How Beardbrand Develops a New Men's Fragrance

—Mike Lawson
How Beardbrand Develops a New Men's Fragrance

This month, we launched our brand new fragrance, Stone Mason. It’s our first new fragrance since 2016 and completes our White Line trio, so Stone Mason is a big deal for us—we also think it’s one of the best new fragrances for men. 

To celebrate the release of Stone Mason, we’re taking a behind the scenes look at how we developed the fragrance profile for it. 

You can find Stone Mason, and our other White Line products, at Target stores and on target.com.

DEVELOPING A FRAGRANCE STARTS WITH AN IDEA

Like all new products, a new fragrance starts with an idea. The Stone Mason idea was born out of a couple different needs: 

  1. We wanted each of our fragrance lines to have three different fragrances. Gold Line has Four Vices, Old Money, and Temple Smoke, and Silver Line has Tree Ranger, Tea Tree, and Spiced Citrus. But, our White Line only had Lumber Yard and Blank Slate, so we knew we wanted to develop a new scent for that line.
  2. Knowing that we were going to be developing a fragrance for our White Line, we knew that we wanted to make something that complemented Lumber Yard. 

These two needs dictated the early brainstorming stage. We also had to think about who we were creating the fragrance for.

When it came to our White Line customers, there was a demand for a scent that had a more traditional barbershop kind of smell—think cologne, shaving cream, and aftershave. It’s old-timey, bold, and masculine. It’s the opposite of Lumber Yard, which is light and woodsy. 

This gave us our jumping-off point. The bigger question became figuring out how to do traditional in a Beardbrand way because the Beardbrand way is to be more adventurous—and less traditional. 

WHERE FRAGRANCES COME FROM

Before being blended to form the Beardbrand fragrances you love, ingredients start as individual scents. They’re their purest in this state, and also incredibly strong—too strong to wear. 

It’s a common assumption that fragrances fall into being either natural or synthetic. But it’s a little more complicated than that. On the one hand, you’ve got natural fragrances that are derived from plants and animals, and then you have artificial compounds or modified naturals which require a little more human tinkering. 

There is a dark side of animal cruelty that comes with naturally abstracting fragrances from animals such as Musk Deer, Sperm Whales, Civets, and more. Beardbrand is committed to minimizing animal suffering, and fortunately, advances in fragrance chemistry have enabled us to find natural alternatives to the heavily sought after fragrances that come from wildlife.

For example, when we use a “musk” fragrance, it’s produced by combining natural fragrances that mimic the scent of musk. It isn’t actually extracted from the anus of a Musk Deer, which is where musk traditionally comes from—you’re welcome. 

DILUTING FRAGRANCES

The first step in getting the ball rolling on our new fragrance was to order those individual scents. We ordered a ton—about 48 to begin with. To give an example of what we were working with, we had fragrances like frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, palo santo, black spruce, pink peppercorn, mugwort, “musk” (see above), and more.  

Most fragrances come in the form of essential oil. Others come in the form of resin, which more or less resembles a tub of pomade. Some, like violet leaf, look like green plant goop. Violet leaf smells pretty awful on its own, but when applied to the skin, it's not half bad. That’s the thing with fragrances—the way they smell in a bottle isn’t exactly how they’re going to smell when applied to your skin. 

In this format, fragrances are potent—an “it stings the nostrils” kind of pungent. Before we start experimenting with the fragrances, we dilute them. This helps to break down the ingredients and blend together with other scents, making it easier to understand how the fragrance will actually smell. We’re pretty much making mini-colognes that we can experiment with and see how scent blends translate to skin. 

EXPERIMENTING WITH FRAGRANCE COMBINATIONS

The process of experimenting with fragrance combinations isn’t too different from walking through a department store and testing colognes—you know, where you spray cologne on paper and wave it around in front of your nose. 

We take a similar blotter paper, dip it into a fragrance, and then sniff. Using this method, we’re able to hold multiple strips next to each other and get an idea of how fragrances will pair. This is where the fun starts. 

It’s really experimental. Say you want to see what clove, lavender, and salt smell like together. You take those three blotter strips and try it out. If it works, you work on figuring out the percentage of each fragrance to use. Then you move on to another idea. You keep trying new things until you have a bunch of options to choose from.  

Coming up with combination ideas isn’t completely random. There is a science behind it, and some resources to help guide the process. 

The fragrance wheel

Similar to the color wheel, a fragrance wheel helps identify scent characteristics, making it easier to determine which fragrance notes are analogous and which ones are complimentary. Fragrances are divided into scent families like floral, citrus, woody, animalic, and herbal. Where fragrances sit in relation to each other on the wheel is a good starting point for helping us come up with combinations. However, it’s not as exact as the color wheel. Yellow and red always make orange, but combining a citrus scent and floral scent may not deliver a bonafide winning blend every time. Smell is a lot more subjective than color. 

Top notes, base notes, and middle notes

Just like you have tasting notes in wine or whiskey, you have fragrance notes in every scent. The notes are scents that your nose picks up when you smell Beardbrand Beard Oil, Utility Balm, or any of our other products. There are three types of fragrance notes: top notes, base notes, and middle notes. 

  • Top notes: These fragrances tend to be light, fresh, and uplifting in nature. Top notes are generally highly volatile, fast-acting, and give the first impression of the blend. They’re bright and in your face, but don’t last very long.
  • Middle notes: These fragrances are generally warm and soft. Middle notes are not always immediately evident and may take a couple of minutes to stand out.
  • Base notes: These fragrances are generally intense, heady, and rich. These are the notes that give fragrances their longevity. It's the base notes you smell hours into wearing any of our products. 

The goal is to have a combination of the different types of notes. Too many top notes and a fragrance will be really intense and not have much longevity. On the other side, base notes without any balance may fall flat and not have that initial kick in the nose. Top notes are what you smell in the bottle, but the base and middle notes are more of what you’re going to smell on your skin. 

The more total notes a fragrance has, the more complex it is. Beardbrand’s Gold Line fragrances are the most complex—Old Money has over 20 fragrance notes. White Line fragrances are more straightforward, averaging around four to five notes each. Silver Line falls between Gold and White in terms of complexity.  

NARROWING DOWN THE FRAGRANCES

By the time we finished trying out fragrance combinations for what would ultimately become Stone Mason, we had narrowed it down to 16 potential winners. 

From there, we began actually making the scent blends and testing them on the skin—our own skin—to get a better idea of how they actually smell when worn. Then it’s about fine-tuning. If we aren’t getting enough of a particular fragrance—say, pink peppercorn—then we go back, adjust the formula, and try again until we’re happy with it. 

Narrowing down our options was a full-staff thing. Everyone at Beardbrand had a vote. Once we had it down to three scent blends, we started making product samples like Beard Oil and Utility Balm. When we felt good with what we had, we narrowed it down to two and sent them off to our fragrance house for further development. 

What came back was the fragrance that we now know as Stone Mason and one that we refer to as T14—which remains sealed behind closed doors. What happened with T14? Well, that’s another story, for another day.  

The winning Stone Mason scent blend was actually T1, meaning it was the first one that we created when experimenting. Hey, sometimes you get it right on the nose on the first try. 

WHAT DOES STONE MASON SMELL LIKE?

By the time Stone Mason was completed, it had four fragrance notes—fresh air, leather, sandalwood, and musk. 

Leather, sandalwood, and musk are all base notes. They’re deep, rich, and heavy. Fresh air has a kind of salty, ocean air scent to it. It’s a middle note, so it’s brighter than the other three. It gives the overall scent profile a coolness that wouldn’t be as apparent without it. 

Here’s our more polished description of Stone Mason:

Complex and cool like the profession of its namesake, Stone Mason is masculine and fresh. The earthy, woodsy scents of leather and sandalwood are combined with strong, powerful musk and crisp, clean air. The result is a well-balanced fragrance that reminds you success doesn’t happen overnight—it’s built stone by stone.

WHERE CAN I FIND STONE MASON?

Like Lumber Yard and Blank Slate, Stone Mason is only available at Target stores and on target.com. 

WHAT PRODUCTS IS STONE MASON AVAILABLE IN?

Stone Mason is currently available in Beard Oil, Utility Balm, Beard Wash, and Beard Softener. 

TL;DR

This month, we launched our brand new fragrance, Stone Mason. It’s our first new fragrance since 2016 and completes our White Line trio, so Stone Mason is a big deal for us—it’s also one of our favorite scents. 

To celebrate the release of Stone Mason, we’re taking a behind the scenes look at how we developed the fragrance profile for it—which we highlight in the above article. The abridged version is that we ordered a bunch of fragrances, came up with some scent combinations we thought smelled good, tried them out, tweaked them a bunch, and then picked our favorite. 

You can find Stone Mason, and our other White Line products, at Target stores and on target.com.