Interview: Samantha from Dasein Fragrance

     It is my pleasure to share with you my interview with talented perfumer Samantha Rader from Dasein Fragrance.

Photo courtesy of Samantha

Photo courtesy of Samantha

     The niche community has gone bananas for Samantha’s season-inspired line of fragrances, and I with it. Last year I adored WINTER‘s pine and lavender blend, and this year I went a little cross-eyed for the bright green SPRING, in all of its minty, peppery glory. I’m currently anxiously waiting to try SUMMER, a blood-red juice that Samantha describes in this interview.

     Editor’s note: Samantha would like to iterate that mint is not an official note in SPRING. She suggests vetiver instead, but as you know – everyone smells thing a tiny bit differently!

     Below are Samantha’s thoughts about her inspiration, how she got started in perfumery, and the challenges of getting her products on the shelves of the world.


 

1. Your new fragrance is called SPRING, and has been in the making for quite a while. Where did the inspiration come from, and what was the development process like?

The inspiration for SPRING was a wet spring morning, with notes of fresh blooms, rich soil and sprouting grass. The development process for SPRING was extra complicated and involved because my original main ingredients from India (ruh khus and rose attar) went extinct! So I had to completely reformulate right before production.


2. Talk about a headache! How are your two fragrances, SPRING and WINTER, different? Do they have anything in common?

SPRING and WINTER are both earthy scents. SPRING includes pink florals where WINTER’s only floral note is a rich deep lavender. They both hope to evoke nature, each trying to capture the quintessential smells of the respective seasons.

© Gil Segev 2015

© Gil Segev 2015


3. The colour of SPRING is so unique. What gives the juice its distinctive green appearance, and did this happen on purpose?

The color of SPRING was created by the Ruh Khus oil from india, which is a sandalwood distillation of vetiver–a pungent grass that grows only in the southern hemisphere.

4. Think back to any particular event in your perfume-making experience that stands out, negatively or positively. What was it, and what did you take from it?

SPRING was tricky because there were certain chemical reactions happening between the ingredients that would occur a few weeks into the maceration process. So I would get a formula that I was in love with, and then two weeks later it would smell like maple syrup! SPRING was the most difficult of all my formulas to conceive. It took me almost a year to get it right.

5. What is your creation process like? Does it start with a set of notes, an idea, or something else?

I always imagine the scent in my head first. I formulate all the notes I want to use through imagining how the scents will combine. Then I order all the oils and molecules that could create those notes. For example for SPRING I tested dozens of different rose essential oils and absolutes before finding the perfect rose that was in my head. Once I get all the ingredients on scent strips, I hold them together to see which ones resonate. For example the original vetiver oil I was in love with didn’t end up jiving with the other ingredients in the way I wanted, so I chose a different vetiver. Once I have a bouquet of scent strips that harmonize perfectly, I dilute the oils and start blending 1 drop at a time. It usually takes me at least 20 if not 60 or 70 tries at blends before getting it exactly right.

6. What is it like managing the business aspect of a niche perfume brand?

The business aspect can be stressful, so I have two assistants who help me immensely. One focuses on business development (PR, marketing, sales) and the other focuses on operations. I oversee those two, but they are both so good at what they do that I mostly get to spend my time blending and designing. Which is heaven for me as an artist. I think my company could be more profitable if I didn’t have help, but I’d rather have less stress than more money. I have the luxury of making that choice because I still have my day job.

© Gil Segev 2015

© Gil Segev 2015


7. What advice would you give to aspiring perfumers?

I would say go for it. The sky is the limit. I am completely self taught and went from knowing absolutely nothing about perfume to launching my own line in less than a year. The other advice I would give is to have patience. There are SO MANY snafus that happen like ingredients going extinct or running out mid-production, chemical reactions happening that change the scent or color over time, etc. You have to be able to roll with the punches. Another practical piece of advice is this: DO NOT STORE YOUR GALBANUM WITH ANY OTHER OILS. I made that mistake and polluted my entire scent organ of hundreds of oils and molecules. They all now reek of galbanum and are unusable.

8. I’ve noticed that you have expanded your international reach with new stockists. What has the process been like, and did you face any challenges with appealing to an audience abroad?

Getting an audience abroad has come naturally but the trouble with stocking internationally is the astronomical shipping costs.  I have gotten so many requests from international stores who want to carry the line, but who ultimately cannot afford the shipping fees.  I am currently working on trying to research using boats to ship my perfume internationally, which is apparently cheaper.


9. Where do you draw inspiration for fragrances?

My inspiration for this line of seasonal scents was to imagine myself enjoying the quintessential day of each season and how it would ideally smell.


10. The name of your brand comes from philosophers Hegel and Heidegger. How do they influence what you do at Dasein?

I took Existentialism in college and fell in love with Heidegger’s philosophy. A lot of his ideas point toward the search for authenticity. I aim to be my authentic self in all ways, including as an artist and business owner.


11. Your website hints at two new scents, SUMMER and AUTUMN. What can you say about them?

SUMMER is in stores now and is my favorite thus far. It is grapefruit, grass, cilantro, jasmine and orange blossom. It’s like a summer pool party in Los Angeles where I was born and raised and still live today. I am currently blending AUTUMN right now, which is agarwood, coffee, cinnamon, incense and leather. It is so cozy and beautiful. I hope to be done with the blend in the next couple of weeks. As I am typing this the fedex guy just dropped off my screen printing tests for the AUTUMN bottle, which feature a milky taupe ink. I’m opening it right now and…yikes. The pantone isn’t working! (This is one of the tough parts in the process… back to the drawing board).


12. Do you have a favourite note to work with? What qualities and memories does it have for you?

I think that Iso E Super is my favorite thing to work with. It doesn’t necessarily have memories associated with it, because it evokes so many natural scents at once and also somehow none. I love how shape shifty, ephemeral and pheromonal it is. Yummmmm.


13. Do you wear your own fragrances? If so, which ones? If not, why?

Since becoming a perfumer I cannot wear any fragrances, especially my own. It’s one sad part of this journey for me. I have become too sensitive to all smells and can no longer have them on my body.


14. What would you like everyone to know about you, your company, and your fragrances?

I guess I’d like you to know that I’m a regular person who just decided: why not?! I’ve always loved smells and love using my intuition in this process. My company is run out of my home by myself and my two loving, vibrant assistants Lindsey and Nami. It’s a real family affair and every aspect of the company is done with a sense of caring and integrity.


15. What does the future hold for Dasein Fragrance?

Once I launch AUTUMN in August, I have plans for a new line of scents. I can’t share the name yet but the concept is that each scent will be modern, sheer and a single note unto itself. The packaging and scent aesthetic will be very different than the seasonal scents, and will skew younger and more affordable. Can’t wait to be able to share that new line with you and your readers!


 

     I would like to thank Samantha for taking the time to share her ideas with me. You can find her at her website.


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2 responses to “Interview: Samantha from Dasein Fragrance

  1. AUTUMN! My nose needs that one! I would be so sad to not be able to wear perfume anymore. I guess perfumery is out for me.

    • Interesting you bring that up, Julie! I’ve been speaking to lots of perfumers lately (you’ll die when you see tomorrow’s guest!) and they all seem to have that trend of not wearing their own fragrances. It’s so weird to me, because if I was working on an artisanal line I’d be going by my personal nose and tastes for sure. I guess to each their own, huh? I think if I were to develop a fragrance it would definitely be in partnership with someone who actually knows what they’re doing so I could still wear it myself. 🙂

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