What does sagebrush smell like?

There’s a certain smell that when it hits the air and reaches your nose, it travels all the way to your heart. It’s the hot still smell of summer in the Nevada desert. Simultaneously green and earthy, it’s wonderful, it’s iconic, it’s sagebrush.

One of the most well known emblems of the Wild West itself, Sagebrush is a scent that almost needs no introduction but what does sagebrush smell like?

Let’s take a walk through the history of the wild West’s wildest shrub.

What is Sagebrush?

Picture this: it’s a summer day and you’re standing in the midst of the Nevada desert. There’s a stillness and a tranquility around you as the sun beats down and a certain smell in the air that reminds you of both the dry heat of the desert combined with the freshness of mother nature herself. As you gaze around squinting through the rays of relentless sun, you see it. Glistening like a silver diamond, the crown jewel in a golden sea of sand. One of the most iconic emblems of the Great Basin, no old Western movie set or memories of your favorite sandy adventures is complete without it: sagebrush. 

If we know outlaws, and we like to think we do, then we also know that you’ve seen it in photos, watched cameras pan past it in every Clint Eastwood movie, and your wildest memories are littered with sagebrush shining in the background like little green drops of heated adventures the smell of sagebrush hanging in the still air. So what exactly is sagebrush? Let’s get technical. Not to be mistaken for the aromatic herb commonly used in the kitchen, sage, sagebrush belongs to a family of over a dozen species of Artemesia. A woody-stemmed evergreen shrub, it grows naturally from as far south as New Mexico and all the way through to British Columbia. 

Standing tall and proud in stark contrast to the ocean of sand, sagebrush is nature’s very own outlier. Our favorite green rebel wouldn’t ever let a little issue like a total lack of water stand in the way of living its wild west fantasy. Oh no, sagebrush is strong and defiant, thriving in even the most diverse environments and covering most of the Nevada state and earning its rightful place as an emblem on the Nevada state flag. Living up to 100 years with a double system of roots, branches, and leaves, when sagebrush comes out to play it certainly means business so when we say break me off a piece of that, you can be sure we mean it. 

With tiny yellow flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall, sagebrush is the shining star of Nevada’s plant kingdom with a silvery sheen that is both enchanting and majestic. Covered in tiny silver ‘teeth’, the hairy leaves of sagebrush pack one hell of a punch. Breaking off even the smallest leaf of sagebrush will release the most astonishing aroma that’s both hard to ignore and hard to forget. Didn’t you ever wonder how just one whiff could bring back a thousand memories of the great outdoors, set your mind wandering and get your heart burning? So what exactly does nature’s own evergreen outlaw smell like?

What does sagebrush smell like?

Like summer and winter all wrapped up in one, sagebrush has a smell like no other. Break off a sprig and it will release the most characteristic aroma that has both a spice and a bitterness to it that means it is rarely used in the kitchen. The bitterness gives off a clean kind of smell, fresh like winter, like a drop of Christmas here to disrupt the still deep heat of Nevada’s desert land. But one to always keep you on your toes, the journey sagebrush’s familiar aroma will take you on doesn’t stop there. Crush the leaves and that wintery bitterness only intensifies, but leave it to dry for a few hours and the evergreen adventure continues. Softening over time, the bitterness dissipates slightly, leaving you with an aroma that is green and somewhat berry-like, like the omnipresent smell of warm summer weather that hangs in the air.

The battle of the sages: Sage vs Sagebrush

Trust us when we say if you thought that sage and sagebrush were related, you’re not the first to be mistaken and you certainly won’t be the last. Sharing only a name, the high desert shrub sagebrush isn’t even slightly related to the herb spice we often have lying around in the pantry. While we think there’s no better way to top off a sexy western cologne than with that extra hint of sagebrush, we won’t be seasoning our potatoes with it any time soon. So what’s the difference between these two sages and where does all this confusion come from?

While the similarity in their names decidedly earns the top spot for the cause of confusion between sage and sagebrush, the history of these two plants definitely doesn’t help with the mix up. Officially named Salvia, culinary sage is an herb belonging to the mint family originating from the Mediterranean region. Commonplace in most kitchens, its main use is as a spice and for medicinal purposes. Sagebrush, or Artemisia tridentata, actually belongs to the sunflower family. Although slightly surprising considering small yellow sagebrush flowers look nothing like sunflowers, it’s certainly a flower of the sun in our books and is so aptly named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and the wilderness. How about that for badass?!

And what about the history you ask? Aside from the name dilemma, both sage and sagebrush are relatives in the ancient history of smudging. Smudging is an ancient practice used to cleanse or purify spaces of bacteria. Originally practiced by Native Americans, smudging is an ancient purification ritual where dried herbs are braided or burnt and the smoke is waved around in order to purifry spaces or people. It was believed to metaphorically cleanse the body, mind, and renew the spirit and was a practice often adopted by healers. Some believe that the scents and vibrations released when burning herbs replaces negative energies and ions with the healing properties of herbs from the Earth so it was often used when moving into new places or to get rid of bad energies.

Shop Sagebrush-inspired cologne, soap & More

What is sagebrush used for?

And what about today? Although smudging was an ancient ritual, sagebrush still has a place in modern times. Most commonly sagebrush is used as a firewood and at times also used for medicinal purposes like in salves to treat wounds or injuries. Although it is used less in culinary practices because of its bitterness, it is used often in cocktail making as this spicy shrub serves as a great flavor booster, so if you’re in the mood for a drink with a kick add a sprig of sagebrush and watch it take you to wild new realms.

The outlaw in you may also be amused to know that planting sagebrush is used as a rehabilitation system for prisoners! The Bureau of Land Management partners with prisons in order to help rehabilitate prisoners and restore the endangered habitats in areas like Wyoming, where lands have been devastated by wildfires and energy development – it’s a beautiful tale of outlaw meets outlaw and we love it!

The perfect gift for people who love the smell of gunpowder sagebrush

Looking for the ultimate gifts for people who like sagebrush? We’ve got you covered with a lustful collection that will send them head over cowboy boots. The perfect choice for anyone looking for a cologne that smells like sagebrush to take them back to childhood memories of the Sierra Nevada desert, bring back that burning heart feeling of saddling up for their next wild western adventure, or for anyone simply dreaming of bottling up that oh so sweet smell of sagebrush just after the rain has fallen. The smell of sagebrush is the epitome of Western American summer and one that we know any outlaw just can’t live without. 

If you’re looking for a hot Western summer romance in a bottle, look no further than our Lust in the Dust collection of colognes and soaps. A clever and seductive combination of desert sage and sandalwood with lightly smoked campfire, Lust in the Dust was created with love on the brain and is sure to get temperatures hot enough to rival the Mojave itself.

Try our handmade bar soap or natural body wash and you’ll instantly feel like you’re taking a long cool shower in the great outdoors in the privacy of your very own bathroom. Just one silky soft touch of Lust in the Dust will fill the room and your heart with the familiar scent of high desert breezes and the deep warm heat of open-hearted love. Your desert shower romance doesn’t have to end there, let your fantasy live on by topping it off with our natural lotion and beard oil and hair elixir for a steamy smell that lingers lustfully on the skin and leaves everyone wanting just that little bit more.

Live your desert romance with Lust in the Dust sagebrush gifts and watch those saddlebags drop to the floor.

Begin a desert romance with Lust in the Dust