Two times now in the last week or so I've encountered a phenomenon I'd never experienced before. We've all responded to that email in the past, where they ask you to list all of your favorite things . . favorite vacation, favorite color, favorite cartoon. Some of the responses come easier than others. For me, it's the favorite smells that are a no-brainer. The smell of ozone right after the rain starts. Smoke, whether it's from a spinning tire or hickory wood . . just not "you just burned dinner" smoke. The other one is basil, which when torn or cut gives off one of the most pungent and memorable scents I know of.
The phenomenon I speak of happened first when my after-shave gel of choice ran out with no back-up. I scoured the bathroom cabinet for a substitute and found a sample I was given with a bunch of other products. Instead of the usual gel, this one was a spray, labeled a "toner", but in general it was to serve the same purpose. Later that day, after I'd showered and shaved, I pulled out the bottle and sprayed it liberally into my hand. As I rubbed my face and neck with it, I was overwhelmed by its scent. It reminded me strongly of the Liquid Smoke product I use when cooking ribs. The smell was strong, and there were no noticeable undertones to disguise the smoky smell. I rubbed it on my face and could think of absolutely nothing other than smoky barbeque for the next 15 minutes or so, until it faded into the background. I love that smell, but my after-shave product is not an appropriate place for it. I filed it away as only slightly ironic, and didn't think a lot more about it.
That is, of course, until it happened again. I went to wash my hands at our kitchen sink and the bottle of lavender-scented hand soap had run empty. I was covered with grease (or maybe it was grime), so there was no opportunity to run upstairs to get a replacement. I reached over and reluctantly used the basil-scented hand soap that until then was only a decoration on the counter. I washed up, rinsed and dried my hands, and then unconsciously simply smelled my hands. I suppose I was hoping that I'd love the smell . . after all, basil is right up there at the top of my list. But it happened again. As much as I love the scent of basil, it just seemed wrong when it was coming from my hands. I think the makers of these products need to put a little more thought into whether or not these popular scents they're using actually make sense in these particular products. I imagine the group of Williams-Sonoma product designers probably all agreed enthusiastically when the idea was proposed for basil-scented hand soap. It's food, people love it, we're fancy . . nice try folks, but it just doesn't work. I think maybe a big part of the appeal of these scents is that they're just so natural . . they occur and there's usually something very genuine going on to accompany them, like a rain storm, scratch-cooking, or a fire burning. Maybe I'm in the minority on this, but I stand firm in my position.