We've featured an unusual number of mainstream designer fragrances here over the last month, so today we're going all the way to the other end of the spectrum. Sonoma Scent Studio is the California-based indie perfume house of self-taught perfumer Laurie Erickson, and she is one of several small etailers who have gained a following on the fragrance forum at MakeupAlley. My favorite from the line is Bois Épicés, described as "soft, warm spices over a musk/wood base", with notes of musk, sandalwood, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, mandarin, cedar, cypress and coffee.
I suppose everyone has their own idea about what constitutes a comfort scent. There are fragrances that so extraordinarily soothing that they function almost like spray-on Valium (Diptyque Tam Dao, Comme des Garçons Kyoto) but that don't quite qualify as comfort scents in my book. A comfort scent must be more than just soothing: it must be the perfume equivalent of putting on your favorite pair of beat-up jeans and a sweatshirt (preferably one that has been washed at least a hundred times and is soft as butter, and maybe has a hole in one elbow), and settling down on the couch to watch your favorite classic movie, one you've seen so many times that you can enjoy it without having to think about it (in my case, surely The Women or My Man Godfrey).
The only thing missing from that picture is the chocolate bar. I wouldn't dream of watching My Man Godfrey without a really good chocolate bar*, and many of my own favorites in the comfort scent category have gourmand elements to one degree or another (La Perla Eclix, Molinard Tendre Friandise, Serge Lutens Rahät Loukoum, The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo, Fendi Theorema) but not all foody fragrances are comfort scents (Aquolina Chocolovers doesn't qualify, nor does Parfumerie Generale Musc Maori), and not all comfort scents are foody.
I can't really define exactly what makes a comfort scent, but I know one when I see one, and Sonoma Scent Studio's Bois Épicés is most surely a comfort scent despite the lack of comfort-food notes. It is, as advertised, mostly woods and musk, and the spices, again as advertised, are subtle. It is lightly sweet, and has a mild creaminess that renders it almost edible (a milky wood pudding?) and the cedar adds a light whiff of pencil shavings in the dry down. The coffee adds a nice warmth to the finish without calling attention to itself.
Bois Épicés is undemanding, as any good comfort scent ought to be, and also entirely unisex. The Eau de Parfum, which does leave a slight oily sheen on the skin, has good lasting power but stays relatively close to the skin.
Sonoma Scent Studio recently introduced a lighter version, Bois Épicés Légère. It has more mandarin in the top notes, and the mandarin lingers much longer into the dry down, where the woods and spices are softer and more indistinct. Erickson recommends it as a "summer woodsy skin scent", and that is perfectly apt but it lacks the cozy vibe of the original, which is not heavy in any case. It is certainly worth a try if you find the "regular strength" too woody or too creamy.
Bois Épicés was apparently reformulated at some time or another, and I don't know exactly when. It is available in perfume oil ($18 for 5 ml) or Eau de Parfum ($25 for 15 ml; $39 for 30 ml). Samples are available for $2.75 each. For purchasing information, see the listing for Sonoma Scent Studio under Perfume Houses.
See also: Angela's take on comfort scents.
* My current favorite chocolate bars: Dagoba Xocolatl, Dolfin Chocolat Noir A L'Anis Vert, Chocolove Ginger Crystallized in Dark Chocolate. Extra points (a lot of good that will do you) to anyone who shares their own favorites in the comments, and extra extra points (ditto) to anyone who knows of a really perfect dark chocolate bar with orange peel.