I have been testing and reviewing fragrances for half of a decade now and I have found a bunch of materials that sing to my soul, such as the spirituality of oud and the bitter warmth of a full-bodied coffee note.
However, there is one type of scent that just speaks to me above all others. One that recalls my childhood and brings back fond memories of joyous days, coniferous scents, Everything from a waft of mountain air blowing in while fishing to a hot cup of pine needle tea to fight of the chill at a campsite. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Those green needles are more than a smell to me, they are part of my life.
The fragrance market mostly lacks providing great fragrances in this genre, so I want to touch on a few that do it properly. I have been on this journey since before I joined the fragrance community and I have tried countless iterations of balsamic-laden elixirs that claim to take me to the woods, yet they ultimately made me feel like I was playing a video game and not feeling the crunch of leaves underfoot with the smell of damp earth. If you are an outdoors person like I am, then this is my love letter to you because I know how much these scents mean to people like us. Enjoy!
Honorable Notation: Slumberhouse Norne
Josh Lobb has always intrigued me as a perfumer, but the drawback is that his fragrances are very difficult to acquire. That is why this is only an honorable mention. It’s probably the best one on this list, but the availability is quite slim, so I can’t honestly suggest that people pay the aftermarket prices on it. If you can get lucky enough to get it at retail, then it’s a no-brainer.
Norne is a dark looming forest with sticky fir needles, wet earth, a foggy mist, and some slightly warm incense that adds a bit of smokiness to it. It’s inspired by the forests in the Pacific Northwest USA, which are damp and mild with numerous types of needle-bearing trees. It’s a complete romp in the woods that harkens you back to camping trips as a child and the happiness that comes along with it. Josh has successfully created what so many others failed to do, and he put his heart into this and it shows.
I wasn’t aware of Ineke until a good friend of mine suggested them and this fragrance. I was doubtful at first, but the fragrance delivers on its promise with a careful dedication to choosing ingredients that make sense, over ones that just smell good to fit in.
Idyllwild is inspired by a small mountain town in California, that is lined with rows of ancient and noble trees. Ponderosa pine with its butterscotch facets is met with sweet Douglas fir. A splash of California sunshine from the citrusy facets of rhubarb and grapefruit. Cypriol and oud lend their smoked wood aroma to invoke the image of a campfire, while wild sage grows on the mountainside.
Idylwild is a surprisingly fresh forest scent that manages to not be gothic in nature but has that sparkle of a summer day in it, even while boasting smoky woods. It’s expertly done and with an adept hand that obviously loves this area and wanted to faithfully recreate it. You can just tell passion when you smell it.
Contrary to the previous fragrance, Alkemia’s Ydalir is a dark and smoky scent that recalls a toasty campfire in the middle of a pitch-black forest. Smoked juniper tar is the main player and creates a photo-realistic campfire smell. This is similar to picking up your flannel that you wore three days ago while burning wood and taking a big whiff, that is what you get here. A slight coolness, that almost feels like a misty rain comes from Siberian black pine, I believe. It is met with a sweet balsam pine. This fragrance actually has real oakmoss in it, and it beautifully recreates a forest floor.
Alkemia Ydalir stands out amongst a house that doesn’t get much love, and they should. They have a few forestry fragrances that are all good, but Ydalir is the most unique to me. It’s also the cheapest one on this list and it is well worth checking out. Just be warned, this fragrance is super smoky.
Lalique Encre Noire:
Okay, Encre Noire isn’t the most realistic scent ever. It’s full of Iso E Super, but it’s so well done. I liken it to a perfect Halloween scent. It’s that dark forest that is haunted. You know you shouldn’t go in it, but it calls you in and you can’t resist.
Smoky and inky woods is the focal point of this scent. It’s dark, gothic, and eerie at times. That is why I have included it, because it does what it set out to do and executes it with perfection. This isn’t a fragrance that everyone can appreciate, but those who do adore it.
Comme de Garcons has many Japanese scents, along with a stellar incense line, yet people rarely mention their Hinoki scent, which is an absolute gem. Hinoki is Japanese cypress, and the aroma is evergreen with lemony nuances.
Hinoki is an ode to a fresh Japanese forest, with a warm woody heart. Accented further with the balsamic crispness of pine and cypress, the fragrance shines as a haven of aromatic needles bolstered by a bit of oak moss and warm frankincense.
If you prefer the freshly hewn wood of the forest, then Hinoki might just be for you. It’s a bit different than the ones in the western world, which makes it a fresh take on a familiar smell to many of us.
Di Ser Hikaru Daichi
Di Ser has always been a house that impressed me. From their fabled Kyara to Kagiroi, perfumer Yasuyuki Shinohara has a way of connecting to your very spirit. The purity of ingredients that he uses in his creations is unparalleled, using everything from real oud to Japanese rose and shiso (Japanese mint), he has shown that nature is as complex as our emotions.
When Hikaru Daichi was announced, I was elated. The thought of Shinohara-San working with some of my favorite materials and creating a forest scent, it was a dream come true.
I was fortunate enough to sample it, and I fell in love. The ethereal blending of red pine, warm hinoki, and todo pine (which I assume is a variety of Japanese pine since all of Di Ser’s ingredients are of Japanese origin) shows the skill of the perfumer, as nothing sticks out entirely, but it evokes a delicate balance of harmony, much like nature itself. An ever-so-slight touch of frankincense and Japanese oud add the final touch that lifts everything else up. It’s a walk through a serene eastern forest that is grounded by the earth and sky.
It’s a passionate endeavor that Shinohara-San was no doubt inspired to create. You can see his hand in it, as the Japanese aesthetic of perfect balance is in full swing, while using the best ingredients, some of which are grown in the perfumer’s backyard in Hokkaido!
Olympic Orchids Olympic Rainforest
Olympic Orchids is quite a niche company, but I absolutely loved the idea of a fragrance inspired by the wet mountainous regions in eastern Washington. A friend sent me a sample and it took me a while to wrap my head around it.
Olympic Rainforest is a damp forest with a warm Canadian balsam note that showcases an earthy mushroom note. I was unfamiliar with mushroom in perfume, so I was surprised at how vividly realistic it is. It makes it quite polarizing for some people, but it’s photorealistic if you want a real forest scent. Complete with mossy trees, a touch of myrrh, and Virginia cedar (which is actually a juniper tree!), The Pacific Northwestern Forest concoction invokes an earthy forest with a surreal mist about it. This is a perfume for those brave souls who want to delve the deepest corners of the forest.
Oh, Itasca, how you delight me. Lubin was inspired by the forests that surround Lake Itasca in Minnesota. It’s evocative of a specific place that holds importance to the Natives of the Algonquin tribe.
The oil of Itasca pine with a fresh breeze of juniper, with some warm spicy facets. This is probably the least coniferous of the fragrances on the list, but it is still plenty of forestry with rooty Java vetiver and cedar needles. It really evokes the pioneer spirit of America, which is what is intended.
It’s a dark and earthy scent that is lifted by juniper and geranium, while still not veering into a territory like Encre Noire. It’s perfectly wearable, while being unique and telling a story about the early days of discovery in North America.
I could probably include a bunch more scents in this. If you would like to see more, let me know! I have some samples of Pineward coming soon, so I am sure that one of them will make it. What fragrance do you connect with your memories of camping or playing in the forest? Are there any that you think I should check out and cover? Are there any other topics that you would like to see?