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If Arizona had a state smell, what would it be? Arizonans weigh in

By Sativa Peterson
Published: Monday, March 6, 2023 - 11:22am
Updated: Tuesday, March 7, 2023 - 8:33am

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New Mexico’s Senate Bill 188, which would grant the state an official aroma, passed the Senate with a 31-4 vote recently. It now moves on to the House. If passed, and if the governor signs the bill into law, New Mexico’s official smell will become green chilies roasting over an open flame.

That got The Show wondering — what might Arizona’s state smell be? Last week, listeners weighed in.

" ... Petrichor. Because petrichor is the word that describes the smell of rain and there is nothing like that smell when you’ve lived in Arizona and it hasn’t rained in a long time and then all of a sudden you walk outside and it hits you and it just smells so good," said Amanda Dirksmeyer.

" ... [T]he first monsoon rain of the season. It's that dusty wet cement smell," said CeeCee.

"When I think of Arizona I think of the smell of citrus blossoms in the springtime as the weather is getting warmer and hotter,” said Tim Schneider. 

Petrichor was a popular response, as were spring’s orange blossoms. But one listener had a different suggestion: elote, grilled Mexican street corn.

"It is roasted corn, specifically elote. You have this incredible medley of flavors where it is roasted corn obviously but then there are other seasonings that are applied during that process. It's usually spread with butter and mayo and usually cotija cheese and then sometimes adding on chili powder and salt and lime juice," said Aaron Wilson

There were many great suggestions, but there was a clear winner among the responses. A scent that was suggested more than any other. A smell that seems to bring even the most oppositional of Arizonans together: creosote.

creosote bush
Amanda Luberto/KJZZ
The creosote bush is also sometimes called greasewood.

“The state smell would have to be either stinky canal water or creosote after a rain," said one listener.

Stinky canal water aside — the hands-down winner was the creosote bush after the rain. The leaves of the creosote bush secrete oil when the plant is dry but when it rains those oils are released into the air. Some describe it as a little bit smoky or spicy, think camphor and dust, but most say it is the smell of desert rain itself.

Perhaps Arizona politicians should consider pumping this scent into the crowd at their next town hall meeting because this is the wonderful, fragrant, earthy smell that seems to unite us. It’s also one of the oldest living things in the world — heat and drought tolerant — the creosote bush has been residing here since the last ice age.

Not too bad, Arizona.

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