The weather this month has been so unsettling and odd that we felt compelled to go back to the safety of the Wood Cabin for our seasonal subscribers (also because many of you requested it).
To mark the occasion, we looked up our archives from our lengthy creation process and found some tidbits that, in retrospect, feel like historical artifacts. When you create something, it's often hard to see the significance of some of the minutiae; with the benefit of hindsight, you get a whole new perspective on the difference one word or one image can make.
This was the case of the now famous "bear" for Wood Cabin.
In late 2015, we met with our master perfumer, Christophe, to present the concept of "Wood Cabin" as we envisioned it, and put together some starting points, poetry, and imagery. The latter included the above mood board, and Christophe immediately latched onto the bear image. "Would you like to see the bear? We can do it [wink]—no one will recognize it, but it will make it special," he had presciently opined.
One of the secrets in a master perfumer's toolkit is using tiny amounts of pungent notes that on their own would be revolting to most of us (think urine, rotting smells, etc.). However, when used expertly, like salt in a cake, some of these notes can provide a valuable lift or complement other perfume notes. A skilled perfumer is able to use these kinds of notes to round out a fragrance or create a mysterious je-ne-sais-quoi.
In order to introduce "the bear", Christophe used a combination of notes, one of which we find particularly surprising: Hyraceum. WARNING: if you are about to sit down for a meal, maybe read this a little later.
A group of hyraxes wondering why the humans keep hanging around their bathroom.
Hyraceum is "the petrified and rock-like excrement composed of both urine and feces excreted by the Cape Hyrax", according to a well-known online free encyclopedia. Hyrax are furry, badger-like creatures from my father's native country, South Africa. If you've had the good fortune of visiting Cape Town and climbing Table Mountain, then you will have encountered these funny beasts, commonly known as "dassies".
Cape Town's dramatic Table Mountain, home to many of our "dassie" friends.
The material hardens and ages until it becomes a fairly sterile, rock-like material that contains compounds giving it an animal, deeply complex fermented scent—to put it nicely. The material is harvested without disturbing the animals by digging strata out of the stone; because animals are not harmed in its harvesting, it is often an ethical substitute for deer musk and civet, which require killing or inflicting pain on the animal.
Then by adding some friendly white muscs—with their own animalic undertone and fluffy aspects—you have a bear-fur feeling hovering right in front of your Wood Cabin.
When we first started learning perfumery, we found these sorts of stories fascinating—and enjoyed hearing that some of the world's leading perfumers considered it a badge of honor to make appropriate and effective use of these sorts of ingredients.
Changing gears, but still in the vein of under-represented stories, we're really excited to feature this month an interview of Nnenna Stella, founder and CEO of The Wrap Life, a Brooklyn-based brand offering richly patterned head-wraps with styles influenced by West African culture.
Nnenna has been our studio neighbor for the past year or so and has a remarkable and inspiring life story. After growing up in Little Rock, AR, she eventually made her way to Brooklyn, and quickly found herself stuck. That's when she took a decision that changed her life forever—and fast forward a couple years and she is the head of a cult brand with an intensely loyal following.
...You can read about it here. We have a really beautiful artist matchbox for our subscribers to celebrate the occasion, designed in her honor by the one and only Dan Abary.
As usual, scroll down for logistical info about your candle subscription. We hope you enjoy this month's scent, and as usual please feel free to get in touch, via email or Instagram.
Keep the fire burning,