samples of popular perfume ingredients (pre-diluted and ready to sniff just REALLY hard to open as the lids are screwed on so tight). It comes with a book that explains the notes at a very high level and which famous perfumes contain it but I found after reading just a couple of the pages I would mix everything up in my head. So, I spent my Christmas holidays creating an Excel spreadsheet and sorting the 40 smells into logical groupings so I could smell them in ‘sets’. I came up with 13 categories (citrus, synthetics, musk& animal, wood&moss, spices& vanilla, aromatics & herbs, white florals, green florals, violet florals, coloured florals, gourmand) a la Roudnitska. Next I did the research on the ingredients so that I had a bit more of a visual image and context what the items were (otherwise it was just a bunch of obscure chemical names to me). Thank goodness for the internet! I also found it interesting that the descriptions for some of the synthetics varied a lot between the chemical companies so you really learn that it is not an exact science. Finally I started smelling a set or two per weekend. It has been a great exercise as I’ve always heard of ingredients such as aldehyde C12 or C14, or Vetiver but they did not smell like I expected them too. Having in the past only smelled them as part of a mix has made it hard to distinguish which part of a perfume is which ingredient. I must say that I’m surprised also at how unpleasant some of them smell. My respect for the perfumer’s art has increased as I realize it takes skill to mix such odd smells and come up with a beauty. At least some have also been a lovely introduction. I’ve enjoyed the green, earthy smell of Galbanum, the honey and Sauterne-like smell of Helichrysum, Frankincense and the Rose absolute. I still have a few more sets to go. And then I shall have to repeat the sniffing as they haven’t stuck in my head yet. Luckily when I’m done with this set I can always wish for one of the other kits (either the aroma chemicals or natural ingredients). The only down side with the kits is that the vials are relatively large so it would be nice to share with others as you could never sniff it all by yourself. If anyone is ever in Montreal (Canada) I would gladly share my kit with them. March 24, 2014 at 6:48pm Reply

    • Anka: Wow, this is impressive, MontrealGirl – thanks for sharing your experience and the Perfumer’s Apprentice website. I wish you lived in Berlin…
      Now I’ll google Roudnitska’s 13 categories as I consider them quite helpful. March 25, 2014 at 4:54am Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Anka, You will find the link to the article “The Novice and his Perfume Palette” as published in the Dragoco Report by Roudniska on this site:

        It is a marvellous read. You will see that he had a different set of categories but that the concept is the same, and useful, to train the nose. March 25, 2014 at 6:42pm Reply

        • Gentiana: Thank you for the hint on Roudnitska’s articles.
          I am day by day happier for being part of this perfumistas’ community. April 2, 2014 at 8:04am Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Victoria, I just took the opportunity to re-read Roudnitska’s article and amused myself at his suggestions of how to prepare one’s nose. There’s lots of good stuff in it but thank goodness you didn’t suggest, like he does, to approach smelling with breakfast at 6 am, a 30 minute morning jog to prep the nose and literally using a stopwatch to time the sniffs and breaks! 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: Roudnitska was a character! I remember reading that article during my first year of perfumery studies and feeling rather overwhelmed. I did use the timer to remind myself to smell the drydown of materials on blotters at certain intervals, but no, I didn’t rise to breakfast and a morning job before dawn. 🙂 March 26, 2014 at 6:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Wow, how impressive! If you can find a few people with whom to practice, you’re on the way of being your own perfume school. 🙂

      If you have a chance to try natural essences from another company, it would be a good idea. I’m not sure what to recommend in Canada, though, but I will ask around. March 25, 2014 at 9:16am Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Thanks Victoria! I would like to head towards the naturals so any advice you could give on good sources would be great. March 25, 2014 at 6:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can only recommend Enfleurage in NYC, since from what I’ve smelled of their oils, they were very good quality. Unfortunately, adulteration of natural essences, especially when it comes to expensive floral absolutes is very common, and even some reliable dealers often can’t safeguard against it. March 26, 2014 at 6:42am Reply

          • MontrealGirl: Thanks for the recommendation, Victoria! I recall reading that Enfleurage had a great gardenia essence so I gladly give them a try for natural essences. I was aware of adulteration being a serious, systemic problem for olive oil and saffron but I didn’t realize it was a problem with natural essences. Good to know. March 26, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

            • Victoria: It’s far worse for natural essences, even the inexpensive ones, so when it comes to rose or jasmine, all bets are off. At Enfleurage I bought very good Omani frankincense, great lavender, vetiver and smelled some of their sustainably obtained ouds. The frankincense they had was my favorite, both the essence and the tears. March 27, 2014 at 6:23am Reply

  • Belle Ya g: Serendipity. I had been thinking about asking you to write about retraining the nose to connect to my brain. Ever since I began taking medication for a chronic illness, my sense of smell seemed to have wilted. So I’ve been buying perfume and sniffing perfumes every chance I get. I smell flowers, essential oils, spices, hoping to regain some of my former sensitivity to smells. And it has worked to an extent. Smells which I could no longer distinguish come back within the week when I tease my nose throughout the days and weeks. It’s been an journey of awareness and I am incredibly happy when I can pick out strands of notes. Your website has been a fabulous tool. Thank you for your poetic, succinct and instructive writing.
    Belle Yang March 24, 2014 at 7:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Belle! What you describe is familiar to me. I always love how unfamiliar smells suddenly become recognizable and how you notice lemon and rose in the aroma of magnolia or clove in cherries. I wish you a quick recovery. If you’ve already noticed an improvement, I’m sure things will get better with more exposure. March 25, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

  • Belle Yang: Victoria, is the use of Ayurveda salt nasal rinse good, bad or indifferent for the health of our nasal health and specifically for improving the sense of smell? March 24, 2014 at 8:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: You need to ask Austenfan, who has medical experience. I can’t do any nasal rinses without feeling like I’m about to drown. I’m probably not doing them right, but my nose seems to be fine without them. 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

    • Austenfan: I’m not and never have been an ENT expert. However during my internship in ENT a lot of the consultants would recommend saline rinses for the nose, especially in people with allergies and associated problems.
      The concentration should be equal to our own saline concentration, that way it will never irritate the mucous membranes. If you add 9 grams of NaCl to 1000 ml of water you are fine.
      Are the rinses necessary? No. Will they harm you? No. Personally I can’t see how they would improve your sense of smell.But that maybe due to limitations in my knowledge. March 25, 2014 at 12:48pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thanks so much! This is very helpful. March 25, 2014 at 1:19pm Reply

  • Solanace: Thank you so much for this brilliant article, Victoria! I try to stimulate my kids noses (our culture being excessively vision-centered and full of abstractions to my taste) by giving them flowers, herbs and spices to smell. I also ask the boy to smell my wrist and share his thoughts on it – we have a super polluted river close by that is often mentioned as a note, let me say that. 🙂 Lemon and jasmin flowers are sniffed here on a daily basis, since we have those almost year round. 🙂 Now I’ll be able to propose (and do myself) these comparison smelling sessions, which sound very efffective, not to mention just plain fun! March 25, 2014 at 5:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Very glad that you liked it! In the end, the exposure is what makes the most difference. It’s no wonder that people who grew up surrounded by many different scents since their early childhood retain their abilities easily. For instance, my mother-in-law often cooks by smell, rather than by taste. March 25, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

  • Michaela: Added to favorites right now! Brilliant article, thank you so much! I adore a lot of scents: books, sourdough, leather, almost all flowers, grass, fir tree (needles and resin), maybe all the spices and fruits, cocoa, coffee, teas, kefir, mint, rosemary, some fine wines, cognac, hot bread, snow, honey, toasted mushrooms… but now I’ll try to be a bit more organized following your tips. I feel them really helpful. I’m so happy I found out I’d not necessarily lose my sense of smell with age. I’ll never equal my dogs in this matter but at least I can improve 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 5:37am Reply

    • Victoria: I love reading what others find pleasant smelling, because there is always something that seems unexpected and yet very interesting. Like kefir mentioned by you–it has a sour, milky smell, but there is also a distinctive green apple note. Since I grew up on that stuff, I can’t get enough of it. 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

  • Figuier: What an inspiring article! On reading it I immediately lifted my coffee cup up to my face & tried to notice the different scent components, oily green, nutty, toasted, along with the hay-warm sweetness of milk.

    It’s particularly exciting wrt the potential for improving a poor sense of smell. DH, although he has strong likes and dislikes, often simply can’t smell odours that I consider quite strong (wine being an exception;). I’ve always thought it was more to do with the fact that he simply doesn’t engage his nose/brain very often; now I have confirmation I’m ready to return to my campaign of sticking my wrist under his nose and asking him his opinion 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 6:16am Reply

    • solanace: My DH is so resitent to plunging into the perfume world! Not that this attitude will ever spare him any sniffing, but whenever I ask him to smell my wrist, he will either say ‘nice’ (most often, thankfully) or ‘strong’. He once said he didn’t want to narrow down my choices, which is very sweet indeed. But I think he is lying. 🙂 I believe he still secretly hopes my perfume mania will pass at some point, the poor thing… March 25, 2014 at 8:29am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Good luck! Based on my experience with my formerly non-perfumista husband, he found himself a bit cornered if I stuckk a wrist under his nose and asked his opinion. He didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what he was smelling and he had no idea what sort of answer I wanted. The breakthrough came when I was studying perfumery and brought the aromatics home with me. I would ask him to test me by dipping blotters in the diluted essences and handing them to me. I had to describe them and he would correct me, looking up the notes before him. Of course, this is not something I’d recommend to you and your DH, but what if you go to wine tastings or even have your own at home (chocolate tasting work well too!) It’s easier for people to describe the smells and tastes of food than perfumes. Just an idea! March 25, 2014 at 9:49am Reply

      • Figuier: That’s a good point…I should probably avoid turning perfume into a form of torture! chocolate especially sounds like an ideal place to start, we’re both big fans of ultra-dark varieties & there are so many ‘notes’ to notice, from coffee to fruit to vanilla. March 25, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

        • Victoria: Plus, what a delicious way to train your nose and palate. 🙂 March 25, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

  • Elia: Nice article, thanks.
    I had a question about the ‘affordable hobby’ link you referenced; in it you say no 19 is one of the most expensive formulas out there. Does that mean you know the formula? Or just the approximate cost? How much is an expensive formula (juice only)?
    ty March 25, 2014 at 6:30am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome, Elia! March 25, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

  • Andy: I’ve gotten wonderful ideas from this article. It’s typical for me to smell things when I get up every morning, with no rhyme or reason, but these exercises make me want to add some structure to my “routine.” Thank you! March 25, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad to share, Andy! For me, it’s also easier to do some of these things in the morning, whether it’s my smelling exercises or my regular workouts. 🙂 And then I feel like my day has started productively. March 25, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

  • Eucalyptus: I’m a preschool teacher and often change 40 diapers per day. I seem to shut down my sense of smell so I can deal with this without gagging. All the other teachers will say, “Johnny has a dirty diaper … Phew!” But after 5 years as a teacher, I can no longer smell it! I seem to smell things fine outside of preschool, but inside preschool my smell-sense shuts down automatically. Anyone else have an experience like this? March 25, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: This is totally normal. Our noses are very adaptable, and if you’re surrounded by a strong smell, after a while you stop noticing it. The first time people enter a perfume lab, they get almost dizzy from the mixture of odors, but over time, one gets used to the smells and they don’t seem overly strong. You can even smell other things over them. March 25, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

  • Segolene: Great article! As a former intern in the evaluations department at Firmenich Inc., I can tell you that it is all about practicing and training your nose to smell in order to become more familiar. If you aren’t smelling everyday, it takes a bit to get back into the swing of things. I’ve never considered doing this morning ritual of smelling with differing families, but I might try it. Smelling is an unbelievable talent and also a beautiful sense we obtain…people should use it more often to see the true beauty that comes with it. March 25, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Segolene. As you say, it’s amazing how much you notice and how much more colorful the world around you becomes, once you start using your nose more often.

      The morning smelling tip is terrific, and it really makes a great difference. March 25, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Henry: I loved this article and l will definitely try this and follow your advice. I have already trained my nose for day to day things like tea, coffee and grocery. But for scents my nose is still untrained except my favorite scents. I hope I will improve in this also by following your advice.

    Thanks for sharing this article and giving idea for training my nose 🙂 🙂 March 28, 2014 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: The exercise with spices really helps you to learn notes as well, if that’s what you’re interested in. Hope that you enjoy it! March 28, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

  • Sandy S: Very interesting article. It sounds very logical to give your nose a workout along with everything else. It’s actually something I had never thought about but I will pay more attention to it now. April 9, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! April 9, 2014 at 1:33pm Reply

      • Chase R: Thank you for this wonderful article i plan on trying these exercise’s because i love to cook and i always try to do my best for my family and i usually smell the spices and my friends think i’m out of my mind for it. December 28, 2014 at 8:56pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re doing the right thing! 🙂 Smelling is one of the best exercises for our brains, and it’s so enjoyable too. December 29, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

  • leighanne: What a great article! Thank you! Im actually off to study a course in perfume next week (right from the basics) so Im going to practise some of your techniques until then. Tell me, why do you not recommend smelling straight from essential oils and rather diluting them? February 22, 2016 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: They are too strong pure, and they will cause an olfactory overload instantly. February 22, 2016 at 3:25pm Reply

      • leighanne: Ah! Good to know, thank you Victoria 🙂 February 23, 2016 at 10:28am Reply

  • azalleo: An interesting article! I have been experiencing interference on the nose. The nose section left me feeling like there is a blockage doesn’t work. This I feel when I breathed the breath of my nose and hempaskan in the Palm of the hand, just to the right of the nose that the air. I will try the exercise with the aroma therapy as you suggest.

    Thank you August 5, 2016 at 2:50am Reply

  • Karina: I’m a bit late for the discussion but wanted to ask you Victoria (and congratulate you on your blog and beautiful writing) what do you mean by… a whole year of 9 to 5 smelling to recognize materials? referring to students learning to recognize what they’re smelling. I was just curious about the process professional noses go through to achieve that. March 3, 2017 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Karina. Yes, at the perfumery school you smell for the entire day and learn different materials. Quite tough! March 6, 2017 at 11:14am Reply

  • Alexandra Fraser: Hello Victoria. I’m rather late to this discussion also. But have been thinking I need a lot more
    smell variety in my writing ( so easy to be all visual) and I turned of course to your website and all your wonderful knowledge. I immediately started smelling what is to hand – post-its and sticky tape pens old and new books and a beautifully coloured Miltoniopsis orchid on my desk which I had thought too pretty to have much scent. But it is subtle and fascinating. That and the sellotape and something from the spice rack will be my morning exercise for the next couple of days
    Thank you so much for all the work and knowledge you put into these posts March 16, 2017 at 10:02pm Reply

  • Priya: Great article. Thanks for sharing this info. These are great tips to improve sense of smell. February 1, 2018 at 4:54am Reply

  • ETHEL J PARKER: I most definitely wish to receive comment notifications, Thank You ! March 11, 2018 at 3:47am Reply

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