Home / Lifestyle / Life / Scents that trigger fond memories
Scents that trigger fond memories - whisky in a rocks glass.

Scents that trigger fond memories

Ever have a moment where you smell something and a nice memory pops into your mind? There are scents that trigger fond memories and make people happy – our brain records what we are sensing when we are feeling happy.

I won’t go into all the scientific details but what we need to know is that the olfactory nerve (by which we smell) is close to the part of the brain that deals with emotions.

Certain scents such as lemon balm, chamomile and lavender are also very good for calming the body. Aromatherapy during massages and spa treatments helps reduce stress and brings a sense of peace.

I’ve thought about some of my favourite scents and memories that are associated with them. Perhaps some of these scents also appeal to you:

6977099101 46d878227c z - Scents that trigger fond memories

Orphan Lake on a rainy day

Rainfall in a Forest

Imagine an overcast, summer day and a dense forest with a rough trail through it. Stones, roots and a layer of leaves and pine needless run through a lush, green wood. There’s no wind and you can hear the woodland animals and birds as they go about their business.

A soft rain is falling – not enough to soak you, but just enough to create petrichor, the lovely odour that’s created when rain falls on the ground after a dry spell.

This is what I was experiencing when I was hiking on the trail around Orphan Lake at Lake Superior Provincial Park in 2006. I remember being tired from the hike but also enjoying the isolation on the trail, the lack of man-made sound and the “woods in the rain” scent. Every time I smell this scent of rain after a rainfall, I think of that hike.

9459768235 6ebf61ccf2 z - Scents that trigger fond memories

Freshly Ground/Brewed Coffee

The scent of freshly ground coffee, and sometimes freshly brewed coffee that’s properly percolated reminds me of Sunday afternoon get-togethers with family friends when I was little. My parents would often have guests over for a traditional after-church lunch or a later afternoon “coffee and cake”. After all the savoury foods, my mom served home-made plum cake or baked cheesecake and freshly brewed coffee.

99726808 aa86fcac5e z - Scents that trigger fond memories

Vanilla beans – photo by Kim


Remember when Body Shop was the place to purchase scented beauty products? Maybe I’m dating myself, but in the 1990s and early 2000’s, this was the place for all the young ladies-in-the-know to shop for things such as their Vanilla Eau De Toilette. The scent would be strong initially, then fading into a mellow smell that would entice guys with a love of sweet things.

I was one of those vanilla perfume-wearing young women and some of my most fun times socializing with friends happened while I was wearing this scent.  I was one of those vanilla perfume-wearing young women, and some of my most fun times socializing with friends were when I was wearing this scent.

16537939514 70617b13ea z - Scents that trigger fond memories


During my stay at St. Anns House in Salisbury in 2008, the lavender sachets placed on my pillow by the hosts made my night so relaxing after a busy day of being tourist.

We recently ordered online a small box of lavender tea from Murchie’s Tea, one of the best tea purveyors, based in Vancouver. My first sip brought back memories of St. Anns and my memorable stay there.

scents that trigger fond memories

Boiled potatoes with dill by Christer

Cabbage Rolls, Cutlets and Potatoes with Dill

Anybody who grew up with a Polish or Ukrainian grandmother living with them can relate to this – the smell of fresh cabbage rolls in the oven, and the deep-fried scent of chicken or pork cutlets – aka “kotlety” reminds them of their Babcia/Baba.

Boiled potatoes with a bit of butter and dill are also a quintessentially Polish dish that was often served at our home. Every time I visit my parents when my mom has cooked up these foods, I have fond memories of my grandmother working away in the kitchen to ensure we had happy bellies. Her ability to prepare and season traditional Polish dishes so that they were mouth-wateringly delicious cannot be beat.

Scents that trigger fond memories - whisky

Whisky and Bourbon

Like with freshly brewed coffee on Sunday afternoon lunches, I have fond memories of my dad mixing a Canadian rye whisky drink for guests.

I associate the scent of whisky with happy, good times. There’s also something about kissing somebody who has had a few sips – less inhibitions, a touch of romance… passion. I think of the scene where Rhett Butler gets drunk on whisky, frustrated with Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Whisky has always been associated with masculinity, and he’s definitely got it.  It’s no wonder I enjoy ‘date nights’ at home with my husband, enjoying a glass or two of whisky after dinner.

Working with a number of whisky and bourbon brands, I’ve enjoyed tasting different types of whiskies over the past few years. Canadian rye whisky and bourbon are my favourite types of whisky with their butterscotch, caramel and toffee scents, although occasionally a good peaty Scotch is just what’s needed on a chilly winter night.

What scents trigger fond memories for you? What are your favourite scents and why?

Penny For Your Thoughts