The natural perfumery/botanical perfumery world continues to be a rich and lively source for new solid fragrances. I’ve covered many such brands on the blog and also in my time at Fragrantica, and I have observed that many natural perfumers found their way to the art after an initial foray into herbalism or aromatherapy. No doubt those practices would enhance a natural perfumer’s knowledge of materials, and arguably the practices can complement each other in the creation of a final product, but there’s a big difference between aromatherapy and perfumery. Aromatherapy blends sometimes smell pleasant but more often have a strong medicinal aroma and generally lack the subtle facets and layers found in the best perfumes. Above all, the goals of the two practices are completely different–health and healing vs. artistry and pleasure. The perfumer behind Meet the Herb Halfway, Katherine Clancy, wrote a nice blog post that further discusses the differences between the two.
Katherine came to perfumery from aromatherapy, having pursued aromatherapy certification from the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) as part of her efforts to restore her own health and vitality. Her experience of relief with the aid of healing botanicals led to the launch of her award-winning perfumery (Best Botanical Perfumer 2022 —LUX Beauty and Wellness Awards) where she creates what she describes as “intuitive botanical blends for your luxurious wellness.” Katherine is also a university professor of environmental sciences, a yoga instructor and the mother of a young daughter. In Meet the Herb Halfway, I sense the synergy of all of these practices. There’s a respect for nature and the raw materials at hand, a dash of curiosity and wonder, and a wish for both beauty and well-being. Such stuff makes for delightful perfumes!
I purchased samples of 1000 Paper Cranes, Candlelight Hike and Black Chypre. Katherine generously included samples of Tuberose and Tonka and Verdant Violet with my order. I liked one of these five scents so much that I purchased a full size of it, and with my order, Katherine sent additional samples–Magnolia, Two Jasmines, Frankly Lavender, and her two newest releases, Chocolate Garden and Evening Song. (Some of the scents in the collection are seasonal blends that may already be gone for the year or will soon sell out, but they’ll be restocked at a future date. As always, follow the brand on social media or sign up for their mailing list/newsletter to keep up with the latest products and events.)
Descriptions of Each Scent from the Brand‘s Website
1000 Paper Cranes: “1000 Paper Cranes is our signature blend. It is a wellness luxury crossover. The inspiration behind this blend comes from both our experience as an aromatherapist and knowledge of perfume history. Napoleon was said to credit his well-being with a cologne composed of rosemary verbena…. We use an aromatic blend of bergamot, mandarin, and lemon to highlight the lemony notes in the rosemary verbena. Cypress, Cedarwood. and Amyris provide the centering woody base.”
Black Chypre: “[Chypre] (pronounced SHEEP-RA) is a classic type of perfume made popular in the 1930s. This blend brings back that vintage fragrance with some notable updates including a carnation middle…. A rare find in botanical and natural perfumes, our musky base note is carefully constructed by layering house infused labdanum resin with essential oils and absolutes.”
Candlelight Hike: “This perfume is inspired by our nature reserve’s candlelight hike. It occurs right around Halloween. Freshly cut pumpkins with candles and tiki torches light up the lake. It’s brisk weather, so we bring ginger spice tea on the hike. The citrus ginger aroma from the warm tea mingled with the wet mulch and evergreens was such a memorable fragrance. “
Chocolate Garden: “Mornings in my house are spent drinking Jasmine green tea while my daughter likes bitter hot cocoa. The aroma together is incredibly pleasant. To achieve the fragrance in our perfume, we layer bitter cocoa absolute with cocoa butter and jasmine. We wanted a top note that stayed true to the bitter cocoa, so we naturally thought of bitter orange…. The blend is accented with myrrh and cardamon adding richness and a little surprise to the blend’s harmony. A ‘petit cadeau’ in this blend includes butter essential oil, which lends its silkiness to harmonize the blend.”
Evening Song: “This blend begins nearly six months in advance. We infused Frankincense made from the top tier of Frankincense resins (Mushat) and the finest myrrh resins in oil. We layer this fragrance with artisan small batch Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils. Top notes of juniper and bay and oakmoss and vetiver provide the base of our blend. We include Copaiba and Turmeric for their fixative properties…. they provide only a subtle earthy fragrance. “
Frankly Lavender: “House made frankincense-infused oil layered with frankincense essential oil, lavender direct from Bulgaria (produced farm to bottle)…. Frankly Lavender is our twist on a classic Fougere using frankincense instead of oakmoss. “
Magnolia: “Magnolia absolute derived from the flower is combined with the green notes from the branches and leaves. Magnolia flowers have a green top note, the beautiful sweet floral middle note, and a hay base note, so it is a complete perfume all on its own. “
Tuberose and Tonka: “Tuberose is a complex floral that blooms at the end of summer in Mexico. Tonka is often described as vanilla like, but it is more like a hay, cinnamon, almond blend. To obtain the prohibitively expensive tonka butter, we grind up tonka beans, gently heat and agitate them, and then separate the shell fragments from the gorgeous fragrant butter. Imagine you are baking marzipan in a field of hay and green flowers!”
Two Jasmines: “We celebrate the intoxicating Jasmine by blending its floral absolute (Jasmine Jasminum grandiflorum) with the greener Jasmine Sambac absolute.”
Verdant Violet: “This blend evokes oracle owls, forest trolls, and fairy rings. It is a deeply rich green scent with woody undertones. The violet leaf is balanced by the soft herbaceous floral notes of lavender. We enhance the blend with the woody tones of rich cedarwood. For a top note we wanted to keep the blend lush and green, so we added galbanum. The result is a clean gorgeous green note that has a woody balsamic drydown.”
A Quick Overview of Each Scent
The solids came in 3 ml plastic pots with screw-top lids. Each was housed in a sealed paper envelope with a colorful label on the front and a second label listing the full ingredients on the back. (They were nice and crisp when they arrived. Mine have wrinkled with repeated handling.) All of the fragrances are in a base of organic jojoba oil and locally-sourced Wisconsin beeswax. All are fragrances that can be worn by any gender.
Tuberose and Tonka is the sweetest scent, though far less sugary than a typical designer or mainstream fragrance release. The scent is a complex floral gourmand that spins through creamy, sweet, floral and green aspects. Tonka is a popular note in perfumery right now and this is a stunning example of it. Alongside the tuberose, this fragrance combines two of my favorite notes in perfumery and it was an instant love. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser as well.
Black Chypre has a touch of sweetness, but it’s the sweetness of tobacco and spices, like the perfumes your mother or grandmother wore in the 1980s. I love an old school chypre and had/have a large number of them in my collection of alcohol-based perfumes: Ma Griffe, Cabochard, Scherrer, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Mitsouko… I haven’t found many solid perfumes in this category and was delighted to come across this one, which recalls everything I love about those old perfumes (and by old, I mean introduced many years ago) in my list, but in a fresh-smelling modern format.
Despite the “chocolate” in the name, Chocolate Garden is not an especially sweet fragrance, though it is a gourmand. Not all gourmands are sweet! This will bring to mind one of those super dark 85% cacao chocolate bars more than Hershey’s or Cadbury. It beautifully encapsulates the bitterness and black-licorice aspects of raw cocoa powder, then gives them a funky twist with a skanky, indolic jasmine note. Tart orange, powdery myrrh and subtle spices make for a complex and intoxicating blend.
If you dislike sweet or “foodie” fragrances, the next few fragrances may be more your speed.
Candlelight Hike goes on with a pronounced fresh ginger aroma, enhanced with zingy lemon tones. There’s no sweetness here at all and the fragrance eventually winds down to prickly vetiver and dry woody notes. This is an energizing and invigorating blend that would be perfect for work or anytime you need a little pick-me-up.
Frankly Lavender is another scent that’s perfect for the office. Or anytime, really. Lavender is an almost-universally beloved fragrance, and this is a safe blind buy if you enjoy lavender or want to buy it as a gift for someone who does. The herbal tones of the lavender are punched up with marjoram and vetiver, and the scent is complemented by the subtle smoke of frankincense.
Violet fragrances come in two varieties–pastille candy violet or woody-aromatic violet. The name is a giveaway here–Verdant Violet is wonderfully green and earthy, its foresty aromas enhanced by mugwort and cedar and a touch of lavender. I find that I’m ready for a good violet fragrance towards the end of each winter and I usually mark the change of season by seeking out violet scents and samples. I’ve already got a little violet blog post in the works for next spring, and I’ll definitely explore this one in more depth for that post.
1000 Paper Cranes is dominated by woody notes, cedar in particular, but it’s lovingly shrouded in a cloud of citrus and spices. It’s a very subtle fragrance that smells soft, clean and comforting–almost a spa-like aroma. It’s pleasant and inoffensive and seems like it would be a great fragrance for winding down after a stressful day, or for bedtime. I will save this one for “me time” rather than wearing it to work or for an evening out.
Evening Song is another fragrance that I would save for personal time. If you’re unfamiliar with the scents of true frankincense and myrrh, there are beautiful examples of both in this fragrance and it’s a great scent for exploring them. I find it a bit church-y and incense-y for wearing to the office on its own. (Your milage may vary and certainly, it’s subtle enough in the solid format that you won’t disturb anybody.) It’s a deep, contemplative aroma that merits your full attention, free from Zoom calls and a constant stream of emails. It would be great for meditation, yoga practice or Netflix-and-chilling with your loved ones.
Magnolia and Two Jasmines are soliflores, but “soliflore” doesn’t necessary mean single ingredient. These two are less complex than the fragrances mentioned above, but both are lovely in their own right and layer beautifully with other scents from Meet the Herb Halfway or with any other scents in your collection.
The brand’s description of Magnolia is spot-on, and I don’t have much to add here. This is a beautiful floral scent that’s perfect for any time of year. Fans of the Magnolia tree would appreciate this one and it really encapsulates the entire experience of the tree in full bloom. It also layers beautifully with several other scents in the collection, including Two Jasmines. You can use it to add a fresh floral note to any other fragrance.
Two Jasmines is a gorgeous indolic jasmine. If you’ve never smelled true natural jasmine aroma, it can be a bit shocking first. The “sanitized” versions of jasmine that are often utilized in feminine fragrances like Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb emphasize only the sweet and pretty aspects, but botanical jasmine absolute is a complex aroma that includes flowery facets, sweet fruity bits…and also touches of stinky cheese and animalic or “skanky” tones (some describe it as dirty underwear, some describe it as almost fecal). Re-reading that, I realize I’ve made it sound unpleasant, but let me reassure you: as a whole, it truly is a pleasant and addictive aroma and once you’ve tried the good stuff, you won’t go back! Two Jasmines include both varieties of jasmine absolute–grandiflorum (pretty skanky) and sambac (less skanky), each of which smells unique and the two together complement each other. The flowery aspects of the two jasmine components are enhanced with a little mimosa. Jasmine lovers will enjoy this one solo and it’s nice for layering with Chocolate Garden and Evening Song.
Black Chypre and Tuberose and Tonka are the loudest scents of the group. Both go on with moderate sillage that settles in an hour or so to intimate. 1000 Paper Cranes is the softest, starting at intimate sillage and fading to a skin scent in a couple hours. The others fall somewhere in the middle.
Black Chypre was also the longest lasting on skin. I get about six hours out of it, seven under clothing. The others shake out in the 2–4-hour range, which is the typical performance for a natural solid perfume.
There are no scents in the collection that I dislike, and several that I love, but Black Chypre in particular struck a chord with me and I’ve purchased it in the 25 ml size. I look forward to sharing more pictures and the full fragrance experience in an upcoming Swipes review.
In the meantime, if you’re intrigued, please check out the fragrances on the official website of Meet the Herb Halfway. The samples are small enough to tuck easily into a pocket or purse for reapplication as needed. Samples run $6 to $7 each, with full size fragrances run $36 to $55, depending on the fragrance. These would be perfect as gifts, stocking stuffers, tucked into an Advent Calendar (a brilliant suggestion depicted by the brand on its Instagram), for slipping into a purse or suitcase for travel, etc.
Thank you to Meet the Herb Halfway for including the gifted samples with my two purchases!
All images by me.