21 Things to Smell Before You Die: The Ultimate ‘Bucket Whiff'

(Photo by naruedom/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images) Photo by naruedom/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Soo Kim, The Daily Telegraph, February 3, 2017

Following the opening of the Le Grand Musée du Parfum  in Paris – “the first scent-centric attraction of its kind” – we take a sniff of some of the most distinctive scents around the world.

1. Roses in Morocco

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Located about six hours’ drive south-east of Marrakesh, Morocco’s “Valley of Roses” is as lush and fragrant as it sounds. While the labyrinthine medinas of Marrakesh, Fes and Casablanca are known the world over, few visitors to Morocco venture here, to the province of Ouarzazate (pronounced “Wazazat”). Unless they’re film stars, that is. “Ouarzazate is Africa’s Hollywood – the desert setting for countless films including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Babel and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” says Telegraph Travel’s Gabriella Le Breton .

2. Jasmine in Grasse, France

Jasmine is native to the tropical and subtropical parts of Eurasia, Australasia and Oceania, while only one of its 200 species is native to Europe. Known as the perfume capital of the world, with a perfume industry dating back to the 18th century, some of the world's oldest perfumeries are in Grasse. The jasmine scent, which features in Chanel No 5 (one of the world’s best-selling perfumes), is a main ingredient for many perfumes and comes from the jasmine fields of the French Riviera town.

3. Lavender fields in Provence

Provence’s famous flowers offer a “sensual promise”, says Anthony Peregrine, Telegraph Travel’s Provence expert, that “this life may be as sweet as a maiden’s smile”.

The fragrant purple fields are in full bloom between June and August in the regions of Luberon and Mont-Ventoux as well as Sault and Valréas. The delicate fragrance of lavender is known for its uses in cosmetics and soaps, but it can also be consumed in Provencal cuisine, in the form of lavender honey and lavender sorbet.

Closer to home in Britain, lavender fields can be found in the CotswoldsSomersetHertfordshireYorkshire and Norfolk .

4. Frangipani in Australia

The native frangipani flowers in some Australian cities – particularly suburban SydneyCairns and Brisbane – cannot be missed. Outside of the cities, you'll also get whiffs of eucalyptus and tea-tree oil, which comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, native to Australia.

5. Frankincense in Oman

Before oil was discovered, frankincense was the main source of wealth for Oman . Two thousand years ago, frankincense was of equal value to gold, and known and revered throughout the ancient world. “The Egyptians believed it to be the seat of the gods and used it in many of their ceremonies. Greek and Roman physicians used it in the treatment of almost every disease for its antiseptic and calming properties. Some Omani women chew frankincense when pregnant to ensure an intelligent baby,” describes Telegraph Travel’s Valerie James .

“It is everywhere. At the airport in Muscat, you encounter it first, and in shops, hotels and even taxis, where they burn frankincense on cigarette lighters, it provides a perfumed background to the country.”

Frankincense was once the main source of wealth for OmanCredit: Shutterstock/clicksahead 6. Palm oil and cinnamon in Mumbai, India

India is “one of the most intense and rewarding olfactory experiences on Earth," says  Chandler Burr, the “curator of olfactory art” at New York’s Museum of Art and Design.

“There's the salty smell of ocean mixed with tropical rot, air conditioning, and frying palm oil. And, it's India, so your nose also picks up on incense and every spice imaginable – cinnamon, cardamom, clove. It's the smell of a vibrant city on the move.” 

“Any time I've been to India – it's been like an assault on the senses and I've never really tire of it. I love all the colours and the smells, which have had a huge impact on my designs,” adds Matthew Williamson, British fashion designer.

7. Fresh croissants in France

The buttery aroma of freshly-made croissants is one of the most prevalent smells on the streets of France . 

“Though considered quintessentially French, croissants were first made by the bakers of Vienna to celebrate a victory against the Turkish armies that had been besieging the city,” says  Telegraph’s Henry Samuel . “They are said to have been brought to France by Marie-Antoinette as a 14-year old bride hankering for comfort food from her native Austria, hence the French term viennoiserie.”

8. Spice markets in Chengdu, China

“I defy anyone to smell the intoxicating Sichuan peppercorns at a spice market in Chengdu and not sneeze – or crave a hotpot”, says Telegraph Travel’s family editor Sally Peck, who has previously lived in China.

9. Durian fruit in Bangkok

You won't smell it everywhere, but head to food markets in the Thai capital and you might catch an unforgettable whiff of the durian, a stinky fruit much beloved by locals. Their pungent smell has even seen them banned from public transport.

“It’s not the nicest of smells for sure, but all part of the tapestry of life”, says Sally Peck.

10. Nature and car exhaust in Los Angeles

The City of Angels was rated the  "best smelling city on the planet" back in 2012, by New York’s Museum of Art and Design, for the smell of “the ocean breeze from Santa Monica that can travel as far East as Silver Lake; a dry desert air that comes West over Downtown and South Central; the astringent balm of eucalyptus, pine, honeysuckle, and jasmine from the hills; and car exhaust from catalytic converters, which is, in its strange industrial way, beautiful."

Los Angeles by nightCredit: AP 11. Pine trees in the Alps

...the scent of summers and winters in Switzerland, France or Italy .

famous trees puff

12. Chocolate in York and Chicago

The Nestle Rowntree factory lies just a few miles outside York city centre. Consequently, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, sweet chocolate odours drift over the city. The local tourist board actually launched a scented “Smell York” guide a few years ago, which touted its status as Britain’s “home of chocolate”.

For more chocolate sensations, head to  Chicago, Illinois, which is home to the largest cocoa processor in North America and known for its sweet chocolate aroma. 

Chocolate festivals around the world

13. Toasted oats in Buffalo

...where Cheerios are made.

14. Licorice in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France

The idyllic village where the Oscar-nominated film Chocolat was filmed smells of the licorice-like anise from its anise candy factory, where the sweets are made by hand. The factory is the village’s only industry and has been housed in the Abbey of St Peter since 1923.

15. Garlic in Gilroy, California

Dubbed the “garlic capital of the world”, the city hosts several garlic festivals in July and neighouring residents living even 30-40 miles away are said to be able to catch the strong scent. There’s even a website called Howdoesgilroysmelltoday.com which monitors garlic smell levels each day.

16. Maple syrup in NYC

Parts of  New York  occasionally smell of maple syrup, according to reports. It is thought the odour originates from a New Jersey perfume factory that processes fenugreek seeds.

17. Leather in Fez

This Moroccan city is home to the oldest tannery in the world . Unsurprising then, to discover that a leathery smell diffuses through its narrow streets.

18. Eggy smells in New Zealand and Iceland

The proximity of numerous geysers and hot springs means Rotorua in New Zealand   smells of rotten eggs  – it's even nicknamed Sulphur City. A similar scent is also characteristic of Iceland, for the same reasons.  Locals in New Zealand, however, claim the smell "will grow on you...and even be missed" .

29 reasons why Iceland is incredible

19. Orange blossom in Seville 

“It is perhaps the headiest of all natural scents. Try the courtyard of Seville's cathedral where there are several trees,” says Nick Trend, Deputy Head of Telegraph Travel.

20. Salt and ozone after an Atlantic storm on the Cornish coast

...for a sense of the elemental.

21. And still August nights in rural England

...when it stays warm, and the dust from the harvest hangs in the air.


This article was written by Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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