From Big Sur down to Baja, the coast of California is filled with rolling canyons and ranches, some the size of Manhattan Island itself. These canyons and natural preserves have an unmistakable, calming aroma that come from the over 8,000 plants in the California botanical profile. At least, this is the number Obi Kaufmann gives us. Obi lives a charmed life, in our eyes – roaming with a team of mad olfactory scientists through the blooming corners of our state foraging wild ingredients for Juniper Ridge‘s small batch perfumes and incenses.
Their latest, a floral perfume oil called Green Earth Rising, is inspired by Topanga Canyon and is available for a limited time only. We asked Obi a little about what it’s like to embark on one of these foraging trips and just what he loves about it. Anyone with a special place in their heart for Big Sur, Malibu or any number of magical places along California’s wild coast will love hearing about Obi’s wild-crafting life!
The Chalkboard Mag: How did Juniper Ridge start creating scents?
Obi Kaufmann:We’re just a group of hikers and backpackers who love the outdoors and fell into perfuming almost by accident. Our products seem to resonate most with customers in urban places. In urban settings, we shut our noses down on purpose. But when you reintroduce wild fragrances to someone – it’s grounding, calming, it’s takes you somewhere. It rearranges you on the inside.
TCM: What is it that makes this area of the world such a unique resource for perfume?
OK: None of these California botanicals have been harvested by the long-standing French perfume houses. Most of the botanical growing on the California coast are unique to this area and they’ve rarely been captured.
TCM: Most of your scents are smoky, earthy or herbaceous. What’s the most floral perfume you’ve ever made?
Ok: The new perfume: Topanga Canyon, Green Earth Rising is the newest in our wilderness perfume series. It’s the most floral we’ve ever made and it’s offered based in organic jojoba oil or as a solid perfume.
TCM: Tell us about your foraged ingredients:
OK: There are about twelve plants that give this perfume it’s signature scent. Hummingbird sage, goldenbush, woolly bluecurl – flowers that grow all along the California coast from Big Sur down, but only for a about a month.
TCM: You talk about the dreamy feeling of being out in the coastal wilderness. How does Topanga Canyon, Green Earth Rising make you feel?
OK: Transcendant sunflares. Pure, dreamy California. Hiking in coastal bluffs is magical – sweet green buttery fragrance is everywhere, but it only lasts a month. There’s a specific moment were capturing here. An aromatic snapshot.
TCM: Tell us about a few of the abandoned traditional techniques and methods your teams use?
OK: We’re basically pruning giant swaths of immense ranches – the plants love us. We like to joke that no plants are harmed in the making of our fragrances. Many of the techniques we use have been abandoned by most fragrance makers. There are three methods we use. We steam distill essential oils that’s where the aromatic gold is. We infuse plants in oil, much like you would cook vegetables, and then press them in an apple press. We make tinctures, soaking botanicals in sugar cane alcohol.
TCM: Tell us more about the distiller in your photos? It’s so cool looking…
OK: This is a steam distiller converted from an old whiskey still. We shove it full of plants and flowers, percolate them, and out comes oil. After boiling the water and plants, we condense the steam back to liquid and extract the oil for our perfume from there.
TCM: What’s your fave part of a Juniper Ridge foraging trip?
OK: The quiet stillness in mountains, the deep connection with nature, carved rock swimming holes and, naturally, the scent of the sage-covered canyons.
TCM: Where can people find the limited edition wilderness perfumes?
OK: These go quick. Even though we have a ton of interesting retail partners, these batches are pretty small. Topanga Canyon will be available exclusively at juniperridge.com on May 31.