The Universe Smells Like Burnt Almonds

Posted on : May 14th, 2020

Almond Blossoms in Space

You never know what strange things you will find on a waltz around the Internet. Today, in search of a blog post idea I thought that today’s topic was starting out to be quite the mystery. So I typed “mystery” and “almonds” into Google to see what would come up. Boy, was that a ride!

Along the way, I came across some old writings by the late spiritual philosopher Alan Watts titled “The Smell of Burnt Almonds” in which he described the phenomenon of people waking up from anesthesia after surgery with a variety of mystical revelations. In fact, they would commonly have the sensation of feeling like the mystery and meaning of the universe were fully revealed. A researcher decided to try the anesthetic with the idea of capturing the experience in writing immediately upon waking up. When he returned to see what he wrote after he was fully awake he found one sentence: “Everything in this universe is the smell of burnt almonds.”

Alan Watts went on to write an entire essay about how mystical experience often comes down to something that seems inane in a less altered state. I think that what he wrote was fairly incomprehensible, ending up with the idea that the experience is everything and that words cannot capture it.

Okay. But higher on the Google page were three entries from more scientific sources saying that the infrared light that seems to glow throughout space (what we would call the universe) actually DOES smell like almonds! Mind blown! Apparently, this cosmic light is made up of a type of aromatic organic carbon molecule known as benzonitrile. It makes up about 10% of the carbon content of the universe and is part of the stellar medium that winds up making new stars and planets. The scent would be too faint to detect spread out in space but, when it is condensed, it has a sweet smell said to be exactly like almonds. Some have even described it as the smell of a burnt almond cookie.

Interestingly, the Aramaic word for almonds is “luz” which when translated can also mean “light,” and in ancient Judaism almond trees were symbolic of the Tree of Life. It’s also symbolic of resurrection in the Bible because almond trees are usually the first to blossom in late Winter, before it is quite Spring. So maybe Alan Watts’s story is even more mysterious and mystical than he even realized:

Light permeates the known universe. It is the stuff that stars and planets are made of. That includes the planet we live on. And if you were to smell this glowing light, it would, literally, have the scent of burnt almonds.


Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products, Inc. was founded on strong beliefs and passion for offering unique, flavorful, top-quality, nut products. We strongly believe in earth-friendly practices that start on our family owned and operated orchards. We use Organic farming practices and continue in the process by using all-natural ingredients with no preservatives or GMOs. We believe in honest, friendly and helpful customer relations at all levels. We take pride in every task, every day, with every person.