When we came together to brainstorm our holiday product lineup, we wanted a new and exciting scent to pair with our beloved signature scent of Vanilla Candy Cane. When it comes to crafting a new scent, there are endless ideas and opinions:
“It should be fresh and alive! Like the outdoors!”
“It should create a sense of ahhhh… the scent should transport me back to my favourite quiet holiday moments.”
“The holidays are stressful. It should be grounding, relaxing and combat the stress of the season.”
Every person experiences the holidays differently. Memories could be fond and warm, or melancholic - even slightly traumatic. No matter the background, we wanted to create something that could embrace all of it, warm hearts and put a smile on someone’s face.
So our in-house Herbalist, Tara, rolled up her sleeves and got creative. After 27 different prototypes, she finally landed on a winner - Orange Cardamom. We asked Tara to share about her process of finding THE winning holiday scent and how it evolved.
Q&A WITH TARA
You’ve been the in-house herbalist at Rocky Mountain Soap Co. for 9 years. How did you find your way to this profession?
I’ve always had an interest in holistic healing modalities. I worked as a herbalist/iridologist in the beginning, eventually also branching into 5 Element Acupressure bodywork. Due to other life events I eventually found myself working with my client’s animals and started a small business making natural herbal remedies and topical grooming/skin care products for cats and dogs.
Once my products were in over 15 stores and I was juggling a young family, I happened to meet Cam and Karina who inquired about about coming onboard to work as Rocky’s product developer and herbalist. As I had been making my own natural skin care products for years this seemed to be a great fit.
Long story short, I transferred my passion for natural healing to the bath and body realm. My prior experience in formulating with toxin-free pure ingredients and using essential oils for their aromatherapeutic benefits was a huge asset. Since joining Rocky I’ve expanded my studies in natural cosmetics, essential oil chemistry and safety and Ayurvedic aromatherapy.
What are important parameters that you’re working within when developing a new scent for Rocky? Do you think having strict parameters actually helps to inspire creativity?
In some ways it can. Because of Rocky’s strict natural standards and the Red List of ingredients we steer clear of, it can limit options but in a good way to simplify the process.
Simplicity is a bit of a motto around here so we try to use what we have and work with suppliers that we trust. We’ve been shooting to formulate products using only 10 ingredients or fewer, being deliberate about each ingredient chosen to maximize the potency and benefits to the skin while minimizing the environmental footprint of each product.
Safety is also very important. Essential oils are potent and I need to ensure I have worked with those levels of each essential oil (it varies) that are safe enough for the skin (especially in leave-on products like a lotion or butter) yet a high enough total level to allow the scent to create an impact and hopefully linger a bit. The total percentage of essential oil used can also affect the base and break it down if too high.
Scaling up is another challenge. Sometimes I’ll produce a small batch of prototypes in a given base and it smells heavenly but then when we make bigger batches things can change, just like with baking! For example the process of heat generated in large volumes can kill off the scent or the base (liquid soap, lotion or butter) can completely overtake the essential oils. It’s a game of balance and testing.
When it came to developing a Christmas scent, what was your process like? Where did your inspiration come from?
I received an initial brief that the holiday scent that should uplift and combat the stress of the season. I started off by playing with blends on paper scent strips. A fresh and floral Juniper Mint type scent was in the running, yet with feedback from the team, things eventually evolved into a more citrus-based blend.
I was finishing an Ayurvedic Aromatherapy training at the time and reacquainting myself with the three doshas, or energies of vata, pitta and kapha. Knowing we wanted something soothing, stimulating and energizing, I explored spices like cardamom, black pepper, ginger and tulsi.
Once I felt like I had a well-rounded blend with a top, mid and light base note, I started testing it in our bar soaps, lotions and liquid soaps. Most scents require tweaking to best meet each of our base products. We then test on staff (never on animals) and collect feedback until it’s perfect.
So you landed on Orange Cardamom in the end. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
The top note is mouth-watering sweet orange, which comes from cold-pressed fruit peel. It uplifts the spirit, eases anxiety, depression and stimulates the appetite. Citrus notes are usually safe bets and appeal to the majority of noses.
Cardamom as mid-note is rich, spicy, sweet and tenacious. It boosts the citrus element, lifts stagnation, stimulates the heart, digestion and refreshes the mind - all perfect during the holiday season.
Cedarwood adds a sweet woody warm almond-like note that is grounding and comforting to the psyche while imparting natural antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and deodorizing properties.
The additional spices of black pepper and cinnamon support depth and the spicy kick.
On average how long does it take to develop a scent? How long did it take you to create our new Christmas scent?
Haha! It all depends on how picky people are. Sometimes we can nail it in a day. I started this blend in March of 2018 and we finalized it by the end of April so about two months and 27 prototypes later.
Which scents remind you of Christmas?
Mulled wine and cider, eggnog and gingerbread. Every year, our family makes gingerbread cookies together. Oh also, silver fir! It’s Christmas tree in a bottle. It’s a tradition to get together with friends, head out to Sibbald Flats and choose ourselves a little Charlie Brown tree for the holidays.
Do you have a favourite essential oil?
I’m in love with many oils :) These days certain carbon dioxide extractions of cardamom, jasmine, and juniper berry are faves. I recently found a deeper premium sustainable sandalwood oil that is heavenly and I hope to work with soon. Tree oils are also huge in my world, the best to date is wild crafted artisan distilled Pinyon pine, a spiritual psyche melting experience in one inhalation!
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