Benton Park for American Perfumer: Evolving Tradition with Tuberose and Vetiver

For the past year, I’ve been working with Dave Kern from on a new perfume. After releasing Madame Chouteau, he and I were talking about perfumes, as we tend to do. Of course, as two guys who adore vetiver, we spoke about the terroirs and the infinite possibilities of this wildly varied root. Maybe it was the same conversation or one in close proximity, but we also spoke about tuberose. It’s a great note, but the absolute always tends to end up in a thick, dense accord, whether it’s a floral bouquet or tightly woven accords, this absolute ends up being staunchly framed, ignoring the uplifting zestiness that one smells when sniffing the air around the flower itself.

I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. So I began researching headspace analysis of tuberose, which determines the molecules in the air around the living flower rather than the absolute extracted from a harvested flower. It gave me the exact inspiration I was searching for, this modern technology finding a way to find a new lens through which to view this traditional note. Not reinvented, but to repeat a word, reframed.

So I hurriedly composed the first version and sent it off to Louisville. We knew we had something special, but we also decided to take our time and fully realize what we wanted to do with it. One year later, and here we are.

We will talk more about that process later. But first, why the name Benton Park?

Benton Park is one of my favorite historical neighborhoods in Saint Louis. It sits between my home neighborhood of Marine Villa and the oldest neighborhood in Saint Louis, Soulard (where my new scent studio is located, as well!). The actual park itself is located just a few blocks north of me, and the name itself pays homage to Thomas Hart Benton, whose regionalist painting style was inspired by our shared river city hometown.

Funnily enough, among the up-and-coming artists that Benton mentored was Jackson Pollock. This metaphor is perfect for the fragrance: the contrast of old and new, traditionalism vs abstract expressionism. Just like Benton Park, where centuries-old buildings, including the Anheuser-Busch brewery, frame an urban revitalization fueled by new ideas and fresh perspectives.

For a fragrance based on a headspace analysis of tuberose complemented by a palette of natural vetiver of various characteristics solely dependent on the region of their origin, the parallels between these juxtapositions are perfect.

Before we dig into the two accords, I must say that the fulcrum of this fragrance lies completely within methyl benzoate. This material, featured in both tuberose and gardenia, is minty but with a texture you can almost feel with your fingertips when you smell it, one that immediately evokes the same feeling that I get from a great vetiver. I’ve also heard that methyl benzoate is also what drug-sniffing dogs seek out when they search for coke, so I guess it’s addicting to sniff no matter what format.

However, the two biggest components of this tuberose accord are limonene, a bright, citrus zesty note, and methyl salicylate, an cold, spearmint note. The minty freshness of tuberose is further fortified by blue gum eucalyptus essential oil, which shares a good amount of its composition with similar molecules in the tuberose headspace analysis, while the piney/citrus floral builder of alpha terpineol works in tandem with the limonene.

To fill out the accord further, I used methyl tuberate (the name should give this one away), and then an onslaught of notes to create the fleshy, fruity body of the tuberose without getting too heavy: gamma decalactone (creamy peach), dimethyl benzyl carbinyl butyrate (plummy), raspberry ketone (a fruity floral note) and benzyl alcohol (fruity jasmine).

While those notes were slightly interpreted from the headspace, where we really got into some fun abstraction was the green accord, from what was found in the headspace (cis 3 hexenyl tiglate) to some of our own expressions (violet leaf absolute and irival, a watery green orris material). Finally, eugenol and methyl diantilis make up the small touch of spicy notes that finished off the entire thing, with just a touch of vanillin pulling the whole thing together.

The vetiver accord, however, is based on three vetivers. A double distilled vetiver smooths out all the rough edges of the vetiver, creating a rich, elegant base. Vetiver from India creates more of a woody, green note, while the earthy grassiness of Haitian vetiver gives it a stronger top note and bridges the gap to the tuberose perfectly.

And finally, a trio of musks ground the whole thing and give it levity. Ethyl brassylate gives a strong body to the floral notes, while ambrettolide accentuates the nuttiness of vetiver and muscenone gives the whole thing an edge. Nothing menacing, but it really makes the texture stand out.

I truly believe this is a perfume lover’s perfume. One that appeals to students of the history of perfume, or really one for those who love vetiver, love pushing art beyond the possibilities of artificial constraints and one that can redefine what tuberose can be, who wears it and how it is perceived.

There will only be 25 bottles released, all of which are only available through American Perfumer’s lottery system. Contact us to be entered into the lottery to get a chance to purchase one of the 25 bottles. And the unlucky 26th person to be selected will win a free bottle. This is one of the few perfumes that I’ve worn consistently since it was completed, and I know Dave has, too. We both are very excited to share this with you and can’t wait to let you smell it.

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