Hi folks - I'm Hall, the founder and main formulator at Juniper Ridge, the world's only wild fragrance company, and I'm here to answer questions about our fragrances, and hopefully strike up some interesting conversations with the folks out there who are interested in what we're up to. To answer some previous questions here - no, we never use Lavender or any off-the-shelf ingredients, all of our ingredients are wild harvested by us in the mountains. To say that we just use "trees" really simplifies what we're up to - we work with over 150 different species of wild plants, tree pitch, mushrooms, tree bark, moss and other things found hiking backcountry and we're constantly expanding our ingredients list with fun new stuff! And yes, while it's true that we're not trained perfumers, that might be a good thing! It frees us up to be mavericks and approach fragrance in a completely new way. I don't care about top notes and bottom notes, florals and chypres- I'm a hiker, and what I care about is evoking the quietness and beauty of the wild places I love so dearly - the Sierra Nevada in the late fall, the mountains above Big Sur in the height of the sage bloom season ... We have tremendous expertise in working with wild plants and can evoke real place better than anyone. Here's some background info on Juniper Ridge from a recent interview I did with one of my favorite stores in the world, Mohawk General Store in Los Angeles ...
How are materials important in making your products?
Our materials are everything to us. They're not just important to our products, they are our products. We create our fragrances by spending months in the backcountry, drinking beer, and crawling around like squirrels, smelling all the plants and dirt so we can bring you the real feel of the real place.
Plants and wilderness are the spiritual core of Juniper Ridge. When I'm struggling or feeling lost, I hit the trail and am reminded of the bigger thing: wildness itself. That’s the thread I’ve followed my whole life—in business, in my free time, with my family—and it’s the thing that always sets me right again. I think everyone needs to be part of something bigger than themselves to tame the anxieties and feel whole again. I’m sure religion does that for some folks. Wilderness is my church and the trail is my ritual.
What’s the Juniper Ridge philosophy of materials?
To keep it simple: we only use the real stuff. You can’t buy our materials or fragrance ingredients anywhere because nobody does what we do, and no one works with the plants we work with. I’d never substitute European sage oil—which I could buy for cheap cheap cheap since it comes from huge farms in Mexico—for our local wild sages because they smell completely different. The only way to capture Big Sur in a bottle is to go there, put your hiking boots on, collect plants, and make it yourself.
Is the way your raw materials are collected part of what makes them special?
Yes! We wildcraft our ingredients, which means we travel to our favorite wilderness areas, harvest plants there, and distill them into fragrances. Sometimes we even distill the fragrance on the road in our converted whiskey still. That’s crazy! No one else in the world is making fragrance this way and probably for good reason—it’s a questionable business model :D But it’s so beautiful—we’re the world’s only wild fragrance company!
What special relationships are there between scent and materials? Is there a special connection to memory?
People think of fragrance as being a shallow experience that just happens in our nose. It’s so much richer than that! Smell is the oldest of our senses. It bypasses reason and goes straight to the ancient parts of our brains—right to our emotions. Until really recently in our evolutionary history, we depended on our sense of smell and wild plants for our day-to-day survival. So it's no surprise that we have deep faculties for interacting with nature through our noses, even those faculties are laying dormant inside of us.
Real, place-based fragrance—the kind that comes from plants, trees, moss, and bark—rearranges your insides, it brings up emotions, transports you to the stillness of the outdoors, and in general does complex shit to us that we’ll never understand.
You don’t have to buy our products to experience this. Your body is aching to interact with plants and nature—it’s in your DNA. So go hit the trail, crush pine needles and breath it in, crawl around in the bushes and smell the earth! Don’t be embarrassed! It’s your heritage as a human, this is your home.
If you had to pick one essential material what would it be?
That’s the same thing as asking me to pick my favorite place! Damn you for Sophie’s Choicing me! Alright how about this, I’ll pick two. I grew up in Portland and spent my summers camping and hiking around Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson, so I love our Cascade Glacier fragrance because it smells just like summer in the Cascades—pure fir, pine, and high alpine meadows. And then I spent a big chunk of my 20s backpacking around the Mojave Desert, which is captured beautifully in our Inyo fragrance. The piñon/juniper woodlands of the Mojave are incredible. Between the two, I guess I’d have to say that I love Inyo just a tad more—it’s complex, weird, and difficult…so many layers to that one. If Cascade Glacier represents me as a kid, Inyo is me now—weird and difficult!
Edited by Juniperridge - 6/10/13 at 7:13am