What happens when you imagine the American West? Do you see jagged ice giants guarding the heavens? Do you feel the sacred stillness of pristine forest? Do you smell sweet wildflowers and herbs on the wind? Juniper Ridge — a California fragrance company that sustainably distills fragrances from the West’s most beautiful places — can aid your imagination. Wherever you are, their scents will bring the wilderness to you, and by so doing, allow you to become it.
We were lucky enough to speak with Obi Kaufmann, a man who claims famed naturalist John Muir as his hero and fashion icon. Obi is Chief Storyteller for Juniper Ridge, which means he has the knowledge and words necessary to express the brand’s majesty. Read on for a story about trees, mountains, deserts, oceans, and how to smell good — real good.
The Deal With Juniper Ridge
“The power of real fragrance can transport you,” says Obi, who never stops waxing poetic. “That’s fundamental to our philosophy. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been here, it takes you somewhere. It goes into the hardwiring, the base of what it is to be human, right past the frontal lobe.”
Juniper Ridge has been around since 1998, and calls itself the world’s only wild fragrance company. Their fragrances are made from trees, herbs, wildflowers, mushrooms and other natural miscellany directly harvested from ridges, forests, alpine meadows, ravines, and plateaus. They’re also committed to monitoring their harvesting techniques and protecting the very nature that sustains them: “We’re very particular about ecological stewardship,” says Obi. “We give 10% [of our profits] to Western wilderness defense, and we’re really into federal protection of land. We harvest on public land by permit and private land by permission.”
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The intrepid adventurers at Juniper Ridge are always discovering new places and scents throughout the American West. Their field lab fragrances, distilled around the campfire and beneath the stars, typically sell out within minutes. However, they have five wonderful fragrances that are always available in the form of backpacker cologne, trail resin, trail soap, and cabin spray. “Our fragrances aren’t about blowing out the elevator, getting laid, or projecting something,” says Obi. “They’re about taking an aromatic snapshot — taking you to a place, a still place. The quiet stillness of the mountains is our forever inspiration.”
California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains stretch over 400 miles through the heart of California, and include such idyllic spots as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Lake Tahoe. “As you go up from Lake Tahoe, you’ll come across the Sierra Nevadas — John Muir’s Range of Light,” says Obi. “Our Sierra Granite scent comes from the cedar forest of the Yuba River — the forest I grew up in.” Sierra Granite contains the scents of cedar, pine pitch, fresh glacier melt, plus a hint of mountain boulder.
The Mojave Desert, steeped in history and mystery, claims nearly 50,000 square miles of California, Nevada, and Arizona. Juniper Ridge takes their Mojave scent from the Inyo backcountry, located near the foothills of the Southeastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The tenacious and hardy scents of sagebrush, desert pine sap, and desert cedar can be found in a bottle of Mojave. Cowboy boots, trail stubble, and six-shooter not included.
3. Big Sur
Located along the Central California coast, Big Sur boasts one of the most impressive coastal ranges in the world. The Santa Lucia Mountains are teeming with sage and oak, and so is the Big Sur fragrance. It also has notes of salt air and burnt honey, evoking the sensation of cruising down Highway 101, letting the wind tousle your hair, and peeking at the sunset over your sunglasses. Obi describes the Big Sur scent best: “It’s not some inspiration of Big Sur with European plants like vanilla or patchouli, no; these are sages and conifers from this place. This is this place.”
“Siskiyou is a forest about a third the size of New York State, where the tallest trees in the world grow,” says Obi. “And those tall trees are in our Siskiyou bottle.” The scent of the majestic trees along the Oregon and California coast might just make you feel taller. Siskiyou boasts a cornucopia of wild aromas, including those borrowed from cedar, ginger, driftwood, and deep conifer forest. You can also detect a hint of fresh, crisp citrus.
For a cooler scent, Obi and crew venture to the mighty Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington. “The Cascades is where the ice giants come out — the volcanoes of Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Rainier — that is our Cascade Glacier scent,” says Obi. The bright evergreen forests of the northern Cascades fit nicely within a bottle of Cascade Glacier, and combine their scent with those of fresh snowmelt and citrus.
Obi Kaufmann and the team at Juniper Ridge know how to smell good while honoring nature’s eternal gifts. To learn more about how Juniper Ridge bottles the magic of the wilderness, visit their website and check out their real harvest stories. Match the number on your fragrance bottle to the accompanying harvest story to see your scent’s precise origins.
It seems fitting to end with a quote from Obi’s hero, the one and only John Muir: “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”