Friday, March 31, 2006

Fashion Report and Contest!


Inspired by the fabulous fashion show I was lucky enough to attend, and also frustrated by the vast amount of pretty ribbons that pile up in my pockets after snifforamas, I hereby announce SmellyBlog’s first contest - The Scented Ribbon Contest!

In the photos above, the world’s oldest and most renowned working model Barbie Millicent Roberts , is wearing a convertible gown by Narciso Rodriguez. The floor-sweeping trail transforms into a medieval-inspired veil in an instant!

Contest details:
Transform a scented ribbon ) into the most beautiful, innovative, useful or funny thing you can imagine. These are the ones that are used instead of scent card in many lines nowadays, so they are not hard to find.
Photograph your masterpieces and email them to me.

Contest dates:
Contest starts immediately, and closes May 30th. Winners will be announced June 15th.

Contest Prizes:
The top three winners will receive a much coveted scented ribbon item designed and handmade by myself. Due to the nature of the contest, I will not be able to reveal the truly fabulous nature of this prize, and a surprise package of perfumes and scented products by Ayala Moriel Parfums.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Brewing

I have been too busy to blog in the past few days. The countdown to take-off has started, and the clocks are ticking… Tying loose ends; strategic packing (trying to refine into an art form the virtues of minimalistic luggage); But also lots of brewing: bath oils and massage oils as gifts for family and friends on the front burner, and new scents to be left to marry when I am away. I am hoping to find some great surprises when I am back… Schizm already smells lovely, with the new creamy tuberose and the addition of orange blossom for a vividly sensual white floral heart, and cepes and ambrette to supply the muskiness of the original costus formula. Guilt is starting to grow on me with new crop of chocolate absolute (deliciously smooth and rich, thickly sweet in the best possible way) and infused with luxurious honeyed amber and fruity orange blossom and blood orange. I have been trying to see how it will work without the smoky leathery note that makes Guilt what it is (chocolate and smoking seem to fit the title of the two greatest crimes of pleasure, but they also smell good together) I have been also working on two new soliflores for the summer and am hoping that they will become even better after aging. These are going to be surprises for you, and I will not reveal the singular theme for now.

So back to brewing: I am really enjoying the simplicity of bath and massage oils and have decided to share my pleasures with my immediate family and friends (which I refer to, without their knowledge, as my lab pets). For them I have been concocting luxurious massage and bath oils from almond oils and organic virgin coconut oil, infused with delicious edible scents such as chocolate, licorice, gin & tonic and others. The greatest fun of making one-of-a-kind personal products is the flexibility and room for improvisation. And so I took the liberty to apply some of my underground creativity to the packaging: miniature liquor bottles were freed of their toxic contents and released of their labels and instead were filled with fragrant virgin coconut oil, flavoured with botanical essences. The result is pictured below for your amusement.

Booze Bath: featuring almond oil and essences of white cognac absolute, juniper berry and lime.
Choco Bath: featuring almond oil and essences of chocolate absolute, vanilla absolute and blood orange essential oil.
The lettering, by the way, possesses the unexpected feature of glowing in the dark!


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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Matchbox Surprise


Here is the little cutie:

To read the full story click here. I have just edited it now to add a few more details and make some corrections. A vintage perfume always keeps more stories than can be revealed by the scent and bottle alone... I feel very lucky to know a bit more about the person that had this perfume before me... To illustrate a few details about her - she was born in New Zealand and moved to London when she was 50 years old. She was very independant and witty, and refused all her suiters and dedicated herself to take care of her old parents. She celebrated her 101st birthday at 1991, so she must be 116 now!

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Packing Early,Traveling Light!

One week from now, I will be in an airplane, on my way back home to Israel. I haven’t been to Israel in the spring in seven years, and I am very excited to be smelling wild flowers again! This trip is mostly family related, but it will also have a lot to do with scent and finding new inspiration from the olfactory landscapes of my home country, which has always been my greatest inspiration for my perfumes.

I started packing as early as three weeks ago, which is very clever yet not my typical practice, and I intend to make this a tradition from now on.
As a perfume connoisseur and a fragrance junkie, the most exciting yet somewhat challenging part of all (after choosing scented gifts to bring back to family and friends, of course), is deciding which scents I will be wearing for the next month when I am away. I already packed my perfume for my trip back home.

This time was quite easy, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I have truly managed to keep it light… It is going to be quite warm when I am there (over 20 degrees Celsius for the most part, for sure). Which is very, very hot in my book. I am packing mostly hot weather scents, that I usually can’t wear in Vancouver until July or August, and even than, only on certain days. Some are even suitable for a humid hot day at the beach…

I am taking a flacon of Espionage (which I always have with me everywhere I go!), purse sprays of Fetish (my ultimate hot weather scent!), Tamya, Megumi and White potion. I am also taking with me a roll on bottle of virgin coconut oil with chocolate absolute. Here it is completely solid almost year around ☹ but the coconut oil will liquefy as soon as we get to the Holy Land!
And I am taking my Perfumed Pendants of course – with Espionage (turquoise opal) and Ayalitta (red garnet).

Other perfumes that I am taking are usually on the light or floral side, except for a decant of Arabie which I am taking for sentimental reasons only.
I am taking with me Philosykos, Mitsouko EDT, Fleur de Shanghai, Narciso Rodriguez, Fleurs d'Oranger, Bvlgari, Diorissimo and Spring Flower.

And last but not least – a handful of samples of scents that I think will work better in hot weather, and I don’t usually wear. I am taking them with me to create new memories with them… Wearing them later when I come back to Vancouver will remind me of my trip… That’s what I call “emotion simulation technology”. These include Le Parfum de Therese, l’Ombre Dans l’Eau, Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien and Eau de Sud, Antonia’s Flowers (all three scents), Jo Malone’s Grapefruit Cologne, Ormonde Jayne Frangipani and Osmanthus, Miller Harris Figue Amere and Citron Citron, and a few others. So you can sort of expect to read reviews of some of these scents in the following month.

I am leaving April 1st and will be back on the 26th. I will, however, have access to the internet most of the time, and will report about my various fragrant adventures.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Black Rose


black rose 3, originally uploaded by niteseeker.

The most incredible and unexpected birthday present I received yesterday was Black Rose by Goya, from Katherine. Kat thought I would understand and appreciate it's strange beauty more than she or anyone else she knows could, so I am truly lucky!

It was given to her by Miss Erica Westmacott of Walington, Oxfordshire, when Kat was staying with her at Tallows Cottage. Erica lived a long and independant life, and celebrated her 101st birthday in 1991.

While some perfumes are famous for their bottles, this one should be famous not only for its wonderful black rose scent, but also for the box where the little bottle nestles: a little matchbox with a dark rose. Only 1/3 of the perfume is still there (about 1ml at the most I think). And it’s smells heavenly of dark burgundy rose, almost black petaled, almost dry yet fragrant than ever. The scent is quite old, and becomes faint after an hour or so, so I cannot give you very accurate impressions of the base. Overall, it is similar to Nuit de Noel, only with the rose being the theme, and less the dry Saxon moss. The base is slightly mossy, perhaps with civet and amber, only that it is not sweet. But the top to middle notes are divine and rosy, like tucking your nose in a cushion of dark petals.

I could not find any information about Black Rose, just bits and pieces, one eBay auction for an identical bottle. I was not able to find any information about the notes or even the year of release. If you know anything about Black Rose, please share your knowledge with me! The curiousity will kill the cat but also will spill most of the precious perfume from the bottle onto my thirsty skin, and I do not have enough of it to fully recover its secrets…

p.s. I will be adding a photograph of this perfume and it's packaging tomorrow…

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

I usually don't fuss about birthdays, I just like to enjoy myself on my special day... But this one is different - once can only turn 30 once in a lifetime. And though I was dreading this day a year ago and two years ado, or more accurately - pressured to prove myself that I have accomplished something spectacular by the age of 30 - I was surprised that when the date started approaching I found myself feeling, in fact - excited, content and quite proud of myself for turning 30 and achieving the most important things for me, both in my personal and professional life (you know, blogs have that way of making people think that way about themselves...). Yet, I still have a lot to look forward to, more to dreams to fulfill and more work to do. And it feels good.

I started my day with organizing new ingredients that just arrived yesterday (what could be better for a birthday present?). Orange blossom absolute, orange flower water absolute, pink lotus absolute and lavender absolutes were the highlight of the morning. The beautiful aromas uplifting, soothing and exciting. A true treat for body, mind and soul.
The orange blossom absolute clean and floral; orange flower water absolute tart yet honeyed; pink lotus suave and mellow, softly floral; lavender absolute like an emerald jewel, velvety and fuzzily warm. As with anything that requires order, my obsession soon took over and I officially started a studio make-over, transferring many other oils into clear dropper vials, where their colours shine through, their texture can be sensed and experienced with the rythm and flow of the fragrant drops...

I was working on perfecting a few of my recent perfumes, to fine tune them to the new qualities of the building blocks. But also, I am re-doing some of my old perfumes, which I was not quite happy enough with their performance and thought the new ingredients will improve. There are only two words that will a perfume connoisseur: Discontinued and Re-formulated. But fear not, these changes that are being made to several of my older perfumes are truly going to bring them to a different level; if you loved them before, you will love them even more. The true spirit of the perfume will remain the same, only tweaked and improved thanks to the new ingredients.

Guilt, Sabotage and Schizm are of the few that got a special treatment today.

Guilt - a leathery bitter chocolate with orange blossom heart will be better than ever, with a delicious new amber compound that I have developed. And the orange blossom is simply to die for, especially with the new chocolate absolute, which is caramel-like yet shamelessly cocoa! The key here is to keep the cocoa as a team player with the other notes, rather than focus on it as the only star at the show. The orange blossom, amber and chocolate with the barely there hint of smoke interact beautifully...

Sabotage - a vetiver and tobacco scent with citrus-spicy heart, now with a new, very refreshing type of vetiver. I mus admit I have a personal bias against the marmite-like, dark vetiver note. It is quite challenging to work with. The new vetiver I got - a wild one from Haiti - has the same refreshing qualities of citrus, without being citrusy. It may be a bit more of a heart note than a base note, but I love it. I am waiting to see how it unfolds with the lemon leaf, tobacco leaves and tonka bean. So far it's been delightful!

Schizm - Originally made with narcissus note which I can no longer obtain, and a musky costus-based musk note which due to safety regulations I am forced to ommit, I have now decided to keep it's flamboyant, sassy yet classy attitude with accents of pink lotus and orange blossom to replace the heady yet powdery presence of narcissus, and the musk accord is now based on Cepes (wild mushroom), ambrette and a rough and dry cedar moss.

It will be at least a week until I see if my predictions worked, and than tweaking will be made if necessary. but so far it all seems to be leading to the right direction...

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

L’Ombre Dans l’Eau

A watercolour painting can portray a complete scent with lighting and emotion with just a few simple strokes of colour-stains. A good storyteller can shutter ones emotions and make one’s imagination wonder to unknown lands while using very few simple adjectives to describe them…
L’Ombre Dans l’Eau does it by using only a few simple notes to conjure a full story with colours, textures and emotions: It smells like the eternal summer at the riverside garden - The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Could Conjure – a chapter in the great story by Hans Christian Anderson “The Snow Queen”.

This scent makes me feel like little Gerda gliding with her boat along the river, running barefoot in the endless summer of the flower garden of the woman who could conjure, and talking to the roses arose from the mud…

Tomatoes, roses and earth, summer and honeybees humming and buzzing around sticky juice dripping from the berries on the vine. How can these greens and berries and dirt and roses be so smooth and opulent is beyond my understanding. There are only few notes that create this scene: a cheerful and energetic green tomato leaf, lush, red and soft roses at full bloom at the warmth of the sun, tart redcurrants and a fertile, moist soil of patchouli and oakmoss. That’s it.

I will not add a single word, Andersen said it much better than I could ever possibly express myself.

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Ivoire


doesnt get any softer than this, originally uploaded by lil aNNa.

Refined and restrained beauty like a spirited woman in a tailored suit - Ivoire starts off with business-like manners of soapy cleanliness attached to a bouquet of garden roses and green leaves.

As sharp and soapy as the opening may be, it has an instant effect of cheerful and energetic attitude that is simply charming and uplifting.
Rather quickly, it softens to reveal dewy roses awakening to rays of sunshine releasing a fresh scent along with crushed grass and softly warming soil and petals.
This breath of fresh garden air remains true throughout the composition despite of the underlining warmth of leather, cedar, incense and moss - except for the very final dry down, which is of soft incense sweetened with subtle notes of raspberry jam; A somewhat bizarre finale to such a green song but nevertheless magically harmonious.

Ivoire is one of the very few green perfumes that put a smile on my face. While I find many other green compositions too sharp or melancholy, Ivoire balances beautifully between elegance and warmth. The underlining notes of cedar and leather must contribute to its favorable effect on me – and although I don’t find the raspberry note quite necessary, it is a pleasant surprise to find that “candy” hiding in the green rose garden… This final accord reminds me of Yohji’s final accords, as well as Rochas Man.

Top notes: Galbanum, Bergamot
Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley
Base notes: Cedar, Leather, Oakmoss, Incense, Sandalwood, Raspberry

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Vent Vert

Vent Vert is a perfume with one clear statement: Green!

The experience starts with a heady breeze of green notes: freshly cut grass, clary sage and galbanum, and a slight suggestion of patchouli. This definite green statement pervades throughout all stages of the olfactory evolution of this magnificent perfume, which has become, with no doubt, the symbol and inspiration for anything green. Its youthful, spring-like and independent nature is unforgettable.

Once the initially sharp green blow has made it’s statement, it allows other notes to accompany this spring experience: a surprising accord of peach and gardenia is the bridge from the top notes to the more floral heart notes: green rose, lily of the valley and fresh jasmines float amongst the greenery, as well as orange blossom absolute, with its fresh and fruity, refined citrus nuance.

These floral notes are here to beautify and accentuate the herbal notes of clary sage and galbanum, the theme that will stay with us till the very last dry out stages, when spring has become warmer, receiving myriads of pollinating flowers…
The overall bouquet can very much be likened to the lily of the valley flower, both in scent and appearance: the little white flowers reveal themselves gently through the wide, elegant green leaves…

This herbal-green-floral bouquet is supported by base notes that are not any less green: green oakmoss, vetiver (a woody-earthy-green root of a tropical grass), and sandalwood.
The base notes are dominated by the woody notes of sandalwood and vetiver. But still, it acts only as a garden-bed for the green accord of clary sage and galbanum which leads the theme of Vent Vert.

And than come the dry down stage, which combines the elements of all stages:
A softer note that is mainly a result of the melting down of galbanum, green jasmine, orange blossom, orris (that can reveal it’s delicate, woody-powdery softness once the sharper edge has evaporated..) and the woody sandalwood-vetiver accord, all clean and green and fresh, but just softly fading away, with the promise of warmer days and more blossoms to come…

Vent Vert is green all the way… Keeping in mind that it was the trend-setter for Floral Green perfume, in an era when femininity was associated with much more floral and heavy notes, Vent Vert was revolutionary is the way it used green herbal notes as the theme, and the florals were merely supporting the green ones. I simply can’t think of any other perfume that does it better!

Vent Vert is fresh without being citrusy, green without being herbal and medicinal, and has those whispering powdery notes without making it melancholy or in the least sentimental. It is pure happiness, vivacity and youthfulness at its best, liquefied and bottled!


Top: Fresh cut grass, Green Rose, Clary sage, Galbanum, Patchouli, Peach, Gardenia
Heart: Rose, Jasmine, Clary sage, Lily of the Valley, Orris root
Base: Vetiver, Sandalwood, Clary sage

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Updates to Quinta Essentia's Website

The perfumes page on my old website, Quinta Essentia, has been just updated. I have decided to make those updates despite the fact that this website will be soon replaced with the new one for Ayala Moriel Parfums (ayalamoriel.com). I did a major clean-up, taking off-line the discontinued scents, and adding some of the newer perfumes that haven't made it to the website before... Now all the perfume information and notes are at your fingertips!

I am planning to launch the new website for Ayala Moriel Parfums (ayalamoriel.com) later this spring, with new perfumes and plenty of exciting new features, including, of course, a shopping cart - but lots of other things that I prefer to keep a surprise... Including the new packaging! Until than, please email me to order or to inquire about prices, shipping etc. I will be happy to answer all of your questions as well as give you a free Fragrance Consultation!

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Bvlgari Tease

Bvlgari has just completed painting the last colour in their tea-flavoured Italian flag – the third of their Eau Parfumee series is Au The Rouge – red tea - following its former white and green teas.

Tea has always been Bvlgari’s signature theme in their fragrances, even though the tea note is quite different in each scent: jasmine-scented green tea in Bvlgari Pour Femme, Darjeeling tea in Bvlgari pour Homme, Green Tea in Bvlgari Homme Extreme, Lapsang Souchong smoked tea in Bvlgari Black.

In their “Italian Flag Tea Series”, Bvlgari created subtle unisex scents that are refreshing and easy to wear. The tea in all of these has a certain dry, acrid tone to it that makes it refreshing in a different way than the common splash of citrus zest.

Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, the first in the series, is the most fresh and citrusy of all – with notes of bergamot and green tea and a tad of honey at the bottom to sweeten your beverage.

Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc is my favourite – a white musk and orris scent and with the typical acrid aftertaste of white tea, a hint of white pepper and amberette seed. The powdery and musky notes are lovely and refreshing and it’s perfect for warm weather without being a citrusy cliché.



Eau Parfumée au Thé Rouge – though I expected it to be irresistible – is a bit disappointing. Red tea is referring to rooibos tea – the sweet tasting South African bush, used as a (superior, in my opinion) substitute to black tea – less the theine. However, Au The Rouge starts with the acrid note of oolong black tea and a hint of spice (so it’s not quite ‘decaf’). The dry down reveals the rooibos – smooth and delicately sweet. It is very pleasant, though I did not detect the fruity and nutty fig and walnut notes that are part of the marketing scheme for this scent (another disappointments, as I love figs). Comparing to what I expected from it I can say I hoped for more and was disappointed – this scent does not particularly stand out and my favourite remains Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc. For my red tea kick I will stick to my favourite rooibos chai.

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Decoding Obscure Notes Part IV: Violets - Purple or Green?

Violets have been long regarded for their delicate and sublime aroma. Although for the most part they are considered a shy, lady-like scent and are associated with Victorian times, when violets were most popular in history. Violets are also considered aphrodisiacs – though usually a “proper” and “well mannered” aphrodisiac. There is a hidden darkness and duskiness about violets that does not come through in all violet fragrances.

A quick visit to the most infamous violet scents will lead to the conclusion that there are no two violets that are the same. There are some green ones – such as Verte Violette, Ormonde and Viola; There are powdery ethereal ones such as Apres l’Ondee, and there are others that are sweet and floral with no question about their violetness, such as Violetta and Meteorites (a Guerlain limited edition).

The differences lays with the fact that the part of the plant that is used commercially is the leaves. However, the nostalgic scent that was so prized in Victorian times was the flowers themselves. These are sweet and powdery at once and quite unusual; Their unmistakable scent is very delicate – in fact, almost invisible in the fresh flowers themselves. Since violet flowers are for the most part man made compounds, the interpretations are limitless, ranging from powdery to green, floral and even gourmand-like, inspired by candied violets.

Violet Flower Absolute
Although violet flowers can be distilled into an absolute, the process is labour intense and non-cost-effective. When I use violet flower note in my perfumes, it is a compound made if various oils that are rich in ionone - such as orris root, violet leaf absolute, boronia along with other floral oils or absolutes to round off the accord and give it a soft flowery impression.

Violet Leaf Absolute
This dark green liquid from the violet leaves smells cool and green, just like cucumber. When diluted, it exposes its powdery and floral characteristics, rather than leafy green.

Boronia Absolute
Boronia comes from the shores of Tasmania, and is one of the most precious absolutes. It contains a lot of ionone – a key component in violet and orris. It has undertones reminiscent of sandalwood and hay, a yellow freesia and violet like body and a slightly fruity, almost like cassis and apricot top notes. More than anything else – it is reminiscent of fresh yellow freesias - fruity, green and spicy all at once.

Orris Butter
Orris has an important role in the creation of violet flower compounds. As much as orris root butter is expensive – it is far more cost effective than harvesting violet flower absolute. Along with chemicals from the ionone family, it helps to duplicate the delicate scent of violet flowers.

Lavender
Besides its innumerable roles in perfumery and aromatherapy alike, lavender has affiliation with violets. It is floral, herbaceous, powdery and sweet all at once and also, well, purple. The softness and warmth of lavender promotes the powderiness of violet compounds.

Costus
I have already mentioned before, in the article about musks, the unique characteristics of costus. However, it’s dusky, dark and slightly oily quality is not only valuable for creating vegetale musk accords, but also as a deep and delicately sweet and rich foundation for violet accords – especially when seeking a dark, more mysterious (rather than purely innocent) violet.



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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Decoding Obscure Notes Part III: Amber


What is amber? Is it a gemstone? A fossilized tree resin? Fur-balls a-la-Whale? Is it an essence from a mysterious plant?

There are so many myths and confusions about what ambergris really is, and there are many reasons for that. First and foremost, because amber is a word that is used for a few different things: a short name for ambergris, the ocean-aged secretion from the sperm whale, a name of fossilized tree resin (Pinus Succunifera, to be exact) which is used in jewelry, as well as an umbrella name for many different compounds that for some extent or the other try to mimic the sweetening effect that ambergris has in compositions.

Let’s start with defining some of these terms:

Amber Resin
The fossil Baltic amber comes from an ancient, prehistoric pine called Pinus Succinifera. Amber dust is a by product of the fossil amber industry, and can be distilled to form a smoky-sweet-resinous and somewhat reminiscent of pine gum. This oil is occasionally used in perfumery as a base note, but very rarely. There are also some toxicity issues around this material and it is not recommended for use on the skin. If you ever try to burn amber “gemstones” to prove their authenticity, the smell that comes from the charred resin is the scent of amber resin oil.

Ambergris
Ambergris is a cured secretion that comes from sperm whales to heal its stomach from the scratches of the cuttlefish they swallow. It floats on the ocean, and by exposure to the sun and the salty water it changes its originally foul smell into one of the most delicate and sought after fragrances: Ambergris. Ambergris is sweet, soft and slightly powdery. It is animalic but in a subtle way – the raw chunks of ambergris on their own remind me of the smell of horses… Ethically harvested ambergris that was beach harvested (as opposed to ambergris that was procured from slaughtered whales and went through an artificial maturing process) is very hard to find. It is tinctured and used as a base note in oriental and floral compositions, in very minute amounts as it is powerful and its most significant role is as a catalyst, bringing out the best of each note and melding them all together seamlessly.

I have been fortunate enough to find some ambergris that was beach harvested in North Carolina (the photo above is of the "mother lump", courtesy of Will Lapaz), and today I finally tinctured it – which is quite an experience. Grating and powdering the ambergris – which is very much like a fragile yet hard resin – is an experience on its own. The scent is delicate yet animalic and intoxicating, but never overwhelming… The tincture needs to be matured for at least six months before a considerable effect is achieved. And from than it is said to become only better with time… Because of its rarity and preciousness I will use ambergris in bespoke perfumes or limited editions.

Ambrette Seed
Lastly, ambrette seed – which has nothing to do with amber or ambergris, except that its has a significantly similar name. For more information about ambrette seed in all of its forms and it’s important role as the most sought after vegetale musks, please see my previous article.

Another myth I would like to break here (since we are talking about animal/plant equivalences) – I deeply disagree with the common knowledge often presented in aromatherapy books that Clary Sage is the closest thing to ambergris in the plant kingdom. It is not. In fact there is very little in common that I can see or understand. The wine-like quality of Clary Sage must have had some influence on their nose… Unless, of course, those lucky souls had their hands on a very unique stash. I am yet to find that Clary Sage… Clary Sage can be used as an accent in amber compounds, but cannot be relied upon to make a compound smell like ambergris.

Amber
Amber used to be used as a short name for ambergris. However, because of the cost and rarity of ambergris, perfumers have constructed many different compounds to assimilate ambergris or to create a warm, sensual, ambery impression by using other aromatics. Natural amber compounds usually contain a combination of Labdanum, Styrax Levant, Benzoin and vanilla. This creates a soft, sensual, warm, comforting and sweet aroma that lingers for many hours and also acts as a fixative for other notes.

We see that amber in perfumery context is really a name for compounds with certain characteristics in common. All ambers are sweet base notes, and act as a fixative as well as add a sweet, soft and round note to a composition. However, ambers can differ greatly depending on what they are made of. There are synthetic ambers of different kinds and characteristics (i.e.: crystalline ambers are sheer and not as sweet as other ambers), and the same goes for natural amber compounds.

Let’s look at the three key ingredients that are essential for creating natural amber compounds:

Labdanum
One of my most favourite scents – the gum resinoid from the rockrose is as close as plants can get to ambergris. The ambery, sweet, honeyed aroma of labdanum plays a key role in many chypre and oriental compositions and is an important ingredient in amber compounds, along with Styrax and Benzoin. Labdanum absolutes vary in quality – some are lighter, some are sweeter than others, and some are more leathery and animalic.

Styrax Levant (Liquidamber Orientalis)
One of the essential components of amber compounds, Styrax Levant has top notes reminiscent of epoxy glue, yet it is sweet and pleasant, and has a smoothing ambery effect. It is sweet, floral and balsamic.

Benzoin
Benzoin is a sweet balsam from a tropical Asian tree with fixative qualities. It is reminiscent of vanilla but does not overwhelm delicate floral and citrus notes. There are two varieties of benzoin: Siamese and Sumatran. The Benzoin from Siam (grown in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) is a bit dried and powdery. The Benzoin from Sumatra is sweeter and richer, almost caramel-like, and comes from Sumatra, Java and Malaysia.

I have created a basic amber formula which contains these three essences only – Labdanum absolute, Styrax Levant and Benzoin. This amber on its own is quite boring (though it has a nice fixative quality and will not overpower delicate heart and top notes). To transform this basic amber into a unique amber compound or even a complex amber perfume – I like to use accent notes. My favourite ones to use are the following:

For sweet, mouthwatering gourmand amber, I like to add essences such as honey absolute, vanilla absolute, tonka bean and Peru balsam.

For a warmer, drier amber – I add spicy notes such as cinnamon, cloves, Tolu balsam and cassia. Herbs such as sage, clary sage and juniper can be used in minute quantities as well.

To add mystery and allure - patchouli and incense (sandalwood, olibanum, etc.) can be utilized to great effect as long as the proportions are right.

And of course – minute quantities of floral notes such as rose and jasmine will soften and round the amber compound, giving it depth without turning it into a flower.

To learn more about natural amber compound and the amber/ambergris/Baltic amber resin confusion, read this article.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Obsession.

Obsess
(verb) preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.
(Apple Dictionary)

After spending most of the weekend editing my reviews for Jacques Guerlain’s “Grand Quartet”, my main contribution to my blog in the last couple of days was the change in the subtitle of this blog.

I often wonder about the relationship I have with the elusive phenomenon of perfume. I learned to realize that smelling and wearing perfumes is my greatest passion, studying and collecting data about perfume (including the collection of essences and perfumes, of course) has become an incurable obsession. The fruitful result of this all (though the sheer pleasure of perfume leaves hardly any room for justification!) is my choice to make perfumery my profession.

Yesterday afternoon, I was visiting an activist friend of mine, and saw her album of AdbustersSpoof Ads. The ones that caught my eyes the most were, of course, their Calvin Klein driven criticism on modern fashion culture. Social and cultural messages put aside, these are profoundly made that they also show the bordering-on-madness connection between art and obsession. I must admit I never made the connection between the full bodied, luscious sweetness of obsession which is bordering on a syrupy oiliness, and the anorexic model. Unless, of course, the perfume is designed as a virtual substitute to a butterscotch cheesecake. I find it quite disturbing to be honest. So I have decided to include my impressions of Obsession as my thoughts for the day, just to make my point of how there is so little connection at times between the perfume’s marketing image and the perfume’s real nature.
That, of course, should be explored by the wearer (aka consumer, hopefully not brain washed by than) and evaluated based on their own olfactory repertoire and experience. This is when one needs to escape Calvin Klein and realize their potential as thinking and feeling individuals.


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Ck Obsession for Women

In the midst of an artificial perfume collection, dominated by computer generated fragrances, Calvin Klein’s Obsession stands out, being a modern Oriental that is surprisingly charming.
Obsession appeals to the young generation of impulsive, simplicity-seeking youth as well as “grown ups” with style that haven’t yet completely repressed their sensuality for the sake of synthetic class. It’s intense appeal is derived from an interesting approach combining heavy and rich natural essences such as oakmoss and frankincense, with an added touch of modern sparkle that is almost deceivingly perceived as fresh and “light” by distracted passing-by noses…

It starts with quite a blast of summery sparkle of tangerines and mandarins, beautifully melted into an ice-cream like note of intensely sweet vanillin. This accord is sweet and fresh at once, almost like a creamsickle…

The heart, though floral, still possesses the charming contrast of sweet floral notes with some tanginess: heady jasmine mellowed and balanced by the citrus-invoking floral note of Orange Blossom absolute. It is backed up by a warm accord of fluffy smoke of sandalwood incense.

The base contains an interesting dosage of oakmoss that is dry and synthetically modified, to create an almost spicy impression reminiscent of allspice berry and of cyclamen. It is accompanied by frankincense and is heavily backed up with notes of vanilla and fresh-smelling, radiant amber, which will end up dominating the dry down without compromise.

Obsession is fun to wear, and is quite versatile. Though classified as an oriental, it has certain quality to it that makes it suitable to wear also in more casual social settings, and in mild and even warm weather.

Top notes: Mandarin, Tangerines

Heart notes: Orange blossom, Jasmine, Sandalwood

Base notes: Vanillin, Amber, Frankincense, Oakmoss

Image from Un Monde En Senteurs - the first musical, olfactive, and aquatic concert ever held in Switzerland

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Shalimar

Comparing to the multi-faceted masterpieces Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and l’Heure Bleue, Shalimar is in danger of being the most obvious – a purely seductive indulgence. Even the bottle shows off with it’s fountain-shaped stopper – or is it the feathered crown of a peacock’s head? It is a grandiose show-off of sensuality and passion – not unlike it’s inspirational tragic love story which resulted in the bombard grave known to us as Taj Mahal.

In fact, Shalimar is almost too good to be true. There is nothing in this perfume that is not pleasantly dripping of sweet softness and curvy sensuality. From the sweet and fresh bergamot and curiously smoky top notes through the rose petals and jasmine blossoms softened by powdered iris, carnal base notes of castoreum, musk and opoponax sweetened with amber, tonka and affectionate doses of vanilla. The real beauty, however, and where the genius of Shalimar lies, is in the final dry down – a soft and delicious just-kissed skin,fondled and worshiped by a lover.

From the most memorable creations of Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar is least complex, despite its incredible richness and expressiveness.: it sends a clear message of an indefeasible aphrodisiac. It’s beauty lies in the uncompromising hedonistic attitude and the absence of ambivalence in it’s total romanticism and sensuality.


Top notes:
Smoky leather notes, Bergamot, Orange

Heart notes:
Rose, Jasmine, Orris

Base notes:
Vanilla, Amber, Opoponax, Musk, Patchouli, Castoerum



p.s. The only concentration I recommend for Shalimar is the Parfum Extrait. It may be different with vintage Shalimar, but the newly produced ones in other concentrations are a far cry from the love song that is the pure parfum.





Illustration from Karin Kuhlman’s Peacock fractal

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

l'Heure Bleue




L’Heure Bleue is one of the true masterpiece by Jacques Guerlain. I see it as standing hand-in-hand with its sisters Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit. There is certain quality that underlines those three masterpieces and makes them even more than an amazingly beautiful-smelling perfume to wear - but truly a work of art.

L’Heure Bleue is sophisticated and anigmatic, and yet has a unique melodramatic peacefulness that definitely does not lack reflective, philosophical melancholy…
When you realize, once the last dusky lights are giving themselves away to the first stars, how beautiful the day was, and how wonderful the deep blue night is, and the world is so vast and immeasurable and so full of beauty that it may even make you want to cry…
This moment of beauty is so eternal that it makes you feel your mortality in a painful way. Still, you are content with yourself and your life that you know if it will be taken from you that moment, you will feel complete and in perfect harmony with the universe…

You breathe in the silent fresh air of your warm summer garden… The night blooming jasmine is beautiful and intoxicating… The grass that has been just watered, full of murmurs and insects’ summer-songs… The orange blossom flowers are just folding themselves for a long, peaceful night sleep. You pick a late blooming rose, a deep, velvety-purple-crimson rose, her petals already soft after warming up in the sun for the past three days. You hold the rose and fondle the petals and hold them against your cheeks to sense the warm scent of a mature rose releasing the peak of her last fragrance into the night air... And it is all part of you now, there is no need to hold on to it.

Those beautiful, magical notes interweave with each other so gently that it is hard to tell one from the other. Together they create one impression that in my mind I visualize as a very earthy brown colour, though somewhat rich and copper like. I simply cannot see a deep blue when smelling l’Heure Bleue, though the different notes on their own make sense and tell the story of this time of the day:
There are the subtle citrus and anise top notes that are there to accentuate the soft florals, including violet flowers, and link them to the deeper base notes.
The root of the composition, apparent from first application, is a soft and bittersweet heliotrope, combined with tonka bean that accentuates the softness, yet also possesses the bitter-almond-like undertones. Vanilla and orris root are also present, to support the overall powderiness and soft, mature and philosophical nature of l'Heure Bleue.

The drydown is somewhat more smooth and ambery (though it is hard to see l’Heure Bleue as an oriental per se –it has such a unique individuality and perhaps deserves not to be categorized at all…Just like Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko, I am afraid it does not quite fit into categories…)– The drydown is a bit less powdery, with a vanillic accord. It also has some woody notes in the drydown – I suspect vetiver, but cannot quite pin point it. I will not be surprised to find some oakmoss in it either, though not in a chypre context but an oriental context, and perhaps some underlining spices that are subtle and are not meant to be recognized but rather create a warm undernote to support the rest of the scene.

There is something in it that totally reminds me, surprisingly, of Mitsouko – the fruitiness that is quite dry, bittersweet (dry peach like notes in Mitsouko, and the cherry-like notes in l’Heure Bleue); and a certain dark woodiness at the base that is interesting, mysterious, hard to grasp – but once you get it you are totally captivated!
The fruitiness of l’Heure Bleue lasts much longer though – as it originates in the heliotrope base notes, rather than the peach top notes in Mitsouko (that most people find they fade just a bit too quickly after been exposed…).

Top notes: Bergamot, aniseed
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Rose, Violet, Carnation, Orris root
Base notes: Heliotrope, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Woods, Spices

L’Heure Bleue is probably the most incredible inspiration one could have ever found for a perfume – the name is beautiful, captivating, alluring, enchanting...
Initially, the fragrance itself did not do the same thing to me - It seemed to be extremely sweet, with a dominant, bittersweet heliotrope note in it, and dries down to a rather interesting and comfortable ambery-powdery vanilla. It wasn’t until I tried l’Heure Bleue in pure parfum that I got to enjoy, understand and appreciate it more – although I believe I only touched the surface of this aromatic mystery. It smelled intensley of jasmine when I smelled it directly from the bottle, and from there the images started flowing...

When I first heard about l’Heure Bleue I was so fascinated with the inspiration for it that I decided to create my own interpretation for such a magical hour. It immediately made me think about my mother – an enigmatic lady (I am still trying to figure her out…), she is an aquired anosmic who always loved anise and velvet. I created for her the perfume Indigo, an enigmatic concoction of anise, caraway, bergamot, boronia, orange blossom, jasmine, violet, spices, incense and amber. To be honest, there is hardly anything in common between the two fragrances, left for a few notes and the insipration. Indigo is soft and cool as satiny-velvet, and smells like a nightfal in the Wadi – the dried riverbed, full of luscious greenery and vegetation, and the sounds of frogs and crickets.

I only learned about l’Heure Bleue’s sweetness after creating Indigo (I didn't find l'Heure Bleue until after I created my own interpretation for that inspirational and magical hour). So, once I actually smelled the original creation I must admit I was somewhat confused and initially, perhaps a bit disappointed: it was not what I expected, it did not make me think about the blue hour – until after I worn it several times in the parfum form, which unfortunately is becoming harder to find by the minute…Like Mitsouko, I think it takes rare personality to carry it through easily and without tapping into it first…

Now that I have given l’Heure Bleue a chance, and tried it several times, I must confess that I understand why this classic has survived two world wars as well as the currently overwhelming age of perfumery.

p.s. Although the other concentrations are nice too, the pure parfum is for sure the best one. The Eau de Parfum is quite true to the parfum, while the Eau de Toilette is more similar to Apres l'Ondee. The other concentrations will be reviewed later.

Artwork: Frank Holmes - Blue Twilight

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Mitsouko

The mere act of opening the brown illustrated perfume case is like pulling an old violin out of its case. Remove the stopper and you are about to play the most expressive Sonata. The flacon itself, with its stylized, curled stopper, is suggestive of a string instrument.

There is something fascinating about Mitsouko, as if time has stopped and got encapsulated in this unusual bottle. It is like visiting an ancient library and hearing the voices of history whispering from the walls and the leaves of the leather-bound book.

Mitsouko speaks in a silent and subtle language, that cannot be heard by all. I feel it represents a persona of restrained passion and always keeps a certain distance – as if not willing to fully reveal itself even when intimately dabbed as Parfum…

The initial impression is a clean, yet rich and intense scent, somewhat powdery, with lavender and orris notes. This fades quickly, to be taken over by an interesting bitter peach-like note, which brings to mind the feeling you get when you crack the peach core, and the little bitter almond flavour emerges along with the dry woody aroma of the seed, and blends in with the pink sweetness of the not-yet-so-ripe (but full of aroma) fruit! The texture overall is that of an under-ripe peach skin, very velvety but somewhat shivering to the touch… But you touch it anyways to feel the Summer arriving… But also of the dried peach, which possesses a rich and somewhat bitter aroma, and is not as sweet as the fresh fruit.

These notes are enticing, full-bodied and very refined. This unique and lovely peach accord is subtly backed up by a jasmine and roes accord, warmed by allspices and other earthy spices which remained a mystery. The floral heart gradually and slowly deepens softly by the notes that make Mitsouko the wonderful Chypre it is: Vetiver, Sandalwood, and a very modest (just the right amount) of patchouli to make the scent warm but not heavy. These notes politely invite themselves in, to accompany this interesting gathering of notes that are both Eastern and Western…
The notes intermingle with each other so harmoniously and so beautifully that by this time it is hard to tell one from the other for a while… You just give yourself up to fully enjoy the experience and the big mystery behind it…

The classical Eastern Vetiver and Agarwood dominate the base, accentuated with a clean and dry patchouli, and there is just a hint of oakmoss and a warm, animalic labdanum note at the base. The warmer notes of the base grow on you bit by bit, but always stay very mellow, as the centre of the stage is that enigmatic, sweet&sour Japanese Agarwood, and the dry or moist vetiver root. The dry down possesses only a hint of the ambery-vanilla Guerlinade accord, and is mostly a classical, well-refined woody Chypre.

Mitsouko makes me feel as if I am are floating in air and at the same time is very grounded. It’s like forgetting myself while playing classical music (probably from the romantic period – Tchaikovsky’s Seasons comes to mind..), being reminded that I am still in the room only by the scent of the old wooden piano...


Mitsouko brings to mind a wild desert wind, while at the same time acts in a most refined and cultural manner. It is luscious and almost convinces you that it is delicious and fruit, yet does not rise up your appetite at all. It’s a perfume for the sake of perfume, not worn for any other reason but to appreciate this original orchestration of counterpoint and intermingling resonances.
Full of mystery and subtle nuances, it is a perfume to meditate upon…

Although a romantic in the aesthetic meaning of the word, Mitsouko is not a soft spoken, sweetly seductive perfume. It will seduce and elevate ones soul, but not the body, if such a distinction can be made at all. It would be a faithful companion at times of turmoil.

I find Mitsouko very hard to grasp. It’s a fragrance that needs to be worn in very specific moods, when you can totally tune into it and may take a long time to tune into and build a trusting relationship; as if Mitsouko is a shy person that needs to be gently coaxed into a conversation. Even now, after knowing it and wearing it many times, I still feel there is a lot I do not understand about it

Top notes: Peach aldehyde, Orange,
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Spices
Base notes: vetiver, oud, labdanum, oakmoss, patchouli, vanilla.


p.s. I love Mitsouko in all concentrations - the Eau de Toilette and the Eau de Parfum and even the body lotion. More later about the difference between concentrations.

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Vol de Nuit

Vol de Nuit makes me think about the heroic women of the WWII era, namely my dear grandmother. It is her signature perfume for over 50 years, ever since my grandfather took her to the Guerlain boutique in Champs Elysees, where it was chosen for her by the fragrance consultant, as it complemented her independent and adventurous personality. The scent of Vol de Nuit dry down seem to kindly linger around her and in her home. Like a truly well fitted signature scent, it never occurred to me it could be a perfume, it is like her second skin and complements her beautifully.

I also associate it with the desert-dwelling heroine from The English Patient, Katherine, and the lost pilot in “The Little Prince”. Vol de Nuit sends a feeling of brave loneliness and secret stories that may never be told.

Once the propeller on the bottle settles down enough for you to unleash the scent, it shouts of freedom. Freedom that leads to unknown adventures, risks and perhaps even pain. Green galbanum, sage and bergamot are hint to the Chypre quality of this marvelous perfume. A a multi faceted olfactory adventure awaits you, and you'll need your courage and faith…

The green rush fades rather quickly, smoothing itself gradually into an almost powdery combination of jonquil and cedar wood, mellowed and warmed by powdery musk and the Guerlainade – orris root, tonka bean and vanilla. That is what makes the narcissus notes not so heady and overwhelming (reassuringly, this perfume is neither too floral nor overly sweet, maintaining an adventurous sophistication).

The smooth, somewhat powdery heart gradually evolves into a more sophisticated Woody-Chypre accord, based on Labdanum and Oakmoss and a noble Agarwood note that lends a somewhat sweet, somewhat sour undertone that is not unlike Mitsouko’s vetiver and agarwood base, but is richer and sweeter.

Than there is the next phase of heart notes – which is definitely the inspiration for Chant d’Aromes in my opinion, as it smells exactly like this lovely, bittersweet autumnal-spring-like perfume: the fresh white floral notes (honeysuckle, gardenia, narcissus) over a woody-light musky-chypre base, floral and deeply warm at once, fresh and young and at the same time thoughtful and deep.

The dry down echoes the earlier impression of the heart accord: woody and musky, with some amber-vanilla sweetness in the tradition of Guerlain (Which somewhat reminds me of Shalimar - only that Shalimar is a perfume worn to seduce, where as in Vol de Nuit the seduction is a lot more subtle, unintentional if you will – the seduction of others is only a side effect of one’s confidence and quiet mystique.

Like Shalimar, the Vol de Nuit dry down is somewhat resembling a natural skin scent (which is my own personal weakness...), only more dry, woody and powdery. Shalimar is ambery while Vol de Nuit is muskier.

Vol de Nuit is rich, complex, mysterious… A perfume of refinement and an understated, passionate approach to life. It should be worn with dignity and self-worth. In my mind it symbolizes independence and individuality in its most truthful meaning – facing adversity all by yourself, while maintaining your integrity and remembering who you are.

Top notes; Galbanum, Bergamot, Sage
Heart notes: Jonquil, Jasmine, Orris Root, Cedar wood, Musk
Base notes: Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Cedar wood, Agarwood, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetive

p.s. I couldn't possibly stress enough how important it is to find and wear this in the parfum. It's difficult but well worth the effort. The Eau de Toilette simply doesn’t cut it. And I feel this is true for Shalimar and l'Heure Bleue as well. Mitsouko is the one perfume from Jacques Guerlain’s “Grand Quartet” that I like in any shape, form or concentration.





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Friday, March 10, 2006

Pen Pal

(Noun) "A person with whom one becomes friendly by exchanging letters, esp. someone in a foreign country whom one has never met." (Apple Dictionary)

Soon after advertising my first “classified ad” sweet letters started arriving in the mail from different parts of the country, from girls my age who also liked nature, music and reading. They were all so sweet and friendly, but they were more real than imaginary friends. Except that I never got to meet them in person.
The letters usually had a faint background of pastel coloured images – of dogs with over sized heads and sad eyes, flowers and little girls in pink dresses. Some were really special, and I could tell even before I opened the letter – they had a tender scent of roses and sweet dreams that drifted beyond the sealed envelope.
Today, fancy stationaries and fountain pens are replaced by electronic mail, discussion groups and perfume swaps (it's called evolution). Yesterday I got a sample of Poussiere de Rose by Les Parfums de Rosine from Jill, and instantly I was reminded of the dreamy days of letters… I recognized the scent as soon as I opened the vial, but once placed on the skin, the powdery, sweetly spiced rosy, powdery, peachy scent blossomed and made me feel like a letter that wants to be read…




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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chocolate Dilemma

Some perfumes start with an abstract concept. Other perfumes are inspired by a building block - a note of distinct character the inspires the perfumer to explore possibilities and express the magnificent beauty of simplicity. So what happens when an unusually stunning building block is discovered in the middle of developing an abstract perfume?

I just received a new cocoa absolute which smells truly of chocolate. Sweetness and all. It’s all I have been looking forward to for reworking my chocolate perfume, Guilt, and perfecting it. Guilt is a leathery chocolate concoction, juxtaposing smoky notes, rich florals and deep brown chocolate and amber with a hint of spice. Rose, orange blossom, frangipani and mimosa create an interesting ethereal contrast to the hedonistic chocolate… Guilt has always been a dark, leathery scent, the concept being using the most guilt-inducing substances such as cigarette smoke and chocolate addiction as the theme for an unusual gourmand.
Now with the new sweet chocolate I am feeling tempted to re-work it into an altogether different concept - a milk chocolate, almost caramel-like, with sweet chocolate and vanilla, maybe also some tonka bean and amber. No flowers. No leather. No spices. Just chocolate.
Of course there is the possibility of starting a new scent, but I have promised myself to not over-expand my collection (one chocolate perfume should be enough).

Which of the two would make you feel most shamelessly guilty?


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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

L'ÉCUME DES JOURS

FORMULA

50 Green Curduroy Extract
30 Pineapple Toothpaste Absolute
50 Seaweed Absolute
1 Chloe and Colin’s First Kiss
40 Yellow of a handkerchief
500 Lung Water Lilly Absolute
50 Gunpowder Roses
60 Glimpses of light reflected on a shiny floor, harvested by a mouse
700 Teardrops

Mix all the ingredients in the exact order described above using a Pianola.
It is crucial that you keep the harmony and in the New Orleans’ Jazz spirit, to keep all the ingredients in the right proportions.

The end will be tragic: the concoction will be used to the last drop. It is guaranteed that the person that wears it will die in the end. That is the perfect beauty of living a mortal life.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Après l'Ondée

Rain shower may leave a trail of scent behind, or may draw an invisible curtain hanging in the air; suddenly brightening the spirits and reviviving the thirsty plants and soil. Suddenly, one becomes aware of the possibility of other realities, of luscious greens and patience and calm. After the first rain in the dry lands, the earth releases a special scent emitted by the myriads of organisms inhabiting the upper layer of the soil – a musty and clean scent of wet earth. However, in places blessed with rain all year around, those scents are less than evident except for those times when the earth had enough time to dry and lust for water.

When I first heard of Après l'Ondée, I was longing to try it and could not find a trace of it anywhere until a few years later. However, I was so fascinated by the idea of it, that I immediately set to design a perfume as an homage to the scent after the first rain in my home village. The result was Rainforest – ironically a scent that is more similar to the rainforests of the West Coast, the exile in which rain bares no precious values. Nevertheless, it gives on the feeling of a veil that have been lifted after the first rain to reveal life and hope, while also portraying the wild greenness of the West Coast rainforests.

Après l'Ondée paints a completely different post-rain olfaction scenery, one that was for the most part foreign to me, until I traveled to countries where rain showers appear uninvited in the midst of summer, shuttering the delicate and fluffy blossoms of tiny purple flowers. Après l'Ondée is shy and quiet, like the cyclamen flowers hiding in the hollows of grey rocks, as if to escape the raging thunder storm.

The cool and distant powderiness of orris and violet is soft and obscure, warmed by anise and carnation, and underlined with a quiet resonance of jasmine and subtle vanillic accord – like a dreamy summer-stroll along the dusty paths of a flower garden that suddenly was given away to a gently showering overcast, a reminder of the intimate closeness between beauty and melancholy.

Top notes:
Bergamot, Aniseed

Heart notes:
Violet flower, Jasmine, Rose, Carnation

Base notes:
Iris roots, Vanilla, Heliotrope

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Powdery Incense Recipe - inspired by Après L'Ondée

2 Tbs. orris root powder
2 Tbs. sandalwood powder
1 Tbs. Frankincense tears, ground or crushed
1 Tbs. Siamese benzoin
1 Tbs. Sumatran benzoin
2 Tbs. lavender buds
30 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops Aniseed essential oil
10 drops jasmine absolute (optional)
1⁄4 tsp each: finely and freshly ground mace, nutmeg, coriander
1⁄2 tsp. Aniseed, finely and freshly ground

Measure the dry ingredients. Crush or powder the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. Stir well with a fork or chopsticks. Store in an airtight container and let the oils soak in well into the powders. After one week, you can use as an incense (burn a charcoal pellet and place a pinch of incense on top; refresh as needed. You may also use this to fill sachets.

I love to use the traditional mortar and pestle for grinding my spices, made of marble. Brass and wooden ones may be used as well. Coffee grinder will require less work, but is incomparable to the pleasure of seeing the spices and resins gradually crushing while slowly releasing their extraordinary aromas. Orris root and sandalwood are readily available in powdered forms, and so is Siamese benzoin. These can be found in herbal stores. Frankincense and other incense are available in many Catholic church stores.

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Private Collection

Strange, mysterious and elegant, Private Collection is a perfume of rare beauty and originality. Although I liked the EDP very much, I find the parfum far superior, and this is the version I chose to review here.

The opening notes are impossible to pass by without notice: green and strange. Galbanum, freshly cut grass and twigs, along with a hint of beetle-like scent, slightly apple-y notes, flying like fireflies in the summer above wedged watermelons specked with black seeds.

An elegant crisp white floral heart complements the green notes with orange blossom absolute, neroli and rose and a tad of jasmine and lily of the valley. Underneath it all there is a warm and soft undercurrent of oakmoss and sandalwood.

This is an exceptional perfume with a frosty aura of crisp elegance - just as the bottle so beautifully portrays. It’s cutting edge yet classy. It comprises of an interesting counterpoint of a distant, well preserved beauty and a warm and loving personality that is very approachable. It’s the combination of elegant florals, childhood-invoking, playful green notes along with more grown-up, warm, mossy and woody notes that make this perfume’s personality so well rounded and lovable.

Top notes: Galbanum, Freshly cut grass
Heart notes: Orange Blossom Absolute, Neroli, Rose, Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley
Base notes: Oakmoss, Sandalwood

For a different view of Private Collection, visit The Scented Salamnder and read
review from February 5th 2007.

Photo: Cyclamen leaves in Clil

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Welcoming Spring with a Grin

"After three years in this northern city
I experienced a deficit in sunlight
The chlorophyl in my green eyes has diminished
Making room for more whitenesss
And my pupils are growing, more eager to find the truth

After three years in this rain soaked town
My lungs, like dead logs in the rainforest
Are underlined with moss and undergrowth
I’d rather it be a waterlily, and die
A heroic death
Nurtured by a true love rather than
Sacrifice my voice to the wind of the snowdrops"

(March 1st, 2003)



I was born in the spring, and spring has always been my favourite season. In my home country, spring is gently warm, and blessed with millions of fragrant flowers in all shades of colours. I have missed spring ever since I have moved to the rainy West Coast city of Vancouver. The frequent rain washes off, along with dirt and pollution, the fragrance of anything that has the potential of being fragrant in other places. Even out in the nature, the bloom is not abundant in the spring as it is in desert lands... If there are any flowers they will appear later in the summer and will have little colour and scent that pales in comparison to the desert-flowers show-off parade of colours and scents. One needs to climb all the way up to the peaks of the mountains to observe the Alpine meadows... And so after a while I have learned to accept that there are different types of spring. The spring here is crisp and brisk, even (or more so) on sunny days. And although the cherry blossoms are now in full bloom, I still experience the spring here as a green spring, rather than pink or yellow as the cherry blossoms or daffodil flowers. And so, about three years ago, I have decided to create a scent dedicated to a cool, green spring - reminiscent of the first shoots of grass awakening and sprouting out of the earth and the mossy undergrowth of the forest, decorated only by hints of flowers that conform to this green concept and do not overload the scene with indolic exhibitionism.

As the spring approaches, it is time to announce some of my new fragrances for the spring. The new version of Grin is green as the one from the previous two years. This time it is less herbal, more floral yet much greener than ever. Grin opens with the sappy, crisp greenness of galbanum, leading to a cool-cucumber, green violet leaf note, spicy-green fresh-cut freesia notes of boronia from Tasmania , softened by jasmine and rose to create a full bodied floral bouquet. Underlined by oakmoss, green vetiver note and woody-musty oud oil that brings to mind a mossy undergrowth of the soil awakening at springtime.
Grin is available as pure parfum, in both alcohol and jojoba oil base.
This new Spring limited edition of Grin will be officially released on March 21st. Samples can be pre-ordered prior to that via email - Ayala@Quinta-Essentia.ca.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Youth Dew

With its dark juice and dense composition, the name Youth Dew seems a bit out of place - unless the dew drop smells of civet, and adorns a wild narcissus in the middle of winter. The opening of Youth Dew reminds me tightly knotted woolen yarn, soft, warm and inviting - yet you can’t find the end/beginning and start knitting yet!
As it settles on the skin, it starts opening up, one bit at a time. As the citrus wears off and the spices soften by woody undercurrent, bit by bit the floral heart starts to emerge until reaching a peak – where narcissus and ylang ylang dance to the indolic rhythm of the civet base – sexual to a degree that borders on the impolite, so you need to hold on with self-conviction and dignity. But even the luscious of flowers decompose and return to earth, this time made of muddy puddle of earthy patchouli and vetiver which gradually softens and mellows until finally reaching a delicate dry down phase that is vanillic and surprisingly reminiscent of Chanel no. 5.

This is the review for the pure parfum – a limited edition in a beautiful, frosted flacon with a delicate frosted flower stopper, filled with the almost black juice this leaves an unforgettable impression!
I find Youth Dew to be very suitable for winter, and can’t imagine wearing it in any other season and being able to keep my olfactory bulb intact. The indolic heart and the earthy base surprisingly reminds me of sticking my nose into a narcissus, inhaling the scent that smells so delicate from afar, and so deadly from nearby; inhaling it along with the some rare raindrops that clang to the petals; All this after spending the whole afternoon jumping in puddles after the rain stopped

Top notes: Citrus and Spices
Heart notes: Narcissus, Ylang Ylang, Cloves, Rose
Base notes: Civet, Patchouli, Vetiver, Vanilla

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Arabie

Even the faintest whiff of Arabie sends me to places I haven’t visited since I was a little girl of 3 or 4 years old, back to the Muslim quarter in ancient Jerusalem. My parents used to take me there almost every Saturday. Arabie smells just like the Muslim market over 26 years ago - spices such as saffron, coriender, cardamon, cinnamon... Sweet confections (Rahat Loukum) and the famous refreshing scents of Tamarhindi drink that were sold by merchants carrying a copper barrel on their back (with little taps, the glasses they had were actually made of glass, so they will wait for you to finish the drink before continuing their merchant-trail). Scents of straw mats, Persian carpets, handmade mattresses, copper lamps, ropes... All somewhat dusty and desert smelling, enclosed between tall ancient stone wall, and cool underneath the arches, protected from the heat of sun and human temprament alike... The abundant tactile and sensual distractions will confuse the warrior and soothe the poliltician… Tangy green almonds with salt sold at the exit by young boys sitting on rolls of rubber tubes…As well as the famous long oval sesame-drizzled fluffy bagels with Za’atar (a herb mixture based on wild hyssop and thyme). Those bagels and the cliché olive-tree camels and a few blue glassblown vessels at the Jaffa Gate only scrape the surface of these memories...

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Decoding Obscure Notes Part II: Iris, Skin and Powder

The subtlety of musks and their similarity to the scent of the human skin is not unique to musks alone. There are other notes that possess similar qualities – the oiliness of orris butter is reminiscent of the soft and sweet odor of a newborn baby’s head. At the same time, it has a cool, watery and even slightly earthy aspect to it.

Orris root absolute is one of the most precious perfume materials. The roots need to be peeled and aged for a long time before extraction and distillation. It is invaluable in perfumery, for its powdery and delicate aroma and its role in floral compositions (especially those which require a violet-like touch). Orris is also used to soften woody, floriental and oriental compositions. Orris is one of the notes that make the Guerlain perfumes so soft and unique – it is one of the notes in the infamous Guerlinade. It’s role is of particular importance in Apres l’Ondee, Shalimar, l’Heure Bleue and Samsara. Recently, an orris theme has been receiving more attention by niche houses – Hiris (Hermes), Iris Poudre (Frederic Malle), Iris Silver Mist (Serge Lutens), Bois d’Iris (The Different Company), Iris Nobile (Aqua di Parma), Hirisa (Creed), and even the more mainstream Dior Homme released last year by Dior.

But orris is not the only note that has a distinct powdery and soft character that resembles the human skin. Some on their own – and others give this impression off only once they become part of a more complex accord.

Guiacwood
From the wild jungle tree of Argentina and Paraguay. The oil is waxy, fatty, almost skin-like, slightly smoky and with a unique tea rose scent. It is often used in tobacco or leather compositions as well as in masculine spicy and woody orientals. I have yet to smell a distinct guiacwood note in a perfume that is not my own, though I am certain and it is not officially listed as a note in very many perfumes.

Mimosa
Delicate and powdery, from the abundant yellow blossoms of the mimosa bush has a fragile top note that is somewhat soapy, reminiscent of cassie and slightly honeyed. Despite its powderiness, it is far smoother and more subtle than orris.

Cassie
A relative of the mimosa, cassie has a more pronounced floral-powdery scent, and is very delicate floral base note. It is warm, powdery and slightly spicy, herbaceous and warm.

Cabreuva
Cabreuva are extremely hard woods from Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Cabreuva has a very unusual watery, delicate floral note reminiscent of cassie, lily of the valley and mimosa. It has a scent that I cannot describe better than “watery”. When I smell cabreuva, I feel as if it gently rinses my brain with water… It feels clear and clean, and strangely soft and warm all at once. It adds those characteristics to perfumes as well – giving off a soapy, clean, watery feel…

Rosewood (Bois de Rose)
A by product of the rosewood furniture industry (steam distilled from rosewood dust). Rosewood contains a lot of linalool, a bright, clean, heady yet soft aroma chemical. Rosewood is a light and floral top note, powdery-smooth and slightly rosy (henceforth the name) and is not unlike lavender, but less herbal and slightly dried than lavender – and indeed often accompanies lavender to create a soft, powdery effect in fougere scents.

While orris and guiacwood have the oily, skin-like and powdery qualities on their own – notes such as mimosa, cassie, cabreuva and rosewood are more often used either as a theme or as a supporting note in a floral composition. Nevertheless, they are responsible for making a heady floral more personable by adding a pulsating suggestion of human bare skin – either freshly showered, or warm and smooth – either way, pulsating with sensuality that is strange and familiar at once…

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Musc Ravageur

The obscurity of musk in Musc Ravageur is buried in a cloud of confectionery whiffs of cinnamon-buns. Downright spicy, sticky-sweet cinnamon, vanilla and caramelized sugar. Maurice Roucel has already proved his mastery in creating fluffy, cloudy scents such as Toacde and l’Instant de Guerlain. In Musc Ravageur he goes all the way creating a blunt statement of indulgence. It’s taking musk to it’s extreme warmth, pulsating sweetness by pairing it with vanilla and cinnamon – a LOT of cinnamon and vanilla – to the point that the theme is almost shifted. The opening may come through as a bit crude. It instantly reminded me of Coty’s Vanilla-Musk. It is not until the very dry down that the musk is revealed by bringing forth a velvety skin-scent quality with the sweetness and spicy warmth lingering for an extended silage…

Musc Ravageur is not distinctly a musk scent - not the first one to refer to in order to learn how musk is "suppose" to smell. Nevertheless, it's a great "comfort" scent. If I haven't fallen in love with Tocade for that purpose, Musc Ravageur would be my pyajama-scent.

Coming up next in the "musk series": easy to find & affordable musks.

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