A Conversation About R&D Field Lab With The Guys Behind The Madness

R&D Field Lab is our new favorite way of exploring the depths of wilderness perfume. This is our front line. Runs range from only a handful to one hundred at most. They are experiments. They are outliers. They come straight from our Research and Development Lab. Think of this as our ultimate insider club. We want you to try out these products and give us feedback on how to make it better. We only give out the release date through our newsletter, The Wildcrafter. Beware, they usually go pretty quick!

R&D Field Lab is a weird idea – we’re taking a small idea (Field Lab) and making it even smaller. Why?

Hall: Well most people dream about getting bigger, I dream about getting smaller, more specific, weirder … and I must be right on target because I’m getting weirder all the time, ha! The only way forward for us is to get more and more specific – that day, that place, that trail, the way the sun smells on the dirt after the first autumn rain, the smell of wind coming off a glacier in the spring. So with R&D Field Lab, we’re really digging deep into the wild, we’re experimenting with how specific we can get, and then letting our fans tell us how we’re doing. As long as there are still other weirdos out there who support us, we’ll keep digging.

How are they different than regular Field Labs?

Obi: This is still a part of Field Lab – but now we’re letting you see the methods behind our madness. With R&D Field Lab, we’re going smaller scale, creating things we’ve never created before, and trying even harder to capture that elusive scent in the wind. It’s that place, that day, that section of a trail. It’s not an entire region, it’s so much smaller than that. We want that four hour period in the Palm Desert when the sun is rising. We want to bottle the Summer Solstice or Spring Equinox. And the smallness and specificity is what then gives us the mandate to get weird and experiment.

The numbers we’re releasing for these R&D Field Labs are also so low…40 count, 50 count…

Obi: That’s a direct result of us just not knowing exactly what we’ll find at a given place, or what will work with which technique. We’ve gotten embarrassingly good at technique, but we can’t override Nature. And Nature doesn’t get it wrong! We might get to a certain place with an expectation of harvesting this plant or that plant, and then we’ll get there and the landscape will be totally different. So these R&D Field Labs that are coming straight out of the testing lab are really our attempt at aromatic snapshots of nature in all it’s wild harvested glory.

Hall: I’m at my worst as a wilderness perfumer when i try to control the fragrance or make some pre-determined version of what i think that place is, and at my best when i’m relaxed and open and just lying on the ground and smelling the dirt. How about if i move my nose a few inches this way? How about here…? What’s that cool smell coming off the glacier? Can we tincture snow? No one has ever done this kind of thing in North America before, and it’s not a perfect system. But we really are starting to hit this incredible groove in a deep, primitive vein, and it’s liberating to feel that nothing can stop us if we keep it up.

Giving yourself the freedom to experiment can result in some pretty thrilling stuff!

Hall: Ha, well it can be thrilling or it can go really really wrong sometimes! I once did a destructive/ fire based distillation of some mussel shells, and everyone who smelled it gagged almost immediately. I was trying to capture the ocean and instead I created something that makes people want to barf! But shit like that doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying. Because even if we bellyflop and have to pick ourselves back up and do it again, we’re always up for trying new things. You just never know what could be a big revelation. If we can put a summer day on Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail when the wildflowers are peaking into a bottle…the feelings and memories that can evoke is magical.