Tell the Scent. Use your brain to describe a fragrance.

20 steps of Smart Smelling:

1. Identify your reason for describing the scent.

Why do you want to find in a fragrance? Your description may be different depending on whether you are describing it for yourself or want to tell the story of the scent to someone.You can answer few question first:

* Do you want to capture the nature of the smell or the overall quality?

* Do you want to evoke a certain meaning or feeling?

* Do you want to catch as many notes (ingredients) as it technically possibly?

* Do you want to find a way to find romantic and sweet words to tell the fragrance story?

2. Sniff - Evaluate - Sniff – Evaluate.

Hold the smelling strip perpendicular to the nose so that the dipped section is between 1 cm to 2 cm from the nostrils. Instead of holding a smelling strip under the nose and continuously sniffing it is more effective in the long term to sniff - evaluate - sniff - evaluate. Just as in drinking wine, the very first sip gives the clearest flavor but during subsequent sips the separate flavors blur into each other and then of course too many fade into oblivion.

The first sniff is taken and the smelling strip removed from the vicinity of the nose as the data collected by the olfactory system is mentally evaluated. Subsequent sniffs are carried out in a likewise manner, short small sniffing procedures followed by longer evaluations. This technique minimizes fatigue allowing the olfactory receptors to recover between each sniff. Also as each chemical (note) found in a perfume sample clear at different rates rom the receptors some separation of individual notes can be detected. Another beneficial effect of this process is that it increases the evaluators ability to 'hold' the odor in his memory for longer and longer periods thus stretching and enhancing odor memory capability.

3. Observe the smell.

Pay full attention to it. Remove distractions. Don't smoke or wear fragrances or drink strongly scented beverages. Take breaks.

4. Close your eyes.

The simple act of closing eyes to help filter out outside distraction can focus the mind on the act of smelling.

5. Smell through the mouth.

Holding the tip of the smelling strip about 2 cms below the nose and about 1 cm away from the mouth and gently breathing in through parted lips enables us to experience the odor slightly differently. The vapor passes over the tongue into the throat and up the back of the nasal passage to the olfactory receptors. The effect is that we add the taste sensations to the appreciation plus the longer route over wet mucous membranes seems to alter a fragrance/flavors profile sufficiently to give us a different viewpoint on the odor.

6. Build a network of connections.

Recommended to make notes of any of the connections, impressions and feelings that you experience during smelling and listening to others ideas. Believe your own senses and asking if your impressions or comments are correct make sure you are not oppressed and discouraged by others.

7. Notice Multi-dimensional structure of the scent.

Notice any words, images, feelings, or memories that the smell brings to mind. Don’t stuck on first impression. Go further of first feelings, memories. If it reminds you the scent of soap, think may be the soap was just scented with one of common ingredient in the fragrance, If it reminds you of Airplane (yes, there is a lot people having such matching), think may be it was a scent of one of the passenger wearing similar fragrance and so on and so forth.

8. Notice descriptions of smells when you see or hear them.

This could be advertising ("lemony fresh", "fresh pine scent"), poems, or fragrance inspiration descriptions.

9. Use fragrance families.

Single Floral. Dominated by a scent from one particular flower. Describes as feminine, understated, simple. 

Floral Bouquet. Combination of individual flower notes. In a perfume compound base notes may include woods, greens, etc. Describes as romantic, feminine, poetic.

Amber or "Oriental”. Features the sweet slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum, often combined with vanilla, tonka bean, flowers and herbs. Describes as exotic, mysterious, warm, sultry.

Woody. Dominated by woody scents, typically sandalwood and cedar, sandalwood. Used primarily in men’s fragrances. Describes as earthy, sensual, soft, harmonious. 

Leather. Family of fragrances which features the scents of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars in its middle or base notes and a scent that alludes to leather. Found most frequently in men’s colognes. Describe as dry, smoky, warm. 

Chypre. Complex fragrances compounded with a citrus top note and a mossy base. Describes as complex, rich, lasting. 

Fougère. Characterized by its sharp herbaceous and woody scent used as basis for most popular men’s fragrances. Describes as natural, woodsy, rich. 

10. Use adjectives.

Adjectives can describe the general, overall quality of the smell.


Airy, acetic, acrid, aromatic, astonishing, amazing, ambrosial, allure, awesome


Balmy, balsamic, beautiful, bitter, bubbly, bland, briny, burnt


Caustic, captivating, celestial, clean, clear, cool, comforting, childish, crisp, cutting,


Damp, dank, decaying, decomposing, delicate, dirty, distinctive, delicate, delicious, dewy, delightful, dry, dreamy, divine


Earthy, evokative, exotic, elegant, elusive, exhilarating, exquisite


Faint, feminine, fetid, fishy, flowery, forceful, foul, fragrant, fusty, familiar, favorite, fine, floral, fresh


Gamey, gaseous, gentle, giddy, green, gentle, great, graceful


Heady, heavenly, heavy, holy


Immortal, indulgent, Intoxicating, invigorating


Jovial, Jazzy, Joyful, Junior




Light, lovely, loamy, lemony


Mild, milky, musky, musty, musculine, moist, mysterious


New, natural, narcotic, nebulous, nostalgic, noble


Odorous, overpowering, overwhelming


Peculiar, personal, pleasant, pleasing, powerful, precious, pungent, piquant, polluted, potent, putrescent, pure, putrid


Rancid, rare, refreshing, rich, rank, redolent, rich


Savory, sharp, sickly, smelly, spoiled, squalid, stagnant, stale, sterile, strong, stuffy, subtle, sweaty, sweet, seducing, sickeningly sweet, soft, sparkling, spicy, spiritual, smoky, splendid, smoldering, stale, strange, strong, sour, subtle, suffocating


Tainted, tangy, tantalizing, tempting, thrilling, tart, tempting, toxic scent


Unique, ultra, urban


Velvety, Voluptuous


Warm, wild, wispy, wonderful, wholesome

X - no


Yielding, young, yummy



These are all adjectives that could pertain to smell.

Smell origins may take the form of a noun (the smell of leather) or an adjective (a leathery smell). The adjective may describe the effect where the noun describes a specific source.

11. Use imaginative adjectives.

If you have any pictures in your mind while smelling fragrance, describe the picture, e.g. “Light airy fresh in blue sky and after-rain dewy scent”.

12. Use nouns.

Often a smell will conjure thoughts of its source. Does your smell remind you of strawberries? Like fresh rain?

13. Be specific.

Smoke smells different depending on it source. Can you tell the difference between cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke? Could you recognize, by smell, burning rubber or a vehicle that was burning oil?

14. Be creative.

What does spring smell like? What does sky smel like? What does black color smell like?

15. Use verbs.

Verbs are strong, direct, active words. Smells can waft, distract, hint, permeate, suggest, confuse, conjure images, cool off, give warmth, increase feelings, brings happiness, makes calm, command attention, or intrude upon the consciousness. Use verbs to describe the source of the smell. Here are some actions that you might associate with smells: baking, frying, digging, sweating, burning, rotting.

16. Visualize what the smell does.

Does it creep into your nose? Wrap around you? Follow you? Makes you fly? Flashbacks you into childhood? Bombard your nostrils? If Makes you better, what way in?

17. What is it not?

Frequently, especially for new evaluators, it can be quite difficult to overcome the initial mental block in smelling, that period of orientation when the smell is, not as yet, recognizable. When this happens if the evaluator systematically goes through a list of various classifications of smells (Michael Edwards pic.) and identifies whether the characteristic is present then the negative results are as revealing as the positive. Does it have Floral notes? - Yes/No, Does it have Fruity notes - Yes/No.

18. Borrow words associated with other senses.

Smell doesn't have a lot of vocabulary of its own, but many other senses do, and they can suggest the quality or nature of a smell.

Sight. Can a smell be bright or dark? Can a smell be pink or green? Can it be clear or hazy? Can it be fast? Slow? Sluggish? Smooth?

Sound. Can a smell be dissonant? Harmonious? Loud or quiet?

Touch. Can a smell be sharp or dull? Even or jagged? Smooth or rough? Heavy or light? Cool or hot? How would you physically react to the smell? Would you relax or stiffen, pucker, or make a face?

Taste. Smell is closely associated with taste, so tastes are a good choice if they fit. Is a smell sweet or sour, salty or bitter? Is it chocolaty, fruity, or yeasty?

19. Consider what feelings and emotions a smell evokes.

Smell can conjure associations with particular events or general thoughts or emotions.

Is the smell startling or jarring? Soothing or comforting? Earthy or natural? Chemical or antiseptic?

Smell is often strongly associated with memories, but this is only useful if you're describing the smell to yourself (such as in a journal) since you can't know what somebody smelled in their memories.

20. Use metaphor.

If you're writing poetry or trying to evoke an emotion, metaphor might be a good device. A smell can't really grab someone by the nose or stab someone, but this might be a powerful description.


  1. “How to describe a fragrance”.

  2. “Fragrance Foundation Course”.

  3. “Quick Start to Fragrance Sales”.