In Print: Wall Street Journal

By KATHERINE NELSON
Uncommon Scents Made Far From Paris
Upstart indie perfumers on America’s West Coast are rethinking the rules of fragrance with sophisticated blends that conjure the wilderness and the ocean air.

“EVERYTHING IS FLOWING... in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches, the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, seeds and spores, with streams of music and fragrance,” wrote naturalist John Muir, whose journals note the raw beauty of the California wilderness and the freedom he felt drinking in the sights, sounds and scents of its rugged terrain.

Now perfumers out west are following in his path, blending scents as energizing as a hike up to Half Dome. This new generation is rethinking the rules of what a fragrance can be by leveraging their region’s tree-hugging tendencies and independence from perfume centers in Paris and New York.

Following the lead of artisanal makers like Mandy Aftel, of Berkeley-based Aftelier Perfumes, these innovators are mostly self-taught. “The common thread is their independence, artistry and strong ties to nature,” said Antonia Kohl, founder and owner of San Francisco’s Tigerlily Perfumery, which stocks many of their brews. Juniper Ridge, an Oakland, Calif., company founded by Hall Newbegin, adheres to Ms. Aftel’s strict all-natural policy by using only plant essences and no synthetics. Sierra Granite is a concoction derived from essences of Ponderosa pine, cedar and red and white fir, as well as six high-elevation plants including native sagebrush and manzanita. “The plants are harvested in John Muir’s Range of Light,” said Mr. Newbegin, referencing the Sierra Nevada mountain range so-christened by the naturalist in 1868.

Not all of the indie fragrances coming out of the West are rooted in nature. Seyrig, Bruno Fazzolari’s homage to classics like Chanel No. 5, is more Sunset Boulevard than Tuolumne Meadows, with synthetic aldehydes—fresh, waxy scents that have an “assertive glamour,” said the San Francisco-based perfumer. And Ms. van Oosten is tripping off to other realms with On Wings of Iris, a cocktail of blue lotus and green frankincense with orris. Commissioned for the Wear Los Angeles County Museum of Art collection, the scent was inspired in part by a silver feather from ancient Egypt.

Bruno FazzolariPress