St. Clair Scents — Part I: The Queen of Butter & The Intersection of Artisanal Food & Artisanal Perfume

What happens when The Queen of Butter, Diane St. Clair, a woman who makes the most coveted and expensive butter in the world, carried in some of the most famous temples of Haute Gastronomy like Thomas Keller‘s French Laundry and Per Se and sought by other Michelin-starred chefs (who are frequently turned down), decides to turn her attention to fragrance? The result is St. Clair Scents, a new indie perfume house that applies the same artisanal philosophy and naturalistic aesthetic to fragrance that Ms. St. Clair uses to make the best butter in the world. Today, I’d like to focus on the intersection of artisanal gastronomy and artisanal perfumery to tell the unusual tale and journey of Ms. St. Clair. At the end, there will be a brief scent summaries of her new trio of fragrances: Gardener’s Glove, Frost, and First Cut. Next time, in Part II, I’ll review all three fragrances properly and at-length.

What really fascinates and intrigues me is Ms. St. Clair herself. Perfumers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, particularly the self-taught ones who make artisanal perfumes, but I’ve never encountered someone whose background is in gastronomy or luxury food. Nor have I ever encountered someone who is already an established rock star in their own world — nay, a superstar in their particular niche — who then decided to start from scratch in a completely new field, taking on the challenging, insular, and often exclusionary world of perfumery, learning and doing everything themselves from the ground-up, all without deep pockets or wealthy investors. Not until now, not until Diane St. Clair.

Photo source: St. Clair Scents.

Diane St. Clair with some of her Jersey cows. Photo: Gareth McConnell. Source: Animal Farm at AnimalFarmVt.com [Photo lightly cropped by me at the top.]

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Ensar Oud — Part I: The Man & His World of Oud

Dedication to quality, an emphasis on olfactory authenticity, a passion for the materials, and a vision for how they can be presented in the very best, truest, and most beautiful fashion possible — these are some of the key traits common to the artisans who make the biggest splash in the fragrance world. These men and women put their products ahead of any price tag or marketing trends, desire for fame, or interest in the spotlight in the pages of glossy magazines. They do their own thing, by their own rules, following their own internal vision, and any plaudits which may ensue are merely a nice side recompense.

The world of luxury niche oud is a parallel but completely separate universe to the fragrance one and, while there are fewer artisan stars in its firmament, the same rules hold true for what makes them special. There are several names which stand out in this small niche world — Ensar Oud, Agar Aura, and Russian Adam of Feel Oud — but one seems to shine the brightest and is frequently spoken of in almost reverential tones: Ensar Oud.

Ensar Oud and the banner on his site: agarwood.ensaroud.com

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Feel Oud – Part I: Luxury Artisanal Oud Oils & How They’re Made

Today, I’d like to take you inside the world of high-end artisanal oud oils, as glimpsed through the experiences and work of one distiller, Feel Oud. For the men working at this level, whether it is Russian Adam of Feel Oud, Ensar Oud, or Agar Aura, oud is more than a mere scent they enjoy; it’s a life-changing passion and labour of love. It’s blood, sweat, tears, long hours, attention to every microscopic detail, high cost, tropical jungles, and the need to possess both the vision and the soul of an artist.

Feel Oud bottles. Photo: Russian Adam of Feel Oud.

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A Guide to Vintage Shalimar – Part III: Bottle Designs, Dating Bottles & eBay Tips

Trying to date vintage Shalimar and navigating eBay to find a bottle of the version that you prefer might seem, at first glance, to be an exhausting, frustrating, and complicated ordeal. However, there are some basic guidelines to make things much simpler. It’s one of those things where the learning curve is initially steep but then, suddenly, it becomes much easier and one can (almost) whip through the many eBay listings to single out the bottles which fit your precise parameters.

So, today, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on the bottle designs for vintage Shalimar, their history, their appearance, their packaging, their differences, and the methods used to try to date the bottles. The analysis will focus almost entirely on the parfum, but I’ll briefly mention the bottle designs for the other concentrations that were discussed in Part II. They’re not hard to date or figure out for the most part but it’s a different story for the parfum, particularly since most eBay sellers don’t know much about the bottles that they’re selling. I recently had to use a sort of reverse engineering or backwards analysis based on nothing more than the height dimensions (inches) of a listed bottle in order to figure out its size and possible date of release. And I’m still not sure of the latter! The process is much like playing Sherlock Holmes except, in this case, the tiny clues often don’t yield definitive answers.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

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