SMELL NITROGEN

The pure nitrogen in the air is odourless. Nitrogen compounds, though, often have a strong, usually unpleasant, sometimes pleasant smell.

JASMINE

Indole, an important nitrogen compound, is contained in jasmine in small quantities and makes this wonderful fragrance. In larger concentrations, however, indole smells like fecal matter!

SMELLING SALTS

“Dear Neighbor, your flask!” – says Gretchen in Faust, as she gets dizzy. The little smelling salts bottle used to contain ammonium carbonate, that releases ammonia into the air. The strong smell was supposed to animate the spirit.

CYANIDE / BITTER ALMONDS

Many plants contain the protective cyanogen glucoside. When such a plant gets injured, it sets free the very poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide. Particularly rich in cyanide is the cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), a very popular hedge plant in Germany. Cyanide (chemically HCN) smells similar to the aroma of almonds, which here replaces the poisonous substance.