Holy Cedar, pride of the World, symbol of the righteous, you made the Temple of Jerusalem, built by Salomon. Your bark, rich in resin, was an essential element in the cure against leprosy. You are the King of the Levantine forests and Lebanon chose your image on its coat of arm and its national flag. Your Himalayan cousin is also worshiped as a divine tree, and your forests are the sacred ground where sadhus practiced the tapasya meditation to honor Lord Shiva, our Creator. You are today the National tree of Pakistan. Oh, Holy Cedar, your majestic stature, and your harmonious silhouette give you this mystical grace that no other tree can pretend for. But you are as well so ordinary to us: haven’t we all been once addicted to your scent, when sharpening our pencils?
Cedar is the common name for various coniferous trees from various origins and botanical species. True cedars are from the genus Cedrus of the Pinaceae family (like pine trees). The most famous trees of this family are:
- the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica), native to the Atlas mountain range in the Maghreb
- the Lebanon Cedar (Cedrus Lebanii), native to the Middle-East
- the Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus Deodara), native to Kashmir and the Western Himalayas.
Some trees of the Cupressaceae family and the species of Juniperus (juniper), Cupressus (Cypress) or Thujas are also commonly known as cedarwood, even if they are botanically different. Among these, the Cedarwood Texas (Juniperus Mexicana), Cedarwood Virginia (Juniperus Virginiana) also known as red cedar, Cedarwood Chinese (Cypressus Funebris) are the most common sources of cedar oil used in perfumery and aromatherapy. Cedarwood is a low density, lightweight and easy to process lumber. Western red cedar strong bacterial, rot and fungal resistance makes it the most appreciated wood to build outdoor furniture. Its pleasant scent to humans is however deterrent to pests moths and other insects.
The cedarwood essential oil is usually extracted through the process of steam distillation of wood chips and sawdust from one or a blend of various cedar varieties. The chief components of the oils are cedrene, cedrol, thujopsene, widdrol and multiple sesquiterpenes contributing to its medicinal benefits. Cedarwood EO is known to reduce inflammation, prevent infections, astringent, promote urination, sedative, and to heal a cough. Warning, the oil is very potent and can produce some skin irritation if used in high concentration and pregnant women should avoid using it by all means. The oil should also never be ingested, even in small quantities.
Cedarwood has a balsamic, tenacious and sweet woody odor, reminding of pencil shavings, not by chance, as pencils are usually made of cedarwood. In perfumes, it acts as a fixative and also enhances the power of other fixatives, making the scent long-lasting. The note can be found in a significant amount of masculine and feminine fine fragrances, cosmetic, soap and room fragrances as well. It is a crucial component of tobacco notes since it is very commonly used to flavor cigarette tobacco.
My top selection of cedarwood-rich fragrances goes for the following juices:
Why not starting my selection with Super Cedar from the Swedish house of BYREDO, first because I am a fan of this brand in general, and also because the name of this fragrance is crystal clear about the content of this juice. So what makes this fragrance “super”? is it the use of costly and rare cedarwood oils? Actually not, it is its high amount of ISO E Super, the magic aroma chemical discovered in the labs of IFF in 1973, even if Byredo does not show it explicitly in the notes. Virginian cedarwood is at the heart of the perfume and the other published notes, such as rose petals, Haitian vetiver, and silk musk, are very difficult to perceive or imagine. I love the feeling of this fragrance on me. The sillage is weak, but the longevity is impressive thanks to the ISO E Super molecule which makes the whole fragrance pulse in and out. Super Cedar is a perfect unisex juice for the amateurs of ethereal-woody notes.
Givenchy has an unbelievable collection of fragrances, even if it is certainly not the first fashion house we might think about when talking about perfumes. Besides their classics, such as Gentleman, Pi, Amarige, Dahlia and many others, lies the high-end collection of Les Parfums Mythiques (Mythical perfumes). Bois Martial is one of the three woody jewels of this collection, besides Gaiac Mystique and Oud Flamboyant. Bois Martial is a minimalist fragrance, with only three main notes, cedarwood, pineapple sage (Salvia Elegans – a Mexican sage with a note of pineapple) and the surprising coconut tree. The amateurs of Creed Aventus will not see much resemblance to their fetish scent. Bois Martial is for me a very elegant “cedary” juice, discreet but also pulsing comfortably, making me feel happy. The longevity is not very strong so that some Travalo might be useful for a long office day.
I discovered the Canadian fashion house of Dsquared2 quite a long time ago when they just launched their HE and SHEWOOD fragrances which caught my attention with their original wooden frame around the glass bottle. I was absolutely charmed by the originality of the juices which had no equivalent at that time. The house then launched variations of these original fragrances and much have already been discontinued, unfortunately. Today, only one remains, and this is the one where the cedar note is the most obvious: ROCKY MOUNTAIN WOOD. Our Virginia cedar is here softened by notes of violet but also spiced by some black pepper. Vetiver is the last note to fade in this very intense woody blend which I can only recommend. If you have the chance to source a bottle of Ocean Wet Wood or Silver Wind Wood, give them a try, they are also showing beautiful notes of cedar with other aromatic, sweet and watery variations that are wonderful. In my opinion, POTION and WILD are far less interesting creations of this alternative house.
DS & DURGA is a niche fragrance house of New York with extremely appealing creations to my taste. I am a fan of many of their juices such as Burning Barbershop, Cowboy Grass, Debasers and Freetrapper which is the subject of this post, as it is a superb concentrate of cedar juice. Besides the quality of the fragrances, what I love especially with DS & DURGA, is the story behind the product. Their creations often relate to the early times of the Western settlements in New England and the harsh life of the adventurers of that time. The free trappers where some of them, running the dense American cedar forests in search of beavers and other furry animals, to eventually sell their pelts. Cedar and pine notes dominate this fragrance, along with some bergamot and a poisonous perennial herb of North America called snakeroot, and of course some hint of castoreum. Not a very easy scent for everyone, but I think it is worth the pence and loyal to the storyline.
I took the risk to end up my selection with one of my top-five favorite fragrances among all, Bois Farine, a fabulous creation of Jean-Claude Ellena for L’Artisan Parfumeur. The risk is because Bois Farine is not a cedar-dominated fragrance and could in fact not be part of this post, but I get the cedar note very clearly, and this incredibly comforting scent is in fact what truly represents a cedar tree in my mind. Strange association, perhaps. This fragrance was born after Jean-Claude’s visit to the Reunion Island, where he came across a native flowering tree having a typical floury smell. To recreate this magic scent, Jean-Claude used woody notes like cedar, sandal and guaiac wood, powdery notes of iris, some floral effects, an undeclared by obvious almond note and a velvety musk. The result is stunning, and I can ensure you that Bois Farine smells like nothing else ever created by a perfumer. This is a unique scent, extremely pleasing, reminding of our childhood time. Cedar is undoubtedly playing a role in it, let me know if you find it too. This fragrance was discontinued for a while, during the change of ownership of the brand, but it is now again somehow available if you look well for it.
That’s all Folks; I hope that article gave you some new ideas of fragrances you could buy for you or your dears for Christmas and the festive season. Cedar fragrances are very smooth and best worn at this time of the year, so do not hesitate and let me know if you have some more to add to this list.
I wish you already a Merry Christmas and will meet you again soon, for the last article of 2017.
Thank you for reading me, and for your interest in Scent & Flavor.
Cheers, my friends,