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.