Friday, July 25, 2008

Reviewing the Reviewer

In my past week with no laptop I've done the unthinkable: I've read Perfumes: The Guide. The much anticipated book by the man who invented perfume reviewing and a few molecules and writer and blogger Tania Sanchez has one large-print statement on the back: "THE FIRST BOOK OF ITS KIND: A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF PERFUME".
Now, that's ambitious.
If anything, it's definitely "definitive".

If it is a "guide" it is not exactly first of its kind though: there is Susan Irvine's The Perfume Guide, Jan Moran's Fabulous Fragrances for both Women and Men (in two separate volumes),
and Nigel Groom's Ultimate Guide to the World's Finest Fragrances, several books that are quite handy and informative by John Oakes, not to mention Michael Edward's Fragrances of the World 2001 (by now hardly current with over 600 yearly new releases of fragrances) and several online fragrance databases that are far more current and inclusive than any book could ever be.

Reading the book as I have made me question the concept of "perfume reviewing". When I joined several online fragrance communities in 2003 the whole notion of calling my perfume-evolution descriptions "reviews" was very foreign to me to say the least. But I learned how to live with that. And as an aside: contrary to common belief, joining these communities happened 2 years after I pursued my career in perfumery and opened my business and preceded my online “perfume addict” and “perfumista” days. I leverage my obsession with perfume and use it as a tool to study and better understand perfume and become a better perfumer. I sincerely believe that creating perfumes without passionately caring about wearing fragrances is a form of hypocrisy, that can be likened to being a criminal lawyer and never believing your client could win a case.

I learned so much through my interactions with perfume lovers around the world, the most important thing of all was realizing that when it comes to perfume - I can write and feel completely comfortable and confident about it, especially in my not-native language, English. And as I became aware of the concept of "perfume reviewing" and being a perfumer and a perfume user (or addict...) that likes to discuss perfume, I learned that this is a very dangerous thing to do: I walk a fine line between making and selling perfumes, while at the same time also being "one of the addicts", writing about perfume and "reviewing them". Probably the most undesired placement for a journalist. But I am not a journalist. I'm a perfumer who writes about perfumes, perfumery and what it all means to me as an individual. And when I write a review, I pick my words carefully. Sometimes I'm even surprised when I write something that to me seems kind of negative yet it comes across as a positive "review" of the perfume.

Now, what I do attempt to do in my so-called "reviews" is to describe the scent, its evolution, the notes and what I feel that it means to me. Sometimes I do it better than in others but I do try to be "subjectively objective" in the sense that I'm trying to describe something very personal (my own experience wearing a fragrance) and at the same time give you objective information, hopefully sufficient for you to be able to "smell it in your imagination" if you don't have it right under your nose.

I pick my words carefully and I also pick my perfumes carefully. I rarely write about a fragrance I really dislike or think is mediocre and boring. There are plenty other places online (and now also offline) where you can read about them. A fragrance either needs to be of personal importance to me in the way I've experienced it or the notes within it; or I think it has some kind of a meaning to the history, trends (oh, the horrors of pink chypres!) or culture of perfume (for example: 3121 by Prince is not a very interesting fragrance on it's own but I couldn't ignore it just because Prince was such a huge influence on my teenage years and I still love his music).

Since the innocent forum days of the early 200o's, lots of things have changed: there are now too many perfume blogs to even start counting, and even a few perfume-reviewing columns in a handful of magazines rating them like movies, supposedly contributing to the status of perfumery as an art (or food, or wine... whichever way you think is most flattering). Now, I was never fond of the idea of art reviewing. After all, the art reviewer is always that person that went to art school, and can appreciate and understand art just enough to come to the realization that they could never produce a masterpiece. So instead of making art they talk and write about it. And nothing could possibly insult an artist more than having someone trash their work to which they poured their heart and soul into, just because they are frustrated, unrealized artists.

Perfumery is weird that way. Up until recently (and even still), the perfumers are unknown to the public who enjoys their art. In fact, for the most part who gets the credit for the perfume is the brand that sells it. The general population doesn't love Roudniska, Beaux or Roucel. They love "Chanel" or "Dior" or "French Perfumes" (such as Paris, created by Russian-born perfumer Sophia Grojsman) or "Italian Perfumes" (like Bvlgari Femme, also by Grojsman) or whatever they think of as high status and good taste or that is trendy at the moment.

As noted in "Perfumes: The Guide" (p.8), unlike art, perfumes are sold as products and are mass produced (except for the 9% or so of the international perfume industry that niche brands account for - though keep in mind many are not really independent perfumeries - they hire their noses from either one of the 5 big firms that rule over the perfume market worldwide (Takasago, Givaudon, Firmenich, IFF and Symrise).

Finding information about perfume now is easy if you have internet. Opinions about fragrances are discussed and posted as I write these lines. Some are excellent writers. Some have blogs long enough and so full of content they may as well consider turning it into a book too. But is there a point to that?

The Guide is not the first book about perfume and by the same author(s) to originate in a blog. The first one, The Secret of Scent (written by Luca Turin and edited by Tania Sanchez) practically recycled entire blog posts and comments from Luca Turin's now defunct blog Perfume Notes (you can still download the archives as a pdf document). The recent book fortunately contains a few reviews I fondly remember from reading Perfume Notes
and brings them to print (Borneo 1834 - p. 104, Narciso Rodriguez - p. 254-255 and several others). Aside from a few of Turin's famously steel-like and oddly nostalgic prose, which is his trademark I believe - many of the reviews seem like an endless thread on a discussion forum - with two members only participating - and who got caught up in a little rap-competition-like on a perfume theme (organized in alphabetical order, thankfully). Overall, despite being very easy to read (but what book about your favourite topic in the world isn't?) - I found myself disappointed at the content. There are many one-liners, some more descriptive and helpful than others (i.e.: "Competent chemical fruity floral with a citrus top note" - p. 273; or "Polite, dull little soapy woody floral" - p. 289 ) and some are just plain mean (i.e.: "faceless drone-clone juice" - p. 305; or " Light Blue, but with the light off" - p. 350; or "hideously screechy" - p.106 or "dreadful little thing" - p. 113). Why waste all the ink, not to mention paper?! Or in other words - if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all. Which also reminds me of another observation: while many badly-reviewed mainstream fragrances did not include any mention of the nose behind them (which on its own seems graciously opinionated – as if putting the blame of a bad fragrance on the corporate world who forces some talented noses to compromise their olfactory and artistic judgment); however, there are some reviews of perfumes from small houses where the nose seems to be almost personally attacked for not being able to satisfy the writer’s taste in perfume. More than saying anything about those small niche houses and their products, this exemplifies the notion of the reviewer being a frustrated wannabe artist, one that is a sayer rather than a doer and while being able to appreciate the art cannot create it, but can only produce criticism of it, which could never, ever be subjective and sooner or later is bound to show the reviewer's true colours - their fear, ambition, frustration, unrealized creativity and so on.

And than there are a few gems where the authors' writing (especially Turin's) truly shine with wit, accuracy, creativity and expressive power – and not at the expense of anyone else involved. Long poetic reviews studded with bits of perfume history and chemistry storytelling that is admittedly fascinating even when you don’t agree with the writers’ taste (to list a few of the highlights: Bulgari Black, p. 96; Calyx, p. 111); Chamade, p. 115; Chintown, p. 119; Thiery Mugler's Cologne, p. 126; Fracas, p. 179; Osmanthe Yunnan, p. 274; Tommy Girl, p. 339; Sacrableu, p. 312; Vetiver Extraordinaire, p. 352). I could only wish that there were more of these and none of the other kind of reviews. Since the editing in this book is lacking in this regard, readers may want to take matters into their own hands and skip all the 1 & 2 star reviews, one-liner reviews and simply enjoy the rest.

The word on "Perfumes: The Guide" is divided as can be seen on the consumer reviews pages on Amazon. Other opinions can be found here:
The New Yorker


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Recovery Syndrome, originally uploaded by Diana Pinto.

I'm in recovery mode. Data recovery to be precise. As far as the flu/cold/nose - time, rest and water will take care of that, I'm certain. But what awaits me in the next few days is tedious data recovery action. It was only two nights ago that I realized the magnitude of my loss. And how ineffective backups could be if they go wrong. I don't like complaining and definitely not in my public blog - unless I think there might be some benefit to it for my readers. I figured sharing the experience on this blog might prevent major data loss from happening to 300 other people reading this blog today and a handful of others in the future.

Here's what happened, and what you should avoid from happening to you:
1) My hard drive crashed. It's killed and after about 5 different attempts of 2 or 3 methods of data recovery, my only hope is that the geeks at the Mac Store will be able to recover it. Is that about 0.001% or am I wrong?

2) My backup drive, operated by TimeMachine software, apparently only backed up what's under "documents". This means that everything that is under the "My Photose" or "All Images" folder (if you're using an Apple computer they are locatedbelow your "Applications" and "Documents" folders in your Finder) is GONE.
In other words, there is about 99.999% chance that all of my photos - except for ones that got published on Flickr and SmellyBlog or were saved under "Documents" folders are gone.
Thankfully, most of the photos I've shot recently for print materials (high resolution botanicals) are already in the safe hands of my graphic designer. But there are a few that aren't.
As far as sentimental stuff - well, It looks like I probably (99.999%) lost all family photos (for obvious reasons, I don't usually post those on Flickr) from the past 6 years, all shot in those virtual cameras that have no archival substance unless you print the photos or have lots of backup.

Everything else I've written recently can be easily recovered (after about a week's work) by copying my published writings on SmelllyBlog and sorting through hundreds of emails to recover customer and sales data. It's a necessary pain and I'll get over it with hard work (as far I know myself, I won't leave the seat until the job is finished). So if I vanish into oblivion for another week you know where I am: going through your emails and digging out info so that I can serve you better in the future etc. (i.e.: be able to send your orders and know which free samples to add in - preferably something you haven't already tried!).

Of course the other necessary pain is me working from a desktop computer now, something that in my mind is counterintuitive to creative writing. I much prefer to be elsewhere (the back garden, balcony or the nearby teahouse) when I'm putting my thoughts together in writing than confined to this uncomfortable desk. But that will teach me boundaries (while messing up with my spine of course...).

I'm noticing this post is getting long. So to the point, here are the conclusions from my cautionary tale:
1) Make sure you back up your date on a daily basis (at least)
2) Make sure your back up drive actually takes in all the date you want to back up (family photos included)

Lastly, and this brings us to some blogging record keeping tips - in the case you lost all your blog posts or your blog got accidentally erased (this can happen quite easily by the way):
Keep and maintain a good archive of your blog. And mine isn't nearly as good as it should be. The following is my (new) good practice:
a) Save each month of your blogging archives as webfiles - htm files. All you need to do to get this done is click on the archive portion (i.e.: month, year, or whichever way your blog is organized) and save it as an html file.
b) Save each blog post with its entire html coding.
c) Organize your posts either by date or by category (or both). for examples: all the perfume reviews are grouped together. To have your posts sorted by dates within your blog older, title each post with the date first and than the title. This way you have them sorted chronologically but also you can have a clue of what the topic is by the title. I date mine in the yy-mm-dd format and this way they are sorted better in my opinion (by year first and than the month and the day). I also keep a record now of which labels or tags I gave to each post. So essentially I could re-create my entire blog at any time.

P.s. Many thanks to Diana Pinto, who kindly and generously agreed to use her photo for this blog entry. Diana's work can be also viewed on the following websites:
Hello, my puppets
Diana's Flickr Photostream
Absence is Steel

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Waving my Lavender Wand...

lavender fairy wands-, originally uploaded by oldflowers4me.

To say hello and give a sign of life. The last few days weren't very kind to my blogging abilities: besides the fact that I'm "enjoying" a summer flu that kept me in bed and left my nose pretty much devoid of any other purpose than giving profits to Scotts', my poor computer crashed for unknown reason, taking with it all of my archive of pieces that I usually save for situations like this.
My only consolation is that I did back it up a few weeks ago and thankfully I haven't written any books since than... Most of my recent work could be manually recovered by being re-written. The only thing I might need to re-write (aside from data entry of new customers via email) would be my extensive writing about various types of lavender oils. I don't think I've taken too many photos recently either, so I guess my lack of creativity did pay off after all.

As far as the lavender monograms are going - I will have to wait for my nose to recover to finalize them but in the meantime I managed to enjoy, behind the veil of flu surrounding my head, the beauty of fresh lavender and hand woven lavender wands at the West End Farmers' Market. These are quite a delight. I also noticed the interesting blossoms of a tropical houseplant at the building's lobby, which hit my stuffed nose with its potent, heady odour reminiscent of kewda, hyacinth and lily, possessing a moist, humid presence that is difficult to describe, or ignore.

I will return once I've recovered both my health and my electronic data.
Until than - enjoy your lavender and stay healthy.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Urgent Call to Stop the FDA Global Hamonization Act of 2008

Dear SmellyBlog Readers,

Not often do I like to make assumptions about my readers. But this time I will make an exception. I have a feeling that most of us, besides our love for fragrance, have a few more things in common:

We care about the products we are using on our body. We want them to be safe and healthy. At the same time, we also care about the small, independent and family-owned businesses and many of us prefer to support these businesses and the people behind them - rather than give our money to gigantic faceless corporations. Hey, many of us actually own our own business and earn our living from that.

Well, enjoying these beautiful products and supporting those businesses as well as being able to open and run an independent beauty business in the USA is now at risk due to the proposal of the FDA's Global Harmonization Act of 2008. This act proposes such threat to the existence of small businesses, and instead of protecting the consumers it will simply eliminate their choice and make the concept of free market and open competition completely invalid. By posing heavy burdens of fees and bureaucracy on every product released to the market, it will leave the USA devoid of any small businesses and free choice for consumers.

I ask you all to please view this short clip and sign the petition by adding a comment to this blog post:

To sign the petition, please leave a comment on Donna Marie's Indie Business Blog.

And if you are a USA citizen you can take further action to stop this unfair act from manifesting:
1) Print up the letter posted in the above link (or write your own)
2) Mail and/or email it to the State legislator requesting that this act shall not be passed

For more information about how to take part in your legislation process, visit Knowledge as Power, who will in a few days bring us more tips on "everyday democracy" and how you can get involved in the legislative process to take part in it and have a say in what bills will climb up to the higher stages of the legislative procedure, and what bills will be aborted for either lack of public interest or public opposition.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Top 25 Contemporary Perfumes

This weekend, I was asked by Helg of Perfume Shrine to come up with my list of top 25 perfumes that we can still enjoy today. Perfumes that were not discontinued, are not limited edition (sorry, Fleur de Shanghai, you can't be part of this list!), and the trickiest part – were not reformulated. Well, I have to say the task was not easy. Not because it’s difficult to find 25 perfumes that I love. But because what I consider masterpieces are for the most part chypres and have been reformulated at least recently (and if they haven't yet they are more than likely destined to reformulation or discontinuation in the near future).

So, I’ve set to create my own list. And I’ve decided to go a little bit on an impulse. This list includes many different perfumes from different houses (mainstream, designer, and niche). Some of which are easily wearable, some are classics, and some are downright odd but charming and really special in my opinion - and I hope you will be daring enough to try them for yourself!

Creating this list was challenging not only because it’s so difficult to pick one perfume I love over the other (yes, even when I'm allowed to pick 25!) – but also because the whole concept of reformulation is a bit tricky. It is very difficult to tell which perfume has been reformulated since it was made and which wasn't as some reformulations happen very gradually, and others are performed precisely for the purpose of making sure the perfume smells the same even though the scent of some of the materials has notably changed. There is an entire article coming up soon on SmellyBlog, dedicated to the mischief of perfumers reformulating your beloved scents and why on earth do we do that…

For this list, I felt forced to leave out all of the chypres I love except for ones that have been released very recently and I have a feeling were not reformulated (i.e.: Le Parfum de Therese). Favourites such as Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and Miss Dior had to be left out of the list - although they always will have a place of honour in my heart, on my skin and in my collection (as long as my skin and nose don't get too greedy!).

I also tried to stick to contemporary fragrances as much as possible – the oldest perfumes you’ll find here are Diorissimo and Farnesiana (none of which were reformulated to the best of my knowledge – at least in a noticeable way).Interestingly enough, many if not most can be easily worn by men and women alike.

Another guideline I followed for this list is to represent the different movements in the perfume industry today - mainstream and designer fragrances, niche, independent and natural perfumers. For that latter I have included a link to their site where you can find the fragrances.

The following are non-reformulated, non-discontinued, non-limited-editions yet great!

In alphabetical order:

1. After My Own Heart (Ineke)
Modern and classy, pretty and melancholy. This is when lilac flowers meet summer showers. The heady inhale of realistic lilacs is followed by dewy raspberries over a dollop of heliotropin.
Nose: Ineke Ruhland

2. Agent Provocateur (Agent Provocateur)
Dirty and sassy, old fashioned yet with an abstract, contemporary musk base.
Nose: Christian Provenzano

3. Arabie (Serge Lutens)
Quirky and mysterious, reminiscent of tamarind and spices in an ancient Arabic city, Arabie is one exotic oriental that I will always have to have some around if not for wearing than at least for catching nostalgic whiffs off the vial.
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake

4. Burnt Amber (Neill Morris)
Amber is a popular theme, but here it is treated in such a delicious and original way with hints of burnt caramel. It is so well done and always enjoyable to wear without ever being too sweet.
Nose: Neill Morris

5. Chinatown (Bond No. 9)
Odd and unusual, Chinatown is one of the few modern renditions of patchouli, fruit and flowers that I can appreciate. Beware of over-applying, especially in the heat. When worn sparingly, it is sexy, original and sophisticated.
Nose: Aurelien Guichard

6. Diorissimo (Christian Dior)
If there is one perfect perfume in the world, Diorissimo it is. I may not wear it often but I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s pure fragile beauty locked up in a glass bottle since 1956. Here’s hoping it can protect it forever.
Nose: Edmond Roudniska

7. Dzing! (l'Artisan Parfumeur)
Of all the leather perfumes I know, this is the most playful and kinky. Rather than taking itself seriously, it soars above tigers and elephants in a flying trapeze, caged in colourful leather straps and mingles with sawdust and fireworks.
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti

8. Farnesiana (Caron)
Another floral beauty, from way back in 1947. It is so modern it’s hard to believe it’s been around for so long. A gourmand take on the fleeting, airy scent of mimosa – caught in a dollop of marzipan and vanilla and encrusted with candied violets.
Nose: Michel Morsetti

9. Feuilles de Tabac (Miller Harris)
Bold and unique tobacco in the most intriguing way imaginable and the most perfect leather fragrance I've ever smelled.
Nose: Lynn Harris

10. Kyoto (Comme des Garcons)
Mastic ice cream meets Japanese incense and ancient wood furniture. Kyoto is serene and seemingly aloof, like a kodo ceremony practiced in an ice cream parlor. It sounds weird but it works.
Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

11. L (Lolita Lempicka)
The most delicious of all modern gourmands, L is sweet without hurting my teeth. On the contrary – it is comforting and soothing, albeit not in the least complicated.
Nose: Maurice Roucel

12. L’Antimatière (LesNez)
The most abstract of all abstract perfumes. Perfumes are always invisible. But this perfume is invisible even in the olfactory world. It is the closest thing I’ve ever smelled to pure ambergris tincture.
Nose: Isabelle Doyen

13. Le Parfum de Thérèse (Editions de Parfums)
An old masterpiece that was only made available to us recently. I think I’ve said enough about my endless love for this cheerful perfume where jasmine, basil, melon and moss live in harmony, happily ever after. If I had to wear only one perfume for the rest of my life this might just be it.
Nose: Edmond Roudniska

14. Muscs Kublai Khan (Serge Lutens)
Not particularly wearable, but all the same it has to be mentioned as one of the most daringly dirty perfumes of our time. If you ever miss the smell of goats roaming freely on the mountains and your boyfriends’ armpits this might serve as a temporary substitute.
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake

15. Narciso Rodriguze for Her
The most unexpected perfume to be on any lists of mine – it finally won my heart after a long period of resentment. This perfume pretty much sums up everything that is opposite of my personal taste in perfume, as well as my approach to perfumery, and I’d be surprised if there is even a minute amount of natural essences in it. But it is the sophisticated simplicity, the abstractness in it that I find most appealing, and at times of chaos simplicity can be a relief.
Noses: Francis Kurkdjian & Christine Nagel

16. Parfum Sacré (Caron)
This very un-90’s perfume was indeed made relatively recently and as far as I know haven’t been tampered with. Wearing it in the winter, especially when it gets below zero is a bliss.
Nose: Jean-Pierre Bethouart

17. Philosykos (Diptyque)
My summer staple for as long as I have known it, Philosykos is simple and refreshing with its minimalistic composition of fig, cedar and coconut milk.
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti

18. Poivre Samarcande (Hermes' Hermessences)
Like a good cup of chai, Poivre Samarkand has the clarity of tea and pungency of pepper over top musk, moss and wood. It is warm yet uplifting and fresh and although I don’t wear it often, I just feel lucky every time I smell it on someone else.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

19. Pure Turquoise (Ralph Lauren)
The one quality that is most admirable about Pure Turuqoise is that it is not sweet. It is so unsweet it is surprising. Aside from the grapefruit (which is more tangy than fruity) there is nothing in it whatsoever that suggest sweetness, prettiness or anything else that the perfume market is so saturated with. It is clean, refreshing and with the most clean, dry base. At the same time, while I do enjoy and appreciate its dry synthetic woody patchouli base I am still praying that this is not going to completely substitute the real true Chypres.
Nose: Annie Buzantian

20. Shiso (Aftelier)
Mysterious and sophisticated, this mélange of all-natural spices and herbs and woods (agarwood, borneol and shiso leaf among others) is haunting. It may not be as easily wearable as Orchid (which contains shiso and orange blossom) but is has a most complex and enduring composition that I find most suitable for personal wear and meditation.
Nose: Mandy Aftel

21. Songes (Annick Goutal)
Luxurious floriental yet with the signature elegance of the Annick Goutal house. Songes is dreamingly tropical and very easy to wear.
Nose: Isabelle Doyen

22. Un Jardin Après la Mousson (Hermes)
I would have never thought that I would like a perfume as soon as it comes out like I did with this one. In fact, there are many things about it that made me think I don’t like it. For instance – the initial sweet cantaloupe note that brings to mind an overly ripe cantaloupe on the verge of rotting in the garden in the heat of the sun. Yet 4 sample vials later, worn to the last drop and with no regret or a single moment where I even considered washing it off – I’m convinced it’s a favourite.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

23. Vetiver Tonka (Hermes' Hermessences)
Vetiver with a twist – accentuating the sweetness of it while not losing any of its clean, earthy woody simplicity. Vetiver Tonka won my heart instantly with its fuzzy coumarin and toasted hazeluts warmth.
Nose: Jean-Claude Elena

24. Waterflower (Soivohle')
The most beautiful, complex and unusual all-natural floral that I’ve ever experienced. Waterflower is an ode to the lotus flower, and is perfectly balanced.
Nose: Liz Zorn

25. Yerbamate (Lorenzo Villoresi)
Bold and at the same time quirky and mysterious, this coumarin-rich mélange of bitter and green notes. The tomato leaf adds a particular oddness at the soapy beginning which is what I think makes it most original, especially when leading to a powdery-fluffy sweet coumarin base.
Nose: Lorenzo Villoresi

Click on the following links to read the entries of the other participating blogs:
Perfume Shrine
The Non-Blond
Savvy Thinker

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kissing Peat and Gnawing on Leather

Some people are really weird. They collect perfume. Some people are even weirder. They collect scotch whisky. Yesterday one strange person (me) joined another stranger and went on my very first (and very little) Scotch tasting expedition (or more accurately described - got acquainted with a friend's whisky collection). I have found it quite amusing to say the least; and surprisingly similar to perfume in more ways than I can begin to tell.
I tried two and having very little alcohol tolerance if at all it is probably an exaggeration to even use the word "tried". To be more accurate, I can say that I've just kissed them both to get the taste of them. The first, a 10 year old Talisker single malt Scotch from the Island of Skye in Scotland has left such an impression with me that I had to tell SmellyBlog all about it when I got home...

It was like drinking my perfume Espionage. Of all the fragrance families, leather is the one I least expected to find in a spirit... Last year, a Basenote member by the name of Vibert compared my perfume Espionage to a single malt Scotch. He couldn't have been more right. As far as Talisker 10 year old single malt goes - this is as close as it can get to gnawing on leather soaked with tanning fluids and staying alive.

As for the second one, the name of which I can't remember - it was 18 years old, ripe and smooth and the most unusual thing about it was that shortly after I've only slightly "kissed" it to get a little taste in it would grow in my mouth into a big round ghost that was warm and expanding like a little devil.

That's all for me and scotch for now.

P.s. Presumably, it is the high content of phenols that creates that leathery effect in Talisker's 10 year old single malt. They use a higher amount of peat and the water accentuates that effect.

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News from the Nose: Cool Summer Specials & New Tea Sizes

Dear Fragrant Friends,

Ayala Moriel wishes you wonderful summer holidays and bon voyage to those of you traveling.

We have whipped up some fantastic fragrant offering for you this summer, to help you cope with the heat, reduce the stress of juggling work & fun, kids & social life, outdoors & travel. With the little ones roaming free after a long school year and grown ups trying to catch up with the sun (or escaping from it, depending on which part of the world you dwell in), a little fragrant escape might be in place!

In this newsletter:

Bon Voyage Purse Roll-On Trio

To make traveling easier on you and help you travel light we came up with a new fragrant wardrobe trio: three minuscule purse-roll-ons that can be easily packed in pocket, purse or luggage and accompany you to the most exotic destinations.

Each roll-on contains 5ml pure perfume essence in jojoba oil and is sold for $20 off the regular price – $175.

Pick any of your favourite fragrances to wear along or choose from these summery ideas:

Tropical Flowers: Gigi, Tamya & Coralle
Cool & Woody: Bon Zai, Vetiver Racinettes & Sabotage
Fresh & Juicy: Fetish, ArbitRary & Charisma

More Summer Scents for Less

Summertime and the living is easy… with more time for fun and less time for work we thought we’ll make it even easier for you to cool-off with our summery fragrances. Therefore, from now until the first day of fall (September 22nd) – the following perfumes will be offered for a special price: $82 for each perfume flacon. We hand-picked our juiciest and most exoticly summery fragrances, such as ArbitRary, Bon Zai, Charisma, Fetish, Kinmokusei, Sabotage, Tamya and more for you to enjoy in the alcohol base. Click here to buy and for the complete list of participating fragrances.

Fragrant Friendships Promo

Our fragrant friendship circle is growing, and only because of you! To show our appreciation for our customers and friends who send more business our way, we’d like to officially announce our “Fragrant Friendship” program: for every friend you convert into a fragrance lover, we give you $25 credit for your next order with us. How to participate? Simply refer friends to fill out our fragrance questionnaire, and ask them to mention your name when contacting us. Once they place their first order (samples included), you will receive a gift certificate via email that you can redeem when placing your next order. The gift certificate is valid for 6 months from the date it was issued.

Cooling-off Tips & Tricks

Summer calls for light scents, there is nothing new about that. It seems that the most summery scents divide into the following categories:


There is something about the rind of citrus fruit makes most people feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Citrus oils have been in use in many toiletries due to their anti-bacterial properties, and therefore are associated with cleanliness and purity. For many, a citrus cologne is all they can take in the summer. An even funner way to enjoy your citrus fragrances, especially if you live in the tropics or the desert is to refrigerate the cologne and enjoy a double-cool splash of citrus throughout the day.

Suggestions from our citrus fragrances: ArbitRary, Fetish, Arsenal

And this summer, you can also experience ArbitRary in your entire home as you burn our first perfumed soy wax candle. Made of pure soy wax candles with a cotton wick results in a clean

candle-burning experience. Our exquisite ArbitRary candles are essentially a perfumed burning wax, with their high content (20%) of essences - primatily jasmine asbolute, lime, basil, hay, moss and lemongrass. This is truly a "perfume in a candle" - a refrshing citrus-chypre classic fragrance, just like the original perfume. ArbitRary was burned last week at Noam Gagnon's Beyond Pilates Studio and have received rave reviews for its gentle throw and citrusy-herbaceous aroma!

Dry Woody

Dryness in the sense of un-sweet and non-cloying is a desired effect when heat and humidity reign. The note of vetiver is particularly effective in that regard. They have been considered cooling in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds if not thousands of years. In the tropical countries where vetiver grows wild, vetiver rootlets are woven into mats, blinds and fans. When moistened with water, they release their cooling, clean-woody and earthy-sweet scent and create a calm, grounded feeling. When the wind comes through the moist blinds this aroma enters the home and relieves the dwelles from the heat. A wood fan scented with sandalwood or agarwood (I found mine in Chinatown and am just grateful for their aroma and design when I travel to my air-conditionered home-village). A woven vetiver-root fan can be found at Samara Botane and in the summer they sometime also offer vetiver hydrosol which can be sprinkled on the fan for an extra vetiver boost.

Recommended woody/vetiver fragrances for summer: Bon Zai, Sabotage, Vetiver Racinettes


Beach-summer association requires no explanations. Suntan lotions, vanilla ice cream cones, coconut oil and the scent of sun warmed sun and skin are for most people the epitome of summer’s olfactory symbols. Any scent that would even vaguely remind us of these sensual and lazy experiences is welcome in summertime (or when sunshine is missed here on the northern West Coast!).

Suggested fragrances: Coralle, Gigi, Cabaret

Tropical Floral

Summer nights are filled with the intoxicating scents of white flowers. Night blooming jasmine, orchids and gardenia. Recommended white florals from Ayala Moriel’s collection: Yasmin, White Potion, Tamya, Zohar

Tea: New Packaging & Serving Ideas

For your convenience, our teas are now packaged in a compact 1oz tins and for a more affordable price at $15 per tin (previous price: $30/2oz tin). Although we can still prepare the larger tins on request, only the smaller ones will be available online for now.

These tins look adorable, especially when tied with our satin ribbon and can be
presented as a gift. All three teas are now available - they were made
fresh at the end of June.

Immortelle l'Amour is an unforgettable dessert tea with the real vanilla beans making it an especially luxurious elixir. Tirzah is both visually and aromatically stunning floral-green-tea blend with exotic osmanthus flowers, hops blossoms and wood-floral linden. Gaucho has incredible liver-toning properties while being surprisingly

delicious for such a herbaceous blend - I find it grounding and
uplifting at the same time with its unsual blend of yerbamate,
lemograss, damiana, clover and sencha tea. Tirzah and Gaucho are also
very refreshing when served in room temperature or even chilled. I have
been serving both chilled at Portobello West and they've been flying
off my table even faster than my chocolate truffles!

Gift With Purchase @ is now offering a gift with purchase for limited time only (until July 10th or while quantities last):

Purchase any Ayala Moriel Perfume and receive a COMPLIMENTARY Perfumed Tea.
"Perfumed Tea" is appreciated by tea connoisseurs because it is
flavored only with actual plants rather than artificial or natural
flavoring essences. It is perfect served either hot or cold as part of
your daily Tea ritual. 1 oz. Retail value: $15.00

Coupon Code: ayala

Foundation of Natural Perfumery Course Part 1 & 2: Registration Closes July 15th

Registration to the Foundation of Natural Perfumery Course - for beginners and continuing students - is closing July 15th.

The course is a thorough introduction to both theory, practice and aesthetics of fragrance creation using natural aromatics only. It is designed to pave your path to become a professional natural perfumer - although even if you don't have such career aspirations and are just doing this for fun, you will still enjoy every moment of it!

This thorough and versatile course is unique from other natural perfumery courses in providing:

A) the fundamental techniques for working with natural aromatics;

B) a variety of approaches for perfume construction (i.e.: architectural approach, exploratory approach, working form briefs, and more)

C) the tools to expand your olfactory literacy through studying and analyzing perfumes and individual fragrance notes and expanding your vocabulary of scent and your ability to verbally communicate the olfactory wold.

D) Personal guidance and feedback, and hands-on and step-by-step experience and exercises, for correspondence and non-correspondence students alike

For more information about curriculum click here.

To register for the correspondence course and order your copy of the course handbook click here.

Wishing you all an adventurous and scrumptious summer! And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses…



Ayala Moriel Parfums

My SmellyBlog:

Tel.: (778) 863-0806

Address: #314-1230 Haro Street, Buzz #295,Vancouver, BC

Summer Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00am-4:00pm; Sundays & evenings by appointment only

Address: PO Box 93589 Nelson Park, Vancouver, BC, V6E 4L7


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Black Rose's Matchbox History

Two years after I've received a little special gift of Goya's Black Rose in its adorable matchbox packaging, I received an email from Erica Baxter, the daughter of Ruthli Weilenman, who co-designed the matchbox with Jenny Rose, at Goya's packaging studio at Old Amersham, Hertfordshire, England, which was separate from the perfumery. Below is a little piece of perfume packaging history, in Erica's words.

Dear Ayala,

Following your posting in March 2006 about the little matchbox of Goya Black Rose Perfume, with the lovely story attached, I can provide some more information about the packaging.

The Goya factory maintained their own Packaging Studio, located in Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England. My mother, then Ruthli Weilenman worked there in the late 1950’s following her training at Watford art school. The studio was by all accounts a happy place to work, full of bright brains and creativity. Mum worked there with a friend, then Jeny Rose, as her supervisor. It speaks well of the balance of staffing that they have remained friends since, with Jeny and her husband recently welcomed at my parents’ Golden Wedding celebrations.

Between them the design was made and produced, in various forms which included the ‘matchbox’ size that you found. These were used for all the perfumes, and were simply a small item for sale in shops. I believe that all of these boxes contained a bottle in the same triple-stacked bubble shape. I also understand that a display board of the various Goya products in these small boxes was used to demonstrate the products to factory visitors – groups such as the Townswomen’s Guild would appear along with a factory ‘boss’ for a tour that was not always welcomed by the studio!

Jeny continues to design, including making stage sets for local productions, and Ruthli is an exhibiting artist, so the creativity was deeply ingrained in both of them, and they were delighted to hear that an item they worked on 50 years ago was able to raise interest today!

With best regards,


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Monday, July 07, 2008

Frangipanni & Leather

Frangipani & Leather, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Today I have finally got around to try out an idea I had in the spring, when I was visiting Queen Elizabeth Park with my friend Junichi for a day.

It was one of those indecisive April days, alternating between being cloudy yet warm, or just pouring rain. For a while, we sought refuge inside the tropical bird & butterfly sanctuary. There, near the pink parrot that refused to have his pictures taken, I met my first-ever blooming frangipanni tree in Vancouver. You can imagine my happiness, frangipanni is one of my favourite flowers and I have many fond memories associated with that smell.

I took with me this single blooming flower that fell off the tree, and savoured it for hours afterwards, analyzing its aroma and writing little notes in my journal. I noticed with surprise that this flower was more spicy and warm than any other frangipani flower I smelled before. It smelled familiar and moments later I realized it was similar to Tomar seed (Zantoxylum). Warm and spicy-sweet and at the same time creamy and soft and floral, a vision formed in my mind about mingling the scent of frangipani with a subtle base of leather notes.

I thought this connection was particularly appropriate taking into consideration the history behind the flower, and the relationships between leather and perfume. Frangipanni was a name of a mid 19th century Italian marquis who invented the method to perfume gloves. The original formula or ingredients of the Frangipanni perfume are unknown, but most certainly had jasmine and orris as two dominant ingredients. Piesse (1879) says it was made of equal amounts of every spice known at the time, with powdered orris added in an equal weight to the entire formula, and 1% of both civet and musk. Frangipanni Gloves were very popular at the time and the scent was only later sold as a sachet and only two generations later as a liquid perfume (by
Frangipanni's grandson), who Piesse considered to be the longest lasting perfume of its time.

Piesse offers a formula for a Frangipanni Sachet in his book "The Art of Perfumery":

3lb Orris Root Power
1/4lb Vetiver Powder
1/4lb Sandalwood Powder
1 dram Neroli
1 dram Rose Otto
1 dram Sandalwood Oil
1oz Musk Grains, ground

And what does all this have to do with the flower? Apparently, the scent of the flower, when discovered, was so similar to the perfume that the French colonists of the West Indies have named the plant* after the perfume!

Poucher in his book "Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps" gives the following Frangipanni Formula no. 1113 that contains very little synthetics (just the rose compound and the coumarin and vanillin, which can be easily replaced by tonka absolute and vanilla CO2, for instance):

60 Bergamot Oil
200 Cassie
50 Civet Extract, 3%
80 Geranium Oil, French
50 Musk Extract, 3%
70 Neroli Oil
150 Orange Blossom
40 Rose Otto
200 Rose Compound
10 Sandalwood Oil
60 Coumarin
30 Vanillin

Coming back to the idea today was not only fun (and a challenge working from memory of a flower), it was also a reminder for that particular day at the park and sanctuary. What I had in my journal was quite open to interpretation - as it was just a list of notes I thought could be used in a frangipanni compound or soliflore perfume:

Frangipanni Absolute
Jasmine Grandiflorum
Leather accord
Mimosa Absolute

This could all make sense as a concept, but carrying this out is not going to be easy. Frangipanni absolute, to begin with, is a very unimpressive essence. It is faint, waxy, with none of the sweetness or headiness of the real blooming flower. It is more green than creamy and does not have a very strong presence (nothing in comparison to, say, jasmine or rose). To make it "work" one has to vamp it up with other notes, and blow life into it so to speak.

Another point of challenge is the "leather accord". I don't work with "accords" typically speaking. I have only done so in the past with my amber accords (I have formulated 7 different "amber" accords that I use in bases for different perfumes). Aside from that, I usually prefer to "cook from scratch" and use the raw materials, as undiluted as possible when I work. It's just a matter of style. In this case, my initial idea also inspired me to try out various compounds for leather that will be light enough to not overwhelm the frangipanni notes. And so this afternoon I have worked on 3 different "leather bases" - the first one minimalistic, light and floral (with osmanthus, Africa stone tincture and broom absolute) and the other two more animalistic (one with and one without Africa stone tincture).

The Frangipanni formula itself turned out very close to how I hoped it would, except for a very poor lasting power; so I have doubled the formula (which makes it smell different) and will have to see how this mellows later on. I won't disclose all the ingredients; all I'll say is that I have used Egyptian jasmine grandiflorum absolute, and I'm just smitten with the essence and the results it gives. It's very sweet and not as indolic as the Indian jasmine of the same species. I have used iris, of course, as well as some French neroli. I'm very curious to see how it will evolve; but for now it did bring me instant memories of that rainy day in the park, armed with frangipanni in my hand. And it felt good to have something in my lab remind me of something long gone.

*The Latin name of Frangipanni, Plumeria, is in honour of Charles Plumier, a Franciscan traveler in South America.

This perfume turned out to be Frangipanni Gloves, a limited edition perfume launched February 1st, 2010, to support the Bloedel Floral Conservatory and prevent its scheduled shut-down March 1st, 2010. For every bottle sold, $50 is donated to the cause.

It can be purchased on Etsy or via Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Other ways you can help the Bloedel Floral Conservatory:

Attend the Rumble in the Jungle Gala, January 30th, 2010

Sign this petition

Join Friends of Bloedel

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Saturday, July 05, 2008


Figue-Iris opens with sweet but crisp fig notes. It’s more of a purple fig than a green one. The iris is there from the start, first crisp and paper-clean, chiming with the fig in a harmony that brings to mind the melancholy of peach skin and lilacs in early summer rain, and makes me wonder if Figue-Iris hasn’t by any chance taken its inspiration from Apres l’Ondee (and do I detect some anise there as well or was it just a ghost in my imagination?) and with the underlining heliotropine it also gives an obvious wink to l’Herue Bleau. But this is only in the beginning. Once the top notes fade out all we are left with is a toned-down version of what used ot be the glorious Guerlinade – an accord of iris, tonka and vanilla that can be found in some proportion in nearly all Guerlain’s perfumes. In this case it’s a modernized version, and gives off a linear impression, losing the initial interest and intrigue.

That being said, I find Figue-Iris to be one of my more favourable Aqua Allegoria installments, and one that is more balanced and easy to wear. My previous favourite, Herba Fresca was most original, but unfortunately it was too sharp and therefore unwearable for me. Another favourite of mine from the line is previous year’s Mandarine-Basilic.

Figue-Iris was almost a love at first sniff. However, what started up promising – both fig and iris are favourite notes of mine – lead to a disappointment. I was ready to pull out superlative sentences that I was saving for a long time for the house of Guerlain – but I suppose I will have to wait for something else to come up. For now I will just say that this is for me the most easy to wear Aqua Allegoria albeit not the most interesting in the way of the dry down, which is a little sweeter and a lot more generic than I hoped for. Still, it is so much better than nearly anything else that has come out recently, and even though I think the idea could have been executed differently and create a thoroughly original fragrance – I think it is one that deserves your attention, especially if you like either iris or fig or are just a die-har Guerlain fan. It may pale in comparison to the Guerlain classics of yesteryear, but it is so much better than Insolence and any of the sticky-fruity Samsara flankers.

On the positive side, thanks for Jean-Paul Guerlain (the nose behind Figue-Iris) for using this opportunity to remind younger audiences of Apres l’Ondee and l’Heure Bleue. I’d like to think that the disappointing dry down was a commercial compromise imposed by Guerlain’s marketing department.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth on Lake Austin, originally uploaded by Stuck in Customs.

Happy fourth of July to our neighbors to the south!

Enjoy the fireworks and some good old American perfumes :)

To my personal favourites of previous years (Youth Dew, Private Collection, Obsession and Anne Pliska), I can now add a couple of independent American perfumeries: Bourbon French's Dark Gift and the house of Hove in New Oreleans; and Liz Zorn's stunning Waterflower.

What are your favourite American fragrances?


Order and Chaos: The Smell of Everything, All At Once

OlfactoryLibrary, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Impulsively, I set on a tedious organizing job today and as often happens with compulsive things,
it took the better part of my day to complete the task.
One of my interesting projects is writing ad copy to a reputable essential oil supplier. And samples of oils, absolutes, CO2 and other essences have accumulated rapidly to the point of complete chaos. And while chaos has its inspiring moments, for the most part it creates an atmosphere that is uninviting which creates further procrastination and therefore more chaos...

One thing that constantly comes up whenever I organize my oils or perfume stock is the intense, strange and surprising aroma of "everything, all at once". There seems to be a unique smell to every house or space that is the sum of all the little smelly things that reside in that space. When the space belongs to a perfumer - intense fragrance are to be expected, and methods that try to avoid that mish-mash of scents that are so confusing when you work are a big challenge. Hopefully this sorting and organizing project is going to make the job easier so I can focus on one scent at a time.

What I spent most of the day doing was setting up a "building block" library or catalog; each sample is placed in a tiny ziplock bag onto an index card. The index card bears the name of the essence (botanical name included) and any notes I have taken (or will take in the future) about the note. The little ziplock back is stapled at the top (so there is no holes in it) and is alos used ot seal the scent strips. This way I can try and evaluate a few scents at the same time and than come back to them at a later day. This certainly makes the project more approachable and doable (especially when one needs to compare 5 types of lavender or eucalyptus and can't find them - well now that won't be a problem as they are all alphabetized).

OlfactoryLibraryKewda, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Luxury Catches Up with eBay

Visit MarketWatch to read an interesting commentary about the recent ruling in France ordering eBay to compensate LVMH for loss of profits (and glamour?) by way of allowing vendors to sell luxury goods on this online auction site that has become an integral part of so many people's shopping habits.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gift with Purchase on is now offering a gift with purchase for limited time only (until July 10th):

Purchase any Ayala Moriel Perfume and receive a COMPLIMENTARY Perfumed Tea. "Perfumed Tea" is appreciated by tea connoisseurs because it is flavored only with actual plants rather than artificial or natural flavoring essences. It is perfect served either hot or cold as part of your daily Tea ritual. 1 oz. Retail value: $15.00

Coupon Code: ayala

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Morrocan Ice Tea

Ice Tea, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

A refreshing way to get just a little energetic boost is to prepare your own ice tea concentrate. It makes a great cooling beverage and your guests will be grateful to be greeted that way after they made their way to you in the heat.

1/2 Liter boiling water
2 tsp. Darjeeling tea
2-4 Tbs. raw cane sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like your ice tea)
6 sprigs of fresh spearmint, rinsed and dried (use a lettuce drier or let to drip dry on a towel)
Cold water
Ice cubes

For the
Steep the tea leaves in the water for 5 minutes. Add sugar, stir well and add 4 sprigs of fresh spearmint. Let cool and remove the spearmint sprigs before storing in the refrigerator.

To prepare the ice tea:
In a large glass pitcher, mix together half of the ice tea concentrate and fill the rest with cold water and ice cubes. Stir well and add a few fresh spearmint leaves before serving.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day 2008, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

It's finally summer for Canada's birthday, and it's hot, hot, hot!
Make sure you drink lots of cranberry juice :) It will probably make more sense than maple syrup on a day like this...

I was trying to think of scents with real presence of either maple or cranberry notes, and came up with Lis Zorn's Pink Praline (which has real tincture of candied maple syrup), and my own Immortelle l'Amour (no true maple, but just the feel of it from the combination of immortelle and vanilla). As for cranberries - cranberry absolute has very little scent and is used mostly for flavouring. Cranberries themselves are not particularly fragrant either, so I guess I'm at loss for associating perfumes with Canada Day. Any ideas?

P.s. The above photo is the window display of Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, my personal favourite kitchen supply store - 1553 Robson Street, Vancouver (604) 682-8223