• SumoMe

Portland General Store LisaYou may remember the name Portland General Store from some of our reviews of their stuff in the past, and they continue to do some really interesting things with all-natural ingredients. Recently, I talked with Lisa, one of the co-founders of Portland General Store, about everything from making scents to matching them. I thought she gave some valuable insight in this area, and figured it’s worth sharing.

Electrogent: How do you go about making a scent? What goes into it?

Lisa: I like to tell the story of how Whiskey came to be. Have you ever heard of “single barrel single malt” whiskey? This is whiskey drawn from a single barrel of a single batch–the choice of the discriminating drinker! These are small batches, crafted by hand, and bottled with a handwritten label. For us at Portland General Store, each object like this is a muse. When I blended the fragrance that became whiskey, I wasn’t trying to recreate the smell of whiskey, I was aiming for a complex, grounded smell.

Portland General Store WhiskeyA friend described the result: “…starts off on the earthy side, but settles into a nice smoky scent… sort of reminds me of the scent in a Catholic Church… that smoky lantern they used on certain religious occasions (dare I say it, one of those “occasions” being funerals).” This description, and the smell of this yet-unnamed scent, reminded me of some of my favorite small batch whiskeys. Hence, the name, “Whiskey”.

E: Is it possible to mix post-production smells and get something new?

L: I know some people like to do this to make their own unique scent, and have heard of one customer mixing our now discontinued “Smoke” fragrance with Bay Rum and he said his wife couldn’t keep her hands off of him! That being said, I don’t recommend it.

For me, the perfumer, the artist, it would be the same as someone mixing two of my paintings together, or even worse, painting over my painting, to create their own! Perfumers spend a great deal of time and effort to create a balanced scent. Mixing two or more fragrances together will most likely create an unbalanced scent, and ours are especially created with aromatherapy in mind, as they are all natural. If someone wants to create a new scent, my advice is that they take a class on perfumery.

E: What are some things to look out for when trying to cross brands and scents? How can I make sure my Old Spice, for instance, won’t clash with my Cologne? Are there ingredients or descriptions to look out for?

L: Great question! This is why certain products are better left unscented or very lightly scented with essential oils that also have beneficial qualities like tea trea, for example, sunscreen or facial moisturizer, which can clash with cologne. Usually body washes that have a scent, unless heavily scented with synthetic/fragrance oils, don’t last on the skin. The experience in the shower is what matters, not what remains on the skin afterwards.

Overall, I would mostly advise avoiding synthetic/fragrance oils. If one uses products scented with essential oils, they usually linger for shorter periods and don’t interfere with colognes, aftershave or cologne. Products like Old Spice, which I believe is spicy, can mix well with spicy colognes, or colognes with similar qualities. So if your aftershave is more fruity, choose a fruity cologne. But sometimes one might find a spicy aftershave mixes well with a fruity cologne, and so on! I say trial and error with such products.

E: What are some other tips for guys trying to understand colognes?

L: Again, I can’t stress enough that natural is better! If going with a cologne that has synthetic ingredients, choose one that is rich in color–that is evidence that there are a lot of essential oils in it. Ours are 100% essential oils in a base of organic alcohol, no chemicals. Another brand that I love is DS & Durga. They are not 100% natural, but they do use a lot of essential oils and you can’t really smell the synthetic ingredients, and they are unique.

I actually am a fan of Guerlain perfumes–my mother’s perfume when I was growing up. And, when I wear it to work, all the colognes and essential oils that I work with seem to mix well with my own perfume! I have to say, I often smell heavenly when I leave work! For me as a perfumer, however, my goal is to create 100% natural (Guerlain is not natural).

My thanks to Lisa for answering these questions about scents and perfumery. I hope this helps you understand how scents are made, and how to pair them with products you might already have.

Do you have any other questions for Lisa about this, or about Portland General Store? Ask her in the comments.