Monday, December 31, 2007

Adios 2007, Bring On 2008

It’s that time of the year again, when it’s coming to an end and we all feel we need to figure out what happened in it. The more I tried to think about it, without looking at my perfume collection, the more I realized that I simply can’t recall a scent that was released this year that truly rocked my world. I enjoyed many perfumes this year, just not new ones really. Even though I can’t say I haven’t tried. In desperation, I went to Basenotes’ fragrance directory to see what was new this year. It was early December, and there were already 499 new fragrances to choose from. This is actually pretty good, last year there were 643! But I have a feeling that perhaps the Basenotes team was just too overwhelmed with the new releases and haven’t finished enering it all, as other sources tell me there were about 800 new releases.

I scanned through the several pages of perfumes and fragrance houses, trying hard to avoid staring. Somehow, even though there were less than last year I just wasn’t able to bring myself to be interested. And that is, I think, the most remarkable thing about 2007. The sense of saturation and exhaustion is finally starting to sink in. The huge variety, instead of creating excitement, is bringing on my face the reaction of a bored “next!”. So I’m sorry to say, there is not going to be very much new here for you to read. As far as trends go - I think Robin of Now Smell This summed it up pretty well saying “fruity florals are on the wane, but they're not going to be replaced by variety". We’ve seen more of the so-called “pink chypres”, which are to me not much more than a fruity floral with a dry woody base.

In such an environment, it is really hard to get excited about anything. This perhaps is most obviously reflected in the recent action (or lack of action) on many formerly active and enthusiastic fragrance blogs. It just seems impossible to cover it all and at certain point, the hunt for new fragrances loses it’s appeal and is replaced by a new form of olfactory fatigue… As a result, I personally find myself becoming more introverted and just minding my own business (literally) and wearing more of my own perfumes as well.

All I can say is, bring on 2008, and let’s hope it’s going to be a lot more exciting year for fragrance world wide. I would love to see more free thought and less commercialism; more sincerity and less commercialism working behind the scenes and coming through in the scents that are put out there; less celebrity fragrances (or, at least, let’s see if they can at lease smell different for once) and more fresh ideas to kick in to the fragrance market’s blood stream…

I tried hard to come up with a “best of” list though, and make it as close as possible to last year’s, so at least you can have something to compare it too… So there you go:

The Discovery of the Year:
Bois des Isles
After years of ignoring and mostly “not getting” this beauty (disregarding it for its aldehydic floralcy which I usually don’t care much for), I fell in love with the suave, mellow, mysterious accords of this unusual beauty. Sandalwood, aldehydes, a sprinkle of spice and the mysterious allure of ambrette seed are what makes Bois des Isles’ quiet beauty irresistible once you finally notice it. It is abstract and timeless, and despite the fact that it is a very intelligent scent I consider it a comfort scent.
I finally gave in and got the last bottle from the Chanel boutique, a formulation that was discontinued, sadly, due to the big buzz around the Les Exclusifs (shame!).

Favourite New Niche Perfume of the Year:
Cognac from Aftelier brought me back to the olive grove and the scent of crushed green olives when preparing them for pickling. The cognac note is not so dominant as the notes of olive fruit absolute, oliander, ginger and orange. There is so much olive in this that if you happen to lick your nose after sniffing you’ll find it terribly bitter.

The Surprise of the Year:
DSquared2 He Wood
I did not expect much from this scent, but instead of just another designer fragrance with an advertising campaign more appealing than it’s smell, He Wood actually smells like something I could wear…

The Re-Discovery of the Year:
(And by this I mean a scent I haven’t worn for a long time and re-discovered it’s beauty this year).
Nuit de Noel
I have found myself cuddling in the dark, inky fur of Nuit de Noel several times this autumn and winter…

Celebrity Fragrance Release:
I would have chosen Prince’s 3121 even if just for my love of the musician… But alas, the bottle did not stay on my shelf for very long. Instead, I passed it on to my brother, which I’m now regretting. He loves it and everytime he puts it on the entire house smells like it…
Another disappointing celebrity fragrance is Sarah Jessica Parker’s Covet. Although it’s not as unoriginal as most celebrity fragrances, it completely failed to excite me on any level (except for the fun photo shoot me and my brother did, parodying the packaging of the compact).

Most worn this year:
The perfumes I have been wearing the most this year are also more simple, and tend to be more dry than sweet. I think the top-worn are:
Immortelle l’Amour
L de Lolita Lempicka
Narciso Rodriguez
Bois des Isles
Nuit de Noel
Pure Turquoise
Narciso Rodriguez
Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker

The Disappointment of the Year:
2007 was full of disappointments, but the highlight of them all was in no doubt Les Exclusifs de Chanel – not only because they fell short from their mark, but also because of the manner in which the original “exclusives” (i.e. the Rue de Cambon fragrances) were treated as a result – the parfum extrait discontinued in favour of the watered down eaux de toilettes.

The Proud To Ignore Line of the Year
Tom Ford Private Blend
Even if I had it nearby I wouldn’t be rushing to the stores to try it. And for sure I would not be supporting this line. Like many other women, I feel that the ads for his new men’s scent were distasteful and demeaning for women… And if I may add, the fact that they come from a gay designer does not make them any less offensive.

Favourite Scented Body Product:
Lemongrass Sugar Scrub (Crabtree & Evelyn) with its creamy, buttery texture not only polishes the skin but also gives it a smooth, soft texture and is wonderfully scented with lemongrass and what to me smells like frankincense and peru balsam.

Favourite Scented Candle:
Diptyque’s Figuer was a nice candle for spring and summer, and as in last winter, I’m still enjoying Annick Goutal’s Noel candles, with their sweetly coniferous fir scent that fills the room without overwhelming it.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The night before---, originally uploaded by tollen.

Wow, I was so busy celebrating with family I didn't notice I didn't wish you Merry Christmas yet... Better late than never though!
Wishing you all a cozy, happy and peaceful holiday season, full of warmth and love and acceptance.
Stay warm,

Market Saturation

Are niche lines nothing but a very expensive advertisement? The Wall Street Journal examines the phenomenon of the increasing number of niche lines and the real motives behind them. I think this quote from L'Oreal about the Armani Privee line pretty much sums it up:

"(...)the scent remains unprofitable three years after its launch. French cosmetics company L'Oréal SA, which makes the perfume, says it's sticking to the scent because it hopes the cachet around it will stoke interest in Armani's more mass-market fragrances".

I find it utterly disturbing, yet not particularly surprising, to learn that the motive behind the release of such high-end lines is not to make beautiful perfumes for the sake of the art, and the audience who will enjoy them - but simply promoting those many cookie-cutter fragrances that are released in an alarming rate on a nearly weekly basis.

No wonder why the consumers are becoming more and more glacee towards new releases, including those supposedly exciting exclusive lines. There is hardly any soul left in the business. And this obviously comes across and translates itself into dollars. Maybe there is such thing as karma after all.

P.s. Thanks for The Scented Salamander for the link!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

The Gift of Sharing

Today/tomorrow is winter solstice - the shortest day and the longest night in the year. Marking the darkest and the most difficult time of the year, where light and warmth is sparse, this is when human being around the world have created other ways to supply themselves with these important resources – by spending those dark, long, cold nights with one another and enriching them with sharing their experiences.

Storytelling, music and dance have been a natural way to combat the winter fatigue, depression and anxieties. In modern day living, when the communities have been broken down and families are spread all over the world, this time of year is a special one, when people actually do get together and set that time aside to nourish each other and keep each other company in the dark.

Some cultures have incorporated fragrance into the winter celebration. The following are a few ideas for adapting these customs into modern day living – whether you are religious or not.

Well, you all know what my people do to brighten up the winter. We light those candles on a 9 branched candlestick called Chanukia. Each night, one candle is added until in the 8th night of the holiday, the Chanukia is all lit up.
While Chanuka is over, the possibilities of lighting candles are not. Candles have a warm, soft light and make each situation feel somewhat more intimate and less intimidating. I always light candles in parties rather than have a full-blown electric light, to make my guests feel more comfortable and to set a different, more festive mood. If you have fragrant candles, all the better. Soy wax or beeswax candles are the cleanest burning and are better for you and the environment.
If your candles are unscented, you can scent them yourself by anointing them with your own oil. Simply rub the outside of the candle with an oil based perfume, and the room will be filled with a gentle aroma and a gentle light. I recommend using a natural perfume oil for that matter. I used to do that with my Moon Breath perfume with spectacular results, and I’m sure you could do the same with more simple combinations of oils that appeals to you. Use a base of jojoba, almond or olive oil for best results.

In Japan, yuzu fruit are added to hot baths for a festive winter solstice bathing ritual. And indeed, I can’t recommend a better time for a citrus bath than now. While public bathing is rarely part of Western culture, this might be a good time to share your bath with those who you feel comfortable with and depending on the size of your bath. Citrus scented bath at this time will also have none of the photoxic risk (unless you live in a sunny country), as your skin will most likely be non exposed to the sun after taking the bath… Even if taken alone, this rejuvenating fragrant bath is sure to chase away the winter gloom and bring in positive thoughts like sunny orchards.

yuzu-yu, originally uploaded by ranjit.

Here is a recipe for a nourishing and fragrant citrus bath oil.

Yellow Yuzu Bath Oil
100ml Almond Oil
2 capsules vitamin E
20 drops Lemon essential oil
20 drops Litsea Cubeba essential oil
50 drops Yuzu essential oil
20 drops Grapefruit essential oil
5 drops Clementine essential oil

Frankincense and Myrrh were gifted to Jesus Christ upon his birth, and have played a symbolic role in other places in the New Testament (myrrh was given to Christ on the cross to relief his pain, as it is an analgesic). Symbolically, frankincense is associated with the sun, while myrrh is associated with the earth. There couldn’t be a better time to burn incense. An incense made of equal amounts of frankincense tears and myrrh resin would be very appropriate. Burn it on a hot charcoal in a censer to create an atmosphere in your gathering and bond between those presents; or, burn it in your home to clear it energetically, flowing new energy into the rooms where the incense is brought into, and creating space for more sunlight and warmth.

Botafumeiro, originally uploaded by antonioVi.

Once upon a time, my parents decided to buy a wood stove to heat the little hat they built in the Western Galilee. And a very clever idea that was, as there was no better way to heat the house other than that. So, they took me and my baby brother for a sleepover in a Druze family in the village of Hurfesh in the Upper Galilee, who brought us the next day to Beith Jan to buy the said wood stove. The family lived in one room, and in the night time, mattresses were placed all over the floor for the family members to sleep. There were only two additional rooms to the house – an outhouse, and the kitchen. And in the living room (which is were everyone really did live), there were only two pieces of furniture – a wood stove for heating the space and a dining table. The three kids that lived there had no toys at all, but they did have markers and paper. And they drew rooms with light bulbs hanging from their ceilings – something that seemed very odd to me (we did not have electricity in our village). Somehow, the bareness of their home seemed to be quite inspirational to my parents and I can’t remember myself being bored there even for one moment, as the kids were welcoming and shared all they had with us.

A wonderful spice tea that is served during the winter months in most Druze homes in the Galilee and the Golan heights is called “Hulnejan”. It is a combination of three spices: dried ginger root, dried cinnamon bark and a root called “hulnjan” that is spicy and earthy all at once. It releases a beautiful aroma in the home when cooked. Practically, it is left on the fire place the whole winter, and the family members and guests will gather to drink it (it is very spicy), sweetened with sugar and topped with freshly unshelled pecan nuts. It is still a mystery to me what “hulnjan” is or where to find it out of the Druze community, but a similar tea can be brewed, with spices of your choice.

chai, originally uploaded by uncommonmuse.

A tea ceremony of any kind is an excellent way to enjoy togetherness during the winter time. You can prepare your own chai tea with your own whole spices. I made this chai during Hanukah and we sat together and ate donuts and drank chai. It was unforgettabley delicious… I’m no tea expert, so take or leave what you like of this recipe. But one thing is for sure – homemade chai is so much better than those tea bagged chai teas from the supermarket.

2 tsp. Assam tea
1 star anise
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 small piece of whole, dry ginger root
6 green cardamom pods
4 clove buds
1 cinnamon stick
8 pimento berries
½ nutmeg nut
½ cup water
4 cups whole milk
4 tsp. sugar

In a small pot, cover the spices and tea with water and bring to a boil. Add 4 cups of whole milk. Bring to a simmer. Add 4 teaspoons brown sugar and cover the pot for 5 minutes to allow the milk to absorb the aroma. Strain and serve in small cups to encourage everyone to ask for more many times!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Immortelle l'Amour Tea on Now Smell This

Immortelle l'Amour perfumed tea has been reviewed on!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ayala Moriel now at BeautyMark

Ayala Moriel Parfums are now available in BeautyMark!

As of today, Ayala Moriel Parfums can be found at Beautymark - the snazziest place in town for beauty advice and a cutting edge beauty experience. This is where fashionistas and movie stars get all their beauty must-haves including make up, skin care and fragrances from the leading niche brands.

Ayala Moriel now offers three distinct & original fragrances for the Vancouver perfumistas at this glamorous location - the naughty & delicious Film Noir, the playful & floral Tamya and the serene & woody-fresh Bon Zai.

With your support, there will be many more fragrances to come to BeautyMark's shelves, so let's empty these first ;) ... So go grab your chic handbag and your favourite friends and take them down to BeautyMark to sniff some lovely fragrances and support a local perfumer!

1120 Hamilton Street (just off the corner with Helmcken)
Yaletown, Vancouver
Toll Free:1-877-8BEAUTY (1-877-823-2889)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Perspective On Olive

Olives and Donkeys, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Happy Last Day of Hanukkah everyone!

Hope you've all enjoyed the light so far, warmth, family & company these past 7 days and 8 nights.

As far as oil goes… Commemorating the miracle of the little bottle of olive oil isn’t all about deep fried donuts and pan fried Latkes. I’m sure we’re all fed up with them by now! I’d like to say a few good things about olive oil. Olive oil can be used year around for health, beauty and good taste… From skin and hair care to antioxidant diet that is low in saturated fats and full of flavour and vitamins, olive oil seems to be more than just an oil. It can become a way of life and brig light to our life, metaphorically speaking.

Olives are native to the Mediterranean, and although olives can be grown in other places successfully (i.e.: California), the best olive oils are those grown in the region. I am, of course, most fond of the olive oils grown in the Western Galilee in Israel. Since biblical times, this was the region of olive oil. Perhaps it’s all Jacob’s fault, as he blessed his son Asher (whose tribe inherited this part of the land): “me Asher shmena lachmo, ve hu yiten ma’adanei melech” (Genesis, XLIX, 20) - Translation: “out of Asher his bread will be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties”.

ancient_olive_press&olive_trees, originally uploaded by gcwtucson.

I happened to grow in that exact same region, where the flavour of olives is rich and the olive harvest is a bug cultural celebration (ancient olive presses like you see in the above photo can be found almost everywhere, and there were remains of an ancient one just by our house). At that time (the delicate time between the first rain, which washes the dust off the olives; and the next rain, usually 2-3 weeks after, which threatens to permeate the olives with unwanted moisture, bring in decay and subsequently, wreck their rich flavour either by watering it down or spoiling the entire crop). Most of the people in the Druze and Arab villages own at least some piece of land with some olives on it and at this time of year they are busy day and night to meet that unpredictable deadline. That means no school for the kids and many business shut down to help other members in the family with the olive harvest. My village, although neither Druze nor Arabic, acted similarly. If we did go to school, we spent the last hours of daylight picking olives, and to the late night, sorting them and making sure no rotten olives will find their way to the olive press. After a few weeks of hard labour, sore backs and fingers that were unavoidably bitter-tasting (the flavour of unprocessed olives is terribly bitter!), our proud parents took the olive press house. They waited in line with all the other olive pickers, sat on their sacks of olives, and when it was their turn to weigh their olives, they got even prouder, because every year as the trees grew older), the yield was higher. The beauty of going to the olive press house was that it cost nothing to get your olives pressed. Your olives were weighed, and than the yield of oil was measured. Each olive picker will receive a portion of the oil yielded. A certain portion remains with the olive press house owner, to be sold, and that is where the money factor came into play… There has to be a certain trust amongst the pickers than, that they all took out the dirty and bad olives out of their crops, so that the olive oil will be the best that it could be.

But perhaps the most important thing about engaging in the olive picking traditions of the region was that by doing so, our parents interacted with all the other villagers (from other ethnic groups), something that most Jewish Israelis did not do back in those days (fortunately, now the neighbouring Jewish Israeli villages - AKA Kibbutzim and Moshavim – have finally acknowledged this and there is an annual celebration of the olive harvest in the Galilee, incorporating the cultures of all the ethnic groups in the Galilee through music, food and olive picking.

I started this article with plans to talk about the health and beauty benefits of olive. But now I feel this discussion is heading a completely different direction. Perhaps it is for a reason that olive branches are a symbol of peace. Perhaps there is much more to this tree than we can see on the surface, or eve in the hollows of these ancient trees.

To conclude, here are a few interesting little tales about olives, olive oil and the olive trees:

My mother, a sponge for all folklore and herbal intelligence related to the local herbs in the Western Galilee (just pick a weed from your garden and she’ll find a therapeutic use for it she learned from the local Druze and Palestinian women in the neighbouring villages), told me about a couple of interesting uses for olive oil. The old Druze men and women we met, who all seemed to live long and full life and work physically even when they were really old - shared with us their secret for youth and vitality: half a cup of olive oil, drunk on empty stomach first thing in the morning, along with a clove of garlic. Olive oil is known for its beneficial anti-oxidants, which assist in the regeneration of cells from within (as part of one’s diet) and without (in skincare). The other interesting piece of intelligence my mother has gathered from local women and midwives was something that if you are serious about NOT getting pregnant, you should NOT try yourself: An olive oil soaked cotton balls used to make primitive vaginal sponges amongst women in the region. I was surprised to find mentions of this curious early contraception methods in other websites, including Planned Parenthood's history of contraception.
“Aristotle, a Greek teacher-philosopher (384–322 BCE), considered olive oil mixed with cedar oil, lead ointment, or frankincense the ideal contraceptive. This mixture was applied to "that part of the womb in which the seed falls." (quoted from MedHunters)

Olive oil is an excellent moisturizer, not only because its excellent vitamins absorb into the skin and its content of squalene (pay attention, vegans and vegetarians: there IS squalene oil that is not extracted from shark liver, but from olives!). Olive oil creates a protective film around the skin that is nourishing and can also protect from the cold and other weather conditions. And most interestingly – it has the unique property of absorbing moisture from the air. Therefore it is excellent for skin, scalp and haircare. For more ideas about how to use olive oil creatively, I suggest you read what Helg (of Perfume Shrine) had published as her olive oil “product review” on Make Up Alley.

Last but not least: I cannot recommend highly enough incorporating olive oil into your diet as much as possible, for those instances when you want the nourishing and fulfilling sensation of a yummy fat – on your bread, steamed vegetables, and so on. Switching to an olive oil condiment based diet is fun and easy. Olive oil makes the base for pesto (a most delicious base for any savoury sandwich!), can be blended with either balsamic vinegar or soy sauce (or both) for a delicious aperitif bread-dip (a bit of crushed garlic can be added too). The Middle Eastern people have developed many condiments, depending on their region, of herbs and spices mixed with olive oil for spreading on bread or for bread dipping. Much like the pesto – only with dry herbs, the Za’atar is a mixture of various thyme and hyssop herbs from the mountains, mixed with ground sumac and sesame seeds. In Egypt, the alternative is ground sesame seeds and ground walnuts, mixed with spices – primarily cumin and coriander. This mixture is either served as a dip with olive oil, or sprinkled overtop steamed rice, salad or vegetables. Similarly, the flavour of any steamed vegetables would be enhanced by a drizzle of god quality olive oil. Living in North America for the past 9 years have influenced me to use more butter than I used to. So I was utterly surprised when I tried to use olive oil on my asparagus a few days ago. With just a touch of salt and nothing more, the asparagus was the most delicious side dish I had in a long time. And this was achieved quite effortlessly, by not overcooking the branches, and by not using butter, but just the best quality olive oil I could find. And needless to say, olive oil makes the best salad dressing. I use nothing buy olive oil and lemon juice in my daily salads, and the results are never short of stunning… But than I’m known for my salad addiction.

So, one last day tomorrow for enjoying olive oil in a traditional Hanukkah context. Perhaps you can share your favourite olive oil recipes or any other uses for olive oil by adding a comment below.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Poison Rings Featured on Glass Petal Smoke

My fragrant poison rings are featured on Glass Petal Smoke's Sensualist's Gift Guide.
If you haven't visited this blog before, you must (there is a permanent link on the sidebar to the right) - it is one of the most interesting blogs and the best one to find all the sensual delights in one place: perfume, aromatic food and recipes, all tied up with Michelle Krell Kydd's artistry of story telling.

Tomorrow - a Hanukkah special: uses and benefits of olive oil.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Gifts Without Guilt on The Courier

Read about green and guilt-free gifts from local businesses in this weekend's issue of Vancouver Courier, including Ayala Moriel Parfums.

"As the world grows more environmentally conscious, concerned Christmas shoppers look for green alternatives to place under the tree. Fortunately, in Vancouver gifts abound that are more pleasurable to shop for, less taxing on the planet and created with an eye toward the ethical consequences of our choices."
Click here to read the entire article by Cheryl Rossi
Photo: Dan Toulgoet

P.s. One correction though: my tea maker is in Vancouver, NOT Seattle. Immortelle l'Amour tea was designed in collaboration with and made by Inner Alchemy Tea Co.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blunda Seasonal Exhibition December 15

For those of you in greater LA - don't miss this unique event, where art meets perfume. There will be a new perfume to Blunde that night - Palas Atena in an oil form. The goddess of wisdom and war would sure be happy to join Tamya and Espionage for a Finjan-full of darkly brewed coffee... All four in a highly concentrated oil form (30% essence) and are just exquisite.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Hanukah!

Hanukah 1st Candle, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Happy Hanukah to all SmellyBlog readers who are celebrating.

"It's better to light a candle, than curse the darkness".

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Vanille-Lemongrass Crème Brûlée

There might be just one reason to stay in Vancouver: the vanilla-lemongrass crème brûlée that Peter Fong makes in his little patisserie in Yaletown, Ganache.

The cream is infused with lemongrass stocks, and baked slowly with scraped vanilla pods. The caramel is burnt on the spot upon ordering, creating the dramatic contrast of temperatures and textures.

Besides its role in decorating the Crème Brûlée and giving it a unique look - the yellow tomatilla with its strange texture and tangy flavour adds yet another layer to the experience, contrasting the crunchy burnt sugar and the smooth custard cream.

The other creations in Ganache range from classics (Macaroons, Madeleines, Opera Cake…) to original fusion desserts combining the richness and complexity of French confection with flavours of the Orient (Matcha-Exotique, Mango-Pistache, Guava Exotique, Coco-Mango). Certainly something to look forward to… And I will do my best to savour these and try them one by one, and also bring them here in words and visuals.

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