For several months now, we have been exploring the 4 corners of the earth to decipher the traditions and fragrant ingredients of (almost) the entire planet. After our last exotic stopover in Oceania, we want to take you on a journey to discover perfume of North America. If at first glance, North American perfumery does not seem very different from European customs, you will realize that its history is quite different. Androgynous or with an exacerbated sexuality, perfumery made in America has marked its time and has shaken up the codes of perfumery over the last 50 years.
On the road of perfume of North America
Landscapes with a thousand facets
North America is a sub-continent of America, which can be considered a full-fledged continent in view of its surface. It counts several countries including the United States, Canada and Greenland. From Niagara Falls to the White Sands Desert in New Mexico and the arid lands of Monument Valley, North America has a multitude of faces, climates, and plant species that are far from all exploited. The North American ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world. A true natural wealth that has inspired perfumers for many years.
An olfactory and gustatory journey
Our olfactory journey to discover the perfume of North America begins with the powerful scent of a slightly chemical cinnamon. Cinnamon rolls, chewing gum and even potpourri to perfume shops: this spice is everywhere! Americans love it so much that they put it everywhere, in desserts, in their homes or as a topping on their coffee! Far from these sweet smells, the journey continues on the beaches of the West Coast. The sea breeze from the warm Californian soil mixes with the aniseed and woody scent of giant sequoia.
Always guided by our nose, we continue to discover the perfume of North America in Canada. In the Canadian forest, each tree is told through a scent. At the bend of a lake, we enter a sugar shack, where the warm and comforting scent of maple syrup emanates. It is impossible not to taste the maple taffy, a deliciously sweet lollipop created when the warm syrup is placed on the snow.
We end this journey with an acid and citrusy note in Orlando’s orange farms. Oranges, grapefruits or kumquats, you will find all kinds of citrus fruits in Florida.
The use of perfume in North America
The birth of American perfumery
From bling-bling to very pure, the perfume of North America has known all extremes! Yet the history of American perfumery is very recent, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, French perfume was the height of refinement and elegance. Americans women only have eyes (and noses) for Gabrielle Chanel and her audacious creations, which according to them, represent absolute luxury and the image of a liberated woman. If the Hollywood dream and its seductive actresses inspired French perfumers as early as the 1930s, it was not until the 1950s that American perfumery began to emancipate itself from its Parisian cousin. In addition to emancipation, perfumers were about to really shake up the codes established up until then.
The forerunner of North American perfume
This is how Youth Dew, by Estée Lauder, was born in 1952. It is a perfumed bath oil, originally 70% concentrated, a record! This fragrance contrasts with the floral lightness of European fragrances. It is powerful, even exuberant, with its warm and spicy oriental notes. Facing its big success, it quickly became a perfume in its own right. This precursor will then pave the way for other great successes made in the USA, such as Giorgio Beverly Hills, where white flowers make a show of strength. These first fragrances did not hesitate to display their richness and opulence, in the image of a well-to-do class that liked to perfume itself and show off.
In the late 1980s, with the ravages of AIDS, there was a significant change of direction. Perfume houses are moving towards much sweeter, floral juices that are in keeping with traditional and puritan values. It is also the beginning of unisex fragrances with Calvin Klein’s CK One that will mark a whole generation. The fragrance becomes pure, clean, minimalist. Today, as in Europe, the perfume of North America offer is extremely wide and suits all olfactory profiles.
Fragrance-free in North America
Whether in Canada or the United States, more and more cities are banning citizens from wearing perfume by creating fragrance-free zones. Some theatres clearly display their “fragrance-free” policy on their front doors, which prohibits you from wearing any eau de Cologne or eau de toilette. The same restrictions are found on Ottawa’s public transport system, which reminds riders: “Keep our buses scent-free – please do not wear strong perfume or cologne”. In order not to overload the ambient air, perfume is therefore prohibited. We tend to find that very sad… And you, how do you feel about it?
Emblematic raw materials
If perfume of North Amercia is largely inspired by its French cousin, the fact remains that these vast lands are home to highly appreciated fragrant raw materials. Widely used in the world of modern perfumery, most of these ingredients are still grown in North America.
Virginia cedar, or red cedar, is a conifer native to the United States and is found in several regions of North America. Various varieties of cedar are used in perfumery. In particular, we find the cedar of Viriginia (juniperus virina), whose odor is powerful but very sweet and refined. Perfumers can also use Texas cedar (juniperus mixacana), also grown in the United States, whose olfactory profile is similar to red cedar. Cedar possesses dry, resinous notes, reminiscent of the smell of a pencil. Its essence is generally used in woody fragrances, but it can be combined with many compositions. You can find Virginia cedar essence in the floral and chypre eau de parfum ïōdé and Texas cedar essence in the festive alõ.
The magnolia is a large-flowered tree native to Asia but also to North America. It was first described in 1703 by Father Plumier who discovered it during an expedition to Louisiana. He gave it the name magnolia in reference to the botanist Pierre Magnol, who was in charge of the Montpellier botanical garden during this period. The magnolia grandiflora, the large-flowered magnolia, can be found in the American East, particularly in Florida. The magnolia’s scent is full of fresh and sunny notes. Its floral perfume has lemon and vanilla facets. An essence can be extracted from its flowers, but the magnolia scent is mostly reproduced through synthesis.
Canada thuja, or western red cedar, is also a conifer from northeastern North America. It is also called white cedar or cedar in French-speaking North America. This 10 to 20 metres high tree grows in the Great Lakes region as far as Hudson Bay. It is widespread throughout North America and Canada and is also found in Korea. Thuja leaves have been used since ancient times for their therapeutic properties against rheumatism and bronchial infections. In perfumery, thuja leaves and branches are steam distilled to release an essence. Its smell is camphorated, herbaceous and mentholated. The thuja brings a real aromatic and sharp boost to a composition.
Did you know the origin of American perfumery and its iconic raw materials?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article