Hunting for the language of scents and smells, it occurs to me that the wine aroma wheel* might have broader possibilities. Like the lists birders use, take a pocket aroma chart on a walk through your neighborhood checking off smells of floral, spicy, fruity, earthy, vegetative, caramelized, nutty, pungent, chemical, oxidized, or microbiological. Go beyond the examples (like geraniums, licorice, molasses, vanilla, coffee, mushrooms, petroleum) and record the scents you encounter.
Depending on whether the weather is wet, warm, or windy, on a walk I may smell the malt-and-hops pungency of beer brewing, the fake-perfume odor from household clothes driers, the forest aroma of pine and juniper, automobile exhaust, wood smoke, and dust.
the fleeting nature of scents and smells
these are like music, the notes of spring or summer,
the tunefulness of a neighborhood or street.
What you breathe waiting in line at the airport.
We smell annoyance and uneasiness—
from the chart of aromas this would be
chemical and microbiological
which translates as
jet fuel and lactic acid,
sweat and stinky shoes.
In the grocery store we smell
hurriedness and distraction
which is spicy, vegetative and woody—
licorice, lettuce, bulk-bin roasted coffee.
Outdoors in a warm climate
or in the north at the florist
breathe the fragrance of geraniums, lilies,
roses or daffodils,
sadness and hope.
I beg to differ though—who decided
fruity included black currant?
Picking black currants dulled by summer dust
you’re enveloped in the scent of pine
like burnished brass,
memories of forests and mountains
crowding your mind.
Apricot, I believe.
And peach and mango. Pears,
easy on the nose, airy and ethereal,
A faint perfume.
* Ann C Noble invented the wine aroma wheel. (Google “wine aroma wheel” for graphic.)
Image: “You Go First”, still life by Adalbert John Volck, 1874.