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Spruce Apothecary: Portland's new source of fragrance & grooming indulgences

Mosaic, the flagship fragrance of  Spruce Apothecary
Mosaic bottle via

You might have a hard time locating Spruce Apothecary even though it's right across the street from Powell's City of Books; I walked right past it the first time. It's in the new Union Way “boutique mall” at 1022 West Burnside and among its neighbors are the Self Edge denim store and Boxer Ramen. Once inside, the bustling street outside disappears and it's a whole different world, and even though the shop is surprisingly small, the range of brands on display makes for a very enjoyable experience.

My main interest in visiting this store was the fragrance selection, but I was equally impressed with the bath, body and shaving products. In addition to well-known names such as Molton Brown and C.O. Bigelow, they carry hard to find brands such as Great Britain's REN and Japan's Morihata. A full line of razors and other shaving paraphernalia will delight the most fastidious of gentlemen.

Now, on to the perfume. The carefully curated selection includes lines that are not often seen in these parts – ODIN, Malin+Goetz, Santa Maria Novella, Mikmoi and MCMC. The Santa Maria Novella line is one I have long wanted to try and I was delighted to find it here. I was especially enchanted with the gorgeous spring floral Angels of Florence (lilac, rose, gardenia, peach, melon, violet) and the delicious Tabacco Toscano (tobacco, vanilla, amber). A very nice touch is that the main fragrance notes for each scent are printed on cards so you can tell at a glance what you might want to smell. (Other specialty perfume shops would do well to take a cue from this practice.) The perfumes all have European style glass funnels for testing; the scent remains on the glass for a long time, so I did not have to actually spray most of the fragrances to experience them, they were all ready to sniff. Several of the other fragrances captured my interest as well, notably Ao (coconut, ginger, tuberose, amyris, cade) by Mikmoi, and the shop also carries ODIN's amazing scented candles.

Even with all these desirable niche lines in stock. Spruce Apothecary has commissioned their own “house” fragrance, Mosaic, made by Portland's Imaginary Authors. Mosaic is is the ultimate in a cologne style scent, but with a twist; it is a classic citrus and herbal fragrance in the manner of 4711 and other traditional favorites, but it was formulated in an Eau de Parfum strength so it lasts much longer on skin than other colognes. Notes of petitgrain (bitter orange leaf) bergamot, oakmoss, cedarwood and a mineral note of limestone make for a bracing “take me away” fragrance experience. The cool blue, gray and white graphic packaging sends a clear message; the inspiration for this scent was the German spa experience as exemplified by the Baden-Baden resort and its famous Roman baths. If you are seeking the ultimate summer refresher, seek no further.

You can visit Spruce Apothecary's Web site to see a complete list of their brands and they also have a Facebook page. A full service site with online shopping is coming in the spring of 2014.

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