As it turns out, my most recent bespoke creation was a fragrance for my dear friend and graphic designer, Margaret. Now that I’ve delivered the perfume, she’s holding me accountable for writing this blog. Hi Marge!
Margaret, in a word, is a badass. I met her when she was bartending at a grubby music club. She now lives in the desert of Nevada with her husband and 3-footed cat. In addition to being a graphic designer, she’s adept at using a letterpress and creates amazingly detailed ink drawings. In her spare time, she makes frittatas and an assortment of products for her personal apothecary (most recently, she texted me about carrier oils for homemade sunscreen). We once went to a sheep and wool convention together, though neither of us knits. Her favorite musician is Robert Wyatt; she doesn’t pluck her grey hairs.
Margaret was not really one to wear perfume when we met, but she became taken with the idea of finding a scent she identified with. I assured her I could make her something more emotionally complex and earthy than the overly-sweet florals that had scared her away from wearing fragrance. After talking at length about her scent preferences, she commissioned me to make her a one-of-a-kind fragrance.
Margaret is effortless cool, so I wanted to make her a perfume that wasn’t trying too hard. She’s also incredibly warm hearted once you get to know her, so I began to imagine a fragrance with a healthy amount of spicy “reverb” layered over an earthy base. Her perfume starts off warm and spicy with top notes of coriander, black pepper, and cardamom. I settled on a dry, amber-y base that incorporates one of my favorite vetiver oils (I obsessively collect this spicy, earthy aromatic). The base is rounded out with tobacco absolute for another rich layer of warm, subtle sweetness, and coumarinic tonka bean, which is reminicent of newly mown hay and powder. The heart is a gorgeous Moroccan rose absolute plus just a few drops of rare coffee blossom absolute. This essence is an ethereal, spicy floral with the faintest whisper of roasted coffee beans. It adds the perfect amount of edge to the fragrance.
The finished perfume is earthy and spicy and evokes a familiar feeling of longing. For me, it’s the feeling of golden hour — the last illuminated hour of the day, when I get swept up by the beauty of the natural world; when I’m fully in the moment, but simultaneously aware that the moment is fleeting. I wanted to give the perfume a name that would evoke this tension. I started using the working title ‘Malick’ after the film director known for shooting films at this special time of day. I like to keep the names of my perfumes ambiguous because it leaves room for the person wearing it to imbue it with their own emotions and associations. Like I hinted in my first blog post, I get suspicious when fragrance brands get too specific describing “notes” their marketing campaigns. I like to let a perfume speak for itself.
Margaret tells me her bottle is getting low, so I think she’s a natural perfume convert!