Skip to main content

Tabac Citron – Oh, so French, and one of her best


Photo - Wikimedia Commons - Provence country road

If you were asked to create a perfume from these notes - lemon, rosewood, pink grapefruit, lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, white tobacco, sandalwood and black spruce - what do you think it would end up smelling like?

Would you create a citrus fragrance, or a floral, or a woody fragrance? Would it be bright and sunny, soft and comforting, or dark and rich? Would it be more masculine than feminine? It could end up like any of these combinations, and it might turn out to be really very good, but I bet it wouldn’t smell like Tabac Citron from Providence Perfume Co.

You see, Providence Perfume is a special kind of perfume company. A small independent perfume label located in Providence, Rhode Island, it was started by Charna Ethier, an extremely talented young perfumer who has literally been training since birth to create beautiful 100% natural scents. In an interview for Fragrantica, she says she was the child of hippie parents, and grew up on a New York state commune where she spent a lot of time outdoors in Nature:

“I never even considered not doing natural perfumes… I picked berries and used to rub them on my lips. I peeled bark off trees and pretended I had a store where I would sell it.”

She grew up and worked in the corporate world for Aveda, working with scented products, but after having a baby she realized her life had to change so she followed her passion and became a perfumer, launching Providence Perfume Co. in 2009. I’ve posted here on the Niche about her amazing green chypre perfume, Moss Gown, inspired by the name of a book she read to her young daughter:

Moss Gown is far beyond the standard perfume stereotype, perfectly suited for the sensibilities of perfumistas and vintage-lovers. It’s green, it’s a chypre, it’s strong, it’s complex, it’s magical. Charna Ethier is a talented perfumer, and the fact that she uses nothing but pure flowers, plants, fruits and woods in her creations, and ends up with such beautifully complex fragrances - which have excellent sillage and longevity BTW - is evidence that she’s mastered her craft.”

The French countryside was Charna’s inspiration for Tabac Citron. It’s fresh and snappy in the first whiffs, with an almost medicinal bitter edge – the combination of oily lemon zest and the bite of herbal lavender make an arresting accord. But the soft smoky scent of fresh-picked tobacco leaves drying in the summer sun immediately starts to soften this unusual opening and Tabac Citron soon transforms into an aroma that I want to breathe in big breaths. It has a pale vegetal creamy sweetness like new hay, but edged with the fresh sour lemon notes, which makes it so gorgeous, and so niche.

As Tabac Citron dries down into the heart the florals, rose and ylang-ylang, add just the merest hint of spicy sweetness that hovers above the tobacco leaves drying in the sun.  In the final drydown, Charna’s scent takes on a warm richness from the smooth sandalwood and black spruce base notes, but it never becomes heavy or thick. Tabac Citron dries down as a divinely sophisticated luxuriously sunny outdoor scent that can be worn and loved by everyone, especially in the summer. It ends after a few hours with a lovely soft-cotton-woody-tobacco-y waft, with the faintest suggestion of the lemon top note. 

I love knowing that Tabac Citron and all of Providence Perfume Co. scents are sourced from 100% natural materials from around the world. If she can’t source them, she makes them herself. Charna is a member of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and was one of the participants in the guild’s 2010 “Outlaw Perfumes” project, the purpose of which was to focus on many of the natural essences that have been forbidden by IFRA. (Note: The International Fragrance Association is the perfume industry’s self-appointed watchdog in Europe, which over the past few years has forced dramatic changes to the formulas of so many vintage and modern perfume classics, due to the fear that certain ingredients, such as oakmoss, lemon oil, or lavender, for example, may cause allergic reactions in some people.)

Providence, or fate, plus obviously some very hard hard work and gritty determination, has made Charna an exceptional perfumer. Natural perfume artists such as Charna are very important to the perfume art, and to all of us who love fragrances. As she says in the interview, “It would just stifle my creativity to be told we can use only a miniscule amount of oakmoss. The regulations are very strict. Just because a perfume is natural doesn’t mean it won’t sensitize. Anything can be a sensitizer. But it’s sad to lose those great old perfumes.”

We can can pat ourselves on the back, and congratulate ourselves that IFRA regulations don’t apply to North America – yet.  Let’s hope that Charna can continue to create with a full palette of perfume notes. Tabac Citron has some of IFRA’s “BAD notes”, like lemon and lavender, and it’s a fabulously unique perfume, one of her best.


Tabac Citron is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.