Uncommon Scents with Detroit Wick

BY Taylor Rebhan

Every Shinola candle is hand-poured with love in Corktown by Detroit Wick—and the nose that knows behind the craft is Doug Schwartz, a man on a mission to create scent identities.

A decades-old book, dog-eared and yellowing along the edges. Freshly-cut clover and Kentucky Bluegrass. A rainy day along the riverfront. A 1970’s jean jacket.

If you can describe a fragrance, Doug Schwartz and Detroit Wick can reverse engineer it—creating aroma out of thin air, and hand-pouring the result right in Corktown, Detroit.

“Just like you have a visual logo, we create scent logos,” explains Schwartz, CEO and Founder. These scent identities, crafted through a unique process by Detroit Wick for brands around the world, are proprietary formulas that a company then owns in perpetuity—and it’s a unique idea that’s catching on quick. But had you told Schwartz years ago that he’d be on the emerging edge of a brand-new form of brand identity, he may not have believed you.

Born and raised in Detroit, Doug has been part of the business scene since he opened his own retail store in Birmingham. A passion for candles came by way of stocking his shelves. From there, he had the idea to recycle champagne and wine bottles to use as vessels for candles.

For a client like Shinola, it starts with a few words. Doug takes high-level written descriptions to his perfumers. For the Shinola S.01 and S.02 candles, these fragrances stemmed from memories: the smell after a fresh rain (called “petrichor”), a lush sunroom, and the summer heat on a concrete sidewalk. From there, Doug and his team talk through these rough, sometimes intangible ideas—a word, a feeling—and translate them into actual scents and notes. From there, they hit the lab, where the mixing, matching, and testing takes place.

The process can be long. It took an entire year—and a literal agave plant shipped from Mexico—to create an upcoming signature fragrance for a tequila brand. But the results are stunning.

After almost 6 years in Eastern Market, Doug bought a building in Corktown for Detroit Wick’s new headquarters. Like every square inch of Detroit, it has a history worth preserving and a story worth telling. Doug dubbed it the Blanco Building to honor the manufacturing history of the Blanco Canvas Company, the building’s previous tenants who crafted boat covers and seat covers for the Lions and Tigers for more than fifty years.

From pouring and melting to fragrance creation, it all happens in the Blanco Building. Detroit Wick’s hand-pouring process is a careful art. From bubbles along the side to the pace of pouring, there’s little room for error—and Detroit Wick sets the standard for the beautifully, carefully, lovingly-poured craft.

This upcoming Valentine’s Day, these candles are ready for the spotlight—and it couldn’t be more appropriate. “The vibe of candles is the vibe,” for the romantic holiday, laughs Doug. For setting a mood, he recommends the new Shinola Hand Poured Candle Votive set, a new collaboration that includes all three signature scents. “You can of course burn them individually, but they also smell incredible when burned together.”

So grab a match and set the scene, whether it’s for a candle-lit dinner, a romantic evening, or just a moment of self-care Zen for yourself.

As a gift for a loved one this year, reach for one of Shinola and Detroit Wick’s uncommon scents. Not only are they a treat for the senses—they’re a gift with real heart. “They’re made with love, hand-poured in Detroit. That’s where the story starts, right there.”

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