[Trygve] Harris first came to Oman in 2006 to source frankincense for her aromatic essential oil store in New York. “But even in Oman, I could only get Somalia oil, not higher-quality Omani oil. Nobody was distilling it for sale back then. Not even Amouage!” she recalled, speaking of Oman’s top perfume company, which specialises in producing luxury frankincense fragrances (a 100ml bottle of Amouage perfume with frankincense base notes costs £283).
In 2011, she relocated to Salalah, Dhofar’s capital, and set up Enfleurage.
The vials on the display rack bear curious labels like Rose Otto and Osmanthus Absolute. If you ask about them, you are likely to get some fascinating back story. The lavender, for instance, which boasts 1,200 natural compounds, is harvested in the Alps by delinquent French teenagers from Nice who are sent to the floral farm for emotional healing.
— The New York Times checks out Manhattan boutique Enfleurage, which specializes in aromatic materials. Read more at The Sweet Smell of Osmanthus Absolute (and see Alyssa's interview with the owner, part 1 and part 2, or Jessica's review of a few of their finished fragrance blends).
Was it really six years ago that I wrote a shopping report about Enfleurage, New York’s most specialized purveyor of natural aromatics? Yes, apparently. The boutique has since moved to a new address (237 West 13 Street, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood) but its staggering selection of essential oils and natural incenses remains unchanged. I still sniff individual oils during each of my visits, but I’m also very fond of Enfleurage’s “house blends.” They’re available as concentrated oils and as “roll-ons to go,” diluted in a base of organic jojoba oil for ready-to-wear use.
My favorite house blend is Sanctuary, a blend of ylang ylang, chamomile, patchouli, clary sage and black pepper…
I first came across perfumer Dabney Rose on Twitter where her lyrical tweets about the plants in her greenhouse and gorgeous photographs of harvested flowers add a quiet loveliness to the ongoing chatter. Rose specializes in “flower waters,” or hydrosols, the fragrant distilled water created by steaming or boiling fragrant plants and flowers — she uses a pressure cooker rather than an alembic — and “flower crèmes,” buttery solids produced by enfleurage, the practice of laying blossoms on top of solid fat until it is impregnated with scent.
Like the blossoms they come from, flower waters and crèmes are fragile and ephemeral — most hydrosols will turn within six months — but their scents can be hauntingly true-to-life. When I rub Rose’s hyacinth crème into my skin, what I smell is not perfume, or even the heady indoor scent of potted bulbs, but a growing hyacinth flower wafting from across a sunny yard. It’s an uncanny experience, almost a visitation, and it feels right for the scent to fade after barely an hour.
I wanted to know more about the creator of this beauty, so I emailed Rose some questions…
In Part 2 of her interview, Enfleurage owner Trygve Harris discusses the ethics of sourcing agarwood, the challenges of pleasures of living in Oman, and her modern enfleurage project in Colombia. You can find Part 1 here.
In your FAQ and articles on the Enfleurage website, you make it clear that the aromatics trade is politically and ethically complex. It’s sometimes difficult to tell where exactly something is coming from, and you often deal with regions that are rife with conflict. Can you talk about a difficulty you’ve faced?
Yeah, I’ve gotten pretty cynical over the years, whether it’s finding what “organic” might mean in Nepal, or just being in New York. You might find that everyone is screaming “endangered species” just because everyone else is, or that we all accept a line of BS just because we want to. Sometimes you have to keep looking and follow your hunch.
I am probably best known for agarwood. It was (and still is) on all the lists, as endangered and overharvested etc. Believe me it was weird to be on the other side of the environmental argument. It was not comfortable at all. I don’t know that we all resolved it to mutual satisfaction as I still hear all about this “sustainable harvest” oil, but it’s very complex.
My argument was basically that we are losing the forests of SE Asia despite, not because of agarwood, although the wild supply in Laos is pretty well finished…