What Does Rain Smell Like?

Breakfast At Tiffany's
Breakfast At Tiffany's

This past December, a team of scientists at MIT isolated the source of that fresh smell we sense after a satisfying rain. The scent called petrichor (petra, the Greek word for “stone,” and ichor, which means “the blood of the gods,”) aerates when raindrops of a certain size and speed fall on porous earth, burst, and release chemical compounds from the ground into the air.

Humans are apparently hardwired to appreciate rainfall, having depended on it to a greater extent for crop survival in the past (a rather nifty Darwinian fact, I think). But until those MIT scientists also figure out a way to engineer real rainfall on command, here are some fail-safe options to get the smell whenever you please—weather notwithstanding.

Demeter Thunderstorm

A dead-on dupe for a coming storm, this perfume by Demeter is incredible to sniff but a little difficult to wear (ain't that always the case, Demeter?). Recreating the scent that occurs when relative ground humidity exceeds 75 percent, Thunderstorm has a metallic edge that reads summer-specific. Though it mellowed a little too far in the mold direction on my wrist to make it an everyday wear, this might not hold true for everyone—specifically anyone who wants pure weather with no filler in their personal aura.

CB I Hate Perfume M2 Black March

Brooklyn-based perfumer Christopher Brosius is best known for his light-hearted sounding scents Walking In The Air and At The Beach 1966, but Black March is a moody, unexpected perfume worthy of attention. Drawing inspiration from a poem of the same name by English writer Stevie Smith, Black March is said to be composed of “rain drops, leaf buds, wet twigs, tree sap, bark, mossy earth, and the faintest hint of spring.” It incorporates beet extract to impart a rich, earthy aroma (known in scientific communities as the organic compound geosmin). Odd and intense at first, it softens into a wearable, almost-sweet, and watery scent over time.

D.S. & Durga Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake

Part of the label’s luxury HYLNDS line (which we've mentioned before), which takes its narrative cues from legends of Iron Age Europe, Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is a calm, compelling fragrance that I can’t seem to stop thinking about. I don’t know if perfumes should be said to have age, but this one smells like an ancient version of that famed dad-scent by Geoffrey Beene, Grey Flannel. It’s woody, but also primordial and kind of desolate; it smells like something you forgot a long time ago.

Inspired by a hike up Slieve Gullion in Northern Ireland, the petrichor-esque quality in Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is a note described by perfumer David Seth as “fog-on-stone.” I recently was able to speak with Seth a bit more about its creation. “I was trying to take that fresh-wet effect and weave it into the narrative of what happened [on the mountain],” he said. “So I made some steely accords of grey rocks—ambergris, thin woods, and metallic/ozonic aldehydes—and added watery materials like ozonic and radiant materials to them. The whole scent is pervaded by a fresh, wet-ocean-meets-cloud accord.”

The net effect here is very wyrd, in the Macbeth-witchy sense of the word, and it's very, very good.

—Lauren Maas

Image via Getty.