British Columbia has no shortage of small businesses creating essential oil blends. Home-grown Vancouver brand Vitruvi has taken North America by storm with its design-focused approach to wellness. The popularity of essential oils in this city is great, but the brands in that sphere are a list for another time.
These 12 indie B.C. companies are taking our love of scents a step further and crafting their own fragrances for home and personal use.
Megan Hepburn is an artist and perfumer based in Vancouver who teaches Zoom and in-person workshops on natural perfumery for all skill levels (the next one is on April 23). Hepburn has her own small collection of nine fragrances available in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations that use raw botanical ingredients to create unique scents inspired by the environment around Vancouver. Pete's Sake combines peat moss distillate, juniper, hemlock, cedar, sage, and other mosses for an earthy scent. While Water Witching is comprised of things that grow at the riverside. Hepburn also accepts custom fragrance commissions out of her studio on Fraser Street, open by appointment.
Based in Cowichan Bay, Wild Coast Perfumery makes 13 natural perfumes that fall into the categories of fruity, floral, herbal, woodsy, and vanilla. The hand-blended fragrances are made using traditional aging and filter methods so each one takes over six weeks to prepare. The scents are created with a blend of over 20 essential oils, absolutes and resins that are listed on the site and are designed to work with the body's natural chemistry to enhance your existing fragrance. In 2021 the Tribune Bay eau de parfum a combination of vanilla, coconut, mandarin, pineapple and cottonwood, won first place perfume at the Clean Beauty Awards.
Self-taught Vancouver-based perfumer Matthew Meleg's eponymous brand comes with a big caveat: his ingredients and concentrations don't comply with the International Fragrance Association. So why mention him at all? A few reasons. The first being he has a fan base. Meleg fragrances are more intense than modern perfumes and resemble the vintage French colognes of a bygone era for which there is a market. Despite being a controversial figure, Meleg has created 12 original fragrances and achieved a level of success despite numerous challenges and that warrants inclusion on this list. If you have skin sensitivities, allergies, or are vegan then perhaps Meleg isn't for you, but people interested in niche locally-made luxury products should check him out.
Heim is a queer-couple owned home fragrance company that began in Vancouver during the pandemic. After launching in 2021, the collection of six linen and room sprays became extremely popular and can be found at over 40 retailers across Canada. A portion of each sale is donated to Covenant House to help support LGQBTQ+ youth suffering from homelessness to find a space of their own. The scents range from citrus to sweet, heady to fresh, with something for every preference and can act as an alternative to a diffuser.
It's difficult to pin down Zingaro Floral Perfumery in Victoria. Part apothecary, part florist, part curiosity shop, this retailer has a bit of everything and it's all gorgeous. The 11 luxury perfumes are European in nature (as are their floral designs) and run the gamut from dark and brooding like Basilica XII with notes of ginger, cardamom, vanilla, and cedarwood, to fresh and springlike with Trinity Flora with notes of juniper, bitter orange, basil, and tuberose. Many of the parfums are available in 75 ml purse sizes and 50 ml bottles.
Fern & Petal is a Vancouver brand that makes diffuser essential oil blends, room sprays, floral waters, and bath products. Some sprays have specific functions such as an all-natural bug repellent or a sleep-inducing lavender mist but others are floral waters designed with aromatherapeutic properties for topical use. The Goddess mist is a floral blend of rose, aloe vera, and witch hazel designed to calm nerves and act as a natural aphrodisiac. The Evergreen Spice room spray is meant to refresh a space with cinnamon, pine, and cedarwood.
This gender-neutral soap and grooming company based in Victoria also has a fragrance designed and bottled in Canada but made by master perfumers in Grasse. The Boreal fragrance is warm, dry, and resinous with an undercurrent of smokiness. Notes of clove, pink pepper, sage, and cedar call to mind the forest floor. Steele & Co's other scent Zephyr is the opposite and represents the shore with aquatic-esque notes of bergamot, celery, and coriander.
Many people are turning toward solid perfumes as an alcohol-free scenting option. Cult-favourite brands Glossier, Lush, and Diptyque have all released their own versions. Locally, Free Spirit Botanicals in Victoria makes all-natural solid perfumes in eight different scents: white lotus, pachulli, and pachulli rose, amber, vanilla, sandalwood, green tea, and thousand flowers. All have a coconut oil and beeswax base and use either essential oils or lab-made ingredients that are phthalate-, paraben-, sulfate-, and formaldehyde-free (and are necessary to create vanilla scents).
Cowichan Valley natural skincare company Dragonfly Dreaming Organics has created rose parfums from several varietals grown on their property. The From the Roses collection is made from steam-distilled damask and chanti roses steam, the Tea Garden fragrance is finished with a Bulgarian rose absolute to make it as punchy as possible and the Spirit Rose fragrance has Jasmine along with a blend of other essential oils to make it more complex.
Flore leans into the mystique of perfumery with bottles and fragrances that hint at the magic of nature captured through scent. For instance, there is no cherry blossom essential oil but by combining magnolia, osmanthus, and jasmine with other notes, Flore has created "the fantasy" of cherry blossoms as part of their Wabi Sabi perfume which also contains yuzu, shiso, and pink pepper. Each of the nine fragrances has an intricate backstory that reflects the wildness and influences of the West Coast.