Alder + Co. has been open on SW 12th Avenue in Portland’s slowly awakening West End for quite a while, selling various sundries, home goods, gifts, jewelry and some rather quirky items from odd little books to funny gadgets. Any passersby who did not take notice probably missed it when the shop quietly began carrying some products no other shop in town has on their shelves – some very hard to find cult perfume brands, including Heeley, Rodin and the full line of Byredo. It also carries a limited selection of the Portland-based indie houses Slumberhouse and Blooming Dream.
One would be forgiven for getting no further than the entrance; the front corner is occupied by Hilary Horvath Flowers, which always seem to be spectacular, perfectly fresh and seasonal, like the ideal of what garden flowers should be, not at all like the standard issue florist types. If you can drag yourself away from them, you will not be disappointed in what lies within.
Although Slumberhouse is a local company, this is currently the only retail outlet for its perfumes in Oregon. Here you can sample some its most popular scents, including the legendary Norne and Pear + Olive, the closest thing the brand ever comes to the idea of “mainstream” since most of its fragrances are wonderfully weird. The newest one, Kiste, is a stupendous composition of sun-ripened, syrupy peach and hypnotically sweet pipe tobacco smoke. It’s like nothing you have ever smelled before, like a summer evening during a Southern heat wave, shimmering with humidity and overripe life.
I have been wanting to smell the Byredo line for a long time, most specifically its famous (or infamous) Pulp, which has the reputation of being the fruitiest perfume ever made. I can’t argue with that, since it is so extremely fruity and so strong that it is either instant love or hate. As it turns out, I fall into the love camp, even though it contains the often difficult note of blackcurrant, which actually acts as a restraining order here, holding back the crushing wave of other fruits clamoring for attention. Other Byredo perfumes not to be missed are Seven Veils, Mojave Ghost, La Tulipe, Inflorescence and Flowerhead – the last two are gorgeous floral bouquet blends, over the top but still very wearable. This brand also has body lotion, creams, oils, and candles, so you can indulge in your favorites across the board.
Heeley is another sought after brand that is hard to find; don’t miss the wistful Ophelia, an aquatic floral, or the incense-laden Cardinal. The rather obscure Rodin offers the jasmine-heavy Olio Lusso body oil, which is a must for any jasmine lover – it’s just heavenly. And if you still need more olfactory stimulation, the store carries the excellent Mariage Frères teas, which are some of the best in the world. Check out the Earl Grey French Blue, it’s amazing.
You could shop online at Alder + Co., but please don’t deprive yourself of the pleasure of a visit. It’s at 616 SW 12th Ave., open Monday-Saturday from 11 to 6 and 12 to 5 on Sunday. Need another reason to go? It’s next door to Petunia’s Pies & Pastries, which has gluten-free treats as well as highly original cocktails, and it’s only half a block away from Saint Cupcake. You just can’t go wrong!