A Wickenden Street Shop Blends Custom Perfumes

Create a smell that's unique to you


I love the sense of renewal that comes with the warm weather – clothing, yes, and skincare, and of course swapping my dark lipsticks for pops of color. When I reached for my summer perfume, though, I realized I didn’t have one. Everything I own is either distinctly winter or spring. I wanted something fresh and light, that didn’t overwhelm the room. Those scents are hard to come by, though. Apparently “fresh, clean and light” are code words for “androgynous, soapy and vaguely frat boy smelling” at the perfume counter.

Then Charna Ethier invited me to blend a custom perfume at Providence Perfume Company, and all of my problems were solved. (Well, my scent problems, anyway. Wait, does that make me sound smelly? Because I’m not, I promise.) Charna has been making a name for herself both locally and nationally with her perfume, which started as a hobby and has become so popular that she opened a permanent retail location last month.

Providence Perfume Company sells all-natural perfumes in 11 scents like Cocoa Tuberose, Hindi Honeysuckle and Ginger as well as skincare and hair products. They’re all quite nice, but there’s nothing like complete control. We sat down at the custom perfume bar and set to work. Charna walked me through the process: we’d choose one or two base notes (the strongest scents, which provide the background for the perfume), two to three mid-notes (which are the most prevalent in the blend) and one to two top notes (which are the first things you smell and the first to dissipate). I immediately eliminated anything sweet or heavy like chocolate, vanilla and patchouli for my bottom notes. We decided on a blend of tonka, a sweet, non-descript scent, and vetiver, a green scent from Haiti. On top of that, we added neroli and lily from Sri Lanka for some really beautiful, subtle florals.

While I had the ultimate decision, Charna’s nose and experience at combining scents was invaluable. (The interesting things she told me about where the scents come from and how they’re made – like the fact that it takes 10,000 rose petals to make an ounce of rose essential oil – didn’t hurt either.) When my gut was saying to add more florals for top notes, she steered me away from them, remembering what I had told her about wanting something different than the flowery scents I’m always drawn to. We chose bitter orange and rosewood for some sweet citrus with depth to it. The result was exactly what I wanted: light, a little sweet, a little green... like a summer garden. The all-natural oils last for hours without fading or morphing into something different. I couldn’t be happier with the results: the whole thing took maybe 20 minutes, and cost $27. For that, I’ll make a perfume for every mood.

providence, perfume, company, wickenden, east side, providence monthly


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