My Favorite Things: Pine

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While many spend the time after Thanksgiving in the US shopping I spend it a different way. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the beginning of Christmas for me. What that means is I leave the shopping mall behind and head to the Christmas tree lot to buy a tree and pine roping to drape around the house. There are many scents I associate with the holiday season but the clean green coniferous smell of pine is with me every day of the last month of the year. In honor of the beginning of the Holidays I am going to name my five favorite pine perfumes.

When I first moved to Boston I was told of this fantastic little perfume shop in Harvard Square called Colonial Drug. It was the definition of a perfume lover’s paradise as Cathy, the owner, had a huge selection of European perfumes you couldn’t find anywhere else. The first time I went in she was busy extolling the virtues of Pino Silvestre to the male customer. Over many years I would see the green pine cone shaped bottle leave the store in a bag because perfumer Lino Vidal made a pine fragrance which did not smell like an air freshener. Sharp sunny citrus dives deep into a pine note surrounded by clove, sage, and rosemary. It all ends up on a cedar and sandalwood foundation. There is a reason this sits on a lot of men’s dressers in the Boston area.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is one of the few pine perfumes you will encounter where the lighter nature of pine needles are as evident. Christopher Sheldrake composing under Serge Lutens creative direction uses those pine needles in the top to create an airy coniferous experience. Soon enough a host of resinous notes allow the sap to rise. The final camphor note is like breathing in cold air in the middle of the Christmas tree lot.

christian dior granville

Christian Dior La Collection Privee Granville was a perfume which had to win me over. When I first tried Francois Demachy’s pine perfume it was not what I expected as strong citrus, herbs, and a particularly strong gorse note all seemed to be competing with each other. Over time Granville’s eclectic kinetic quality has won me over and it is one of my favorites of Dior’s exclusive collection. Tart lemon and herbal thyme open things up. Black pepper and rosemary join the pine in the heart. The gorse blows in soon after before sandalwood finishes things up. Over time I realized Granville is a more modern take on the same themes used in Pino Silvestre. My appreciation and affection for Granville probably was an evolution of my perfume tastes without my being conscious of it.

My final two choices exemplify the reason independent perfume can be so exhilarating when the perfumer finds a unique small batch ingredient. Samantha Rader the perfumer behind Dasein Winter sourced a pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps to use as the centerpiece of her first release. By understanding her raw material was something special she wisely did not complicate the experience and only used cardamom and lavender to complement. The lavender really evokes the Alpine milieu in particular. This is the smell of carrying that Christmas tree home in my arms, face pressed into the branches.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz found a local wildcrafter Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics to source a pinon essential oil infused with fifty-year old pine resin crystals for her DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin. Ms. Hurwitz also keeps it simple but she chooses some notes to be more interactive with the pinon oil instead of framing it. Early on it is a group of green notes to evoke the rest of the forest besides the pine. Once the pine comes out rose and amyris use their floral character to smooth out the rough edges and provide depth. The base is a deeper dive into the resinous as olibanum and labdanum come forward. Seve de Pin is the most photorealistic pine perfume I own. Whenever I want to be in the Holiday mood I just need a drop or two to get me there, even in July.

If you need a little perfume to carry around the pine scentd of the Holidays these five are worth giving a try.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dasein Winter- Christmas Tree Hugger

When it comes to American Independent Perfumery I think I am on the wrong coast. Over the past few years all of the most exciting new independent perfumers call the western half of the country home. As a result, especially with indie brands, a buzz starts to build and it takes a while for these perfumes to make it to the East Coast. Late last year I began to hear about a perfumer by the name of Sam Rader who was working on a quartet of perfumes around the holidays. Then early this year I heard that four proposed perfumes had become one. I also heard that this perfume was one of the best pine tree perfumes my source had ever smelled. Now my patience has paid off as Ms. Rader has finally found a place for her perfume Dasein Winter, on the East Coast.

Ms. Rader is an interesting pastiche of influences. The name of her brand Dasein (pronounced DAH-zyne) comes from her study of existential philosophy and defines a “human being as the marriage between self-awareness and sensual experience.” At least according to her website. I read this that she wants Dasein perfumes to awaken the inner self completely. With Winter Ms. Rader has chosen an iconic smell of the winter months to build a perfume around, that of fir trees. Also according to the website she sourced a specific forest pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps. What has always been a recurring theme when writing about my favorite indie perfumers are these small batches of exquisite ingredients they can use to build a perfume around. This pine tree essential oil is every bit of the tree; needles, bark, sap- everything. It rings with authenticity synthetics just can’t replicate.

Sam Rader

Sam Rader

Dasein Winter opens with that pine essential oil out in front. If you’ve ever gone to a Christmas tree lot to buy a tree you know what this smells like. The richness of the needles, the slightly camphoraceous smell of the trunk, and the woody quality of the branches.. I think I would be thrilled with the essential oil all by itself. Ms. Rader recognizes she has a jewel of a raw material here and so she is very careful to swaddle it in a few well-thought out notes. Early on a bit of spruce keeps your attention on the tree itself. Later on a beautiful whisper of black cardamom wreathes the pine with garlands of warmth. Lavender absolute is the final piece of Winter and it provides a soft sweet place for this mighty conifer to rest.

Dasein Winter has 12-14 hour longevity and modest sillage. For as powerful as this is up close it projects surprisingly little.

With this first effort Ms. Rader has shown a precocious talent that leaves me anticipating her next release which I hear is Spring and will be out early in 2015. Until them I will happily become a pine tree hugger as I anoint myself with Winter throughout the end of this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke