Plain Tiger Spotlight: Appellation

Scent and scent-sibilities

By Renee Fortune

Literary beginnings –

In a novel entitled, À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), published in the early 1900s, Marcel Proust coined the term “involuntary memory” – the phenomenon of a memory being triggered by a smell, a taste, or even a sound. 

For Proust, it was the taste of tea-soaked madeleine crumbs that catapulted him into a “sensory déjà vu” – a journey back in time through childhood memories of his town, the square, and its streets, country roads and gardens. 

The brand, Appellation is a nod to this profound, “Proustian moment” and is derived from the French word, “appeler” (to call by name) and the Latin, “appellare,” which means to summon. 

In pursuit of sensorial exploration

Founder, Michelle Wranik-Hicks joined forces with her husband, Michal in 2020 to create their own brand of natural self-care products, following her fascinating adventure into the world of aromatherapy and the science of scent. Today, Appellation produces single-origin essential oils and ultrasonic stone oil diffusers – a concept inspired by Michelle’s deep-seated love for the intrigue and mysteries of Middle Eastern aromas. 

As a travel writer and editor, Michelle followed her feet to different countries across the continents, crafting beautiful stories about the places she visited, the sites she saw and the people she met. But, as Michelle discovered, some of the best journeys are not taken by foot but by the five senses. 

For her, it was the power of scent that was most captivating – the heady aroma of incense burning in a Catholic Church and in the temples and shrines of Asia, the smell of frankincense in Oman, cinnamon in Sri Lanka and oud and bakhoor in the Middle East. Each of these scents were at once distinctly exotic but also deeply familiar and reminiscent of a moment in time, immortalised in memory. 
An encounter with enlightenment

As fate would have it, Michelle ended up on the doorstep of French Sufi convert, AbdesSalam Attar, a savant in natural perfumery living in the countryside of Northern Italy. Salam accepts only 12 students a year into his course and in 2018, Michelle was fortunate enough to secure a place. Her life-changing experience of training under one of the world’s truest connoisseurs of scent touched on the ancient art of alchemy and the world of rare, natural essence. It was an immersion into the history and psychology of scent. 

The course was something of a destination – an arrival to deep, intuitive knowledge and wisdom. But, it was also just part of a bigger journey that continued when Michelle returned home to study aromatherapy and the science of scent, to find out why we relish certain smells but despise others and why certain aromas evoke specific emotions or states of being. Somewhere in the midst of all this magic, Appellation was born. 

Appellation: the brand

Michelle describes Appellation’s creative flair as “elevated whimsy.” It’s about “beautiful design and deriving meaning from design.” The shape of Appellation’s signature stone oil diffuser follows the organic curves of nature, our moods, our biologies and our days. Along the way you’ll find nuances of Art Deco (an extension of Michelle’s Czech heritage), like the golden arch – an artistic flourish that symbolises a doorway to scent memory. 

In the range, you’ll find sumptuous infusions like The Impetus, an organic essential oil that promotes deep work and is a blend of peppermint, rosemary, white grapefruit and sweet basil. This particular scent is designed for the “flow state” – a 90-minute stretch of deep work, creation, concentration and in-the-zone productivity.

All Appellation’s oils are sourced from suppliers who demonstrate a commitment to quality as well as sustainable cultivation and harvesting processes that are pesticide-free and organic. The majority of these oils are sourced from female-founded, family-owned growers and producers, as well as cooperatives in Nepal and Ecuador who care deeply about the preservation and conservation of the land and are personally invested in the regeneration of native species. 

Appellation’s products are packaged in biophotonic glass bottles to preserve the integrity and longevity of the oils and to provide for reuse and recycling. Biodegradable cardboard and compostable FSC-certified tissue paper printed with soy-based inks that are free from acid, sulphur and lignin, are used to package each bottle before it arrives at your place of play, work or home. 

A word from the wise

When asked for her opinion on why the current era has been the perfect time to build a brand like Appellation, Michelle explains that:

“There’s never been so much awareness around health, mental wellbeing and of traditional ways of healing as people become more aware of the hormone-disrupting effects of synthetic fragrance ingredients. 

Thanks in part to the pandemic and anosmia, there’s also never been so much attention paid to our sense of smell but even still, it remains sadly unappreciated. It’s the forgotten sense – the dormant sense. The intricacies and inner workings of olfaction are still very much a mystery. 

There is so much we don’t know but emerging science is proving just how vitally important our sense of smell is to our lives, and how greatly scent can impact our wellbeing. So as a brand, it’s truly exciting to be part of this scent renaissance – and the wellness renaissance in general.”

And a lingering thought –

In a very raw, real sense, Appellation has (and will always be) a brand that has found its place in the flow of things – a brand that’s on an adventure of its own. 

On the way, that adventure intersects with the paths of customers looking for gentle ways to soothe insomnia or safer alternatives to synthetic fragrance, a way to alleviate anxiety or a reconnection with the importance of self-care. 

So if what you see and sense has brought you here, go on, follow your nose and your feet and your spirit. You’ll be dazzled at what you discover.