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Monday, January 29, 2007

Sonoma Scent Studio

Article by Kelley

Sonoma Scent Studio is an artisan perfumery based in Healdsburg , California , located among the many vineyards of Sonoma. The owner and in-house perfumer is Laurie Erickson. I have written to her several times and I found her a lovely person. You will find body creams and perfume oils available along with their eau de parfums. According to the website, they don’t add water or isopropyl myristate or propylene glycol to their perfumes—they are simply oils in alcohol. I remember that she used to use a special kind of alcohol somehow associated with grapes but I noticed that the website has been changed and now it’s perfumer’s SD alcohol only.

I found this company in a strange way. It all started with a blind internet date. Yes, this is going to be a smutty little story. OK, I met someone on the internet by email and started corresponding. You see, I live in Mexico , in a very small town and so dating is almost out of the question, so, a guy’s got to do what a guy’s got to do! It turns out that this person is a perfume freak (a huge attraction for me!), let’s refer to this person from here on out as PF for perfume freak. I mail ordered about 8 bottles of different perfumes based on PF’s glowing recommendations. After several months of writing steamy emails and talking on Skype (the free internet phone service), we found out we were fragrance opposites and that this couldn’t possibly work out. In fact, I would say that PF’s recommendations were ghastly and some were very expensive! “Fragrance opposites” is a term I made up and I am sure there has to be something better out there for what I am trying to describe. It is when someone hates what you wear and you can’t stand what they like. My point is, why even try to date someone that has such bad taste in fragrance? I called the whole thing off! Well, there were a few other things we had problems with but I will save that for another time.

What does this story have to do with Sonoma Scent Studio, you ask? Well, PF loves their products and recommended them to me. When I went to the website, it was down (I think it was due to illness?). My order of samples didn’t come in until this past December, which was almost a year after I was led to the website by PF. The delay wasn’t Laurie’s fault; I had to wait for the website to go active again. I will keep these reviews very brief.

Sandal Oud: The listed notes are sandalwood, oud, musk, cedar, with a drop of mandarin. I find this to be extremely oily on my hand. I smell the oud and that’s about it. This isn’t a medicinal oud often found in the oud series by Montale. I am guessing that this is a young oud or maybe a synthetic oud. Overall impression, nice but linear and also stays fairly close to the skin. Would I buy it? Maybe.

Sanctuary: Sandalwood, frankincense, amber, orris, musk, and vanilla. The sandalwood here smells like the blond sandalwood. This one is also weak and linear. There is a dill pickle smell to this that is very strange. A definite no.

Cashmere : Sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, amber, and vanilla. This is nice but the cinnamon used in this smells artificial. This almost smells like a candle. Yes, this definitely should be a candle. No for Cashmere .

Bois Vanilla: Cedar, sandalwood, incense, and vanilla. I smell vanilla but that’s about it. This one would also make a nice candle fragrance. This one is extremely light. I don’t think so.

Amber Bois: Cedar, rose, musk, turmeric, saffron, and amber. This is very rosy. I can tell that I have a theme starting. This reminds me of the Virgin Mary candles they sell at the market that are scented with rose. I don’t smell spices but there is a sweet amber accord lurking just under the rose (very artificial to my nose). This is so sweet that it could give me a headache.

Fireside: Sandalwood and cedar combined with exotic woods and resins. This is supposed to smell smoky like a fireplace. Fumerie Turque is smoky. Lonestar Memories is smoky. This is just bland. I get sandalwood for sure but I don’t get any of the resins they promised. This is also very linear and stays very close to the skin. This is another definite no.

Incense: Frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, cedar, amber, musk, and vanilla. This opens with a strange fruity smell, like pineapple. Of course frankincense has a slight fruity-ness to it but this is odd. It isn’t an offensive fruit accord but it seems a little sweet. Luckily this fades and I smell sandalwood and myrrh. This isn’t very original but it’s one of their best offerings.

Chai Latte: Warm chai spices, creamy vanilla, and a light tea note. This smells exactly like a butter-cream candle. There are no spices and definitely no tea notes…anywhere. Where all of the others are extremely light, this is strong. This has killer sillage (literally). This is so artificial and so unexpectedly awful; it should come with a warning!

Amber et Encens: Amber, vanilla, incense, and spice. It opens with a nice incense accord but quickly fades to almost nothing. I smell a little amber and incense. Sorry.

Oud: Lovely at first. This is a medicinal oud but not as strong as some. It is a single note fragrance that might be used for layering. Would I buy this? I don’t think so. I would prefer a much more expensive bottle of masterfully blended Montale’s Royal Oud, thank you. This faded on me very quickly to a band-aid smell. Definitely a NO!

I was very excited about trying these scents because they sounded so promising. Except for the nuclear Chai Latte, I found these fragrances very linear and weak and some of them smell very artificial. These aren’t complicated scents by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, I would say that they are single accords. I love fragrances that are like having complete conversations. I want to start with one thing and then change topics several more times and go from happy to sad and back to happy again. I want layers like an onion. I really don’t want to jump in and read the last line of the book. I guess when most of the ingredients you use are traditionally used as base notes, they will stay very, very close to the skin. I found I would have to touch my arm with my nose to get even a whiff of these fragrances. Of the lot, the only two that I found interesting (this will come as a huge surprise) were Sandal Oud and the plain Oud. They don’t last long on me at all, a couple of hours at most. This was a fun experiment but I didn’t find anything here that I have to have. There are many more scents listed on the website than what I reviewed here at Prices range from $2 for the 1/32 oz. sample to $25 for the 1 ounce epd spray in the studio line. It’s $35 for 1 ounce of perfume in the boutique line.

Photo of the SSS perfume is from their website. The nuclear explosion is courtesy of and the grapes are from


Blogger colombina said...

I am now wondering if I could possibly live with someone or spend lots of time with someone who was my Evil Scent Twin or Fragrance Opposite...As long as this person didn't force me to like and wear the kind of scents he or she liked, I guess it wouldn't have mattered...Anyway, I loved the story! :-)
As for SSS, I tried a couple of scents, liked all of them, but wasn't compelled to buy them. I remember that her coffee scent 9Cafe Noir?) is very nice, less sweet than Ava Luxe's.

11:10 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

I think the point of the Evil Scent Twin story is that who would want to be around someone that was so critical? I have stories about this person that would curl your blond hair!!! I guess a person needs to look for red flags and in this instance, I should have noticed the crititcisms about my favorite fragrances which turned into much more serious criticisms. Good God, I spent a fortune on recommended junk! Do I sound bitter? I am really not, I do love to tell funny stories though and PF provided me with lots of material to work with!

I haven't tried the coffee scent but I probably should have.

11:24 PM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Criticisms towards your taste in perfume? Definitely big, huge red flag right there. Hrmph!

11:27 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Personally, I'd love to marry a fragrance opposite, but in a narrowly specific way: He would love the way that Chene or MKK of CB Musk smelled on me, but the only scent he would love and smell good in would be Luctor et Emergo. (reminder, he'd smell good in it)

That way he'd keep his mitts of my bell jars.

Criticism of my taste is a criminal offense in my book. I try not to criticise other peoples tastes, especially about perfumes. I've known too many people that have made scents that I've run from (Angel, for instance) smell absolutely swoon-worthy that I try to say that it's just not for me.

I can tell reading these reviews however that I needent try these.

12:05 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Tom, you never know. You might want to try layering with some of them. I do think they are pretty oily though. They are, however, very affordable. I would be more than willing to send you some barely used samples!

Yes, I remember recently having a conversation with you about those bell jars. I am still laughing about it. Don't worry, they are safe...for the time being!

12:13 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I remember that conversation too.

I've taken steps. (cue Austin Powers evil-secret-lair music)

12:34 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sonoma scent studio WAS a little secret of mine... but thanks for headlining (even tho it appears some remain so predictably persuaded to that certain "bell jar" mentality of which i'd just love to hurl a bowling ball into and record the sounds of its stupid tinkling glass)... but back to SSS... her work is wonderful and "scentual"... i've sampled all the above and i adore them all... something about her work really feels right and uncomplicated... gorgeously pure and unaffected... creations that to me transcend those that slave to satisfy an opera of notes and olfactory dialogue

2:02 AM EST  
Anonymous Leopoldo said...

Man, but who doesn't want olfactory dialogue? Or and opera of notes? Anon - you've sold to me what you didn't want to!

Living a long way from tripleS, I'll never get to try these. Sounds like that's nothing to worry my (not so) pretty little head about...

2:12 AM EST  
Blogger chaya ruchama said...

There's always room for lots of varying opinions, isn't there?

I guess, bottom line [I just LOVE the bottom line !]is- do you smell good to each other, and can one work out the snags ?

If no- move on ...

love your tale, Kelleyman.

Big kisses to you and Corazon-

7:06 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Huh. I've heard a lot of nice things about the line, but hadn't gotten around to sampling it yet. Even though you didn't much like them, I probably still will -- maybe I'm your EFT (Evil Fragrance Twin!) ;-) Colombina and I are sometimes FTs, sometimes EFTs...

7:49 AM EST  
Blogger lilyofbp said...

Thanks for the reviews. I remember enjoying Fireside, though not enough to pursue it.

Interestingly, though my DH has no real interest in fragrance, he has very similar taste to mine, and he tends to smell good in similar fragrances (he is too much of a "guy" to wear florals, but he smells great in the leathers and vetivers I love). I often wonder if we were attracted to each other b/c of similar smells (we actually have practically nothing else--nothing obvious, that is--in common:)

8:34 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

One of the great blessings of being married to a man who is practically anosmic is that I get *zero* complaints about my perfumes. And he lets me use him as a guinea pig to test scents out to see how skin chemistry changes them. Now, *that* is the true reason I adore the man. But, I'm w/ you - I could not have a relationship w/ someone who constantly criticized over my scent choices? An absolute deal breaker there.
I need to go resniff the SSS scents. Laurie was an MUAer and, as you said, seemed to be a really lovely person...predisposes me to try to like her scents. But, I'm w/ you - I like complicated scents. You described my feelings perfectly when you said you liked scents "that are like having complete conversations."

8:35 AM EST  
Anonymous newproducts said...

The appeal of SSS scents for me are in their skin scent likeness, if that makes sense. They are pretty linear, but sometimes that's okay too.

My DH is pretty meh about most of my scents. In fact, he can't seem to tell the difference between many of them. I once asked him (only haf-jokingly) what his useless nose was for (after frustratedly trying to get him to sniff and comment on my scents for the umpteenth time), and he said, "It's to hang my glasses on"!! THAT is why I love the man. :-)

9:26 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...'s not that they were bad (oops, except for Chai Latte, that was in my opinion, nasty!) they just seem simple. How do I explain this? Every perfumer has to start somewhere, and I feel that I am catching her at the beginning of her career. These aren't Zen in approach but (remember, just my opinion) uneducated. I have made scents like these for my friends for years by throwing a little of this and a little bit of that with some sandalwood and some patchouli. To me these feel like someone with a hobby that is running amuck.

Granted, for some people, this will be right up their alley. Thank God, as Kenny Rogers says in "Coward of the County", "There's someone for everyone...", and I might change that to there is a fragrance for everyone.

11:02 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Leopoldo, where are you? And, are you sure your wouldn't like a whole bunch of barely tried samples from Sonoma Scent Studios? I could make that dream happen for you. Just say the word!

11:04 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

chaya ruchama, please tell me if Chaya is your first name or if it's just Chayaruchama (one name). I mean, how can I flirt with someone if I don't even know their name? You are a ray of sunshine!!!

Big hugs to your.

11:06 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

marchlion. I feel pretty secure in saying that I bet you will feel about the same that I do. Believe me, I am not that picky! This is almost like buying a bottle of essential oil at the grocery and dabbing a little on your wrist. They last about two hours and stay close to the skin.

11:09 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

lilyofbp...ok, where is bp? Fireside is the one I wanted to like the most! I wanted smoke, and flames, and twisted metal. This was virtually promised to me when I bought the sample. I didn't get any smoke at all! Just a little sandalwood. Boring!!!! It was OK just not what it was advertised to be! I was disappointed, that's all.

11:12 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Elle, as much as I hate to admit it, the idea for my comment came from a review by (gulp) Chandler Burr. He reviewed Angel and mentioned it was like having a complete conversation. To me, Angel is like overhearing a couple arguing for hours! It's tiring.

You shall, from here on out, be my inspiration. I want to date someone that's anosmic. I think that sounds great!!! I would settle of understanding and accepting though. LOL...

11:16 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Newproducts, YES! That's it! These are designed to be skin scents. These would be great after a shower or before bed or before...snuggling! These scents would be perfect for experimenting with layering of other fragrances.

I must admit here that I don't like layering. I have tried it a few times and been very unsuccessful with it. I wish Marina would put out a small guide to layering so I could see how it's done.

11:20 AM EST  
Blogger colombina said...

Easy-peasy: take one scent and think to yourself, what other scent(s) would go well with it, notes-wise, would compliment it or even clash with it in an intriguing and wearable way. Spray some of one, spray some of the other. Voila. :-D
Side note: musk, incense and leather layer nicely with most things (try MKK with some virginal white floral) and with each other (try MKK with Messe de Minuit...if you dare :-) )

11:24 AM EST  
Anonymous Leopoldo said...


I'm in the UK. That's a long way for something I'm not that interested in, y'see ;-0

Un abrazo


11:50 AM EST  
Blogger boisdejasmin said...

Kelley, thank you for the reviews! I was curious about a couple of these fragrances.

12:29 PM EST  
Blogger Patty said...

Kelley, I'm with you, one cannot long stay with a person who horrible taste. And I'm thinking I can skip these entirely.

I disagree on Angel being a couple arguing for hours. I think of it as witnessing a murder in progress.

12:37 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Patty -- Yeah, Angel is like ... watching a car wreck in slow motion. Downwind from a chicken farm.

Elle and Kelley -- the problem with Anosmic Hombre is he does infuriating stuff, like storing the not-quite-closed can of paint thinner in the hall closet, where the smell lingers for WEEKS later, and has absolutely no idea what you are going on and on about when you walk (literally) in the front door and start screaming. Not that this has happened to me...

1:28 PM EST  
Blogger lilyofbp said...

BP is actually a nickname for the Gentleman Otherwise Known As Mr. Lily. . .or DH. We both live near Boston, and we smell great!
On Fireside-- I must really agree with you: despite my initial, somewhat postive impression, I never was moved to put it on again. Maybe I just liked the name:)

1:45 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Thanks Marina. And, yes I dare!!! I will report back...if I live through the experiment!

2:24 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Leopoldo, I understand. I won a book on Ebay from London six weeks ago and still haven't seen it!

2:25 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

boisdejasmin, you are more than welcome and thanks for your wonderful blog. I read it every day! Except for weekends if there aren't new posts of course!

2:26 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Patty, you are too funny! I laughed out loud at your Angel story.

2:27 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...


You are also very funny. I have a niece that put a piece of sponge up her nose as a baby and the doctor never found it but she had a constant cold. By the time the piece of sponge was found (I found it thank you very much!), she had no sense of smell left. While it is very dangerous as you pointed out with your paint thinner story, she is able to date men with bad breath (I can vouch for this because her last boyfriend had breath like rotting meat) and she can work in a hospital as a nurse and clean up the most horrific messes without feeling the least bit nausious.

2:31 PM EST  
Blogger chaya ruchama said...


YOU can call me either- believe it or not, there actually are folks who call me by this name [my given Hebrew name, meaning "life and compassion"], and Arabic friends who call me Hayat Rachman !

Most can't pronounce it- so, to those many, I'm Ida [rhymes with 'pita'].

Just callme, boyo- and bring that canine, too....

2:32 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

lilyofbp, glad you agree. I was beginning to doubt my reviews. I mean, surely there has to be at least one I love. I brought out the samples again and...nope, not a single one is FBW for me.

2:33 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Chaya Ruchama/Ida, Corazon sends her love. I am working on a new series of paintings (to be announced officially at a later date) and she is the main character. I will give you a hint though, the angels, saints, proffets, and sybils bow down before her. Yes, she is that precious. She doesn't live with me; she lives down the street.

2:38 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

I know my spelling is's prophets. I thought that looked funny.

2:40 PM EST  
Anonymous Katie said...

Did I just see Kenny Rogers brought into a perfume discussion? I should be apalled, but somehow it delights me to no end.

I've by and large skipped the SSS line. I know I have samples somewhere that well intentioned people have sent me, but none of the coffee scents which is the only item that piqued my curiosity, sadly. Sounds like with this lot of 'fumes you reviewed that I am not missing out on anything really. I love the a-bomb picture for the Chai. I wonder from your description if it's not based on some supplier's mother blend? I've tried a couple of other etailer Chais that smelled similar to what you describe. Or not. I suspect that to a certain extent the small business person has a slightly smaller palate of notes at their disposal, so they may just end up similar by happenstance. Eh, who knows?

7:31 PM EST  
Anonymous sybil said...

I've tried some SSS stuff...and I've been able to find 2 that are FBW for me...Bois Epices and Incense Lily. (at the price, why not?) They are (to use Marina's cheesesteak analogy) grilled cheese sandwiches. Not riveting, not anything you'd serve anyone you wanted to impress, but not challenging or intimidating on a tough day. Until my nose evolves more, they're fine. (the DH, who knows exactly what he likes, finds them good.) DD1, the most balanced nose in the family, shares your opinion of the Chai Latte (Something like "Mom! that is GADAWFUL" was shrieked), and the "candleness" of the line in general. ("All these smell like candles. You need to get more samples, from someplace else.") Sounds like you are well rid of the fragrance my experience picky hypercritical people don't get any better w/ age, and if they aren't amusing about their foibles, well...

9:08 AM EST  

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