Anything by Sonoma Scent Studio is as rare as a hen’s tooth over here in Europe (distribution problems) so when I got the chance to buy a decant of Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods untested, I just had to go for it. I rarely buy blind anymore, but I’m a committed fan of anything Laurie Erickson does, so I knew that the risk factor was low.
In the end, I think I’m going to have to ask one of my U.S. friends for a big (and perhaps illegal?) favor, because 4mls of this dark elixir is just not going to be enough. I need more. How much more? Technically, let’s say it has to be enough to stop those feelings of helpless rage and sorrow every time I see the level in that decant bottle dip any further.
Winter Woods goes on with a whomp-whomp of a hot, dirty castoreum note married to the cool, sticky, almost mentholated smell of fir balsam. Immediately, you are plunged deep into a dark woods at night, all around you silence and the sticky emanations of sap and balsam and gum from the trees. There is an animal panting softly nearby – you don’t see him, but you can smell his fur and his breath.
But it is warm and safe there in the woods. As a warm, cinnamon-flecked amber rises from the base and melds with the animalics and the woods, the scent becomes bathed in a toffee-colored light. There is sweetness and spice here. It smells like Christmas, and of the pleasure of breathing in icy cold air when you are wrapped up, all warm and cozy.
In the heart, a touch of birch tar adds a smoky, “blackened” Russian leather accent, and this has the effect of fusing the heavy, sweet amber with a waft of sweet incense smoke. It’s as if someone has opened a valve of SSS’s own Incense Pure in the middle of the woods – a dry, smoky outdoors incense for a pagan ceremony perhaps. I also sense some dry tobacco leaves here, reminiscent of Tabac Aurea, another SSS classic.
I love the way that the heavy layers of the fragrance – amber, woods, animalics, labdanum, and incense smoke – have been knitted together to form one big angora wool sweater of a scent. It is heavy, but smooth, and a total pleasure to wear. If I could get my hands on it, I would buy a big bottle of it in a heartbeat.
A fairy main labdanum-amber accord rich of silvan suggestions and agony. Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods succeeds where probably scents as Montale Dark Aoud, By Kilian Pure Oud or Several Abdul Samad Al Qurashi's ones partially fail, namely in the attempt to render a "dark woods-based accord" a seriously approachable averagely structured fragrance. Winter Woods stands indeed out in the goal to combine dry obscure woods in to an almost foody, subtle and averagely sophisticated amberish accord (in a way it seems to detect a richer and ticker sort of new Shiseido Feminite du Bois). The main spicy accord of resins, dry woods, oakmoss and labdanum (probably supported by dodgy fruits and floral notes included secretly in the recipe) strikes us for unparalleled balance and lightness. Labdanum is the main protagonist on the side of amber/ambergris (and probably cypriol oil) imo. Myrrh, copahu balm? Amber provides animalic powder and warmth in its visceral accord with castoreum and we can go further the sterile gloomy accord of rubber, dry-dusty spices and smoky woods we get in several unwearable (less wearable) woody-resinous modern or stark (sepulchral) blends. The woodiness is plain and "absolute" but never disturbing, straight-forward or synthetically gassy. Laurie Erickson manages indeed to appoint a romantic and almost poetic woody-musky accord projecting a complex of diverse nuances (kind of fruity-floral, burnt sugary, musky, talky-ambery, smokey, tobacco-driven, incensey and yummy-spicy). I detect cinnamon and nutmeg in the mix, perfectly combined with something kind of "red-berrish or peachy" and finally balmy-resinous. I think to catch also dried fruits and undiscerned floral elements connected with balsams and woodsy resins in a way scents a la Lutens Fille en Aiguilles seem partially to jump on mind. It seems to finally detect vetiver providing a touch of saltiness and seasoned woodiness which I get perfectly connected to ambergris and mossy-labdanum in order to provide warmth and more modern wearability and smoothness. Of course we don't have to expect a complex level of evolution; anyway the Winter Woods's quality is richness of the aroma (rich of complexity), quality of ingredients and versatility in a really romantic and surprisingly subtle-chic way (especially if this fragrance is worn by women). The final olfactory cloud is warm, kind of talky-ambery, softly musky and moderately spicy, a sort of ashtoningly smooth moody-silvan mélange full of depth, mystery and melancholia but with an irresistible grade of animalic sensuality.
A powerful boozy opening with a dark, oily, “sticky” texture; I get metallic nuances, a balsamic-resinous-woody and kind of cold note which reminds me of (a stereotyped idea of) Northern woods – like fir balsam, just “woodier” – then cloves, amber, “dark” smoked woods (birch), a thin leather accord, something like tobacco and as I said, a general and quite bold medicinal-metallic booziness all over. After a while it gets deeper and darker, more smoky and more dry, stale-indolic oak moss and castoreum echoes come in – not that dirty, but with a gloomy, moldy feel of heaviness. More then the raw, filthy skin of a sweaty beast, I think of a more general and subtle “mood”, the dark shady creepiness of a Northern wood (shortly the scent any True Norwegian Black Metaller would enjoy - by the way, fun how I get the opposite feel of Deadidol here, about coldness/warmth). All is treated “the contemporary US indie way” here: rich notes, heavy linear evolution (which means almost no evolution), general boozy darkness, thick powerful texture. Really fascinating and quite close to a couple of Slumberhouse scents, a bit too stout for my personal taste and perhaps just a bit “cliché-y” as regards of the abovementioned niche features... but surely a nice work worthy a try.
A rich, warm, amber-y labdanum bomb that simply gets everything right.
This is probably my personal favorite from the line as it maps so neatly onto the genres that I enjoy the most, but I’d begin by noting that Winter Woods is not quite as woodsy as the name infers. What you get here is a cozy oriental that veers a touch toward the liturgical in that the amber accord is neither dry nor gourmand, but closer to a resinous theme. There’s guiaic for density, cedar for texture, tar and castoreum for character, but the star is the trademark house labdanum—an accord that echoes a number of scents from the line but is fully showcased here as the scent’s nucleus.
Whereas labdanum’s usually a sticky note, sweet and turpenic in equal measure, the foundation that elevates the accord is thoughtful in that it doesn’t add extra heft; it provides the central accord the right amount of space on the main stage. To me, this scent sits somewhere between Amber Absolute, L’Air du Desert Marocain, and Interlude Man with the dry down mirroring Interlude Man to a tee.
Also echoed here is the slight smoke effect of Incense Pure and the superb burning leaves accord that’s most prominent in Fireside Intense. Winter Woods folds them together into a cozy, thermal richness that's all about comfort and nostalgia. It should be noted, however, that the name conjures up certain associations that don’t seem to materialize in the scent itself; the woody notes are pretty subdued, and it’s clearly a scent that reproduces the warmth of the indoors rather than freezing conditions. In other words, it’s the kind of thing you’d want to wear while visiting the woods in winter rather than smelling like them.
The blending, of course, is seamless; and although it’s a sweeter scent, there’s no need to put the dentist on speed dial—the sweetness is tasteful and not too caloric. The sandalwood—a material that’s prominently used in many of the house’s compositions (yet rarely make itself that apparent in the mix) is much more noticeable here, lending the fragrance a slight lactonic dimension and bolstering the overall richness of the amber.
Winter Woods doesn’t strike me as complex as some of the others in the line (although you can tell that some of the trademark OCD micro-blending is present)—it’s essentially a labdanum, sandalwood, and cedar fragrance with both resinous and sweet nuances. It doesn’t have any flashy tricks up its sleeve, nor does it pull any unusual punches, but it’s a perfectly put together comfort scent.
If you love oriental fragrances, but want to stay away from anything saccharine, this one is unmissable. It’s not the most striking scent in the line, but that doesn’t take away any of its warmth.
At the outset, l am wondering if some of SSS's scents do indeed share a similar base, as this does smell quite a bit like Champagne de Bois in its buttery, ambery sweetness. As it develops though, this takes a much more woody path, the most prominent wood being pine, with a slightly burnt aspect. lt's resinous, but still sweet. Four or five hours in, there's a little vetiver, & later on a softly animalic base of castoreum along with labdanum. Nine hours in it's faded to a skin scent.
This may not be a "wow" perfume, but it is a very pleasantly comforting scent, & aptly named. Alfarom's comparison to "your favourite brown cashmere sweater you use for winter walks" describes it perfectly.
Nice. WW has a nice forest vibe going on with cedar and a slight incense. Kind of reminds me of a gourmand at first smell (New Haarlem wooded version). This is one that I will be purchasing in the near future. 8/10.