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Top Smells that Remind us of Albuquerque

By NMSL 09/03/2014

Albuquerque News

People come from all over to taste our cuisine, see our beautiful landscape, listen to our diverse music, and feel the warm New Mexico sun, but Albuquerque also has many–shall we say–fragrant bouquets that are associated with our fare city. Here are a few of our favorites that instantly reminds us of our beloved Duke City. What smells like home to you?


Downtown Albuquerque is small by some standards, but after a weekend of partying, on Sunday morning its aroma can pack a big punch. Pro tip: avoid alleys, and don't step on bags.

Frontier Cinnamon Roll

Sure, it's mostly sugar and butter, but if you're smelling this on a Frontier Cinnamon Roll that's in front of you, your life just improved by 129.4 percent.

Roasting Chile

This is probably the smell most associated with Albuquerque and New Mexico in general, and is on the short list for best smell in the universe, which could explain Roswell. Why hasn't Chanel turned this into an aftershave or something already? Look out, Old Spice.

Propane and Propane Accessories

The smell of propane means one thing in Albuquerque–balloons (see also: Roasting Chile). Burning dinosaurs was never so much fun.

Forest Fires

Whether it's our forests burning, or those of our Arizona or Colorado neighbors, summers in Albuquerque can sometimes smell like a gigantic camp fire and even cause heath alerts. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation scratches its head and thinks, "They have trees in New Mexico?"

General Mills Plant

The General Mills plant at 3501 Paseo del Norte makes Kellogg's cereal, and everyone commuting rolls down their windows in the morning. We're waiting for a drive-thru, it's that magically delicious.


Some people think these are the epitome of fragrance in the desert; others think they smell like feet. Either way, you can't avoid the smell of this hardy yellow bush when it blooms in the fall, especially if you have allergies.

Burning Luminarias

Here we call then burning luminarias. In Santa Fe they called them burning farolitos. Either way, when a candle gets too close to these beloved paper sacks during the Christmas season, the smell is unmistakable as a bag goes up in flames like a tiny Hindenburg. The horror! It's also a good opportunity to warm your hands. 

Bonus points for using vanilla votive candles.

Breakfast Burritos and Coffee

Breakfast burritos and coffee–a combination made in heaven, or in this case, Albuquerque. The combined smell alone, especially at 5 a.m. at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, is enough to vanquish all doubts as to why you're up at this unholy hour.

Piñon Fires

The best smell ever, anywhere, next to rain in the desert. Whether it's burning in a horno or in your kiva fireplace it's New Mexico in your nose. It's so wonderful that a few New Mexicans have realized they can sell their sawdust to tourists.

Rain in the Desert

The best smell ever, anywhere.