As much as I love perfume of all types, especially the experimental or wholly unique compositions from the wealth of modern independent perfumers, there are certain time-tested classics that I’ll always reach for. Whether it’s Eau Sauvage by Dior, Terre de Hermès or Vetiver by Guerlain, there’s a perfect balance in these between fresh notes and a vetiver underbelly that make it sing in harmony. With this type of classic structure in mind, I set out to find that perfect balance in my own signature style.
The result was a fresh prairie scent inspired by the roots of my little part of South Saint Louis City.
In the early days of Saint Louis, beyond the main part of the city, there were many hamlets. One of those included Carondelet, which would evolve into South City and the history of which has inspired many of my compositions. However, Soulard is another historic part of this city’s history. The farmer’s market from the 18th century still thrives today, but it was the surrounding fields and farms that are now populated by my favorite restaurants, watering holes, concert venues and art galleries that are at the heart of this.
Long-time followers of my work might remember Catalan’s Prairie, one of the first scents that I ever composed now almost six years ago. Catalan’s Prairie was the adjacent prairie and farmland to Carondelet, while La Petite Prairie was the farmland and prairie adjacent to Soulard, the French settlement just south of St. Louis proper. Soulard, which is right by the Anheuser Busch brewery, the Chatillon DeMenil mansion and, most relevantly, Chatillon Lux headquarters. It’s a beautiful, historic neighborhood that hosts the world’s second-largest Mardi Gras celebration. But more relevantly, the agricultural history and rolling prairies provide the perfect backdrop for this scent, created on the land where they once existed.
Laying the Foundation of Vetiver
First and foremost, this scent began with the construction of a vetiver base. I started off working with vetiver from Java, which is a little bit smoky and more on the woody end of the spectrum, alongside vetiver from Haiti. The Haitian vetiver is earthy, rooty and very tenacious. I enjoy using it in trace amounts in certain compositions (it’s a secret weapon in 88 Chestnut Eau de Cologne), and so in this vetiver base I used less than half the amount as I did the Javan vetiver.
However, that was just the beginning. In order to smooth out the rough edges of vetiver and make them seamlessly connect to what was meant to be a fresh, bright perfume, there was some work to do. I used a few materials to accomplish this, all analogs of a vetiver-type scent. I used vetiveryl acetate, both a Javanese-type and a Haitian-type, to emphasize the woody aspects, then combined them with Vertenex HC and vetival. However, the final touch was a material that I absolutely love, Vetikone, which has a vetiver and grapefruit type of aroma. Perfect!
And in order to fill out the gaps and add a touch more weight to the base, I used myrrh, styrax and elemi essential oils. These are deep and rich incense notes, perfect to supplement the facets of Javanese vetiver that I wished to bring out to anchor this composition. Finally, I also used the old standby, Iso E Super, to give some texture and air to the woody notes.
Florals…But not a Bouquet
When filling out the middle notes of this composition, I immediately sought to bring in the two classic floral notes for these types of perfumes: geranium and carnation.
In the carnation accord, I, of course, used a heavy dose of both benzyl salicylate, a balsamic note that goes very well with this type of vetiver base, as well as eugenol and dihydro eugenol. These notes are essential for these types of spicy floral accords, and many would perceive these as clove-type notes. However, I didn’t want to make this overly spicy, so I kept the eugenol low and added some laurel leaf essential oil and caryophyllene beta to make it a more subtle carnation accord. Finally, I put in a little touch of anisyl acetate and benzyl benzoate to help give it a more silky feel.
I began my geranium accord with my favorite geranium essential oil for use in a subtle way: South African essential oil. I also microdosed petitgrain sur fleur essential oil, a more woody version of the sharp petitgrain note. However, I also created a supplementary geranium accord that celebrates the fruity side of it, led by geraniol, citronellol, linalool, alpha pinene and geranyl acetate. However, I wanted to make this a fresh, crisp scent, so I dug out the more minty notes of geranium, specifically with methyl salicylate, a wintergreen-type note, in a small quantity. Finally, a bit of blue gum eucalyptus essential oil finished off the fresh, minty note that I was searching for.
Finally, in the tradition started with Edmond Roudnitska’s Eau Sauvage and carried on through countless fragrances in this vein, I used a big dose of hedione. That breezy, light note that is almost like jasmine, but a jasmine note in the same way that sparkling water has fruit flavoring. It’s definitely there, but it’s very transparent.
Finally, I used the fresh laundry musk of Galaxolide and Mahoganate, a fresh woody note, to ensure that fresh, breezy feel that I wanted to work in spite of the minty, spicy notes. To further that feel, Sichuan pepper essential oil worked out very nicely in the way that it adds a sparkle and bright spice, as opposed to its more staunchy black pepper counterpart.
Finally, the top notes. A citrus note works so well with vetiver already, especially with the grapefruit tinge that Vetikone brings out of a vetiver accord. However, I wanted to balance it out, so I began with Rhubofix in a large dose. This rhubarb note has a strong grapefruit type undertone and really works to make the top notes almost tea-like. Additionally, a mandarin accord and green mandarin essential oil keep building the subtle citrus, while Amarocite adds a juicy punch of biting into a slice of pink grapefruit with the juice dribbling down your chin. It’s a small dose, but important.
Next, I added a natural pineapple essential oil from Robertet. It is not like the candy pineapple used in so many fragrances, but a natural, juicy note that smells like the entire fruit. Very natural, but not overly sweet.
However, I wanted to keep with the prairie vibe so I made a little bit of a green undertone with some green citrus type notes. First of all, litsea cubeba essential oil has some lemongrass and citrus notes, but it also has a rich, herbaceous undertone that adds some gravity to a citrus accord. Additionally, stemone added a watery green leafy note to the accord, French lavender essential oil a silkiness and oakmoss absolute (IFRA compliant) gave it an anchor.
Finally, I topped it off with a dose of rhubarb, thanks in large part to Rhubofix, to give the citrus accord a tea-like vibe.
The result of all of this is an immensely wearable fragrance that will appeal to fragrance aficionados and those who want an easy perfume to wear alike. It’s office-friendly, but also versatile enough to wear on a night out, a day in the sun or even a formal event after this pandemic passes.
I am proud to put my own stamp on this grand tradition of perfumery and excited to share it with you. The fragrance will release on June 13, but the shaving products will be more tentative due to supply chain and labor issues related to COVID-19. I also hope to have a limited amount of the EdT samples available shortly, so keep an eye on social media or sign up for the mailing list to stay up to date on all the latest news.