Hi there Posse. Recently I introduced you all to a new business called American Perfumer. The name says it all. Independent Artisan American Perfumers being put on display so you can find a large selection of them in one spot. Genius! From that initial post I was inspired to meet some of the people behind the perfume brands that are for sale at American Perfumer. They all get the same 10 questions so we can see how they differ and how they are similar. After I will give you a quick review of one or two of their perfumes. Today let’s meet Diane St Clair from St Clair Scents.
St Clair Scents: American Perfumer Interviews
What do you recall of your families fragrances as you grew up?
My mother always had Chanel No. 5 on her beauty table. But perfume was not really a priority for her. When I was in high school, I wore Charlie. I really liked its green, spicy, earthy aromas. But it was probably the advertising, with the emphasis on women being independent and the catchy tune, that drew me in.
Where is your dream vacation spot?
My dream vacation would be visiting the Osmotheque perfume conservatory and museum in Versailles. I love vintage perfume, and would give anything to smell some of the beautiful and well preserved masterpieces of perfume history. Iris Gris, Coty Chypre and Emeraude, Balmain Vent Vert, Guerlain Shalimar and Mitsouko—these are some of the museum’s treasures that I would love to smell in their original formulations!
How do you like to start your day?
Since I am a dairy farmer, in addition to being a perfumer, I start most of my days the same way. I get up at 5 AM every day—rain, sun or snow (I do live in Vermont)—have a cup of coffee and check my email, then go out to the barn. I hand separate the cream from the milk that’s in the bulk tank from the night before, then feed calves. After that, we feed and milk our herd of 11 cows, clean the barn and wash all equipment. It’s hard to get out of bed every morning, but once I’m going, I enjoy the exercise and being outdoors.
Tell us about your life, family, business or career before perfume?
Even though I live in a rural area now, I was raised as a city girl. I have always heard the call of country living and sought it out. I rode horses and worked on a dairy farm as a teen. My first career was in public health, planning and implementing health services for women and children. I started this career in New York City, and then moved to Vermont after the birth of my children. Slowly I eased my way into farming, first working on a vegetable farm and then getting cows. I started with one Jersey cow and now have a herd of 13 animals. I also have a licensed creamery, making butter from our Jersey cream and bottling buttermilk. Our butter is served at some of the finest restaurants in the world.
How did you find yourself in perfumery?
After making butter and farming for almost two decades, I decided that I needed a new intellectual challenge. I had been reading perfume blogs and trying new perfumes for a few years. Then I took some perfume classes, and reached out to Eliza Douglas, a British perfumer who trained in Grasse, and was living in New York, working at Christophe Laudamiel’s company, Dream Air. I met her in a class she was giving in New York. Being a dairy farmer, my ability to travel is limited, so I asked her if she would be willing to work out a long distance perfumery course, and she agreed. That began a 3 year back- and-forth training program of building accords, making perfume and skyping feedback and questions. I will always be thankful that Eliza agreed to take this challenge on!
What is your favourite perfume note and why?
I don’t really think I have one favourite note, though I tend to gravitate to green, earthy and animalic notes. I think it’s because so much of my work time is spent out of doors, working in fields and with animals. So I tend to be drawn to the chypre and fougere families of fragrance.
How did you decide on your companies name, what is its relevance?
St Clair Scents is named for obvious reasons! I am the perfumer and am responsible for the formulas and bottling of all of my fragrances, so this is reflected in my brand’s name.
What was the last novel or biography you read (current if appropriate)?
I am almost finished reading the novel Medousa, by Michael Butchin. It’s part of a study I’m making of women, real and mythic, who have been demonized, through no fault of their own.
Hypothetically: If you had to pick a Signature Perfume that you didn’t create, what and why?
One of my very favorite perfumes is vintage Jolie Madame. I love its contrasts of green and dark, and its lush floral, woody and mossy notes. Its animalic darkness does not overshadow its lovely shimmering top. I can wear this perfume in any season and at any time. It always makes me happy with its richness, warmth and beauty.
Who are your fragrant heroes?
Apropos of my discussion of Jolie Madame, I love almost everything that perfumer Germaine Cellier created. She was such a maverick of her time, going beyond making pretty fragrances and instead exploring contrasts in notes and how they can work together to create striking perfumes. Bandit, Vent Vert, Fracas, Jolie Madame—all real masterpieces. I also have a great deal of respect for Christophe Laudamiel, not only for his beautiful fragrances, but also for his call for transparency in the industry, his willingness to share knowledge with new perfumers, and his advocacy of public education around the value and importance of scent in our lives.
Thanks Diane for letting us see a little into your head and heart.
Below are a couple of St Clair Scents reviews.
You can buy St Clair Scents from American Perfumer
Frost by St Clair Scents
Considering how simple the note list is that we are given Frost is a delicate but intricate scent. Citruses, petigrain and coriander create something greater than the parts that produced it.
Gardener’s Glove by St Clair Scents
Galbanum, tomato leaf, jasmine and apricot combine to create a water park smell. It’s deliciously white floral and has that odd plastic vibe that comes with some aldehydes. Very wearable and fun. Slightly foodie in an all natural cafe kinda way.
First Cut by St Clair Scents
Cross a cigar with hay, cut some grass and herbs, drizzle it all in honey and you’ll smell First Cut. This is the one APJ readers have been going crazy for. A modern reinterpretation of Fougere Bengale without the heavy curry.
Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies