This is the fifth year we’ve set about to make our most-local FIELD LAB wilderness perfume, Winter Redwood, and as the years go by, we learn more and more about how to truly extract and combine the delicate and beautiful aromas the mountains of California’s North Coast have to offer. It is because of this that we believe that this year’s formula is the most beautiful we have ever created. To examine why we believe this, it is important to understand what Winter Redwood is, and how the progression of this unique product came about.
Winter Redwood begins and ends with Mount Tamalpais. Soaring over San Francisco at 2,574 feet, the emerald, jagged peak jets up from the Golden Gate like a shark fin or a verdant pyramid, begging us city folk to consider wilderness as a character in our lives. Just beyond the tired moan of internet servers locked in pavement, collectively delivering the next useless app, Mount Tam offers our imaginations a respite where fox and coyote still make their dens in dark forests deep in the Redwood cathedral as it has been for hundreds of thousands of years. It is this call that we at Juniper Ridge answer again and again; it is a magnet for our practice, it is the only sense of religion or spirituality that we’ve got or could ever care about.
This love of Mount Tam expresses itself in our daily routine. We don’t care about delivering some “pretty” scent that merely makes passing reference to a large and oblique Coastal Forest, but rather to create a perfume from its essential components, from the here and now of the place. Our inspiration is born in a moment across the wet season: a derived extraction of soil, rain, plant, and mushroom whose quality is not beautiful for merely beauty’s sake but is beautiful because it is true to its wild origin.
As much as Winter Redwood is Mount Tam, Winter Redwood is also Hall Newbegin. Hall is the founder of Juniper Ridge, and our head wilderness perfumer. He has been hiking Mount Tam for twenty years, and when talking about this, his very favorite place in the world, he digs deep the mountain’s unique character. “The steep slopes of the mountain come alive in the Winter. It’s that feeling. It’s that smell. It’s beyond that smell – hiking on Mount Tam in the Winter, with the Bay Laurel, the Oaks, the Redwoods, the wet soil, the mushrooms, the sea-salt air, the wood smoke from neighboring fireplaces – all that stuff. The redwoods smell completely different in the Wintertime than they do in the Summertime. There is a lot more richness and is a lot more emotionally evocative to me. The Summer is beautiful too, but the air is more light and evergreeny – warm wind coming through the woods kind of smell. Winter air has a marvelous richness in these coastal, mountain forests and is very much its own thing.”
When Juniper Ridge first started making Winter Redwood, it was all about the essential oil. California Bay Laurel, Douglas Fir and Coastal Redwood essential oils were combined into a bright perfume-base that was gorgeous and green, full of light and life, but simply did not carry the dark quiet shadows that define the creek basins during the rainy season. That would have to wait until the next year when Hall began to add moss and mushroom infusions, rounding out the sweet dankness, the earthy and aromatic, spicy rot of the forest floor. It is important to note that rot in the forest is not grime, it is not mildew, it is complex and full of living flavor that is heady and beautiful. Think about full-bodied red wine, or your favorite french cheese; cultures of active, forest processes that don’t come from filth but are an integral part of the mountain ecosystem’s yearly life-cycle.
The following year, Juniper Ridge’s third iteration of Winter Redwood was composed during a particularly cold winter on the mountain, when all the local residents of Marin had their fireplaces roaring, spilling Douglas Fir smoke into the Redwood valleys. This evocative smell became a staple of the aromatic character of the west face of Mount Tam that year and Juniper Ridge needed a note of woodsmoke if they were to capture the particular quality of that season. Hall, with Tom, Juniper Ridge’s resident chemist, built something that looked like a bong and hooked it up to a pump to pull campfire smoke through the oil being used as a base, adding the perfect note.
"Mt. Tam is my favorite place on Earth," says Juniper Ridge Founder, Hall Newbegin, who lives on the mountain and has spent two decades exploring its un-trailed valleys. "Winter is the best time of year to lose yourself in its rich, quiet beauty."
Last year, Juniper Ridge’s fourth Winter Redwood, saw the inclusion of a new technique: the Campfire Distillation. With this technique, carefully arranged limbs of California Bay Laurel were arranged in a double-chamber tin and buried in the sand at Muir Beach, under a large campfire that was built over it. Left to cook for hours, the wood inside the tin didn’t burn, but rather melted into aromatic tar; an ancient perfume making technique that captured a richness to the salt air as it mixed with the Redwood mist.
In this year’s version, Juniper Ridge is proud to present the most sophisticated, subtle, complex and complete version of Winter Redwood yet. A true picture, a painting, an aromatic tapestry depicting Juniper Ridge’s beloved mountain, Mount Tamalpais in all its wild grandeur. A parade of wild harvested fragrance ingredients, revealed through heritage perfume-making techniques, arrange themselves in a unique pattern that is at once familiar, yet totally unlike anything else. After a long drought across California, the rains have returned to Mount Tam this winter, and the trees, fat with fragrance, seemed to be waiting for Hall and the Juniper Ridge Wilderness Perfume team to catch and deliver it.
The full Winter Redwood 2016 Field Lab will be released in Mid March.