Artist Creating A “Smell Map” Of New York

September 12, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

What’s the scent of New York? “A warm, musty smell that comes from the cellar,” mostly, according to artist Kate McLean. With a few volunteers, she’s on a quest to create a Smell Map of the city, as she’s already done for Amsterdam, Milan and Edinburgh. Her team of several dozen scent detectives have been following her around the city on “Smellwalks,” noting every odor they encounter. New York Times:

The spirit compelled John Havens, an author from Maplewood, N.J., who is writing about the nostalgia of smell, and his two children to rifle through a planter outside Tiny Empire Cold Juice on North Sixth Street, plucking leaves from one plant and a citrus fruit from another. Like basil, Sophie Havens, 9, said. A mint-mango combination, Nate Havens, 11, said.

“There are a lot of juice places around here,” Nate said, tiring of the wheatgrass odor that had trailed them from Juice Generation, on Bedford Avenue, to Tiny Empire. “Is that a Brooklyn thing?”

Miriam Songster, 53, who calls herself a “scent experience artist,” followed a strong odor of pad thai to the open cellar doors of Chai Thai Kitchen, where something irredeemably rancid assaulted her. Her entire face wrinkled. Verdict: “Like when they put trash out and the liquid drips out.”

There are other unlikely scents that permeate cities. In Amsterdam, it’s “canal water, the sugary warmth of waffles and coffee,” while Edinburg smells of the malt used to make its many beers. (Image: Kate McLean)