One Perfumier’s Journey to Spread the Love of Niche Fragrance
Words and Photos by Andrea Westerlund
Jinx Graphic Design by Jackie Donner
How would you describe the smell of a new relationship? Would you think of pink pepper and patchouli? Or perhaps sandalwood and Thai oud? Maybe you have no clue, but you want to experience that smell. The phase of crumbling routines, meeting new families, and trying to devour every moment you can with this new person. Clay Emrick knows the smell well. So well, in fact, that he created a perfume inspired by this honeymoon phase.
His new perfume brand – Jinx – launched its first collection this year with four unisex fragrances that evoke sensations of real-life experiences like the first year with your future spouse or a stroll through Highland Park with the dog. And, in case you were wondering, according to Jinx, a new relationship smells “sweaty, sexy, animalic, & narcotic.” In layman’s terms: a confusing fragrance (in a good way) that is both sweet and spicy, floral and woody (and a million other adjectives that this uneducated perfume devotee finds in a Thesaurus).
The ”animalic” and “narcotic” Clicking Frog – Clay’s ode to future wife, Jinx Art Director (and Flower Power alum) Jackie Donner – is “sacred” and “for special occasions only.” Each of the four fragrances in the debut collection seem to have an occasion for wear in the creator’s mind.
“Daily wear is Roza Ruh,” he explains. “If I’m going out, I would go with Black Chyp. Jasmynal if I’m trying to be controversial and it’s also a good winter fragrance. But it’s the most polarizing of the collection. Then Clicking Frog is sacred to me. I have my own bottle of it, and I wear it on special occasions only.”
A quick glimpse at the ingredient list of any Jinx perfume makes it clear that this is not your average department store fragrance. This becomes even more clear when Clay begins talking about the inspiration for the brand:
“My goal was to be the bridge between the Eastern and Western marketplaces. The Western marketplace is fun, and there’s lots of cool design. It’s a little bit more playful, but the actual compositions are still mostly synthetic and not nearly as interesting as the Eastern stuff. But the Eastern stuff is extremely expensive. Some of it is rooted in religion, so there’s a lot of dogma attached to it, and it can be a bit stuffy. Like, everything is labeled for kings and princes, and it’s all about perceived luxury.”
What truly positions Jinx squarely in the realm of “niche perfume” is the brand’s focus on “oud-centric and highly animalic fragrances that are completely natural and free of aroma-chemicals.”
Even the most elite and exclusive of fragrances in the Western marketplace are chock-full of synthetics (i.e. artificial lab-recreated versions of real-world smells). And, if you’re the type of person who cares what you smell like, as far as Jinx is concerned, the natural scents are far superior.
The debut collection is made with high concentrations of rare and unique ingredients, oftentimes sourced from Malaysia, the Middle East, or Africa. Local ingredients are currently in the works.
“Every detail of these compositions is carefully paid attention to,” explains Clay, “rather than mass-produced with a bunch of aroma chemicals.” And those aroma chemicals? They’re what’s making your allergies freak out – not your perfume (unless you’re legitimately allergic to one of the ingredients).
If you aren’t into perfume, Jinx isn’t for you. But, if you care about how you smell, hopefully you care where that smell comes from and how it’s made.
“I’m always happy to educate, because I know it’s a big leap to go from being mildly interested in fragrance to spending $475 on a 30-milliliter bottle.”
Let the sticker shock settle in. I’ll wait.
Although synthetic fragrance is specifically created for longevity, the actual percentages of scent-creating ingredients in each bottle is quite low. According to Clay, store-bought perfume may contain 7-10% oils, while the rest is just alcohol. On the flip side, Jinx perfumes contain 32-36% all natural ingredients.
All that math breaks down into a three-to-eight-foot scent radius and four to six hours of wear time on skin (six to ten on fabric) with just a spray or two. And with each 30-milliliter bottle containing roughly 425 sprays, you’re looking at about $1 per spray.
When Clay references the immense care that goes into each fragrance, he’s not kidding. Each formula starts with an idea – a smell, a memory, a person – and goes through “hundreds and hundreds” of variations before Clay settles on the final version.
Scent is important, but for you shallow bitches…the packaging is ridiculously satisfying as well. All of the visuals and branding were created by aforementioned art director Jackie Donner and digital marketer Annie Gordinier. The power duo behind the unique look of Jinx sought to blend disparate elements like Chinatown lottery cards, clip art and distorted fonts.
“Bad design can sometimes be very cool,” explains Clay. “Ideas ping pong between Jackie, Annie, and myself, and we knew from the get-go that it needed to be quirky, fun, and playful. It needed to not take itself too seriously, but still convey the value of the contents inside the bottle.”
If Jinx sounds like your jam, you’ll want to head to their Patreon now. Well, finish reading first. We’re almost done.
The Jinx Patreon with membership beginning at just $5, which gets you access to monthly exclusives, raffles for free bottles, and the ability to pre-order. What’s more, the Patreon also gives you direct access to the perfumer himself.
“I post and post and post,” Clay exclaims. “I try to really talk about the industry and my process. I am completely accessible. I’m open, honest and if you send me a DM, I’ll respond that day.”
We won’t hold him to that, though. Clay does, after all, need time to create these divine fragrances. So, if you want to know how pink pepper and patchouli combine to create a scent-based portrait of the honeymoon phase of a relationship, get over to JinxSmells.com, Patreon.com/JinxSmells or follow on Instagram @JinxSmells…like yesterday.