When Emily asked if I’d be up for writing about my first impression of Yorabode’s new scent, Ground, I asked that there be one condition: I didn’t want to know anything but the name before I could smell it. Scent is notoriously difficult to describe, and as it is so closely linked to memories, I wanted to maintain the purity of my own associations rather than let assumptions and expectations percolate and cloud the experience of the scent. We agreed that I ought to avoid the Yorabode Instagram in the meantime, lest I expose myself to any exciting details. A couple of weeks later, as I unboxed the candles and essential oil, a beautiful matte card revealed one element: halved grapefruits. I allowed myself to read the label: “Scent: Grapefruit, larch + earth.” Rather fortunately, I couldn’t imagine the smell. “What is larch, again?” I wondered. Earth? Some ingredients, even as a layperson, are easy to imagine the scent extraction process – “earth” is not one of those things. Some things just have a smell, but one doesn’t often ponder how to capture that scent. Even though I had given myself these hints, I couldn’t do much with them, so thankfully I felt my unadulterated first impression would remain intact.
At first smell, I felt a sudden pang of familiarity, but without much clarity – like trying to see a view through a fogged-up window. I knew it smelled like something… but what? I’ll be honest: the very first actual association was “eating a piece of a chocolate orange at Christmas.” I’ll come back to this later, because I felt that was kind of absurd, so I disregarded it. No, no, it must be something else. But what?
At this point, I decided I needed to clarify what larch was. A tree, I felt fairly sure. Or was I mixing it up with something else? Google confirmed my suspicions. Larch, also known as tamarack, is a deciduous conifer tree. Feeling a bit sheepish, I didn’t realize that there were coniferous trees that weren’t evergreen (in my defense, the vast majority are). For a moment I contemplated the ephemerality of both deciduous trees and of the scents they produce.
Armed with this knowledge, I smelled the candle and essential oil again, wondering if I might notice something that wasn’t there before. There is a woodsy element, but it’s unlike most woodsy scents, especially those one might find in artificially scented candles. It’s not piney or sprucey or fir-y. As with Emily’s other scents, it’s more "outdoorsy." It smells like being outside, perhaps at the beginning of a hike – not deep in the woods, but not far from them either. There is a sort of dampness, a slight chill in the scent – not unlike petrichor, the scent of damp ground and wet plants after rain.
I then reflected on the contribution of the grapefruit. Noticeable immediately is a certain muted acidity, but rather than the tangy sweetness one might expect from citrus, Ground makes use of the bright bitterness of grapefruit. Specifically, it smells like the rind and the pith – where all the most complex scents and tastes come from. If you've ever zested citrus, you know that with each pull across the rind, a fine spray of oils is released, and the scent covers your hands as you peel. That essence is present, but not obvious, in Ground.
Earth, as the final component of Ground, is perhaps both the dominant and yet most perplexing part of the scent. The earthiness of Ground is undeniable. Some candles are sugary sweet, other candles are floral, others still are musky or herbaceous or spicy. Ground is earthy. But why, or how, it’s hard to pinpoint. This brings me back to the Chocolate Orange association I first made: I think what I was smelling was earthiness, bitterness, acidity – not chocolate, nor orange, but something akin to them. Add in a nearby tree at Christmastime and the woodsiness is accounted for.
After lighting the candle, sitting with it for a few hours, and coming back to it, I noticed a common thread: terpenes. Both grapefruit and larch contain the terpene limonene. In both aromatherapy and cannabis applications, limonene is believed to aid in relieving anxiety and stress, which helps to explain the relaxing – grounding, if you will - effect Ground has. (As cacao also contains relaxing terpenes [myrcene and linalool to name two], that might explain my peculiar Chocolate Orange connection.) My perception could be off, of course, but my hunch is that folks who pride themselves on their knowledge of terpenes will enjoy this scent especially. When lit, these woodsier scents come forward more in the room note - not unlike with bonfires, lighting a joint, or filling a wood stove with bark-covered logs.
If you're already familiar with Yorabode's scents, you'll know they recreate ephemeral experiences and their fragrances. Brackish, Tuckamore, Boreal, Tertulia - they all make you feel like you're somewhere, even if you haven't been there before. It's not a memory per se, but it conjures a place and time. Ground is no different in that sense - it's a relaxing scent that feels familiar, even if you can't place why. It's distinctive in its potent earthiness; rather than exhilarating or refreshing, it promotes unwinding, decompressing, grounding oneself, not in a sleepy way, but in a way that sheds tension and distraction. And I don't know about you, but I could always use a bit of help with that.
*** Katharine lives in Halifax, NS with her husband and pets. Originally from PEI, she has studied islands and sense of place. As memory plays a role in place-based identity, she is always keen to connect scents with a time and a place, hence this fortuitous partnership with Yorabode.