It is so easy to become jaded at the state of perfumery. Yes there are problems galore to focus on. Yes there is too much similar product trying to live off its marketing rather than its scent. Yes the big companies, and the not-so-big companies, seem to be more concerned with their bottom line than the artistic line. Yes the regulatory agencies are slowly drawing an ever narrowing circle around what can go in our perfumes. That is why it is easy to be jaded. It is also why it so gratifying to see some new brands just shucking all of that smoke, doing something right and making a perfume that is just everything I could want in a fragrance. Today and tomorrow I am going to tell two very different stories about two very different independent perfumes. Not that it was, but if my faith was flagging these two perfumes would have been my olfactory Lourdes. The first is Canoe Skive.
Jessica Hannah (l.) and Natalie Davis
Skive is a collaboration between natural perfumer Jessica Hannah of her own J. Hannah Co. and Natalie Davis of Canoe Goods, a leather goods line in Austin, TX. Ms. Davis went to Ms. Hannah’s studio for a session to produce a private blend just for her. While there these two Texan women found they had so much in common they wanted to work together on a perfume to be sold on the Canoe website. They agreed the fragrance would have to be a leather based one. The name Skive comes from the process of thinning the backside of leather with a knife, called skiving. Ms. Hannah wanted to represent Ms. Davis’ love of the outdoors, her love of tea, and the leather she works with. Skive is a pot of tea steeping next to a campfire while you work a piece of leather in your hands with the heavens open above you.
Ms. Hannah uses clary sage, saffron, and vetiver to create her earthy foundation upon which she will lay in place the rest of the notes of Skive. Choya loban provides the campfire. Some of this smoke also is very reminiscent of a pot of Lapsang Souchong tea on the boil. It is supported with a healthy amount of cedar. This gives the smell of the freshly cut wood to add to the fire once it burns low. At this point this is a near-perfect campfire accord capturing the fire pit, the surrounding trees, and the smoke drifting up from it. Then the leather accord arrives. Ms. Hannah is a natural perfumer and so she uses ambrette and castoreum to create her leather. It has so much vitality to it I almost feel like there should be a piece of actual leather where I sprayed. The final piece of Skive is twin resinous swirls of frankincense and myrrh adding a different kind of smoke to the mix. You might think all of this is heavy but Ms. Hannah truly shows off her skill as Skive has an ability to feel as expansive as the great outdoors. I found it oddly exhilarating despite the seemingly weighty notes.
Skive has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Skive is everything I rave about when speaking of independent perfumery. It is deeply personal and individual visions that translate to a much wider audience. Skive is an artistic vision made glorious reality. It makes me fall in love with perfume all over again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Editor’s Note: Skive has been named a Finalist for the 2015 Art & Olfaction Awards in the Independent Category.