Friday, August 31, 2007

We Have Winners!

My unbiased brother has performed the draw tonight, and the lucky winners are:

Congratulations, Monique and Roxana - you both won a copy of PERFUME The Story of a Murderer DVD

Congratulations to Ann, you've won a hand-painted spray bottle of 1oz EDP of your choice ( Epice Sauvage, Lovender, Magnolia Petal, ArbitRary or Rainforest)

Congratulations to Catehrine - you've won the gorgeous vintage Mexican poison ring! I will fill it with a solid perfume of your choice.

Be sure to tune in for more contests and draws - next month there will also be prizes amongst SmellyBlog readres, Portobello West visitors (who sign up to my mailing list!) and of course - those of you who buy online at!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Orleans Today

Dead Wood Alive, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I was walking in Stanley Park yesterday, and saw this tree: even though it was large and beautiful, the strong winds this winter tipped it over and completely uprooted it. It lays on the grass, with its roots exposed and vulnerable. To judge from a quick glance only, this tree is definitely dead. It’s been there like this since the winter and all through the scorching heat of the summer. But if you look towards the sky, the tree’s true spirit is revealed – that of hope and strong life force. The tree is clearly alive, as new leaves are budding and shooting through the uppermost tips of the branches, facing the sky with dignity and resilience. If only someone will help this tree stand up and cover its roots again, I think this tree will live.

It’s two years after Katrina hit New Orleans, and the people of New Orleans are still working hard to re-build it, with very minimal help from the US government. Although the frequently toured areas of New Orleans (mostly in the French Quarter) have been renovated enough to attract more visitors and hold a seemingly normal façade for what you’d expect the city to look like. August 30th marks two years for the breaking of the levees - city’s efense mechanism against flood was too old and defective, and the levees collapsed, causing 80% of the city to go under water.

Two years later, there is still a lot more to repair and re-build, both physically and culturally - not to mention people’s life that have been shattered and scarred forever by this disaster and the traumas of losing their loved ones, their homes and being abandoned by their own government when they needed it most.

Only about 1/3 of the population of this vibrant city have returned to their homes. The rest have been scattered all across the US, far from their family, friends and hometown. For many, even if they want to come back, they don’t have the means. FEMA have helped them out of the city, but will not help to bring them back home. And of course I don’t need to remind you that the US government is one of the richest in the world, but apparently helping its own citizens is not at the top of the agenda. This is simply too contradictory for its capitalist idealism. And having all these people away from their home is perhaps one way to keep the area quiet and the oil rigs off the shores of Louisiana pump more oils and money into the government’s treasure box.

Click here to view the current situation in the various parts of the city and how

Read this AND read the comments all the way down at the bottom of the page, by New Orleans citizens to get an idea of what’s really going on there right now…

If there is anything we can do to support the people of New Orleans to re-build this fantastic city and their own life and future in it – we should do it now, before it’s too late. Moral support to individuals we know from there - to show we care, and if we can go visit there and help build and fix, clean and renovate the city. And of course, financial aid to individuals and organizations working hard to maintain this culture.

Below is a list of just a few charities that I think are worth supporting:

Mardi Gras Chief Bannock
(you can also send funds directly via PayPal to this recipient - or click on the donation button at the bottom of this page)

Emergency Relief Services of the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

America’s Wetland

Network for Good

Family Pride Coalition

Teaching the Levees

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Scent for a Drowned City Re-Emerging

Paula Stratton olfactory description of New Orleans before Katrina has inspired me to do something more for New Orleans: create a new perfume especially for New Orleans. A perfume that will represent these beautiful fragrant moments of the city, and also help the city raise more funds for re-building it.

I read Paula’s description of the aroma of New Orleans, feeling all along the scent of the city surrounding me. A city which I haven’t visited yet, yet have affected my life without my notice. The music, the books, the food and finally –the perfumes of this city – have made their way to me on their own accord.

And now it’s time for me to do something in return. I don’t know when this perfume will be ready. I feel I do need to visit the city before I can truly create something in its name. But for now I am letting my imagination loose and just start pairing notes and building accords… And sniffing in between.

Paula’s letter to me about the aromas of New Orleans have provided me with excellent details, enough to start working and developing some ideas. And so I have been pairing magnolia with cypress, osmanthus with vetiver…

Some of the accords seem to be working beautifully:
Seaweed-Orange Blossom-Lemon
Spikenard-Brown Oakmoss-Vetiver

Others are more problematic. Particularly using basil and rosemary with the florals. They balance the sweetness but also add complexity that takes away from the clarity of my olfactory vision for this perfume.

What do I want it to be? I want it to be beautiful. I want it to remind people of New Orleans. It has to have floral intensity that is uplifting and beautiful and at the same time the dirty depth of the swamps and the primordial ocean with its salty breath and the overall compliexity of something that gives life and consumes it at the same time. Fertile, rich soil that can grow these intense blossoms. Just like the waterlily in this image. That’s how I want it to be. The soil for the perfume has to be so dark as to create a backdrop upon which the florals will be strikingly bright and beautiful.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Orleans Cuisine

Gumbo Shop Creole Cuisine, originally uploaded by ygonno.

"The minute you land in New Orlenas, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means begnets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dosen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po-boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week – ye the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town”…
(Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume)

It's 2 years from that miserable day when hurricane Katrina arrived at New Orleans. A day later (August 30th) the levees which supposedly were protecting the city broke, letting in the water, which covered 80% of the city. One way of supporting New Orleans, in my opinion, is keeping is culture alive. And culture and food are two inseparable things. As a person who eats neither seafood nor meet, I am sure there is a lot I'm missing out on in terms of NOLA cuisine. The only two things that I have tried are the Cajun spice (I even found a few recipes online, which I am going to try - I love making spice mixes from scratch!) and pecan pie... So I am urging you share with other readers any favourite dishes, recipes, restaurants in New Orleans... It's a small gesture that I think is meaningful.

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Recommended Reading: Custom Scents for Dead Celebs

If you skip all the vanilla-is-sexy-talk and hidden-advertising of some new celebrity scents, and go straight to the very bottom of this article, you will find a few ideas that famous noses have come up with in response to Marian Bendeth request to "If they could choose any deceased personality and create a custom blend for that person".

While I had hard time connecting to most of the ideas brought up by these noses (Marlene Ditrich wearing a woody floral with strawberries, and an aquatic floral for Marie Antoinette!), one idea particularly caught my attention - Maurice Roucel brief for Julius Caesar's fragrance:

"(Julius Caesar) was a true sportsman overseeing the Olympic Games (...) I would want this to be the smell of a winner (...) I feel the Mediterranean Sea and the Olympic Games, where laurel-leaf and olive-leaf crowns were handed to the winners as symbols of masculinity(...) It would be an aromatic fragrance centred around an essential note of laurel leaf. Then I would add outdoorsy notes based around woody scents -- chypre (sandalwood), oak-moss, fougere (fern-like) -- with touches of spicy, herbal and fresh essential notes of rosemary, basil, thyme, hyssop and artemisia".

Perhaps I am too biased, being a natural perfumer, to understand the rationale behind using aquatic notes for a fragrance for a lady who wore wigs as high as her palace, and has been the one to dictate fashion trends, including wearing plenty of violet, orris and musk.

Perhaps I also need to hear more specific notes in order to fully understand how a scent will smell, rather than just fragrance categories. To me, the particular notes make all the difference in terms of being able to smell a scent in my imagination...

I would love to hear what you thought of those briefs, and especially - what do you think of the idea of Jesus wearing a powdery floral comprising of heliotrope, violet, orris and woods (also Maurice Roucel's idea, which most likely will mean that I would wear this perfume, regardless of my religious views or non-views).

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spanish Moss for the Southern Belle

Spanish Moss is described by Hove Parfumeur as “Warm and exotic, mossy and green... a reformulation of an old favorite” – while it is warm, it is not what I would describe as green. It is sweet, powdery yet with an exotic twist as it includes some notes that are not commonly used in other rosy-powdery perfumes.

Floral, powdery, sweet and with an antique Victorian feel. If there is moss there, it is well concealed, amongst heaps of flowers, dusting powder and rouge on a cluttered vanity table of a Southern lady who protects her fair skin with endless layers of lace and mousseline. The intensity of flowers and powder is something I’ve smelled before in perfumes that came from the South*.

The opening is intensely floral, sweet and powdery. I can sense the presence of heliotrope right away, with its bittersweet, almondy-rich melancholy. Other notes that are apparent from the start are lilac, rose, osmanthus and orange blossom. These are all very intense, dense once applied – buy when they settle on the skin they become far more tolerable – yet nonetheless maintain the same character of uber-sweet-powdery Southern vanity.

Once the florals quiet down a tad, I find myself suddenly sipping icy-cold, sweet lemonade. Or perhaps it is a lemon popsicle… It instantly reminds me of Aunt Eller in Oaklahoma! film, though I don’t know why. I can’t even remember if there was any lemonade in that movie, but for some reason it makes sense. Even though it’s not even close to New Oreleans at all.

Hours later, I am still searching for that “Spanish Moss” to come out from its hiding, but I can’t say there is anything particularly mossy about this perfume. It is very old fashioned, like a more tropical interpretation of “Lipstick Rose” and also more complex, less simplistic than rosy perfumes of that genre. Besides the heliotrope base, I can smell some bitter myrrh, but that’s as close as I can get to revealing the moss…

Top notes: Lilac, Lemon
Heart notes: Rose, Orange Blossom, Osmnathus, Orris
Base notes: Heliotrope, Myrrh, Vanilla

*Such as from Lagniappe Oakes Perfumery – I’ve tried several of these but I have to admit none captured my heart; they were all from the “Heirloom Collection”).

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Aroma of New Orleans, Louisiana

Oak Alley, originally uploaded by Lake Fred.

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to me by Ms. Paula Stratton, a fine lady who describes herself as a "NOLA Magnolia which was transplanted to Atlanta, Georgia". I am very grateful to my friendship with her, not only because she is a fascinating perfume-friend, but also because it opened for me a window to an endangered culture I am intrigued by and at the same time unfamiliar with. And one aspect of culture is it's scent and the aromas of its surroundings. Paula writes about The Aroma of NOLA:

I hope you get to visit that dear city someday. It has a continuing tradition of French perfumery. I hope it's Creole /Southern European/ Caribbean black ambiance will remain as DH and I had known it. There art, music and perfumes were essential and incorporated into life, not considered extras. And the subtropical smells were intoxicating. On one side of the metro area was the muddy overflowing Mississippi, on the other salty Lake Pontchartrain. Bayous and canals snaked through the soft sinking land. The live oaks spread low and wide, hung with moss as chandeliers are with garlands of crystal. The tallest trees were often elegant cypresses and magnolias and they contributed their sublime odours to the heavy misty atmosphere. The scent of cypress in a warmish winter is something one experiences nowhere else except the coastal American South. The humidity traps the smells and intensifies them. I do miss the smell of cypress.

I miss the gorgeous water birds such as herons, both blue and white which one saw everywhere by the canals. Hearing their wings beat the air as they flew over my garden on their way back to the nearby park where they roosted at night marked the ends of our afternoons. We had a rose garden with many roses. I grew rosemary, mint, basil and thyme. We also had a Meyer lemon tree and in late spring the smells of citrus blossoms gave forth a sharp rich smell which blended with that of the roses, the herbs, the cypress trees next yard over and the magnolias in bloom down the street. In late spring too, we were getting the last piquant but sweet (sort of apricot like) scents from my two big healthy Tea Olive trees. You know that tea olives are actually chinese osmanthus. Vetiver grass grew along marshes and along roadsides. At least 40 varieties of palms both tall and small were everywhere. What they contributed to the overall smell environment I don't know. The live oaks and their moss, cypresses and tea olives contributed more.

The winds blowing mildly off the Gulf of Mexico (which was far down from the river contributed the most subtle kind of saltiness to the air. The lowhanging humidity made all these smells misty and kept them close to all our noses. And we seemed closer to the earth there. The ground is silty and has no rocks in it. It has a combination of a peaty, musty old dirt, and seashell smell to it. It is at the base of the smells I listed above.

Thank you for asking me to describe how New Orleans and the surrounding area smelled. I'm going to copy this and store it, because I know for me the smell of New Orleans was a major part of her beauty. Most tourists wouldn't 'get that' as many shortchange themselves by confining their explorations to Bourbon Street, which has a smell of stale beer and booze and foods in garbage bags behind the restaurants.

Oh, how I hope you can re-create New Orleans in a bottle! I will be sending you some samples of fragrances from Hove and Bourbon French soon. If certain qualities of Hove's Spanish Moss were combined with Bourbon French's Dark Gift, the result might approach the smell I've described. I think you might be able to do it!



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Friday, August 24, 2007

Dark Gift

gris gris, originally uploaded by Princess Valium.

...And samples she sent...
Well, the particular one I'm about to review was more like a nearly full flacon of pure parfum. Paula, you are so generous to share the last drops of this perfume that is so precious to you, thank you!

The name is stirring a minor controversy now, because it is not quite clear what the “proper” name is. Originally, it was called “Dark Gift”. But than the infamous vampires Anne Rice has commissioned a perfume of that name from Bourbon French. Now, with her store in New Orleans being open again, and three perfumes by the name “Dark Gift” offered for sale in Eau de Toilette concentration, Bourbon French are no longer allowed to use that name for the fragrance, due to copyright/trademark rights belonging to Anne Rice. But they will know what you are talking about if you order it as a custom perfume. It will simply be labeled as “Custom Perfume”. So perhaps the new name is custom perfume. With your permission, for the convenience of writing this review I will refer to it as “Dark Shift”.

As for the fragrance itself – it announces classicism and vintageness. It felt precious but non pretentious. There is something just slightly aldehydic about it in the opening, like overly ripe yellow peaches mingled with spice and kissing soil soaked with moisture.

As the scent develops, luscious rose petals and iris powder and perhaps even a hint of osmanthus weave through the darkness of patchouli earth tied in vetiver roots and suffocated by bitter myrrh. There is an overall spicess to Dark Shift, although I cannot quite pin-point a particular spice. Allspice is my closest guess, with its equally medicinal-dry and warm-sweet persona.

The drydown reveals a sweetness that is both dark and vanillic. Besides a dark, rich vanilla I can sense the ambery, bittersweetness of tonka bean, and hints of opoponax muskiness.

Even if Dark Shift does not smell identically to New Orleans (it simply hard to imagine it would smell so “perfumey” in its real-life form), it is hard to not smell the connection it has to the musty swampy earth, voodoo and a good gumbo cooking to the sound of jazz.

I am just one step closer to bottling this magical city… But the most important one would be in the form of an airline ticket…

Top notes: Aldehydes, allspice
Heart notes: Rose, Orris, Osmanthus
Base notes: Vetiver, Patchouli, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Opoponax, Myrrh

To read another opinion of Dark Gift, visit Cognoscented

To order Bourbon French perfumes, And now that I've tried one perfume from Bourbon French, I'd like to hear which other ones would you recommend for me to try? What are you favourites?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


French Quarter, New Orleans, originally uploaded by hanneorla.

was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air - moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh - felt as if it were being exhaled into one's face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this qulity of breath, although here it acquired a tinge of metallic halitosis, due to fumes expelled by tourist buses, trucks delivering Dixie beer, and, on Decatur Street, a mass-transit motor coach named Desire.
(Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Re-Building New Orleans

Apollo Emergent, originally uploaded by fubuki.

We’re just a few days away from marking two years to the breaking of the levees in New Orleans and the flooding of the city and all the tragedies that followed.

I would like to re-announce my fundraising campaign for re-building New Orleans. This is the best thing I can do to help this city which I love dearly without ever visiting there. Everything I’ve ever heard about New Orleans or smelled from there was just sublime, surrounded by a combination of mystic and mundanely charm.

In the next few days, I will be dedicating each post to New Orleans somehow. A quote, a song, and a couple of perfume reviews that were created in New Orleans by the independent perfume houses there, and other fascinating things for you to read (well, I think they're fascinating!).

But today I wanted to just remind you all of the fundraiser that is ongoing until New Orleans is fully re-built and the levees stand strong and can be counted on if another hurricane strikes. I can only offer very little, as I am just one person trying to do the best I can. As I mentnioned earlier this year, I am donating $10 for each bottle of l’Ecume des Jour that I sell. So far I managed to raise only $80, and I hope you will be able to help me raise some more so I can send them directly to people living in New Orleans and who are working very hard at re-building it every day.

For this week only, until August 30th, I will be donating $10 for any full bottle of perfume I sell, not just l’Ecume des Jours. So order them now and help New Orleans.

Another way in which I am hoping I could help to re-build New Orleans is create a fragrance inspired by the intoxicating, exotic scents that surrounded it before the hurricane. I don’t know where exactly this will lead me, but the perfume will have to be as beautiful as the city of New Orleans and its people. When the scent is ready, all profits from it will be donated to people of New Orleans (yes, that means that I won’t be making these to make any money, but just to help re-build the city and support her people). My job is to make sure it is going to be to make it impossible for you not to buy it and support New Orleans with your money and your love and perfume!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Teacher and The Lesson

"Don't confuse the teacher with the lesson, the ritual with the ecstasy, the transmitter of the symbol with the symbol itself" (Paulo Coelho, "The Witch of Portobello")

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Signatures, Branding, Bespoke and Bullshit

The Name Tree, originally uploaded by Chris.Thomson.

I overheard a typical little conversation in a supermarket between to cashiers. These two ladies were talking between them about shopping for clothes and one lady said where she usually buys her clothes, and how much she loves Ralph Lauren clothes. “I just love the way he cuts his clothes!” she said. “they just always fit me perfectly”. If I was a time traveler coming from the 18th century, I would have thought she knew Mr. Ralph Lauren as her personal tailor, making her clothes to fit her particular shape. But since I’m a time traveler who’s been stuck in the 21st century for quite a while, I happen to know that Ralph Lauren is no longer a person, neither a talented fashion designer, but a brand name representing hundreds of designers that need to put together their new cuts every season, and make sure they come back from the factories in China in time to fill up stores worldwide for the next season. Ralph Lauren himself will probably never meet most of the people that he makes his clothes for.

Humans leave signatures on trees, bus posts, walls, rocks – you name it. It’s like saying “Think about me because I’ve been here. Even if you don’t have a clue who I am. Even if you think about me only for a split second”.

Leaving a signature behind to mark our creation is another natural thing to do, but just a little more evolved. It means “this piece of art that you are enjoying or disenjoing right now is all because of me. I have become a part of your life now”.

When the same thing is done and the name is familiar, such as with a well-known craftsperson (i.e.: fashion designer), the name means “See how well I can do this? You sure will be able to use it to the max”.

Ever since the industrial revolution, things have been moving faster, and the role of the signature has changed. It has become a tag, and a part of branding. The tags are printed, engraved or embroidered by the billions and no longer represent a particular person who made the product – but rather, the idea that someone that you know and can trust made it even though they didn’t.

When it comes to perfume, we see the same thing: until very recently, the role of the perfumer was very silent and hidden. Perfumes were released under different brands or people, but in fact were designed by one of the 5 or 6 major fragrance & flavour corporations that rule the industry world wide. Lately this is changing a bit in the sense that we know more about who the designer of the fragrance is. What we don’t know, is how much creative freedom they had versus how much control the corporation they are working for has over the final decision of what we smell on the shelf.

And than there are celebrity perfumes: it is interesting to see how many fragrances are created just to remind us that someone exists. No matter how marginal is their effect on our life, we have to think about them for a split second when we see a new celebrity perfume launched. Oops, I’ve just missed one that just came out two seconds ago… Is it really a celebrity’s favourite scent? Perhaps. But perhaps it is their favourite because it inflates their bank account really fast and helps to steer away the attention of their recently not so great reputation over the tabloids. Note: if you admire a celebrity or love a celebrity scent, take my words with grain of salt, and remember: the main place where I get to “know” these celebrities is in the drugstores: in the beauty section first (their fragrance and ads, where they look stunning and magical), and than when I’m in the checkout, seeing their cellulite/drug abuse shots and/or fighting with their ex…).

Name on the Tree - Graffitti in Nature, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

In many ways, bespoke is anti-branding. What I do is the exact opposite of celebrity perfumes: I create bespoke perfumes for individuals. I believe you and me and the neighbour next door deserve to have the best perfume they want. I feel that your life is fascinating and magical, and that you are very interesting even if you don’t happen to show your face on the tabloids every other day. I feel that what makes us unique can be reflected with a personal scent, and I really enjoy engaging my clients in the creative process of perfume making. When I just started, I insisted for a long time of not using my name for my company to avoid such kind of branding. I called it “Quinta Essentia”, to reflect the process of creating the perfumes – distilling the essences from the plant, and than combining essences together in such way as to portray ones quintessential personality and spiritual aspects in the form of perfume. Only at a later time (about a year ago), I let go of that name and gave in to using my own name, signing on my perfumes so to speak, but also reflecting the very personal connection I have with my clients in the process of creating these signature scents.

A signature perfume will never be a best seller (because it will be sold to only one person, you!). It will be an olfactory portrayal of your dreams and your innermost nature, all distilled, refined and than married in an alchemical process that captures the total essence of you

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Ayala's 2006 Interview on

Due to popular demand, and the fact that this interview was erased along with all the previous material on, I am posting here the original interview, which took place November 8th, 2006, and was published December 5th on

Marlen Harrison: How's it goin?
Ayala Sender:Hello Marlen, how are you?
MH: Good lord this day has FLOWN by! How bout you? Productive day?
AS:Yes, seems like I got a lot done already!
MH: Good 4 u!
AS: How about yourself? How is your day "off" going?
MH: ....doesn't feel much like a day off unfortunately, none of them ever do....ah well! But productive nonetheless! Trying to schedule trips to NYC, Tokyo and then Paris...
AS: I thought so, but glad to hear it's productive! Kudos on the fabulous team of writers you recruited from around the world, a little traveling seems in place!
MH: Yeah, but on a PhD student's budget, it's not easy. So Ayala, what's new for Ayala Moriel perfumes this season?
AS: At the end of November we released a new perfume, Razala - my first perfume to include ambergris (beach harvested), and also other incredibly rich essences of oudh, saffron, myrrh, orange blossom, rose, tuberose and jasmine. This is an Arabian inspired perfume (Razala is my Arabic nickname).
MH: Wow! That sounds amazing Ayala. Can't wait to try that one as I've recently become a saffron convert and have always loved the warmth of ambergris. I was looking at your webpage - I noticed Film Noir! Now that sounds incredible to me. Tell me more about that one and how on earth did you think of combining those specific notes?
AS: Film Noir will be released officially only later into the winter. I can't say I am the first one to combine patchouli and chocolate though! Angel and Borneo have done that before me... This is an example for a perfume that was inspired by materials, rather than a concept. The name was added to complement it later, as it fit the darkness.
MH: Tell me more about being inspired by materials.
AS: I was playing with different distillations of patchouli, and was inspired to create a patchouli-themed scent that will make the patchouli feel really warm and cozy, and make the wearer experience patchouli from a different point of view. The idea of using the chocolate and the myrrh came from my work on a few ideas for "love potions". Roses and Chocolate was the first thing that came to mind, but it's a very challenging combination. I would have never thought I would pair chocolate and myrrh, but one olfactory thought lead to the other, and here I am with Film Noir!
MH: Interesting that you mention chocolate as I am wearing one of my favorite Ayala Moriel perfumes right now actually. Can you guess which one it is?
AS: It must be Guilt. If it has chocolate that is... Many think that Finjan has chocolate too even though it doesn't!
MH: Yes, Guilt is a beautiful take on a luscious chocolate note paired with the perfect floral bouquet. Never fussy, always yummy, and somehow very comforting.
AS: I am very pleased to hear you like Guilt! Chocolate and orange are a perfect match, but here I used orange blossom and amber as well to make Guilt a perfume rather than a dessert...
MH: Yes, it strays from gourmand territory about 15 minutes into the wearing as the mimosa and jasmine begin to warm up.
AS: You noticed the mimosa!
MH: Yes - it lends a soft powderiness to the overall feel. Ayala, I have to ask you, what was the deciding moment when you realized that you were a perfumer?
AS: Even though the process of becoming a perfumer was gradual (and there is always more learning to be done, so a perfumer must be humble and keep learning!) - I think that the moment I made my first perfume, I realized "I had it". When I first wanted to learn how to make perfumes, I got all the books I could and followed the formulas. In most cases, I was very disappointed with the results. One formula looked so promising - it had vanilla, rose, cinnamon and a few other florals; yet it turned out so disappointing. So I decided to make my own formula, which included all my favourite notes at that time (my childhood favourites - lemon verbena, rose, cinnamon, vanilla and amber) and I liked it immediately. I named it "Ayala" and it is still available through my website, though I have a feeling I made better perfumes since than...
MH: I see, I haven't tried Ayala yet, but hopefully someday! Was there one book that you thought was the most instrumental in helping you to develop your skills?
AS: The two most important books in my studies were what perfumers often refer to as "The Bible" - Poucher's "Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soap". The other book is Mandy Aftel's "Essence and Alchemy". Unlike the many hobbyist books I came across (changed sentence slightly as to not imply these are hobbyist books), these two books contain very useful information about the methods of constructing a perfume. Mandy's book is more accessible, and can be read just for enjoyment. It does focus on naturals only though, and really inspired me to keep my palette all-natural. Poucher's is a reference book, and even though it has information on both synthetics and naturals, it is invaluable. It has plenty of formulas and a wealth of information. The older editions are a historic document as well, as they contain some fabulous old-world formulas.
MH: Hmmm, you know Andy Tauer has also mentioned Mandy Aftel. Her writing seems to have had a large influence on many of today's successful perfumers. Ayala, I am a huge jasmine fan and have just tried Yasmin. Looking at the list of notes that you've used, I want to ask you think there's a perfume muse that works its magic when you're crafting a fragrance, or is the process more of a series of trial and error in deciding which notes work best and in what concentrations?
AS: Yes, Mandy's passion is quite infectious... But not any less important is her approach which is very methodical and structured. This is a fantastic book which serves well beginner perfumers as well as hobbyists and fragrance aficionados. Perfumery is an art form, and like any art forms, it has technical aspects that need to be mastered in order to achieve the desired outcome. It starts with an inspiration, or an idea, a muse if you like - and than in order to create your vision, you have to know which essences work well together, which contradict each other, which complement each other - and of course, which ratios to use to achieve the effects you want.
MH: I see, can you tell me about the fragrance "Charisma" and what your process was when creating it?
AS: Charisma went through many phases and incarnations. It all started with the jasmine-spearmint accord, which is quite magical. When I saw the listing for Un Air de Samsara, I thought to myself, if Guerlain has used mint in their perfumes, than this is probably ok, even though mint has other more hygienic and culinary associations (toothpaste and bubble gum etc.). Originally, I used a rare narcissus and gardenia absolutes in the formula. But when I was no longer able to obtain them, I had to reformulate Charisma, and replace the gardenia with something else. I used the heady, sharp, almost horseradish-nasal notes of kewda attar (a gigantic tropical flower from India) to lend some of the headiness of gardenia, and I also used jasmine sambac. But I still felt something was missing, and it wasn't until I got a sample of osmanthus absolute, which I decided to dump in its entirety into my existing bottle of Charisma, that I finally found the missing link. The base, I might add, remained the same through all the different phases of development: agarwood, tonka bean, green tea and ambrette for a musky touch.
MH: Wow! That is an incredible story. Charisma is an example of one of the scents that I immediately overlooked (my nose fell hard for Espionage). I've re-visited it on two occasions since then and I think it is one of my favorites from your collection. I especially like the way the green notes give way to a warm ambery aroma. Not the typical sweet amber, but could I describe it as a "fresh amber"?
AS: I love wearing Charisma in the spring and summer. The ambery notes are from the tonka, which is powdery and bittersweet, and the agarwood keeps an underlying feeling of cleanliness and freshness.
MH: I want to say that I smell chamomile blossom and sandalwood as well, but...
AS: There is some sandalwood, but no chamomile.
MH: Interesting. So, Ayala, you've set yourself apart as a perfumer by offering only 100% natural ingredients. Am I right in concluding that you don't use synthetics at all? And by synthetics I mean man-made molecules that mimic natural smells.
AS: That’s right. I only use essences that were distilled directly from plants, flowers, roots, seeds, spices, fruit, etc. These include essential oils, absolutes, concretes, and some tinctures. I refrain from using animal ingredients that cause pain or death to the animals on the process. So far, the only animal-derived materials you will find in my perfumes are beeswax and honey absolute, and beach harvested ambergris. I don't use derivatives (i.e.: vanillin that is obtained from plants) although they are considered natural and I don't object to using them, theoretically. I made the decision not to use them because I enjoy the complexity and the challenge of the natural building blocks, and feel that I can create unique perfumes within the limitation I set for my palette.
MH: Thank you for explaining that. There seems to be a lot of heated debate about the topic, but as this is your choice as an artist with regards to the materials that you work with, it helps me understand your rationale. After all, we wouldn't tell a painter of watercolors that he's crazy for not using oils. I also want to ask you about the bottles and pendants. The sterling silver pendant that holds solid perfume, where did the idea and the concept come from?
AS: I can't quite remember where this started, but it was from the very beginning of my business existence, that I wanted to offer solid perfumes, and I wanted to have an entire line of Perfumed Jewelry. First, I commissioned an Israeli jewelry designer, Amir Poran, to design a tear-drop shaped silver compact (a little box) with my fairy on it, and the drop had to be an opal stone. I was set on the opal stone because I like how it changes colours and reflects the light, and how versatile it is - very much like (deleted: the) my mind-set when I design Signature Perfumes. The design was about half the size than what I had in mind, and so we decided to use the same design for the pendant. The rest of the line was to include poison-rings and matching earrings and bracelets. But we haven't gone that far yet, though I am sure we will when the time is right.
MH: The pendant is charming. What is the price of this piece of jewelry/art?
AS: The price is $150 US including the solid parfum. Refills for the solid parfums are $80 US. The creme parfum should last for about half a year if you wear it every day. But it also releases the scent when closed, just from the heat of your body. I should add that the creme parfums contain 40% of the actual essence.
MH: So it is highly concentrated?
AS: Yes, it's very concentrated. The alcohol based parfums are between 15-30% (it really depends on the scent, some need to be less concentrated than others), and the oil based parfums are 30%.
MH: And the bottle shown on the homepage, tell me about that - is that how a regular 9ml perfume will be housed?
AS: You are now touching on a really tender subject: packaging. I went through many hoops to find the right packaging, and I am now proud to offer 9ml, tear-drop shaped, frosted crystal glass flacons that are made in France by the best company in the world who knows not only how to make bottles, but also how to make bottles that seal properly. You'd think this is an obvious specification for a product that is meant to contain and carry volatile liquid, but you’d be surprised how challenging it is to find one! The images are not on my website, but they are on Basenotes and on my SmellyBlog. The pictures on my website now are of bottles that I no longer use. They were custom made for me by a local glassblower of Czech origin, based on my own design, with a dichroic stopper. They were even more expensive than the silver pendants, believe it or not (and guess what? It was impossible to get them to seal properly!). I went through a few other phases, including using stock-bottles and hand painting the name AND the logo for each scent. This was not something I was willing to do forever, so I am very glad I found the bottles I am now using!
MH: I doubt the average reader understands just how much work and preparation go into creating fragrant accessories and products such as yours, especially considering that you are a one-person business! Ayala, what do you most want people to know about Ayala Moriel, the perfumer?
AS: It's a labour of love, but nevertheless - a lot of work. I enjoy every step of it, and thankfully I am a multitasker by nature, so I enjoy all the steps, from creating a fragrance to bottling and packaging it. I am also thankful to my graphic designer, Terry Sunderland, who helped me a lot in finding creative solutions for the packaging. Soon you'll be able to see more of his hard work on the internet, once my new website is launched in the New Year (this is another labour of love, this time by my partner David Griffith).
MH: I just want to point out that you are currently running a special that allows purchasers to enjoy 3 different scents - parfum extraits - for a discount of almost 50% off the regular price. Let's see, one could have a single Creed scent, or 3 unique Ayala scents for that price. Once could have one Armani Prive, or Espionage, Charisma AND Guilt, right?
AS: Yes, and that applies to any purchases of 3 or more scents. So if you buy 3 or 4 or 5, etc you will get this discount, which is basically the wholesale price. I am doing so to accommodate perfume aficionados who need to have different scents - a perfume wardrobe. A special “Perfume Wardrobe” discount is something I intend to keep offering to you in the future.
MH: That’s a great offer, Ayala.
AS: In answer to your earlier question, Marlen…Perfumes are very personal, and they have the power to touch people's hearts. Perfumes are a creation of fantasy, but they are also very real and powerful. I feel that in their own way, each of my perfumes tells a story and reveals truths and secrets about both the person who wears them and the person who created them. Each bottle contains a universe of its own that seduces us to enter in: inhale and explore.
MH: Nicely put Ayala. Is there anything else you'd like to discuss, as I feel we've covered a lot of ground.
AS: On another note, I think that our lives should be as truthful and fantastic as the perfumes we wear, so follow your dreams and your passions, and they will lead you to all the right places.
MH: Ok, thanks so much Ayala. I hope you enjoyed the questions and I wish you a wonderful holiday season.
AS: Wishing you a warm and sweet holiday season too!
MH: Definitely! Bye Ayala!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back to the Basics: Burning Incense

Beehives of Incense, originally uploaded by annavsculture.

In the very beginning of my work as a perfumer, I made incense. Not the cheap kind of incense made of pre-made incense sticks dipped in synthetic oils. But rather, loose incense, made of a combination of resins, wood barks, spices and herbs. Traditionally, these are burnt over hot charcoals in many religious spaces such as temples and churches. There is something really magical about entering a space like this. The scent of burning incense is what you notice first of all. And it’s been burnt there for many years (in some cases, hundred over hundreds of years). The incense permeates the walls of such temples and churches, sinks into the stone or wood, not to mention the clothes and hair of the people in it. Everybody becomes connected through smoke.

The best incense I’ve ever made was a kyphi formulation. It was not my recipe, but I was still very pleased with it all the same. The process for making kyphi is longer than any other incense, as it uses raisins and honey as an agent to glue together the differerent fragrant components (i.e.: frankincense, myrrh, juniper berries, cinnamon and so on). The raisins need to soak for quite a while and the whole process is sensual and magically fragrant. Forming the incense pellets also takes quite a while, as well as drying them out (to let any excess moisture out). The fragrant is never “burnt” and always pleasant with kyphi.

But I digress… What I really wanted to talk about is how incense really was the first form of perfume. It’s already a well known fact that the word “perfume” originates in Latin: Per Fumum means “through smoke”. What is less talked about is how it all started. And I feel that somehow, even though we don’t have the exact evidence for this – the way incense (and than perfume) was discovered is so deeply rooted in our conciousness that it can be a truly powerful tool to reconnect with our deepest selves and reestablish our connection with past generation and with the earth – thus perhaps securing a brighter future for the future generations.

I imagine incense was discovered one day when a few homo-sapiens or even less advanced species of humans made a fire and discovered that a certain plant (perhaps it was an ancient coniferous plant?) made the fire go higher, brighter and stronger. They may have also noticed a very strong and pleasant odour released at the same time. Bit by bit, our apish forefathers have discovered more and more plants, woods, resins and herbs that made the fire start quicker (the essential oils are highly flammable – just think about all the turpentine in pine trees for instance!). They also noticed that they feel better when they smell these burning plants, and their spiritual leaders or shamans used these as medicine to treat both body and soul, and as means to communicate with spiritual beings (represented by the visible, thick incense smoke emanating from these plants when burnt).
The earliest mention of incense is in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian tale of The Flood. The Sumerian civilization existed nearly 7,000 years ago. The Egyptians have perfected the art of incense, medicine and also fat based perfumes (maceration of fragrant plant matter in oil, as well as solid perfumes). The Egyptian civilization started about 5,000 years ago. These are very early moments in human history, and even than, fragrance was connected to many aspects of human life: spirituality, beauty and health. Incense was a constant presence in the domain of spiritual work and worship sites. Incense was a way to heal the sick (get rid of evil spirits to banish the physical illness). And it was a luxury commodity among the rich.

Incense and fragrance had many spiritual and healing roles in the Indian and Chinese culture (Ayurveda and Chinese medicine both used aromatics and aromatic herbs for their healing properties).

It wasn’t until very recently that perfume have become “just” a commodity and a luxury item, as if disconnected from the other benefits it provides for us for our spiritual and physical well-being. It is funny that just as quickly as we in the West forgot about it, we were also fast to receive it again in the form of aromatherapy – an art of healing that has grown so fast as to lose most of its meaning in the last couple of years. The term is so overused, and synthetic aromatics are often substituting the real, natural ones in many commercial products that claim to be “aromatherapeutic”. And so aromatherapy grew fast, and than it just collapsed – instead of to oblivion, to a far worse real, the realm of being misused, misunderstood, over used and also used in not so careful ways.

We must respect the power that natural essences posses. They need to be used properly and sparsely in order to be used effectively (especially for medicinal or therapeutic use). There are many ways to benefit from natural essences in an “aromatherpeutic” way. When it comes to balancing emotions and connecting with ourselves (or our higher selves, if we are so ambitious!), incense is one such way. And setting time to enjoy and appreciate incense and get back to the basics. Breathing.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

There are Signs that Green is Back

After a long, long, long period of brain-numbing fruity florals and suffocating gourmands, there are signs that indeed, green is getting back into fashion, fragrance wise.

And while this change in trends is most welcome amongst those of us who either despise fruity florals or simply are tired of cookie cutter fragrances that seem to be the imitation of an imitation of an imitation of something that seemed to be cutting edge or just fun 10 or 15 years ago; there is something a bit worrying about the way greens might be coming back.

The reason for my less than cheerful attitude to this much-anticipated change of course is two-fold:
1) the gradual extinction of certain natural essences that were utilized in classic green perfumes of yesteryear. Namely oakmoss. But naturals in general are becoming a rarity in mainstream perfumes (which makes perfect sense when thinking of the vast quantities of jus produced every year; we simly don’t have enough land on this planet to produce enough natural oils to be a substantial part of all the mass –marketed perfume launched every other day.
2) Judging by the recent green releases (mostly coming out of niche lines first, and it seems that gradually, mainstream perfumes will pick up on the hint and adapt the trend), they offer nothing new. Nothing that we haven’t smelled before (except that its coming from a different or a new brand). Two of the Chanel Les Exclusifs (28 La Pausa and Bel Respiro). The names as well as the compositions are winking quite suggestively at past successes and achievements (either olfactory or fashion), which may indicate lack of finding inspiration in the present time.

Nowadays, it is a challenge to smell a scent without prejudices: the perfume’s name, brand, packaging, colour, advertising campaign, not to mention the anticipation of a fragrance all over fragrance boards and blogs create expectations not only as to the quality of the scent but also how it actually smells. Thes factors all have an impact on what you actually smell in a new fragrance, as those expectations are difficult to block out.

With Kelly Calèche, the expectations went all the way from complete dismissal (pink jus, named after a bag), to a peaked interest once seeing the ad (now, that looks intriguing!) but I wasn’t holding my breath for it. When I passed by the Hermes boutique on Wednesday, I checked in and found it there. It was neither pink nor leathery. It was a green, dry iris with very little to remind one of leather if at all. It starts with an off-putting note that immediately reminded me of Rose Ikebana (which I’m not capable of wearing at all – the combination of berries, greens and rose is nauseating to me, and even more so ever since I overdosed on curried mango pickle in my avocado sandwich one day while wearing l’Ombre Dans l’Eau…). Thankfully, the sharp berry and green phase is short-lived, and is replaced by a fresh, citrus green accord, which quickly develops into a powdery rose and orris body notes. With a dry undercurrent (the leather?) it is not unlike No. 19. After all, pairing greens with leather is not a new idea (No. 19, Ivoire). Neither is the green perfume with orris and rose at the centre. For a moment I get a peppery dry whiff reminiscent of the tea-tinged Osmanthe Yunnan. Overall, Kelly Calèche wears like a sheer veil rather than a leather whip. It’s very well mannered, cool even, elegant in a selective and luxurious style, very much like the public image of Grace Kelly who inspired the bag which inspired the perfume’s name. Would I have been more impressed if the perfume would have been called “making soles in angel leather"? I won’t be able to say now, because it is named after a leather bag. A well made bag, but nothing that inspired emotion in me. I suppose I would have been more likely to appreciate its etheral greenness if it had a name and an image more fitting to what it actually smells like. Just like Bel Respiro and 28 La Pausa, the uninspiring name takes away from the value of the fragrance on its own.
Top notes: Grapefruit, Cassis, Pepper
Heart notes: Rose, Iris

Base notes: Leather
, Cedar, Labdanum

Note that although mimosa and tuberose are listed, I can barely smell them if at all. The base is dry, cedary almost, though not quite leathery. I smell the faintest hint of labdanum there too, without the base becoming sweet by any means.

To read other reviews of Kelly Calèche, visit:
Now Smell This
The Perfume Shrine

* Image of green Kelly bag borrowed from:

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Must Read: Interview with Celiné Ellena

Celiné Ellena tells Smothsonian Magazine about her views of perfumery as an art form and a profession. To the question what she most love about her work, Celiné Ellena says:

"That it's an abstraction. You can't catch it, a fragrance. I'm very independent; I feel free. And creating fragrances, you feel free. You are creating something that exists for one moment, and then it disappears. I love that. And each time I create a fragrance, there is a story".

I couldn't agree with her more.

Thanks to Robin for the link!


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Layering Fragrance - with Style

Long time ago in a middle-school far away in the 80’s, 12 and 13 year old teenage girls would create layers of colours in their clothing by wearing their clothes out of order (the short sleeves or tank tops on top of the long sleeves) or folding the undershirt’s sleeves over an overly open necklined sweater to make the colours of the under layers show on top. Layering has since evolved into a far more fun, loose and creative way to mark one’s individual style – turning even the most mundane pieces into something special simply by the way they are put together.

While this works fantastically well in fashion, and is an interesting way to put into use and create a new look out of many different favourites without looking indecisive, the perfume equivalent of layering is not quite as exciting for the most part. Not in my opinion, anyways. For several reasons: One, being the performance of layered fragrances. I feel that just like wearing a long sleeve shirt under a sweater, you see the sweater but you don’t see the shirt. Not quite, anyways (unless the sweater is very loosely knit or has holes). When I layer scents that work well together, I always smell the top one (the last one applied) better than the first one. The first one will remain very much in the background. Perhaps there is too little time for the scents to truly interact and for their molecules to bond and create something new.

Two, and this is the most disturbing one – is that more and more perfumes are released as a collection, exactly with the idea of layering in mind. Part of it could be a way of getting more attention in the very saturated market. But the result is - guess what? - an even more saturated market, with less and less perfumes that stand on their own rights.

To me, a perfume should be a complete entity. An olfactory story with a beginning, middle and end, and unique characters (notes) interacting within. This is scarcely found in collections that were designed for layering. One reason being that in order for the perfumes to interact well with one another without clashing, they should be simple enough to not provoke an olfactory dissonance when blended.
I would like to suggest a different approach to layering. One that is still fun and creative, but a little bit more sophisticated and takes into account that we deserve to wear complex and rich fragrances that can stand on their own. But we are also entitled to some fun and playing with them sometime too!

Instead of layering fragrances on top of each other, in hopes that they will create a new scent – create layers that peak through one another, sometimes overlapping and other times standing on their own so you can enjoy the scent the way it is. This can be done by wearing different fragrances on different parts of the body. I discovered this can be truly fun when I encountered several body products that I really liked their scent, yet seemed mellow enough to accommodate another fragrance on the wrists. Don’t forget to take into account your shampoo or conditioner or any other hair product. Many of them are so highly scented, that they should be considered when you design your olfactory aura for the day…

Azuree body oil goes fantastically well with a light spritz of Chinatown. The two scents have very little in common, but the result of the mix is sultry and exotic.

I find that Lovely body spray or Liquid Satin applied as a body spray is fabulous with Chanel's No. 19 Eau de Toilette applied to wrists and other pulse points. This is particularly fabulous on a hot day.

I’m also very fond of a few of Aveda’s haircare and styling products. Here are a few that have quite a significant scent on their own and a perfume that pushes them to the background to create a mood for a perfumed centerpiece:
Air Control Hair Spray:
This dark and rich spray could be worn as a fragrance if only it wasn’t so sticky (well, that’s how a hairspray works, right?). The dominant note there being labdanum, it is very sweet yet earthy. I like to wear it with Youth Dew parfum dabbed carefully on the wrists and behind the ears. This is best in cooler weather.

Aveda’s Sculp Benefits conditioner has an intense vetiver aroma, and can be a nice way to balance the sweetness of a chocolate based perfume such as Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Amour de Cacao.

And their Elixir leave-in conditioner smells mostly of ylang ylang and geranium. I like to use it to keep me hair smooth in an up-do when a little black dress, pearls and a dab of No. 5 extrait is required...
Alba Botanical’s Coconut Milk Body Cream serves as an excellent companion to tropical white florals, such as Songes by Annick Goutal.

And Jo Malone’s Vintage Gardenia goes on the skin particularly well with a little caffeine boost from Nyakio's Kenyan Coffee Sugar Scrub. It actually layers quite well with Black Vetyver Cafe too (The only way it makes me close to satisfied with layering these fragrances on top of one another is apply a spritz of Black Vetyver Cafe sandwiched between two layers on the Vintage Gardenia - one on the botton and one on the top). I really wish there was a Black Vetyver Cafe bath oil to use instead...

Crabtree & Evelyn's Lemongrass & Brown Sugar sugar scrub is an interesting combination between a body butter and a sugar scrub. It has a rich lemony scent supported by impressive amounts of frankincense and peru balsam oil. The latter appears also quite significantly in Opium Fleur de Shanghai, which explains why the two are so great together. An interesting combination of freshness and luxurious resins...
I also like to wear the same sugar scrub in a gloomy winter day to uplift my spirits, and add a dab of No. 19 parfum, worn with a mossy woolen sweater...

What I enjoy about these layering combinations is that I've found a way to pair together a scented body product whose fragrance I enjoy, along with a favourite fragrance - yet the two complement each other rather clash together. When wearing them this way, I can always bring my wrist to my nose to smell the perfume alone, while overall, I just smell the two interacting and wrapping around me, creating a new fragrance aura.

* Images illustrating this articles are courtesay of Susie Bubble, AKA The Layering Queen of Style Bubble - the most innovative and fun fashion blog you can find on the net.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007


prince, originally uploaded by A N G E L.

If you’ve grown up in the 80’s, you’d know that there were a lot of things worth forgetting (unless, of course, you need to remember things in order NOT to repeat them…) and only few to be proud of. The latter included purple, hoop earrings and Prince. Having suffered my teenage years in that era, these were perhaps the three things that managed to cheer me up despite the overall ugly fashion, dealing with the first (and unfortunately not last) zits that popped up as they wish threatening to destroy my life forever, and endless disagreements with parents that thought that just because they were teenagers in the 60’s and fought all the wars worth fighting for (for them at that time) and therefore their teenage children should just shut up and be happy and do what they’re told. And did I mention that the perfumes that signified the era for me were suffocating and overpowering, and were worn by the classroom slut (Poison) or Middle-School’s uprising pop star (Jovan’s Musk Oil). In that kind of environment (i.e.: visually disastrous, killer silage perfumes and mind-controlling parents) the mass-appeal of the shamelessly individualistic music of Prince won a large chunk of my heart for the rest of my life.

So it is not surprising that as soon as I learned that the artist formerly known as Prince - and now known more as a symbol that looks like this:

- has decided to delve into the realm of perfume, I immediately ordered it online from the website dedicated to 3121 perfume (also the name of his most recent album) – a website that has the underground look of an early website designed by the funky computer-nerd teenager next door, and that takes PayPal rather than swipe your plastic card.

The description seemed very appealing, being described as “Xquisite, Mysterious, Xotic - A kaleidoscope of rich florals”. a concoction of white flowers underlined with patchouli, sandalwood and musk. This could have gone bad in two possible ways, being either:
a. Just another fruity-floral or insipid clean floral like the ones released every other day by celebrities and mass-market perfume companies alike
b. Punch-in-the-nose 80’s style fragrance, a-la Poison or Giorgio.

The bottle arrived three weeks later, and looked like a new size of a Prince CD with its kaleidoscope of cut amethysts on a yellow background and large gold & purple label right in the middle. The perfume starts with florals and a citrus sparkle of bergamot, yet you can already smell the underlining patchouli and sandalwood creep up and mingle with the top and heart notes. The top is mostly gardenia, the heart (once the orange blossom and lily of the valley fade a bit) is mostly soft but voluptuous tuberose. And while the initial warmth offered the premise of a warm, sweet and sensual base or dry out phase – what we get in the end is more of a clean interpretation of these notes – patchouli, sandalwood, cedar and musk.

I don’t feel I can say anything bad about this perfume, but I am not as enthusiastic about it as I was hoping I would be. Primarily because, while it does not smell like many other cookie-cutter celebrity and mass market scents, it is not particularly original either. From the moment I smelled it, I felt I was already familiar with it. It reminded me of quite a few fragrances, all of which I like to some extent but don’t love. Such as the opening notes for Sira des Indes, the floral bouquet of Pure Poison (only richer), Carnal Flower (less full-bodied though) and Allure (yet less powdery) and the clean patchouli and musk base of Lovely and Pure Turquoise plus hints of the incense and musk that is in Pure Poison. Prince’s music is original and cutting edge. His perfume isn’t. All the same, it is very wearable, and I’m sure I will be using up my 30ml bottle pretty fast. It’s just that kind of a fun fragrance that can be worn nearly anywhere and anytime. I’m curious to try the perfume concentration (it’s called “Xquisite Perfume” and comes in 15ml), as white florals usually smell better (creamier and richer) in higher concentrations, and in hopes they will also last longer before the cleaner and flatter base notes arrive.

If you order online from the 3121 Perfume website, 7% of the each sale will be donated to one of the 7 charities listed on the website:

City of Hope
Jazz Foundation of America
Helping and Loving Orphans (H.A.L.O.)
Elevate Hope Foundation
Urban Farming
The Bridge, Minneapolis, MN
Edith Couey Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund

Top notes: Bergamot, Jasmine, Gardenia
Heart notes: Orange Flower, Muguet, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang

Base notes: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cedar, Musk

* Cell of Prince in the Simpsons is from an unaired episode, and was found by Blushy McHuffypants.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Happy Pride Weekend!

Proud Grapes, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

To all of you proud SmellyBlog readers in Canada and elsewhere celebrating Pride - Happy Pride Weekend!

To celebrate the occasion, here is a rainbow of fragrances (these are just my own personal associations, and have little to do with packaging):

Red Notes: Carnation, Rose, Xantoxylum, Pink Peppercorns, Geranium

Red Perfumes: Femme (Rochas), Palas Atena, Rebellius, Opium Fleur de Shanghai, Sira des Indes, Asja, 100% Love

Orange Notes: Sweet orange, Marigold, Tangerine, Clementine

Orange Perfumes: L de Lolita Lempicka, Oyedo by Diptyque, Coralle, Fleur d'Oranger, Zohar

Yellow Notes: Mimosa, Chamomile, Lemon, Litsea Cubeba, Jasmine, Olibanum (Frankincense), Elemi, Mastic Resin

Yellow Perfumes: Let Me Play the Lion, Songes, Vanille Pineapple, Les Nuages de Joie Jaune, Yellow, Ananas Fizz, Fire Island, Farensiana

Green Notes: Galbanum, Violet Leaf, Spearmint, Grass, Hay, Deer's Tongue, Bergamot, Lime, Lemongrass, Vetiver, Spikenard, Mastic Leaf, Green Figs

Green Perfumes: Vent Vert, Grin, Rainforest, l'Ombre dans l'Eau, Ivoire, Yuzu Citrus, Cognac, Private Collection, Grand Amour, Guerlain's Vetiver, Philosykos

Blue Notes: Lavender Absolute, Blue Chamomile, Yarrow, Seaweed, Lotus, Cabreuva

Blue Perfumes: Sacrebleu, Pure Turquoise, l'Ecume des Jours, Indigo

Purple Notes: Champaca, Star Anise, Lavender, Violet Flower, Lilac

Purple Perfumes: l'Heure Bleue, Tango, Violette, After My Own Heart

What's your rainbow? Share your colour and scent associations by posting a comment below...

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tea Culture Seminar

You are invited to join Tea Master and Folkloric Herbalist Dawna Ehman for a relaxing evening of tea. Learn the techniques of tea making and preparation and experience Dawna's exquisite Inner Alchemy Teas.

Space is limited to 6 participants so we encourage you to sign up fast to reserve your spot!


Thursday, August 9th, 7:30-9:00pm

Ayala Moriel Parfums Studio
#314-1230 Haro Street @ Bute (Buzzer #295)

$20 per person, including tea, samples and materials

RSVP with Ayala at (778) 863-0806 or by replying to this email

* Liked our workshops? Refer a friend and receive free admission for your next workshop with us!

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Must Read: Toxicological Imperialism

Click here to read Cropwatch's latest newsletter. The main issues continue to be the takeover of the fragrance industry by powerful regulatory bodies:
1) Editorial Comment: Regulatory Nonesense - How Much Longer Do We Have To Endure Before Common Sense Pervails?
2) Meeting between Cropwatch - The Perfume Foundation, and the EU Cosmetic Commission Staff in Brussles, July 3rd 2007
3) Cropwatch Comments re the Public Consultation on Perfumery Materials in the Framework of Council Directive 76/768/EEC Relative to Cosmetic Products
4) The Adulteration of Essentail Oils - and the Consequences to Aromatherapy and Natural Perfumery

Cropwatch is also seeking volunteers to help examine the following areas:

1. Furanocoumarins. Academics & industrialists are helping us construct a massive data-base, which we will make publicly available, so we can all see the issues for ourselves. But we need more help.
2. Methyl eugenol carcinogenicity - challenges to the present accepted & outdated view.
3. Dimethyl & diethyl phthalates - ignored data & any associated industry conspiracy issues (thanks to the Perfume Foundation for this lead).
4. Sensitisers - ignored contrary evidence to the '26 Sensitisers' issue & new policy initiatives.
5. Issues of transparency & secrecy, freedom of information & the withholding of safety data from the public domain within professional trade & research organisations. This area includes how regulatory bodies have processed scientific evidence, & examining records of how scientific decisions were made. We have limited evidence from a number of academics that an 'expert' EU advisory committee has not properly dealt with (or perhaps have not properly understood) submitted evidence in particular cases; these need public exposure, & we need to establish a more robust code of practice.


Indigo Reviewed by Janita Haan

Visit Janita's Attar to read Janita Haan's review of my perfume INDIGO.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

August Special: Order Online & Win!

During the month of August, all customers placing online orders will be entered into a draw to win one of the following cool prizes:
1) A copy of the new DVD of the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, with the extra feature documentary on the making of the film.
2) 1 oz Eau de Parfum hand-painted spray bottle (the winner will get to choose which scent to pick: Epice Sauvage, Lovender, Magnolia Petal, ArbitRary or Rainforest
3) Poison Ring filled with a creme parfum of your choice (this is a vintage Mexican silver ring with an onyx stone, size is adjustable). See image below.

Readers who left comments on SmellyBlog during August will also be entered into the DVD draw.

Winners will be announced August 30th.

Black Onyx Poison Ring, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel

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Ancient Perfume Factory in Cyprus

The Daily Telegraph reports about the ancient perfume factory on the island of Cyprus, where perfumes were manufactured in impressive quantities in the 43,000 sq ft facilities, and stored in alabaster bottles. According to the article, these perfumes contained mostly lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and were re-created by an "An Italian foundation which aims to recreate antique traditions distilled them according to techniques described by Pliny the Elder, by grinding the herbs, adding them to oil and water, then burying them in a small long-necked jug over hot embers for 12 hours".

The island of Cyprus is already known to be the birth of Chypre perfumes, and now it seems to be also the first place where perfumes were produced on a mass-production scale.