Over the past few months, a conundrum that I’ve been thinking about is what to do with ideas that do not really fit in with the Chatillon Lux line. Whether it’s due to the story behind them, the cost of the materials making them prohibitively expensive, or just compositions that would only appeal to a very narrow section of people, some ideas have been left to fester in the back of my mind.
So I had an idea the other that: the Side Project Series. This series will be for fragrances that I want to play with and put out there, but ones that do not fit into either the Parfums or the Provisions line. In order to keep the line fun and low-maintenance (and keep the costs as low as possible), they will have minimal packaging or design and be released in small-batch, limited editions. They will most likely all be in Eau de Parfum strength, as well.
While many of these compositions will be very serious in nature, some new compositions, some honoring the history of perfumery, and some reflecting moments in my life that have provided a great deal of inspiration, the first release will be one with a sense of humor.
The initial release, available on Friday, December 14 at 11 am Central, is called 3SHEETS. It is a fun concept: a night of debauchery. Perhaps the perfect gift for the lush in your life this holiday season. The idea is to replicate the aftermath of a night out and getting, you guessed it, three sheets to the wind.
One of the predominant notes of the fragrance is of rum and coke, the precursor to questionable decisions made in the moment. Additionally, you will smell the smell of fingers that have smoked it down to the very end, leaving that unique combination of resin and stale smoke on the fingers. Finally, the staple of any successful night of carousing, a fast food burrito finishes everything off.
In reality, the scent is weird, for sure, but more wearable than you might imagine. Opening up, you get the fizzy carbonation of cola and pungent rum combined with pine and citrus terpenes with an undertone of cumin. It dries down into a combination of cade, patchouli, leathery musk, cumin, vanilla and high fructose corn syrup. It’s surprisingly classic, melding the Roaring 20s with the almost-2020s. It may not be appropriate for every office, but you won’t be necessarily getting a breathalyzer if you get pulled over for rolling a stop sign.
In the future, look forward to an exploration of the finest perfumery ingredients, classical accords and sketches of the daydreams of everyday life, but for now enjoy 3SHEETS. It will be $25 for a 50 mL bottle and once it is gone, it’s gone.
Although Lamplight Penance does not come out until Saturday, October 13, it has been a long time in the making. On my end, approximately two years to find the right way to tell this story. But considering when an electrician uncovered Henri Chatillon’s secrets underneath attic floorboards in 1967, it has been just over 50 years. And if we really look at the big picture, it all starts in 1845 in the wake of a heartbreaking event during an expedition led by Chatillon that would later be detailed in The Oregon Trail.
The Story Behind the Scent
Henri Chatillon was famous for knowledge of the west, his skill with a rifle, his horsemanship and, most importantly, fluency in Native American languages and ability to strike a friendship with and respect for people from all walks of life. In fact, he was married to the daughter of Bull Bear, a chief of an Oglala Sioux tribe who adopted Chatillon as one of their own at a time when many held prejudice against the Sioux and other Native Americans.
As documented in The Oregon Trail, when news reached Chatillon’s expedition that his beloved wife, Bear Robe, had taken deathly ill, he immediately rushed back to be by her side and was grief-stricken when she passed away. Soon after, he brought their children back to his home of Saint Louis, entered into a marriage of convenience, adopted an understated fashion sense and retired to his farm home just a few blocks from Chatillon Lux’s headquarters.
Decades later, an electrician working at Chatillon’s mansion-turned-museum discovered Chatillon’s rifle and other mementos from the Oregon Trail underneath the attic floorboards, wrapped in a portrait of himself and his dearly departed Bear Robe. Lamplight Penance seeks to recreate Chatillon’s later years as he retired to a life of creature comfort and gardens while secretly, by the lamplight, secretly yearning for the trail along with his past life and past love, neither of which he could ever manage to forget.
Making the Fragrance
This dichotomy and contradiction was the impetus of Lamplight Penance. It paints the portrait of Chatillon stealthily ascending to the attic after Odile Delor Lux had fallen asleep so he could solitarily relive his fond memories by lamplight. With scents of daffodils, fruits and berries wafting through an open window, he would explore the leather and musk of the trail while longing for his undying love, with a burning oil lamp and a glass of brown liquor as the only witnesses to these journeys to the past.
In creating this scent, the most challenging aspect was the burning lamp accord. The fragrance begins with a smoky whoosh and mellows out as it settles in, much like when lighting of a lamp. For the oily smell, natural ambergris and a few other materials recall oil lamp made from whale blubber. This particular ambergris, a material derived from the undigested beaks from a whale’s squid dinner and naturally aged floating in oceanic salt water, was selected due to its highly animalic characteristics that most accurately give the effect of lamp oil
Additionally, the burning wick was a challenge. I considered cade oil, but it is smoky but can often smell like a barbecue. Rectified birch tar gives a woody bent, smelling more like a campfire than a burning wick. Eventually, I tried choya ral, extracted in much the same manner as rectified birch tar, but from a tree native to the Himalayans. Combined with the sweet smokiness of guaiacol and a touch of honey, we now have a burning wick that roars upon the touch of a match.
Finally, for the inspiration of the dichotomous notes of berries, fruits and flowers, I went no further than my own neighborhood to find them, exploring the garden at the Chatillon-DeMenil mansion and local parks, smelling daffodils and seeing berry bushes and peach trees. One of my favorite times of the year is when Eckert’s Farm harvests peaches and they flood the local markets. The smell of peach skin is surprisingly tart for as sweet as the juice that it contains is, and that peach skin scent plays outstandingly with raspberries and strawberries while melding into the green undertones of the narcotic daffodil.
Finally, the leather muskiness of the scent was meant to reflect the smell of the soft type of leather that Chatillon would have used for clothing and on the trail, not the treated leather jacket type. It carries the smell of musky adventure, of coffee beans meant to kick start the day as the first rays of light sneak over the skyline, of the smoldering campfire being coaxed back into action, of his trusted steed, and of Chatillon himself.
This fragrance is the juxtaposition of two seemingly incongruent worlds living, if not in harmony, at least in proximity. This is the struggle to let go of the past and prepare for the denouement of Chatillon’s storied journey, trading passion for comfort and peacefulness and riding off into the sunset.
• Berries, peaches, daffodils, orange blossoms • Lamp oil, burning wick, bourbon, red cedar • Mahogany, brown liquor, musk
Back before Chatillon Lux was even thinking about opening for business, I began working on my very first fragrance. Fast forward to early last year as Chatillon Lux was celebrating our second anniversary (and even still next year as we celebrated our third) and I was thinking about Delor de Treget. A lot. And I decided it was time to rethink what I believe was a great idea, but an idea that I wanted to explore with the knowledge, experience and technical know-how that I lacked in my nascent years.
To be clear: I am still very happy with Delor de Treget, but I think the realm of perfumes and fragrances introduces a new realm of possibilities to explore within that idea. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning, then we will bring the two worlds together.
With Delor de Treget, I wanted to convey the inspiration I find behind the Chatillon Lux brand and the history of South Saint Louis. I wanted to make sure, like I do with all of my own fragrances, that I incorporated my own personality into it. Finally, because it was the first fragrance in the Chatillon Lux line, I wanted to create something easily wearable and easily likable.
The Delor de Treget accord (orange, grapefruit, bergamot, lavender, cedarwood and labdanum) was designed to have an old-world vibe to it. Something classic and timeless, but not necessarily dated, which is how I view my vibrant yet historic community here in the Cherokee Arts District in South Saint Louis. I did that with a balanced accord that is versatile and full of familiar scents.
Secondly, if you have ever talked scents with me, then you know I love woody scents. It goes back to childhood and hanging out at the lumberyard my dad works at. He would always have me smell the shavings if there was any freshly cut red cedar. I still love the scent and knew I would have to include it in the first fragrance I made.
Finally, my goal was to make something that may not have been the most exciting, but was something that I could see a wide group of people enjoying. Citrus, cedarwood, bergamot tea and rich, resinous scents can be found in the daily lives of many.
However, when considering creating an eau de toilette strength fragrance, I felt this idea not only fell kind of flat, but I also thought I could achieve the goal with the scent I wish I made. One that could be universally liked, even better balanced, not only with the elements but between the classic woody scent vibe along with the fresh, modern citrus scents that are beloved by many.
The structure of Delor de Treget was a little bit of oakmoss short of being a chypre already, and I have always admired the underrated versatility of the genre. It can run from classic and rich to modern and one-million-watt bright. And this modern bent was one that I wished to explore. It began last year with the scent I made for the St. Louis meetup. It was bright and aldehyde-heavy, giving it a sparkling, champagne-like citrus mixed with peach, rose, lily of the valley, vetiver and cedarwood.
As you can tell, I had already begun thinking about this concept before I even knew what I planned on doing with it.
So I started thinking how I could round out the scent more and it hit me: let’s see what happens when we use this framework to rethink Delor de Treget as a fresh, modern chypre, a structure that includes oakmoss, labdanum, and citrus, with many featuring florals. I found myself toning down the aldehyde sparkle in order to focus on how the peach, lily of the valley and rose could interplay with the bright citrus sparkle fizzing underneath.
Usually I find in my creation process that I have a firmer grasp on the basenotes before I move to the top notes. Perhaps going in knowing I was using a chypre structure helped, not to mention that I used a familiar wood accord of vetiver and cedarwood. However, with this cedarwood accord, I tried to emphasize the crackling dry notes of freshly shaved red cedar along with a vetiver that deemphasized the rooty, green notes and focused on the dry, woodiness so it would work in tandem with the cedarwood as a more unified note in order to bring a more seamless transition to the rose, lavender and lily of the valley in the heart of the fragrance.
Finally, in the basenotes I struggled at first to create an oakmoss accord. The International Fragrance Regulatory Association is banning the use of natural oakmoss due to concerns about allergic reactions, which is why many of the bold, musky fougères you may remember from years past smell a little more punchless these days. I created something that was green but not pungent, musky but not dank. Any sharp edges would be softened by same labdanum that I use in Delor de Treget.
I love labdanum and cistus quite a bit, much in the same way that I love castoreum. But while the latter can be a bit too musky, leathery and animal-smelling for some, labdanum can impart a slightly rich, leathery facet into a scent without grabbing too much attention.
In the end, I created an accord that is bright yet rich, woody yet unisex, and true to the original while allowing me to write a new chapter in a book I published back when I was first learning how to author the ideas I had in my head. I am excited to share Eau de Treget with you because those who already enjoy Delor de Treget will find it to be an uplifting companion, while new fans can simpy enjoy it for its fresh cirus vibe that can be dressed up or down, much like your favorite pair of jeans or sports jacket.
On August 1, Eau de Treget will be available through Chatillon Lux, as well as Maggard Razors, Top of the Chain and West Coast Shaving. In short order after the release, we will hope to have samples available through the Chatillon Lux web store, but there is no firm date yet.
Thank you for reading and I apologize for the length of time between editions of Scent Notes. I am already planning one out for the Lamplight Penance Parfum Extrait, but this one will undoubtedly be very in-depth because we are going to have a lot to talk about.
The origin story of Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli is not one of grand toil, but rather grand inspiration. While enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon, I found my mind wandering towards fragrance, as it often does. I began considering the classic rose and patchouli accord. The two go together splendidly, with the deeply round and pungent woody notes of patchouli finding their stasis with the sharp, intensely floral rose in the scent. But I felt like there was something missing and something that had not been explored deeply enough.
At that moment, I had found myself beginning a love affair with yuzu. Yuzu is often referred to as Asia’s answer to the grapefruit. There is a bitter Japanese yuzu and a sweet Korean yuzu. Originally, my affair with yuzu began with the Korean variety.
Citrus is a distinctive genre, and undeniably so, but it can still be quite varied for something so utterly distinctive. The deep, juicy scent of ripe yuzu is something that could work in tandem with a rose and patchouli accord. The sweet note of yuzu could lend its hand to help mellow out the rose and patchouli notes, which would, in turn, amplify the citrus accord.
This scent ended up becoming one of the most popular Chatillon Lux aftershaves scents, but it needed a few finishing touches before becoming an eau de toilette. With the goal of overcoming the fleeting nature of citrus notes combined with the necessity of adding more depth to the rose and patchouli accord, I set out to keep the feeling while creating an accord that creates new nuances to explore.
First of all, I looked to add more dimension to the sweet yuzu accord by adding some bitter Japanese yuzu along with neroli, a bitter orange scent. This creates a richer opening and more complex evolution, as well as creating a fixative effect on the citrus notes in the accord.
After that, I expanded upon the rose accord in the middle, adding elements of geranium to help distinguish the sweet rose accord used in the aftershave while heightening elements that would help it meld more seamlessly with the citrus notes in order help create a smoother evolution of scent, a challenge that is far less necessary in an aftershave concentration.
Finally, I added different patchoulis to the mix in order to enhance the woody aspects of the note, evening out the rubbery elements that lend itself to mesh with the rose accord and create a thicker, woodier base.
The resulting accord creates a more zesty yuzu note, a more complete rose note, and a woodier, more mellow patchouli note to compose a sum that is greater than its parts. For Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli fans, consider this the luxury version of the scent. For those who have not yet experienced Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli, this is the perfect way to smell it for the first time.
Creating 88 Chestnut Street Eau de Cologne was like walking a tightrope between tradition and modernity. This isn’t wholly unfamiliar territory because that is the entire idea behind Chatillon Lux Provisions, however, but this was an extreme case.
First of all, the history of Farina’s Eau de Cologne is a big part of 88 Chestnut Street’s story. The original mass-market fragrance, Eau de Cologne was a bright, citrusy personal fragrance. I say personal fragrance instead of perfume because at that time it was a hygienic product as much as anything else. Literally, people would bathe in the stuff instead of a proper bath. In the early 18th century, drawing a bath without running water was a chore. So the light, fresh and clean citrus scent of personal fragrances was not meant to be long-lasting like today’s perfumes, but rather a fleeting, refreshing treatment.
The aftershave products reflected that idea, as they were inspired by Clamorgans (originally located at 88 Chesntut Street, then moved to Fourth Ave and Pine in Downtown Saint Louis), a gentlemen’s grooming parlor and bathhouse and one of the first places in America to carry Farina’s monumental creation. While they are not the same scent by any means, 88 Chestnut Street was originally inspired by a similar idea: the type of refreshing personal hygiene product that a well-to-do Saint Louisan like Ulysses S. Grant or Stephen Douglas might find at Clamorgans.
At the same time, I simply did not find it well-suited in its current formulation for use in a personal fragrance. It was made to be a personal hygiene product. 88 Chestnut Street was already a popular scent in the aftershave line, and many were highly anticipating the eau de cologne release. The problem is that we do not live in the 18th century, and in the present day, we have vastly different expectations for our scents.
So I decided to try to walk the tightrope between tradition and modernity, as well as personal hygiene and personal fragrance.
The 88 Chestnut Street Eau de Cologne still begins with the neroli and lemon opening, much like the aftershave, but with a more complex and nuanced citrus accord. With contrasting lemon essential oils, a neroli that balances the bitter and sweet of one of my favorite scent notes, and a mélange of citrus, this takes the structure of 88 Chestnut Street but makes it suitable for an evolution, not a sudden drop off of the cliff.
In the heart of the scent, the lavender joins with jasmine and geranium to form a floral accord that melds into the citrus top notes, finding commonalities that are used to bridge the two worlds. That jasmine and orange, as well as geranium and lemon, fortify each other, while the lavender creates a stability and earthiness that leads to the base notes, created just for this accord.
The longevity of a scent is a requisite for the modern audience, and so I wanted to take this idea and move it past a traditional, fast-burning cologne. I searched for base notes that would complement and even exalt the top and middle notes while still acting as a supporting cast.
The Haitian vetiver in the base works well with the woody nuances of neroli and petitgrain while eschewing the fruit and patchouli combination that is so often used. In this same vein, I employed tonka bean to add a creaminess that would underly the citrus peel notes that can create a strong bitterness. When peeling an orange or grapefruit, there is something inside there, in the membrane and the flesh of the fruit, that makes it more than just the bitter blood of the fruit found in the peel, and the tonka bean plays that role in the accord.
With all of this in mind, I strove to create something that would please both the old and the new, both in the fragrance world and within the Chatillon Lux universe. It is what I consider a fully enhanced 88 Chestnut Street: one that takes us deeper down into the nuances of a citrus fragrance, what it can be and what we can do with it to respect tradition but while finding a new way to honor it.
While I am not one for new year’s resolutions, beginning in 2018 I will be launching a regular series of blog articles exploring fragrance and exposing the inner workings of Chatillon Lux in order to shine a light on the process and inspiration for the scents I make, as well as the stories that inspire me. Before getting too in-depth, however, I would like to start things off with a question that I receive quite often: what do different scent concentrations mean and what should someone expect when they wear them?
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast set of rules. There are loose suggestions as to how they should be used, but there is always a good deal of gray area. For example, my eau de toilette fragrances could (and some say should) be classified as eau de parfum, as most are at or around 15%. I choose the eau de toilette classification because some eau de parfum can be perhaps close to double the concentration, as well as emphasize the wearability (more on that later).
Before we get too deep into that matter, a quick tangent on scent “strength.” Strength is a misleading term, as there are different facets of strength: sillage and longevity. Sillage is a term used in the perfumery industry to indicate how much the scent projects. A fragrance that exhibits high sillage would be detectable from a further distance than a scent with a weaker sillage. On the other hand, sillage and longevity can occasionally be mutually exclusive, as a scent that is long-lasting does not necessarily project.
Why is that? It boils down to the volatility and the tenacity of the molecules of which a scent is composed.
The top notes of a fragrance are the ones that are immediately noticeable, which is because they are highly volatile. When a fragrance is sprayed onto the skin, the heat of the skin causes the fragrance molecules to react. The most volatile project enough to be noticed immediately, but they also naturally burn away the most quickly. The heart or middle notes then become more noticeable, as they are medium volatility, then finally the base notes – the foundation of the fragrance – are left. The longevity of these base notes are a result of less volatile molecules that linger: hence their longevity.
An example of a highly volatile molecule may be a citrus note, which by its very nature will have very little longevity. On the other hand, a scent like sandalwood or a musk may have great longevity, but it will not necessarily have great sillage.
So with this in mind, the concentration of a fragrance is not chosen by the scent’s composer simply for “strength,” but rather to suit the composition. A scent with highly volatile notes, like a light, crisp summer scent with citrus and bright florals, may be better suited to a less concentrated scent as the notes are fleeting but will burn brightly when they are applied. On the other hand, a fragrance like our upcoming Santal Auster Parfum Extrait uses a very high concentration as it does not feature any top notes, but rather has low sillage and high longevity, more of a skin scent that lingers for a long time than something that fills up a room.
When discussing the following concentrations, keep in mind that these are rough guidelines as to the actual percentages, as I am more interested in discussing why a perfumer would choose each classification, not the technical specifications themselves.
Extrait (aka Extrait de Parfum, Perfume Extract, Pure Perfume)
20 – 40% concentration
Also known as extrait de parfum, perfume extract, parfum and pure perfume, amongst others, this level of concentration is rare due to its high cost and narrow range of suitability. As we talked about earlier, it is really best suited to fragrance compositions with lower sillage and high longevity so that the most subtle of nuances can be truly experienced throughout the long, often complex evolution. This high concentration helps offset the lack of a grand fanfare on the opening, but it still wears closer to the skin and is more of an intimate fragrance.
Eau de Parfum
This concentration may have lost favor in the light, citrusy and fresh movement of the 90s, with scents that are better suited towards eau de toilette concentration (more on this later). With niche perfumery on the rise in more recent years, many are going back to this concentration as they make scents that veer from the easily wearable path and utilize base notes with stronger longevity and higher complexity. At 15% concentration, our eau de toilette strengths straddle the line in order to emphasize the complexity while remaining accessible for as many as possible.
Eau de Toilette
Today, eau de toilette is associated with gender more so than anything else, but as gender designations in fragrance marketing become less apparent, the word “perfume” has begun shedding its stigma as a purely women’s fragrance. So what is eau de toilette beyond just concentration? Look no further than its rise to prominence in the 90s, with bright, citrus-forward scents that feel fresh and light. With a lower concentration, scents with big, attention-grabbing top notes are well suited for this concentration. Additionally, these scents can be understood to be more easily wearable as they not only have a lower concentration, but also a shorter longevity.
Eau de Cologne
2% – 5%
The original Eau de Cologne, created by Johann Farina as an ode to the city of the same name, was a bright, citrusy affair. The scent, like many at the time, was used as a hygienicic product to freshen up periodically throughout the day. It was light, fleeting and personal. They are associated with summertime for many, not only because of their citrus and floral notes, but also because they wouldn’t overwhelm the senses if the wearer’s hot skin causes the scent to burn more intensely.
Why Are We Talking About This?
The choice of the moniker placed upon a fragrance goes beyond simply a number. Very often I am asked for clarification, because many people assume there are certain numbers where a scent moves up to the next class. The reason is that the nomenclature describes more than the concentration: an extrait is good for deep, base-note-heavy scents, like many found in the Middle East and India, while an eau de parfum is becoming more in vogue as it can help bring interest to a scent’s evolution. The eau de toilette can be enjoyed in a broader range of situations, whether it’s by scent composition or strength, and the eau de cologne is a fresh, bright companion.
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.