Right at the beginning Charna Ethier of Providence Perfumes gives you a clue to the kind of perfume she composes, Classic Collection, then Luxe Line, are the categories into which she divides many of her scents. The classics are the scents she has cleverly re-cast as natural perfumes, and they may strike you as familiar.
Tabac Citron certainly was. I knew that fragrance backwards and forwards. Tabac Citron is none other than Jicky in a new setting involving a little tobacco. The same coda of creamy lemony custard and tangy lavender trails past your nose as in the original. You know this perfume. Cocoa Tuberose is more of an original. CT’s the white flowered perfume you’ve always loved, but crossed with a gourmand, whereas say, Joy was all about civet and tuberose, Cocoa Tuberose is all about something you already know and love- and if you’re like me-stuff yourself with from time to time: chocolate. Both are eminently wearable and can be easier on the sinuses than the synthetic boosted Patous and Guerlains.You see Charna Ethier understands what people crave. She knows about our fondness for tea (surely you’ve noticed that perfumistas are partial to tea?) Her Osmanthus Oolong is a russet and chestnut blended mix, just a little moist, that recalls all the best Oolongs. Warm and rich on skin, OO is something that may not appeal to everyone, but if you love tea, you will fall for it.
The same kind of savvy informs her choice of jasmine in Hindu Honeysuckle. I am very fond of jasmine perfumes and always have a selection of them on hand for warm summer nights, but most of them fall into two camps, the seriously indolic or else the squeaky clean. I prefer some indole to nothing at all, but Hindu Honeysuckle does a very good job of staying right in the middle. This is a very good choice for anyone who wants a long wearing natural jasmine. I would certainly recommend it over Creed’s Jazmal these days. HH even gives Krigler’s Juicy Jasmine some real competition, and the Krigler is good.
Rose Boheme is a rich rose oud that can hold its own against many non-natural compositions- which is a major accomplishment for a perfume without synthetic bases. But-it is Samarinda that really makes me think that here is a perfumer who knows what she is doing.
Samarinda is a complicated oriental. I was confused by it at first, because I was sure that Samarinda contained some synthetic oud. However I was wrong. What had surprised me with Samarinda was Choya Nakh, the toasted seashell material that has a smokey/woody/ leathery smell. This comes after a spicy opening act of cardamom and pink pepper and rum, then a second act featuring florals with carnation, heliotrope, and orange blossom prominent in the cast. The end of Samarinda though, is as dark and complicated as anything Ibsen ever wrote. There is vanilla, and oak, and this choya nakh sending up a screen of darkness like a scrim over the action on stage.
I am still not sure whether I like Samarinda or not, but I know that this is a perfume you can spend a long time wearing and thinking about, which is more than I do with mainstream releases these days.
The prominent thing about Providence Perfumes is their grounded quality. These are earth bound fragrances for real people. They wear well on skin and have better lasting times there than most natural perfumes. Also they have a directness to them that makes them easy to understand and to love (all except Samarinda which is complex and takes time to know). Providence is a good perfume company to begin with, if you have never tried naturals before, but don’t blame me if they become a habit.
The artwork is folk quilt art from the nineteenth century, a good match for the appealing and colorful style of Charna Ethier.