The Nose Knows

A Palm Springs alpha female pursues the sweet smell of success

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Local entrepreneur Patti Franco-Brown produces her $2,100-an-ounce Primal Mist scents in Palm Springs.
Photo by Mark Davidson

 

"You finally find your favorite Nikes and buy six pairs, and then all of a sudden Nike discontinues that particular shoe,” Patti Franco-Brown says, describing the all-too-familiar shopping conundrum that led her to acquire production rights for the fragrance Primal Mist, featuring the pricey formulas Alpha and Beta. “I bought one of the last bottles.

That’s how I learned the company was stopping production. That’s when the hunt began.”

The Palm Springs resident and her husband, David Brown, ended up rescuing the $2,100-an-ounce fragrance from the brink of extinction. Before they gave it new life in 2012, the perfume brand’s short run drew a who’s who list of customers that included business moguls, royalty, and Hollywood A-listers. In fact, it was an Oscar-nominated film star, whom Franco-Brown declines to name, who introduced her to the scent.

“A friend of mine, an actress — we’ve known each other a long time — had Primal Mist on, and I loved it,” says Franco-Brown, who wears the opulent, floral-toned Alpha, a fitting scent for this Palm Springs go-getter who’s as assertive on the Palm Springs Tennis Club courts as she is in business.

It took two months to form a company, secure the rights, and purchase the Primal Mist trademark. Then came the ingredients. Primal Mist contains essential oils derived from rare plants, such as Fumaria petteri subsp. thuretii, grown sparingly in special greenhouses in the Middle East.

“The aromatics date back to antiquity and are hard and expensive to acquire,” says Brown, who mixes and bottles the scents at their Palm Springs headquarters. “That’s why the price of these fragrances is so high.”

Producing single lots of Alpha and Beta takes approximately 22 months. A Los Angeles lab extracts essential oils from the plants, and additional perfume ingredients — including alcohol and more common fragrances like musk and vanilla — are made in Arizona. Once they have the materials, the couple mixes the recipes at their desert location. This process — which includes curing the formulas in specific containers at carefully maintained temperatures — takes about three months and yields between 400 and 500 9-milliliter bottles per lot.

New lots will be available in August. Visit www.primalmist.com for more information.

 

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