Fabrice Croisé on Scents of Wood. Inspired by forests, aged in vintage barrels.
Inspired by his love of forests, perfume industry veteran Fabrice Croisé created Scents of Wood, an exciting emergent fragrance house that celebrates wood in all of its fragrant splendor. Each scent uses organic cane alcohol aged in a different pre-used wooden barrel — infusing them with aspects of real wood, and sometimes even a hint of maple syrup or a waft of whiskey.
And this inventive strategy has paid off. Not only are the eau de parfums irreplicable, but top seller Plum in Cognac took home the 2021 Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year Award.
Fabrice grew up in Provence, France and built a career in luxury fragrance development and marketing for notable companies such as L'Oréal. After leaving the mainstream to launch a perfume collection with famed florist Eric Buterbaugh, Fabrice began his new chapter as a passionate niche perfume entrepreneur.
Now based in a small mountain town in Utah where days off are spent skiing and hiking, Fabrice turned his attention to the forest and the wonderful olfactory world of woods. Here, Fabrice answers our questions about his journey in perfume and the beautiful Scents of Wood collection…
Q. How did you first come up with the idea of creating an entire brand dedicated to woods?
A. I have always spent time in the company of trees. My brother and I used to build treehouses in an old oak tree at my parents’ country house in the South of France. “Treehouses”, plural, because we would take them apart and rebuild them better and bigger (or so we imagined) over and over endlessly. I have been in the fragrance industry for almost 30 years now and, in a way, I have been carrying this project in me the whole time.
Q. The brand has three different names (see below), why did you choose this approach?
ShinrinYoku: a Japanese term that loosely translates to “Forest Bathing”
L’Âme du Bois: the brand’s French name, meaning “Soul of Wood”
Scents of Wood: the final output of the maker’s labor of love
A. I felt that combining different names in different languages was richer and more powerful. I think words in general (and brand names in particular) have power. Not only do they tell a story but they actually have manifestation power over the mind and the world.
As to why I chose those three terms, the reason is simple. I am French, I live here in the US and I am in love with Japan. But we will not stop at those three languages. I want to add new names - and new meanings – to our brand as we grow and expand to new countries.
Q. You use a process we haven’t heard of in perfumery before — aging the alcohol in previously-used wooden barrels. Can you tell us more about this process and why you chose it?
A. From the project inception, we wanted to infuse wood into every aspect of our scents and to do so, we started looking into the fundamental composition of a typical fragrance. Fragrances are essentially solutions (of various concentrations) of essential oils in alcohol. The more pure and clean the alcohol, the less it interferes with the scent creation. Which is why perfumers have used ethanol since the rise of modern perfumery more than 125 years ago. But we thought, maybe it didn’t have to be that way forever?
We asked ourselves what would happen if the alcohol wasn’t an invisible part of the composition but one more ingredient in the perfumer’s palette. We wondered if different scents would react better, thus requiring different types of alcohol. If the alcohol could add to the scent, make the scent ‘more’ in some way. Alcohol with benefits, if you will.
And so we started collecting wooden barrels whenever we came across them. From Scotland to Kentucky to Cognac. Vintage barrels that had given life to spirits many times over. And new barrels that had yet to age anything, but whose wood had already lived a lifetime in a forest somewhere.
We aged organic alcohol in our barrels and compared the effects. The impact of the barrels on the alcohol itself was rich, deep, intriguing. Adding the aged alcohol to scents created a similarly intriguing effect.
It didn’t take long to convince the perfumers that we had found a new way to formulate scents.
As of today, we have been experimenting with 9 types of barrels:
American Oak • French Oak • Acacia • Chestnut • Vintage Cognac • Vintage Maple • Hinoki • Vintage Rye • Vintage Calvados
Q. You’ve said that forests make us fall in love with nature and the universe. How has this happened for you personally?
A. It happens all the time. Every time I go hiking, skiing or mountain biking in the forests near my home in the mountains of Utah, I get this sense of awe, this inspiration. Forests are the realm of unrestricted imagination.
Q. We’d love to hear a bit about your history in fragrance — how did you start out and grow in the field?
A. I started my career at Lancôme, where I worked on fragrance development for 7 years. Then I worked for an agency that specialized in perfume strategy and communication for 16 years. Then I created my first brand, EB Florals, in 2014 and sold my share in it in 2018. Then I created Scents of Wood.
Q. How do you select specific perfumers to collaborate with for Scents of Wood?
A. First, I chose a fragrance house as a partner — IFF is one of the largest fragrance and flavor companies in the world. Their Fine Fragrance Department employs some of the greatest perfumers alive today. I am so blessed and grateful I get to work with them. Now, as to which ones I get to collaborate with, I am totally open to any idea, coming from any perfumer at IFF. Of course, as time passes some perfumers, like Pascal Gaurin, are becoming more emblematic of Scents of Wood.
Q. How would you describe your role as the brand creator?
A. I see myself as a gallerist of sorts. Except the art that I create with the perfumers doesn’t hang on walls, it is worn on the skin.
Q. Does each perfumer have a unique fragrance development process?
A. Their creative process post-brief is their own private garden and I do not pretend to know what happens in their minds outside of our conversations. But the brief I use on Scents of Wood is always the same. I ask them to close their eyes and remember the trees that played a role in their lives. Like that oak that hosted my childhood’s treehouses.
Everyone has trees meshed into the story of their lives. I call it a “personal forest”. Then I ask them to describe those trees and we start from there. I think that might be the reason why our scents resonate so much with our customers: they are anchored in emotion and memory.
Q. At what point in your career did you know you would dedicate your life to creating perfume?
A. I have never worked in any other field in my life. 😊
Q. Why did you choose to transition from a more traditional fragrance industry career into the niche world?
A. It happened organically. As a brand founder, if you aim to create something new in the fragrance category, it makes sense to work in an environment where gender is not a constraint, advertising budget is not a driver and focus groups are not a necessity.
Q. What do you see as the role of niche/indie brands in the fragrance category?
Q. Which Scents of Woods fragrances do you wear yourself, and for what occasions?
A. We are constantly developing new scents and trying new accords so that is what I wear every day. Very rarely do I get to wear (and enjoy) our work when it’s finished.
Q. Are there specific wood notes you gravitate towards personally?
A. As naturals, cedarwood and oak. As synthetics, cashmeran and amberwood.
Q. Any exciting upcoming Scents of Wood releases you can tell us about?
A. Our third collection, which opens in September, is going to be full of wonderful surprises but before we get there, we have amazing scents to unveil as part of our second collection, starting with the most delicate balance between vetiver and lilac ( in May) and a delightful take on hazelnut (in July).