Providence Perfume Company is a small and well-regarded independent perfumery know for the creative compositions of its owner Charna Ethier. Everything she makes seems to have a unique twist that sets it apart. One of the company’s most popular fragrances is Divine, an orange blossom scent made with 100% natural and botanical materials, as are all the products in the line. Recently a companion to Divine called Divine Noir was launched, and I had the opportunity to test both of them. Having tried Ms. Ethier’s work for both the Outlaw Perfume Project and the Brave New Scents Project, I was eager to try more.
The original Divine is a bright and happy orange blossom-based scent; when I first apply it I even get a little splash of orange juice for the first few moments. As with most natural perfumes, it does not fully reveal itself at first, and it’s not what you might expect if you are used to the light, sweet and even sugary orange blossom-based fragrances of the mainstream market. There is nothing wrong with those, but many of them are made of mostly synthetic components, and if you put them next to a real, living orange blossom you will be able to tell the difference. Divine is made from natural orange blossom and neroli, the distilled essence of flowers from the bitter orange tree, and tempered with vanilla and natural musk. It is deceptively simple on paper, but the resultant fragrance is rich and honeyed, and even though it has vanilla it’s no “creamsicle” but a sexy, grown-up perfume. Once it has fully developed on skin it is rich and heady, with the vanilla adding just enough sweetness to enhance the brightness of the orange flower. It’s easy to see why Divine is a customer favorite.
Divine Noir is a different animal altogether, with a sultry feel that enfolds the orange blossom with other prominent ingredients so it’s no longer the only star of the show. It was inspired by vintage perfumes of the past, and could easily be mistaken for such a fragrance, it is so redolent of “old-school” perfumery materials. The vanilla is hand-tinctured from natural pods and its sweetness rounded out with angelica and the root beer smell of sarsaparilla, the orange blossom is enhanced with elemi resin, and the base is deepened with patchouli and oakmoss. It is darker than Divine and its sweetness is complex and not bright and sunny like its sister scent. It also takes longer to come together on skin; like many natural perfumes, the base notes make an unexpected appearance at the start, especially since oakmoss and patchouli are involved, and at first it may seem like a bit of a jumble, but be patient, because once it settles down and starts to meld with the wearer’s skin chemistry, its expansive retro character begins to show. This is an all-natural fragrance for someone who appreciates vintage perfumes like Robert Piguet’s wonderful orange chypre Baghari, or what Coty’s great L’Origan was back in its glory days. The patchouli is definitely a presence but it’s not overwhelming, if that is a concern, and it’s a treat to smell the real oakmoss, since it is now a restricted material in Europe where most perfume is made. Fortunately for American customers, our independent perfumers can use it freely. I can recommend this and the original Divine very highly. Two sizes of Eau de Parfum and samples are available at the Providence Perfume Company’s Web site.