An American Scentist
Laurie Erickson, owner of Sonoma Scent Studio in California, is one of a handful of American niche scent designers. A former technical writer, she's also written garden articles for the San Francisco Chronicle ... but now concentrates on fragrance: "I found that my personality combines a creative side and a detail-oriented technical side, and both aspects come into play whether making new scent blends or writing articles."
Here Laurie talks about perfume and how she creates her own scents:
How did you begin? And why?
"I thought it'd be fun to try blending note combinations that I'd enjoy and that I could use to make gifts for friends and family at Christmas. It really started as a creative outlet -- and I've been playing with essential and fragrance oils for about four years now.
I think we can all create note combinations to please our tastes, but it takes a bit of obsessiveness to test lots of oils and an investment of time and money to acquire all the ingredients. And if you want to create a special group of blends that will have a wider appeal than just to your own nose, you have to hunt even harder for a great group of basic ingredients
I started by buying small amounts of essential oils and absolutes to learn notes. I was so excited to smell pure rose and jasmine absolute for the first time! I then started blending essential and fragrance oils, and I gradually found more ingredients that I liked and could afford. I also read books on perfumery, including Mandy Aftel's book, which was very helpful conceptually.
At first I played with making soap, body butter, and perfume oil. Later, I purchased perfumer's alcohol and adapted my fragrances to edp."
Who influences you most?
"I just go by what my nose likes, but all the perfumes I've tried over the years have helped me learn my preferences, and trying many lines of perfume oils helped because I started making oils before edp.
I love many Dawn Spencer Hurwitz oils. Dawn is a true artist, with many years of blending experience.
I'm also in awe of many Serge Lutens scents; I was amazed when I smelled them for the first time and really appreciated what could be done with a great concept, artistic creativity, and quality ingredients. I have so much to learn, but that's half the fun!"
What is most satisfying about creating your own scents?
"I'm always excited when I do a new scent blend that I really like -- some blends come together easily, while others go on the back burner for a while. I also love getting a new oil ingredient that is exactly what I'd hoped it would be."
What most frustrates you in your scentwork? What is your biggest challenge?
"It seems like I try about 20 oils to find one winner; the initial investment in testing ingredients is so high. The best fragrance oils are really wonderful, but a lot of them are not good for perfume, being better for soap or other applications where lasting power is not an issue.
I'm looking forward to doing some new scents with more expensive essential oils (I'm thinking about adding a deluxe line); I've just acquired a sandalwood EO that's really yummy, as well as a beautiful citrus EO blend that I'm using in a couple of summer fragrances."
Will you do custom scents?
"Sure! I love tweaking existing scents to taste for people. As for custom blends, I'm always open to requests, but it depends on whether I have the right ingredients. If I don't think I have the oils currently to do what someone has in mind, I can keep my eye out.
I can also get a better idea of the blend someone wants if I know what existing perfumes are closest to their imagined scent. If someone wants to give me an idea for a new blend and I have the ingredients, I'm happy to tuck in a couple of custom samples with an order. I'll be able to do more of that as my oil inventory grows (and takes over my little studio!)"
Do you have a fragrance family that's a personal favorite?
"I'm all over the map. I love spicy orientals, but I also love florals and some gourmand scents.
Floral note favorites include jasmine, orange blossom, lily, and violet.
I also love woodsy notes of sandal, cedar, incense, amber, and patchouli. And I love vanilla, honey, almond, warm spices, coconut, and some fruity notes (especially black currant, mandarin, blackberry, peach, and apricot).
Rose scents have a special place in my heart, with some of my favorites being Creed's Fleur de the Rose Bulgare, Rosines' La Rose, and Agent Provocateur.
In some ways, my broad range of fragrance likes is useful because it's less limiting when I'm making blends, but it also gets me in trouble because I love a lot of perfumes!"
And now Laurie's part of MY addiction -- er, problem. My own Sonoma Scent Studio favorites -- which I think are especially notable for their delicacy -- include:
Tranquility, a beautifully done incense and amber blend with an unusually light texture, a contrasting airiness as if you're just catching wisps of scent as they rise from the incense stick. A pale incense with a surprising orange blossom note at drydown.
Mellow, a translucent amber/vanilla/incense blend that is comforting without being heavy ... very, very pretty.
Spiced Autumn Woods: softly spicy sandalwood and vanilla, with a whisper of patchouli, and a tinge of smoke. Perfect for cool summer evenings.
Mayan Gold: citrusy bright and spicy with patchouli and a bit of woods ...
...and I very much like her Ambra del Nepal type, an incensy amber blend with a touch of cardamom on a vanillic base.
If you'd like to see more of Sonoma Scent Studio, you can visit Laurie at