A southern California native, Haley Alexander van Oosten founded artisan perfumery L’Oeil du Vert in 2005, concocting her rich, earthy fragrances from a beach-side laboratory in Santa Monica. Since then, between travels in search of far-flung ingredients, she has garnered a substantial following with her own range, as well as undertaken personal commissions and developed fragrances for brands including APC (whose Sustain was created by van Oosten to evoke guitar cases and the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.”). She first met Lisa Eisner a decade ago, and the like-minded photographer was among the first to sample her experimental blends of oils and resins. Here, she walks us through the key notes of the olfactory extravaganza she created for the “Cubo-naut” sculptures in Eisner’s
Psychonaut exhibition, which were diffused out of a nebulizing tube to evoke “that sense of mystery that lives in plants.” Champa
: The Psychonaut scent has four different type of champa flower in it. It’s a really sexy deep [note], kind of like an orange flower blossom—almost a dirty smell. It’s a gorgeous flower but people don’t recognize it as a flower right away. They’re grown in India, where it’s warm. Bee Balm:
One of the most interesting notes is called bee balm (Monarda Fistulosa). It’s a beautiful plant, also called wild bergamot. It’s used by Native Americans in cleansing ceremonies. Lisa worked a lot with Native American imagery, so I wanted the blend to have that very traditional American feel to it. Sage:
I pick sage locally—California sage brush as well as hummingbird sage. We distill it here in my lab, and we added that to the fragrance to enhance the Native American vibe.Resins:
I used a lot of resins—galbanum and frankincense and mastic, among others. I say frankincense, but I’m putting up to six different variants of that oil in it, so I’m creating a complex note with a plant; it’s green but it smells earthy. I value the effect of frankincense on many levels—we distill resin from Oman in tiny batches, almost like a prayer. A lot of our work at L’Oeil du Vert is devoted to exploring its mysteries.