After attending Maison 21G’s Perfume Creation Atelier, during which I customized a bottle of eau de parfum by mixing two core scents together, I left the experience with greater knowledge and interest in fragrances. Instead of reaching for the same scent every single day, I now take time to deliberate and ensure that my choice conveys my mood. And so I gladly returned to another intimate workshop held by the perfumery house for the launch of Cashmere Wood, their 35th core scent.
It was hosted by Johanna Monange, the founder and CEO of Maison 21G, who addressed the room with easy confidence. She iterated Maison 21G’s mission and explained perfumery in layman terms with vigor. In her introduction of Cashmere Wood, she likened the scent to the mossy woodiness that envelopes you the moment you step into Fontainebleau in Paris. Visiting the palace and gardens of Fontainebleau was a day trip I once considered but eventually did not make. I caught myself wishing that I had so I could imagine the immensity of the specific sensation that was described.
Johanna then delved into the unique ingredients that can be found in Cashmere Wood; we were given sampling papers doused with the scents of each individual ingredient that she introduced to us.
Some Notable Ingredients in Cashmere Wood
Vetiver Heart Oil
Distilled from the roots of the vetiver plant, it’s no wonder that the scent instantly reminded me of ginseng. After the distillation, the oil is aged for months. Johanna explains that the longer you age the oil, the more aromatic it becomes. She lapses into French, calling it incontournable, which means unmissable. To her, vetiver is an extravagant ingredient with plenty of character. It creates an iconic, smokey, and long-lasting scent, while also relaxing the user.
With a spicy-resinous scent that also possesses relaxing properties, cedarwood is a common base note for perfumes. Johanna reminds us that we might find the scent familiar if we are well-acquainted with Japanese bathhouses (which are traditionally lined with cedar) or chewing the edge of our wooden pencils since they are made of cedarwood.
Manufactured by the IFF in the late 1970s, Cashmeran® is used to amplify woody and musky facets. The chemical structure of this compound popped up on the slides that were screened during the workshop and I felt like I was back in chemistry class. My friend, Dilys, started to talk about aldehydes and proceeded to rattle off the chemical formula.
I had abandoned all my knowledge about chemistry the moment I left junior college — the term sounded more like a city more than a compound — so I could only shake my head in shame and sniff the sampling paper. We both agreed that it smelled woody, with a hint of spice.
Johanna explains that this is an important molecule that makes fragrances vibrant. It contains a slight ambergris facet. “What is ambergris?”, you may ask. We learned that it’s a substance produced by the intestines of sperm whales.
This ingredient is present in many natural products like burnt sugar and licorice and tonka, but it hardly needed any introduction because one sniff is all it takes for Dilys and me to be reminded of maple syrup.
Widely used in the flavor industry, pyrazine has a nutty profile and smells like roasted coffee and cocoa.
After being introduced to the notable ingredients in Cashmere Wood, it was time for us to pick another core scent that we liked best. The moment I smelled Cashmere Wood with honey, I declared that it was “the one”. I made the decision with blind confidence and certainty; not unlike a gamble. The staff proceeded to prepare the bottle after seeking my confirmation. I had second thoughts moments after — Cashmere Wood smelled equally alluring, if not more so, when paired with jasmine. Later, I found out that the two options that I gravitated towards were less common picks and tried to convince myself that I made the right choice. I liked both scents; I just couldn’t decide which I liked more. At the end of the night, I made peace with my decision. After all, I can always go back with my bottle when it’s time for a refill.
Dilys was deciding between bergamot and tuberose and eventually went with the latter. Somehow, the friend who accompanies me for Maison 21G’s workshops always picks tuberose as one of their scents. We were advised to avoid a light floral note since it will most likely be masked by Cashmere Wood, and so bergamot and tuberose were recommended for those who wanted a sensual and charismatic concoction. For a more (conventionally) masculine scent, tobacco and tonka were recommended.
Perhaps it’s time to address the elephant in the room. If you had paid attention to the feature image, you would have noticed that my full name is etched on the bottle, along with the words “Cashmere Wood” printed in a smaller script directly below it. One of my favorite parts of the workshop was when we discovered our full names printed on our perfume bottles, which were prepared before our arrival.
While signing up for the workshop, I entered the names you would find on our identity cards for a field that requested our full names. I was hesitant but decided that it was safer to do so in case they were needed for identification purposes. It turns out that the other attendees simply gave their first and last names. Curiously, this unintentional mistake (on my part!) and the consequent heightened degree of personalization that came with this bottle of fragrance brings to fore an unexpected satisfaction of staking a claim to my possessions.
Feature image by Sherryl Cheong
Editor’s note: For transparency sake, this review is not an advertisement; the workshop was a media preview i.e. the experience and fragrances were gifted.
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