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.
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.