+1 Smoke -1 Fire?
May 10, 2011 3:09 PM   Subscribe

What could cause someone to smell like clean campfire wood smoke--besides camping by a fire?

If a person smells like woodsmoke and they are not wearing scent, not camping, and not smoking, where might it come from?
posted by MidSouthern Mouth to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
BBQ restaurant? At a friend's house with a fireplace? Near a grill using wood? On a patio with a fire pit? I suppose you could get the smoke-flavoring that comes in a bottle on you as well.
posted by Tchad at 3:11 PM on May 10, 2011

posted by barnone at 3:13 PM on May 10, 2011

peaty scotch
posted by lizbunny at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: @barnone see "not smoking"
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:15 PM on May 10, 2011

I'm a chemist. I've come home from work smelling all kinds of strange.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:16 PM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

I used to go camping with with my friend, who was a first-grade teacher. We'd always be back on a Sunday, and inevitably, the next day in school, her students always asked why she smelled like smoke. She obviously would have showered and changed clothes by then. We finally figured out that the plastic frames on her eyeglasses absorbed the smoke smell!

Could this person have been near a fire at some point, but something s/he's wearing still have the lingering smell of the smoke?
posted by HeyAllie at 3:16 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Tchad for "not camping" read "not near any obvious plausible fire sources for periods of time"...

that's what's so mysterious...
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:17 PM on May 10, 2011

Leather, cedar, wood, moss, and smoke are all cologne/fragrance trends I've noticed lately. Like this Portland shop that trends this way.
posted by rumposinc at 3:17 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @HeyAllie that is a good one! but this occurred without glasses, sorry.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:17 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: I swear this is not some frustrating riddle. This occurred with a nonsmoking close friend who had no idea why she smelled of clean wood smoke. I was not unpleasant.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:18 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: @atthecrossroads that might fit-- I'll have to ask her tomorrow. I know she loves chai but that's not quite the smell is it?
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:19 PM on May 10, 2011

Giving Ron Swanson a hug?
posted by AceRock at 3:21 PM on May 10, 2011 [10 favorites]

posted by ttyn at 3:22 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: @rumpsoinc that makes sense too but when I asked her she said the didn't have any on
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:26 PM on May 10, 2011

A friend of mine has pine tar shampoo that makes her smell strongly of campfire, but I bet your friend would have noticed if that were it.
posted by Vibrissa at 3:38 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Though perhaps she uses a daily product, Aveda shampoos come to mind, that reacts with her skin in such a way that the impression is woody or smoky. My personal chemistry makes almost all vanilla-based anythings smell floral, for example.
posted by rumposinc at 3:46 PM on May 10, 2011

a product like this?
posted by gaspode at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2011

I tend to smell like wood smoke after bicycling for long periods of time in late autumn or winter but that may or may not be relevant to your question. Still, it's one reason.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:51 PM on May 10, 2011

Do other people smell the same smell?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:03 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cooking with liquid smoke? Though I suppose she would remember using it and then not be wondering why she smells like smoke.
posted by motsque at 4:12 PM on May 10, 2011

When I was a kid traipsing through the (now mostly non-existant) forests of South Florida, the air, especially after a rainstorm, would be redolent with the odor of wood smoke. It would get all in my hair and clothes; it was one of my favorite smells as a kid. I later found out that the odor is actually from a tree fungus native to South FLorida. Sorry, I can't remember what it's called.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'll have to ask her about that pine tar stuff.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: @bottlebrushtree dunno
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 4:22 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: @lizbunny she doesn't drink or work at a bar
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 4:24 PM on May 10, 2011

This is another thing she would probably know about, but if she's been working near a raku firing.
posted by freshwater at 4:28 PM on May 10, 2011

The Lapsang souchong tea is very smoky. She would've remembered the scent and flavor if she had a cup of it.
posted by at the crossroads at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2011

Where is the smell coming from - her hair, skin, clothes, or everywhere?

All three would suggest something environmental, while just her hair or clothes would suggest that the smell is left over from a past exposure. Skin only would mean something chemical/perfume-related.

I have a good nose, and just giving someone a hug can leave a noticeable scent on me all day if they smoke or wear perfumed products. Could be that she had some contact like this without noticing, but you are picking up on it.

Also, the smell of "coffee shop" is a little wood-smoky to me (the odor that lingers on skin, at least). I've noticed it on my boyfriend and asked if he was hanging out near a fire, only to find that he'd stopped in at Starbucks.
posted by ella wren at 4:42 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

It could be coming from where the person's clothes are stored, or from the person's car.
posted by limeonaire at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mrs. alms will occasionally tell me that I smell like wood smoke. We have never been able to figure out what causes this. Of the suggestions given above, the only one that might apply to me is coffee. But that's a stretch, because I drink coffee daily but the wood smoke smell is only occasional.

At this point I've concluded it's just my natural (sometimes) body odor. I was hoping this thread might shed additional light on the matter, but apparently not. We'll just have to stick with the smokey b.o. hypothesis.
posted by alms at 5:15 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Was she near any of those woodwick candles? The lighter scented ones can smell like campfire.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2011

I knew a guy a long time ago who smelled of like wood smoke. It was related to B.O.
posted by jmsta at 5:40 PM on May 10, 2011

Best answer: It could be her deodorant. But I have also met someone who naturally smells like wood smoke. It comes from his skin and it's delicious.
posted by southern_sky at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

It could be that she knows exactly why she smells the way she does, and maybe that you guessed it and it's a campfire, but she doesn't want to tell you.
posted by Houstonian at 5:57 PM on May 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Clothes stored in cedar closet?
posted by wandering_not_lost at 6:15 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow this is a great thread and I am going out of my mind trying to figure it out.
I gave her a big hug and it seemed to come from her neck/head area. She didn't used to smell like this. Maybe she changed shampoo and didn't want to cop to dandruff (the pine tar idea) but maybe it's a personal smell change. We're good enough that I can ask more tomorrow.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 6:27 PM on May 10, 2011

posted by gwint at 6:30 PM on May 10, 2011

Some plastic grocery bags smell like smoke; it's something about the plastic. Drove me nuts until I figured out where the smell came from.
posted by theora55 at 7:11 PM on May 10, 2011

Does she have a cat? My cat smells like wood smoke.
posted by Corvid at 7:17 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I bought a can of generic iced tea powder (don't judge) and while it was delicious, it made my urine smell like gunpowder. Presumably my sweat smelled equally ... good?
posted by gjc at 7:25 PM on May 10, 2011

My hair will hold the smell of smoke for a day or three after grilling with charcoal, even with daily washing.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:49 PM on May 10, 2011

Cade is an essential oil made from this specific juniper species and it smells like woodsmoke. If she's done any gardening around this or closely related plants it might explain it.
posted by zadcat at 9:20 PM on May 10, 2011

Laser-cutting wood or MDF, or being around a laser-cutter while it's working, tends to do that.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:07 PM on May 10, 2011

My fella smells like campfire when he smokes handrolled cigarettes, but not storebought ones. I know your friend doesn't smoke, but wanted to throw that anecdote into the "small things make you smell different" bucket.
posted by travertina at 5:24 AM on May 11, 2011

When I make baba ghanoush (which involves placing eggplant over a gas flame on the stove), my whole house smells like campfire for a week or so. This includes all of my clothing and my hair. It smells so much like campfire that I was quite confused the first few times it happened and then I made the connection.
posted by valeries at 7:53 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a longshot, but I have this really thin scarf that wasn't supposed to be machine dried, but accidentally made it's way into the dryer. It didn't shink a ton, but afterward it smelled burnt. It took me a long time to figure out where the smell was coming from because it was subtle, but it did smell exactly like campfire. I've smelled this on clothes that were slightly burnt by ironing was well.

Or maybe she uses a cheap dry cleaner - could it be dry cleaning chemicals?
posted by peep at 9:06 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

In cool weather when people in my neighborhood have fires in their fireplaces, my dog smells like wood smoke after a walk, even though he hasn't been anywhere near a chimney.
posted by moonmilk at 2:40 PM on May 11, 2011

Dandruff shampoo.
posted by enamon at 3:36 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: We figured out it is just what her body smells like now, but she has no idea why!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 4:30 PM on May 11, 2011

How "campfirey" is the smell exactly? This may sound gross, but it could be that she has a mild (and common) opportunistic fungal infection such as tinea versicolor or candida albicans. I suggest this particularly because you mention that the smell seemed to emanate from the head/neck area and these infections can manifest orally (known as thrush in the case of candida) or esophageally. One of the symptoms of infection is an odor that is described as anything from sweet to beer-like.
Another possibility could be that she is diabetic and in a state of ketoacidosis, but I would assume she would be familiar with that as a warning sign for the onset of a diabetic attack.
posted by Demogorgon at 11:27 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

European smoked hams smell like wood-fire. Specifically, pine wood. Which, to an American nose, smells like trash. Really. It smells like the paper trash we used to burn in the back yard, when I was little. It does this to such a degree, that I once was in security's face at a department store in Germany, because I was convinced something was burning! (I lived next door to the store, so had personal interest anyway).
posted by Goofyy at 5:31 AM on May 13, 2011

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