Sonoma Scent Studio Fireside Intense and Winter Woods : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Some perfumes appeal to me for their complexity, others for their unusual character. Whenever I explore the collection of Sonoma Scent Studio, I realize that what draws me to Laurie Erickson’s work are the personal stories that she paints with her scents. Erickson’s fragrances are like glimpses into her own universe, reminiscent more of Annick Goutal’s spontaneous etudes than Guerlain’s studied epics. Fireside Intense and Winter Woods illustrate this idea well. They are the scents of a bonfire, of smoldering cinders and of tobacco crumbs in the pages of old books.

Intense is a perfect word to describe this Sonoma Scent Studio perfume. It is smoky to the point of being searing, and the combination of rich notes—amber, oud, sandalwood, birch tar, leather, guaiacwood—further augments the impression. If it all sounds like too much, it is because Fireplace Intense is meant to be a bold statement. It does not smell pretty, nor does it try to make its sitting-by-the-fireplace imagery too abstract.

None of it should work, but surprisingly it does. The moment I put on Fireplace Intense, I am no longer in my office or about to do my household chores. I feel relaxed and comforted as if in the presence of a good friend. It dries down to a polished woody base, where the dryness of cedarwood considerably tempers the initial smoky richness. As Nathan and Robin wrote in their reviews, be sure to apply lightly. Only a couple of drops suffices to weave the fantasy of a cozy evening by the fireplace. Too much, and you are on fire!

In contrast to the smoky and dusky Fireside Intense, Winter Woods is soft and sweet. It starts out warm and cozy, with the musk providing a creamy richness. My small qualm about Winter Woods is the sweetness, which initially overpowers other nuances. The part I love the most is when the animalic amber unfolds in the late drydown. As it settles on skin, Winter Woods hits all of the dark notes, from savory-smoky guaiacwood to earthy vetiver. For someone who loves woods, but shies away from the austere and dry blends like Bulgari Black or Knize Ten, Winter Woods would be a good alternative. It speaks softly, wears like a warm shawl and has a deliciously intimate aura.

Sonoma Scent Studio Fireside Intense (an updated version of Fireside) includes notes of guaiacwood, nagarmotha (Cyperus), Texas cedar, Himalayan cedar, Indian sandalwood, agarwood, birch tar, cade, leather, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, and ambergris. Winter Woods–guaiacwood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, amber, labdanum absolute, vetiver, ambergris, and musk. They are available as the Eau de Parfum and are quite reasonably priced: 5ml ($20), 17ml ($31) and 34ml ($80). They are available directly from Sonoma Scent Studio.

Sample: my own acquisition

Photograph: Wood Grain by Kyden, via flickr.

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16 Comments

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: How timely, thank you! I recently acquired, in a swap, some Champagne de Bois and am enjoying it enough to want to explore the line further. These two were on the radar together with the Tabac one so as soon as I’m paid I will order some samples. Fireside Intense sounds right up my alley.
    Nicola February 20, 2012 at 9:44am Reply

  • Victoria: I like the name Champagne de Bois, so I need to try it. A good friend of mine is a big fan of SSS, and she wears these perfumes so well. Fireside Intense is one of those fragrances that I find very comforting. It really smells of smoldering wood, bonfires and warm ashes. Very evocative. February 20, 2012 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Suzy Q: “Bonfire accord” is one I avoid. But I love Winter Woods. Laurie included a sample in an order and I was hooked. It IS a winter perfume, as the name implies. Yes, the sweetness dies down and then it hits the dark notes. I love that contrast: oh!, this is not quite what I thought it was going to be.

    SSS are a so reasonably priced and so concentrated. I appreciate the size options. February 20, 2012 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Elisa: I could be crazy, but I think my bottle of Winter Woods has gotten more savory with time. Some days it reminds me of grilled meat! I have yet to try Fireside Intense, but I bet I would love it; I find smoky scents addictive.

    Did you manage to get a sample of Tabac Aurea, as well? It’s my favorite of her woodsy-ambery-oriental scents (as opposed to the florals). February 20, 2012 at 9:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love the size options. It is hard to resist them!

    The contrast in Winter Woods is wonderful, and it is one of the reasons why I enjoy this perfume. February 21, 2012 at 8:54am Reply

  • Victoria: I can see why! The guaiacwood tends to give that impression. If you enjoy it, then you will definitely like Fireside Intense. Imagine the savory facet of Winter Woods and amplify it!

    I have a sample of Tabac Aurea, but I haven’t tested it properly yet. Liked it on paper a lot though. February 21, 2012 at 8:56am Reply

  • Suzanna: SSS scents do intensify over time; I have several bottles that are five years old and they have concentrated.

    Winter Woods and Tabac Aurea are both standouts in this line, as is Femme Jolie. (Fireside and its relative Fireside Intense are too smoky/tarry for me, although very well composed.) February 21, 2012 at 9:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I can believe it! Some perfumes are like wine–they absolutely need to age, and they get better with time. February 21, 2012 at 10:16am Reply

  • Undina: It’s interesting, you’re the second person who mentions the sweetness of Winter Woods (Ines from All I am – a redhead was the first). And I cannot smell it at all! At some point I figured out that there are some elements evoking that sweet smell that my nose doesn’t register.

    I like (and wear) Winter Woods as a perfume and I enjoy Fireside Intense as a scent but it doesn’t work for me as a perfume. February 21, 2012 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Victoria: To me, that sweetness is the musk in Winter Woods, and since all of us are sensitive to musk in different ways, that's probably why we see it differently. 
    I wish I had Fireside Intense in a candle form! February 21, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

  • skilletlicker: Victoria, what do you think of the SSS rose scent? February 21, 2012 at 4:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: I haven’t smelled it on skin, so I can’t really comment. I know that others love her rose fragrances, so maybe they can chime in. February 21, 2012 at 8:17pm Reply

  • Kismet: Discovered SSS not long ago, and I love it! I have samples of most of the line, including the the rose scents (there are about four). My favorites are Velvet Rose, a delicious soliflore, and Vintage Rose, which is duskier. Someone described it as smelling like a rose potpourri.

    I love Erickson’s violet scents also. Voile de Violette is light and fresh, while Wood Violet is somehow akin to Vintage Rose; more concentrated and earthy.

    Another favorite is Tabac Aurea, which smells like sweet pipe tobacco with a smoky note, which I sometimes notice strongly and sometimes hardly at all.

    Even sweeter, the perfumes are are both high-quality and so well priced that you can afford to indulge! February 22, 2012 at 8:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: Your comment made me want to put on Vintage Rose asap! Rose potpourri sounds so good… I'm impressed by the collection very much, and I love how each perfume conveys a very personal vision. February 22, 2012 at 9:57pm Reply

  • Ariadne: I have just gotten a sample of SSS To Dream. VERY unique! I keep stopping to sniff it. It is not my style but I would absolutely love to get my husband to wear this. To me it could be one of the most alluring scents for a man. February 27, 2012 at 8:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: To Dream is very alluring, and I can imagine that it would be wonderful on a man. I might ask my husband to try it. Thank you for an inspiration. 🙂 February 27, 2012 at 8:43pm Reply

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