10 Best Smelling Firewoods to Burn [Ranked]

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Written By Michael Culligan

With over 12 years of experience in Oregon's forestry industry, I have established myself as a skilled and knowledgeable lumber professional. As a passionate competitor in local timbersports events, I have consistently ranked among the top lumberjacks in my area. I take great pride in meticulously maintaining an extensive collection of restored vintage axes. I personally test every axe I review by using it to fell and chop up oak firewood on my land.

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The best smelling firewoods are Hickory, Oak, Cherry, Apple, and Mesquite.

The smell of wood burning in a fireplace is one of the most comforting smells in the world. It has been used for centuries to make people feel warm and cozy.

Wood is not only a source of heat, but it also provides a wonderful scent when it’s burned. The smell of wood burning in a fireplace can vary depending on the type of wood being burned. Different types of wood have different scents that are often described as earthy, sweet, or smoky.

In this article, I will list my favorite 10 smelling firewoods and explain what each firewood smells like, which is an impossible task to convert a smell into text, but I will give it a go.

1. Hickory Firewood

Hickory is my favorite smelling firewood. I like it in my cooking, and I like it in my fireplace. It is the stereotypical smell of smoke. It is a sweet and earthy scent. This, along with its high heat production and slow burn, makes Hickory one of the top firewood for various reasons.

Hickory has a rich smell but is not overpowering. It is a classic American fragrance you can’t beat when looking for nice-smelling firewood.

  • Smell: Sweet, Spicy, Earthy
  • Heat Production: 28 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
hickory firewood

2. Oak Firewood

Another high-quality firewood for multiple reasons is Oak. It has a more subtle smell than Hickory but gives a similarly Earthy scent. It is easy to light and produces a lot of heat and good cooking coals. Oak is famous for campfires, smoking meat, and constructing furniture.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Oak as a top firewood.

Both red oak and white oak are both popular smelling firewood options.

  • Smell: Mild, Earthy
  • Heat Production: 26-30 million BTU/Cord
  • Smoke: Low
oak firewood

3. Cherry Firewood

Cherry wood is one of the most unique-smelling firewood and is both rich and pleasant. It has a stronger scent than Apple wood and is also visually striking. Once you have lit a Cherry fire in your home, you will be able to smell it for weeks afterward.

It is also very unique – you will be able to notice a cherry fire forever after. I have even known people to put a single log of cherry onto their fire just for the scent.

  • Smell: Rich, Tangy
  • Heat Production: 20 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
cherry firewood

4. Apple Firewood

Apple is also a nice-smelling firewood often used in cooking for smoking meat. Apple wood smoked bacon is a popular example of this. It has a light and sweet scent that is much subtler than Cherry. You can smell a hint of the apple fruit in the smoke.

Apple wood is also a high heat producer and is high quality for numerous reasons.

  • Smell: Light, Sweet
  • Heat Production: 27 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
apple firewood

5. Mesquite Firewood

If there is one smell of barbecue, it is Mesquite. Mesquite is one of the most popular smoking woods, and you can often buy mesquite smoking chips to put in your smoker (I have a bag of these next to my barbeque right now). It does have a powerful smell and does produce more smoke than some of the other alternatives, so be careful that you don’t overpower your house with BBQ. Start with a single log and experiment until you find the amount of smoke you want.

  • Smell: Strong, Tangy
  • Heat Production: 28 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Moderate
mesquite firewood

6. Alder Firewood

I tend to think of Alder as smelling similar to Oak. It has a more subtle smell but does produce more smoke which can build up over time. The heat production is on the low side and burns quickly, so you will need to replace logs frequently. This means that you can quickly produce a lot of smoke and scent with Alder firewood.

I find that Alder is better suited for smoking lighter meat such as fish.

  • Smell: Light, Sweet
  • Heat Production: 17.5 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Moderate
alder firewood

7. Pear Firewood

Pear firewood is very similar to Apple, but it does smell more like its own fruit. Their heat production and amount of smoke are also very similar. Both of these woods have a light and sweet scent. They aren’t very rich, so you may need to build the entire fire out of pear wood to get the whole experience.

  • Smell: Light, Sweet
  • Heat Production: 26 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
pear firewood

8. Walnut Firewood

Walnut has a unique smell, but I would describe it as a more subtle Hickory. It has decent heat production and low smoke production. The scent is earthy and sweet. I always have trouble throwing walnut on the fire when I could be using it for some woodworking, but Walnut offcuts or damaged wood is always an excellent addition to my wood pile.

  • Smell: Earthy, Sweet, Subtle
  • Heat Production: 22 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
black walnut firewood

9. Pecan Firewood

Although Pecan is technically a Hickory tree type, it still has a unique smell. I would describe it as a richer version of Hickory. I prefer smoking meats with it because it seems to get more flavor into the meat. Along with Hickory, it is also a very high-quality firewood with plenty of heat production and good coals for cooking.

  • Smell: Richer Hickory Scent
  • Heat Production: 28 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Low
stacked pecan firewood

10. Birch Firewood

Birch has a delightful but subtle smell. It is a nice addition to a fireplace or campfire without dominating the area. It produces more smoke than some other hardwoods, so be aware of the number of logs you are burning at once. Birch is softwood, so it does burn quickly and can be difficult for temperature control if you are cooking with it. I have heard some people describe Birch smoke as “nature’s incense.”

  • Smell: Subtle and Sweet
  • Heat Production: 21 million BTU/cord
  • Smoke: Moderate
Best Smelling Firewood

Firewood Smell Database

If you want to see more firewood types than I have highlighted above, then please have a read through this database of different wood species and their smell when burnt:

SpeciesSmell StrengthSmell Description
AlderSlightLight, Sweet
AppleExcellentLight, Sweet, Fruity
AspenSlightUnique, Poor
BeechGoodFaint, Nutty
BirchSlightSubtle and Sweet
CedarGoodAromatic Oils, Pleasant
CherryExcellentRich, Tangy
ChestnutGoodPleasant, Nutty
CottonwoodBadCat Urine
Douglas FirSlightPleasant, Pine
ElmPoorAbsorbs Fell of Surroundings
HackberrySlightPleasant, Minimal
HemlockGoodDistinct Wood Odor
HickoryExcellentSweet, Spicy, Earthy
Honey LocustSlightMinimal Smell
JuniperExcellentRich, Deep Wood, Berries
Black LocustSlightMinimal
MapleGoodSweet, Syrup
MesquiteExcellentStrong, Tangy, BBQ
MulberryGoodSweet, Pleasant
OakGoodMild, Earthy
PearExcellentLight, Sweet
PecanGoodRicher Hickory Scent
PineGoodSubtle, Sweet
PoplarBitterStrong, Sweet, Acrid
Red CedarExcellentEarthy, Citrusy
SpruceSlightNo Odor
SycamoreSlightSlightly Unpleasant
WalnutGoodEarthy, Sweet, Subtle
WillowStrongUnpleasant Urine Odor