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Why Women Smell Better Than Men

Sniffing Tasting

Wine in the GardenAll joking aside, women  (in general) have more acute senses of smell than men. The reason for that, according to aroma research published in Brazil, is the number of neurons found in the brain’s olfactory bulb.

Wedged down between the top of the nasal cavities and the bottom of the frontal lobe, the olfactory bulb is a computer, of sorts. It processes raw data from the nose into information the rest of the brain can use.

Women’s olfactory bulbs are bigger than men’s — significantly bigger, as it happens. Women have almost twice as many of the cells that sort and categorize smell information. The result of all that extra processing power is that women detect and identify odors at far lower concentrations. They also learn and remember particular aromas faster and better. At every age and stage of life, women smell better than men.


Women also prefer different aromas than men. Generalizations of this sort are always risky. But to the layman, the apparently genetic smell preferences uncovered by the researchers explain a lot about why it’s hard for men and women to live together. For example, women are more likely than men to be able to detect and be disgusted by various body odors. (Does this sound familiar to anyone?) Women prefer the aromas that underlie many florals: camphor, citronella, menthol, and ferric valerian. Men, on the other hand, prefer manly aromas like cedar, pine, and musk.

The physical differences between men and women at least partially explain differences in drinks selections. Gin that is lighter and floral are said to be “feminine,” for example. Less subtle, juniper-heavy gins are masculine. The same goes for wines.

Again, generalizations only explain so much. We certainly know a lot of women who attack a robust Bourbon or gargantuan Cabernet with all the zest of any man. But the physical differences are real, and would seem to indicate that the under-representation of women as both sommeliers and master distillers is based on culture, not biology. If it were up to biology…look out, guys.

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