The Current

What smells conjure up Canada for you?

Last week, The Current asked listeners about the smells that remind them of Canada. Here's what they had to say.

The Current asked listeners for the smells that remind them of Canada

A pair of paddlers on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa in late September 2020. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Last week, The Current's Matt Galloway spoke with historian William Tullett about the Odeuropa project that aims to catalogue Europe's historical scents. 

But after the interview concluded, we smelled an opportunity to do more. So, we got a little bit nosy and asked our listeners: what smells remind you of Canada?

From the delicious smell of poutine to the memory-inducing scent of the Rideau Canal, here are some of your favourite smells.

Culinary smells

For some, the first smell they associate with Canada is actually the first thing they smelled when they arrived to the country.

"I have a smell story I tell a lot," Sue Molloy told us on Twitter. "When we emigrated to Canada … we stepped off the plane to a strange, warm smell that was really distinct but I couldn't identify — turned out it's Dad's Oatmeal cookies."

Sue Molloy says she associates Canada with the smell of oatmeal cookies. (Matthew Mead/The Associated Press)

Vince Kehn said the smell of whiskey and beer always reminded him of his hometown.

"Growing up in Waterloo, Ont., when we walked downtown you could smell the grains of Crown Royal Whiskey being distilled at seagrams," he said on Twitter. "And go two large blocks from there and you would smell beer brewing at Carlings. Such great industrial smells."

Andrea Martin says she's also reminded of her hometown of Montreal through a Canadian culinary classic: poutine.

For some listeners, the smell of poutine reminds them the most of Canada. (David Boily/AFP/Getty Images)

Natural scents

Canada is the third-most forested country in the world by area, with its 347 million hectares of land making up nearly nine per cent of the world's total forest area, according to the Government of Canada.

With that in mind, it's not a surprise that some listeners, such as Rev. Heather McCance, associate the smell of trees with Canada.

(Ben Shannon/CBC)

She's not the only one.

"The smell of fir trees in Newfoundland takes me back to my childhood days 'around-the-bay' in Lower Island Cove," Lewis Bursey told us on Twitter. "I need to plant some here just for that fragrance!"

Similarly, Victoria's Penny Stevens is reminded of her Vancouver Island home by the "intoxicating sweet scent" of Cottonwood trees.

For some Canadians, the smells of various trees remind them of Canada. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

For others like Brian Hernandez, it's the smell of burning wood that they associate with Canada. 

"Fresh cut trees on a logging truck," he said on Twitter. "As a young man, I worked as a slash burner … The smell of a burning tree/forest is unmistakable and I can smell even a small camp [kilometres] away."

Chris Hutton commented on the differing smells of woodsmoke.

(Ben Shannon/CBC)

Home, sweet home

Canada's natural beauty extends beyond its lush forests. For some Canadians like Jane Cardillo, it's a body of water that reminds them of home.

(Ben Shannon/CBC)

David L. Hutchinson also associates the smell of water with memories of growing up in Canada.

"The smell of salt air and water when I get back into the Maritime waters is memorable," he said on Twitter

Jacquie Stebbings says she's taken back to her childhood hunts for grass snakes every time she smells the "earthy leaf blended with cedar bark" scent of Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

But the smells aren't always pleasant. Charlene Heath says she knows she's in Toronto when she catches a whiff of its sewers.

Micheline Maynard, now based in the United States, has a more pleasing memory of Toronto.

(Ben Shannon/CBC)

What other smells remind you of Canada? Tell us in the comments below.

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