California-based Juniper Ridge is unlike your average fragrance company, championing natural products that capture the scents of the wilderness directly from its origin. Offering a singular expression within the perfume industry, Juniper Ridge are currently the only company in the world to truly create non-synthetic smells and natural products, from early harvesting to final extraction.
Founder Hall Newbegin was an unknowing wilderness perfumer from the start. It all began during hiking trips, over campfires and on the trails when Newbegin would take plants, mush them up and rub them into his beard and hair, and wipe real tree pitch on his face and skin, delivering what would become the aromatic experience of Juniper Ridge.
Joanna Kawecki: Coming from a background of hiking in the California mountains, how does your personal knowledge of nature and the wilderness inspire Juniper Ridge?
Hall Newbegin: It’s everything. I’m not a traditional perfumer, I wasn’t trained at Grasse Institute of Perfumery as many others, and I don’t really care much about that whole French system for making a “well-constructed” perfume. If I made a “well-constructed” version of our Big Sur cologne, it would be all nicely constructed with top-middle-bottom notes and a balance among the floral / chypre / oriental notes, but it wouldn’t smell anything like how the Big Sur smells. The deep experience of quietness in the mountains is my muse. That feeling of being out on the trail for a few days and laying down for a nap in a meadow in the Sierra Nevada and waking up deep in that place, with bees buzzing above your head and the smell of wildflowers in the air and the blue sky blazing. That’s it, that’s what we’re always going for, and we aim to put that meadow and that experience in a bottle. I didn’t have a business plan, philosophy or anything planned when I started, I just wanted to make something beautiful. I had my truck, my clippers, my copy of Jepson’s guide to California plants and I just spent time out there, learning, smelling, crawling around on the ground and sticking my nose in the dirt. Luckily I had many great teachers who took me under their wings and taught me all about plants. For me it’s all about the plants, the places, and that quiet feeling that I get when I’m out on the trail. Come to think about it, that’s it. That’s the germinal idea that that inspired the beginning of Juniper Ridge - that rich quietness that descends on you after you’ve been out backpacking for two or three days, I live for that feeling.
JK: Is seasonality an important consideration with your fragrances?
HN: Seasonality is everything! Nothing in nature is ever the same twice. The main challenge is in making a consistent product, how to create a Mojave cologne from the Mojave desert that remains the same from year to year. Every time we do a harvest in the desert, the plants smell and distil down slightly differently than the year before, because of change in local weather conditions and harvesting locations. So we finally surrendered that nothing is ever the same in nature, and not force something that isn’t supposed to happen. From the Mojave desert to the Timberline Trail in Mt Hood, I’ve spent my whole life exploring the hidden corners of the west coast, cataloguing the aromatics of the mountains of the West.
JK: What are you looking forward to this coming year?
HN: Most people dream about getting bigger, but I dream about getting smaller and more specific. The only way forward for us is to dig into the beautiful. That day, that place, that trail and the way the sun smells on the dirt after the first autumn rains in the Sierra Nevada. How do we capture the smell of wind coming off the glacier? Those are the kind of things we talk about here, and as long as we're digging deeper into specific snapshots of the wild places we love, we can't go wrong.