18 More Manly Smells

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 8, 2013 · 154 comments

in Diversions, Travel & Leisure


Just about four years ago we published a post on 15 Manly Smells. The article received a ton of comments from folks who wanted to add their own favorite manly smells to the list, and the other day I found myself lost in enjoyment reading over them all again. So many of the additions were so great and evocative and so worthy of mention, and as the first post was one of my all-time favorites, I couldn’t resist compiling another edition. Enjoy and add your still unmentioned favorites to the comments!

Black Coffee


“My favorite scent, not just manly scent, but scent-period: the smell of coffee percolating in one of those enamel coffee pots on a campfire on a cool autumn morning, right next to the river. Inhale the good, exhale the bad. Heal.” -PiperJon

“How about Cowboy Coffee?! Not that BS latte smell of hot milk, but the deep, powerful smell of cowboy coffee made by dumping grounds right into the pot, in deer camp, at 5 am, over a campfire.” -Wilson

Gasoline, Motor Oil, Grease, and Garage


“Every time I’m at a gas station, I can smell my father with his hands covered in engine oil and gasoline from splashing the red canister contents onto the funnel. Those red rags smell more like a man than most men do.” -James

“Gasoline and motor oil, like when you’re pulling a carburetor off a ’68 Plymouth Satellite with a 318cc V-8… mmmm…. and that smell of hydraulic fluid when you bleed the brakes, that’s a great smell.” -PiperJohn

“I drive an old Triumph Bonneville motorbike and I have to ‘tickle’ the carbs before starting it until a little gas comes out. The smell of it on my finger or leather gloves always makes me nostalgic for my dad’s bike on the carport…” -Matt

“My dad would smell like that after working on the family cars, my older brothers would smell like that after working on their cars, and my husband smells like that every day, as he is a mechanic. Too much is too much, but just the right amount of grease on his tan forearms, smelling manly…WOW. That is one hell of a manly smell.” -Alison

“The mixture of gasoline, WD-40, brake parts cleaner, grease, varsol, welding smoke, tires, and perhaps roll-your-own cigarettes in there somewhere.” -Josh K.

Freshly Churned Dirt


“For me… it’s the smell of freshly turned dirt – that earthy, loamy smell reminds me of the large garden we had in the backyard when I was a youngster. We emigrated from Hong Kong when I was a kid, and my father dreamed of having a farm or acreage in Canada. We never did get that farm, but the privilege of working on his *own* land meant spring and fall, my kid brother and I were outside mucking around in the garden with him as he toiled away. To this day, when I turn the dirt in my own garden, the smell of turned soil reminds me of ‘real’ work and what life is all about, not the antiseptic feel of my office, pushing electrons and paper around in an endless circle.” -Ozone

Airplane Cockpit


“I can think of two that make me just want to start combing my chest hair. The smell of an old airplane cockpit. I worked B-52s, and the smell of 40 years of sweat, burnt food, tension, and hard work just can’t be beat. I’m sure it’s one of those acquired smells, once you get it, you got it.” -Josh

(For the second thing that makes Josh comb his chest hair, see “old car” below.)

Aqua Velva

aqua velva man

It’s one of the best forgotten drugstore colognes and aftershaves and a smell many commenters felt was truly virile. Said Joe, “Whenever I put some on after shaving, I feel manly and confident!”

Aqua Velva has become a go-to aftershave for me recently. Love how it smells and feels.

Baseball Glove


“I remember when I played in Little League there was no smell like putting your glove on your face: leather, dirt, grass, sweat. Baseball is full of great manly smells.” -Sam

 The Interior of an Old Car


“Nothing beats getting into an old car (that hasn’t been completely restored from the ground up) and taking a big ol’ whiff and just smelling the years.” -Josh



“Anything to do with horses…dried manure, saddle leather, wet saddle blankets, even the smell of hay and sweet feed.” -Kerry

Locker Room


“I can’t believe no one mentioned the smell of a change room after a game of rugby. Sweat, grass, blood, and Deep Heat and after the showers, various types of stinkpretty. Just the smell of a change room almost has the power to impregnate any females passing by.” -Ben

Old Tackle Box


“The smell of the metal on old, worn-out pocket knives mixed with the remains of earthworms on fish hooks just brings me right back to fishing with my grandpa as a young buck.” -Mark

Construction Site


“The smell of a rough framed house, before the exterior doors, windows, and roofing are installed.” -Kerry

“Cutting steel with a torch. Creosote timber. That deep-down earth smell when excavating. Wet concrete. Someone mentioned construction site, but I figured it needed fleshing out!” -Jim



Many people couldn’t believe we left bacon off the original list…we can’t believe it either! One of my fondest memories as a kid was spending Thanksgiving at my grandpa’s ranch in Bosque Farms, NM. Every morning I’d wake up to the smell of pan fried bacon, pancakes, and black coffee. That’s what heaven smells like.

Navy Ships


“The smell of warship. Having spent a lot of time at sea when I was in the US Navy, when I visit a warship museum such as USS Midway, the first thing I notice is the smell. Kind of a paint, hydraulic fluid, boiler exhaust, salt air mix.” -Perry

“I’m an old navy guy too and after 35 years I can still remember that smell. Red lead paint, bunker oil, steam, food from the galley, and gunpowder. Add several hundred – or several thousand – tired and often scared people. Put it all in a steel box and seal it up from the sunlight and fresh air. I visited the USS Texas about 15 years ago. She’d been cold iron since the late 1940s but when I went below decks I could still smell the ghost of that smell in the air.” -Dave



“Another one is the smell of newsprint. My dad would sit on the couch after work (whence by the way, he would come home smelling of machine grease) and read the paper, back in the days when the paper would really leave some color on your hands. I would sit next to him and that newsprint aroma would waft out when he spread the pages wide open. In the winter, he’d light an old kerosene heater just before he settled down to the paper. Talk about being engulfed in manliness.” -Hawkins

Splitting Firewood


“Hand splitting of firewood. You can’t use an electric or gas powered log splitter and get the same effect. From the metallic smell you get stuck in your nose as you use the double action file to restore the edge on your decades-old axe, to the one-of-a-kind aroma released by a length of red oak as it is cleaved in two, right on down to the combined smell of dank bark chips stuck to your sweaty flannel shirt. Much like the lawn mowing smell, I like to pause to enjoy it.” -Dave

Bay Rum


“Bay Rum shaving soap. The kind you have to whip to a lather with a badger hair brush. It is a clean, woodsy, herbal scent (yes it goes nicely with Old Spice) and women LOVE it.” -Dave

“Bay Rum. That’s one of the main ingredients in making a barber shop smell manly!” -Seth

The history of bay rum is as manly as it smells. Several centuries ago, sailors in the Caribbean had the idea to mix bay leaves and rum together to create a cologne that helped cover their stench on long voyages. Islanders took this basic recipe and began adding their own olfactory flourishes by mixing in cloves, citrus rind, and cinnamon. Thus was born an incredibly unique and wonderful fragrance that spread to the rest of the world and became popular among men as an aftershave scent and as a staple at classic barbershops. These days it’s having a resurgence as men rediscover the ritual of wet shaving

Canvas Tents


The distinct smell of canvas tents — a mixture of the scent of the fabric and a mildewy musk — was indelible for several commenters, whether associated with camping or life in the Army. This smell reminds me of Boy Scout camp in Colorado.

Burning Leaves


“Here’s a smell that’s hardly ever smelt these days. Probably because it’s illegal, but I loved the smell of burning leaves in the Autumn. It’s a shame kids these day won’t get to experience it.” -Gregg

I’m one of those “kids” who have never experienced the smell of burning leaves in the fall. Most cities in the US had banned it by the time I was born in 1982. My parents have told me about autumn leaf burnings. For about a month, all you could smell in most North American neighborhoods was the smell of burning leaves. I imagine it would have smelled like a campfire, magnified by ten. If you want to experience this smell today, just throw some leaves on your campfire the next time you build one.


Two Odes to Manly Smells

There were a couple of comments that listed a myriad of manly smells, and did so in a way that was down right poetic. Enjoy these two evocative odes to manly smells.

“The smell of a long used wood frame, dirt floored garage.
Canvas tents on a warm summer night
Coleman lanterns pushing the darkness back
The differing smells of ammunition being reloaded
A salt marsh, lake, river, pond or stream at dawn
The woods at dusk.
Driftwood burning on the beach
Lava Soap, the bar not that new fangled pump stuff
An old bar, well kept but permeated with the smells of constant patronage
Leather being worked into various items.
The fixative applied to old black and white Polaroid pictures.
An 16 mm movie projector running.
A flash bulb just after it it’s gone off.”

-Tom R.

“Loads of great memories here. Add a few more, some subtle like:
fresh maple syrup in the morning when my dad made pancakes (or the smell of ANYTHING cooking for breakfast after a long night camping);
the whiff of scent of a freshly lit Zippo lighter;
the faint ozone and oil of slot car racing or model railroad engines;
that sweet airplane glue or the clear dope you painted on tissue paper covered balsa airplane wings;
and Cox model airplane fuel burning in a micro two-stroke spittin’ and barking in your hands.
The sulphur of model rocket engines when they launch;
the fresh pigskin smell of a brand new football.
The grassy plastic smell of “Jarts” on a summer afternoon before do-gooders made them illegal.
And a few not so subtle:
August-hot creosote on the fresh telephone poles my dad would climb when he was a lineman;
the smell of engine, black grease, dust and the acres and acres of crop you were working under your grampa’s tractor when he trusted you to do the field when you were just 11 years old;
black powder smoke from the shooter’s point of view on a firing line of muskets in a Civil War reenactment;
ether engine starter spray;
waterproofing on G.I. tent halves;
mothproofing stuff on canvas webgear and new uniforms;
LSA cleaning solvent for your M-16 or M-60 (and the sulfur, burning grass, and white-hot metal smell whenever you had to change barrels);
deuce-and-a-half diesel exhaust; the smell of the inside of your combat helmet (the steel pot kind);
jet exhaust, dust and just a hint of somebody else’s barf as you exit the tail of a C-130 over a blistering hot tarmac – weird as it might sound, still striking good manly memory smells.”

-B.S. Whitmore

{ 154 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Jeff W. July 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

The smell of a log yard at a sawmill, also the musk of a freshly killed deer.

102 SRMcEvoy July 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Black Cherry Pipe Tobacco.

Fresh Ice at the Hockey Rink during 6am practice.

The Free weight room at the gym.

103 Alejandro De La Garza July 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Fresh cut grass!

104 matt July 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

My dad always wore Jovan musk for men. And what about Canoe? Isn’t that a classic too?

105 Jim July 9, 2013 at 11:01 pm

This is a great list. The smell of a good cigar and pipe should have made the list as well.

106 RJ July 10, 2013 at 7:52 am

I can add a few, gunpowder, fresh cut grass,Hoppes # 9, fresh caught fish.

107 Kammes July 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

The aroma of freshly baked bread – works up an appetite and reminds me of fueling up before a demanding day of work or recreation or recovering after one.

108 Lisa Simmons July 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

No body said Barbeque with charcoal! It’s the best aftershave my husband could wear! Wow!

109 mah-10 July 10, 2013 at 10:34 am

Similar to navy ship is the inside of a tank – all steel and paint
Also – not sure if someone has mentioned it but burning diesel. Both scents tank me back to various places and times in the army. Also, early, early morning air in the spring.

110 Jason July 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I was going to say, the smell of your dad’s truck, but I guess that would fit in to the smell of the inside of an old car.

The smell of a ballpark is definitely one for me. Hot dogs, popcorn, baseball leather, bbq smoke, and sweat from sitting in the bleachers all mixed together.

The smell of a baseball cap is also a man smell. You know how an old ball cap you’ve worn a while has the “head” smell. That’s definitely a man smell.

111 Taz July 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm

What about the stink of an old pair of hockey skates? :D

112 Mr. Man July 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Leather and whisky are two that come to mind.

113 Phil July 11, 2013 at 12:48 am

Pipe smoke from smoking Half N’ Half tobacco. Grandpa’s been gone 40 years this year, and it still reminds me of him the instant I smell it.

114 Barry Vorster July 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm

KIWI Shoe polish on a polished combat boot !

115 Kevin July 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I grew up hiking in the desert/shrub mountains of Southern California, and one smell trumps all: Sage. The musky smell of fresh sage after it rubs off on your jeans. I love that smell, especially after an early morning hike.

116 Scott July 11, 2013 at 11:58 pm

For me it’s the smell of the apparatus bay of a firehouse, especially after the rigs return from a fire. My dad is a retired firefighter, and I always loved that smell as a kid when we went to visit him at work. Now as an adult, when I go to work in the morning in the same firehouse, that smell is really nostalgic for me. It may sound strange, but that smell makes me feel humble and honored; because it reminds me of all the great men who preceded me, and makes me feel so small in comparison.

117 Steveareno July 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

The smell of a packed, metal toolbox. My toolbox has all kinds of stuff in it (and I think must defy some Newtonian law of conservation, since no matter how full it seems — and it’s full — I can always fit one more thing into it). When I open it, it gives off a unique scent — maybe like a concentrated hardware store smell.

118 Chris S. Davis July 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Growing up, I always loved that sickly-sweet smell of leaves, after a rain, that permeated the forests behind my home. You knew you were in the outdoors.

119 Jesse July 13, 2013 at 2:05 am

I always like the smell of freshly baled hay and diesel exhaust…reminds me of the farm where I grew up. I also really love the smell of an old hardbound or leatherbound book, the smell of vinyl records and the smell of old military canvas…which I guess could fall under your tent category. This post brought back some memories. Thank you.

120 Adam July 13, 2013 at 6:10 am

Smoke from a 2-stroke motor

121 Dennis R. July 13, 2013 at 7:23 am

Great list! I would add to this a few distinct ones for me: first, my grandfather’s basement workshop; there was always the smell of sawdust from freshly cut wood, oil, paint, glue and his cigars. I was very young when I first smelled all this, but I loved it right away. Also, the smell of the forest early in the morning riding up to the top of the hill so I can then shred my way back down again. The way the pine and dew and heat combine together to make probably one of the sweetest smells while I’m spending time on my bike is magical. And finally, one that needs no explanation, jet exhaust!

122 Michael Sparks July 13, 2013 at 7:32 am

one that I recently remembered was the smell of boiled linseed oil. I refinished some axe handles and it brought back memories of when we used it for everything wood, especially wood gunstocks that my dad would seem to always be working on.

123 kent July 13, 2013 at 8:22 am

diesel fuel & cow manure (think semi truck pulling cattle trailer)

burned alcohol fuel & dirt (think flat track motorcycle race or stock car race on a dirt track)

124 Aaron July 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

The smell of fresh alfalfa bales stacked in a barn.

125 Jordan July 13, 2013 at 10:57 am

My wife always likes the smell of me after I spent the day cutting 140 acres of alfalfa. The smell of the alfalfa, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, with a small scent of Copenhagen snuff (molasses, for those of you who don’t dip) along with the grease and metal shavings smell you get after the disc mower pins/throws a knife.

One of my favorites is the smell of the creek that runs through the farm. Once my kids finish helping with the hay wagons they run off, a string of shirts, shoes, and socks leading to the swimming hole. Can’t say I don’t do the same! The smell of 68 degree water in July, the heavy smell of Tiger Lily along the bank, the earthy smell of mud.

I also have to agree with the inside of the toolbox.

126 John C July 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I can relate to Aqua Velva and appreciate the addition. I wasn’t familiar with the smell until I was in Marine Corps boot camp. We were required to purchase a bottle every time we went to the PX. We would then all dump them into a large glass jug, like the ones that barbers use but a lot bigger. We would dump cotton balls in there to soak. After shaving very quickly, improperly, and twice a day, we would wipe our faces with the Aqua Velva soaked cotton. Now when I smell Aqua Velva, it is an immediate reminder of training with Marines. What could be manlier than that?

127 Mallory July 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

What about the smell of a wood stove? There’s the initial, gross ashy smell, but there’s also when it’s going nice and strong and you can smell the dry maple inside burning hot. Those are manly smells.

128 Mallory July 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm

And rye bread. I think anise in general smells a little masculine.

129 Ryan July 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Hockey gloves, smell of leaves in fall after raking

130 tom doss July 15, 2013 at 2:22 am

Hopp’s Gun Oil. Deer season’s finally arrived! No school for the opening day!

131 Justin July 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

Cutting oil (or machine shops in general)
Railroad ties

132 Bob July 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The smell in inside the cab of an old an still operating steam engine.

133 John July 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

Both lists are excellent. I would add:

An old book

A mixture of cedar and chain saw exhaust

Brasso in the can

Freshly spent shotgun shells

134 Kyle A. July 18, 2013 at 2:02 am

The smell of rain fresh on the wilderness. Maybe it’s because I live in Texas where the weather is satanically hot most of the time, but nothing makes me want to take my dog, put on some worn old jeans, and hit the muddy, overgrown trails like the scent of rain on the forest.

135 Kay July 18, 2013 at 3:13 am

Everyone seems to have forgotten the Evergreen and Immortal scent.
Every man of my Family from my Army Colonel Grandfather to my youngest cousin knows it.
Enough said.

136 I Art Laughing July 20, 2013 at 12:45 am

Freshly mowed hay in bails.

137 John G July 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

This is a great list!

I used to spend summer evenings watching the sun set on a dock. The blend of good cigar smoke, whiskey, old wet wood, and lake do it for me.

Hoppes #9

Gunpowder, especially the gunpowder smell of old paper shot shells.

The 2 that haven’t been mentioned yet.
D&L Hand cleaner

138 Elliot M. July 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm

A traditional American tattoo shop. I think the smell of ink and blood is a pretty manly combination.

139 Jake July 23, 2013 at 3:01 am

I’ll second the airplanes and naval ships.

Personally, I think there’s something about old planes that’s just perfect. They’re like a classic car in which every bit works perfectly and they smell like a classic garage. Forget that Jet-A, 100 octane aviation gasoline and hot oil is what powered the first 50 years of beautiful flight.

Naval ships are more biting. They smell like residual exhaust and nitrocellulose guncotton. Whenever I visit the USS Hornet, I think part of the expirence is the smell. Everything is charged, and just because the F-4U onboard is sitting in a corner with the wings folded doesn’t mask the aura of horsepower and history that the place exudes.

140 Andrew July 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

No one mentioned pipe tobacco??

141 Dave July 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Boiled linseed oil, varnish, cherry wood, gun bore oil. Grandpa’s basement workshop.

142 Darrell July 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

So many memories come flooding back as I read each response. A different face and memory for each smell.
Uncle Will = Velvet pipe tobacco and bourbon
Uncle Irvy = Lucky Strikes and Miller High Life and Old Spice
Dad = Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco and Ancient Age and Aqua Velva
Blackpowder smoke, dried oak on a hot fire.

143 Watjalukinat October 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I agree about airplane cockpits, I too worked on B52s. Smells like… power.

144 Bien January 4, 2014 at 6:11 am

The smell of a good barbeque, smell of wood on you after tree climbing, the smell of metal on your hands after destroying a set of muscle ups

145 Ahmad January 5, 2014 at 6:40 am

The smell of WD-40

146 Joe January 9, 2014 at 2:55 am

The smell of Stetson.

147 Josh January 14, 2014 at 2:43 am

What about straight sweat, which results from a lot of these activities, or is followed by a lot of these activities?

or weights at the gym

148 Luke January 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I honestly think that things like patchouli and other incenses are extremeley manly because my father would always burn it he would always smell like patchouli

149 Chris January 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm

You scared me a bit there as I thought this post is about the sweaty smell of men.

Anyway, coffee smell is definitely the top manly smell. And coffee machine is no doubt a manly machine. Out of all kinds of coffee machine, espresso machine is probably the most manly one. What do you guys think?

150 Phil Harding February 3, 2014 at 8:32 am

Jet exhaust?! Hot tar (ala a roofing job or paving site); burning rubber (from spinning tires, NASCAR or a drag race); hay; smell of a cobbler’s (shoe repair) shop.

151 J Rogers February 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Eucris cologne by Geo. F. Trumper.

I remember as a boy the smell of my great grandfathers cologne. My grand father wore it and my father wore it. This cologne or perfume de toilet as I recall the label saying was the most manly smell ever. I remember seeing the bottles on my fathers’ dressers many times. This stuff goes back to the late 1800′s. I thought the stuff old fashioned smelling. A chance reading of a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming surprised me, when, there it was listed as his cologne Geo F. Trumper’s “Eucris”. Wow, I thought, then stealing my fathers cologne I took it back with me to college. I had not much chance to wear it, in the last 20 years, my wife being sensitive to colognes. She would always purchase those that she preferred.

My dad passed away, and I happened to be digging through his personal affects when I caught a whiff of his old cologne, still in the bottle. I wondered if it were still available and yep there it was on line. I purchased it, put it on and my wife loved it. I get many compliments from women asking me what it is. I simply say, this stuff is over 100 years old and it is the original cologne of James Bond and Ian Fleming. The stuff is definitely manly if not the most manly.

152 RS March 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

Campfire, BBQ, dirt, cut grass, sweat after doing dirty hard work, locker room after a long game, dirty grimy work are all masculine smells.

153 Dave April 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Fresh cut wood, old cars, everything about camping in the woods are all manly smells. My old dirty baseball cleats and hat combined with grass and sweat are true manly smells.

154 Tim April 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Auto parts store, salvage yard office come to mind

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter