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.
Hey everybody, as you probably know, Scott and the wonderful team of Declaration Grooming have taken over production of all grooming and shaving products with Chatillon Lux scents. And it’s been great! We’ve revisited the first scent he ever used (Champs de Lavande) and have a lot of great plans for the near future. However, with a new batch of 88 Chestnut Street coming out, we wanted to give you a heads up about the scent.
Basically, it boils down to natural materials. In this case specifically, neroli. Neroli is the blossom from a bitter orange tree. In 88 Chestnut Street, I use a neroli essential oil, which is awesome. Like many florals, it’s a bit pricey due to the difficult extraction process. And like all naturals, the product is subject to fluctuations due to harvest conditions and, very often, the increasing number of natural disasters that growers must deal with as an effect of climate change.
For this latest batch, we sourced some new neroli essential oil out of necessity. In using it, it feels much better in the blend, making it more harmonious and giving it a richer neroli opening. However, it is different, and so we’ve got to embrace the change. Mainly, because we have no choice.
While many naturals are very beautiful, they are subject to the whims of Mother Nature and also the market demand/supply. So please keep that in mind with the new 88 Chestnut Street batch of soap and aftershave. The EdC formula remains the same (and uses more complex accords that add more safeguards) and it is the same batch that I made at the beginning of the summer. And there is a ton of that batch left.
In the future, I will let you know about any changes that effect the final composition of a fragrance. While I love using natural materials (at least the ones not restricted in their usage, as natural materials are often the culprits of irritation and have their usage restricted more often than synthetically derived materials), it was already an issue even before economics, pandemics and nutso weather affected the supply chain. But in this case, at least, both Scott and I feel it is a change for the better. Maybe unexpected, but good news nonetheless!
When working on this newest perfume, I wanted something comforting. My development began in the cold months of fall and winter, starting in 2019, but the final stages of development came during a stay-at-home order during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was lucky enough to have not been as directly affected as many are (luckily working as a perfumer and a writer means that I am perfectly conditioned for isolated conditions and working alone), but it does wear on one’s mind to know that so much of humanity is suffering.
So I finished development of the perfume right as the pandemic began to take off in the United States, right before the launch of Maher Olfactive. I considered delaying the launch, but instead know that many could use perfume as a comfort much as I have been, exploring new ones and revisiting the comforting embrace of old favorites.
When naming the perfume, I considered the notes – tobacco, pipe tobacco, vanilla absolute, sweet almond, cocoa, whiskey, saffron, spices, davana and berries – and how these items are very tangible part of many of our everyday lives, but much like the famous painting by René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, states that “this is not a pipe” next to the image of a pipe, the same idea of the symbolic representation of an item created through olfactory art is not truly the item itself.
So I decided that the perfume would be called This Is Not a Pipe. Brilliant! So brilliant, of course, that Demeter had already released a perfume under this moniker. The Treachery of Images is a bit of a handful to fit on a label, so I moved to simply Treachery. And this made a lot of sense.
Many of the things that bring us pleasure also can bring harmful consequences. Smoking a pipe, pouring a couple fingers of a fine single-barrel bourbon, or even indulging in an exquisite meal. However, in moderation, these pleasures are worth the risk because our lives are finite, and what is the purpose of a life lived without pleasure? Would the extra time gained be worth it if completely devoid of pleasure? And with a pandemic reminding us of our own mortality, this idea of the treachery of hedonistic pleasures really resonated with me.
With that out of the way, we can discuss the composition and execution of this idea.
Tobacco, Vanilla, Bourbon and Cocoa
The idea began with this familiar combination of items. Nothing groundbreaking, but in part that is why it is so comforting. I wanted to begin with the familiar and make it new. So the perfume is centered around a big dose of tobacco absolute and vanilla absolute. The sweetness and booziness of the vanilla absolute made it a great bridge from this accord to the whiskey accord, which begins with a big dose of oakwood absolute, a scent of fine, barrel-aged bourbon, then is fortified by methyl octalactone (also known as the whiskey lactone) and guaiacol, a very boozy note in its own right. To add some more depth and fortify this bridge, I used Vanilys, a dirty vanilla note that makes me think of the stories of selecting the dirty vanilla absolute in the composition of Shalimar, along with ethyl vanillin.
In order to push the tobacco absolute into more of a pipe-type tobacco, I used the sweet almond and cherry-tinged notes of an accord headlined bypara toualdehyde. Then, considering the coumarin-type sweet hay notes of tobacco, I employed tonka bean, Coumarex (a richer coumarin note), then underneath that, an accord featuring natural ambergris and fortified by small doses of ambergris-type materials, ambrocenide and ambroxan. Finally, to give some weight and resinous depth to the accord, I used labdanum absolute, a Peru balsam accord, beeswax absolute and dark-aged patchouli.
Finally, notes of natural cocoa, cocoa aldehyde and chocovan added the powdery chocolate and cocoa sweetness to the accord. Not a thick, syrupy chocolate, but rather a crumbling bite of decdant dark chocolate or a comforting powdered cocoa.
Saffron, Spice, Berries and More
I really love a berry note with a rich, sweet note. It blends so smoothly. So I began with a variation of a berry and apricot accord that I originally made for Chatillon Lux’s Lamplight Penance, then added berryflor to give it some more vibrancy, then folded all of that into a big dose of davana essential oil, a fruity/berry floral that works well with tobacco notes in my experience. Finally, I used small doses of apricot essential oil and Cassifix, a cassis-type material
For the spice accord, I began with Kephailis, a spice that complements tobacco very well. However, that did not seem sufficient, so I began thinking more deeply on what kind of spice would work well. I realized that the leathery, rich spice of saffron was an ideal note. So I created an accord with Safranal, Safraleine, and Pyralone, among others. To help balance it, the cool spice of cardamom essential oil added another bridge to the main accord to offset the contrasting saffron accord, and then added some rosey, floral spice notes of pink pepper essential oil and red champaca absolute. And finally, tiny little sprinkles of Indian black pepper, black cumin (far more well behaved than the regular cumin I’ve experienced), cinnamon leaf essential oil and laurel leaf essential oil.
At this point, the composition was very, very dense. And the final composition is still one that I would consider perhaps the most dense composition that I have made. However, using Iso E Super, Clearwood and Hedione, I added some airy notes that would support the tobacco and berry accord while creating space in which to really allow the scent to develop and bloom on the skin. And while this is not a scent begs to be worn on the skin, like Crystal Moon, it does unfold delightfully when reacting with body heat but also would be decadent when sprayed onto a scarf, coat or shirt. It also works great as a nice, fragrantic hug while staying at home.
Treachery will be available on Saturday, January 18 at 12pm Eastern through not only Maher Olfactive, but also American Perfumer, a retail shop featuring the best independent perfumers that work to further the new American fronteirs of perfumery, but also Sealed Essence, a retailer that curates perfumers worldwide who use the most exquisite and carefully selected raw materials.
As much as I love perfume of all types, especially the experimental or wholly unique compositions from the wealth of modern independent perfumers, there are certain time-tested classics that I’ll always reach for. Whether it’s Eau Sauvage by Dior, Terre de Hermès or Vetiver by Guerlain, there’s a perfect balance in these between fresh notes and a vetiver underbelly that make it sing in harmony. With this type of classic structure in mind, I set out to find that perfect balance in my own signature style.
The result was a fresh prairie scent inspired by the roots of my little part of South Saint Louis City.
In the early days of Saint Louis, beyond the main part of the city, there were many hamlets. One of those included Carondelet, which would evolve into South City and the history of which has inspired many of my compositions. However, Soulard is another historic part of this city’s history. The farmer’s market from the 18th century still thrives today, but it was the surrounding fields and farms that are now populated by my favorite restaurants, watering holes, concert venues and art galleries that are at the heart of this.
Long-time followers of my work might remember Catalan’s Prairie, one of the first scents that I ever composed now almost six years ago. Catalan’s Prairie was the adjacent prairie and farmland to Carondelet, while La Petite Prairie was the farmland and prairie adjacent to Soulard, the French settlement just south of St. Louis proper. Soulard, which is right by the Anheuser Busch brewery, the Chatillon DeMenil mansion and, most relevantly, Chatillon Lux headquarters. It’s a beautiful, historic neighborhood that hosts the world’s second-largest Mardi Gras celebration. But more relevantly, the agricultural history and rolling prairies provide the perfect backdrop for this scent, created on the land where they once existed.
Laying the Foundation of Vetiver
First and foremost, this scent began with the construction of a vetiver base. I started off working with vetiver from Java, which is a little bit smoky and more on the woody end of the spectrum, alongside vetiver from Haiti. The Haitian vetiver is earthy, rooty and very tenacious. I enjoy using it in trace amounts in certain compositions (it’s a secret weapon in 88 Chestnut Eau de Cologne), and so in this vetiver base I used less than half the amount as I did the Javan vetiver.
However, that was just the beginning. In order to smooth out the rough edges of vetiver and make them seamlessly connect to what was meant to be a fresh, bright perfume, there was some work to do. I used a few materials to accomplish this, all analogs of a vetiver-type scent. I used vetiveryl acetate, both a Javanese-type and a Haitian-type, to emphasize the woody aspects, then combined them with Vertenex HC and vetival. However, the final touch was a material that I absolutely love, Vetikone, which has a vetiver and grapefruit type of aroma. Perfect!
And in order to fill out the gaps and add a touch more weight to the base, I used myrrh, styrax and elemi essential oils. These are deep and rich incense notes, perfect to supplement the facets of Javanese vetiver that I wished to bring out to anchor this composition. Finally, I also used the old standby, Iso E Super, to give some texture and air to the woody notes.
Florals…But not a Bouquet
When filling out the middle notes of this composition, I immediately sought to bring in the two classic floral notes for these types of perfumes: geranium and carnation.
In the carnation accord, I, of course, used a heavy dose of both benzyl salicylate, a balsamic note that goes very well with this type of vetiver base, as well as eugenol and dihydro eugenol. These notes are essential for these types of spicy floral accords, and many would perceive these as clove-type notes. However, I didn’t want to make this overly spicy, so I kept the eugenol low and added some laurel leaf essential oil and caryophyllene beta to make it a more subtle carnation accord. Finally, I put in a little touch of anisyl acetate and benzyl benzoate to help give it a more silky feel.
I began my geranium accord with my favorite geranium essential oil for use in a subtle way: South African essential oil. I also microdosed petitgrain sur fleur essential oil, a more woody version of the sharp petitgrain note. However, I also created a supplementary geranium accord that celebrates the fruity side of it, led by geraniol, citronellol, linalool, alpha pinene and geranyl acetate. However, I wanted to make this a fresh, crisp scent, so I dug out the more minty notes of geranium, specifically with methyl salicylate, a wintergreen-type note, in a small quantity. Finally, a bit of blue gum eucalyptus essential oil finished off the fresh, minty note that I was searching for.
Finally, in the tradition started with Edmond Roudnitska’s Eau Sauvage and carried on through countless fragrances in this vein, I used a big dose of hedione. That breezy, light note that is almost like jasmine, but a jasmine note in the same way that sparkling water has fruit flavoring. It’s definitely there, but it’s very transparent.
Finally, I used the fresh laundry musk of Galaxolide and Mahoganate, a fresh woody note, to ensure that fresh, breezy feel that I wanted to work in spite of the minty, spicy notes. To further that feel, Sichuan pepper essential oil worked out very nicely in the way that it adds a sparkle and bright spice, as opposed to its more staunchy black pepper counterpart.
Finally, the top notes. A citrus note works so well with vetiver already, especially with the grapefruit tinge that Vetikone brings out of a vetiver accord. However, I wanted to balance it out, so I began with Rhubofix in a large dose. This rhubarb note has a strong grapefruit type undertone and really works to make the top notes almost tea-like. Additionally, a mandarin accord and green mandarin essential oil keep building the subtle citrus, while Amarocite adds a juicy punch of biting into a slice of pink grapefruit with the juice dribbling down your chin. It’s a small dose, but important.
Next, I added a natural pineapple essential oil from Robertet. It is not like the candy pineapple used in so many fragrances, but a natural, juicy note that smells like the entire fruit. Very natural, but not overly sweet.
However, I wanted to keep with the prairie vibe so I made a little bit of a green undertone with some green citrus type notes. First of all, litsea cubeba essential oil has some lemongrass and citrus notes, but it also has a rich, herbaceous undertone that adds some gravity to a citrus accord. Additionally, stemone added a watery green leafy note to the accord, French lavender essential oil a silkiness and oakmoss absolute (IFRA compliant) gave it an anchor.
The result of all of this is an immensely wearable fragrance that will appeal to fragrance aficionados and those who want an easy perfume to wear alike. It’s office-friendly, but also versatile enough to wear on a night out, a day in the sun or even a formal event after this pandemic passes.
I am proud to put my own stamp on this grand tradition of perfumery and excited to share it with you. The fragrance will release on June 13, but the shaving products will be more tentative due to supply chain and labor issues related to COVID-19. I also hope to have a limited amount of the EdT samples available shortly, so keep an eye on social media or sign up for the mailing list to stay up to date on all the latest news.
I am not much for being on camera. At all. But since we’re all stuck at home and many of us, including myself, are enjoying perfume as a way to bring beauty into these difficult times, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk.
Hopefully I will make some more and get better…and remember to pick up that bag off the floor while not accidentally revealing how old I am. There’s only room for improvement. But without further ado:
When I was composing the initial new release for the Maher Olfactive launch, I wanted it to be the most indulgent perfume that I could imagine. Something that was both daring and familiar, luxurious yet imaginative, comforting yet kind of cold.
This led to the initial inspiration, a material that I’ve long wanted to put at the center of a perfume, but one that would require my utmost creativity: osmanthus absolute. There were two obstacles for me to overcome. One was creating a surrounding perfume as interesting as the material itself, which is quite complex. It’s simultaneously warm and fuzzy while also being bright and uplifting. A floral with facets of stone fruits and tea, but also with an almost leathery note.
And while I do love osmanthus perfumes that so often emphasize the leather, warm aspects of the material, I challenged myself to go in the other direction. Find the bright, fruity and tea-like aspects of the material to both exalt and complement.
As I was working on some early accords for this perfume, I was researching osmanthus in culture. I found a legend that really helped me finalize the feeling that I was trying to reach. That is where the idea of making this feel like living on the moon in a crystal palace.
There was a legend of Chang’e, a princess who was banished to live on the moon in a crystal palace. Also living there was a type of Sisyphean character named Wu Gang, who worked continually trimming a giant osmanthus tree from overtaking the palace. No matter how much he swung his ax, the tree kept healing.
Giant, uncontainable osmanthus combined with a shimmering palace in the soft, lunar light? That did the trick.
Priming the Osmanthus
First, in order to bring out the aspects of osmanthus absolute that I wanted to highlight in this perfume, I added a few modifiers meant to not be noticed, but rather guide the spotlight. The rooty, orris notes of irival and sweetness of heliotropyl acetate, and just the slightest tobacco-flower touch of liatrix absolute added a backbone to the floral tea aspect of osmanthus.
To enhance to stone-fruit aspect, I employed a small dose of peachy gamma-undecalactone (see Guerlain’s Mitsuko for reference), apricot essential oil and a fresh, clean berry accord of mine that is also used more prominently in Lamplight Penance, strawberry glycidate, dimethyl benzyl carbonate (a dry plum/tobacco note) and a blackberry tincture that I made from dried blackberries. Finally, I created a raspberry accord that began with raspberry ketone so it would not be overly tart, but a deferential sweetness that blended seamlessly with the fortified osmanthus.
Finally, to round everything out, elemi essential oil and galbanum resinoid create a sticky incense undertone just below the surface, while anisic aldehyde and aurantiol pull out the rich, blossomy notes of osmanthus.
Finding Complements to Osmanthus
While I so often try to find stark contrasts in my perfume compositions, Crystal Moon relies more on complementary notes. The first and foremost is the use of lavender flowers. This is an essential oil made solely from the purple flowers of lavender with none of the green stems or leaves. This eliminates the camphorous, spicy green notes of lavender. What remains is the smooth, silky and sweet lavender notes that add a plush vibe to the osmanthus.
Next, jonquil absolute pulled the rich, fruity notes out a little bit more while adding a deeper anchor to the overall floral composition. To add a counter balance, I found that juniper berry essential oil staked its ground firmly between the sultry sweetness of the jonquil and the velvet sweetness of the lavender, finding common ground but adding some uplifting light to each. This airy, cosmic bent was further ratcheted up with hinoki wood essential oil, a Japanese cypress plant that is a soft, green resinous wood that adds to that ephemeral quality.
Finally, I had been looking for a way to create a bridge from these notes to the base notes. It finally hit me one morning as I was enjoying my favorite way to start the day: a meticulously brewed cup of coffee from my neighbor and (in my biased opinion) the best coffee roaster in the world, Sump Coffee. This was from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, known for fruity, floral and juicy varietals of beans. From a processor called Mystic Valley, no less, which fit in perfectly with the thematic elements of the scent story. This coffee featured notes of juicy stone fruit, jasmine and other florals. Perfect! So I created a coffee tincture to add an acidic coffee note, far different from the rich, roasty and chocolate notes of the dark roast coffee you may find at your favorite doughnut store.
The Lunar Base
When thinking about movement on the moon, it’s slow, deliberate and weightless. So with the base, I worked to do the same. I create a resinous amber note that included vanilla, bicyclononalactone and beeswax absolute with a lot of labdanum absolute and even more clearwood, a light, woody note slightly reminiscent of patchouli without the earthiness adds a ton of space to what would be a very dense composition. This accord is more noticeable in its effect than to the nose, creating a very long lasting base note that extends the fragrance and really smooths everything over, creating a hazy lunar surface glow to everything.
The floral composition was further anchored with ethylene brassylate, as well, creating more depth and stateliness. At the same time, a dose of vetikone (think of the more citrus-y elements of vetiver) emphasizes the fruity tea notes.
I believe this is the type of perfume that really both tells the story and creates a true reflection of the story’s setting. The subtlety required is often much more difficult to pull off, especially with a material like osmanthus absolute. But I believe this is a worthy chapter in a storied note in the history of perfume: osmanthus.
Crystal Moon Eau de Parfum will be available on April 28, 2020, when Maher Olfactive launches. I am very excited to share this story with you.
This is the first Scent Notes column that I get to write for something that I’ve composed to be released by another brand. Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know and eventually become friends with Dave Kern, who has undertaken a really exciting project called AMERICAN PERFUMER®, based in Louisville, Kentucky. It seeks to highlight the best of American independent perfumers, and so I am uniquely honored to not only be featured on the shelves next to some of the pioneers of the American independent fragrance, but also to be selected to create a fragrance for AMERICAN PERFUMER.
This fourth release from the AMERICAN PERFUMER series is in rarefied air and set a very high bar for me in order to live up to the sky-high standard that those before me have set. The series has included Colorado by the incomparable Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, which garnered the Art and Olfaction Award for the best independent perfume of 2019. The first release was from Maria McElroy, Desert Flower, which is a breathtaking composition in its own right. Most recently, Hans Hendley, whose work is some of my favorite that I’ve experienced recently, composed Bloodline, not only a great fragrance that has been all over best of 2019 lists, but also one of the best cedarwood fragrances I’ve ever smelled, with a focus on a red cedar oil distilled by the perfumer’s father from a tree from the family property.
So when planning out this fragrance, I first of all knew that I had to pull out all of the stops when it came to selecting materials. I began to seek out some of the finest materials that I’ve always wanted to use. Additionally, I knew that I had to find a great story that found that common ground that Dave and I both had for love of our Midwestern river cities named after King Louis, and how interesting the history of a river city is due to the confluence of different cultures coming together and creating something new.
Introducing Madame Chouteau
Therefore, when speaking with Dave, I brought up the story of Marie-Thérèse Bourgeois Chouteau, known to history as Madame Chouteau, the uncredited co-founder of Saint Louis. Left by her husband to raise their children on her own, she left her native New Orleans to go up the river and find a new life in a nascent trading hamlet. Though she claimed to be a widow in order to gain some semblance of rights in society (as a widow she was restricted, but as a married woman whose husband was not there she would have practically none), she never changed her name nor actually lived with her new love and Saint Louis cofounder, Pierre Laclede Liguest. When they founded Saint Louis, the credit due to Madame Chouteau went to her son, Augustus Chouteau, though the matriarch of Saint Louis deserves recognition for her perseverance and vision. As time went on she grew her fortune in the avenues afforded to her (with help from Pierre Laclede) and her husband tried to return to reap the fruits of her arduous labor to overcome the obstacles that he himself imposed, but the influence of the Lacledes and Chouteaus in the territory helped influence the New Orleans authorities to delay her husband’s ability to travel to Saint Louis until he eventually passed away due to old age.
The Composition: Apricot and Fruit
The composition of Madame Chouteau was meant to honor this amazing woman in a way that she deserved but was not able to celebrate in her time. The top begins with a ripe apricot skin, composed using natural apricot essential oil from the classic French distilling house Robertet. It is given a shimmering opulence through the use of a peach aldehyde, as well as damascenone total and damascene beta, two monstrously rich and vibrant materials that give certain rose varietals their rich fruitiness. The richness of this note is further enhanced by very small doses of davana essential oil, derived from a plant with rich citrus and floral undertones, along with pyroprunat, a material that I consider to be one of my signatures, with its fruit-skin scent with a touch of juiciness underneath.
Jasmine and Jonquil
Underneath these rest jasmine and jonquil, two flowers that I consider to be both very powerful and very feminine. The jasmine notes that I used include three absolutes, one jasmine sambac along with a jasmine grandflorum from Egypt and another from India. I enhanced the diffusiveness of these notes with kharismal, a more citrus-forward derivative of hedione, a jasmine-type material used ubiquitously in perfumery so that it would fold into the apricot note well. The jonquil absolute is from France, and the richness of anisyl acetate and anise aldehyde, just enough to amplify the raspiness of the two rich floral notes, as well as a touch of orange blossom absolute and carrot seed absolute to fill out the note with some extra depth and fullness.
Tobacco and Mousse de Saint Louis
Next, a tobacco note comes from liatrix absolute, a tobacco flower that has a more honeyed bent than a straight tobacco absolute would. I find this connects the previously mentioned notes with what I call Mousse de Saint Louis, a modification on the classic Mousse de Saxe base created by the house of DeLaire that was used frequently in the golden age of perfumery nearly 100 years ago. It translates to moss base, which includes leather, moss, geranium, vanilla and ionones, a type of molecule found often in powdery compositions.
The Mousse de Saint Louis is perhaps a little less forward, more subdued, just as any well-mannered and polite Midwesterner would be. Instead of vanilla or vanillin, I used vanilys, a more dirty vanilla note, inspired by the perfume legend of Guerlain in their golden age when they were said to select their supplier’s discarded vanilla because they wanted a dirtier vanilla note for Shalimar. Additionally, I used an atranol-free oakmoss absolute so in order to avoid any irritation possibilities and reinforced it with an elemi essential oil from Robertet to add some backbone to the oakmoss lost in removing the atranol. Instead of the more forceful geranium note, I used the dusty and transparent Rose Verte accord that I created for Rose Santal, dihydro ionone beta (for its woody characteristics compared to the more powdery ionones) and an orris tincture from France. Finally, for the leathery parts of the accord, I dialed back on the isobutyl quinoline, a forceful green bitter leather note, and added 6 methyl quinoline, which is smoother and more nutty, and then added strawberry furanone, which is somewhat more phenolic than fruity, beeswax absolute and just the slightest microdose of rectified cade oil.
Sandalwood, Oud and the Base Notes
Finally, the opulent base notes include sandalwood essential oil from Mysore, India, and sandalwood essential oil with high levels of the desirable santalol beta that is sustainably harvested in conditions meant to replicate the growing conditions in Mysore during its heyday. Additionally, I added a Thai oud that paired very well with the Mousse de Saint Louis, and rich musks of globanone and cosmone, which add a deep-throated purr to the woody accord. This is all supported with small doses of various classic musk recreations and resins, as well as some creamy notes to fill out the sandalwood and give it that classic character that makes it so buttery smooth.
Overall, I can’t say how honored I was to be selected to be part of such a great project. AMERICAN PERFUMER has an incredible vision and Dave is tirelessly dedicated to carrying it out and raising the profile of the amazing visionaries and tradition-breaking creativity that is available throughout the American independent fragrance scene. I think Madame Chouteau is a character who exemplifies that pioneering artistic spirit that is captured throughout the curated collection at American Perfumer, and this composition is meant to honor that wonderful history and so many daring olfactive artists.
Madame Chouteau Parfum will be available on Saturday, February 25 at American-Perfumer.com. Only 25 bottles will be available through AMERICAN PERFUMER. Make sure to follow AMERICAN PERFUMER on social media to get information on this release and all of the amazing work that they are doing.
And with this as my first experience releasing something with my own personal name, not simply the Chatillon Lux brand name, this will be leading to an upcoming announcement about a new structure going forward. I will be providing more information about this soon. Stay tuned!
Hey all, while my overly Midwestern modesty resists doing this kind of thing, the awards that I won in 2019 were so gratifying that I wanted to share, especially because it would not have happened without your support.
In the annual awards from Mark Behnke, Weinstrasse was named the best perfume of the year, which is really quite an honor considering how many amazing fragrances came out this year. Additionally, I received an honorable mention as perfumer of the year and perfume house of the year. It’s a who’s who of fragrance even in the honorable mentions so I’m honored. In his follow up posts, Mark named Admiral in his top 25 of the year and even mentioned my Scent Notes columns as something he wishes would become a more widespread practice in 2020.
Thanks to not only the reviewers but also you for all the encouraging words. The bar has been set and so I know I have to work extra hard in 2020 in order to keep raising the standards.
The 90s are now a distant memory, or not even a memory for some at this point, but this was the decade that left the biggest impact on me, for better or worse (and in retrospect, mostly worse). So naturally, when I was commissioned to created fragrance inspired by that decade, particularly those citrus aquatics in the style of L’Eau d’Issey, but with luxury, high-end materials, I was on board. Now, however, that private commission is now going to be available to the public today at 12pm Eastern, with notes of citrus, bergamot, verbena, aquatics, green tea, geranium, and sandalwood.
The citrus accord at the top plays in tandem with the aquatic accord. There are natural distilled essential oils (in order to be as skin-friendly as possible, including lime and sweet orange, as well as a yuzu essential oil. There is also a juicy grapefruit note, sweeter than the expressed essential oil, which comes from the peel and is more harsh and bitey, followed by orange blossom absolute. This is all grounded by vetikone and vetiveryl acetate, two vetiver-type materials that have citrusy lemongrass vibes going on.
As a bridge to the aquatic accord, there is a healthy dose of calone, a melon-type material that was a powerhouse in L’Eau d’Issey. It is enhanced by a touch of watery citrus headlined by dihydromyrcenol (just a touch, because a 90s aquatic would not be complete without it), as well as the citrus-tinged water lily of bourgenal. There is an era appropriate use of hedione, a jasmine-type note associated with fragrances like Acqua di Gio and Tommy, but with newer derivatives that I prefer, hedione HC and kharismal.
The green tea accord is also a 90s staple, and this is recreated with a trifecta of naturals that I sought out specifically to recreate this accord in the most luxurious way possible (seeing a theme?) from across the globe. It includes yerba mate absolute (a tea commonly imbibed in South America), hinoki (a Japanese cypress wood) and clary sage (this one’s provenance right here in America). Those notes are supported by a favorite of mine, sagecate, a citrusy sage note, as well as palmarosa from India.
The incense accord is subtle and low in the mix, but it does add a spiciness to the green tea. It is headlined by frankincense (boswellia serrata) from Oman, black pepper and nutmeg from India, and Russian coriander.
Supporting everything is a sandalwood essential oil, sustainably grown and harvested, that is supported by a few notes to enhance the creaminess of the sandalwood note. Beyond that, Romanolide, a clean laundry musk, supports the whole thing, along with a touch of the nutty ambrettolide, a safe recreation of ambrette seed.
Of course, there is much more in the composition, but I don’t want to bore you with all the microdosing and whatnot. It’s probably best to simply enjoy it. There will be a small amount of these available just in time for the holiday season. Hope you enjoy the latest chapter of the Side Project Series and have a great holiday season!
For those of you who have been around a while, you know I’ve had a few fougères in my past. La Forêt de Liguest was meant to echo the rich forests of the bend in the Mississippi River that would become Saint Louis, a rich, dense and sweet fougère. Sylva, however, was bright, green and sharp, the smell of a clearing on a hot summer morning where the sun visciously beating down on the dew brings out the most bright green notes.
Now, with the third visit to the fougère genre, I have created a fougère that contradicts the traditional, classic fougère with a new take on it. Which is only fitting since Weinstrasse is an homage to the Missouri Rhineland, where Germans emigrated because the fertile soil along the banks of the Missouri River was so reminiscent of the Rhineland they left behind, and where they started a new life and built a new Weinstrasse. The Missouri Rhineland is a new start, a reimagined take on a historic region, just like Weinstrasse both recreates and reimagines the classic fougère.
My maternal family was part of this population, and so history repeats itself in three aspects in this third fougère, one that I believe will be the one I want to leave etched into the history of Chatillon Lux.
Wine on the Vine
At the top of the fragrance is a white grape note. The star of this note is green cognac essential oil, a tart, crisp white grape note that is reminiscent of a bite of a grape off the vine. This is complemented by black currant bud absolute, a note that is also tart but less mouth-puckeringly so. There is also a touch of leaf alcohol, a green, freshly cut grass note. But not the smell of grass in the air. Rather, if you get down on your hands and knees to smell the still-wounded-and-oozing blades after they’ve been cut back down to size. Finally, the sweet, juicy green of violet leaf absolute rounds out this accord.
A Green, Honeyed Bouquet
While in a traditional fougère you would often expect to find geranium as featured floral, in Weinstrasse it takes a back seat to the honeyed bouquet that really sets this fragrance apart. The main accord is composed of helichrysum absolute, a complex floral note that has an inkling towards honeyed tobacco. To offset that, I created a honeysuckle accord that is only somewhat similar to the one I created for Gloria, with this honeysuckle accord taking a cue from the berry and fruity notes of damascenone that isn’t normally associated with honeysuckle. Since honeysuckle can be considered a distant relative to rose, and in order to juxtapose the note with helichrysum, I injected this curveball into the mix to add some fruitiness to the honeyed floral bouquet. Throughout St. Louis, all summer long, I smell honeysuckle in bloom, and I wanted to express more of the ambient smell that I found in the mornings, when the dew is still fresh and the scent is most robust.
This is another area in which I find the black currant bud absolute really helps balance out the accord, with its tart fruitiness, in addition to pyroprunat, a favorite of mine for microdosing to impart its dried-fruit/stone-fruit vibe. Adding in the sweet, silky iris accord riding on a mélange of inones, heliotrope and orinox (a somewhat floral, somewhat resinous note) developed expressly for this fragrance further adds to the sweet symphony of this bouquet.
A Rich, Full Base
I went into this knowing that I needed to make the most rich, full base in order to get the thick, lush vibe that I wanted out of Weinstrasse. Of course, in any fougère, there is a healthy dose of coumarin, a sweet note often associated with a tobacco and hay note with a touch of creaminess. This creaminess is enhanced with bicycolononalactone, another creamy note that I find adds sophistication and depth to coumarin, and a sandalwood accord used with the most creamy sandalwood molecule that I found worked within the accord: bacdanol, a beautiful note that is reminiscent of the highly coveted santalol beta, to complete the melance of woody creaminess.
Additionally, for the oakmoss note I used veramoss, a soapy note that projects the higher frequency notes of oakmoss, in addition to a small dose of atranol-free, IFRA-compliant oakmoss absolute that adds the lush, musky greenery that only true oakmoss can provide without risking the skin allergies.
To further round out the base notes, an array of musks, used very sparingly, reinforce that traditional charge led by oakmoss. Dark-aged patchouli, a less sharp and more earthy, rich and full patchouli, is microdosed to exalt the ambrettolide, a nutty tobacco note; muscone, a sweet, somewhat animalic musk; and habanolide, a fresh musk with a twist that brings out the soapiness of oakmoss. It’s all further enhanced by the mushroom-type scent of a small dose of amyl vinyl carbinol.