Nostalgic Smells That Will Take You Way Back

Your favorite fragrances smell great (after all, they’re your favorites for a reason), but did you know they can also bring back emotional memories? It’s why the smell of vanilla reminds you of your grandma’s baking, and the smell of coconut brings back memories of your sunscreen on family vacations. 

Nostalgic smells can bring in some of the fondest memories of some of the happiest times — today, we’re looking at some of the best nostalgic smells that unlock childhood memories, remind you of loved ones, and take you way, way back. 

What Are the Most Nostalgic Scents?

If you’ve ever smelled freshly cut grass and been reminded of early summer in your childhood home (and your pollen allergies, of course), there’s a scientific reason for it. 

Smells are processed in your olfactory bulb and sent immediately to the amygdala and the hippocampus. If you’re thinking, olfacto-what, we understand. 

In simpler terms, these are the regions of your brain related to memory and emotions, and scents are processed here — TLDR, smells are tied to memories.

Now that all the science talk is out of the way, let’s get into the good part. Here are ten of the most nostalgic smells to transport you back in time.

1. Warm Tea

The smell of warm tea is an ode to all things comfy, cozy, and safe — it’s the smell of curling up with a good book, your parents taking care of you when you’re under the weather, and a warm mug in your hands on a cold day.

Golden Ticket combines black tea, green tea, golden maté, sage, and amber to bring you a wonderfully magical escape from the day-to-day. This tea-inspired scent sprays on light, but settles into a blissful, musky dream.

2. Gasoline

The smell of gasoline can bring you back to sunny road trips, driveway tanning sessions, and garage hangouts at your cool friend’s house.

Get your first whiff of that classic gasoline scent with our first-ever fragrance on our Secret Menu, Dead Dino. With NoNoses, we play and experiment with unconventional fragrances that play on nostalgia and create a whole new fragrance experience. 

Combining gasoline accord with ginger, magnolia flower, cedarwood, Peru balsam, and amber woods, Dead Dino is the ultimate ode to the nostalgic smell of gasoline with a lighter, more accessible twist. 

3. Cherry

Cherry is a timeless scent: cherry pies are a holiday classic, cherry cola is a movie theater must-have, and cherry lip gloss was a middle school go-to. 

Regardless of where your cherry-scented memories come from, you can bring them back with the Tart Deco fragrance. This cherry fragrance features black cherry, raspberry, rose, jasmine, mimosa, birchwood, vetiver, and vanilla for a sophisticated take on that juicy, fruity, well-loved classic. 

4. Bonfire Smoke

Campfire smoke smells like simpler times with smores, roasting marshmallows, and inside jokes. 

From beach bonfires to backyard firepits, the smell of smoke can feel like home, community, and family. Capture the essence of your fondest bonfire memories with Burning Bridges, a smoky scent that combines vanilla, tobacco, iris, rose, fresh spices, freesia, and oakmoss for a toasted, bold smell. 

One sniff will take you back to your spot by the campfire, wrapped in blankets (and bug spray). 

5. Fresh Rain

The earth scent of fresh rain, called “petrichor” if we’re getting technical, is a smell that can bring you back to the feeling of nighttime thunderstorms, a summer drizzle of rain at the pool, and crisp, cool autumn walks on wet pavement. 

Birds and The Breeze is an earthy, green candle that captures the light, airy smell after a rainstorm while bringing in soft elements of jasmine, mimosa petals, orchid, musk, and cedarwood for a seamless scent. 

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon’s warm, spicy scent smells slightly of fruits and vanilla, and it might bring you back to baking Thanksgiving desserts with your mom or eating cinnamon toast before school. Cinnamon is often thought of as earthy and comforting, and you might find it reminiscent of the winter holidays and the cozy cuisine that accompanies them. 

With our Instant Karma candle, you can capture the nostalgia of cinnamon’s fragrance with a bit of a luxurious twist. This candle features cinnamon, cardamom, nashi pear, black plum, geranium, vetiver, cedarwood, and black tea for a dark and dreamy vibe that turns any room into a time machine. 

7. Balsam

Balsam might remind you of chilly winter days at a Christmas tree farm, caroling in December, snow flurries in a quiet neighborhood, or sipping peppermint hot chocolate by the fireplace — whatever memories it brings in for you, balsam is a nostalgic scent through and through. 

Balsam has a light, fresh scent, which is why we paired it with Siberian pine, apple blossom, rosemary, and jasmine in our Old Saint Wick candle. This cozy, merry candle is perfect for cozying up under blankets, welcoming in some holiday cheer (no matter the season), or finding your zen when extended family shows up for an unexpected visit.

8. Fresh-Baked Pastries

Everyone knows the buttery, delicious smell of fresh-baked croissants, muffins, or biscuits — that warm, doughy scent that fills the room and makes your mouth water.

Maybe you had a favorite bakery you went to as a little kid, or maybe you often came home from school to find a freshly baked treat waiting for you on the counter. 

Regardless of the why, you can now carry this delicious scent everywhere you go, thanks to Crumb Couture from our Secret Menu. This scent is an ode to the golden, flakey croissant you know and love. Crumb Couture smells like croissant accord, wild berry jam, toasted vanilla, and tonka bean for a new take on a tasty classic.

9. Citrus

From fresh lemonade on a hot summer day to clementines in your elementary school lunch bag, the smell of citrus is a surefire scent to bring you back in time. 

As a kid, nothing was quite as refreshing as an ice-cold pitcher of lemonade waiting on the kitchen counter after a playdate, and the smell of clementines was pretty much a permanent part of any third-grade classroom. Citrus is a classic scent spanning far and wide, and our Citrus Circus fragrance is a seamless way to keep this piece of your childhood a part of your life.

With creamsicle, grapefruit, lime zest, and sparkling water, Citrus Circus is a freshly-squeezed scent — it’s bright but balanced, and perfect for everyday wear.

10. Leather

The scent of leather might bring back memories of your mom’s favorite purse, your dad’s office chair, or the worn-in couch in your childhood home. 

Leather may not immediately come to mind as a wearable scent, but Strawberry Moon is here to prove you wrong. This fragrance is a sophisticated take on the classic leather smell, and it’s inspired by South Beach for the ultimate bright, sun-tanned scent. 

This fragrance will bring you back to your younger years while also welcoming in new memories, thanks to the long-lasting scents of leather, jasmine, bergamot, pink pepper, iris, saffron, vetiver, and amber woods. 

Feel the Nostalgia

Different scents are nostalgic for different people in different ways — but you’re sure to have a handful of smells that transport you to younger days. 

For some people, it’s their mother’s perfume, their father’s favorite chair, or their childhood snacks. For others, it is the smell of a roasted dinner on Sunday, daisies in the springtime, and sandy beach days in the sun. 

Whether you’re going for sophisticated, luxurious fragrances or simplified, timeless classics, just one spritz of these fragrances will take you way, way back. 


Memory and Plasticity in the Olfactory System: From Infancy to Adulthood - The Neurobiology of Olfaction | NCBI Bookshelf

How scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined—and exploited | Harvard Gazette

Olfactory memory networks: from emotional learning to social behaviors | Frontier

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