First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco


Last Sunday, July 8th, I spent the day at the First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco. You’ve probably read something about it already so just to recap: twenty artisan perfume companies presented their perfumes at the Gallery 4N5. There were also wine and chocolate tasting as well as some talks and presentations.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll try to write more about some of my personal discoveries at this Salon but I want to share with you pictures of those stands that I managed to take before there were too many people. Keep in mind that pictures on walls were a part of the Gallery decor and participants weren’t allowed to change those. Notice how perfectly some of the stands and art came together. I’m not sure if there was any special thinking behind those designations or if they just happen to come together by chance but some of them really played out. Click on pictures to see more details.


Yosh at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Both Yosh (above) and Sonoma Scent Studio (below) found an elegant solution to the over-perfuming the small space: pre-sprayed glass containers. I really like the idea because in addition to the benefit mentioned there are multiple others: you do not need to remember which paper strip you sprayed with each perfume (which is even harder if you were given a blotter sprayed by a perfumer); you can revisit scents multiple times without trying to juggle those multiple paper strips and, finally, if you didn’t like the scent you do not need to decide if it’s polite to discard it right there, in front of a perfumer/presenter, or if you have to take it with you.

Sonoma Scent Studio

Sonoma Scent Studio at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Many people were disappointed that Laurie Erickson, the nose behind Sonoma Scent Studio, couldn’t attend the event. On the positive side, there was her newest addition to the line Forest Walk and the stand looked very elegant.

Artemisia Natural Perfume, perfumer Lisa Fong

Artemisia Natural Perfume at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

For a while I was considering one of Artemisia‘s perfumes – Ondine because of the name (it means the same as Undina, just a different spelling) but I’m not too good with all-natural perfumes, usually they don’t work for me. I should have probably bought a sample (though now I cannot remember if this table offered any for sale) but I was so overwhelmed with everything that I wasn’t thinking straight.

Ineke, perfumer Ineke Rühland

Ineke at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Ineke had a very nice spot and they decorated it just perfectly. Do you see the stack of sample sets on the left? They were all sold out quickly. On the off-chance somebody doesn’t know that, this is one of the best discovery sets out there: for $25 including shipping you’re getting the cutest box with seven 2 ml individually wrapped samples and that price is redeemable for a purchase of a full bottle.

Ineke Discovery Set

Probably half of all participants didn’t have any samples for sale and I think it’s a mistake. I understand that for a small company it might be prohibitively expensive to give away samples and I didn’t expect them to do that. But it’s also hard to expect that people who have never smelled this brand’s perfumes (and sometimes haven’t even heard about its existence) before will distinguish any of the perfumes out of literally hundreds, fall in love with it and decide to spend $40-$135 on the spot for a full bottle. Some brands at least offered purse sprays under $20 (Sonoma Scent Studio and Olympic Orchids) which is a much more reasonable option.

En Voyage Perfumes, perfumer Shelley Waddington

En Voyage Perfumes at SF First Fragrance Salon

Shelley Waddington presented her newest The Cosmologie Collection. I liked A Study in Water on a blotter but I didn’t have a chance to test it on skin. I’ll need to revisit it one day.

Olympic Orchids

Olympic Orchids at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Ellen Covey, the perfumer, in addition to the main collection, also introduced her new collection created for the Devilscent Project. I found my favorite out of five – Dev 2.

Olympic Orchids at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Roxana Illuminated Perfume, perfumer Roxana Villa

Roxana Illuminated Perfume at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

The name 40 notes perfume seemed somehow familiar but I couldn’t remember where I read about it or what. I liked brand’s esthetics and thought that Miriam, the perfumer, was really charming. But I caught her later in the day, she was tired and wasn’t sure it was the best time to pose for a picture. I promised her not to use it, so here’s just a picture of the stand:

40 notes perfume

40 Notes at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Those beautiful green and gold paper boxes are sample sets. Since perfumes are oils they are expensive. While I understand $5+ for 1 ml, there was just one perfume in the line to which I was immediately attracted so I just couldn’t justify paying $40 for the sample set. Maybe I should have… Well, I have time to think about it since those can be ordered from the website.

Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Perfumery

Velvet And Sweet Pea's Perfumery at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Leila Castle Botanical Fragrance

Leila Castle Botanical Fragrance at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

smell bent

SmellBent at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Smells & Bells Organics

Smells And Bells Organics at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Rebel & Mercury Pure Botanical Perfumes

Rebel & Mercury Pure Botanical Perfumes at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

Sarah Horowitz Parfums

Sarah Horowitz Parfums at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon


Persephenie at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

One more brand that decided to use glass as a medium for perfumes testing (though it bothered me a little that there was three glasses of one form and one of another). If I ever come across this line I’ll test it more: I was too tired by the time I got to them.

And, finally, there was one brand new brand that launched that day at the Fragrance Salon – Cognoscenti. There are just three perfumes in the line (that is how brands/lines should be launched!) and I liked one of them enough to put on the skin. I will test all three more and see if I have a story to tell.

COGNOSCENTI, perfumer Danniel Sergent

Cognoscenti at SF First Artisan Fragrance Salon

There were several more stands – Ayala Moriel Parfums, Divine Life Perfume and Parfums DelRae but my pictures of those tables are too blurry to share.

I enjoyed the event: friendly and warm atmosphere, beautifully decorated stands and an unimaginable variety of perfumes, perfumed oils, body products and other scent-related items.

On the negative side – music in some areas was too loud, it was hard talking to people; too many perfumes were sprayed in the area without a proper ventilation and just simply NOT ENOUGH TIME to try even brands about which I knew before – leave alone completely new ones. But I really tried.

I hope this will actually become an annual event because I want to go to the next one already.

Images: my own


40 thoughts on “First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco

  1. Oh, this looks like so much fun! And just when I think I’m starting to get a handle on the indie scene, I read a post like this and realize just how much there is out there.


    • This genie is out of the bottle already: I don’t think anybody could even scretch the surface of indie perfumery. And knowing your approach I should say: don’t even try! ;)


    • I’ve never been to Disneyland but from your description – yes, somethiing like that. Though I wouldn’t mind having a couple more hours – to get to all those perfumes I wasn’t able to.


      • Only been to Disney World. Already an adult but it still had my head whirling and I wanted to cry and throw a tantrum when they kicked us out. My friends were completely over it by then but I could have continued for 3 more days. So fun.
        I hope they are reading your advice on how you would like to buy samples at reasonable prices and solo.


  2. Dear lord I am jealous to holy hell hahhaaha. This looks amazing Undina, I’m sure you had a great time (and I’ve discovered some new things too). Lovely post and photos.


    • Thank you, Freddie. It was a great event. It’ll take me some time to test some of the new things I discovered but I know already that it was a successful sniffathon.


  3. Oh boy, what a sensory overload this must have been. So many well known indie brands – and quite a few that are new names to me – gathered together in one place. It all sounds pretty mind blowing! Loved the photo montage and also enjoyed your observations on the companies’ sample policies and general stall presentation. : – )


    • Thank you, Vanessa! It was fun to sort through the pictures I took (as always, I wished I’d taken more), conversations I had (I wish I’d had more) and samples I got (I wish… you know ;)).


  4. Wow! So cool. I love your pictures. I wish we could have something like this in Texas! I especially love the painting hung behind Smell Bent. So perfect!


    • Well, this was the first one in here as well so who knows? Maybe in a couple of years similar exhibitions will be happenning close to where you live.

      I couldn’t believe first that it wasn’t Smell Bent’s backdrop :)


  5. Undina, this seems like an amazing event and lovely pictures. I wish we had something on this scale here in the UK. Great for indie perfumes too. I agree about samples – it is very difficult to purchase a bottle based solely on a first sniff.


  6. Undina, thanks for this lovely post and your very perceptive comments. We live and learn. Within the first hour I had resolved that if I do this again, I will bring loads of sample packs and few or no large bottles.

    It was a pleasure meeting you! I just wish I’d had more time to walk around and check out other perfumers’ stands and their creations, but it was fantastic meeting so many people in person after reading about and interacting with them online.


    • Thank you, Ellen! It was nice to put a face to the name and blog.

      Time just flew by. I felt like I would be able to go around a couple more times – and suddenly it was time to leave. Next year!..


  7. OMG, I’m already madly jealous of anyone living in California just for the sake of living in California and now THIS! One of these days I’m packing my bags and coming to join you over there :)


  8. Thank you for the lovely recap of our show! It was a whirlwind day for all of us, and we’re still buzzing from it! Thank you for taking such a lovely shot of my line, 40notes Perfume Collection. You are obviously a professional… next time I won’t be so shy and I’ll pose!! ; ) Sincerely, Miriam Vareldzis, 40notes Perfume


    • Thank you, Miriam! I’m far from being a professional but I enjoy taking pictures of things, places and people I like. Next time I’ll try to catch you after you’re done with the table (year, it was I who tried to take a picture of the table as you were hurryingly finishing the set-up) but before the very end of the day.


    • Hi Miriam,

      I was at the show as a perfumery pedestrian, and I thought that your table was exquisite: all those greens and gold, and the beads on your wrist and on your perfume bottles matched. I bought your samples in the elegant box and sent them to my friend in CT. All is left is your scented postcard – I love the smell – which one of your perfumes was it?

      All the best,
      Your admirer.


      • HI there! That’s an excellent question… since the cards weren’t actually scented! They’ve absorbed all the fragrances simultaneously. Unless, you happen to put a fragrance on one to test? The only other thing I can say is that the Jasmine fragrance was among the cards at one point, and may have carried over. I wish I had a better answer for you!


  9. Julia-
    Thanks for the great overview! I wish I personally had more time to visit all of the booths of my fellow perfumers and thank you for taking the time to smell for all of us. Appreciate that you liked one enough to put on your skin and welcome your feedback on the others. Already looking forward to the next one.
    Thanks again!
    Dannielle Sergent, COGNOSCENTI


  10. Pingback: San Francisco Show Recap « Perfume in Progress

  11. Thank you for the comprehensive write up–and pictures!! It was the next best thing to being there to see it through your eyes. It looks like a lot of fun. (And hopefully the organizers will see your comments and make it a little itty bit quieter next year. )


    • Thanks, Natalie. Next time you should definitely join me!
      Actually, I was surprised how many people came there alone. Usually at different exhibitions and shows you see people in groups. At this event many people were just by themselves.


  12. Wow! This looks like a super-fun event – I love seeing some brands I know and some I don’t!

    I agree that the Ineke trial set is SO AWESOME – I wish all the brands would do something similar. I wonder why they don’t? I really don’t think she loses out on the cost but then, after all the packaging, perhaps she does.


    • I look at it (samples/sample sets) this way: if a company doesn’t do any samples at all, not in stores, not through the website because they figured out it was cost-prohibitive for them – than fine, I hope they calculated it properly. But if they produce and distribute samples in general, what can be better than to make them price-deductible from the price of a full bottle? If they were to spend any money on samples, people who are willing to pay for them are the best potential either clients (as in “buy a bottle”) or promoters (as in “write about the perfume”).


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