Sometimes, when you smell a material for the first time, everything just clicks. When I first opened the bottle of Siberian rhododendron essential oil, the multifaceted aspect of this amazing material got the gears turning in my head immediately.
Long-time readers will know that most of these columns begin with me discussing the story behind the scent, some memory or inspiration. However, this time it was simply the material. Sagan dalya is another name for the tea in Buryat, and Tibet is of the cultures that uses it as medicine. It is said to cure many ailments and prolong life.
However, this is perfume and not tea, so I won’t make any of those claims (plus, you know, liability). What I will say, though, is that this evergreen shrub produces a flower that contains many worlds within.
At the forefront is a crisp, fruity note. It’s not a fruit you could put your finger on, and not the overripe kind, but one that lends itself to a nice counterbalance to the terpenic evergreen undertones. There is also a wine-like richness underneath that, which immediately made the connection to the next material.
I knew from first sniff that I had finally found a perfect partner for the tagete marigold absolute that I had been holding on to for a while, just waiting for the perfect time to deploy it. This is another fruity flower, with a red-apple-type note and also a slight wine tinge in the ripeness of the fruit note. There’s also a touch of chamomile to it, but I pushed the apple a little bit more to the forefront with a micro dose of damascone delta, a very complementary note and one that is gives an apple touch often to rose accords.
These two notes needed to be grounded with more weight in the middle, so that is how I came up with the next two materials. First is immortelle absolute, a rich, honeyed flower. It can also be spicy, but I did not want the spice to dominate, simply complement, so I enhanced the honeyed aspect with beeswax absolute.
To further fill this middle note out and lead into the base, I added tobacco absolute. The absolute can be a bit amorphous and not as full-bodied as I would like. So to give it more of the rich tobacco note that I was seeking, I filled out the tobacco accord with the plummy note of pyroprunat, then with the subtle spices (and a subtle addition) of a naturally extracted caryophyllene beta (which I find to be slightly more mild) and kephalis, a note that really makes tobacco accords feel fresh out of the tin to my nose.
Finally, the base. I had this one in mind from the jump, as well. First I took a Spanish labdanum absolute, a rich, smooth warm ambery blanket of a resinous note. Then I added a Spanish labdanum essential oil, which obviously shares many of the same qualities, but I find the essential oil to have an almost fruity and balsamic quality that would tie the whole thing together. Both of these notes, however, are so rich that I did not want to risk letting them get muddy, so I added a tonquitone musk, just a touch, to give it a boost that would allow it to be more present earlier in the evolution of the scent. Finally, a cypriol essential oil, one that is often used in faux oud accords, provides a green, woody undertone for the base in order to provide more texture.
The result of all of this is a very comforting fragrance, one that is thick yet fresh, relaxing yet uplifting. It can feel very versatile. However, I always say my perfumes were meant to be WORN on SKIN, and this is the perfect example. The evolution of this scent requires body heat, worn over the course of the day, just as perfumes were originally intended when they first came about in the ancient times. And I find that appropriate for this perfume, a perfume with the highest natural content I’ve ever made, something that feels timeless but yet with some modern elements in order to help organize and clarify the construction.
Not only I, but also others in my life, have been wearing this since the batch finally matured. Due to the high level of absolutes and resins, the maturation process took much longer than usual, but I am very pleased with how it has rounded out.
This perfume will be released on November 19. Siberian rhododendron is not the most readily available (or affordable) material, so I have made as big of a batch as I can. I won’t sell out immediately (or likely any time soon), but if there is ever a gap in availability, please keep this in mind. It is all part of seeking out rare and interesting materials, unfortunately.
I am very excited to share this with you and hope it brings you as much joy as it has been providing me.