So, I tried out Stereoplasm's custom process and walked away with (spoilers) two perfumes I really like! Here is my custom journey with Stereoplasm for Shade Grove/Granny woman.
So for my First Ever Custom I decided I wanted to go through a perfume I’ve been low-key wishing for for years - one based on the Appalachian folk-song Shady Grove.
Here’s a couple of examples:
First, one by The Chieftains (celtic band - appropriate because the song has celtic roots in another folksong) along with a bluegrass singer: [link]
And here’s one by Takenobu that performs it on a cello, kind of a haunting version: [link]
It’s a pretty olfactory song so I figured it would be simple enough to organize into a scent concept.
My idea was to kind of follow the course of the song in a way that could be boiled down to: “Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall, a golden banjo string, rose blossom, bare feet on a dirt floor and a warm Appalachian summer day laced with humidity and honeysuckle’.
I elaborated that I was cool if the peaches/apples were more conceptual (as of course is the banjo string or what makes it golden).
Listed Notes: Spiced Musk, Nutmeg, Red Apple, Clove, Fresh Hay, Aged Oak, Honeysuckle, Banjo Strings, Wild Rose, Dry Dirt, Cinnamon
How It Wore: It starts off very Spiced-with-a-capital-S and sweetly musky with an undercurrent of dirt and honeysuckle. There’s a hint of the apple, and edges of the rose and a touch of something textile and the softness of the hay. Very quickly as it wears the spice dies back and the hay and rose come forward along with that honeysuckle. The dirt and musk remain the olfactory base - smelling like a base of warm earth without smelling well… overwhelmingly dirty. The more it wears the more the honeysuckle and rose come forward and I freaking love it.
It eventually ends in a place that smells like a warm Appalachian clearing on a summer’s day with tall grasses and wafts of honeysuckle and wild rose rolling in as you stand barefoot and smell the skin of the apple you’re holding. There’s this faint kiss of spice and of the textile ‘banjo strings’ note. It’s just lovely.
Listed Notes: Barn Wood, Apple Cider, Honeysuckle, Sunflower Musk, Virginian Cedar, Fresh Peach, Oud, True Amber, Rock Salt, Sweet Potatoes, Banjo Strings, Rich Soil, Cinnamon
How It Wore: This one is the gourmand-atmospheric of the bunch. The sunflower musk and sweet potatoes form the core of it along with the honeysuckle. The sunflower and sweet potatoes bring out the herbal nuances in the honeysuckle. As it starts to dry down you can catch bits of the apple, the salt and of the peach and the cedar starts to make an appearance as does the aged quality of the barn wood. There’s the dirt in the base of it once again. The oud blends well with the other wood notes, and I don’t know what the true amber is supposed to smell like - I don’t think I’m getting it, or its blending with another note. There’s once again just a tad of that textile-banjo-strings note.
It honestly smells like sitting in an old barn on a tree stump brought in to be a chair. Honeysuckle is growing on the wall as sunlight beams down through cracks in the ceiling. You eat some sort of lightly salted sunflower-sweet potato-apple-peach-cinnamon dessert from a cedar bowl while listening to your friend lazily pick out a tune.
Listed Notes: Mulled Spice, Green Apple, Skin Musk, Honeysuckle, Rose Blossom, Rich Soil, Fir Needle, Dry Dirt, Vegetable Garden Dirt, Cinnamon
How It Wore: Okay so, I can’t tolerate 99.99% of ‘green’ scents. It has to do with whatever that chemical is in freshly cut grass that gives it its distinctive smell. I both amp that, and it gives me headaches. But through the magic of fir, vegetables, and green apple this is a “green” scent I can wear! And enjoy! That evokes the sensation of sunlight through leaves and being fresh in from the garden without having that acrid/painful ‘leaf’ smell. Holy cow!
So this one starts out with a subtle green apple skin, fir, and vegetable smelling dirt with edges of that cinnamon, rose and honeysuckle and just the tiniest kiss of mulled spice. And then… it’s stable. It stays like that. Fresh, and herbal, and reminiscent of summers days tending a little vegetable patch on a mountainside with floral sweetness tempering the fir and herbal notes. The fir dies back a tiny bit, the cinnamon comes forward a tiny bit but this is a scent all about sunlight and green. It’s like… my dream Appalachian Witch In The Summer scent.
Listed Notes: Autumn Musk, Honeysuckle, Tobacco Flower, Dry Dirt, Fresh Peach, Virginian Cedar, Wild Rose, Smoked Clove, Fresh Hay, Mulled Spice, Skin Musk, Cinnamon
How It Wore: There is something VERY sweet in this one. Like a jolly rancher. I don’t know if it is the Autumn Musk functioning as a conceptual apple, or the fresh peach dominating (It doesn’t smell particularly peach-y to me) or both blending. Or, heck, it could be the tobacco flower. I don’t know. There’s a kind of herbaceousness to it certainly - either the honeysuckle or the tobacco flower or both. When I showed this one to my sibling they were like ‘Oh! Smells like soda!’. And… yeah it’s like if you could make a forest into a soda it would smell like this.
It’s grounded in the cedar smell. Of all the samples the dirt is least prominent in this. The clove is an edge note - I honestly get more of the mulled spice. The skin musk, rose, and hay are at the edge too. Honestly the jolly-rancher-forest-soda smell is so dominant here it’s a little hard to pick out the other notes.
It kind of reminds me of The Velveteen Stranger - like this is The Velveteen Stranger’s hillbilly cousin who’s really into conceptual sodas instead of marshmallow peeps. What it’s mostly missing is the kind of ‘silvery’ sharpness that TVS has - instead this is more warm and mellow. I kind of wish it had something more piquant in it. Maybe some lime rind or something would have rounded this out.
Listed Notes: Skin Musk, Red Apple, Honeysuckle, Aged Pine, Fresh Peach, Ylang Ylang, Rose blossom, Benzoin, Dry Dirt, Cinnamon
How It Wore: The big thing about this is: there’s a resinous, almost boozy note in here that reminds me a lot of First Bloom (I think it might be the benzoin combining with the ylang-ylang). I love the mingling of the apple and peach. This one kind of comes at you in a slightly otherworld way. So to break it down: the apple and peaches and ylang-ylang along with a whisper of cinnamon are the topnotes. The skin musk, honeysuckle, and rose are the midnotes. The pine, dirt, and benzoin round out the bottom notes. I love this as a kind of feminine interpretation of the perfume, and it’s very stable throughout its wear. The only detractor it has going for it is how much it reminds me of First Bloom. I already own First Bloom!
I was really impressed with all five of my samples. Upon reading all the notes lists I was so excited because these aren’t really combos I’ve seen before and I knew that this was a) gonna smell like no other perfume I’ve tried and b) would be getting me right where I wanted to go.
Sample 1: Sample 1 got upsized to a 6ml with some minor alterations. Touch less spice, and split the musk between spiced musk and skin musk. For me it captured what the song is to me and what I wanted out of the perfume. That deep drydown where it smells like standing barefoot in a clearing during a warm summer’s day? Yup that’s it. Nail hit right on the head. I named this one Shady Grove.
Sample 3: I was so freaking impressed with Sample 3 as a green I could wear (and also it acting as The Appalachian Witch Perfume I never knew I needed) I emailed Meaghan and asked to upcharge to also upsize Sample 3 to a 3ml. I named this one Granny Woman after the traditional phrase used to denote an Appalachian witch.
Sample 5: Sample 5 was a close contender - it most closely matched My Artistic Vision but it ultimately was too similar to First Bloom to earn an upsize.
Sample 2: Sample 2’s sunflower note was just overpowering for me. While it was a great atmospheric and evocative as can be I’m really familiar with the smell of sunflower seeds as cockatiel treats. It just kind of smelled a bit too much like what I fed my ‘tiel as a treat.
Sample 4: With this one whatever that sweet candied note was was overwhelming for me. While I like the idea of a forest-flavored soda I feel like this one would have been AWESOME with some sort of piquant note in there like lime rind or mint.
I really enjoyed the custom process and am pleased as punch I got two perfumes out of it that I just am over the moon about. Already working on my second custom with Stereoplasm. If you're a fan of custom perfumes I have to echo what everyone else has said: the experience alone is worth the price tag, and you're very likely to get a perfume you love out of it.