After speaking with Charna Ethier, owner of the Providence Perfume Co in Pawtucket, Motif learned that music and perfume have more in common than we realized. Making great perfume can be like music for your nostrils, with intonations and layers that unravel one whiff at a time.
“Perfumery is a mysterious art, but when you consider formulation, everything is based on evaporation rate. This is how we classify ingredients as top, heart, or base notes,” Ethier said.
She explained how top notes show up as the most volatile projection when a perfume is first sprayed, but evaporate the quickest.
“Examples of top notes are typically citrus and herbs like bergamot, basil, and pink grapefruit,” she said.
Then there are middle notes, which fill up the air once the top notes have dissipated.
“Heart notes truly form the heart of a fragrance and are typically floral or fruity notes,” Ethier said.
Base notes are the materials that last the longest in a perfume, most notably that lingering trace of a scent you’ve been wearing all day.
“Base notes form the foundation of a fragrance and are typically woods and resins. Examples are sandalwood, patchouli, and labdanum,” she said.
Ethier has been in the business of concocting natural perfume scents for years, soaking up her knowledge from perfumery books while also playing it by ear as a self-taught perfumer.
Like every labor of love, Ethier created the Providence Perfume Co for two very specific reasons – to foster her lifelong passion for the aromas of nature and cater to those looking for natural fragrances.
Growing up on a farm kept Ethier drawn to the luscious smells of the great outdoors. “I love the smell of blackberry bushes and pine needles and the air before it rains,” she said.
“It made sense for me to pull inspiration from plants and flowers, not petrochemicals.”
Today, Providence Perfume Co is in full bloom with an array of perfume oils and fragrances, which patrons also have the option of custom-creating at the shop’s perfume bar.
Customers book an appointment for an hour-long lesson to create either an oil-based perfume that rolls on or an alcohol-based fragrance that sprays on.
They receive guidance from Providence Perfume Co staff while creating their custom scent, choosing the best notes, adding essences to the beaker, and testing the progress of their new fragrance with scent strips.
Once concocted, the custom perfume formulas are kept on file at the Providence Perfume Co for those who want a refill later. When it comes to customer favorites, Ethier’s Irisque takes the prize.
“Irisqué is a best seller,” she said. “It’s a risqué iris fragrance! Most iris perfumes tend to smell like old-fashioned powdery violets, but not ours. I wanted to make a sexy, modern iris perfume, so I added notes of oud and botanical musk to deepen the fragrance.”
Other botanical scents sold at the shop include Sedona Sweetgrass (made with pinon pine, sweetgrass, and sage), Hindu Honeysuckle (a combination of green vetiver, musk ambrette, rose, and coriander), and Rose Boheme (a bohemian scent with rich aged patchouli, fir, tea, agarwood, saffron, Turkish rose, and an artisan rose petal infusion). Along with treatment and body oils, Providence Perfume Co also sells organic perfumed teas that invigorate your senses with each sip.
Ethier and the Providence Perfume Co stand out from other perfumers by focusing solely on natural essences, perfect for those with chemical sensitivities to traditional synthetic fragrances.
“[People] don’t realize that the fragrances they wear are 96-100% synthetic and contain little to NO natural essences,” she said. “I create beautiful, long-lasting fragrances that just so happen to be all-natural.”
Ethier is a pro at juggling the art of perfumery with the business aspect by simultaneously working on customer requests and passion projects that artistically speak to her.
Her unisex, woodsy Heart of Darkness scent began as a passion project that she knew wouldn’t be as popular but allowed her to create a “mothy, foresty” scent by distilling espresso beans and mixing in floral notes.
“My focus as a perfumer is on the scent – does it take you on a journey? How does it make you feel? Having an aromatherapy effect is secondary to the [actual] scent,” Ethier said.
She looks forward to launching a new scent later this fall, a unisex, smoked, black tea perfume called Lapsang Lover. “I found the most beautiful black tea absolute distilled in France and I’m excited to work with this natural essence,” she said.
In the meantime, stop into Providence Perfume Co’s new facility at 80 Fountain Street, Unit 203 in Pawtucket to treat your nose to the luscious symphony of essences found in Ethier’s all-natural fragrances.
For more information, call (401) 455-2325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.