New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co Lemon Liada- What Modern Perfumery Is

The origins of perfume were using what was available to add to your body to smell nice. When the era of modern perfumery began in the late 19th century the combination of new synthetic materials along with the advent of efficient extraction processes changed things. It allowed for such an expansion of ingredients perfumers had new versatility. It allowed for artists to think in abstract terms. They could re-create a natural smell through a combination of synthetic molecules and natural sources. Some of my favorite perfumes are when there is an ingredient in the name and it is nowhere to be found within the note list. The ones I like best are from the perfumers I think most highly of; Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada is a new addition to my list.

What I enjoy so much about perfumes like Lemon Liada is when a perfumer, in this case Charna Ethier, allows me to reconsider my thoughts on what is being abstracted. For Lemon Liada Ms. Ethier wanted to create a summery eau de cologne. Lemon is a great place to begin when you are doing that. Ms. Ethier took a different tack. How about a lemon eau de cologne which has no lemon in it? How about a true abstract of lemon? How about a lemon perfume which lies about having lemon in it? That’s what Lemon Liada translates to.

Charna Ethier

If you’re going to achieve this, you will rely on the lemon-like ingredients within your palette. Ms. Ethier does that with three of these sources; verbena, petitgrain, and citron. The verbena and citron come together to form the frame of the lemon effect in the early moments. My childhood days of picking lemons off the tree smells a lot like this, a combination of external rind and green leaves. The next two part of this are petitgrain and mimosa. The mimosa is the key ingredient to the success of Lemon Liada as it imparts a gauzy veil over the entire construction. The petitgrain provides a brilliance atop that. At this point the lemon accord is complete. The final phase of Lemon Liada is where a bit of powdery iris and watery lotus provide some contrast as the accord begins to fray over the final hours.

Lemon Liada has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I don’t know why I am always so enthralled by these kinds of olfactory illusions. One reason is they don’t come around that often. Another reason is they often don’t hold together. When I encounter one as good as Lemon Liada it reminds me what modern perfumery is.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

Independent Perfumery 2018

When I was really starting my descent into perfumed obsession in the early years of the 2000’s it started with the discovery of niche perfumes. What that meant to me were small brands with distinctive artistic aesthetics. Those early years of this century saw the rapid expansion of this style of perfume. Presenting themselves as an alternative to what was available at the mall. It was, and remains, part of the reason I enjoy perfume.

Then in 2006 on the blogs I follow there was mention of this new perfume from Switzerland. A young artist by the name of Andy Tauer had released a perfume called L’Air du Desert Marocain. My perfume world changed again. I discovered there was another world of fragrance makers who worked on their own; independent perfumers. It would be the acclaim for L’Air du Desert Marocain that pointed those who love perfume to a new place.

Every year I am struck by how vital this community is. What spurred me to write this column was my editorial calendar for the next week. One of many important lessons I learned from my Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, is the importance of keeping an editorial calendar. That means I have all the different days subjects planned out in advance. Sometime when I look at my white board I can see patterns which arise out of the list. Looking over next week’s list I saw six wonderful perfumes from six different established independent perfumers. It made me think about where we are now.

One of the things I write about a lot is the concept of a brand aesthetic. It should be easier when an independent perfumer is the only voice in the room. From experience I can tell you it is not. I try a dozen or so new independent brands a year. I provide private feedback which is just between the perfumer and I. One of the more common sentences I write is, “What are you trying to achieve besides smelling good?” The brands which have succeeded have almost always had a personal answer to that. The ones who ask me “What do you mean?” is probably a reason why they don’t succeed.

Proof this has succeeded is there is a part of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes which has been dubbed a “Tauer-ade”. There is a scented fingerprint which says where this perfume came from. The same can be said for Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. or Maria McElroy of Aroma M. I feel if I was handed any of these, and others, perfumes they are identifiable because of this. Independent perfumers can refine a personal vision over every release.

Mandy Aftel

Another more fractious aspect of independent perfumery is very few of them have any formal training. Like all artistic efforts there are the precocious few who are blessed with innate talent. For those the years spent making their perfumes provides its own kind of training; learning through trial and error. That same effort is also rewarded for those who learn entirely from that. Time can be a great leveler. Some of the early founders have become the teachers for those who are drawn to make their own perfume. Mandy Aftel has produced great perfume, under he Aftelier Perfumes label, and a wave of students from her California studio. AbdesSalaam Attar does the same in Europe.

One of the most important aspects of the current state of independent perfumery is the ability of the perfumers to use small batches of amazing ingredients. Particularly over the last few years there have been releases which are made from materials that have been gone from mainstream and niche perfumery due to the difficulty of sourcing enough to produce hundreds of bottles. The independent perfumer can produce tens of bottles if they desire. A good example are the perfumes of Russian Adam under his Areej Le Dore brand. He can source actual musk from the animal through a license he has. Other independent perfumers create their own tinctures, botanical hydrosols, co-distillates, or enfleurage. Each of these create magic. The botanicals sourced by Yasuyuki Shinohara from his home island of Hokkaido, Japan for his Di Ser line are what makes those perfumes unique.

The final thing which has made independent perfumery so important is it lives outside the geography of France, the US, Italy or Great Britain. For over 100 years that was where the perfume we knew came from. Independent perfumery takes place everywhere with the influences of location finding its way into the bottle. All four of the countries where modern perfume was born have their share of independent perfumers who have things to say about that history in their new perfumes. The perspective that comes from elsewhere is invaluable.

If you need the best argument for the importance of independent perfumer in 2018 follow along next week as the perfumes speak for themselves.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Vientiane- The Magic of Tincture

At the beginning of the month in the Under the Radar column I wrote about Providence Perfume Co. Moss Gown. In the last paragraph I mentioned that I found I had missed a new release earlier this year. By the next morning I was contacted and told a sample had been sent but returned to sender. It was quickly dispatched back to me. What greeted me in Providence Perfume Co. Vientiane is another example of why independent perfumer Charna Ethier is among our best.

I visited Ms. Ethier a couple years ago in her home base of Providence, RI. Through her early releases there was a delicacy of certain notes I had noticed. In the ingredient roster there were always lists of tinctures. I knew what they were, but Ms. Ethier schooled me that day on them. For those who would like to learn more than I am about to write I point you to a blog post by Ms. Ethier from 2012 where she goes into greater depth. In short, a tincture is the use of dried fragrant botanical material soaked in perfumer’s alcohol. The material is continually filtered out and replaced every few days. Once it has reached a desired scent profile it can be used.

Charna Ethier

You can see how this is the ideal ingredient for an independent perfumer. It provides a uniqueness that only comes from a particular creative. For Ms. Ethier these tinctures have provided some of the most fascinating undercurrents to her perfumes. In Vientiane she uses a jasmine rice tincture as the river upon which she floats three different sources of sandalwood.

The name Vientiane comes from the capital city of Laos. The jasmine rice tincture adds a steamy humidity to the sandalwood core reminiscent of sitting on the side of the Mekong in the city itself.

Vientiane opens with an Indiana Jones-like scent of using a machete to cut through vines. It is vegetal and very green. It catches your attention and then as you hack it away you are left looking at a structure of sandalwood as if uncovered for the first time. By the coloration you see there are three types of sandalwood. A typical creamy version, a drier desiccated version, and a lighter version used as modulator. Underneath all of this is the jasmine rice tincture. Ms. Ethier sent me a little vial of it along with my sample of the perfume. Once I had the chance to smell its steamy toasty fragrance I was able to detect it sending its tendrils up through the sandalwood. This is where Vientiane remains with a surprisingly complex sandalwood on display for hours.

Vientiane has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

If you are a colognoisseur of sandalwood perfumes Vientiane should be part of your collection. It is an entirely unique take transformed by the magic of the jasmine rice tincture into something very special.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Providence Perfume Co. Moss Gown- Bayou Fairy Tale

I have too much perfume. I know it and there are things I own which get lost in the back of the shelf. Things I absolutely adore. A few weeks ago, while trying to excavate a bottle of something else I discovered my bottle of Providence Perfume Co. Moss Gown. When I know something has truly connected deeply is as soon as I saw the bottle I remembered the scent immediately. I was thinking if this had fallen off my radar since it got pushed to the back of the shelf it was time to give it some attention.

Providence Perfume Co. is the brand of all-natural perfumer Charna Ethier. Ms. Ethier is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of her attention to detail plus her delight in using unusual ingredients. The attention to detail comes from sourcing and producing some of them. Moss Gown is an education on doing this.

Charna Ethier

The name of the perfume came from a story by the same name Ms. Ethier read to her daughter at bedtime. It is at its core a Bayou re-telling of Cinderella. As I imagine any perfumer does when interacting with another art form she began to wonder what it smelled like. Which then propelled her to her studio to figure out how to realize it. What comes out of the finished product is one of the only perfumes I know which captures the smell of watery vegetation and wood in the height of the summer.

If you’ve ever spent time in the Everglades in Florida or the bayous of Louisiana or the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida line on a summer trip you will recognize Moss Gown from its first moments. Ms. Ethier uses sunflower essence as one of her keynotes. This has a bamboo-like watery quality. She supports it with chamomile. This gives the vegetal green part of the bayou accord. There is also a part of this milieu which is the scent of natural decay. Ms. Ethier uses boronia to capture this. Boronia Is not used often because of this character in Moss Gown it completes the stage for the appearance of our Bayou Cinderella. A duet of mimosa and rose crowned with cedarmoss provides the floral accord which captures the fairy tale in the swamp. It all finishes on a lovely creamy sandalwood.

Moss Gown has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One of the reasons I pulled Moss Gown off the shelf is it has been a while since we’ve seen a new release from Ms. Ethier. Doing my research to make sure Moss Gown was still available I found there was a new release I missed, Vientiane. Which goes to show even perfumers I admire can fall off my radar. Take the opportunity to put Providence Perfume Co. on your radar you will be delighted to find one of the best independent natural perfumers we have. If you need proof get a sample, or bottle, of Moss Gown.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Heart of Darkness- The Smell of Fougere in the Morning

I am a firm believer in the adage that the book is better than the movie; most of the time. One exception is the movie “Apocalypse Now” based on the 19th Century fin de siècle novella “Heart of Darkness” by author Joseph Conrad. The original story was based on British Colonialism in the Congo. Director Francis Ford Coppola modernized the story bringing it forward to the Vietnam War in 1969. The plots are essentially the same as a good and upright man makes a journey into the jungle looking for a man who might have become something dark. In both stories our narrator completes his journey but he is changed by confronting the darkness of the soul. The reason I prefer the movie is the milieu of the Vietnam War and the slippery ethical reasons for being there are more easily understood by me than what were the similar concepts of 19th Century British conquest of foreign lands. What also draws me to “Apocalypse Now” is the clearer sense of the absurd captured within the brutality of a war. Of the few people, I know in my life who served in Vietnam they all say “Apocalypse Now” is the best depiction of their time in country.

Charna Ethier

Independent perfumer Charna Ethier seemingly is inspired by the story for her latest release Providence Perfume Co. Heart of Darkness. In her interpretation, she wanted to create “A classic fougere for men with a dark twist”. In essence she wants to take a fougere on a journey into the jungle to return with a shadow on it. Ms. Ethier has a particularly deft touch with these green leafy accords which she has shown numerous times in the past with fragrances like Moss Gown. Heart of Darkness is another as she adds a jungle on top of a fougere.

This story opens with lavender ready to travel. It adds on nutmeg and tonka to add an unusual sweet quality. It takes the lavender towards its more floral nature as opposed to the herbal facets. Here it really is the steadfast lavender about to step into the jungle. Ms. Ethier uses a very green, slightly camphoraceous, cedar and vetiver to begin the shading towards the dark. A mixture of oakmoss and coffee is where Ms. Ethier adds the darkness. She describes the coffee note as “espresso” I would offer an alternative description as whole roasted coffee bean. Something in here adds a bit of humidity reminiscent of the tropics. Labdanum is the final ingredient which returns our fougere back to its more traditional milieu but the journey has changed it.

Heart of Darkness has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Heart of Darkness is another of these green triumphs from Ms. Ethier. On the days I was wearing it I wanted to paraphrase a character from “Apocalypse Now” as I applied it each day. “I love the smell of fougere in the morning.” Especially when it is done in such an original way as it is in Heart of Darkness.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Tangerine Thyme- Tincture de Cologne

There are many techniques that can only happen within the independent perfume community because of the time-intensive nature of using them. One of those is the process of creating a tincture. A perfumer will place a material into alcohol and allow it to extract the essence from it. The process will be repeated many times as the natural material is continually swapped out until the desired balance is achieved. That any perfumer still does this is to be commended. One perfumer who has made her tinctures the keynotes of many of her perfumes is Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. Here latest release Tangerine Thyme shows off a new one.

Because of the process behind tincturing the ingredient itself is surely one-of-a-kind. It will be nearly impossible to get the exact same concentration back a second time; which is why Ms. Ethier’s tinctures usually are part of limited editions. Tangerine Thyme is no different as Ms. Ethier uses a tincture of a special kind of navel orange called a Cara Cara. Upon this she constructs a classic cologne architecture with typical herbal complements and a couple of unusual choices which help elevate Tangerine Thyme.

charna ethier

Charna Ethier

The Cara Cara tincture is what opens Tangerine Thyme. Cara Cara oranges have a flesh which approximates the color of grapefruit but these oranges are a lot sweeter. Ms. Ethier captures that as she uses the Cara Cara tincture to represent the tangerine. Petitgrain and neroli are used to modulate the tincture so it carries a bit of pulpy gravitas. The promised thyme provides the herbal harmony. The other inspired choice Ms. Ethier makes is to also use marigold. It provides a different green floral character to the more traditional herbal green from the thyme. The base is a simple silvery frankincense as an austere contrast.

Tangerine Thyme has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Most of the time a citrus herbal cologne is not something I would wear in the colder weather. As I was wearing Tangerine Thyme over the past week one of the mornings had the first frost of the season. It stood up really nicely. I suspect this is going to be a favorite scarf spray throughout the fall. The effort Ms. Ethier puts in to creating her tinctures is only surpassed by her creativity in employing them in her fragrances. If you need proof pick up Tangerine Thyme.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Love-in-a-Mist- Finding the Sunny Side

Social media is a wonderful thing when sharing good news. It can be less enjoyable when the news is not so happy. When you see a post where someone has had some kind of adversity you feel for them and reach out knowing there is little more you can do. A year ago I woke up and was checking in when I saw a post from Charna Ethier the independent perfumer and owner of Providence Perfume Co. Her store in Providence, RI had been damaged in a fire. After being patient with the reconstruction it turned out she still needed to move. She spent a couple of months doing that. She has now re-established her brick-and mortar presence which has allowed for her to return to that which she does so well; design beautiful perfumes from memorable ingredients. Her latest Love-in-a-Mist does just that.

When I make the statement that independent perfumery’s advantage is in exquisite small batch raw materials Ms. Ethier is one of the best at doing this. From designing her own tinctures to sourcing unique materials to use as a keynote the majority of her perfumes have a special note or accord within; put there through her persistence. For Love-in-a-Mist Ms.Ethier wanted to create a playful summer wildflower fragrance and she wanted to use the flower that is in the name. That flower is known as Nigella damascene. Ms. Ethier sourced one of the few distillers of this flower and made this note the nucleus of Love-in-a-Mist. Another thing I laud Ms. Ethier for is she spends time understanding her new material so she can choose just a few supplementary notes which display it like the fragrant jewel it is.

charna_ethier

Charna Ethier

Ms. Ethier describes the scent profile of Nigella damascene as a “honeyed floral aroma”. While I think that is probably technically true there seems to be more on display than a honeyed floral. As pink pepper opens the fragrance with the Nigella damascene already in place I get a more lilac feel from it. As mimosa comes forward it becomes more expansive reminding me strongly of honeysuckle. Sweet clover adds in the soft green aspect of a summer field. Finally, in the base sandalwood pulls out an ambery character.

Love-in-a-Mist has 8-10 hour longevity and low sillage.  

I have truly enjoyed wearing Love-in-a-Mist through these summery days. Even in a place where I have my own wildflowers there is nothing which smells as good as this does. After a year of adversity Ms. Ethier has found the sunny side again and put it in a bottle. I have to also mention that the past year’s travails seem to have fired her creativity again. I think Love-in-a-Mist is the best perfume she has made since 2012’s Moss Gown. Love-in-a-Mist is a spectacular summertime floral.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Provanilla- Castaway Vanilla

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There is a group of independent perfumers who I adore for their ability to poke and prod at the common perfume tropes. Natural perfumer Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. is one of those unafraid to take the banal and try to make it something less so. I have to admit I forgot this when I opened my package from her with her latest release in it. As I finally revealed my sample from within its bubble-wrapped cocoon the name, Provanilla, made me groan a little inside.

charna_ethier

Charna Ethier

Vanilla is low on my list of favorite featured notes because it is used so often in such an obvious way. It is either the sweet confectionary type. Or the evocation of the vanilla orchid carrying a more floral sweetness tinged with green. It has the ability to overwhelm anything around it and that’s what turns it boring. That was my frame of mind as I sprayed a bit of Provanilla onto a strip. That’s when I was reminded not of the hundreds of boring vanilla perfumes out there but Ms. Ethier’s skill at bringing me around to seeing something new.

Provanilla is a mix of five different sources of natural vanilla which provide the spine of Provanilla. What Ms. Ethier does is to tie up her five vanillas and throw then overboard to wash up on an isolated tropical island. The two components which create the Cast Away vibe are coconut pulp and a melon-based aquatic accord. Provanilla is a fantastic example of Ms. Ethier’s adventurous aesthetic.

provanilla ad

Provanilla opens with the rich mix of the five sources of vanilla. This is a unique blend of vanilla because Ms. Ethier uses her own vanilla tincture to bind the vanillas she is using together. It makes it different but it is still vanilla. It is the melon-based aquatic accord which completely transforms Provanilla. It adds an incredible watery quality to everything. The vanilla accord bobs along on top of the water and once it finds shore it lands on top of a lovely bunch of coconuts. More specifically the pulp of the coconut which provides both complement and contrast to the central vanilla. The watery aquatic accord is still here too. I loved this tropical watery vanilla and it wears so easily without being uninteresting. Only in the base do things return to a sense of normalcy as eventually myrrh and balsam provide the base notes.

Provanilla has 6-8 hour longevity and very slight sillage.

I don’t know how many times it will take for Ms. Ethier to show me something different from that which I think I know well. Provanilla has perhaps provided the strongest proof yet of Ms. Ethier’s ability to completely change my thinking about a note.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Providence Perfume Co. Natural Perfume Oils- The Quiet Storm

In October the New York Times published an article about the proliferation of perfume oils. The article extolled the convenience, the more close wearing nature, and as an economical alternative to their alcoholic cousins. Natural Perfumer Charna Ethier came to this conclusion through paying attention to the customers in her retail store in Providence, RI. She came to realize through watching customers at her in-store custom perfume bar that as many customers were choosing to base their creations in oil as alcohol. Along with this realization she was getting requests from customers for something more “wearable”. She wanted to “highlight the most beautiful aspects of natural essences”. All of this thinking has led to the creation of a collection of six natural perfume oils under her Providence Perfume Co. brand: Rose 802, Orange Blossom Honey, Summer Yuzu, Ivy Tower, Sweet Jasmine Brown, and Violet Beauregarde.

A few things I noticed when wearing these perfume oils was the very nature of them wearing so close to the skin made them feel much more personal in nature. I often felt like it was my little perfumed secret for the days I wore them. I would have to test this next observation a little more blindly but while I was testing the oils in between other fragrance I was testing it seemed the oils had a more diffuse quiet and softer feeling. It was like these were gauzy dreamlike versions of perfume. When I would wear one of these after wearing a more traditional formulation from another perfumer these has a degree of comforting calm to them.

charna_ethier

Charna Ethier

Rose 802 is a tribute to mid-summer in Vermont, 802 is the Vermont area code, as the wild roses and blackberries scent the air. Ms. Ethier takes rose and black currant to form that core and adds in cedar and fir to bring forth the woods of Vermont. A bit of myrtle modulates the rose to keep it from being as boisterous. This was a good example of how the perfume oil formulation can take something like rose and currant which is the very loud opening to many fruity florals and by keeping it close and hazy turns it contemplative and calming.

Orange Blossom Honey exemplifies that the oils can allow the wearer to go beneath the surface and find something different in notes as well-known as orange blossom and honey. Ms. Ethier goes for a bit of transparent golden viscosity as the neroli is encased within a thick matrix of honey. Grace notes of ginger and vanilla add a bit of olfactory lens flares but this is an indolent lazy day as a perfume.

Summer Yuzu shows that just because these perfume oils are kept on the quiet side that doesn’t have to mean they lack energy. Summer Yuzu has energy to burn as Ms. Ethier takes a brilliant sparkling yuzu as her nucleus and sends a fantastic array of notes like, sunflower, aglaia, tomato, frankincense, and tomato spinning madly around it. This was the most fun of these six to wear because it just felt like a perpetual motion machine in perfumed form.

Ivy Tower is a photorealistic version of ivy growing among a selection of spring flowers. Ms. Ethier captures the deeply vegetal green of the ivy growing in rain-soaked earth by combining geranium, narcissus, blue tansy, jonquil, and lily. All together these floral create the ivy accord but then as you focus it is like finding a bunch of flowers growing within the vines.

Sweet Jasmine Brown is Ms. Ethier’s riff on the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Ms. Ethier wanted a sassy and sweet construction. To bring this dichotomy together she chose pink pepper, jasmine and musk ambrette to represent sassy and cocoa nib, ylang-ylang, and vanilla to hold up the sweet side. It sets up a bit of a see-sawing development as it moves from the sassy to sweet and back to the sassy again. Like watching Miss Georgia Brown sashaying down the street.

Just from the name I suspected that Violet Beauregarde was going to be my favorite. It seems like we both share an affection for the gum snapping child of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who would eventually expand into a human blueberry. Ms. Ethier eschews going the blueberry route and instead focuses on violet. The violet is transparent but like the namesake Ms. Ethier expands the transparent violet by inflating it with ylang-ylang, jasmine, and mimosa. It makes it feel like a purple balloon blown up to its limit with the sun shining through it. I loved the delicacy of this one which always seemed to be on the verge of popping like that overinflated balloon in my mind’s eye.

All of the perfume oils had 6-8 hour longevity and about as close to zero sillage as you can get.

Ms. Ethier wanted something “beautiful and wearable” and with all six of these perfume oils she has achieved her goal.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co Bay Rum- A Pirate Looks at 50

As appealing as pretending to be a pirate was as a child, I have to admit the idea is even more appealing as a man in his 50’s. I am pretty sure I’m not alone in the idea of a life on the ocean living on the fringes of the law having appeal as we get older. When I was a kid with an eyepatch and a plastic sword I also nipped into my dad’s bathroom to get a bottle of rum, bay rum. My father had a humongous bottle of Pinaud’s Bay Rum. I used to sprinkle a little in my bandana to smell authentic. Bay Rum also played a large part in my haircuts as it was the spicy finish to a visit to the barber. I can honestly say I haven’t given Bay Rum a thought in twenty years, easy. Thanks to one of our most talented Natural Perfumers, Charna Ethier, who has released Bay Rum under her Providence Perfume Co. label, it has plundered my consciousness.

Ms. Ethier wanted Bay Rum to pay homage to Newport, RI which was at one time the rum capital of the world. Bay Rum is as simple a fragrance as it gets as sailors in the West Indies took bay leaf and let it soak in some rum. That has been the formula for hundreds of years. Ms. Ethier takes that most basic of formulas and adds a little bit more of the fragrant beats of a pirate’s existence. This turns her Bay Rum from something focused into a fragrance which has a much wider perspective.

charna ethier

Charna Ethier

Ms. Ethier stayed true to her Rhode Island roots and contacted a local rum distiller to provide the rum. This provides a rich boozy foundation for everything else to be added to. Most importantly the other part of the name, a real West Indian bay leaf. On the top of this she adds a bit of tart lime to ward off scurvy. Her choice of allspice takes the bay leaf and transforms it into something less piquant and more elegant. I would venture she spent some time finding the right partner for the bay leaf and allspice is absolutely the right one. A pirate hides in a cove surrounded by flowers growing from the trees and in Bay Rum Ms. Ethier adds jasmine and ylang-ylang to remind you that you are in the tropics. The last addition is a wonderfully briny ozonic sea spray accord. When you are on a boat at speed and the spray is being flung up into the air as the bow cleaves through the wave, is what this accord smells like. It is what turns Bay Rum into a voyage on the high seas while wearing it.

Bay Rum has 10-12 hour longevity. Ms. Ethier has made a very long lasting version of something which is not known for its longevity in other forms. The sillage is average.

Ms. Ethier is really broadening her abilities as a perfumer as Bay Rum shows she can take something elementary and add to it without disrupting it. That is much easier than it sounds. Bay Rum is a success because every additional note she chose to add had its place within the existing structure. I am loving Bay Rum because Ms. Ethier has made a Bay Rum for this perfumista in his 50’s which allows me to let my inner child out to play; at the wheel of a ship flying the Jolly Roger. It is like finding a treasure, no ‘X’ necessary to mark the spot.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke