Why you should care
Because earthy is in, and this hot new hipster product will bring out your very natural musk.
How do you make yourself smell like the forests of Big Sur?
If you were Hall Newbegin, the founder and chief perfumer at Juniper Ridge, you would hit the trails to gather clippings of the plants that define that region — chaparral, bay laurel, sage — distill them into an essential oil and bottle it up.
Juniper Ridge products are an aromatic map of the West.
Newbegin started growing the roots of his rapidly expanding company more than a decade ago, when he was peddling plant-based soaps for $5 a pop at the Berkeley farmer’s market. Since then, he’s scaled his hobby of turning plants into natural products to a much more refined level, crafting colognes and soaps from plants, bark, moss and trees foraged throughout the California backcountry. And he’s managed to create fragrances that make you smell natural (think floral summer breeze or crisp winter night) without making you smell like you’ve slept in the woods.
While most fragrances these days are chemically engineered (as anyone knows after being stuck inside an elevator with that guy), Newbegin harkens back to the golden era of French perfume, when everything was sourced from real plants. There are natural fragrance companies that make colognes and perfumes from plants, but Juniper Ridge is probably the only company that forages for ingredients in the wild and turns them into a sort of wilderness perfume. He canvasses California’s most fragrant countryside to create what he refers to as “an aromatic map of the West.”
Each of the unisex body fragrances pays tribute to a particular locale, which comes from one of three categories: mountain, coastal and desert. Their main line, the Backpacker Colognes series, includes places like Big Sur, the Yuba River, Caruthers Canyon in the Mojave Desert and Siskiyou. “This isn’t inspired by places, this is the places in a bottle,” says Newbegin’s sidekick, Obi Kaufmann.
After searching the land for ingredients, Newbegin and Kaufmann haul them back to their Oakland warehouse, which houses the largest essential oil still in North America. Then they boil the plants, collect the steam, and turn it into a more condensed liquid form, which is the essential oil. “It’s a labor of love,” says Kaufmann, “but it’s the only way to catch the full, round notes of the plants.”
But Newbegin and Kaufmann also use their “field lab” — an old van tricked out with a whiskey still rigged for perfuming — for making fragrances on-the-go. Or sometimes, just for the hell of it, they’ll distill a fragrance over a campfire. Whereas they can easily churn out 5,000 bottles in their Oakland site, the field lab is set aside for what they call “back country distillation,” yielding about 300 bottles of a limited edition seasonal fragrance they improvise based on ingredients gathered from a single hike.
Juniper Ridge’s 1-ounce Backpacker’s Colognes are unisex and retail between $55-$65 per bottle (a sample kit costs $25). Their Trail Crew Soaps are $30 each, and Campfire Incense retails for $10. Their products can be purchased online or found at a growing number of boutique outposts across the country.