“It has been said, and truly, that everything in the desert either stings, stabs, stinks or sticks,” wrote the writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey, who spent a lot of his life exploring the excessive deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. “You will find the flora here as venomous, hooked, barbed, thorny, prickly, needled, saw-toothed, hairy, stickered, mean, bitter, sharp, wiry and fierce as the animals.” Nonetheless — unsavory inhabitants however — the arid, sandy swaths of the American Southwest have attracted generations of artists, mystics, hippies and cowboys. And now perfumers are following their lead, trying to translate the desert’s resilient vegetation and otherworldly aura into perfume.
For David Moltz, who based the New York-based fragrance model D.S. and Durga along with his spouse, Kavi, it was a go to to the Chihuahuan Desert Botanical Backyard and Analysis Institute in Fort Davis, Texas, that sparked his fascination with desert shrubs and, extra particularly, their use of scent as a protection mechanism. “These plants are dealing with intense sun and heat, and animals wanting to eat them,” he says. One bush particularly, creosote, an evergreen with waxy, pointed leaves, “produces a sweet, earthy fragrance that wafts across the desert when it becomes wet, traveling long distances,” says Lisa Gordon, the manager director of the backyard. To Moltz, creosote oil smells like “gasoline and desert rain,” which made it simply the appropriate addition to Candy Do Nothing, D.S. and Durga’s olfactory collaboration with the lodge El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas, the artwork vacation spot about 20 miles from Fort Davis. To spherical out the formulation, he says, “we used notes of things that we could find in that area, like orange blossom, fig and the green, wet smell of an open cactus.”
The Los Angeles perfumer Linda Sivrican’s attraction to the desert couldn’t be captured in a single scent. Impressed by her frequent visits to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park in California, she launched a full perfume assortment, Saguara Perfumes, in 2016. “The plants there have an animalic quality that’s really raw,” she says. “There’s an earthiness that I don’t think you can find elsewhere.” Her Sagebrush scent — a mixture of blue cypress, Texas cedar and sage — is supposed to evoke the odor of Joshua Tree within the early morning. She added a contact of hashish flower, she says, as a nod to what “a lot of the people do when they go to the desert.”