A great fire should look beautiful, make you feel warm, and of course, it should smell amazing. If you’ve been around many fires, you’ve probably wondered why some smell great and others smell gross. When it comes to finding the best-smelling firewood, there are two primary factors: the type of wood and the condition of the wood. In this article, we will discuss both.
But first, what causes firewood to have any smell at all? As the combustion process breaks down the wood’s organic matter, it creates smoke. The composition of the smoke varies depending on the type and quality of the firewood being burned. The unique compounds within the smoke are responsible for its unique aroma.
The Quality of the Wood matters
We’ll explore the different types of wood soon, but it’s important to recognize that the quality of wood is often more important than the type of wood. If you attempt to burn green firewood or seasoned firewood that has a higher moisture content, the burn will have more smoke and it will not smell as nice.
Moisture is not the only problem, however, because seasoned wood is basically decomposing wood. It will likely have mold and fungus in it, and frankly, mold and fungus do not smell nice when they burn.
Here at Cutting Edge Firewood, we believe in only burning the best quality firewood available. We deliver wood to our customers that has been kiln dried and conditioned for 48 hours, reducing the moisture content of the wood to significantly lower levels than green or seasoned wood. This means our firewood is easier to light, burns longer and hotter, and of course, smells much better.
Learn more about the Cutting Edge difference, or continue on to see how we rate the aroma of different woods.
Cherry Firewood offers the most unique aroma
Our favorite firewood, from a best-smelling perspective, is undoubtedly cherry firewood. Cherry offers a unique aroma that is sweet and lasting. We’ve had customers tell us they created a fire with cherry firewood in their home, and then the home smelled great for two whole weeks!
If you really want to create a unique and memorable environment, then cherry firewood is the top choice. You’ll have visitors asking about it, and it’s an especially nice aroma during the holiday season. Not only that, but cherry firewood also looks great when you display it in a Cutting Edge Firewood rack.
Hickory provides the most classic smell
Hickory is our most popular firewood, and for good reason. The smell may not be as unique as cherry, but it is pure classic. There are a dozen different species of hickory native to the United States, all of which produce a fragrant aroma when burned. It’s difficult to describe the aroma of a hickory-burning fire without smelling it yourself (although some people we know compare it to fresh-baked ham). It’s sweet and savory, but subtle and not overbearing.
Not only does smell great, but hickory burns hotter and longer than most other firewoods. If you use hickory cooking wood or smoking chunks, they inject the same flavorful aroma into your food. You can use it to cook smoke or grill steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, fish and vegetables. The aromatic properties of hickory firewood compliment the flavors of most foods. As the flavorful smoke rises from the hickory fire, it creates more flavorful food.
Oak Firewood creates a more subtle fragrance
If you think the smell of hickory firewood is too strong, perhaps you should try oak. Oak is a popular alternative to hickory because it is milder and less sweet than hickory. Nonetheless, oak is a hardwood that’s easy to light, burns hot and produces a mild yet pleasing aroma.
Many people choose to mix and match their oak firewood with others. You can use oak as your base, and then throw on a couple pieces of cherry to add the unique cherry smell to your room or outdoor fire area. Oak is also a great cooking wood, and again, can be mixed and matched with other cooking woods for unique flavor combinations.
What about Softwoods like Cedar and Pine?
A lot of people ask about Cedar and Pine. Both types of wood smell great, especially when out in nature. They also smell nice when you burn them (supposing the wood is actually dry and not still filled with moisture and sap).
Both Western Red Cedar and Eastern Red Cedar are popular species in the United States. While they have unique characteristics, they both produce a similar fragrant aroma when burned. The aroma of cedar firewood is attributed to its natural oils. As cedar trees grow, they produce oils that repels pests and insects. These oils continue to have a fragrant aroma that’s released into the air when burned.
Likewise, pine firewood also can smell good when burned.
The problem with both cedar and pine, however, is that they are softwoods and not hardwoods (like cherry, oak, or hickory). This means that pine and cedar are both less dense and more porous than other types of firewood. They won’t burn efficiently, but they will burn quickly. With softwoods, you’ll be replenishing the fire pit or fireplace all night.
Not only that, but when cedar is burned, the natural oils quickly heat up and cause it to pop. For this reason, it’s recommended that you never burn cedar firewood indoors. In an outdoor area, its important to have a safe area with water nearby in case one of the embers pops and escapes the fire pit. Pine also has a high sap content, which can cause creosote to to accumulate in your chimney and create a tar-filled smoke when burning inside or outside.
For the reasons listed above, we do not recommend cedar or pine to people who want great fires. The extra smoke, risks, and work simply aren’t worth it when you have great options for amazing smelling firewood in Cherry, Hickory, and Oak.
Does the Aroma of Firewood Really Matter?
We’ve talked a lot about which firewood is the best-smelling. But does the smell really matter?
The short answer is this: It absolutely matters.
Would you rather eat food that smells great or smells terrible? Would you rather go on a date with someone who smells nice or someone who has a musky scent? So why would you want to have a fire, especially in your home, that doesn’t smell good?
Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, and a great fire should always be a memorable experience. A great smelling fire can also ignite special memories from the past. Creating an enjoyable family gathering or a romantic moment will only be enhanced by the fireside, especially a non-smoky, nostalgic aromatic fire.
Choosing aromatic firewood can even lower your stress levels. Studies have shown that aromatherapy — the treatment and/or prevention of medical conditions using fragrant aromas — can reduce stress and anxiety. Researchers believe that certain aromas trigger an internal response in the body, and the aroma of a wood-burning fire can protect against stress and anxiety.
Don’t forget, the aroma created by a cooking wood fire can affect the flavor of cooked meats and foods. If you’re planning to cook over a wood-burning fire, you’ll want to choose a great-smelling firewood to achieve the best possible flavor. The aromatic smoke will absorb into your food, thereby introducing rich new flavors that would otherwise not be possible.
When firewood produces a pleasant aroma, it simply creates a more enjoyable space. Whether you’re hosting a backyard party, camping underneath the stars or sparking up your patio fire pit, the aroma of a wood-burning fire will make these activities more enjoyable. Not only that, if you use quality kiln dried firewood, you won’t have that unfortunate smell that wet or seasoned firewood leaves on clothes.
Building the perfect fire begins with using the right firewood. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a large selection of premium firewood and cooking wood, which you can order from our online store.