Fragrance and memory
10 December 2017
When I was a child I loved to play with matches. The illicit joy of creating my own light in darkness was liberating and strangely empowering.
But half the thrill was the smell – that acrid sulfurous sharp inhalation of independence and potential danger was the essence of happiness.
Childhood was all about smells – soap, shampoo, frying, rain, mud, sweat and burning wood. Our garden at night – roses, jasmine and sweet williams. The way the earth smelled just before rain, the smell of wet ferns. Walking in the front door and the smell of supper cooking.
In the beginning of this journey my focus was on collections that were vessel driven and the scent was secondary but more time I spent with my customers seeing their reactions when they picked up a candle to smell, I noticed that many times it was an emotional reaction. And if they made a positive connection they would buy the candle. So the purchase became more than a material transaction – it had a human element. It was like I was giving them something to connect them to their past. In time I chose to approach fragrance as a way to trigger a memory.. and with it a way to connect with my customers. I often hear that our fragrances are unique and unlike other candle collections. They are created to impart a sense of happiness, the continuity of life with all its ups and downs. As we grow into adults many memories fade, but a fragrance memory will always remain sharply in focus.
Himalayan fragrances are not trend driven, and they transcend fashion and sentiment. Many are timeless and have their own small cult following – Campfire and its more intense partner, Woodsmoke recapture that nostalgic joy of a wood fire. Mountains and forest, sweet acrid smoke, amber resin and top notes of fresh cut wood. Woodsmoke always elicits a strong reaction – some describe it as the way your clothes smell after sitting by a fire. For me it is at the smell of childhood, the collective smell of hundreds of wood fires, burning precious wood gathered painstakingly in the day to cook the evening meal.
Ginger Patchouli, our best loved fragrance, with its serendipitous marriage of spicy ginger and warm earthy patchouli is the hook that draws many customers into the Instash collection. I find it heady, sexy, alluring as a perfume but also comforting and hospitable like a well cared for home, as if the molecules are teaching us connections between things we thought unrelated. Patchouli and musk are the grounding force for many of our fragrances. On their own they smell dull and flat, but added to a ginger, or a floral, or a vanilla compound they became something much greater. Like the final coat of varnish on a painting that creates a finished look with depth and saturation.
Fragrance can be a recreation of a past utopia and an expression of an ideal state. Sacred Temple Garden is a moment of luxury, a fancy hotel lobby with a signature fragrance. There is a hint of the exotic with notes of orange blossom and incense. A customer once said it reminded her of a bed and breakfast in New Orleans. Ancient Philosophy is the scent of late afternoon tea, and sunlight slanting in, casting its dust flecked paths of brightness.. of long empty afternoons stretching into night. Tobacco Bark is about wet leaves and the sweet woody drift of pipe smoke. Clove, rum and vanilla give it a comforting bed of well being. Prayer Flag with its smoky notes of olibanum, myrrh and patchouli captures a world of escape, adventure and far away places where temple bells chime. It invites the armchair traveler to dream and drift.
Florals in the fragrance world are a collective path to a lost innocence. In our culture they underpin the classical and romantic. Florals in their most pure transcend the shifting mores of taste but very rarely is a single floral note satisfying. It needs an amber, a sandalwood or an oakmoss base to give it depth. It is the floral top notes that trigger our remembrance, but the base notes make the scent complete. Dreamy intense tuberose in Honeysuckle and Moonlight frame the top notes of gardenia and late spring honeysuckle. Florals compounded with complexity and layering take us to a new place that does not exist in nature. Forgotten Violet is our most recent floral, its heady combination of bergamot, clove, lavender and violet leaf create a pervasive scent that is warm and inviting, base notes of cashmere give a rich and full bodied texture like sitting down to a meal that has been lovingly prepared with many complementary ingredients. It is our most fragrant scent, and most expensive to make.
The candle and home fragrance market has become crowded, and fragrances now are much better than 10 years ago. We remain small and focused, seeking to be not only a vehicle for fragrance, but to combine aesthetics and fragrance, to reach out and touch the recipient in some small authentic way. It is not for everyone, but for those who do there is a connection.
- Posted by jleaphart