Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moss Gown by Providence Perfume: The Aura of Story in Perfume Creation

Life inspires stories. The best ones are told with purpose, pattern and conviction. Stories shape the past, our present notion of self, and aspirations for the future (real or imagined). Every story is dependent on imagination, but in order for the story to take hold it must be grounded in something we can relate to. If stories don't resonate with something tangible in our lives our minds can't give them permission to fly.

A well-composed perfume also tells a story and does so with an intriguing beginning (top notes), a compelling middle (heart notes) and an end that anchors the story with purpose (base notes). Natural perfumery is beset with the challenge of telling a good story because more often than not, the narrative ends too quickly due to lack of tenacity. Creations with the best intentions grow flat, quickly silenced by evaporation.

Perfumer Charna Ethier, of the Providence Perfume Company, tackles the tenacity issue in natural perfumery by utilizing a method commonly applied in creating herbal remedies and bitters; that of tincturing:
 "I am a big fan of creating alcohol based tinctures to use as the base alcohol for perfumes. I find one of the biggest complaints I hear regarding natural perfumes is that they don't last long enough. Creating these infusions, oftentimes with freeze-dried fruits and spices, adds a very interesting subtle note to the perfumes. In addition, the natural sugars and starches in ingredients like apricots and basmati rice slow the evaporation rate of the perfume on skin, allowing them to last longer.

Another added bonus is the ability to extend particular notes throughout the entire dry down of the perfume. For example, it's difficult to create a natural citrus perfume that is long lasting as citrus notes are top notes and fleeting in nature. By using a Meyer lemon tincture as the base alcohol, I am able to pull the citrus note throughout the length of the perfume. You are still able to detect the lemon jasmine like note of Meyer lemon in the base notes. I find this incredibly cool!"
If you've ever made own vanilla extract or macerated spices and fruit for use in pastry then you've already dabbled in the art of tincturing. Creating tinctures for base alcohols in perfumery requires more control of the materials (some ingredients, like flowers, must be replenished daily) and is not a process that can be hurried. The perfumer's ability to shape the signature of their olfactory work via tincturing requires faith in the alchemy of combination. One of the reasons for Moss Gown’s elegant bouquet is the presence of lilac tincture in the formula.

A well made botanical perfume creates a distinctive sense of place when the olfactory theme is built around the setting in a children's book. Moss Gown by Providence Perfume is inspired by the William H. Hooks book of the same name. Themes of courage, love and magic infuse the text which is based on a southern folk tale.

The main character in the book is a child named Candace, but she is not the olfactory protagonist in Moss Gown perfume. Instead it is a witch of the bayou and the magic with which she creates an enchanted gown for the young girl. The meeting takes place where beds of moss abound.

The aesthetic appeal of a purely botanical perfume is its ability to capture the essence of nature. Glass Petal Smoke suggests anointing oneself with Moss Gown before a walk in the woods. You can feel the ingredients come to life as the smell of dirt paths rise to greet your nose, infused with the aroma of broken twigs, late blooming greenery and the honey-like scent of autumn leaves.

If a chimney in the distance sends a gentle waft of wood smoke your way the synergistic aspects of the perfume's composition become more evident, rising from skin like a fragrant plume of incense smoke. It's not about the individual ingredients (exotic coffee flower, precious boronia and intoxicating narcissus among others); it's about the statement they make in unison when the perfume mingles in a setting much like the one imagined by the perfumer.

Moss Gown by Providence Perfume is a fine example of an artisanal green chypre. If you long for the aroma of moss (an ingredient in limited use in the fragrance industry) Glass Petal Smoke suggests that you reacquaint yourself with an historical fragrance family sacred to the art of perfumery.

Moss Gown Eau de Parfum is available in a 1oz. atomizer ($140) or a 6ml atomizer ($36.00).
Providence Perfume Company sells a variety of products for the natural perfumer, including seven types of tinctures. You can find them here.

Image Credits:
Living Moss Collar by Tara Baoth Mooney, graduate of the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion.

The Fragrant Trail of Story and Autumn Stream by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.