How Essential Oils Smell – A Man Versus Oils Perspective

Welcome back manly men of manly oils – and also a shout to the lovely ladies of oil that also read these posts (I may have got in a little trouble recently). It is time for another fun post today based on how essential oils smell – from a male perspective of course. You see I was doing some critical and life changing research the other day for this site. I kept asking my beautiful wife about the aromas of the oils, how they smelled and what they worked well with. She questioned ever so delicately how I can write about oils if I don’t know how they smell. My response was that I smell so many oils in a week that it is hard to keep up… Then, on that very same day we took delivery of a new essential oil blend we purchased that really did not smell great. Annnnddd another post idea was hatched!

One of the things I do really like about essential oils is that they are different for each person. Some like the aromas of some and others not. Some find them useful for some things and others not. So with that in mind there will be no deep scientific research today – just the aromas as I see them – well, smell them. I may however continue with my usual categorization of some of them as manly versus unmanly oils. If they are florally, they are unmanly – fact! This doesn’t necessarily mean that the smell is no good, just not manly. I also haven’t included every essential oil there is… Mainly because we don’t have them but as usual, I will update this post as new oils find their way into the Man Versus Oils household.

Anyway, lets take a journey down the path of essential oil aromas and apologies in advance to some of the oils for their, ummm, less than flattering odorous reviews…

Oh, and do you want an insight into the amazingly scientific processes we undertake in the man versus oils household to come up with the descriptions below?  Watch here – but be wary, there is some extremely rigorous testing on display…

Oils that smell just like their fruit/plant

Manly oils - spices

Let’s start today with the easy ones. These are the oils that smell just like you expect them to smell. These are good to know as they make a good base when you are trying to choose oils for the diffuser or to cut down the aromas of others that may be say, less than pleasant:

  • Lemon – smells like Lemon.
  • Lime – smells like Lime.
  • Grapefruit – smells like Grapefruit.
  • Tangerine – smells like Tangerine
  • Bergamot – smells like Bergamot – well, I have never actually smelled a real life bergamot fruit but I feel pretty confident that that is what they smell like.
  • Peppermint – smells like a Peppermint lolly (candy).
  • Spearmint – It even seems to capture that slight sweetness that spearmint has.
  • Citronella – smells just like a citronella candle so I am guessing it smells like you would expect.
  • Clove – don’t get me started – but yes – smells just like clove.
  • Tea Tree – we used to visit a place when I was a kid that was covered in tea trees – they smelled just like the oil.
  • Cinnamon Bark – smells like Cinnamon – it is a lot sweeter than I expected as well
  • Stressaway (blend) – smells like Vanilla and Lime which is good as that is what it is made of.
YL Lemon Essential Oil
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YL Bergamot Essential Oil
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YL Peppermint Essential Oils
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YL Stress Away Essential Oil Blend
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Oils that are close enough

How Essential Oils Smell- lavender

These oils are close – and the subject of much debate between Nic and myself. But of course I have the final vote so these oils are almost as you would expect, but just a little ‘off’.

  • Rosemary – Sometimes it is close and sometimes not. But in general it smells to me like Rosemary that has been wet and left in a kids school bag for a week. Surprisingly however it smells a lot more like you would expect when it is in the diffuser or warm water.
  • Oregano – Very close again – Nic reckons this one is spot on but to me there is a slight hint of a burnt smell to it – it is nice actually – just burnt.
  • Eucalyptus – As someone who lives in Australia, I am pretty up to date with the smell of Eucalyptus. The essential oil does smell like Eucalyptus, just stronger if that makes sense. I think it must be the distillation process as there is the same underlying ‘oddness’ that Rosemary has.
  • Lavender Lavender plants have a beautiful gentle scent that sort of just sneaks up on you. Lavender essential oil takes that scent and punches you in the face with it. We do know that essential oils are highly concentrated so I guess that is the reason – it is good – but strong.
  • Lemongrass – Just like Rosemary – it is close, but just a little off. Also, like Rosemary, the lemongrassness does come out when mixed in the diffuser or blend recipe.
  • Ginger – see Rosemary and Lemongrass.
  • Black Pepper – I am not sure why this is an oil and you can smell it in there. It is just not the ‘up your nose make you sneeze’ aroma that I was expecting.
  • Elemi – I am not sure what an Elemi is supposed to smell like but this one is actually quite nice.  I thougth it was Grapefruit when I first smelled it and when compared it is actually like Grapefruit but stronger.
YL Rosemary Essential Oil
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YL Lavender Essential Oil
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YL Eucalyptus Radiata Essential Oil
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YL Lemongrass Essential Oil
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Oils that smell like other stuff

How Essential Oils Smell- man smelling flowers

Some of the oils, mainly the blends, tend to take on aromas of their main ingredients or other scents when sniffed or used in the diffuser. This information is good to know if you are looking for a special diffuser or blend recipe or need a substitute for another oil that you have run out of or do not have in your collection:

  • Wintergreen – Smells like Deep Heat sports liniment – I use this one for the same reason and it works a treat.
  • Panaway (blend) – smells like wintergreen – probably because wintergreen is included in the blend.
  • Joy (blend) – probably the most unmanly essential oil known to man. It smells just like a bunch of flowers which is probably why most of us men don’t recognize, or resonate with the aroma. Nic says she can smell the Geranium and Rose. I will take her word for it.
  • Peace and Calming (blend) – smells just like Orange which is good considering there is a lot of citrus in this one.
  • Valor (blend) – I reckon this one smells like Licorice allsorts. It does have Northern Lights Black Spruce as an ingredient which is quite sweet.
  • Grounding (blend) – this one caused great debate in this house. I smell lavender, lavender and more lavender. Nic disagrees. Interestingly there is no lavender in it but I stand by my nostrils here.
  • R.C. (blend) – ‘Orangy eucalyptus’ is the best description for this one.
  • Purification (blend) – I always say that this one smells like a hospital but in general just think Citronella.
  • SclarEssence (blend) – this is a strong one but another that I just can’t pick. The peppermint and fennel are definintely detectable.
YL Wintergreen Essential Oil
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YL Panaway Essential Oil Blend
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YL Valor Essential Oils blend
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Young Living RC Essential Oils
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Oils that just smell weird

Ok, here are the strange ones. These just either don’t smell right, or have a certain weirdness to them that I just can’t place my finger on:

  • Freedom (blend) – This is the bottle that started it all. This is a new addition to our collection and I was in the car with Nic when we picked it up. She smelled it and loved it. To me, it smells like paint (sorry Young Living). There are 1000 oils in the mix here and something tells me there might just be a few too many.
  • Blue Cypress – From the start, I like this one, but to me it smells like Zinc Cream which reminds me of my childhood on the beach. Works well with Lemon or Lime oils.
  • Envision (blend) – This is another that I am not a fan of – think baby change room after the changing of a nappy and a splash of baby powder. I know that took some imagination on my behalf but I just had to keep smelling it until it came to me.
  • Digize (blend) – I just can’t put a finger on the scent of this one. In fact it almost smells ‘chemically’. This is not the case I know but I just can’t pick it. It does contain Fennel, Ginger and Lemongrass so maybe that is it…
  • Geranium – I can’t hide from this one. It is the worst smelling oil I have ever come across. Think Asparagus that has gone rotten and you are almost close. I read somewhere that it fosters hope. Well, I hope I never have to smell it again.
  • Basil – You know that smell of sweet basil in the garden on a warm afternoon?  Well this aint it!  It must be another strain of basil as this one just smells like funny aniseed.

Other aromas

And finally, there are a number of oils we have that I can’t really describe the smell of apart from grouping them. These are the grounding oils and what I am calling the tree or forest oils.

Grounding oils

I have grouped these oils as grounding oils mainly as I couldn’t really think of another name for them. Most them are commonly referred to by that name. The list below contains all of the oils that I really couldn’t describe as smelling like anything apart from their similarity unto each other. I would probably describe them as smelling ‘earthy’. These are:

  • Vetiver
  • Cedarwood
  • Sandalwood
  • Frankincense
  • Copaiba

They all have that earthy aroma which makes them very good if you are looking for something to add to a calming recipe for your diffuser or blend. They are all quite manly in scent as well and their properties make them good for things such as manly beard blends and aftershaves.

Read more: 10 Grounding Essential Oil Recipes for Men

Tree/Forest oils

essential oil blend - trees in snow

Technically most of these also fall into the grounding oils category however I have split them due to their more tree like aroma rather than those listed above. I am a fan of these oils I must say and to me they all smell like variations of pine trees or a strong pine forest in the snow – wow, that was a good one! They are considered manly and often marketed that way, however I do have to have a word to my beautiful wife from time to time as she has taken to putting a couple of drops of the Northern Lights Black Spruce on her wrists before she heads out – I mean, that is MY oil!

The real only difference among the oils below in my opinion is the sweetness in the aroma – I think if you smell them you will see what I mean. Anyway, here is the list in from the highest to the lowest sweetness level detected:

  • Northern Lights Black Spruce
  • Idaho Blue Spruce
  • Sacred Mountain
  • Pine
  • Shutran (blend) – this one is not a real favorite as it seems to have a bitterness to it – that said, a mate of mine who comes over before we go fishing (who thinks oils are a waste of time) always seeks out and sniffs this one before we go.

These oils all work extremely well in the diffuser when mixed with a citrus oil – Lemon and Norther Lights is a common diffuser recipe in our house.

YL Vetiver Essential oil
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YL Frankincense Essential Oil
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YL Northern Lights Black Spruce Essential Oil
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YL Sacred Mountain Essential Oil
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So there you have it, an extremely scientific, accurate and all encompassing account as to the smells and aromas of some essential oils. As usual, I will update this post as our collection grows or I am exposed to others. Do you have a favourite aroma? Or think that some smell a little different to my account? Please comment below.

Until next time, and as always

Have fun


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My name is Paul and I live on the east coast of Australia with my wife and six year old son. I also have 19 and 23 year old daughters. I am an ex government and bank worker who took a bit of a sea change and opened my own business by the beach with my amazing wife. If you can do it, try it. You will never look back. You want to know more about me, read my About Me page

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