Canadian Currency Smells Like Maple Syrup (to Some People)

Has the Bank of Canada been spiking the national currency?

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Mark Blinch / Reuters

A man holds the new Canadian 100 dollar bills made of polymer in Toronto November 14, 2011.

Maple syrup is about as Canadian as Tim Horton’s, lacrosse, ice hockey and bacon, but just how Canadian would maple syrup-scented money be?

Enquiring Canadians want to know, alleging that the Bank of Canada may be circulating new bank notes with, well, a little something extra. According to Canadian news weekly Maclean’s, dozens of people have been after the bank since it introduced anti-fraud plastic material to its bank notes in November 2011, claiming a so-called “scratch-and-sniff” section smells like the deliciously viscous substance people often drizzle over breakfast confections like pancakes or French toast.

“I would like to know … once and for all if these bills are in fact scented, as I do detect a hint of maple when smelling the bill,” wrote one person in an email to Maclean’s.

“They all have a scent which I’d say smells like maple? Please advise if this is normal?” wrote another.

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Canada produces something like 80% of the world’s maple syrup: Could it be some sort of weird Canadian ploy to meld marketing and monetary policy? An unfortunate accident (or fortunate, depending on your olfactory proclivities) involving a fleet of maple syrup tankers and bank security trucks? Or is it just a bunch of badly confused conspiracy types?

The Canadian press took the matter seriously enough to invoke Canada’s Access to Information Act (yes, really), securing a year’s worth of communication between the public and Bank of Canada about the new currency. Among other things, they found that some citizens were so convinced the new notes were supposed to be maple-scented that they’d written to complain their bills weren’t.

“The note … lost its maple smell,” wrote one, adding “I strongly suggest the Bank increases the strength of the … maple smell.”

The Bank of Canada has repeatedly denied it’s doing anything whatsoever to make the bills explicitly fragrant.

For the record, I was in Toronto over the weekend and happened to withdraw dozens of the new polymer-based banknotes, several of which I carted back across the Windsor/Detroit border when I returned Monday, and I can say with firsthand authority that they definitely have that all-too-familiar bouquet redolent of ink, sweat and dirt.

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