Sonoma Scent Studio is one of those lines that comes up on my radar – a couple of their scents get mentioned regularly by perfumistas – but, as often happens, I’d never managed to try any. I finally ordered some samples from the SSS website, and (full disclosure) perfumer Laurie Erickson threw in additional samples, so I got a sense of the range of her line.
I also looked at reviews of the line on MakeupAlley and it’s apparent that, in contrast to her current offerings, she used to do a lot more scents, including dupes of familiar classics. I asked her about this via email and she said she’d decided she wanted to do her own thing – hone her focus and reduce the number of scents she offers. Here are the highlights in my (self-selected) winter-comfort category:
Tabac Aurea – Cedar, sandalwood, tobacco, leather, vetiver, patchouli, clove, labdanum absolute, tonka bean, amber, vanilla, musk. This is the new-ish scent that finally prompted my order, I’ve read raves and I understand why. A warm, sueded comfort scent that makes me think of Donna Karan’s Black Cashmere with a leather overlay and pipe-tobacco drydown. I could smell this all day long.
Incense Pure – frankincense, myrrh, labdanum, cistus oil, natural oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli heartnote fraction, sandalwood, cedar, ambergris, orris, angelica root absolute, elemi EO, vanilla absolute. With those notes, how could this smell anything other than wonderful? Resiny, like a walk in the woods; more than straight frankincense but not fussy, a perfect drop of vanilla.
Fireside Intense – Guaiacwood, Texas cedar, Himalayan cedar, Indian sandalwood, agarwood, birch tar, cade, leather, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, ambergris. I read reviews of this as “very smoky.” Uh … sorry, no. Diptyque John Galliano? CB Burning Leaves? Those are very smoky. This is a cheerful, soft leather/smoke scent with a nice peaty note that differentiates it from your basic birchtar campfire-scent. If you like the idea of the Galliano or Burning Leaves, but find them a bit too literal, smoky and unwearable, try this one. Bonus – wait for the oakmoss to pop up like a little green elf after about fifteen minutes.*
Winter Woods – Guaiacwood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, amber, labdanum absolute, vetiver, ambergris, musk. The one I instantly wanted a bottle of, which will come as no shock to some of you, reading that notes list. There’s something quirky and humorous about the way the guaiacwood obscures the naughty bits… for awhile. It wears like a musk on me — very cuddly, surprisingly warm, not too sweet, for those of us who long for a dirtier Muscs Koublai Khan.
Jour Ensoleille – orange blossom, neroli, tuberose, jasmine, beeswax absolute, labdanum absolute, myrrh, sandalwood, ambergris, vetiver, green leaves, oakmoss. This doesn’t fit with the theme of winter comfort-scents which I chose for my post, but I feel I’d be remiss not mentioning this, because WOW. An intensely indolic orange blossom/jasmine, a dollop of furry golden beeswax, balanced by the liquid-absinthe greenness of vetiver and oakmoss. I hope you get what I’m getting, which is less golden-sunlit afternoon and more tumble-in-the-haystack-with-the-miller’s-son. Probably not work-friendly, unless you work as either the randy goat-heard or the innkeeper’s saucy serving wench.
The most interesting small perfumers develop their own style, with an array of scents that hang together and “feel” like their work and nobody else’s. Coming fresh to Laurie Erickson’s scents, I enjoyed how unsweet they are, and how (at least in the more winter-y ones I tried) she’s got a fondness for leather, woods and smoke, but they don’t all end up smelling like slight variations of each other; they’re distinct and attractive scents. (She’s got more summery things and seems to have an affinity for violet, heliotrope and rose.) I was pleasantly surprised by how ripe many of these smelled. She uses labdanum, ambergris, oakmoss, musk and castoreum with a generous hand. I’d recommend this line for those of you who like your winter comfort a little darker and less sweet, can tolerate some skank, and are willing (with the oil format) to wait a minute or two for the scents to set up.
I know a number of you have sampled Sonoma Scent Studio – please name your favorites in comments. Also, don’t be shy, if you’ve blogged on them, add your links! As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.
image and samples from Sonoma Scent Studio (I paid for about half of them)
*Laurie uses low-atranol oakmoss in several of her scents: “Oakmoss, or Evernia prunastri, is a lichen that grows on oaks as well as some other trees and is harvested to produce oakmoss absolute. The absolute is green or brown and is very thick; it has a wonderful earthy, mossy aroma with herbal and green nuances. Oakmoss absolute is a skin allergen to a small percentage of people, so its usage is restricted to small amounts of the low-atranol natural version …”