Loyal Swooners know that Kirsti and I are Fleur Crazy, but they might not be aware that I am also fir-crazy. Scent is the sense most closely connected to memory, and the smell of evergreen instantly conjures up happy childhood memories of decorating the Christmas tree and sitting beneath its boughs while tearing into presents with unbridled avarice. The scent always became sweeter as the tree dried out, and I used to gather the fallen needles into a muslin sachet, wanting to hold on to that adored aroma even after the last holiday decoration had been wrapped in tissue paper and put away.
When Starbucks introduced its erstwhile Juniper Latte a few years ago, it was a revelation to realize I could actually taste, as well as smell, this sylvan scent. Ever since, I’ve been searching for new ways to enjoy the flavors of the forest. I began this “noble” pursuit at Aftelier, the aromatic atelier of perfumer Mandy Aftel, which offers a range of Chef’s Essence® Flavor Drops for use in cooking and cocktails. Among them are Fir Needle, Juniper Berry, and Pine Needle. I was torn about which to try first when Kirsti went ahead and bought all three for me as a gift (BFF!*).
Fir Needle and Juniper Berry are both essential oils with strong scents in the bottle, but surprisingly smooth flavors when added to foods and beverages. I’ve used them to “spruce” up my morning coffee and to bring the bright, fresh essence of evergreen to snowy scoops of vanilla ice cream and seasonal sips of Christmas-y cocktails. An unexpected delight is the deep forest green of the thick Pine Needle Absolute, which has a wonderfully woodsy aroma and a sweet, smoky flavor that transports me to a mountaintop timberland every time I taste it. (For links to recipes, click on individual Chef’s Essence®s in Aftelier’s online shop).
If Christmas is your cup of tea, you’ll love the Douglas Fir Spring Tips Botanical Tea from Juniper Ridge. A recent fortuitous find, this company makes sustainably harvested and wildcrafted products using organic ingredients sourced from the slopes of Northern California. Their caffeine-free Douglas Fir tea allows you to literally drink in the quintessential scent of the season with its fresh, light flavor, while the authentic aroma of their Christmas Fir Room Spray will instantly relocate you to the redolent rows of a tree lot. In combination with their full line of bath, body, and home fragrance offerings, it’s like dropping a Tannen-bomb.
Finally, I don’t know if the Balsam & Cedar fragrance from Brayer Ridge Soap in Maine is “fir real” or not, but the company deserves honorable mention, because their Handcrafted Goat Milk Lotion is the most swoon-worthy moisturizing cream I’ve ever used. Last fall, on a visit to Eagle Island, I stumbled upon a tube of this luscious lotion with the sweet scent of my beloved balsam and cedar. As a natural product without artificial preservatives, it had an expiration date less than six months away, but I kept it in the fridge and managed to ration it all the way through summer. Lisa at Brayer Ridge only makes this lotion during the colder months of the year and, unfortunately, she’s already out for the season(!), but I’m consoling myself with her equally swoon-worthy Balsam & Cedar Whipped Body Butter and Goat Milk Soap, which bathe my bathroom in an alpine aroma.
If you’re looking for last-minute holiday gifts and know someone with a firry fetish, there’s still time to stockpile these fragrant and flavorful finds—or to branch out and try them for yourself. You might discover, as I have, that seasons change, but tree love lasts firever.
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:
*Best Firry Friend!