How To Smell An Essential Oil

This post is being shared from a Nature’s Gift Aromatherapy article on Face Book.  I found the blog informative and educational and thought it deserved to be included here on my website–with of course giving credit where it is due.  I have corrected some spelling and sentence structure from the original post and added some of my own tid-bits to the article, but have left it primarily as Nature’s Gift first published it.  (I myself sometimes order essential oils from Nature’s Gift, when I can not get the oils I want/need from Young Living.)

Earlier this week we received an email from a new customer.  She had placed a rather extravagant ‘beginning’ order that included lots of the “rare and precious” oils.  The customer  wrote complimenting us on the quick shipping and excellent packaging and added “I think I blew out my sense of smell tonight…no one should smell ALL those beautiful scents all at one time. I will be more careful the next time.”

We emailed back and forth all evening and I realized that she had no clue how to first experience her new oils or and how to “clear her palate” so she wouldn’t overload her olfactory nerves.  (ie: “blow out her sense of smell”)

If you have been working with essential oils for a long time, everything here is probably familiar to you.  But if not, we hope this helps.

1. How to smell an essential oil:

It’s human nature to just open the bottle and inhale.  We all do that sometimes.  But that is the worst way to evaluate the richness of the aroma of an essential oil or absolute.  Imagine the traditional Brandy Snifter,  It is large and bowl shaped, with just a little brandy at the bottom.  The empty space in the glass gives room for the aromatics of the liquid to develop and mingle…to dance with each other… for a fuller experience.

When you inhale from the top of the bottle the aromatic molecules do not have room to expand, to mix, to dance.

At Nature’s Gift, while we often will get our FIRST impression of an oil from smelling the bottle cap.  (It is a bit less intense than inhaling directly above the bottle)  The only way we will truly evaluate the complexity of an oil is on a scent strip. Yes, we offer “professional” scent strips.  We use them ourselves, teachers use them to help their students fully experience the oils, aromatherapists use them to help determine a desired essential oil blend.


You can make your own by cutting construction paper or lightweight cardboard/poster board into strips.

Put one or two drops of the oil on the scent strip or dip the tip of the scent strip into the bottle.  Let the oil on the strip dry for a minute or two, then inhale.  See what you think of the oil initially.  Wait ten minutes and smell the strip again. Twenty minutes, an hour, two hours.  Notice how the oil’s (or blend’s) aroma changes in time.  Let it sit overnight and smell it in the morning.  The lightest top notes will be barely perceptible the next day.  The base notes, the woods and roots, will be deeper and richer tomorrow than they are now.

2. How to “refresh your palate”:

The above description is all well and good if you have one new oil you want to experience and evaluate.  But what if  you have a dozen or more oils you wish to experience and want to smell them all right away?  Of course you want to sample them all right now!  After smelling about five or six they all start to smell alike. “Olfactory overload”.  There is a fast and simple remedy for “olfactory overload”.  Keep a small jar of roasted coffee beans close by.  They don’t have to be fancy organic French Roasted Kenya or Hawaiian Kona beans.  They can be discount store brand as long as they are whole roasted beans.  Open the jar of roasted coffee beans, smell their aroma for perhaps a minute or two and you can go back to enjoying your new oils.  I have no idea why coffee beans “clear the palate” so you can resume playing with your oils and absolutes, I just know that they do.  When we used to travel to trade shows as vendors we always had a bowl of coffee beans on the sample table. We still use them if a large shipment of new oils come in.

One Response to "How To Smell An Essential Oil"

  • Hi Beau!

    I just stumbled across your website. I love all the information you have provided here, as I am a massage therapist myself I love seeing other LMTs working hard and spreading the good word.
    Thank you!


    1 Miranda Morehouse said this (November 2, 2012 at 10:03 am)

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