“I love this. I mean look at this view!” exclaims Hall Newbegin, founder of Juniper Ridge, while balancing on a fallen Red Fir trunk over an alder-choked, dry creek. He looks out over the endless ranges of silver mountain tops parading north to the deep purple of the Trinity Alps, a hundred miles away. The forests of the Siskiyou and Klamath mountains are incredibly complex, not only in topography and trail-layout (there are no thru-roads or trails that cleanly transverse these mountains), but in ecological makeup. This is especially true for the diversity of trees in these forests (see “Intro to the Conifer” blog).
“I know man, I love it too,” echoes Obi, Juniper Ridge’s Chief Storyteller, wiping the sweat from his eyes. These mountains are hot. The trail petered out a couple of miles back, and Hall and Obi are once again not totally sure if they are on track or if their water will hold out. They’ve been traversing the contour of Harvey Peak in the Lower Yolla Bolly wilderness, over the slippery scree, under the unmerciful midday sun for a while now and have both got pretty good blisters developing. Welcome to the Siskiyou.
Obi takes a deep drink from the water bottle, confident water will show up soon. And sure enough, the following morning, passed the old-growth Jeffrey Pine Forest, up over the burned out Red and White Fir laden ridge, across the Western Juniper carpeted saddle and down into the Foxtail Pine crested river basin, water does show up. The discovery means time to relax and consider the ancient and beautiful forest.
Hall and Obi are on what they call a Scent Scout, a four day trek into a wilderness where anything can happen, and regularly does. This isn’t a regular Juniper Ridge company trip with fine wine, gourmet camp food, the Field Lab Van and campfire stills. This is just two wilderness perfumers with little to no equipment or food, lost and looking for the heart of the forest. Later, Hall explains the inspiration behind the idea of the Scent Scout. “We always have some idea about what trees and plants live here, we know the patterns of the mountains ecosystems really well, but we are always surprised and we always find something new, 100% of the time.”
On the final night of the Scent Scout, the guys pass around the little flask of whiskey next to the Douglas Fir Campfire. Hall strums his ukulele while Obi makes watercolors of the trees, paintings that will eventually make their way onto Juniper Ridge Siskiyou packaging. Obi’s book is filled with painted silhouettes of twelve different tree species. Flipping through them, he muses on how much the scent profiles of each tree differ from each other, the way they each capture the sunlight and transform it into sugary new growth to such dramatically different, aromatic ends. Hall says he’s been thinking a lot about that too. “Especially the late-summer wind,” he says. “The combination of sweet pollen is totally capturable. We’ve got this.”
Once safely off the mountain, the guys meet up with Tom, Juniper Ridge’s chemist, to download and discuss the cataloguing of conifer scents across the Siskiyou.
“The combination of sweet pollen is totally capturable. We’ve got this.”
“It is a beautifully complementary portfolio of scents” Tom explains. “We’ve finally got the technology to hydro-distill these very delicate scents and create our most sublime coastal-mountain fragrance ever.”
The result is a revelation. From across the north-west corner of California’s coastal mountains comes the new harvest of Juniper Ridge’s Siskiyou Wilderness Perfume— a place almost primeval in character, full of diversity and green-magic, alive with spicey pollen, dry, sun-soaked trails and wildflower-laden, golden creeks. It’s an aromatic journey that reflects a perfect day on the trail, an expression of deep love and an interaction with nature that transcends the millions of years of conifer evolution.
“It’s the most complex, place-based, wearable fragrance we’ve ever made,” said Tom. “There are more ingredients here than we’ve ever managed to balance into a single formula. We certainly didn’t set out to do this merely for the sake of seeing how many tree-fragrance extracts we could shove in a bottle, it just happened that way. The one measure of quality we use for all of our fragrances is the capturing of that special moment in the wild, where these agents combine to produce the world’s most beautiful smell. They are beautiful not because we contrive them to be, they are beautiful because they are part of the forests where they were born.”