Imagine walking through the high desert of New Mexico barefoot during the spring bloom after a rainstorm… You walk along a river of melted snow supported by a basket of willow lining the banks. Grandfather Cottonwood trees follow the bend of the river and try to share soil with exotic tamarisk and russian olive. The mix of common and invasive plants creates a scent symphony that imprints into your memory while you gather cholla buds to roast over the fire. What does that smell like? What does that feel like? This is the scent story that Dryland Wilds, a natural perfume and skincare line based out of New Mexico, aims to capture in every creation.
The dynamic duo, Cebastien Rose and Robin Moore, wildcraft their line by harvesting plants in the desert that have become invasive, or off-balance, within the ecosystem. Normally, these plants would be vilified. Ranchers and farmers frustrated by their overgrowth would turn to toxic herbicides to get rid of the invasives. Dryland Wilds comes to the rescue by harvesting these plants to honor their useful medicinal and scent value thus lowering the seed set. Once harvested the duo engages in some of the oldest perfumery rituals in order to extract the exact scent of the plant. It’s one of the most spot-on fragrances that I’ve ever experienced.
One of these rituals is the ancient French technique called Enfleurage, where the flowers are set in fat in gorgeous wooden boxes in order to extract their aromatic perfume molecules. I was so lucky this year to be invited to go with Dryland Wilds to harvest russian olive and take part in this enfleurage ritual. We found a spot near Ojo Caliente along the Rio Ojo to harvest, picnic and set the flowers. It was absolutely magical! It’s a slow process, taking over 2 years to get the perfume, but communing in nature in this way makes it worth the wait. Not to mention, there’s no better way on earth to capture the exact scent of a plant like enfleurage. It’s hard to find these days. Synthetic perfumes dominate our shelfies because not many brands will compromise scaling their business for the sake of nature. Not Dryland Wilds. Their business is founded on the ethos of ecosystem and scent experience first. It’s better for our bodies, the environment and creates a unique scent steeped in locale. I hope you get a chance to experience their creations and enjoy this week’s podcast!
To see this in action, check out my IGTV video here.
2:20 - How Dryland Wilds transitioned from farmers to foragers creating desert perfumes
4:35 - How their business evolved out of solitude in nature and finding your purpose by examining your passions and skill sets
5:45- How trendy essential oil harvesting can lead to over-harvest and decimation. How they created a foraging business that safeguards against that.
6:30- The meaning of an invasive plants, from exotics to out of balance indigenous plants
8:40- Herbicides and how their foraging economy can lower seed set while honoring their healing value while helping the ecosystem find balance
11:50- How plant education is important, cultivating interest in foraging, leading walks around New Mexico, Siberian Elm uses
14:30- Understanding how invasives work within the ecosystem and how nature finds a way to balance, how this relates to human acceptance
16:20- Cottonwoods needing floods to propagate and how human interaction throws off this cycle.
19:30- How invasive plants find ways to survive in trashed ecosystems and how they can save our butts during climate change, learning their uses and integrating them into our lives
21:35- Desert ecosystems and why the desert is so fragrant and ripe for perfume, how plant aromatics exist and why it’s good for our skin, Greasewood
23:50- Synthetic perfume vs natural perfume, why synthetics are bad for our bodies and the environment
27:00- Creating a scent of place within New Mexico, how scent can create a transportive experience of a location and help us create a better bond with nature
30:00- The history and process of perfumery & enfleurage, Aphrodite and the oldest perfume factory, distillation vs enfleurage
32:50- The enfleurage process and ritual
41:00- Asking permission when picking plants and flowers, how timing plays into foraging
42:50- Desert plants in skincare and how these plants, hydrosols, the skincare benefits of Willow
44:50- How you can use willow to help your plant transplanting in gardening to speed up the process of the roots to take, how this same process works on your skin cells