Mar 10, 2023 - News

What does Michigan smell like?

Illustration of a woman smelling mystery question marks made out of smoke.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The first state to potentially designate a symbol you can smell — New Mexico — could soon declare roasted chiles as its official state aroma.

That made us wonder: Could Michigan lawmakers follow suit?

The intrigue: The top Google result for "What does Michigan smell like" is this 2017 Free Press story about a "Michigan homesick candle" that smells like "tart cherries and rich chocolate" that "evoke memories of the Great Lakes State," the candle company's website reads.

Zoom in: There's the smells we all know and love — campfires, Mackinac Island fudge and the lake — but then there's also the pollution that creates distinct smells often found in low income communities across the state:

Southwest Detroit residents remember that rotten egg smell in 2019 as a result of the Marathon Oil refinery violating emission limits on pollutants.

Kalamazoo's north side has been dealing with strong industrial odors from a nearby packaging facility for years.

In Bay City, the sugar beet processing facility creates a distinct smell on the city's west side. When the wind hits, you can even smell it across the river.

What smells (good or bad) do you remember growing up in Michigan? What should our official state smell be?


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