ornate line
The maple syrup smell is back


I used to live in Chicago. I moved there for a couple years for work. And while I was there, something weird happened almost every morning. When I left my building, more often then not, I would smell fudge brownies the minute I walked out the door. And I don't mean a subtle hint of chocolate. I mean "hold a plate of double fudge bad boys up to my nose til I drool" kind of smell. And every time, I would ask other people on the sidewalk, the door guy, anyone I could find, and they would all tell me the same thing...sorry, I don't smell anything. And with every "don't smell it" I got, I would rack my brain to figure out what medical emergency was taking place. I know that Sopranos dude smelled rotten eggs before he dropped dead...What does fudge mean? Am I having a stroke? An aneurysm? Diabetec seizure? Should I call a paramedic? Combine random unexplained smells with a tendancy towards major hypochondria, and you get a happy little panic attack every day on the way to work.

Cut to about a week before I'm moving back to New York...I walk out the front door...and there's my plate of brownies smell, strong as ever. As a gut reaction, I say, in a louder than normal tone...What the hell is that chocolate smell. Someone on the sidewalk looks at me, takes a big whiff, and says...oh, that's the candy factory about a mile north of here. They make their chocolate fresh every day.

Anyway...the maple syrup smell is back. Anyone else smell it? Or have any theories?

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From JAMA, here's a clue:

"Maple syrup urine disease is an inborn error of the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids named after the characteristic sweet aroma, reminiscent of maple syrup, present in the body fluids of affected patients.1 This aroma has been described variously as like that of burnt sugar, malt, curry, or Maggi (a widely available flavoring). We describe a case of "pseudo–maple syrup urine disease" caused by drinking fenugreek tea."

said Annie on March 1, 2008 10:28 AM.

Prevailing winds from Vermont?

said Miss Cellania on March 1, 2008 11:37 AM.

Weren't you complaining about this in New York about a year ago?


said Scaramouch on March 1, 2008 1:19 PM.

When you lived in Chicago, you were almost certainly smelling the Blommer Chocolate factory. It's located where the Chicago River branches North and South. The smell drifts over downtown when the breeze is Eastward.

said sysm on March 1, 2008 1:54 PM.

Scara, I thought I might have mentioned the candy story before. How the heck did you remember that?

said Jellio on March 1, 2008 4:16 PM.

This American Life did a story about the Chicago brownie/chocolate smell once. According to the story, sysm is right: the Blommer Chocolate Factory was the cause.

said Chris on March 2, 2008 1:45 PM.

i've yet to actually have real maple syrup served to me in the US anywhere outside of vermont. quite sad.

said repenttokyo on March 3, 2008 5:03 PM.

I live in Gainesville Florida (North central part of the state) and I experienced the maple syrup smell about a month before the NY story in 2005. I heard it was back there today...
I think it is government testing of wind drift for chemical agents/attack. Enough smell to notice, but pleasant enough to be forgotten. We are 40 minutes from a nuclear power plant in Crystal river and 1-2 hours from two military installations. Any thoughts?

said babs on January 6, 2009 1:13 PM.

Radiator fluid - ever smell a heater core going bad in a car?

said M.E. Smith on January 6, 2009 5:27 PM.

I heard reports that the smell is back today, January 7 2009.

I'm happy to report that my commute smelled like it was supposed to. Stinky homeless guy on the F train. And vomit scent on the subway platform.

said Baierman on January 7, 2009 9:52 AM.


I'm sorry to report that the stinky homeless guy smell disappeared from the F train after your stop.


TAD (Transit Authority Dude)

said Tim on January 7, 2009 10:57 AM.

I live in Cordova Illinois 2 miles south of the Nuclear power plant and have been smelling strong maple syrup for the last 2 days and it seems to be coming from nowhere it just appeared the same time it did in NYC so I don't think its coming from a fragrance factory in NJ I live in a town of 600 people hundreds of miles from NYC and NJ so the best I can tell is are government is dropping chem trails so they can see who it will effect.

said Dan B on February 5, 2009 4:09 PM.
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