Years ago, Karen Van Dyck was at home rocking her sleeping baby daughter near Shawnigan Lake when the smell of Cottonwood buds wafted in through the door.
“It’s a heavenly aroma. I thought, what if I could put it in a bottle that scent, drop it at a bus stop in Winnipeg in the middle of winter, where someone would pull out the cork and be instantly transported?”
She started researching aromatherapy and the ancient art of perfume, developed her own natural cosmetic line, studied with esteemed perfumer Mandy Aftel in Berkeley, and eventually dropped her career in high school education to pursue perfumery full time. A generation later, perfumer Stacey Moore walked into Van Dyck’s shop, her own baby in tow.
“It was like we spoke the same language,” Van Dyck says of their shared passion, knowledge and experience with natural scents. Now the two women share their perfume and distilling talents at The Still Room Perfumery in Oak Bay.
“Often we overlook the importance of scent because we prioritize sight, but scent is a very personal. It’s connected to memory, and grounds us in the natural world,” Moore says. “I think of it as time travel — I can take myself anywhere through scent and my imagination. Scent tells a story.”
Custom perfume service
Besides a collection of artisan perfumes, The Still Room stocks nature-focused local crafts like pottery, gemstone jewellery, natural skincare, candles and tea, but most customers come in to connect with Van Dyck and Moore’s extensive knowledge and go on a “scent journey.”
“This is an experience, not just a retail shop,” Van Dyck says.
Sign up for a signature perfume session and you’ll work with The Still Room to make a custom scent.
“We get to know our clients by taking them on a scent journey. They don’t see the names of anything they’re smelling, and we teach as we go,” Moore says. “We use the client’s true intuition to find out what they really want. They may say they want vanilla, for example, but when when they smell natural vanilla without knowing what it is, they may not choose it!”
At the end of your session you get a bottle of your perfume in a designer glass bottle and a copy of your custom recipe. The Still Room grows, forages and distils local plants, as well as sourcing exotic essences from around the world. The highest quality ensures the best perfumes.
“As artists, the aromatics are our palette. You can tell when you smell something whether it’s true or synthetic,” says Moore, who advises clients to focus on ‘synthetic-free’ instead of ‘scent-free’. “It’s about connecting to the natural world, to yourself, and to beauty.”
To sign up for a signature perfume session or to register for a class, visit stillroomperfumery.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For an old world experience stop by the shop at 1846 Oak Bay Ave., or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about Moore at Flore Botanical Alchemy and Van Dyck at K Van Kyck Parfum.