Scratch + Sniff: Scents of Childhood, we'll be live reporting

21st June, 2011

Basenotes is camped out at Shoreditch's The Book Club, for our monthly venture into the world of Scratch + Sniff. This month the theme is scents of childhood:

"Long summers. Getting mucky in the mud. Sneaking a spray of our mother’s perfume. Playdough. The school canteen...

Childhood is the place of our formative scent memories, and like a circuit, we can be tripped back there by the tiniest whiff of a smell encountered later in life. But when asked to think about the scents that have meant something to our childhood, what exactly are we regressing to? Particular memories, feelings, moods, a sense of danger, or delight? And are these our own memories, or a collective sense of nostalgia for a time that is lost?

Stay up well past your bedtime, and prepare for a very special Scratch+Sniff as we find out how the young brain creates and cements scent associations, explore how generations will have experienced different sorts of smells, and peruse the very idea of the privilege of childhood. As ever, while experiencing a cornucopia of delightful perfumes and scents that may trigger some memories…"

Some of the scents tonight are provided by the lovely people at

18:10 We are having intermittent problems with the WiFi in The Book Club, so we may have to resort to live tweeting. If it all goes quiet this end, check out @basenotes on twitter. The event starts in about an hour and twenty minutes, so join us then!

Due to WiFI problems, we Tweeted the event. Below are our Tweets, and some of your responses.

  • The scent was revealed as Demeters Grass : does the smell of grass take you back?

  • Grass memories: being forced to do athletics at school; making nests out of just cut grass at school; rolling down hills

  • Guest speaker is being introduced. @SarahJSternberg sociologist, who also did #scratchnsniff's smells like teen spirit event

  • "in the middle ages: Children were thought of as small adults"

  • being shown the childcatcher clip from Chitty Chitty Bang bang "Treacle Tarts and Icecream! And all free!"[video=youtube;zUnhfvGdmmw][/video]

  • now a very old looking scary clip for Kix Crispy Corn Puffs cereal. [video=youtube;zd7dqRq8Ppo][/video]

  • Now a trailer for The Omen (these videos were all in context of the talk by Sarah) [video=youtube;3PuIBNLOeEU][/video]

  • Sarahs interesting talk about the changing ways in which childhood is viewed was giving a well deserved round of applause

  • @OdetteToilette is now talking about how scents can remind us of past events. We've also been given 3 scent strips a,b and c.

  • We're smelling scent B now

  • reactions to Scent B: #scratchnsniff Johnson and Johnson, marshmallows, baby wipes, talc. Scent is revealed as Goutal's Eau de Charlotte

  • #scratchnsniff audience not big fans of Eau de Charlotte

  • "Many perfume Adverts attempt to recreate childhood nostalgia"

  • Shown schmaltzy clip of Eternity CK [video=youtube;23PGiK_vPsY][/video]

  • Big cheers for Tinkerbell peel of nail varnish and cologne. As shown on slide. Now sniffing scent A

  • Scent A: reactions - complex, polished wood mixed with mosquito repellant, honey & spice, wood shavings

  • Scent A: smelly pencils, pencil case, desks with bubble gum under them. Scent is encens Et bubblegum, by Etat Libre d'Orange

  • Now on to Scent C

  • reactions to C: cloying, clotted cream, slightly sickly, "Miss Symonds", the plants in my grandmas house in S.Africa

  • Scent C is Tilda Swinton Like This / Etat Libre d'Orange

  • "the scents from our childhood remain particularly strong in our memories"

  • "babies that are just a few days old can detect their mothers breast milk on a pad, and also repel against rotten smells"

  • During the break we've all been given vials of random unknown scents

  • We are being asked to smell the 5 random samples, and write our thought - and make a collage / drawing based on childhood

  • @SarahJSternberg on stage
  • Sniffing at #scratchnsniff

  • Postcards revealed! Someone has drawn a perfume from her childhood: Avon Church Mouse Bride

  • Postcards from #scratchnsniff - one guy's restauranteur father gave him a live crab to play with

  • Another #scratchnsniff card reveals a cake / marzipan sick nightmare

  • #scratchnsniff postcards - someone has melted some of the scents into Candle wax and put them On the postcard

  • Scent 1: reactions: vanilla, fake chocolate, marshmallows

  • Scent is Demeter's Playdoh

  • Scent 2: reactions: plasters, dettol, wax, hospitals, vosene shampoo, headline shampoo, dentist

  • 2 revealed as Bonfire by Demeter

  • 3 reactions: charcoal, washing, chalk board, peach, mr sheen, nail polish remover

  • Scent 3 is Crayon by Demeter

  • Scent 4 reactions: timotei shampoo, persil washing up liquid, Parma violets, medicated toilet rolls, air freshener

  • Number 4 is CB I Hate Perfume - 1966 At the Beach

  • Scent 5: reactions - pva glue, milk bottles, butter, coconut, hair lotion, church - revealed as CB in the library.

  • Wrapping up now. A good night had by all

    Here are some of the reactions on Twitter to your childhood scent memories...

    • @mattycurry Matthew Curry

      if someone can recreate the smell of a freshly opened He Man action figure, they have a sale right here

    • @hubaghdadi Χουσεΐν

      My father's Old Spice and Brut.

    • @AmeliaHanslow Amelia Hanslow

      apples in the cool laundry, curly-leaf parsley from the garden, burning toast, cotton sheets, old car, wattle and eucalyptus

    • @eaumg Victoria J.

      Sawdust and dirt

    • @nickgblue Nick Gilbert

      cigarettes (nan had a 40 a day habit!), dirty streams, stinging nettles.

    • @Scentsationelle Jasmine

      Mashing hops and beer by-products (ie marmite) ; lilac from the garden ; wet dog

    • @KJanicki Krista Janicki

      charcoal BBQ, wet wool, rain on hot pavement

    • @MoniqueSleek Monique

      biscuits in the school cookery room, lemon, wax and pencil crayons, hawthorn hedges and Avon Topaz perfume

    • @tcvlex Erin@TheCrushdViolet

      buttered toast, cream of wheat, granny smith apples|apple butter|jam, fresh cut grass|cow manure, pine, breakfast foods, beach

    • @Sniffapalooza Karen Adams

      white paste, new Crayolas, vinyl Barbie dolls, sharpened pencils, garden tomatoes, Muguet du Bois

    • @CULTSPK Calliope

      A perfume, I don't know which it was, that an aunt of mine was wearing. I was sneaking in the roo… (cont)

    • @grooming_guru lee kynaston

      dad's Old Spice, Playdough, Vesta curry, school milk, my nan's chips!

    Next months Scratch & Sniff is Mythology & Perfume. More details and ticket info can be found here.

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  • About the author: Grant Osborne

    Grant Osborne is the founder and editor of Basenotes. Grant has two children, and a dependence on tea, haribo and bacon.


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      • Redneck Perfumisto | 26th June 2011 02:26

        Very cool - wish I had followed this! Recent BN thread on the plastic doll accord was bringing me back to the days of toys on the floor at my friends' houses.

      • odioustoilet | 22nd July 2011 07:38

        I am still hooked on the 70's vintage English Leather because my older sister's boyfriend then husband left behind a bottle at our place.

        I did not wear it, I think, but would rub it onto the leather seat of my bike that had a Wild West theme, mostly all light brown/dark cream color.

        Sorta fit in with the name/bottle/cap design, I'm sure people looked at me wondering why that kid smelled so strong of Men's cologne.:smiley: