Champagne de Bois

 Pearls of colors by spettacolopuro
Pearls of colors, a photo by spettacolopuro on Flickr.

Champagne de Bois is a woody aldehydic floral, which seems to be heavily influenced by Bois des Îles. This modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral genre is beautifully orchestrated with a strong retro feel, yet bolder. It's smooth, seamless and endearing with a texture reminiscent of ripples in silk satin sheath.

Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with incense and amber. First come the notes of oily aldehydes juxtaposed with refreshing lemony-powdery impression of frankincense’s overtones, and a bit of citrus which are quite subtle, providing a bubbly and light counterpoint to the aldehydes and the hints of musk that peak through the layers of the perfume.

There is also a hint of dry cedarwood and a smidgeon of clove bud's warmth together with all these woods creates an almost-Mellis accord (except there's no patchouli);  and jasmine at the heart pulls all the chords together and binds them with its unique perfumey magic without truly being present or noticeable in and of itself.

Frankincense bridges between the different phases. As it deepens and connects the skin-like aldehydic opening to the sweet, resinous labdanum and amber notes. Musk resurfaces and pulls the attention over to the woodsy notes of vetiver and sandalwood. It's smooth, woodsy and precious finish are far superios to the reformulated Égoïste and the thinned-down Bois des Îles eau de toilette you'll find nowadays (unless you're hunting for vintage). Champagne de Bois is my first love from Laurie Erickson's creations, and I consider it to be a modern classic. 

Top notes: Aldehydes, Cedarwood, Citrus
Heart notes: Frankincense, Cloves, Jasmine
Base notes: Sandalwood, Frankincense, Musk, Amber

Cocoa Sandalwood

Sandalwood by shikhee
Sandalwood, a photo by shikhee on Flickr.
Cocoa Sandalwood is the other offering in Sonoma Naturals' new line of all-natural fine fragrances.
Surprisingly, the choice of sandalwood here is not the creamy Mysore sandalwood (which made a guest appearance in Spiced Citrus Vetiver), but rather, New Caledonia sandalwood which is from a different species and has a scent that is a tad animalic and musky.

The opening is reminiscent of lumber and sawdust: Cocoa Sandalwood smells more cedar-y at first, with only the slightest dusting of bitter cocoa powder underneath. The sweetness, true to Laurie Erickson's signature style, comes from rose, as well as fruity and milky natural peach lactone. Ambrette seed contributes a musky yet wine-like quality that beautifully complements the subtle rose as well as supports the luxurious aspects of sandalwood, and vetiver further contributes to the nutty quality ambrette an the woodsy theme of the perfume. The spices, though sprinkled throughout the perfume's phases, are never really noticeable, but rather add warmth and depth to the composition.

Top notes: Virginia Cedarwood, Ginger CO2, Ambrette Seed CO2
Heart notes: Rose, Natural Peach Lactone, Coffee Absolute, Cinnamon Bark Oil
Base notes: New Caledonia Sandalwood, Cacao Absoute, Clove Bud Absoloute, Vetiver 

Spiced Citrus Vetiver

Sonoma Scent Studio has a new collection in the works - Sonoma Naturals, which I've been fortunate enough to sample its first two offerings. I was particularly curious to smell how Laurie Erickson's style translates in the new medium of 100% naturals. Although her "mixed media" perfumes are already contain a very high ratio of naturals, many of the molecules act as such powerful accessory notes that they could define a perfumer's style in such way that it would be difficult to fathom their perfumes without them. In this case, I could not imagine Laurie's perfumes without a prominent presence of violetty ionones.
Spiced Citrus Vetiver begins with a burst of blood orange and smooth warmth of Mysore sandalwood and a touch of very subtle woodsy spices. It is an unusually complex vetiver scent. It is refreshing and citrusy as you'd expect from such a name. At the same time it possesses a warmth that is not particularly spicy, but rather a sophisticated and woody-floral.

True to form, Spiced Citrus Vetiver contains ionones, originating in the exotic floral note of osmanthus. Osmanthus has a significant amount of naturally-occurring alpha ionone, which give this perfume a certain roundedness, as well as exotic mystery. It is suitable for the heat of the summer, reminiscent of sandalwood fans and chilled osmanthus tea and cool vetiver.

Strolling in the Forest with Laurie and Lisa

Oaks by Bald Mountain

After a very eventful weekend, it was a special treat that Lisa has agreed to take a little road trip to Sonoma County to visit Laurie Erickson at her Sonoma Scent Studio. We were also hoping to sneak in a visit at Eden Botanicals, who recently moved to Petaluma (more about that in the next post).

The drive to Sonoma is scenic and picturesque. After crossing the bay's lengthy bridge, the hillsides in the summertime are all the colour of pale gold and look like a paint horse with big splashes of dark green oaks (the winter gives the exact opposite: dormant oaks, which are covered in parasitic moss, and green-grass-covered hills.

We ended up arriving to the county a bit to early, and it was lunch time, so thanks to my bad memory (Graton and Guerneville both start with a "G") we ended up in the wrong place after a very nice drive in the quite freeway along Russian River. And than, of course, we arrived a bit later than we hoped.

Climbing up Chalk Hill Road towards Laurie Erickson's Healdsburg studio, the country road is dappled with the generous shade of ancient oaks, and deer is not a rare sight (and they eat everything that Laurie and her parents try to grow - unless it's protected with a fence). Laurie's beautiful cottage is surrounded by a lovely garden with fragrant roses and violets, and is overlooking Chalk Hill Winery's vineyards, which were now completely covered in luscious green leaves (my first visit with her was in the spring, when they were still barren).

Forest Walk (Sonoma Scent Studio)
It was there in Laurie's own living room that I experienced Forest Walk for the first time. It immediately struck a familiar chord, and it took me a few minutes to realize that it was just like the scent that emerges from certain spots in Stanley Park in late summer and early fall. The same warmth and sweet dryness of cedar and moss, plus a funky wet earth note that is reminiscent of the dark, musty scent of earth awakening from frost in spring time.

The funky wet-earth scent is very much owing to a synthetic molecule (whose name I failed to ask Laurie about, and is probably top secret) that you could easily recognize as the only thing in Demeter's "Dirt". It's also in Neil Morris' Dark Earth, but not nearly as much of it in Forest Walk - just enough to give it a realistic wet earth and a bit wild edge.

Forest Walk unfolds with many phases, always revealing a different aspect of the forest: a branch there, a leaf there, and oh - have you noticed this patch of wild violets over there? It's like a walk in a warm, needle-covered forest in summer (except, perhaps, for the violet patch), with oak trees and hanging moss adding a dry, tannin quality.

As the perfume develops on the skin further, the strange wet earth note dissipates, the Western red cedar softens and shifts to the background, and give way to deeper, earthier notes of many natural essences that I'm not only familiar with but also extremely fond of: labdanum and oakmoss with their brown, comforting warmth; black hemlock absolute (which I smelled at Laurie's studio for the first time - it's similar to pine needle absolute, less sweet and more dry-woody conifer absolute - where as fir (which is also present in this composition) takes on an extremely sweet, jam-like character. Other woodsy notes also add mystery and lasting power: New Caledonian sandalwood, aged Indian patchouli.

The labdanum intensifies over time on my skin, giving a rich ambery foundation to the rather rustic experience of hiking in the forest on a hot summer day and collecting needles in your hair and clothing after sitting down in a forest clearing to relax a bit, skin all salty and warm from the mild excursion.

The final dryout is woody yet smooth on my skin, with ambery-resinous notes amplifying (which is to be expected on my skin, it tends to make the sweeter notes grow), and only bare hints of sandalwood and patchouli. Interestingly, on Lisa's skin, the dry woodsy notes, including the red cedar, were far more apparent, and the "wet earth" facet lasted for far longer period of time. A living proof for the mysteries of differences between skin-chemistry.

When wearing it again for the 3rd time, and dousing it generously, an initial herbaceous note grabs my attention - is is sage, rosemary, or simply the herbaceous cineole from the needles? It might even be both. The jasmine sambac makes a glimpse of an appearance, though it's not exactly there as an identified note, but rather a clearing between the lush leafy tree tops that allows the light to shine through. And there is also the cool, clean, sweet yet tart note of vetiver in there that I haven't noticed before, and which adds a precious-woods aroma yet without ever touching a tree with an axe (vetiver oil comes from the roots of a tropical grass related to lemongrass).

Like all of Laurie's creations, Forest Walk radiates warmth, depth, complexity and is very multilayered. It is about 50% or even more natural, which really gives it the aesthetic of turn of the century perfumes, which were only accentuated with synthetics for special effects (as opposed to cost-reduction, which is the main force behind most of what you smell nowadays). But it also stands out among all the collection of very fine perfumes for its unique storytelling, and also feels a lot less dense and floral than most.

Top notes: Wet Earth Notes, Western Red Cedar, Rosemary
Heart notes: Violet, Orris, Jasmine Sambac, Vetiver
Base notes: Black Hemlock Absolute, Fir Absolute, Patchouli, Labdanum, Benzoin, Galbanum, Sandalwood (New Caledonia)

Read other reviews of Forest Walk:
Mark's Review on Cafleurebon
Ida's Review on Fragrantica
Gaia's Review on The Non-Blonde

And for those of you dying to try it, I'm giving away a sample of Forest Walk as part of the package that's going on to this week's Monkey Monday winner. So don't forget to make a guess before tomorrow at noon about my smelly commute!

Visit to Sonoma Scent Studio

Sonoma Scent Studio

There is hardly anything more exciting than meeting face to face (or should I say - nose to nose?) with a fellow perfumer. And when the perfumer is Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio - a lady whose work and attitude I've admired and been my pen-pal for a couple of years now - it’s a real treat.

Sonoma county is all beautiful, and the spot where Sonoma Scent Studio is located is breathtakingly stunning. The winding driveway in Healdsburg leads to a beautiful wooden cottage that is built like a tree-house among ancient oaks observing beautiful green hills covered in vineyards.

Entering the house, there is no mistaking Laurie’s olfactory style from the aromas that linger in the air. All at once, everything in there smells like a Sonoma Scent Studio perfume, or probably a mixture of all of them… And Laurie is as wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable in person as you'd imagine from reading her blog, Perfume in Progress, and sniffing her beautiful, sophisticated olfactory ensembles. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Laurie is a tea aficionado as wel, and collects tea cup, as well as (not surprisingly) vintage perfume flacons.

We spent the entire afternoon sniffing our way through each other’s latest creations, and the scents that I haven’t smelled from Laurie’s collection yet. And of course – the inevitable discussion and marveling at raw materials. Laurie had treasures that I have never smelled before, such as clover absolute (very similar to hay, but perhaps a little less grassy and more similar to tonka bean – with more coumarin I suppose), and
Oakwood absolute, from French oak barrels, which smelled woody and a little dry-mossy to my nose, with definite broom and honey absolute sweetness underneath. And I also got to smell some synthetics which I’ve never smelled on their own before, including some ionones and jasmine lactones. Raw materials are always so fascinating!

Oak coming back to life
I’ve already fallen in love with Laurie’s Sienna Musk and Champagne de Bois that she sent me a while back in the mail. So I wanted to discover scents I haven’t tried yet – some are probably not that new to many of you, but were new to me, which I’m really thankful I got to take a sample home with me to try (and I will write about in more detail after wearing them a few more times).
Lieu de Reves and To Dream both have oakwood absolute in them, but the latter is a more bold. I found them intriguing and multilayered. And Laurie’s love for rose is very apparent – she has a few quite different rose themed fragrances, and they are all very well made and surprisingly different from one another – Vintage Rose has a lot of depth, Cameo has more of an antique quality to it, and is more complex, and Rose Musc is as simple as the name suggests – but done so much better than others in that very popular genre. I found it to be also true for her Egyptian Musk – which has non of the harshness that so many of the musk oils got.

White Violet
I was particularly smitten with Voile de Violette. Violet fragrances can be easily too old-fashioned or sweet, but this has interesting contrasts - a seemingly shy violet underlined with a rich, incensey base with a lot of myrrh.

I’m looking forward to continue exploring these perfumes on my skin, and can only hope that this meeting was the first in many more to come!
Back to the top