I love describing ‘the scene.’ The quality of the air, the view, the buildings, the landscape. I can even conjure up a variety of words for the color of snow.It is smell that sometimes stumps me. And I know how important smell is – the sense that evokes our most vivid memories, able to awaken feelings long buried and place us immediately back in time. Recently I’ve been touring various distilleries – all part of research! There are many distinctive smells at a large distillery, including the scent of bourbon rising up through the halls of the warehouses. It occurred to me that I feel comfortable describing something as scented with bourbon. But I’m not as sure about the scent of sour mash…. that fermenting smell that fills the other parts of the distillery complex. Can I rely on people knowing what this is, like the scent of the ocean, or freshly cut grass?How much description do we need for smell, or do we have a common store of olfactory knowledge that spans most human experience?