I’m done smelling like flowers; I want to smell like wood and dirt. I want the air around me to summon sage brush, burning piñon, palo santo, and damp forest floors covered in mushrooms and pine needles, with a touch of smoke. It’s not so much a subversive desire to stop leading with sweetness, but instead a real longing to be surrounded by scents that feel safe and strong and supportive.
But a good woodsy scent is hard to find. It’s been five years since I wore a classic perfume or scent — opting for oils instead — but lately I’ve been in search of something more complex. And as I’ve sniffed around, I’ve found that natural, small-batch perfumes don’t give me the headaches that my old favorites used to, and I can actually connect and be moved by them. And thus began the hunt for the perfect one.
To start, I asked Team Man Repeller to share some of their most-beloved perfumers so I could explore their more woodsy options, then I took a running leap down the internet search rabbit hole, where I discovered a small but passionate group of people who also want to smell like dirt (hi everyone!). I smelled a lot of potions — perfumes, colognes, unisex scents…it’s been an earthy couple of weeks over here at MR HQ.
Below are my top five — all of which are unisex, and none of which are ranked because I’m over competition at this point in my life — along with completely subjective descriptions of what they smell like.
Greylocke starts off bright and citrusy, mellowing into pine with a hint of mushroom and the feeling that it rained yesterday and dark mulch was spread around the flower beds this morning. It’s somehow both crisp and deep, and I would like very much if all of my chunky knit sweaters smelled like this. If you’re intrigued by the idea of smelling like the woods, this is a great entry point. It’s less sensual and more charming than the others, but just as beautiful.
Falling Trees is warm and resiny, with a touch of smoke and a lingering overtone of wind rustling through an old oak grove. If you’ve ever specifically dressed in enough layers to be comfortable outside on a cold day and still enjoy the winter sun — maybe sit on a tree swing with your favorite mug of Earl Grey and just breathe — that’s what Falling Trees feels like. It’s a perfect choice if you want earthy warmth paired with sophistication.
A friend of mine is a master craftsman and makes the most beautiful cabinets from mixed wood; this scent brings me right back into his shop. It’s an elevated sandalwood and cedar that’s rounded out with the warmth of vetiver and vanilla. Don’t get too wrapped up in vanilla, though. Focus on the master craftsman’s workshop. It’s all saw-warmed wood and hand-planed shavings; it’s graceful strength and creative curiosity. It’s heavenly and I highly recommend you stop by. If you’re game for a full-on sensual, rich scent that comes in the most gorgeous bottle ever, this one’s for you.
Every year over Easter I do a women’s circle in the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The air is warm and clear, there’s steam coming off the natural hot springs, and I’m surrounded by open, loving, funny, curious, beautiful women. We meditate and dance and soak and do qigong and sing ancient songs and cry and laugh and it heals my soul and cracks me open. Each morning we burn sage, palo santo and sweetgrass around our alter. Smudge evokes the energy of that weekend for me, with all the grounding warmth of sacred smoke, and the tinge of the match you just blew out after lighting your smudges. Plus, it’s just as wearable in NoLita as it is in New Mexico. If you’re considering yoga teacher training, curious about non-ordinary states of consciousness, or specifically want a scent that’s designed to clear bad vibes, check out Smudge.
This scent opens like kind eyes from a mysterious woman in a bookshop who you follow to see what she’s reading next. From there it evolves into a clearing in the forest and a stone-ringed fire pit. The scent of pine comes alive and mixes with the minerality of stone as you brush needles away and prepare to start a campfire, maybe with a glass of red wine. It feels like clean, earnest goodwill, and somehow optimistic. In other words, Santal 33 is hopepunk. There’s a reason Santal 33 is a cult favorite; if you lean towards the classics, I highly recommend.
In the quest to find my favorites, there were a handful that were close but not quite right for me. They could, however, be your perfect woodsy scent. The honorable mentions go to: Edition 01 – Church by Goop for smelling how I imagine the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela smells; Illumination by Lake & Skye for embodying both the roots and the fruits in a lemon grove; Mojave by Hi Wildflower for unexpectedly pairing woods with eucalyptus to bring some energy into the scent; and El Cosmico by DS & Durga for its unabashed spiciness.
What do you want to smell like these days? Has it evolved over time? Is there a great scent I missed?
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Art Direction by Emily Zirimis.