New Mexico Could Become the First State With an Official Scent — and It's Delicious

We bet you can guess what it is.

In New Mexico, they take their chiles seriously. 

Just look to the small community of Hatch, which hosts the famed Hatch Chile Festival every year that can be smelled for miles around. Vibrant chile ristras are strung up on nearly every street above sizzling blistered chiles that await being savored in stews, fresh salsas, and even burgers. 

So yes, the love of chiles here runs deep — so deep that local Sen. Bill Soules, inspired by a chile presentation led by fifth graders, proposed the smoky-sweet scent of chiles become the state’s official aroma.

While laws dictating scents are uncommon, many states have official markings like flowers, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The only sort-of-official state scents have typically come from candle companies. But, it's common for communities to be known for nostalgic scents — be it the orangey sea breeze smells reminiscent of California or even the fresh smell of roasted coffee reminding you that there is literally a Dunkin' on every corner in Massachusetts. But to Soules, none are quite as special as his state's chiles.

Roasted chiles

Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

"It's very unique to our state," he shared with the Associated Press. "I have tried to think of any other state that has a smell or aroma that is that distinctive statewide, and I can't think of any."

As AP reported, the bill has already passed its first committee and is likely to get implemented. Its aim, Soules said, is to bring more tourism to the state. And the legislative analysis of the bill came with this special snap to New Mexico's neighbor and low-key chile rival: "The new state aroma could help draw visitors away from Colorado, which, for some reason, thinks it has green chile comparable to that of New Mexico." 

The family behind, Chile Fanatic, a beloved chile shop in Hatch that sells freshly picked, dried, frozen, and even jarred Hatch green chile peppers, shared with Food & Wine that they too can get behind the state scent bill, as they know the sentimental power of the unmistakable smell. After all, Jesus Soto, the shop's founder, moved to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1980s with his wife, and worked on a chile farm before starting his business in 1998. Erika Banuelos, Soto's daughter, shared with Food & Wine, "I remember working in the fields as little kids for a number of years. We would make the ristras and would hold sales." Banuelos added, "Honestly, I did not know about this new law. I'm excited that they're thinking about doing this. If you've been around the smell of roasting green chile during August through mid-October, the smell of it is very unique."

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