Caitlyn Davies world is an intoxicating array of heart notes and subtle scents
By Laura Wolstenholme
Photography by Copper Chadwick
It’s a desk that immediately draws the eye when entering the Intentions studio. It’s dramatically beautiful and its high shelves are topped with green glass bottles flickering in glowing rays of sunlight. Crowding beneath are tiny black bottles – hundreds of them, each labeled in cursive script, each suggesting a mysterious allure. The desk belongs to Caitlyn Davies, a local perfumer, and she has kindly agreed to create my own personal scent.
We could be sitting in a bygone century, as the art of creating perfume is an ancient one. At one time, perfumes were made for all types of occasions – to celebrate, to heal to grieve. The art is dying because most perfumes now are synthetically in laboratories by chemists, as opposed to the personal of artists such as Davies. The mass production is a cheaper and more reliable method, yet the synthetic fragrance, though molecularly similar, can’t duplicate the magic of organic oils—subtle traces and variations are left out.
Davies was drawn to the perfumer’s art at the age of 15 when she discovered the gorgeous fragrances and therapeutic effects of essential oils. When she began her perfumery full-time (about eight years ago), Davies says she experienced major shifts in her own brain; she can now detect subtle odors she would never have noticed before.
Davies opens some of the tiny bottles, allowing me to catch their scent, one by one, gauging my reaction. Heady, deeply intense fragrances flood my nose, some scents I can’t recognize, other are more familiar. I favor a few more than others and Davies takes note.
As we talk, I learn that Davies is choosing the heart or “middle note” of my perfume, the “top note” – what you smell first and what fades the fastest – and the “resin” or perfume’s binder. She names a few of the scents – Bulgarian lavender, balsam, patchouli, bergamot, black pepper, sandalwood… the tiny bottles contain essential oils from all over the world, each an essence of a plant, a setting and a time.
The individual is a factor as well. Davies has found that “people pick what they need.” Whether calming, or cheering, the variations are infinite and part of a Master Perfumer’s work is listening to the person, Davies explains. How people respond to fragrance reveals a little of their inner landscape, and this is what makes Davies’ work endlessly fascinating. Combining volatile scents to appeal to the person’s inner self is never predictable. Davies says she is sometimes surprised by what a person chooses and sometimes she is completely spot-on. Interestingly, she has found that sisters, best friends and couples often favor the same scents, revealing an aspect of how they are connected.
An hour has passed, the tiny bottles have their returned the desk and once again glow in the sun, and Caitlyn has finished my perfume. In the process I have chosen fragrances I have never worn before—ruby red grapefruit is my top note; patchouli my heart note, and black pepper as the resign, a delicious combination that I feel like tasting.
You can find Intentions Perfumery at the Capitol City Market on Saturdays and at the East End Market at Bown Crossing on Sundays. Caitlyn Davies is also available for private appointments and can host custom perfume parties in your home. Contact her at 208-871-1233.