Scented Valentines

Create a custom love NOTE in downtown Scranton

If you’ve ever buried your face in the pillow he used or wore the T-shirt he left behind, you know how profoundly the smell of love can tug on our heartstrings. Nothing can whisk us away to another place and time like the scents lodged in our memory — Nana’s chicken paprikash on the stove, lilacs in the spring time, Independence Day sparklers, mentholated vapor rub, movie theater popcorn, even cleaning products grounded in pine and lemon. Certain fragrances have been scientifically proven to alter our moods, relax us, reduce blood pressure, relieve headache pain and increase alertness, as well as attract mates and act as an aphrodisiac.
“Scent is the only sense that connects directly to the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is responsible for memory and emotion. So it’s a direct connect,” Danielle Fleming, founder and CEO of NOTE Fragrance told electric city.
It was the fascinating psychology of aromatherapy that attracted Danielle Fleming to start her own soap and candle making business out of her basement 12 years ago and we couldn’t turn down the offer to visit her latest venture and design our own custom perfume. NOTE Fragrance opened at Spruce Street and Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton on Black Friday.
It was about two years ago that Fleming looked back at her origins and asked, “What is it I really, really love?”
“After some serious reflection I knew it was really the scent of things that I love and how it makes you feel and how it defines who you are and is such a part of your personality. It’s really an accessory to everything that you do,” she said.
“Scent in its purest form is in perfumes and colognes. Perfume doesn’t clean you like a bar of soap or moisturize you like a lotion. It just provides a scent that makes you feel something. And that’s why I decided to do NOTE Fragrances.”
Among familiar Danielle and Company products on the shelves at NOTE are the proprietor’s own fragrance designs.
The “intriguing” Midnight Leather was created in her attempt to capture a transcendent experience she had one night alone on the streets of Florence, Italy. Many of her fragrances are unisex. Fleming avoids identifying them with one or another gender. One of NOTE’s best sellers is a “very fresh and clean” White Pepper Mandarin. It was initially created for her husband. He wore Acqua de Giò when they started dating, she said, and the cologne had to go when she realize it was the same one her brother used. He gave it up for her, but missed it and asked her to design something unique for him.
The best way to ensure your partner approves of your scent is to involve him or her in its design. Danielle’s custom perfume studio booths stocked with 50 scent samples (diluted in coconut oil) in what’s called “a perfumer’s organ.” (There are 250 different oils in Fleming’s own organ.) Small dishes of coffee beans are provided at each station to “cleanse the palate.”
“It can get overwhelming. Your nose can actually handle about three strong scents at a time and then when the fourth one comes along there is a fatigue. It will push out the weakest scent and let the next one come in,” Fleming explained.
She pointed to a trip to the movie theater as an example.
“When you walk in you smell that buttered popcorn smell everywhere. But then eventually you don’t smell it anymore. It’s not like that scent left. The scent is still there, it is just replaced by other stuff.”
The custom perfume booths provide a unique sensual experience for couples to open their minds to familiar and new fragrances together and compare notes. The perfumer’s organ is organized according by top, middle, and base notes in scent families with citruses in yellow labeled bottles, herbals in greens, fruity in orange, fresh and clean in blue, florals in pink, gourmand (edible) notes in tan and earthy/woody in brown.
“There are different debates as to what the olfactory families are — some people will break out spicy or orientals — there isn’t actually one (system.) Some people say there are twelve olfactory families, some say six, some say eight. Some people call the “fresh and cleans” aromatics or aquatics. But everyone does follow this idea of scent families.”
The most romantic approach might be to choose to create a gender neutral scent that both partners can share and both wear. Some couples design their own scents or create fragrances for each other. A few who have already created scents for a partner, she said, have been careful to include a few things they know will be liked. Of course, we don’t necessarily know what we like as well as we think we do. Reactions are unique. Scents have personalities. People who like anise in a cookie might not like it in a perfume oil. NOTE has scents you’ve never experienced before that you may find you like better than your old standbys, Fleming explained. Frangipani, she pointed out, is a Hawaiian floral many people haven’t experienced. People who come in with preconceived notions of what they like and don’t like and are often surprised, she said.
“They’ll come in and say, ‘I know I don’t like rose.’ And then they’ll smell rose and say, ‘Oh, I really don’t mind it that much.’”
Most customers go through the samples casually before suddenly having an “ah-ha moment” in response to some trigger, said Fleming. “Their face lights up and they are like, ‘This is it. I found it.’ And it resonates so deeply within them … It’s a huge behavioral experiment. There’s a definite art and science, and I bring them through the process showing them how to blend, how to put everything together.”
Fleming has developed a proprietary blending formula that she uses to combine the levels of essential and fragrance oils you select into an organic perfumers alcohol.
“In traditional perfumery there are top, middle, and base notes, which is why (the boutique) is called NOTE Fragrances. When you start building a fragrance, it starts at the note level. Traditionally, you want to have a mixture of all three. It’s all based on the viscosity of the molecules of the scent. Top notes are the lightest — those are your citruses, your fruit and some of your herbals. They are very light and they flash off the skin within the first half hour or so. They are very bright. Next are your middle notes, those are mostly florals and they ground the perfume.”
Modern perfumery throws this convention of balance out the window and invites scents of all top notes if so desired. Anything goes at NOTE, just don’t ask Fleming to recreate a name brand. She’ll give you some hints on what it is about a particular fragrance that you like and you might accomplish something similar on your own but duplicates do not interest her. Each custom oil is given its own ID number and record in her database. When your bottle is exhausted, she’ll make you another exactly like it or tweak it to any new specifications the customer might have.

Alicia’s NOTE: eau de electric city?

I began my journey with bergamot, which I knew I liked based on my experience of Earl Grey tea. I know a lot of words, but I struggled to describe what I smelled on the strip of paper, called a fragrance blotter, we had dipped into the sample oil. It was reminiscent of the tea but had a much fuller presence than I had anticipated. It was more piercing than I would have guessed, and more feminine but in an elegant way, not girlish in the least.
I was pretty sure I wanted to use bergamot in my final blend, so I wrote the name on the blotter and set it aside. The fragrance blotters would be placed into a metal clip, fanned like fingers and wafted in front of the nose to get a sense of how individual scents will work together when blended. Curious about “clary sage,” I sniffed that next. It had a medicinal quality that had no place in my “vision.”
“Some people absolutely love it,” she said. “It depends on what you are trying to blend. Are you looking for something that is relaxing and comforting or are you looking for something that is sexy and sensual and you’re going out and this going to make you feel awesome?”
The latter was more what I had in mind, I confessed. Determining what was it I wanted this scent to do was more of a challenge than deciding what smells I liked or didn’t like. What was it that I wanted to say about myself to the world on this subliminal level before language?
I am a huge fan of sandalwood and regularly burn sandalwood incense and fragrance oils in my home, but I wanted something different for this custom perfume. The tuberose sample appealed to me, but it didn’t fit my vision either. I love Ylang-Ylang, but found it too commanding of my attention and sensed it would distract from what I was trying to achieve. I wanted to create something unique, unlike any scent I already knew. The final result would offer a fresh, awakened quality, somewhat mysterious and spiritual, with a subtle, but still vibrant sexuality.
I found the frangipani very pretty, but too sweetly floral to suit my style. Neroli was another matter. It is steam-distilled from the blossoms of the orange tree that grow before the fruit grows, Fleming said. It smelled to me like spring and I was captivated. This would be part of the final blend. I briefly considered blackberry, but it was just too overwhelming. I love to eat fruit but I don’t necessarily want to smell like it.
My ah-ha moment would come with sweet bay, also known as bay laurel. I had no expectations of it, but after a few sniffs, was ready to build my entire scent around it. After not getting anything from an “airy, watery” blue musk, I selected a frankincense base note. We added some lime for a touch of the unexpected, basmati rice for another tingle of freshness, and one drop of cinnamon for a spicy edge. Danielle blended the perfume and let me sample it. It needed a touch more sweet bay and maybe a little more lime, I told her. The altered formula was right on.
“It feels alive to me. It makes me feel like I am here in this world and ready to go. It’s stimulating,” I told her. “It’s like making a new friend. I feel like I need to get to know it a little better.”
“It is very distinctive and it has an edge to it,” Fleming concluded. “It’s not too floral or soft and sweet. I would say it’s more on the sultry side.”
NOTE Fragrance is offering a Valentine’s Day special called the Love Note Project. Customers are invited to write a “Love NOTE” to their valentine and display it in the store. When your valentine visits the store and finds the NOTE they will receive a free bottle of Eau de Parfum as a gift. NOTE Fragrances is located at 401 Spruce St. at Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton. No appointment is needed. Call (570) 343-2100 for more information or find the boutique on Facebook.