Notes on Notes: Oakmoss

Notes on Notes: Oakmoss

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy, healthy 2023! This year brings a new collaboration between me and Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies (and other sites as a regular guest blogger). Actually, it’s TWO new collaborations. The first is called “Notes on Notes”; Portia and I agree on a fragrance note we’d like to write about, and we’ll post our “notes” about it on the first Monday of each month, referring to a few specific fragrances. The second project is called “Counterpoint”; we’ll agree on a fragrance, and “interview” ourselves about it, seeing where our experiences coincide and where they differ.

I’m excited about these collaborations – I had such fun doing “Scent Semantics” with Portia and several other bloggers in 2022. I hope many of you will jump in and add your own observations and comments!

The first “Notes on Notes” is about oakmoss.

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Scented Advent, December 12

The independent perfumer Advent sample of the day is Hiram Green’s Arcadia. Wowza! It is classified as an “aromatic fougère”, and it has a great opening, top-heavy with lavender and bergamot. As they settle down, the bergamot recedes but the lavender stays strong, joined and made more floral by the arrival of jasmine and rose accords. The notes list from the brand’s website is: Bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rose, spices, resins, tonka bean, aged patchouli, New Caledonian sandalwood. Hiram Green, who is a natural perfumer, also lists the actual ingredients, which include evernia prunastri extract, which is oakmoss. Be still, my heart! I love oakmoss in fragrances. Mr. Green says this about the fragrance, which he launched this year (2022):

For this perfume I was inspired by the natural splendour of Arcadia. In this idyllic, unspoiled wilderness babbling brooks meander through mountains covered in dense forests and the air is filled with the sound of humming insects and twittering birds.

Imagine the lush undergrowth that covers the forest floor. In areas where the sun manages to break through the canopy, fragrant flowers bask in the sunlight and their sweet scent intertwines with the fresh green smell of the foliage.

The base notes blend beautifully together. The spices are pretty subtle — definitely noticeable, but they don’t hit you over the head (or nose). Resins, tonka bean, and sandalwood provide warmth, and patchouli and oakmoss hum underneath. The drydown stage is where I think Arcadia smells most like a traditionally masculine fragrance, with the lavender still evident over those warm base notes. There’s a light dustiness to this stage, possibly from the oakmoss, that makes me think of motes of sunlight floating through the sunbeams that shine through Mr. Green’s Arcadian forest.

In fact, the whole fragrance makes me think of a particular forest: Ashdown Forest in England, famous not only for its woodland beauty but also as the landscape of Christopher Robin’s childhood idyll, the Hundred Acre Wood he shared with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Arcadia, indeed!

Sunlit woodland path in Ashdown Forest
Sunlight in Ashdown Forest, England; image from ashdownforest.com.

I’ve never been there, but I loved A.A. Milne’s books as a child; in fact, “Winnie-the-Pooh” was the first book I read by myself, shocking my parents at the age of four when I pointed to it and said, “I can wead that book.” And so I could, having taught myself to read, although I couldn’t pronounce Rs very well. One of my late mother’s cousins actually illustrated Christopher Milne’s memoir “The Path Through the Trees”.

I’m delighted with Mr. Green’s version of Arcadia and will put it on my “possible full bottle some day” list. Have you tried any of Hiram Green’s fragrances? Any favorites?