One of the artisanal perfume brands I’ve wanted to get my nose on for a while is St Clair. Various reviews and Instagram images had managed to pique my interest. The St Clair collection of perfumes is crafted by Diane St Clair from her base in Vermont. It looks like Diane has a beautiful rural existence on her farm. Not only does she have a collection of artisanal perfumes but she is a farmer and makes her much lauded artisanal butter that is sent to restaurants such as The French Laundry. Here is the link to her Animal Farm Instagram page where you can see photos of her wonderful butter and the animals involved.
Diane’s Farm – photos from the St Clair Instagram
Diane’s perfumes are intimately connected to the land, and although there are other inspirations, her surroundings and work is entwined. She has the natural tapestry of the land, its colours and odours at her fingertips to harness in her work as a perfumer. When Diane is working on the farm in what she says is at times repetitive work, she has time to think about her perfumery creations. Everything is interconnected.
I have a Fragrant Femmes interview with Diane coming up too, where you will be able to find out more about her creative process and path to starting a perfume business. I was really fascinated to hear how she goes about her work and am interested to see what she does next and how she develops as a perfumer.
Gardener’s Glove – from the St Clair Instagram
Gardener’s Glove // Year 2018 : // Notes : Meyer lemon, tomato leaf absolute, galbanum, bergamot : Heart : Jasmine sambac absolute, Jasmine organic extract, Apricot, Blackcurrant Bud Absolute, Linden Blossom, Lily, Rose absolute : Base : Leather, Saffron, Patchouli, Amber, Vetiver, Benzoin resin, Castoreum, Fir needle
This scent is created around a leather gardening glove that has spent time immersed in the soil, blessed by flowers and fruits. Gardener’s Glove was a finalist in the artisan category at the Art & Olfaction Awards this year and is a really evocative fragrance. For me it’s a garden green leathery scent flecked with grass, florals and dirt with an overriding smell of the great outdoors. There’s a vintage feel to Gardener’s Glove and you can easily imagine old worn gloves tending to flowers in the garden. The base of the scent speaks to winter warmth and dials up the earthiness of the scent, as you can imagine the gloves digging deep into the soil.
Gardener’s Glove is reminiscent of the transition from winter to spring when anticipation and wonder are in the air. I thought of Papillon’s Dryad when wearing Gardener’s Glove and they would be lovely companion pieces. Dryad feels more like an elegant, classic green perfume and Gardener’s Glove more from the earth but they occupy a similar scent sphere for me, although saying this, they are very different scents.
Diane on her farm – photo from the St Clair Instagram
First Cut // Year :: 2018 // Notes : Top : Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute : Heart : Lavender Absolute, Rose de Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute : Base : Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute
First Cut takes you to a country snapshot where hay bales are scattered around the land as a prominent feature. There is a freshness from the citrus components that are rounded down from the aromatic herbs and tomato leaf. This greenery of sorts immediately dials up the great outdoors and the florals are a beautiful accompaniment that don’t overpower. First Cut has a dryness to it so you can imagine the summer sun streaming through, baking the hay with flickers of tobacco. The scent has a strong presence of immortelle to my nose, that I’m rather happy about as the yellow flower’s scent is one of my favourite smells. It brings a warmth and toasted nuance to the fragrance in the latter stages. First Cut brings feelings of peace, serenity and infinite desires. This scent makes a connection to a place where you need to get away to every once in a while to find that elusive sense of calm.
Tilda Swinton as the White Queen (pinterest) and snow photo from Diane’s Instagram
Frost // Year : 2018 // Notes : Top : Bergamot, Mandarin Yellow and Green, Coriander, Petitgrain sur fleur, Meyer Lemon : Heart : Honeysuckle Accord, Rose Geranium, Elderflower Absolute, Petitgrain Absolut : Base : Cistus, Labdanum Absolute, Vanilla Absolute, Vetiver, Cedar, Smoke, Clove Absolute
Frost is inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “To Earthwood” of which the lines
Of tears, the aftermark Of almost too much love, The sweet of bitter bark And burning clove.
really bring this scent alive for me. The poet’s writing cabin is situated only 25 miles from the St Clair farm so the connection to the land and Frost’s imagery is very strong.
Frost the perfume has a melancholy feel. It seems pretty at first then a coolness appears that talks to the hardening of the earth and the wonder of crisp frost. Spicy clove comes through in the base and there’s a sense of very light, delicate, nuanced wafts of smoke. Frost ultimately wears as a a transparent perfume with a mirage of smoke and I thought of Tilda Swinton as the White Queen gliding through snow, with poise and intent.
Casablanca // Year : 2018 // Notes : Top : Pink Grapefruit, Red mandarin, Black Currant Bud Absolute : Heart : Orange Blossom Absolute, Tuberose Absolute, Jasmine Organic Extract, Ylang Ylang : Base : Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Hyraceum Absolute, Civet, Benzoin, Musk
“I had been watching the snow fall outside of my window for three months, at times blowing horizontally on winds wailing down from the Polar Vortex. I tried to conjure a way to transport myself to a place far away, a place with warm air and perfumed flowers and fruit—a garden in paradise with odors of mossy dirt, smooth woods with light green notes, and darker woods, sweating their rich, balsamic resins.” Diane St Clair
With an introduction like this, it’s impossible to not be enchanted from the get go. I love the name, the film, possibly the place if I ever make it there and the perfume is enchanting. Casablanca is a very strong scent and unlike the others in the collection, is an Extrait at 50%, which translates to a very high percentage of fragrant materials.
This is the scent that takes me away from pastoral scenes and into the boudoir with fragrant orange blossom trees sending their beautiful scent bathed in juicy fruits skyward. It’s a heady mix and one that feels narcotic, lush and dreamily satisfying. Orange blossom is not the only floral in this scent, there are many other white flowers vying for attention including tuberose, jasmine and ylang ylang all leaving their mark with the fertile scent of life at is fullest.
You will smell the opiate like labdanum, a material that always gets my attention and as the scent wears on skin it becomes more resinous but also more earth bound too, with strokes of oak moss and vetiver. The perfume deepens as these lusty accompaniments create a deeply sensual fragrance.
If you crave mysterious, sexy scents that have a strong signature, like Anubis from Papillon then Casablanca may be a good fit for your tastes. This is a swirling but cohesive scent. Casablanca also has extreme longevity. On one wearing, I dabbed the perfume on skin and two hours after took a shower. The fragrance was still noticeable six hours later.
My favourites have changed over time as I’ve worn the St Clair fragrances and this is a good thing. It means that they are interesting, appealing and are pushing well above their weight for an introductory collection in the artisan category. Even though Casablanca was the scent that initially wowed, over time I found that Gardener’s Glove and First Cut were increasingly competing for my affections. I classify these two as prèt-à-porter scents and Casablanca as haute couture, absolutely gorgeous but one I won’t wear everyday. It’s an absolute showstopper scent.
The initial collection is just how artisan, small batch perfumery should be and the fragrances are all distinct, yet tightly bound with a signature that features a high percentage of naturals and a strong connection to the land. The Audacious Innocence collection has just been released featuring new fragrances Pandora and Eve so there are two more perfumes to put on the must try list.
For more on Diane St Clair there will be a Fragrant Femmes interview so please come back and visit to see what Diane has to say about her creations.
For where to purchase : Please read the St Clair website for further details. A sample 2ml size is $15 and a set of 4 samples is $25. For larger sizes, a 13ml travel bottle is $65 and a 30ml bottle is $125. All prices in $US //
Images : Cover image from St Clair // Other images from St Clair except for Tilda Swinton (pinterest) and Flaming June by Frederic Lord Leighton (wikipedia) //
Disclaimer : Samples gratefully received from St Clair. Opinions my own. //