Scent Notes: 88 Chestnut Street and a Study on Citrus

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. 

Side note: for more information on the difference between eau de cologne, eau de toilette, and eau de parfumcheck out the previous entry in Scent Notes

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.

Extrait de Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette and Eau de Cologne Explained

Originally posted here

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

15-25% concentration

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

5-15% concentration

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.

Behind the Scents: Join me in the Creative Process for Maher Olfactive and Chatillon Lux

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.

Keep checking back here and, more importantly, follow @MaherOlfactive and @ChatillonLux on social media. You can also sign up for both houses’ respective email lists at and to find out new as it happens.