A few weeks ago, I reached out to Loreto Remsing of L'Aromatica to develop a private label perfume for ALTAR. I was immediately drawn to her entire line of beautifully designed roll-ons– which I wouldn't be surprised if I found nestled on a driftwood nightstand inside an Anthropologie. With names like 'Kulfi' 'Stargazer Lily' and 'Big Sur', L'Aromatica is evocative and every creation is truly bottled nostalgia. She's based in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area and all her fragrances are handcrafted in small batches using exquisite botanical ingredients. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to interview the brilliant and uniquely talented Loreto and share a little more about the nose behind SHANGRI-LA.
All your perfumes are inspired by specific memories, from a dessert to a person and even the inside of a bar. Do you usually have something concrete in mind when you begin blending? Or are your greatest hits the product of casual experimentation?
I usually do have a concrete idea in mind, and the process usually starts there. I might be thinking about a particular idea for days or weeks and ‘incubating’ before working out the notes on paper and blending. Although, sometimes the notes themselves have inspired me and I’ll create a perfume based on unique notes that speak to me but I can’t say any of my perfumes are the result of casual experimentation. That said, there’s nothing wrong with casual experimentation. I experiment all the time but those experiments are learning exercises or key accord development.
What’s your most popular perfume? Why do you think it resonates with so many people?
My most popular perfume is Big Sur. I think it resonates with so many people because Big Sur is such a beautiful place that leaves a profound impression, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I tried to capture the true essence of Big Sur by using notes that mimic scents I’ve smelled in Big Sur such as nettles, sagebrush, redwood needles, California bay, etc. I say mimic because none of the essential oils and absolutes I use are actually taken from Big Sur, so I had to use my nose to ‘paint an intuitive portrait’. I love watching people’s reactions when they smell Big Sur for the first time, it’s like scent déjà vu.
Big Sur, available here.
What’s your creative process like?
Like I mentioned above, it all starts in my mind and then I work on paper, writing down all of my ideas, before I actually start blending. It’s just the way I work but it’s also economical because I don’t end up wasting my materials. You can actually get a lot done by just dipping blotter strips in oils and seeing how they work together by fanning them under your nose. Once I start blending, I make sure I have a formulation ratio worked out so I’m not blindly dropping oils without adhering to the ratio I’ve drawn out. It can be kind of technical but this helps me not go too far in one direction without balancing things out. My favorite method is developing ‘chords’, where you work out the whole top, heart and base sections before blending all the sections together. You have to be careful not to go too heavy in one direction so you have ‘room’ to adjust the composition as needed. As they say, you cannot subtract notes once you’ve added them so you have to be conservative with quantities and variety. Once a blend is almost finished, I love adding a surprise note (accessory note) at the end to see how the whole blend changes and comes to life.
I noticed you have a section in your Etsy shop where you sell experiments from your perfume lab. What’s the criteria for what you put up there?
These experiments are usually ideas that I wanted to work out but didn’t think they should be released as perfumes. So, it’s not that I wasn’t happy with them but since I already have over 20 fragrances in my line, I have to be very selective. Any new perfume brought into to the line has to add to the existing array, it can’t be something too similar to something else I already carry. It also has to be a formula that I can easily re-acquire the ingredients for. There’s nothing more frustrating than a company discontinuing a note your perfume depends on. Some of my experiments were exercises in trying to create a certain type of scent within a fragrance family or sometimes inspired by the ingredients in perfumes whose ‘code I was trying to crack’. I hate wasting good perfume so I had the idea of offering these experiments in a special section on my website at a discount and so far, it’s been great. Most of the people who shop these are customers who are familiar with my style.
Shop her experiments here.
If you could create a perfume for any person, who would it be?
A person who hates perfume and has no interest in it. I almost feel like these people need intervention because perfume doesn't have to mean a strong, headache-inducing concoction that assaults your senses. I would want to get to the root of the issue and help them open up to their sense of smell and fall in love with aromas, even if they don’t end up becoming a wearer of perfume. There is so much you’re missing out on in life if you literally don’t ‘stop and smell the roses’. I feel like there’s a whole part of the brain you’re not using when you’re not using your sense of smell. And I also think some people are missing the whole ritual of anointing themselves with botanical oils that can be healing and life-affirming.
What are your favorite/most used notes?
Bergamot, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, and Cedarwood.
How do you remain inspired?
I love scent so much I am constantly inspired, it never stops. Most of my inspiration comes from nature. I have a special ‘notes’ file on my phone where I jot down ideas when they strike. I also love to see what my peers in the artisan perfume world are doing, they’re amazing!
What scents remind you of your childhood?
The scent of dry grass on a summer night, bonfire smoke, daffodils in spring, the ocean and a mix of ozone and diesel exhaust.
Do you have a signature scent? If not, what’s your current favorite?
Right now my favorite is Bombay Bling.
Follow Loreto on Instagram: @laromaticaperfume