Take me on a smelling spree.
October 6, 2010 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Through surgery, I regained my full sense of smell today. I haven't smelled clearly since 2006. I live in Washington, DC. It's brisk Fall. Feeling 100%. What should I go smell this week?
posted by metajc to Grab Bag (61 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I'm thinking of a good bakery or coffeehouse.
posted by crapmatic at 2:34 PM on October 6, 2010

Go to a wine bar with some friends for a tasting of some special wines. Taste is all about smell.
posted by Dasein at 2:35 PM on October 6, 2010

bakeries! newborns! chocolatiers! parks for the leaves. any place with fresh cut grass, maybe a golf course. mulled spiced cider or wine. a perfume shop (or just go to sephora). someplace with a wood stove or fireplace. fresh fruit-- especially strawberries although they arent in season, but who cares?
posted by buka at 2:37 PM on October 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

apples! pumpkin pie!
posted by sawdustbear at 2:40 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! That's great news! This is the best time of year for smelling... people have begun to burn fires in fireplaces, and soon there'll be wonderful baked goods around: pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon aromas... enjoy it!

If you want to be intentional, I say go visit a bakery, cafe, coffee shop, or barbecue joint. The smells make up half the atmosphere in those places!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:40 PM on October 6, 2010

Congratulations! Your favorite foods must be on the list. If you cook or bake, the scent of the layers of ingredients as they come together - from cinnamon to browning butter to baking cookie dough. Or roasted short ribs. Walk through a flowers' market. The ocean, if you can get to it. The smell of old books. Go to a store and pick a naturally scented soap by sniffing though a bunch of them!
posted by serunding at 2:40 PM on October 6, 2010

Congratulations! Fresh fruit is a good one--I was thinking apples, mangoes if you can get them, oranges.

Coffee (there has to be a Starbucks near you in D.C., it's practically a law), love the fresh-cut grass idea, flowers are cliche' for a reason. Go to a nice steakhouse for dinner!
posted by misha at 2:42 PM on October 6, 2010

The sewer. Homeless people. Dumpsters. Dog poop.

You might as well remember the bad smells on purpose instead of wandering around some day and getting a waft by surprise.

After that, beer and wine.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:42 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go to places that may remind you of smells of your youth. A dusty corner of a library. An antique shop. A candy store. A park you used to go to. Public transit. A cafeteria. A pizza cafe. The zoo. Your friend's houses.

I'd also try and hit a cheese shop. An Indian, Italian, Mexican restaurant. Pets! Anyone around you have a puppy? Near a botanical garden? 2nd the coffee. An Asian spice store could be fun.

And get your hair cut at a good salon that uses fancy shampoos and conditioners.

Congrats and welcome to the wonderful world of olfaction!
posted by dog food sugar at 2:43 PM on October 6, 2010

If you have a car, the roses at The Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden in Arlington may still be in bloom.
posted by darksong at 2:47 PM on October 6, 2010

This must be the best day in your life! Fall, eh? Find a high-end grocery and get you some Porcini and Chanterelles.
Otherwise seconding smells of youth.
posted by Namlit at 2:50 PM on October 6, 2010

Wine tasting.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:50 PM on October 6, 2010

A pushcart grilling sausages, peppers, and onions.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:53 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Previously, related.
posted by halogen at 2:54 PM on October 6, 2010

fish tacos. heh
posted by jchaw at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2010

puppies, uni, oranges, scotch, tire shops, skunks, wintergreen, band-aids.

Avoid the perfume counter of major department stores. Oh, and locker rooms, but I guess that goes without saying.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:57 PM on October 6, 2010

A nice Quince, if you can find one at a farmers market.
posted by gyusan at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2010

Find an apple orchard hosting a bonfire....then go to a movie theater for the popcorn!
posted by motsque at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2010

You should go to the Washington Capitals home opener on Saturday night. Smell the fresh sheet of ice, the hot dogs, the beers, the BBQ, the nacho grande.

Ask to speak to one of the Capitals service people, explain your new found sense so maybe they will take you down to the locker room after the game and let you smell one of the most unique stenches of all: hockey gear\player stench.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary, sage, thyme. Oh man, I need to go find some rosemary to stick my nose into.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:02 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

My boss worked at a gas company for years. About 20 years ago he lost his sense of smell. He's been taking steroids for a sinus infection recently, and regained his sense of smell. Yesterday I caught him in our lab smelling propane just for the pure stink of it.
posted by sanka at 3:03 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Drive to the beach! Go to the mountains and smell the wild!
posted by mareli at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2010

Why, the very best smell of all, of course: puppy breath!
posted by HotToddy at 3:13 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: BREAD
posted by ArgentCorvid at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2010

posted by lizabeth at 3:19 PM on October 6, 2010

The luscious scents of sex. Run your nose along every nook and cranny and enjoy.

And then afterward you can smell fall leaves and maybe some coffee or something.
posted by Mouse Army at 3:20 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A baby.
posted by thejoshu at 3:20 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Came in to suggest you find a mother who will let you snuggle her baby. Others apparently agree.
posted by ms.v. at 3:22 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Go to the US Botanic Gardens right off the Mall! So, so many delightful smells. There's an orchid that smells like CHOCOLATE.

Speaking of, get some good chocolate. And maybe some subtly flavored truffles. You can get fantastic things at ACKC.

The arboretum might be worth a trip, too. Maybe the day after some rain, so you get the lovely wet leaves smell. You should be able to find roses still blooming somewhere around this city... I know around Mt. Pleasant there are several houses with a few roses left on bushes.

Next spring and summer will be amazing for you. Saucer magnolias, honeysuckle, cherry blossoms, some other little tiny flower on bushes on fences that I don't know the name of... I am so excited for you! I've always had my sense of smell and I still can't resist smelling them most days.
posted by SugarAndSass at 3:35 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Pumpkin pie and coffee. Fresh bread. Mulled cider. Any sort of woodsmoke outside. Good pipe tobacco. And the winter holidays are right around the corner!

posted by jquinby at 3:35 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have any favorite old things that normally live in a closet or trunk? Go pull them out and smell them. Likewise, if your parents live nearby in the house you grew up in (and if you think it will bring up good memories) go visit.

Coming home is always the best smell.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:39 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: The woman (or man) you love's freshly washed hair.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:45 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Wood. Go to a furniture store and smell some cedar. If you can get to a hardware store, smell the freshly cut wood. Break off some needles from a pine tree.

I love smelling essential oils, which they have in organic food stores and the like.

Grinding coffee. Or just coffee in general-- not from a coffee shop, though. Go to the grocery store where all the specialty coffees are and smell them. Hazelnut, pinon, vanilla...

I'm not sure what flowers are in bloom in DC, but there are always florists for other ones.

Newsprint/newspapers. Magazines. New books. Old books.

Specialty soap/candle stores. Even the big box stores have all the Christmas-scented candles out by now.

Stinky cheeses. (If you're into that sort of thing.)

Leather. Wool. Latex. Vinyl Halloween costumes.

There's a very specific smell that some baby dolls have that I love that reminds me of childhood, which I love. Sometimes you can also find it in plastic shower curtains.

Fall hot drinks: tea, hot cider, cocoa.

Foods that make everything smell amazing when you cook them: curry, anything with garlic, bacon, roasting chile, everything baked, fajitas.


Test drive a car for new car smell (or just sit in one at the dealership).

Any heirlooms you have that have kept family house and perfume smells on them.

Most Asian grocery stores have wonderful scents from the spices there.

Whatever your favorite cleaning supplies are, if you have any-- citronella or whatever is in windex or bleach or whatever else. If you have good associations with that.

Are there places in DC or festivals or anything where there are carriage rides? Or even mounted police? Because horse smell can be awesome.

Chlorine (pools, fountains).

Baby powder/wipes. (Or the aforementioned actual baby.)

Freshly laundered clothes. Dryer sheets.

Candy stores-- not just the fancy ones but the cheapy ones where you buy quantities of gummies from scoops.

Craft supplies: glue/glue sticks, markers, paint, fresh paper. Whatever you used as a kid.
posted by NoraReed at 3:46 PM on October 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

How utterly awesome--awful about the last three years, but wow for today.

Walking outside smelling slightly decaying leaves and earth, making coffee, a pizzeria, the rotisserie chicken section of the supermarket, a long shower involving your favorite soap, shampoo, and hair products. A long slow sniff of the bottom of a dog's paw.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2010

Go stand on one of those ventilation grates near a Metro station. Listen for the sound of the train, and inhale that updraft of the unique Metro smell. Like electricity, a wool sweater, and The Future.

Head to a used book store - Second Story, Idle Time, or The Lantern - and flip through some yellowed old novels with your face just above the pages.

Walk around National airport for that wonderful acrid smell of jet fuel and business travelers' cologne.

A pedestrian underpass, or the space beneath many bridges, has a particular scent. Not a great scent, but an unmistakable and evocative odor of damp leaves, diesel and pee.
posted by itstheclamsname at 4:06 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you like the coffee thing that 5,000 others here have suggested, it's worth noting that Sidamo (417 H St NE) roast their own beans...usually in the morning.
posted by schmod at 4:06 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Almond-scented anything. Casswell Massey makes a remarkably good almond lotion. Or just open a bottle of almond extract and sniff away. How wonderful to have this sense returned to you!
posted by shortyJBot at 4:33 PM on October 6, 2010

Hay and manure, preferably together.
posted by jgirl at 4:56 PM on October 6, 2010

indian food!

okay i am kind of hungry now.
posted by janepanic at 4:58 PM on October 6, 2010

your own shoes - just to be sure.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 5:12 PM on October 6, 2010

Here's an odd one: Books of loved ones, both alive and departed. I discovered when my grandfather passed away & I acquired a bunch of his books that they hold the scent of their owners' environment for a looong time. It's been almost ten years, and I can still conjure the most amazing olfactory memories by opening his books and pressing my nose agains the midline.
posted by Ys at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: I think you should give all of the people you love hugs and smell them.

And then find a way to drive to the ocean and get as close as you can to the water before getting out of the car, because that way the ocean smell will hit you at full bore.
posted by colfax at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2010

Dirt. Oh, dirt. Rich, loamy soil, with rotten wood from the old fence and a little manure. Get it in your fingernails, shovel it around til you're a bit tired, and smell your hands.
posted by notsnot at 5:59 PM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: I am making an excel spreadsheet from this list! I will smell all that I can smell this weekend. Please keep the ideas coming!
posted by metajc at 6:04 PM on October 6, 2010

Can I ask what this surgery was? I'm having balloon sinuplasty and turbinate reduction in a month.
posted by PSB at 6:14 PM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, no one ever wrote down the name of the procedure. (It was very long and medical-sounding.)

Basically, I had nasal polyps removed from my sinus cavity with lasers. Today, I had the residual scabs and muck vacuumed out.

I can feel the breeze coursing through my head.

I am not my own doctor but I believe the whole thing started after 15 years of smoking, 18 years of my parents' smoking, 15 years of my friends' smoking, 30 years of society's smoking, and was exacerbated the week in 2006 during which I was trapped in a van with an open canister of mold and gasoline. YMMV
posted by metajc at 6:24 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

there is a great pumpkin patch in centerville, virginia! smell pumpkins and wet dirt!

go to the takoma park or mcphereson square or dupont circle or any farmers' market and smell apples, and squash and fall veggies and fruits and herbs!

oh, and a bakery! go smell bread and pies being made! oh and stews! le pain quotidien would be good for that!

go to a gym and smell sweaty people!

oh and old musty sweaters! you'll find those in coffee shops (that smell good too!) or used clothing stores!

oh, and with permission, smell babies! they smell so good! especially when they've just taken a bath!

yay for your nose!
posted by anya32 at 6:46 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: You have a Lush store in DC. The smell will hit you from down the block if they have their doors open, and will only get crazier as you go inside. All their smells are mostly derived from real flowers, essential oils, etc. so even though it reeks to high heaven, it's a good kind of reek and not a cheap kind.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:40 PM on October 6, 2010

Lush. Oh yes. I was in the mall at Tyson's Corner a few months back, turned a random corner and just knew there was a Lush store nearby by the lovely, unmistakable fragrance.

Avoid Yankee Candle stores, though. Too many heavy fragrances at once.

Too bad we don't have a vinegar factory in DC. There's one in Baltimore, near the intersection of Cold Spring Lane and Jones Falls Expressway, that produces wonderful sharp smells that complement the earthy scents of autumn beautifully.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:35 PM on October 6, 2010

Yourself, your loved ones. Got a really old bag of "to donate" clothes? - smell yourself [at an earlier age]?


Beer. Go to some own-brew restaurant/pub and get their tasting menu; 8 ounces (or so) of each of their brews. Smell the differences =)
posted by porpoise at 8:54 PM on October 6, 2010

I am so excited for you!!!

My suggestion to you is to take some coffee beans along with you on your smell-o-rama tour, especially if you seek out stronger, man-made smells, like soaps and perfumes. Sniffing the coffee beans every now and then will neutralize the strong smells and cleanse your schnoz-palate, so to speak, so you don't become too overwhelmed with all of the scents.

Happy sniffing!
posted by chara at 10:00 PM on October 6, 2010

If you are a cat person, and have access to a neutered boy cat, sometimes their pheromone glands (where the forehead whiskers are) smell like graham crackers.


What NoraReed said.
posted by freshwater at 11:12 PM on October 6, 2010

Head over to Eastern Market. Outside you'll find produce and flower vendors. Inside you'll find various stalls with cheesemongers, butchers, hispanic food, fresh seafood, etc.

A great place to visit regardless of your olfactory situation, but you'll do well there.
posted by bardic at 11:36 PM on October 6, 2010

Crayons, play doh & fresh linens. I'm so excited for you!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:11 AM on October 7, 2010

The underside of moss smells rather like camphor.
posted by montoia at 1:52 AM on October 7, 2010

Incense in a Catholic church.
posted by venividivici at 6:00 AM on October 7, 2010

Seconding Eastern Market this weekend. It'll be a gorgeous day, so all the vendors will be out. There will be hot apple cider and crepes and pickles and cheese and fancy soap all over the place. Top it all off with pupusas at Tortilla Cafe.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:12 AM on October 7, 2010

Came in to say crayons but Space Kitty beat me to it. Open a fresh box of Crayolas and take a deep whiff. Also, Pink Pearl erasers.
posted by yawper at 6:52 AM on October 7, 2010

Lighter fluid-- a filled Zippo, that is. (Unless it will make you want cigarettes again!)
posted by travertina at 7:38 AM on October 7, 2010

Let this be a good excuse to bake. Make bread with sesame oil, cinnamon rolls, brownies, anything you love. Enjoy the smell of it coming out of the oven. Much of our sense of taste is wired to smell - you will be in for a treat.
posted by mippy at 8:52 AM on October 7, 2010

Well, it's coming up on Halloween, so you could trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.
posted by xedrik at 9:16 AM on October 8, 2010

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