Anatomy of a scent: Firewater
Welcome to Anatomy of a Scent, a series where in-house master perfumer Euan McCall dissects much-loved scents from our collection of unique Scottish fragrances to reveal their inner workings. This time we're looking at Firewater Extrait de Parfum, a beachy, smoky citrus perfume with birch, ginger, peat and kelp.
Black Tea, Juniper Berry, Nettle, Grapefruit, Beardtongue, Osmanthus Absolute, Ginger, Bracken, Larch.
Birchwood, Sugar Kelp, Guaiacwood, Vetiver, Oakwood, Benzoin, Labdanum Absolute, Peat.
Sweet orange + Methyl pamplemousse + Juniper berry = saline citrus char
Where to start with Firewater?! The bracing opening of this unique citrus fragrance is arresting to say the least – a rush of fresh smoke, intense citrus char, piquant sweetness and a coastal tang.
A rich citrus sensation with a saline bite was needed to temper the intense and crucial smokiness in Firewater. I find a beautiful synergy between orange extracts and smoky materials, they somehow unite and make each of the singular materials sing in a new and unique way. Bitter orange with a tiny touch of birch, sweet orange with a splash of cade, petitgrain and guaiacwood, all sublime!
Methyl Pamplemousse is a material with puckering grapefruit character and an earthy vetiver back note with shades of gardenia in bud and hints of rhubarb stalks. It’s totally versatile and can be used in any style of perfume to some degree. For as much as I adore Methyl Pamplemousse, I have not used it prolifically in Jorum Studio perfumes to date, only small amounts here and there. You will find a more prominent amount in Firewater where it adds a salty tanginess in the opening of the perfume and helps support the later stage vetiver note.
Adding a wee touch of juniper berry oil provides a botanical sweetness on the opening as well as boosting the freshness to push through the smoke.
Osmanthus absolute + rose absolute + geranium bourbon = smouldering flowers on a bed of fire
Adding some inner glow, a trio of florals were deployed to create this smouldering quality. I was inspired by a beach bonfire that I experienced in my youth, the fire built using old and dry gorse branches and a bush with what I assumed were roses padding out the heart of the fire. As the fire roared the sweet, apricot, waxen and leathery flower aroma emitted and the floral inferno burned into my memory. My first experience smelling osmanthus absolute took me right back to that spot.
When creating Firewater, I wanted to explore this – resulting in an interesting use of osmanthus absolute as a central theme. Incendiary amounts of rose absolute and the finest possible bourbon geranium add a three dimensional flower fire atmosphere.
Birch + Guaiacwood + Vetiveryl Acetate = peat smoke
Peat is an interesting resource. It’s used as fuel across remote parts of Scotland and the Hebridean islands, most notably in the production of Islay and Island whisky of coastal production. The peat adds an intense smoky aroma and oily mouthfeel to the whisky of those regions, usually accompanied by a distinct maritime quality.
There is a medicinal cresol-like facet found in peat and pyro-produced materials that I personally find very pleasing and oddly comforting. Peatlands are now known to be very important for biodiversity and there is a lot of work being done across the peat lands of Scotland that will be crucial for our future.
I used birch and guaiacwood oils to help create the bed for this peaty aroma with a large amount of vetiveryl acetate to add glossy shimmer and rooty radiance to the profile. I find that vetiveryl acetate is a key material when you wish to add an authentic natural vetiver note however wish to avoid adding any of the smoked root character inherent of vetiver oil in said composition.
Firewater is an experience: embrace it, don’t dismiss it at first inhale. Firewater quickly settles into a very conservative amber-type perfume. In the middle stages of its development, when the osmanthus pushes through, the smoke rises higher and the citrus burns off a little, the profile registers authentically as a smouldering Bakhoor experience to me.
Try it, you might fall in love!