Thursday, January 19, 2017

Yurt Life

We are moving into my mom's charming little yurt today!

While waiting for our permanent home to be renovated (which, as it turns out, takes even longer than building a new home) - we've been living semi-nomadic life for close to four months now, about three of them in a yurt.

Life in the yurt is different. There is no way around it (pun intended). For one thing, it provides a round space, that encompasses most of life's functions in one area: cooking, eating, reading, puzzling, snuggling, cat-feeding (an extra duty we've picked up on the way to freedom - not unlike an unwanted pregnancy that you just can't get herself to terminate), office work (whenever my MacBook Air has enough power to work for me - not to mention its battered battery now needs replacement, which turns out to be a HUGE ordeal in the land of milk and honey), Pilates practice, and even occasional entertaining (when it rains even my dear family avoids it like the plague). It's not truly all in one space, because it actually has an annex to the north, with the washroom (including a shower and a compost toilet - a killer combination for dirt and cleanliness), as well as a sleeping den which has beautiful greenery all around it, as it is built from old wooden windows.

That beauty comes with the price of this space being as cold as the outdoors in the winter. In the summer this room is actually a lifesaver, because the yurt collects way too much heat, although it is much better insulated than the sleeping den - even when its skylight is open. We don't have an oven, but were able to pull together delicious and nourishing meals from the two-flamed gas stove, and have even prepared some raw treats for our daily tea parties. To be perfectly frank - mostly, we've been lazy and buying baklava and cookies whenever we are in the vicinity of a bakery - so I am now in the know of where to get good baked goods. I'm sure this knowledge will come in handy in the not so far future, even after we're back to our productive baking life. When it comes to baking, it's always good to have a good back-up plan.

Of course, that did not stop us from being experimental in the kitchen, trying new ingredients such as nigella seed spread and authentic freekeh, which is an amazing way of preparing green wheatberries by burning them off the wheat chaff. The result is a smoky, nutty grain that is delicious and easy to cook (and digest) and really gives unmistakable character to dishes (the one I bought in Canada was actually stale wheat dyed green). More on that in another post!

To sum it up - living in a yurt is "an experience". Just like camping is an experience. In camping terms this is a five star facility. I'm sure with its running water and gas-operated refrigerator it is also considered a luxury in comparison to straw huts in Africa or yurts in the Mongolian steppes. You get the picture. It's an experience. And we're three months into it and can't wait to experience something else.

To lift the edge off the nervous anticipation for proper housing, I've decided to compile a little list of fragrances (both mundane and wearable) that will let you into this experience, even if just a little... This compilation is a random array of fragrance fit for yurt life, even though I imagine most people who choose to live in this humble abode would rather dab some animal fat and cooked cabbage juice behind their ear than any designer's fragrance. Nevertheless, I find the task amusing, and I hope it will make for a fun read.

We are moving into my mom's charming little yurt today! Here is a view of the inside.

I also hope that my mom does not get hurt because apparently in our parts of the world, patience ("Savlanut") is considered a virtue (which very few uphold), and also belongs grammatical to the same root as the word suffering ("Sevel"). And in this part of the world, stating the facts is considered complaining... I'm sure those who choose to live in a yurt or even just stay in it for a short amount of time will thoroughly enjoy it - it is cute, rustic, pretty, calm and completely in tune with nature. You get to experience all the elements - fire (sun), air (wind), water (we have running water, and thankfully also very little of water leakage despite its very temporary feel); and last but not least - you can't get any closer to earth than this. It is a very, very earthy dwelling and you really feel Mother earth's belly as you tickle it with your slippers walking to and fro. Last but not least: nothing compares to coming out of the yurt at night and seeing the clear black skies dotted with bright stars.

Muscs Kublai Khan - for the obvious body odour effect - musk-enhanced unwashed hair and sweaty armpits with hints of rose and aldehydes.

Kiehl's Fig Leaf & Sage - milky herbacous weirdness. It's unusual yet very easy to wear and has a freshness without being boring. It also goes well with the cucumber and parsley scented products we currently have in the house - hand wash, shampoo and conditioner. Something green and clear-smelling yet non pretentious.

Aromatics Elixir - an earthy, big sage scent that is sophisticated yet at the same time rustic enough to wear in the wilderness. Especially grateful for it on cold wintry days.

Arabie - the spice market, sweat and dusty cobblestones - and all the spices I have in storage (and don't have in my kitchen) kvetched into one bottle. Awesome.

Coco Noir - the opposite of yurt life: polished, elegant, artificial and urban. Jasmine, berries and plums, rose, patchouli, musk and vetiver with a a dusting of cocoa.

Poivre Samarkand - because I heard that there are also yurts in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Can't find any perfume inspired by Mongolia (which is where the yurts supposedly originate). Besides, it's a perfect sprinkle of heat on those chilly nights when the shower runs only boiling water or ice cold ones, and when you step out of the shower it's the same temperatures as outside (not as extreme as in Canada, but 5-11c is cold enough to feel like real winter).

Musc Nomade (Annick Goutal) - I'm picking this one because of the name alone. I remember smelling it very vaguely and that is was vegetal and delicate... Admittedly I'm also too lazy to go digging in my shipping container now and find the little box where I "filed" all my music samples but I'm pretty sure I've only tried it once when I was in Paris.

Tam Dao - if you've ever encountered compost toilet, you know that it's the human equivalent of hamster cage. pine or cedar shavings are used to cover up the mess, and the result is a more subdued version of human waste, that eventually turns into a nice scent of the forest floor. Anyway, this explanation made me think of Tam Dao, which is a fine sandalwood and cedar fragrance and also has some clean smelling musks underneath, to make you forget all the other business.

Tea for Two - We've been enjoying my limited selection of teas that I make a point of finishing off. True to form, we've been brewing lots of chai, which I've been already giving you plenty of recipes for... And of course Hulnejan - the wonderful root brew of galangal, dried ginger and cassia bark.
Zangvil also reminds me of this "witch brew" with its notes of fresh and dried ginger, honey, amber, jasmine and ginger lily.

Finjan - we've been drinking lots of espresso on the stove top mocha machine, and lots of Arabic/Druze/Turkish coffee (each nationality claims it as their own - but essentially this is very dark roasted coffee with cardamom that is brewed on the stove). The latter is well represented in the perfuem I created titled Finjan (the name of the little porcelain "shot" cups that you sip the coffee from; mistakenly, most Israelis refer to the little pot used to brew it as "finjan" - but its real name is "Ralai").

Mastic - Whenever it rains or gets really chilly, the mastica bushes and wild ivy behind the yurt release their fresh, green-balsamic scent. Grin's smell encompasses this verdant freshness with its notes of galbanum, violet, oakmoss and a classic floral bouquet.

Geranium and Wild Oranges - My citrus orchard was overcome by wild orange shoots, and I've really let it go. We finally pruned the orchard this fall, which mean an overwhelming amount of wild oranges that had to be put into use somehow. The result? An orange cello with a touch of herbs from the yurt's garden, among them rose geranium. One sip of this liquor is enough to uplift the spirits.




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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Location, location, location...

Medieval Citadel
view from one of the trails within the village, overlooking the medieval fort in the nearby kibbutz Yehiam (it's about an hour hike from the studio)
As of Spring 2017, our courses will take place at Ayala Moriel's new studio in Clil, Israel. This charming little organic village is situated in one of the country's most fascinating regions, the Western Galilee, and is overlooking the Mediterranean sea (gorgeous beaches are only 20min drive), Haifa Bay and Mount Carmel. Clil provides a unique experience for students who choose to stay here* - I'd describe it as a 180 from Vancouver, for better or for worse. Here are a few details so you can get the picture (and photos from different seasons too!).
This off-the-grid village is solar-powered and has small population of under 1000 people, who live in custom-built homes and semi-temporary dwellings (yurts, teepees, modified train cars and shipping containers, etc.) that are scattered among ancient olive groves and wild bush and Mediterranean garrigue (comprising of carobs, oaks, pistachia and thorny bushes). Despite its size, the village is a community bustling with life and culture: our neighbours are the village's cafe (inside a tent) that is opened Thursday-Saturday and hosts live concerts, and there. A large percentage of the population are alternative healers (we're just across the "street" from an integrated holistic clinic offering massage, acupuncture, ayurvedic treatments, and more) as well as creative artists, who have their ateliers in the village - and some would also be happy to show you around - painters, sculptors, potters, glass artists, silversmiths and goldsmiths, basket weavers, etc. 
Dusty pastoralia #clil
Clil in summer: View of the village from the mountain behind my house.
Amenities: 
There is a bakery that is opened twice a week (Sunday and Thursday) and offers Pizza Nights on Tuesdays. On all other days, fresh sourdough breads by other artisanal bakeries can be pre-ordered by phone, or purchased at the local Organic Garden (which tops off their own produce with other fruit and vegetables and organic goodies produced in the village and by nearby artisans). Also less relevant but sometimes handy are the village's book exchange and clothing exchange, which is open 24/7 and is completely free (take what you want and leave what you no longer use - it can come handy if you forgot to bring a hoodie or a book to read). There are three restaurants in the village - Smadar b'Clil, Cafe Clil and Chef Hagit Lidror's Vegan & Vegetarian kitchen (she will be providing most to the catering to our courses, by the way) - which also makes healthy smoothies and mouthwatering raw chocolate treats (she also teaches raw chocolate making workshops!).
Made in Clil
The "shop local" sign, where you can find various things made in the village. It's located right next to Cafe Clil (which is our next-door neighbours to the east)
Accommodations within the village include one boutique hotel, one guest house (India-style "hostel" on the second level of one of our neighbours) and countless cute cabins for short-term rent - some also offering breakfast as part of the service. Sublets among the village's inhabitants are often listed and could be arranged if booked enough in advance, and also near Cafe Clil there is a small campsite for those who enjoy a fully rustic experience, as well as Meshiv Nefesh - the centre for meditation, which also has plenty of camping space around it for individuals and groups. If you choose to stay outside of the village - we are only 20-30min drive (depending on traffic) from lovely towns that offer also many wonderful attractions to visitors - i.e. Acre and Nahariya. 
In short - there are plenty of places to explore and people to meet in Clil, so I'm sure you will enjoy your visit and find things to do and discover outside of the classroom. 
Olives and Donkeys
Ancient olive grove in winter, at the centre of the village. Near it there is now an organic garden and grocery store
Attractions:
You can enjoy the many hiking trails in the village all on your own (including one in Wadi Yehiam leading to the medieval citadel in Kibbutz Yehiam) - or hire the local tour guide who knows the place from the day he was born (happens to also be my brother!). There are also trail rides on horses. Thursday evenings there is a little market in the village's playground, weather permitting. And watch out for the live music at the cafe - where you can listen to up and coming artists and even already famous ones, in a very intimate setting (and the artists is usually kept as a surprise till the last minute, to prevent over crowding of the venue). The beaches nearby (only 20 minutes drive) also offer year-around conditions for swimming, surfing, SUP, and sea kayaking.
Clil is not only a place where people live differently, but also offers an alternative culture for visitors who seek to take a break from the fast-paced modern lifestyle. It's no ordinary rural place - it is bustling with music, culinary innovations, art, healing and meditations workshops and alternative medicine gatherings, and a place where one can engage and interact with artists and artisans that live here. In short - it seemed like the perfect place to return to and continue my artisan perfumery work - and create a sanctuary for this art.
* You don't have to stay within the village - there are also plenty of interesting places around to stay in, such as Akre and Nahariya - but keep in mind that in that case vehicle is a must as public transit in and out of the village only comes twice a day, very early and very late. 

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Coco Noir

Coco Noir

Sometimes we get attached to perfumes because they speak to us. Other times, it is pure coincidence that creates an imprint on our minds and adds meaning to the scent that we would have otherwise not found in it.

These past few months I've been wearing copious amounts of Coco Noir. I've received the parfum extrait from a friend as a goodbye gift, and somehow it did not seem right to stuff it on the shipping container. Probably because I was too curious about it. At the same time I was too scared to open it, because starting a new perfume at a time of great change can create too strong of an impression - and I knew that there are many challenges ahead of me. I definitely did not want to open it at the time of our departure - I was an emotional mess, after three months of intensive packing and very little sleep... So I waited for a while for the dust of traveling to settle, and opened it about a week or two after arriving in Israel. It was a time of terrible weather (weeks and weeks on end of dry desert wind and over-the-top temperatures) not to mention - great emotional turmoil and immigrant adventures - and we are still in the midst of it, but I have enough levelheadedness now to reflect a bit, as things are finally starting to fall into place: my daughter will start school on Sunday, our home renovations are about halfway through, and my mental state allows me to pass entire days without crying (but still happens about once a week, because I end up hitting a brick wall of some sort at least in that frequency).

Coco Noir is a modern "dark" concoction, which means that instead of oily aldehydes and animalic base, it has clean florally laced with white musks and underlying notes of vetiver and patchouli. It isn't exactly a fruitchouli, but it borders on that territory, with a clean ambreine accord (not unlike Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme) - which means it has vanillin, patchouli and bergamot galore in it. However, there is also a spicy cacao accord (or perhaps it's just an illusion of that - created by the spicy cloves notes alongside the benzoin, vanillin and coumarin) which is quite prominent, which reminds me of Notorious - only that it continues much better in my opinion (it does not have as much musk, which in Notorious gives me a piercing feeling through my nostrils). It gradually softens and develops around the heart of jasmine and rose, and leads smoothly to the end: Dryout is a mellow, powdery confection, with hints of heliotrope (not unlike La Petite Robe Noire - but with non of the saccharine qualities of the latter).

Coco Noir is more accessible, in my opinion, than Coco is. I love the original, even though I do not own it. It has a big persona and feels over-the-top for daily wear. I would only imagine wearing it when I'm all dressed up for a very sepcial event in the middle of winter. Instead, it provides with a very modern comfort in my overtly rustic living arrangement (which is only temporary, sort of...). It's a scent that inevitably will conjure up scent memories from this time of re-settling in my home village: having this sleek, elegant, opaque black glass square bottle around reminds me of my urban side and that I'm not going to be forever wading in mud to and from the yurt, and struggling with every little aspect of life. There is still place for elegance and luxury in my life even in this off the grid spot in between two major life periods.

Another great reminder of this truth: whenever I stick my nose inside my shipping container, which smells still like my very fragrant home studio in Vancouver. My friend chose this fragrance because it reminded him of how my perfume smelled. I think I now get what he's talking about: it's very much like this "smell of everything, all at once" that you get from my workspace: dried coumarinic herbs (liatrix, tonka), vetiver roots, patchouli, countless flowers, herb oils and spices... All mingled with woodsy oils and the scent of antique furniture.

I'm grateful for having this point of view portrayed to me via a bottle of fragrance chosen for me.

Top notes: Cedarwood, Bergamot, Orange, Grapefruit
Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Narcissus, Geranium, Peach, Carnation, Cloves
Base notes: Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Benzoin, Frankincense, Musk, Vanilla, Heliotropin, Tonka

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Smoky Narcissus

Narkiss

Wild narcissus (N. tazetta) and paperweights (N. 'Chinese Sacred Lily') are growing in my soon-to-be garden and in the mountainous wilderness that is its backyard. The wild one smells a thousand times better, in my humble opinion.... Especially, I've been haunted by its fragrance at night time, mingled with smoke from all the wood stoves used for heating in the village... Smells like a very fancy, smoky-floral beeswax candle burning. Not that this description does it any justice. I wish I could capture it in a perfume. Narkiss has some of the qualities (herbaceous, waxy-animalic) but as always, nature beats us all perfumers to a pulp. Other perfumes along these lines that I recall are Tom Ford's Velvet Gardenia and Shanghai Lily (I must remember to scout a sample size of that soon). Caron's famous Narcisse Noir also belongs to this territory, albeit it's much more aldehyde-heavy and it also has gasoline-like top-notes. Another scent it reminds me is of some of the Feu de Bois candle by Dyptique.

Those surprising moments when you discover a new yet familiar scent in the natural surroundings, truly are the best.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrapping Up 2016 & Welcoming 2017

Window to the Mediterranean

Thank you for a powerful year 2016, and for being part of my perfume world!

This was a remarkable year for me - both personally and professionally:

  • Completed Perfume4aPlace - a collection of perfumes inspired by my favourite places in Vancouver, including Komorebi, Sunset BeachLost Lagoon and Coal Harbour.
     
  • Launched a new website - which I hope makes your online experience much more enjoyable. The new website is much more user friendly on any device you choose to browse on; and enables you to add product reviews, read and search all of my blog posts, and also helps me to manage orders and customers profiles in a much more efficient way.
     
  • Taught more students than ever who entered my Perfume School and partake in no less than five the in-studio Foundation of Natural Perfumery courses, as well as enrol in the new correspondence program.
     
  • Last but not least: I finally took the plunge and moved my entire life - and studio - overseas to a scenic Mediterranean off-the-grid village of Clil - a small community that is eco-conscious, solar-powered and bursting with creativity and social life. I am now surrounded by my family, childhood friends and teachers - in the same place where I grew up. It's a 180 switch, and been quite a roller coaster, but I hope that the coming year will prove it to be the right decision.   I'm still living in a yurt and am in full-blast renovation mode, but fulfilling orders as usual out of a suitcase, and developing a growing appreciation for non-nomadic lifestyle. 
In the coming year, once my home and studio are ready, I will plant a perfumer's botanical garden on the land surrounding it, incorporating the wildlife in this little fragrant paradise and I hope to get into micro-rpdocution of distillation and extraction of these locally grown plants. At least a hundred fragrant plants can grow here and provide a live demonstration for where our natural perfumes can come from.
I also am anticipating for courses and classes to commence in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, there is my book and correspondence courses (Citrus is out already, and Fougère is not that far from being released as well) to keep my students busy!  

Other than that, my online boutique is open as usual (from the above mentioned, resourceful suitcase, and now also the occasional plunge into the container that arrived more-or-less safely), and I'm offering FREE SHIPPING on most orders* until January 7th, to welcome the New Year 2017! 

Many blessings for 2017 - may it be a year of connectedness, healing, peace and abundance! 

Ayala

P.s. The above photo is view of Mediterranean lagoons from the seawall of the ancient city of Acre (we pronounce it Akko). Isn't it beautiful? 

* Free shipping does not include orders of individual samples (if you order 4 samples or less, shipping fees will apply). 

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Medicines for the Soul

Christmas in Nazareth

On Christmas Eve my brother invited us to go with him on an urban evening stroll in Nazareth, to experience the holiday at the historic birthplace of Christianity. My brother is a tour-guide, so it's always an experience to go for walks with him. He always knows about more than what meets the eye, and has connections with people where we visit that makes every trip with him, even to familiar places, a different experience.

Our experience started on a rather stressful note, being stuck in traffic in a very narrow, one-way downhill street that would make San Francisco's terrain look rather friendly. There was no traffic control despite very heavy flow of visitors to watch the festivities. We were stuck in what should have been a two minute drive for 45 minutes. When we finally found a 3/4 parking spot between a dumpster and another truck and got out, it was drizzling and cold, as it should be in midwinter in the Galilee.

The large square in front of the Church of the Annunciation was festive with an enormous tree-like construction with many lights and a big glowing red star on top and next to it the customary nativity scene. Many people around were wearing Santa Claus hats, blowing little annoying-sounding horns; but thankfully above it all was a recording of Fairuz singing Christmas songs. Christmas in the Middle East is certainly very different than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.

I don't recall ever visiting in Nazareth, even though our family has special ties with the city. My mom's midwife, a Christian-Arab from the neighbouring village of Kfar Yasif is originally from Nazareth. Both our families have five children each (aside from me, my mom has four boys, and her midwife has five daughters). We are all in more or less the same ages. If it weren't for the strange political climate of this country, they'd all be married to each other by now...

Safdi's in Nazareth
Aside from the religious spots (Nazareth's spring, bath house and historic city centre, Mary's Well and its Church, AKA Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, and the Roman Catholic Basiclia of the Anunnciation (كنيسة البشار  in Arabic בזיליקת הבשורה / כנסיית הבשורה) - we also went into the old souk (market) of Nazareth, which is sadly mostly dormant due to modernization. Very few people have the desire or time to find parking in narrow alleyways that were built thousand years ago and wander between merchants to compare prices and negotiate bargains. It's much easier to go to the mall and pay with plastic cards all in one place, and cart your goods to the car underground. It was very sad to see so many stores closed, behind them are beautiful old shops with arched ceilings. Some of the old apartment buildings - although mostly neglected - were used to be effendi's homes, and their ceilings are made of Cedar of Lebanon, and hand-painted by a Lebanese artist from the time of the Ottoman empire. It's a lost world, and only recently some brave entrepreneurs have taken the initiative to renovate such places and open boutique hotels, hostels and cultural centres in the ancient cities of the country. There was also a little shop in the entrance to the empty souk, full of beautiful local craftsmanship. I hope to see more such things develop.

Meicines for the Soul
Once we reached the part of the souk that was still alive, I bought a cupful of coal-roasted chestnuts, reminiscing the cold foggy nights in Vancouver when we'd buy them from Yve's Chestnuts and warm our frozen mittens with their starchy, caramel-scented comfort. At the bottom of the hill there were some of the country's best Halawiyat (Arabic patisseries), where one should stop by for kunafeh - even if they don't have time or room in their stomach. But we were in a group with a different agenda than enjoying life on the stop - and instead continued on to Ziad Safdi's grocery store, which is really more of a magical old-fashioned herb and spice shop, that contains many folk remedies for all kinds of physical ailments, a collection of essential oils from local plants that is distilled in Nablus; speculates such as mastic gum, and mastic-flavoured chewing gum; and last but not least - assortment of medicines for the soul in the form of incense (pictured above) to be burned in special clay pots. You could find there anything from frankincense and myrrh to colourful and sparkling blends typically burned in churches.

Fine Nazarethi Baclava
As we continued on, we stumbled upon other interesting merchants, such as this man who brews coffee in a special pot decorated with olive branches and misbaha (prayer beads) that has hot charcoal in a pipe in the middle, and sends impressive steam to the air. We continued to El Babour Mill - Nazareth original steam-powered miller (the name is a mispronunciation of the English word "vapour") -  now more of a live museum for old mills, sieves and pieces of history from the family that keeps this tradition - and a spice and candy shop. I bought there a jar of black-coloured nigella spread, and green frikeh (charred green wheat berries). The tour ended there and once everyone spread to all four direction of the winds, my brother, daughter and I stopped at a more humble bakey and bought some spinach-filled sambusac, date-filled sesame balls, and karakish - savoury cookies that look like hard flatbreads studded with fragrant seeds of sesame and fennel.
Charcoal Coffee

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mastic

Narcissus and Mastic

Place a piece of brittle mastic resin in your mouth. Notice how the dusty, powdery coating that happened during the commute overseas in a jar turns pliable as it comes into contact with the moisture in your mouth... Start to chew and feel the resinous, slightly smoky, piney aroma fill your palate and nasal cavity... A nostalgic aroma, like tasting "glida mastic" for the first time in Jaffa some late summer night, or like sipping warm sahleb in midwinter - cooked from a packet that your mom sent especially from Israel all the way to Canada, just because you asked her to... The tinctured resin, although smells heavenly like these old fashioned ice creams and above mentioned sahleb (it is also used to flavour malabi, by the way), is very tricky tow work with as it is not 100% soluble in alcohol and leaves blobs of chewing-cum consistency at the bottom of beakers and vials, and sticks to all the utensil one tries to desperately stir it with. Mastic resinoid are also possible to produce, although I've never encountered ones (in those products, greater amount will be alcohol-soluble).

Mastic essential oil, on the other hand, is easy to dissolve but does not smell all that exciting. It comes from the mastic bush leaves and twigs, which are an inseparable part of my childhood's daily aromatic landscape. Those bushes grew everywhere, and we played among them, crushing some leaves along the way and scratching a branch here or there - which also releases a wonderful green, fresh scent. The essential oil, however, does not smell quite so similar to this experience, and is rather more like the rhododendron leaf oil. There is a resinous and slightly funky aspect to it, and hardly any remnants at all to the utter freshness of the living plant.

Mastic Resin

Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), AKA Mastic lentiscus is from the same genus as the edible pistachio nut, and the other native that is commonly found here - Pistacia atlantica (P. atlantica is often used as a base for grafting pistachio trees). This is a very common evergreen bush that rarely exceeds the size of a bush, but is capable of becoming a small tree (up to 7m tall) if it escapes bush fires, logging and is not continuously consumed by grazing wildlife and goats.

The word mastic derives from the Latin word "Masticare" (to chew), in Greek: μαστιχάω verb mastichein ("to gnash the teeth", the English word comes from the Latin masticate) or massein ("to chew").

Although mastic bushes are in abundance all around the Mediterranean basin, the gum is only produced in a handful of countries - Algeria, Morocco and the Canary Islands. But Greece is the only place where it is grown commercially especially for production of its fragrant gum-resin - especially in the southern part of the island of Chios (close to Izmir, Turkey). The gum is obtained by making incisions in the bush's trunk, and they drip tears which harden over time and become the translucent-yellowish-white "tears" that one can find in Greek stores to be used as a "spice", and can also be used as incense.

Basket from #mastic
Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses:
Mastic is most commonly chewed as a breath freshener, and that's the main thing it is famous for. Mastic resin was used in the original recipe for Egyptian Kyphi - a perfume that was also chewed as a remedy. Mastic is generally used for stomach complaints, especially diorama in young children. Due to the gum's properties, it is used in many cosmetic preparations such as toothpastes, hair and skin lotions, etc.

Culinary Uses:
Mastic was used first and foremost as a chewing gum and breath freshener - before there was any chewing gum. Try it! It really works - nature's own original sugar-free chewing gum.  In the heat of the Middle East, it was a key ingredient in ice creams, to which is added not only a distinctively fresh-resinous flavour, but also a plasticity that helped it resist instant melting.
Mastic is used in several pudding-like and spoon desserts, including the above mentioned sahleb and malabia.
In Greece, it is used in festive pastries such as the challah-like tsoureki and vasilopita (in which a coin is hidden for New Year's Eve).

Flavouring Beverages: 
Smoke from mastic resin is also used to flavour water in Morocco. Finally, in the Levant mastic resin is used as a spice (to a lesser extent) also to flavour poultry and fish dishes, giving them a very peculiar flavour. There are several liquors prepared with mastic resin, such as Mastiha which is native to Chios, as well as a fizzy beverage called Mast.

Role in Perfumery:
Mastic resin is a great fixative, and makes a great addition to mimosa fragrances. The leaf oil is useful in green florals, Chypres, Fougères, etc. Mastic is not a very common ingredient in perfume, yielding only 39 items on Basenotes directory - two of them produced by yours truly (although they are not the only mastic fragrances by Ayala Moriel Parfums). Sahleb is a smooth, buttery orris fragrance; while Virgo zodiac parfum oil is more of a balsamic-woody floral with accessory notes of spicy-green aspects (cardamom and fennel among them).
Other perfumes I perceive as having a mastic note, are Nature Millénaire pour Homme (Yves Rocher, 2000), Kyoto (Commes de Garçon), both having the mastic resin note. As for the mastic leaf and twigs and branches - an allusion to them can be found in green, crisp Chypres (the likes of Eau de Sisley 2).

Religious Uses:
The Greek use mastic in preparation of Myron, an anointing oil used in the Greek Orthodox churches' chrismation ceremony.

Traditional & Practical Uses: 
Oil of mastic is used much like turpentine is in the West, in paint Freshly picked branches of P. lentiscus are a traditional raw material for Mediterranean-style basket-weaving. The abundance of available material and the ease of use (aside from removing the leaves, there is no need for pre-soaking or any other kind of processing prior to weaving).


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