One of my favorite parts of releasing a new perfume (after the actual composition process) is writing my Scent Notes column. I love pulling the curtain back and explaining my creative process. I believe in giving people credit for being intelligent information-seekers rather than trying to build a shroud of mystery. In all the art I love, there’s nothing that really enhances my appreciation than getting a direct conduit into the artist’s creative process and inspirations.
However, now that I have split the Chatillon Lux Parfums line into a new luxury house that caters to my desire to stretch my creativity to its fullest, Maher Olfactive, I wanted to create a place that I could not only keep my Scent Notes columns for both houses in one place, but also allows more more random musings about the world of perfumery. That will be both written and, hopefully in the near future, video blogs.
Sometimes, you have ideas that you don’t think are feasible. But you just can’t get them out of your head, no matter what. For me, I wanted to do an oud perfume. Of course, that’s not so unique. However, I wanted to create one that not only features the oud as the star, but also to find a unique twist.
Here’s the thing, though. Oud is expensive. Like super expensive. And between supply chain issues while also weathering an economic slowdown, there was no way I could justify spending enough to create a full batch release. So I decided to create something in a much smaller batch than usual, allowing me to spend on other materials in addition to the oud, while releasing it in 10mL bottles in order to make a bottle more affordable.
So I smelled many different ouds. Each one has such unique and often unapologetic characteristics that I realized that I should not come into it with any preconceived notions. I found three different ouds and let them guide me to find the right complements.
When working on this composition, a friend remarked that it was like smelling a string quartet. Smooth and interconnected. That brought me to the term, “Legato,” which indicates notes that are seamlessly intertwined with no space between them.
The composition began with the three ouds that I selected. The Cambodian oud is very polite for an oud. Rich, velvety, with a cocoa/leather nuance. The Thai oud is the polar opposite. It’s very assertive, with characteristics of a more medicinal oud as well as being the woodiest of the three. Finally, the Prachin Pearl has the most animalistic bent, rich beyond belief, and very heady. Simply outstanding. Thus, the Cambodian oud serves as a perfect mediator between the two.
I thought the opulent-but-not-overly-sweet nature of stone fruit would be a great sidekick to this oud combination. I built a plum accord that uses many of the same materials that I’ve used in the past, but with a boost of fructone in order to add to the sweetness, plus apricot essential oil from Robertet that is bang on for the flesh of a perfectly ripe apricot.
Next, I wanted to create a counterpoint. The first one was white lotus absolute, something that is very lush in almost a similar manner to a rose, but also with a carnation-type leaning that is spicier, avoiding a traditional oud/rose type of scent. It combines excellently with a natural saffron that I procured, letting the natural leather undertones of saffron help bring everything together with the oud and stone fruits.
Finally, I wanted some more texture. So I landed upon Virginia cedar, the deepest and most rich cedar oil that I have in stock. It’s what I think of when I smell the red cedar wood from my childhood. It adds a texture that helps counterbalance the spice while also not allowing the base notes to get too heavy.
I will release this limited edition at MaherOlfactive.com tomorrow, October 22. Because I let my instinct lead me, the scent signature is very much mine, but it is still not like anything I have ever created with previously unexplored materials. As always, I’m very excited to share it with you and hope you enjoy it!
One note that I have always loved is iris. Even though I (obviously this is the case) love raw orris butter, the iris accord intrigues me even more. Anything that doesn’t have a true natural material analog allows for pure interpretation, acting as a Rorschach test of the perfumer. What do they smell when they dream of iris, in that state of delirium where they are dreaming of the fantasy scent but are not truly asleep?
I have also always loved how ionone materials play with creamy sandalwood. So for this, I found the creamiest Mysore sandalwood I could find. It is extraordinary. It is the base note, but its presence permeates throughout the entire wearing of this scent.
Next, the iris accord is what will be most present upon spraying this fragrance. The accord revolves around an orris tincture, as well as the powdery notes of ionone alpha along with dihydro ionone beta, which leans a little woody, making it an excellent bridge to the sandalwood. There is also benzyl acetate, a material also found in jasmine, giving it what I think most would label as the sweet, fruity “purple” note in the scent. Finally, Limonene and Fructone give it a fruity zest, with the brightness reinforced by alpha pinene.
I also used Hedione here to help bring in the dreamy, airy amber accord that I needed to create to fill out the scent while not being too intrusive upon the magic between the iris accord and sandalwood.
The amber accord began centered around benzoin, labdanum essential oil (which I believe has a very distinct character as compared to the absolute) and dark-aged patchouli. Those heavier ingredients are toned down by Clearwood, an airy patchouli-like material without the earthiness, as well as Iso E Super, which is an airy, woody note that I’m sure everyone reading is quite familiar with. We’ve all worn Molecule 01 at this point.
Next, the sweetness was provided by a slight touch of the semi-sweet ethyl vanillin and caramel furfural. Just enough to give some pleasantness to the incense and earthiness. An even smaller touch of Pyralone and clary sage adds a hint of leathery green, which helps it bleed into the amber accord. Finally, the spice of Kephalis, the spicy creaminess of bicyclononalactone and the sweet muskiness of Globanone, Sylvamber and Traseolide ground everything and smooth the edges, providing the final touch for the euphorically somnambulant feeling of a waking dream.
This eau de parfum will be available on Saturday, September 6. I will be giving away samples of it with any purchase leading up until the release date, plus samples will be available at American Perfumer as always.
Years ago, I created a scent for a brand. However, during the process, the whole thing went sideways and we had to part ways. This left me with a formula that I liked but had no use for, so I released it as a limited edition called Nonaginta. The name came from its inspiration from my childhood. As someone who came of age in the 90s, it took from those types of unisex citrus and fruit scents that came to define the decade.
Nonaginta became a cult classic in the Chatillon Lux history. I had many requests to add it to the line. However, it wasn’t personal enough. It hit some nostalgic buttons for me, but there was no connection to my life or to St. Louis.
I realized recently, years down the road, how I could change that. My home is close to the Cherokee Street Historic District, which is home to the city’s best and most authentic taquerias (and if you’re local, yes, I added the “city” qualifier because I know the county has some killer joints, as well). And because I really love an agua fresca to help quench the fires of hot sauce on delicious, delicious food, it hit me that this was the direction that this fragrance should head.
The Top Notes
Unsurprisingly, this juice starts off with a melange of tropical fruits. It contains the citrus of a yuzu accord, an apricot essential oil, a lime accord based on the candy-like lime oxide, a melon accord with the 90s-tastic calone as well as the apple-tinged musk zenolide, a strawberry accord featuring strawberry glycidate and cassiffix, and a pineapple essential oil. Both the apricot and pineapple are distilled by Robertet, a premier natural raw materials house.
Halfway Down the Drink
However, this is a watery drink, and so a watery cucumber accord with isoraldeine 95, sagecete, pinene alpha and the watery green-floral materials of vernaldehyde, precyclemone and bourgeonal work in the background to make the scent feel more refreshing.
And of course, since this is the 90s, there was a good dose of the fruity, jasmine-lite material of hedione. It adds a lot of air to the fragrance, making it feel like summer. Very drinkable.
At the Bottom of the Cup
The base notes of this are cream and vetiver. The vetiver is used sparingly, as a weight to the rest of the fragrance, with the strategic use of a Haitian vetiver that’s light and bright, as well as vetikone, a material that emphasizes the grapefruit rind aspect of vetiver so that it would blend in with its surroundings.
Next, a creamy note reflects some of the sweeter aspects of certain agua frescas. This starts with a coconutty gamma nonalactone and is reinforced with the creamy, tonka spice of bicyclononalactone and ice cream vanilla of ethyl vanillin.
Finally, a couple of white musks, helvetolide and romanolide, sit in the background, adding freshness and weight without being noticed.
Now, we have a drink mixed the way I’d like it to be. If you’re a 90s child or just enjoy a fresh, refreshing summer scent, Agua Fresca will be here on Saturday, June 4 with an EdT from Chatillon Lux as well as a shaving soap and aftershave from Declaration Grooming. Cheers!
Notes include melon, apricot, yuzu, pineapple, strawberry, cucumber, vetiver and cream
From the first time I heard it as a kid, the expression always seemed so mystical and full of wonder. Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red Skies in morning, sailors take warning. For a kid who only knew about the high seas from books and stories, it fed into the larger-than-life idea of life at sea.
And of course, it is a statement of dichotomy and juxtaposition. That idea of juxtaposition is one of my favorite in fragrance: the idea of taking two opposing notes to pull the most interesting parts of each other to the forefront.
So I tried to imagine what type of scent I would imagine representing this aphorism. I kept imagining a chypre, the scent genre named after the island of Cyprus, as a representative of this traditional bulwark of a fragrance. Against that, top notes of ocean air, tropical florals and citrus, bright and delightful, while underneath a storm of moss, leather and vetiver brewed.
I began with a more traditional chypre structure of bergamot essential oil, oakmoss absolute, labdanum and a floral. In this case, not rose, but jasmine absolute, davana essential oil and a ylang ylang accord meant to emphasize the fruity aspects, knowing the base notes would do plenty to pull out the more animalic notes of these two throaty florals. Finally, instead of a spicy note, the woody and citric incense note of elemi essential oil would lend itself to the idea of planks from a seagoing vessel.
On the top of it all was kaffir lime leaf essential oil, both zesty citrus and shimmering, rich greenery. The leaves that shade the boat in the port. Next, an ocean air accord utilized some of the less-common suspects, a more grapefruity and light and airy selection rather than some of the more suffocating choices for what would normally be considered aquatic. I wanted to lean more towards a bright-skies maritime, so I selected precyclemone b, aphermate, aquamate and, to give it a bite, ginger essential oil and green cognac essential oil to offset a touch of the melon-y calone. The result is a crisp and almost salty citrus sea air accord.
This base would include a leather accord, a worn leather, which leans on the labdanum essential oil. It adds a few spices to the mix, dark-aged patchouli for a tanned leather aspect, and beeswax absolute to reflect that warm sweetness that leather has after it has been handled for generations. Finally, a little bit of the traditional isobutyl quinoline gives it that spicy bite. Finally, an ambergris tincture gives it a salty finish while being weighted by the Tonkin-leaning muscenone musk. Additionally, a double-distilled vetiver removes many of the more dirty qualities, giving it a purely rooty quality that reinforces both the oakmoss and seaweed absolute in the base.
The end result is a maritime chypre, something that feels old and new, traditional and contemporary. It truly is a juxtaposition of bright skies and a raging storm. So far it has received a great response from most who have tested it, and so I am excited to release it for Maher Olfactive’s second birthday on April 30, 2022. In the meantime, all purchases until then will receive a sample. Scent notes include kaffir lime leaf, bergamot, ocean air, jasmine, orange blossom, davana, elemi, ylang ylang, vetiver, oakmoss, labdanum, leather and musk.