Recalling and describing smells is the hardest. I always latch onto great smell descriptions when I’m reading, and they range from “the hospital smelled like a hospital” (or something along those lines as described by Hemingway) to “the hospital smelled like moldy wet rags and old vomit and piss and bleach and medicine” (I just made this up from having read something similar somewhere). But it’s not the quantity of words that gives the right smells description but the right word.
My present struggle is describing the smells of a train. For the longest time I couldn’t find the word for that specific smell in the vestibule and in the gangway until Clive Barker saved me. He called it “stale electric air” and bingo, that was it. Electric. I kept trying to call it metallic and the smell of rubber and metal but it all felt wrong. I can, of course, always go the Hemingway route and say the train smelled like a train. Clean and simple, right?