To quote Larkin: ‘The trees are coming into leaf, so let us begin afresh, afresh!’
You might think that lockdown would nullify the need to dab on a little perfume – don’t we wear it to smell pleasing to others? Perfume marketing hype would have us believe that’s so, yet perfume sales have continued throughout lockdown, as have sales of art. Doesn’t that tell us much about what makes us human, or what makes us feel human?
As a lifelong perfume aficionado, I have a soft spot for exquisitely bottled and packaged fine perfume, a little touch of affordable luxury. But perfume trends in the last decade reflect the fact that a new generation want something different; perfume that uses natural, sustainable materials in perfume and its packaging. More than that, consumers want to immerse themselves in perfumes that speak of nature.
Reflecting this trend, recent years have seen an increase in natural perfumery – perfume that uses 100 per cent natural absolutes and essences and/or non-toxic aroma chemicals. Companies such as Lush, who launched in 1995, pioneered the mainstream trend towards natural and vegan perfumery. Numerous small independent perfumers have focused on natural perfumery since then, so let us take a foray into a small selection of recent releases.
The Nue Co. – Forest Lungs
Last year, The Nue Co. launched Forest Lungs, a perfume that takes a step further than scent. As they explain: “The sense of wellbeing you experience when you are in nature isn’t just a feeling, it’s science.”
Containing phytoncides – volatile organic compounds emitted from trees that play a role in plant immunity, Forest Lungs is designed to replicate the effect that phytoncides are believed to have on the human body, including stress and anxiety reduction.
How does it smell? Well, don’t expect a blast of literal forest, to my nose Forest Lungs smells similar to a men’s light cologne – herby, breezy, with a subtly earthy, woody backdrop. It lasts too, so clearly The Nue Co. take their recent perfume venture seriously. As a company created to address the lack of high-quality, pure vitamin treatments, the Nue Co. are dedicated to well-being while bringing a knowledge of medical science to their products.
Pineward Perfumes – Fanghorn, Murkwood, Apple Tabac, Boreal, Christmas Wine and Steading
For those who do yearn for the literal scent of forest, Nicholas Nilsson, owner and perfumer of Pineward Perfumes, launched a series of six new perfumes in 2020 using all-natural ingredients. The series takes inspiration from places, recipes, woods and trees, both literal and imagined.
Do the names Fanghorn, Murkwood or Steading ring any bells for you? Tolkien fans will immediately recognise these as places described in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. When I read about these new releases, I thought immediately of my niece who, like many of her generation, grew up watching the epic film series inspired by Tolkien’s books. A dedicated Lush aficionado too, she also shares her generation’s enthusiasm for sustainable natural products, so I imagine that Pineward Perfumes will be a hit with both Millennials and (the unimaginatively titled) Generation Z.
Nilsson states humorously on the Pineward website; ‘Proceed only if you would like to smell like a pine tree’ – fair warning! Intrigued by these descriptions and titles, I contacted him to ask if he would send samples for review. Within a week I received a little hessian bag of six glass perfume vials – impressively speedy considering they were sent to the UK from the US.
My first sample experience from the series was Boreal. Referring to northern forest climes, this perfume opens on notes of delicate green herbs and mint before reaching a deeper heart of what smells like succulent pinecone resin. If you’ve ever breathed in the scent of sticky sweet resin oozing from a fresh green pinecone, you’ll know what I mean. I found it delicious, and authentic – it remains my favourite from the series. I particularly enjoyed wearing it during a recent walk in the hills of Edinburgh on a day of crisp snow and bright sunshine, though it would be refreshing on a hot day too.
Fanghorn evokes the sense of walking in a huge, ancient pine forest – not just tree resins and woods, but the scent of dry pine needles on an earthy forest floor. Murkwood is fresher, with a hint of smoke, described in perfume notes as incense and Lapsang Souchong. Now, I love a bit of Lapsang Souchong, in tea and in perfumes! If you have ever tried Bvlgari’s Black – a perfume launched in the 90s which included a hint of Lapsang Souchong – and enjoyed it, then you may well enjoy Murkwood.
Murkwood is a very different kind of perfume though – more an experience of perfumed smoke in a forest than the abstract perfume-y blend that people of my generation are most familiar with.
Murkwood made me feel nostalgic for the Highland forests of Scotland. Edinburgh’s parks, nice as they are, are no substitute. I am reminded of that first deep breath as you emerge from your car into the wilderness – mossy earth and fresh forest tang on clean air.
Steading is, of course, inspired by Hobbit Shire. It evokes a homey miasma of cooking, hops, beer and woodwork – it made me smile and I find it charming and witty. I offered my niece, the afore-mentioned Tolkien and Lush aficionado, a sniff of Pineward samples. Her personal favourites were Fanghorn, Murkwood and Christmas Wine. Enjoyment of the latter was no surprise – as a keen ‘foodie’ its fruity/boozy/spicy aroma was an instant hit for her.
Apple Tabac takes inspiration from (you guessed it) apple and tobacco. Though fruity perfumes are very popular I’m not usually a fan of apple in perfume. Having said that, the apples here smell real, fermented with a hint of dark rum. Also tart and succulent like Cox’s Pippins, or Bramleys – apples you would use for the perfect Apfelstrudel!
I love the classic apothecary-style Pineward bottles, with their heavy glass ball stoppers – a pleasure to hold and to adorn your home.
Lush – Confetti and Keep it Fluffy
Lush is synonymous in many minds, or noses, with the overwhelming scent of bath bombs as you walk past their stores in the high street of almost every city. I confess that until I had experienced their perfumes some years ago, I hadn’t realised that this is a perfume house of repute.
They recently re-released two vegan perfumes on the Lush label – Confetti and Keep it Fluffy. Both were originally under their sister company; B Never too Busy to be Beautiful. The products of BNTBTBB (to use a handy acronym) were seen as the more luxurious alternative to Lush’s range of bath and body products. These two perfume favourites are back by popular demand under the Lush label, now using sustainable rose absolute from roses grown by Lush.
Many of us associate confetti with the multi-coloured tissue paper thrown around at weddings. Lush’s Confetti, however, refers to the lavish Mediterranean variety – i.e., actual sugared almonds. Around five minutes after the first spritz, Confetti really does smell like them – a ‘moreish’ scent if ever there was one if you love sugared almonds!
There’s violet here, rose, coffee and vanilla pods. It is soft and sweet, then becomes rounded, more grounded in feel, with what smells to me like tonka and maybe a touch of labdanum. The dry-down lingers on clothes or scarves very pleasantly indeed, for a few days even – fading to a subtly sweet, warm scent – cosy and natural. A perfect marriage after the wedding!
Keep it Fluffy was a delightful surprise for me. I had heard it described by some as a ‘girly’ floral and it is indeed feminine if you associate florals with femininity. It is also sophisticated, with rose, powdery iris, creamy soapy petals of ylang, a tiny touch of animal thanks to Jasmine Grandiflora and a hint of natural vanilla. It feels contemporary with a sophisticated, classic twist. Its mood suggests a spring or summer evening perfume, traditionally speaking – though I confess it has become my habit to wear spring florals to cheer up the doldrums of January and February.
I thoroughly appreciate the dedication to well-being in these new perfume launches, but, even more the fresh, soul-lifting scent of sun-kissed florals and forests brought into my home.