Tracy Lee Karner

a Winter Day in Providence: Revel in a Scentsory Feast at Providence Perfume Company

Tracy Lee Karner
Providence Perfume Company

We’re spending a leisurely, fun winter day in Providence, Rhode Island.

This article covers our third stop of the day, Providence Perfume Company on Wickenden Street.

We’ve savored a delicious lunch at Pakorang on South Main Street, and enjoyed art at the RISD museum.  After viewing art, the natural impulse is to make art. So let’s craft our own perfume.
We favor walking as the best way to see this city, even in winter. It allows us to see more and it keeps us fit. It’s a short 1/2 mile to our destination. Head south, turn left at the next street (Williams) and then right on Benefit–the street famous for its colonial architecture.

How is the crafting of perfume an art?

In an interview with Diane Ackerman, Sonia Grojsman, a professional nose from the International Fragrance and Flavors Inc. in New York, compares the process of perfume making to music. A perfumer draws on skills of tone, color and balance, as does a musical composer. A composer creates a symphony of sound; a perfumer creates a symphony of scent.

Can shopping be leisurely?

I’m an advocate of the slow life. Those of us who are committed to savoring instead of rushing are convinced that the benefits of slow living include better health, better relationships, and more freedom to enjoy life. Wickenden Street in Providence is a place to stroll, linger and browse, to intentionally do less in order to experience more. Providence Perfume Company has certainly found the fight neighborhood for its flagship store.
PPC founder/owner Charna Ethier, walking encyclopedia of all things perfume, (and recently nominated for the prestigious Rising Star Perfumer award!) will guide your journey into the scent-sational world of natural fragrance.

You can craft your own unique, all-natural scent at Providence Perfume Company:

You’ll receive a quick education in perfumery (similar to what you’d receive in a beginning wine class–an introduction to aesthetic appreciation and basic terminology). Your guide will help you create a fragrance in which the individual components blend together like pieces of a puzzle

  1. First you’ll select the base in which to mix your fragrances: 1–non-aromatic organic grain alcohol (advantage: easiest to work with); or — one of PPC’s trademark infused alcohol bases (advantage: expands the perfumers palette, creates a more complex fragrance and leaves the most intense trail of scent when you wear it); or 3–an oil base (advantage: lasts the longest, good for dry skin, subtle trail of scent is preferred by understated personality types and for professional/work environments).
  2. Then you’ll choose a perfume oil to serve as your base note scent from among the slowest evaporating oils such as vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, and fir balsam.
  3. Add the heart note (or notes), perhaps lily, jasmine, rose or ylang ylang.
  4. Finish with a top note to add sparkle and effervescence: black pepper, rosewood, cardamom, bitter orange, or pink grapefruit.
  5. Record your formula so you can replicate and fine-tune it next time.

Even without my concerns for environmental and human health, I always choose natural perfumes over synthetic (and am absolutely thrilled that I now can buy mine locally).

A natural perfume is to synthetic perfume what a fine wine is to soda pop.

People like me who are into food and wine will immediately notice the differences. Synthetic perfumes smell like department stores. You get industrially-produced blasts of artificial petrochemicals. A natural perfume smells like what the ingredient-name says it is.  Sniffing the extracted essence of actual woods, resins, and plants from the Caribbean, Africa, India, Europe, Polynesia, your nose takes you on a scent-sational trip around the world.

I love, love, love what you’re doing at Providence Perfume Company, Charna Ethier!

If you can’t make it to Providence to shop, visit the Providence Perfume Company online store and treat your nose to some amazing perfume samples. After trying natural perfume,  you might wonder why you ever thought non-natural fragrances smelled good.

Are you into a natural lifestyle, or are you passionate about the quality of your food/wine? Would you enjoy accompanying me to Providence Perfume Company on this winter day tour?

33 thoughts on “a Winter Day in Providence: Revel in a Scentsory Feast at Providence Perfume Company”

    1. I’m a fan of both–haven’t smelled them in combination.
      Currently, I’m hooked on the scent Charna designed as part of her line. Ginger Lily. It smells like I would have designed it myself, only better.
      I keep thinking I should host a bloggers tour of Providence. Wouldn’t that be great?
      If I did, how much time ahead should I alert/invite people? And what would make it most attractive to get bloggers to make the trip? –besides the chance to see me, I mean 😉

  1. Oh, yes, this makes for a perfect day trip, Tracy. Imagine me with you at the Providence Perfume Company.
    Years ago at a shop on Mackinac Island, I made a special mix of Ginger Lily with Heat and Spunk (with a touch of cinnamony scent–doesn’t sound great, but it was wonderful). It took us probably 2 hours. We took a walking break after the first hour, breathed deeply and planned all the “gift concoctions” we’d make. I had planned on giving the Ginger Lily with Heat and Spunk (you named your own creations) to a friend but liked it so much that I kept it and gave her “An Eternity of Limes”–which I also liked really well. It was a great afternoon.
    I just love going on adventures with you on this post, Tracy!

          1. If you’re like me, you’ll spend much of the day sniffing your wrist after you put PPC’s Ginger Lily on. It’s SO scrumptious! I hope you and your mom get as much pleasure from it as I have.

  2. Oooh yes please, I’ll come. Can I try the sandalwood – it’s one of my favourite smells ever. I like patchouli too, as it reminds me of my cheeseclothed youth. Wandering and appreciating is definitely easier as we get older. We’ve got more TIME. This is a great idea.

  3. I am definitely for a natural lifestyle especially when it comes to things I put on my body – moistures, deodorants etc so I would definitely enjoy a trip to the Providence Perfume Company. 😉

  4. Yes please, sign me up along with Jenny, can’t wait 🙂 I’ve loved this series about Providence and feel that you’ve taken me along with you to all these fab places. It’s been like a mini-vacation! Sandalwood is one of my favourites too, and I do love rosewood. Not the overpowering rose scent, but the very light,delicate fragrance.
    The idea of slowing down, as in taking time to ‘smell the coffee’ (or roses as the case may be!) is a very important one, and one we all need to be reminded of. Thanks so much for the great days out, and I do hope you are feeling a little better… have a wonderful weekend Tracy 🙂

  5. I am not a perfume person. Since I always carry a scruff on my face (or more), I don’t need after shave or anything, and I was always a bit weirded out when I used scented “stuff” when I was younger. Just didn’t seem to fit me. But I’d give this a try, I mean, a unique scent just for me? Why not? And pricing seems quite reasonable!

    1. The whole time I was there, I was struck by the similarities to wine-nosing. I think you’d really like it. And of course, you could also mix up the perfect scent for Nina (or choose one of Charna’s unique blends, which is what Ken did for me for Christmas).

  6. Tracy … I love your descriptions and do love to take a leisurely stroll when shopping. I haven’t worn perfume in years – other than scented body washes and hair shampoos. But the experience sounds wonderful.

    1. Glad you stopped by, Judy.
      I hadn’t worn perfume in years, either. I can’t even tolerate scented soaps or shampoos. That’s one of the reasons I’m ecstatic to find Charna’s shop. I can wear her all-natural fragrances–and they’re so delightful.

  7. This was an all-around lovely post! I enjoyed your photos and thoughts. Especially like wine compared to soda pop, is what homemade perfume is to synthetic scents. Great adventure, the sort I love, in quaint and sweet places! Smiles, Robin

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