Sunday, August 5, 2007

Justine Crane: O So Much More Than Le Parfumeur Du Jour!

I've used one word to describe Justine Crane's products before, and I'll use it again here: sultry. We're talking about someone who is a scent maven, who will get under (and all over) your skin in the best way. Justine hennas her hair bright red and rides loud bikes and writes sort of like Steinbeck (one of her favorites), even if it's just a short, friendly email. She's kind but not cloying; she's fun; she's going to have to hang out with me if I ever do follow through with my threat to move back to California! And when it comes to scents, I haven't found anyone like her. No, I'm going there: I haven't found anyone better.

Justine, the perfumer behind The Scented Djinn Perfume Apothecary (which we will get to shortly) has been making scented soaps and butters and salves and candles and powders for a looong time; long enough to have mastered the perfect bar of soap, I will testify right here, and (for me, at least) it's J's deceptively humble-looking, ccrreeaaaaaammy Patchouli soap:

"Ambrosial, sweet and musky is an apt description of our smooth Patchouli Scented Soap. Pogostemon Cablin of Indonesia origin, and organic Pogostemon Cablin of Madagascar are combined in a soap base of extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, organic shea butter and organic cocoa butter."

direct from the site. Definitely do visit J's online skincare shop, Sierra
, to get a sketch of what she's up to, though to get the special seed-textured, rough-edged, multi-colored, wooden-box-molded artisan soaps and whatnots you might have to write her personally. The soap du jour is often just not advertised online. So you might write to order one thing and perhaps she'll slip you this other mysterious thing in with it, as a little gift, like a sample or a potion, and that's it: the spell is cast, and you are hooked.

I have yet to try my coveted (and mouth-watering) bar of J's legendary Organic Yellow Tomato & Holy Basil Soap, but it is definitely on deck. A girl can only keep so many bars running at once!

It's hard to pick favorites out of J's menagerie of specialties, but I'm going to have to say perfumes. The ones I've sampled (or seen described on her site) are liquid, in a grape alcohol base. From what I've gathered from our conversations about perfumery, her methods are intriguing (though precise). And her aesthetic is definitely old timey and romantic. I remember my delight at ordering my first mini bottle of scent from her (At - ahem - $7 a pop? Is it a mistake? No, J is just quirky and generous and mysterious like that. That must have been the most valuable $7 I have spent. Quite a gift, eh?). The small glass bottle of perfume came with its cork sealed in rosy-red wax with an old-fashioned D stamped into it. Tres Anachronistic. Drool.

But ok, the scents themselves - downright magical. Reviewing perfume makes me nervous, but I can confidently say this: Justine is not afraid to take risks. Try, and you'll see. A fresh melon-green note tendrils up from your wrist when you'd least expect it, yet it WORKS SO GOOD. She uses a bold, glimmering note of ginger to nudge open Eye of the Dawn (which eventually mellows into a hypnotic, almost candyish honeyed floral-wood). And sometimes the surprise is a powdery Victorian stink so addictive you have to keep smelling it; it's frankly narcotic (Here, I'm referring specifically to the alluring Tempest, which opens with notes of tinctured dried fig and tinctured fresh strawberries). If you haven't yet visited The Scented Djinn Perfume Apothecary, please do not pass go.

It's not often that you meet someone who's this talented AND dedicated to their art (o yes, i said ART) at the same time. Who, um, also happens to be generous, funny, and just REAL. I've sampled my share of perfume from the "biggies" in the world of "natural perfume," and J's stuff is, plain and simple, my favorite. And - you have my word - that proclamation holds true even if i didn't like her and hope to be iced-tea neighbors some day. ;)

(Pictured soaps - with scattered perfumes - are, clockwise from the top left, Patchouli, Ylang, Blood Orange, Jasmine & Cocoa Butter Soap; a mystery hunk o' lather that I have yet to decode; and the playing-card molded Amare Mezzanotte, a perfumed glycerin soap with jasmine grandiflorum, styrax, myrrh, frankincense, bergamot, galbanum, tagettes, clove, petit grain, and oak moss - with added jojoba. "Perfumed soap?" I would say so.)

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