Indie Perfume Brand Spotlight: Phronema Perfumes

Each week in Indie Perfume Brand Spotlight, we question different brands to find out more about their brand and the people behind it. This time we question Weston Adam from Phronema Perfumes.

About You​

Tell us who you are?

My name is Weston Adam. I'm a multimedia artist and author currently based out of St. Louis, Missouri although some of my projects are based out of different states. I launched the fragrance house, Phronema Perfumes, this past year after working on a few different compositions for many years, and finally getting them to the point of being able to be set free into the world.

How did you get into the perfume industry?

Well, it's quite a long story - it starts with a noise project that I'm a part of, called Men Behind the Sun. My collaborator in that project was the man who introduced me to perfume, and had quite an impressive collection of fragrances that he learned about from youtube, fragrantica, and basenotes. Back in those days, when we were working on our first demo, I had never really experienced much in the way of perfume outside of the Chanel no. 5 that one of my grandmothers wore.

One day, all of that changed when my collaborator introduced me to his collection by showing me a bottle of Lalique's 'Encre Noire.' Experiencing this fragrance absolutely blew me away, as I had never really smelled anything even remotely close to it in terms of the rich, inky, earthy and unapologetic vetivers, the screeching iso e super, and the rich woody cypress accord in the base. From there, and really from rummaging around the rest of his collection, I was hooked. It wasn't until years later, and thousands of dollars sunk into the hobby, that I tried my hand at crafting a fragrance myself. T

his change also came about in an unlikely way, through a friendship produced from my obnoxious arguing online about 'dupes' with Sucreabeille's owner and perfumer: Andrea Fender. For some wild reason, after arguing with her, she invited me to create some perfumes for her house. At first this was just some private blends, one for my friend's wedding, and another to simply try my hand, but it evolved into working with some really great ingredients for some of the more 'exclusive' areas of the Sucreabeille house overall.

Meanwhile, as I was learning the craft by diving into the deep end, I was reading books, attending lectures and the like. I was also at this point purchasing ingredients, oils and tools to continue further my experimentation, religiously devoting hours to making notes on all of the materials I had acquired, and running many, many experiments. For years at a time I would become fixated on a single family of oils, from ouds, lavender, frankincense, myrrh and the like, spending time and money to learn and properly honor that particular ingredient itself.

Over time, compositions began to take root, with the oldest of the current Phronema lineup having been in the works for around five years. After obsessively tweaking the compositions over the course of all these years, the melody of one perfume or another finally became free of all that weighed it down, and with the clarity of composition and notes, they sung of their freedom and release into the world.

What was the first perfume you ever purchased?

Well, I had been given a few different perfumes before I technically 'purchased my first,' but the first that I bought was a 4.2oz, metal plate bottom bottle of the original run of Acqua di Gio Essenza. When it was first released, the calone was turned up to 11, and this thing was a monster. I had gotten a sample of it from the mall, and went home to really spend a lot of time with it. There was the familiar smell of AdG that I had encountered in school and out and about, but the aggressive saltiness of the fragrance at that time really shocked and intrigued me. There was something about it back then that was doing exactly what Encre Noire was doing for me: showing me the doors to the edges of my understanding of perfumery, and walking me right through them.

What is your favourite meal?

Anything from Big Al's Diner in Nashville, TN, or Nathaniel Reid's Bakery right here in St. louis.

Two culinary geniuses, and two extraordinary, kind and humble men.

Where is your favourite place?

Wherever the people that I love are.

Do you have an interesting party trick or any hidden talents?

Absolutely none. I'm just a regular guy, aside from being six foot eight.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

I sincerely hope the thought of making such a film never so much as crosses anyone's mind.

About your Brand​

Describe your brand in one sentence.

A collection of works of art that celebrate the ancient roots of the olfactive imagination using exquisite ingredients.

Where does the name of your brand come from?

The word Phronema itself is simply a transliteration of the Greek word φρόνημα, which has a wide range of meanings that can be, perhaps foolishly, summarized by the notion of 'a way of being.' The term is deployed in a lot of ancient philosophy, but also in the ancient theology of the Orthodox Christian church by speaking of 'acquiring the mind (phronema) of the church' or 'acquiring the mind of the saints.' Once again, perhaps foolishly, we can summarize the idea by saying 'correct practice and belief, and in the correct way' are the methods by which one can 'attain to the phronema' of an Other.

How does this translate to perfume?

Well, simplistically I would simply say that perfume acts as a way of re-orienting one's way of being, and so to 'wear a perfume' is less an act of fashion than it is a way of 'being-with-others,' and 'coming to understand one another.' I wouldn't imagine that simply wearing a perfume will cause one to undergo even a portion of the process of change that 'acquiring the phronema' of whomever requires, but perhaps, as is the case with all art proper, it can start and inspire one on that journey.

Who are your perfumes for?

For lovers of art as a practice over and against the smooth utilitarian functioning of objects that are meant to be forgotten.

Tell us about your latest perfume.

My most recent perfume, Monoliths & Dimensions, is modeled after the brilliant record by Sunn O))). Consisting entirely of base notes it is a fragrance that combines a lot of my favorite oils into a rich, dense and smoky fragrance, not unlike attending a Sunn O))) concert. Oil from all four of the distinct sandalwood species are present, alongside some incredibly rich Boswellia black sacra frankincense from Oman, an ambergris tincture made from beach-found ambergris, and vietnamese agarwood alongside a gorgeous koh kong cambodian agarwood.

If someone wanted to try your fragrances, which one would you recommend they try first and why?

To me, I would always recommend Natural History - it's one of my favorite works, as it's the composition currently I have spent the most amount of time working on, and it contains loads of precious materials that are, while incredibly rewarding to the seasoned denizen of the perfume world, it is also capable of uncovering itself and being instructive to begginers.

What challenges do you want to overcome for your brand?

Of course, there are the same challenges that probably most independent perfumers face: distribution beyond a local level, sourcing materials in a cost-effective way, networking and the like.

However, I think alongside those challenges my perfume practice seeks to overcome challenges which are very similar to the challenges present before any of my other art practices: to learn alongside those who experience my art, to be open unto the Other, to stand with humility before God in the use of his tools, to provide new ways of encountering and understanding the world, etc.

What is unique about your brand?

I'm someone who deeply loves perfumes, and after having spent time with thousands and thousands of fragrances I long to create works of art to carry on in the tradition of the absolutely astounding brands that have come before me, such as: Sultan Pasha Attars, Prin/Pryn/Prissana, Anna Zworykina, Bogue, Slumberhouse, Agar Aura and the like. I really hope to be able to contribute to the tradition of re-introducing this ancient beauty into a world that has otherwise sought to do away with it.

Find out more about Phronema Perfumes here:
About the author
Grant is the founder and owner of Basenotes and lives by the sea.

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I like interviews and articles like these. It's really what Basenotes and fragrance appreciation is all about. :)

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