As for smell versus thought, personally, I think it's both. It's actually a really beautiful thing to me. We have sensations and we struggle to find language to share them. When somebody finds a word that resonates, it goes viral, in some kind of exponential proportion to its suitability. At the high end of this, giving up on any hope of a single word, is Luca Turin. He seems to be a master of introspective recall of scent experiences, and is able to conjure them up as precise metaphors, in a pleasantly readable fashion.
These descriptions are great in the user space - not so good in the construction space. Pascal Gaurin (perfumer) posed this comparison as "grandma's kitchen" versus a specific spice or aroma chemical. To him, "grandma's kitchen" is not communicative. The fact of the matter is, "grandma's kitchen" is more meaningful to us, as people whose job it is to experience scent and report back how a fragrance makes us feel, and why we like it. At the other end, the fragrance chemist has the job of finding interesting patentable molecules with odd spicy notes and easy paths to make them. The perfumer's job is to take that set of ketones, aldehydes and oddball chemicals found in no spice whatsoever, and turn them into grandma's kitchen.
It is TOTALLY analogous to programming, where the people talkers and the machine talkers tend not to be the same folks, but when small groups of people can effectively bridge that gap, great things happen, and stay happened. The most important person at Google, in my opinion, is the woman whose job it is to say "no" when some geek asks for a second entry widget. Or in the language of perfumistas, "Don't touch grandma's recipe finder!"