Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Must Read: LA Times Magazine Vetiver Article

Visit the LA Times to read an excellent essay about vetiver by Denise Hamilton in her "Uncommon Scents" column - titled Green Goddess.
And as if a good read is not satisfying already - I was particularly surprised and happy to find mentions of both Vetiver Racinettes and Orcas!

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Perfume Making Workshop this Weekend

Stephanie @ The Organ by Ayala Moriel
Stephanie @ The Organ, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Quick note to let you all know that the last perfume making workshop for this winter will take place this Sunday, March 4th, 1-4pm at the studio.
This class was fully booked, but one of the students just cancelled...

Use our amazing collection of natural botanical essences to create your own custom perfume, bottle professionally in a spray bottle with your own label!
$200 per person, including materials (regular price is $300).

To book your spot, contact me via email or call (778) 863-0806.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Monkey Monday: Odorous Pets

Last Friday I've learned that pets' "body odour" can vary tremendously. I found it so shocking that I just had to share it here. When a friend stopped by the studio with her two tiny and well-behaved chiwawas. They were the exact same size, one male and one female, and probably were enjoying the same diet of raw dog food. But they did not smell like what I always thought of as "dog smell". One smelled intensely of fish - not like it was eating fish, but almost like it WAS a fish. I was so shocked by this discovery that I just had to wait till Monday to bring it up for our silly Monkey Monday post and see what it will bring up here. The other dog did not smell fishy at all, but still was not what I thought of as a dog smell either.

I often get emails from customers telling me that their favourite smell is their cat's paws. Not being a cat woman myself, perhaps I just don't "get" it - and that's why I think it will be interesting to open a discussion here and hear from you:

1) What your pet smells like (if you have any)?

2) Do you find certain animal smells more pleasant than others?

3) Did you ever notice a difference between two animals of the same species - as if they have body odour just like we do?

Leave a comment and enter to win a miniature of Cassis by Aftelier.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Aphrodisiac of the Day: Nutmeg

"I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg,
And a golden pear;
The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

Her dress was made of crimson,
Jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nut tree
And my golden pear.
I said, "So fair a princess
Never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit
From my little nut tree."

This nursery rhyme historically referrs to the visit of the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon (one of the two daughters of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain), who later became Kind Henry the VIII's first wife. Aside from the historical context, the reader gets the sense of the preciousness of the nutmeg spice from this rhyme, and a subtle hint to its aphrodisiac qualities – as if having a tree bearing such a precious (silver!) nut is what got the princess visiting from far away land. And such a tree, bearing two species of fruit is of course not realistic. However, the British has an interesting role in the history of the nutmeg – although they weren’t by any means the first Europeans to discover it.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is the fruit of a tropical tree native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia. It is said that birds flying above the nutmeg islands get intoxicated from the fragrance emanating from the trees. And indeed, nutmeg has potent psychoactive properties that should be underestimated, due to its high myristicin content (between 0.2-1.3%). It also contains elemicin and safrole. In mace (the lace that covers the nut itself) the safrole content is even higher, making it less safe to use for children and pregnant women (it is an abortifacient, and was used as such in the 19th century, leading to increased cases of myristicin poisoning). Thankfully, the amounts required to flavour a dish are still safe. But if you’ve ever had the pleasure to have a whole nutmeg in a smoothie (which I did, at one time, when ordering a fresh banana & nutmeg smoothie at Bliss in Vicotria). It had similar effect as a full shot of rum… Not exactly what I was aiming for at high noon!

Nutmeg’s intoxicating effects were put to use in its country of origin, where it was powdered and used as snuff all on its own; and in India it was mixed with betel and other herbs for snuff. In medieval times, the lady of the house would carry a nutmeg and a silver grater and by nightfall, she will prepare a nightcap with steamed milk and grated nutmeg on top. Nutmeg infused brandy was prepared by grinding several nuts and infusing them in brandy for 2 weeks. A few of these drops were added to steam milk for a nightcap or as an aphrodisiac.

The location of the Banda islands was kept secret by the Arab traders, who sold nutmeg to the Venetian aristocracy until 1511, when Afonso de Albuquerque, an admiral and the colonial governor of Portuguese India, has found their location. He was able to take enough nuts with him to sell to Europe, but he was unable to take monopoly over the nutmeg trade – the Dutch were the ones to claim that honour, and had full control over nutmeg and mace until the 17th century. They kept the prices high by burning excess crops in their warehouses in Amsterdam. After two wars with England (the second spanning from 1665-1667), England and the United Provinces of Netherlands signed the Treaty of Breda, in which the Island of Run in Indonesia (the secret source of nutmeg trees) was abandoned by the English, and the Island of Manhattan was given to England, and the name of the city on it – New Amsterdam – was changed to New York. However, the English have captured Bandalontor in 1810 and transferred nutmeg trees to other places (Ceylon, Grenada, Singapore and other colonies) in 1817, thus ruining the Dutch monopoly on nutmeg.

Interestingly enough, a nutmeg butter can also be produced – similar in character to cocoa butter, only with a faint aroma of nutmeg. Many nutmegs, however, have their fatty parts eaten by certain worms that stay away from the potent essential oils. While these nuts may not be appealing visually, they are perfectly fit for oil distillation. Nutmeg butter finds its uses mostly in soap and candle-making.

Due to its shape, closely resembling the human brain, nutmeg was associated with the head,and was used to treat headache and other head and nerve related ailments in Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine as well as European herbalism. Nutmeg is considered comforting to the head and nerves, warming and soothing, relieving anxiety and restlessness. It is used in treating many different ailments in aromatherapy and herbalism, such as arthritis, muscle pain and rheumatism; nausea and indigestion; bacterial infections (it was also used in fumigants – though not with enough success – to suppress the plague); and helps to combat nervous fatigue, frigidity and impotence.

The essential oil of nutmeg is a clear brown and mobile. The solvent-extracted absolute is a semi-viscous clear brown liquid. Nutmeg essential oil is peppery, a tad campohreous, and also could have a hint of rubbery smokiness to it (that characteristic is present when the oil is fresh, and should disappear after a while). Nutmeg absolute is warm, sweet, balsamic, almost buttery, custard-like (because of the eggnog association), not nearly as camphoreous as the oil, and really quite scrumptious. Both materials are used in perfumery and flavouring. Oriental perfumes benefit from nutmeg’s sensual, warm and sweet fragrance that lends itself so well to florals and is used in carnation compounds (the iso-eugenol being the main characteristic of both carnation and nutmeg).

In flavour, nutmeg is an excellent masking qualities for unpleasant odours from cabbage and meats, and used in sauces, preserves and pickle flavouring. With its rich history in the spice trade, it is no surprise that the nutmeg has become such an integral part in so many cuisines – in Malaysian Penang cuisine; in Arabic and North African spice mixtures such as Baharat (Arabia), Hawaij (Yemen), Ras el Hanout (Morocco) and many East Indian and West Indian spice mixtures and dishes, such as curries, spiced rum and even chai tea blends. It is also used in the relatively milder Japanese curries. In Greek it is called “musky nut” and in Hebrew it is called “muskat” – referring to its sweet and complex aroma. The Dutch used nutmeg and mace in vegetable dishes (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and green beans), and in most of Europe it’s traditionally paired with potatoes and meet stews, as well as mushroom and spinach and white sauces.

Eggnog Crème Brûlée:

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s "Paris Sweets"

I made this in the holiday season of 2011, and this was the 1st time it worked for me (my first try at a creme brulee was grainy, unfortunately; something you can easily avoid by properly tempering your egg yolks - muster all the patience you got!).
The sweet, warm nutmeg aroma paired with an overdose of liquor (usually one tablespoon is the maximum amount for that size of recipe). It was fantastic, with that boozy feel-good quality of a rum-spiked eggnog. I'm sure that infusing the cream with a whole nutmeg got something to do with it... It has the taste, smell and texture of an aphrodisiac. Delight for all the senses, to be sure.

3 egg yolks
1-1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs evaporated or raw cane sugar
1 whole nutmeg, cracked with a side of a chef’s knife
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise with the seeds scraped
3 Tbs. Rum
3 Tbs. Brandy
Additional evaporated cane sugar for burning

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200F
Step 2: Dissolve the milk and cream with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat
Step 3: Infuse the nutmeg and vanilla bean (including scraped seeds, of course!) with the milk, cream and sugar mixture, over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. When reaching boiling point, remove from heat and cover with a lid so the liquids get thorouighly infused with the spices.
Step 4: Beat the egg yolks
Step 5: Temper the egg yolks: Add a little bit of the warm liquids to the egg yolks and beat them well. Add some more and beat again. Pour the egg yolks into the entire mixture and stir well with a wire whisk.
Step 6: Add the rum and brandy and stir well.
Step 7: Strain the custard mixture through a sieve or a tea strainer into a large measuring cup or a pitcher. Place 6 small ramekins on a baking sheet. Divide the custard between the ramekins.
Step 8: Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the centres of the custards are set. They should not wiggle much when moved around.
Step 9: Cool at room temperature, and then refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Step 10: Sprinkle with additional sugar, and just before serving, burn the sugar with a small blow torch. Serve immediately, while the burnt sugar is still hot!

Aphrodisiac perfumes containing nutmeg - there are really too many to count, so I'm just skimming through here: Black Angel (Mark Buxton), Comme des Garcons 2 Man, Coriolan (Geurlain), Fête d'Hiver (Ayala Moriel), Grey Vetiver, Noir Epices (Michael Roudnistka for Editions de Parfums), Obsession for Men (Calvin Klein), The Purple Dress (Ayala Moriel), Rivertown Road (Liz Zorn Soivhole), Rocabar (Hermès), Roses et Chocolat (Ayala Moriel), Scarlet Lurkspur (Ineke's Floral Curiosities), Soir de Lune (Sisely) Sounds & Visions (Mark Buxton), Spezie (Lorenzo Violloresi), St. Valentine's (DSH Perfumes), Sushi Imperiale (Bois 1920), Vetiver (Guerlain), Vetiveryo (Diptyque) Vetiver Racinettes (Ayala Moriel), Vitriol d'Oeillet (Serge Lutens)

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Smelly Detective Winner (Monkey Monday Giveaway)

Congratulations to Nekosan, winner of our Monkey Monday giveaway this week. You will receive a 4ml Film Noir miniature upon informing me of your secret whereabouts... I promise I will keep your mailing address confidential!



My friend Noriko brought back surprises from Japan: vintage kimono fabrics, pickled cherry blossoms (!) and two new essential oils of indigenous Japanese plants that are very unlikely to be found anywhere else.

One is Asunaro, which smells like a cross between hinoki and hiba. The other is sanshō leaf (Zantoxylum sansho) - the leaves of a plant related to Szechuan peppers. And what a surprise! It smells nothing like what I'd expected it to be. It was rosy and fruity and citrusy - very much like geranium leaf! Because I only have precious 2ml of this I was very hesitant to put any on a blotter... But I finally broke down and smeared a tiny smidgeon of a dot on a scent strip now, and it's revealing more facets of green and spicy fresh aromas, reminiscent of fresh ginger root and ginger lily.

Fresh sanshō leaves are used in Japanese cuisine to garnish vegetable dishes (notably bamboo shoots) and to garnish soups. The dried leaves are used in noodle dishes. The fresh berries and flowers of the same plants are also used in Japanese food in various ways. In the above photo, sanshō leaves decorate oinarisan - a rice ball flavoured with yuzu (Japanese citron) and wrapped in bean curd. I can easily imagine it going very well with citrus and wish I knew where I could get a taste of it for real.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Are Natural Perfumes Short Lived?

After over 10 years in the business, you get used to waking up to emails like this one. This time, I though I'd post it here for the benefits of anyone else doubtful of natural perfumes' supposedly short-lived appearance on the skin etc. Also, I will be updating my FAQ page to cover that as well with this info.

On 23-Feb-12, at 6:11 AM, Ms. C. Wrote:

Hi! First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely LOVE your perfumes and am more than
pleased with almost every single one of the samples I received as a birthday gift. I am unable to wear synthetic fragrances, and would rather go organic / natural anyway, so have recently been avidly searching for “my new scent”.

I would love to be a loyal customer and only buy Ayala Moriel Parfumes from this point on, but my one concern is that none of the perfumes have staying power on me whatsoever.
After 2 hours of applying them, they fade away into nothing. I don’t know if you have any
answers or solutions for me, but I’m very disappointed that after spending so much money on my attempt to find a great organic perfume, that they’re already almost all gone because I have to reapply constantly in order to smell them at all. Please let me know if you have any solutions, because there are several of the sample scents that I’d love to order, but simply can’t spend that kind of money to be inconvenienced by having to reapply all day long.

Thank you,

Miss C.

Dear Miss C:

Thank you for your email and your feedback.
I'm glad you liked the perfumes, and am sorry that they didn't last long enough on your skin.

Since my perfumes are 100% pure natural, they do not contain synthetic fixatives. Therefore, their lasting power varies greatly among individuals - depending on your skin type (dry or oily) and colour (fair or dark, or if it can easily tan) as well as your diet - the perfume will last longer or for lesser amount of time. If your skin is fair and dry, it will last for the shortest amount of time, in which case I recommend you use my oil based perfumes, which are in jojoba oil and also more concentrated (keep in mind that the samples you tried are my EDP - which are between 10-15% essence; while the perfume oils are as high as 30-40%). You can read more on why jojoba oil is so great in making a perfume longer lasting in this article on my SmellyBlog.

Likewise, the type of composition also makes a huge difference. For example: Tamya and Fetish are very light scents, and last even on my skin last only 4-6 hours. Immortelle l'Amour, however, lasts as long as 18hrs (or even more, but that's as long as I've gone without a shower when testing my fragrances).

The last factor I'd like to bring to your attention is the different in quality and personality between mainstream synthetic-packed perfumes and pure natural ones. If you are used to wearing or smelling synthetic perfumes, you probably learned to expect them to pack a punch and leave a strong trail of scent wherever you go. This is now how naturals work, and this is, in my opinion, part of their beauty - they have a softer and gentler sillage (diffusive power) and don't take over elevators, board rooms or any space for that matter. People who are used to a strong perfume will need some time to "wean" themselves from that and get used to the subtlety of natural fragrance. The process can be likened to getting used to eat food with less salt and appreciate the natural flavour of the food on its own; or switching between strong black coffee to ethereal green and white teas; or getting used to eat food with no MSG... You will have to wait a few weeks to get used to the new experience and regain the sensitivity of your sense of smell.

As for the "inconvenience" or re-applying: it's all in the nose of the beholder, so to speak. Some ladies absolutely love the ritual of applying a scent and wouldn't leave the house without a little flask of perfume for touch-ups throughout the day. This is precisely why I offer my perfumes in small packaging - that is easy to transport, and is no larger than a lipstick.

Lastly - re the pricing: Our 8 sample packages go for $50. If you look at the website and the pricing you will see that it's very reasonable, considering that these are made from top quality pure botanical essences and are all hand crafted, labeled and packaged by hand - by myself. In fact, you will see that with the sample packages we nearly giving these at cost with making no profit at all...
A single drop of rose oil, for example, costs more than $1. And you need at least 4 of these drops in, say, a sample of size of 1ml of a perfume such as Rosebud. Considering that there are other scents in each sample you received, and some are even more expensive than rose - you will be able to understand how precious these materials are!

You can read more about why natural perfumes are more expensive than synthetic on my FAQ page (as well as get many other questions answered).

All the best,



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Morning Walk

"Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, i've looked at cloud that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things i would have done but clouds got in my way.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions i recall.
I really don't know clouds at all".
In contrast to yesterday's crying skies, bright sunrise graced this morning, improving the moods of the city's inhabitants.

I walked down Bute street for my daily faux "morning commute", and was bemused by the shapes of clouds and vapours on the horizon. Growing up with no TV, there were times when watching the clouds was our most exciting past time - second only to the daily sunset "shows" that coloured the horizon in all imaginable hues.

The rising sun's rays diffused through glass towers and other man-made obstacles to the East. But they can't stop it from making the grass of Harbour Green Park look greener, and the white sails and decks of the yachts at the marina look brighter and more ready to sail.

But strangely enough, it was the sounds of the harbour that captured my heart today. And that's what I want to write about before climbing up to my den and continue my harbour perfume composition. In contrast to the disturbing construction uphill on Bute street, the humming of engines; the crackling of the waves approaching the marina and collapsing against the decks, boats and rocks; the sloshing sounds of the trails left in the wake of marine birds and seaplanes descending onto the water -- embracing these sounds around me assured me that living in the moment knows no fear and embarking on any journey beings with a single step, a single breath and a single pure and simple intention.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras Colours by Ayala Moriel
Mardi Gras Colours, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

It's Fat Tuesday - can't believe a whole year has gone by since my celebration of launching the New Orleans perfume.
Nevertheless, I'm excited to be wearing it tonight for the special occasion - the least I can do since there is no carnival in Vancouver...

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Monkey Monday: Smelly Detectives

Real-life investigators as well as fictional detectives often times use their sense of smell to solve murder mysteries. Police officers need very little skill to detect alcohol on a drunk driver's breath, and collect scent evidence from a crime scene which is as important as fingerprints - since each individual has a unique body odour - "By definition, scent is the 'bacterial, cellular, and vaporous debris enshrouding the individual' known collectively as 'raft', this debris consists primarily of dead or dying skin cells, which the body sheds at a rate of approximately 40,000 each minute. Air currents project the raft upward and away from the body, much like a plume. The debris becomes deposited in the environment in a conically shaped pattern known as the scent trail"...

Sherlock Holmes used his sense of smell on more than one occasion, being able to identify the 75 perfumes of his time (he surely will have harder time now!) and detect other odours in the crime scene, which helped him solve several murder mysteries. When losing his eyesight temporarily, Monk manages to solve the case in the episode “Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse”; and when there is a garbage strike, he can't concentrate on the case. Agata Christie "killed" more than one of her "victims" with cyanide, leaving a trail of bitter almonds and marzipan as a clue to the cause of death. And in Denise Hamilton's several Noir novels, there is a significance to the sense of smell; but particularly in her latest "Damage Control", where the central character is a perfumista and in which a perfume serves as a key clue.

"...anyone "with a nose for" crime should be able to sniff out culprits from their tweed, India ink, talcum powder, Italian leather shoes, and countless other scented paraphernalia. Not to mention the odors, radiant and nameless, which we decipher without even knowing it. The brain is a good stagehand. It gets on with its work while we're busy acting out our scenes. Though most people will swear they couldn't possibly do such a thing, studies show that both children and adults, just by smelling, are able to determine whether a piece of clothing was worn by a male or a female." (Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Sense).

Even in our mundane lives, we act as detectives using our noses to find out if our date is a smoker or not; if our kids have dipped into the chocolate chip cookie jar or bothered to brush their teeth; and amuse ourselves by guessing which soap or shampoo our friends use. Our sense of smell is keener and far more important to our ongoing gathering of information than most of us would ever care to admit...

What about you? Have you ever used your sense of smell to solve "crimes" around your house or to clue in on something that your friends, coworkers or family members have been plotting behind your back?

Share your stories by leaving a comments below, and enter to win a mini of Film Noir.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Aphrodisiac Winner (Monkey Monday Giveaway)

Congrats to Michael, winner of our first Monkey Monday giveaway.
You're the lucky winner of:
1) Gabriel's Aunt 2oz Chocolate Bar Candle
2) Film Noir mini
3) Valentine's Greeting Card from Nikki & I that has 2 aphrodisiac recipes!
4) A pinch of my secret love potion: the Ras El Hanout spice that I've hand-blended myself, including many rare ingredients, in just the exact right proportions...

Please contact me via email with your mailing address so I can ship your prize next week :-)
Happy weekend, everyone! See you again on Monday with another great giveaway.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aphrodisiac Moroccan Afternoon Tea

Moroccan Pastries & Desserts
Le premier verre est aussi amer que la vie,
le deuxième est aussi fort que l'amour,
le troisième est aussi doux que la mort.*

*Moroccan proverb, which translates loosely to:
The first glass is as bitter as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is as gentle as death.

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

At long last - photographs and stories from our latest event titled "Light, Love… Action!"
This is my 3rd annual Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Tea Party - which not surprisingly is always very popular and very special.

First thing - I would like to thank the wonderful friends that helped me put together this event: Miriam, Tamya and Shukoofeh for helping me prepare all the Moroccan sweets and the savoury mezze inspired tea sandwiches. Thank you to Nikki for helping me co-host the event and for her wonderful presentation about aphrodisiac candles (see more below). An extra special thank you goes to Miriam who went above and beyond - seamlessly helping me to host as well as photograph the event so those who couldn't make it can get some inspiration and food for thought!

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Tea Party of Love
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

Nikki will bought her aphrodisiac candles, including “Three Little Words” - a very special trio of romantic candles she created especially to put you in the mood!
"Afternoon Nap" with Black Pepper and Lavender
"Slow Dance" with Sandalwood, Clove, Patchouli
"Sweetheart" with Ylang Ylang, Geranium and Nutmeg

She shared the pure aphrodisiac essences that are used in her candles to demonstrate how they can be used to set the mood for romance. Lighting a candle is an act of inviting passion and romance into your life. It has such a beautiful soft ligth, and with a scented candle, you also get the health benefits of aromatherapy grade essences - purifying the air and also affecting the body, mind and soul in a positive way.
Nikki shared some surprising tips on burning soy wax candles, for example - light a candle before you enter the bedroom to make it smell nice, rather than keep it burning all night long. And also tips on how long a wick should be, how to trim them, and for how long it's recommended to burn each candle.

Aphrodisiac Spice Box

My presentation was about how the aphrodisiacs were incorporated in the menue (see below) and they actually "work". I demonstrated two scents for men (ArbitRary and Orcas) that contain aphrodisiacs, and two feminine perfumes (Immortelle l'Amour and Roses et Chocolat).
And here I am pouring a very special aphrodisiac that I designed especially for the party: a Darjeeling tea scented with mimosa & myrrh!

Pouring Tea
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

The menu was Moroccan inspired – colourful, spicy and flavourful from one of the world’s most sophisticated cuisines!

We all enjoyed Moroccan mint tea drizzled with orange flower water and garnished with fresh sprigs of spearmint. The orange flower water is an old Moroccan tradition, but was a refreshing and new for everyone attending and I was thrilled how much they loved it!
We created an abundance of colourful finger foods and fragrant desserts that are a feast for all of the senses – and all spiked with nature’s best aphrodisiacs, such as cardamom,

Moroccan Mezze (Hors d’Oveurs):
- Pita wedges with roasted bell pepper hummus topped with spicy Moroccan carrot salad
- Roasted eggplants sandwiches with black cardamom & pomegranate (served on Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps)
- Cumin-scented beets with chevre & black olives (on slices of PureBread’s rosemary-lavender bread)

Moroccan inspired scones flavoured with aniseed and malepi (black cherry pit - this is actually a Greek specialty spice but worked so well with the anise that I just had to include it in the menu).
We served them piping hot with clotted cream and real rose petal jam.

Petitfours & Desserts:
Masapan (Moroccan almond paste tartlets)
Stuffed Dates with Rosewater & Coconut
Gheriba (Rose Petal & Semolina shortbread cookies)
Ras El Hanout spiced brownies

There were also two types of handmade truffles for sale:
White Musk Truffles (white chocolate infused with precious ambrette seeds – a botanical musk)
Black Beauty truffles (infused with Lapsang Suchong & black cardamom and smoked salt)

The whole spread!
Photograph by Miriam Kleingeltink

We also gave door prizes including some of our secret aphrodisiac recipes and raffle tickets for a romantic gift box of perfumes, candles and potions that Nikki & I prepared in heart-shaped cookie boxes.

And last but not least - some music from the party (we played mostly authentic Moroccan music, and also some other North African music, such as the wonderful Libyan musician Tinariwen).

This might be the first and the last tea party for 2012, but we'll look forward to hosting a tea party for next Valentine's Day!

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Aphrodisiac of the Day: Myrrh

"Birth of Adonis" by Picart

"L" is for "Love" - and also labdanum and licorice – a couple of aromatics we can demonstrate affection with. However, labdanum is not easily obtainable and has very little other use besides perfume (not to mention very sticky and frustrating to work with if you are just starting out); and licorice, despite being recently found as the most arousing scent for women (along with, ahum, cucumber...) - technically speaking it is more of a flavour with a strange sweet sensation, whose fragrance is borrowed from star anise and aromatic seeds such as anise and fennel.

Therefore, we'll quickly proceed to the letter "M", where both musk and myrrh assert their aphrodisiac properties over men and women alike. And we'll further narrow down our investigation to that of myrrh, since musk is not legally obtained throughout the world and have become a nearly extinct perfume material.

Myrrh comes from Commiphora myrrha, a desert shrub that grows in North East Africa and South West Asia - in other words the areas surrounding the Red Sea (Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia). When the bushes’ bark is injured, they produce tear-shaped gum oleoresin which is harvested by the nomads (they also make their own incisions in the bark to produce more resin).

Interestingly, the Greek myth of Myrrha tells the tale of a the young beautiful daughter of the king of Cyprus (his identity is not entirely consistent), who refused all her suitors since she was deeply in love with her father. Devastated with her forbidden love, she decides to take her own life, only to be found by her nurse. In order to save her life, the nurse promised Myrrha to help her pursue and seduce her father, which she did on the next opportunity, keeping Myrrha’s identity in the dark (literally). The affair took place over several days (or months, depending on which version of the myth), until one day the father’s curiousity got the best of him and he hid a lamp in the room in order to reveal her identity. When realizing it was his own daughter he was having an affair with – he drew his sword to kill her. Myrrha fled and ran away, saving her own life, as well as the unborn child she was carrying – her own father’s son. She wondered in the deserts of Ethiopea for nine month, until it was time to give birth. Begging the gods for help they took mercy on her and turned her into a tree, who shortly after split open and with the aid of the goddess of childbirth gave birth to Adonis. The tree's resin are Myrrha's tears, the only remainder of her human form.

Myrrh is steam distilled and also is alcohol extracted to produce a so-called “absolute”. The oil resinifies easily with exposure to air and is a clear, orange-amber colour, and a bitter, rubber like aroma (very much like balloons), that also has strong medicinal connotations as it was used in preparations for soaking dressing for injuries. Wine mixed with myrrh was given as an analgesic, and also to highten one’s consciousness for prayer and meditation. It was given to convicts before their execution. But myrrh's odour profile does not end with the bitter-rubberiness. It reveals diffusive, warm, dry woodsiness and a peculiar sweetness that has depth and sophistication rather than being sugary or balsamic (aka vanilla-like). It is a component in countless perfumes, though its influences are often subtle and it has never asserted it's spot in this family as obviously as some more aggressive materials (i.e.: patchouli or cloves).

There are other related species from the Commiphora genus which yield a fragrant resin (C. gileadensis is the elusive “Balm of Gilead” that is mentioned in the bible – also known as “Balsam of Mecca”, which is native to Southern Arabia and grows wild in the Judea desert of Israel and Palestine. Another notable species is C. guidotti, C. opoponax and C. holtziana - aka Sweet Myrrh or Opoponax, which is a less bitter and medicinal and has more of a musky animalic character with hints of celery/lovage nuances (please note: there is a fair amount of confusion regarding the true identity of opoponax – something that I should dedicate a whole article to).

Myrrh is not an obvious aphrodisiac. It is far better known for its significance in religious rituals as well as it's medicinal applications. Myrrh is the first ancient resin found in Sumer that was used as incense, perfume and medicine. In ancient Egypt, it was burnt in temples at high noon, and is associated with Isis - the lunar goddess of fertility, and the most important feminine archetype in Egyptian mythology. While frankincense was associated with Rah, the sun god, and considered to have a a masculine, or projective energy; myrrh represents female, or receptive, energy. Myrrh is also one of the key elements in Kyphi - the complex Egyptian incense with 16 or more aromatics that is considered to be the most ancient perfume of them all (Kyphi was worn as personal perfume, burnt as incense and ingested for its medicinal and therapeutic qualities).

Another known use for myrrh in ancient Egypt was in the mummification process - this is what was used to stuff the stomachs of the deceased Pharaohs, along with cassia. Myrrh is mentioned in the New Testament first as a gift to baby Jesus from the three magi; and towards the end of his human life it was brought by the three women at the foot of the cross to ease his suffering (another reference to myrrh’s analgesic properties).

In the Torah, myrrh is one of the key ingredients to prepare the holy incense burnt in the temple as well as the holy anointing oil for all the temple’s tools and altars. However, surprisingly enough, it is in the Jewish holy scripts where myrrh has the most erotic and suggestive connotations – most notably in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs or Canticles) where it is mentioned seven times:

“A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts” (Song of Solomon 1:13) – a chunk of myrrh would be worn as a pendant in its native desert countries where the water is rare – and as the sweat streams down one’s neck, it will melt some of the resin and give its wearer a cleansing scent. It might also be one of the references that points to Queen of Sheba as the female character in this piece (she also repeatedly refers to herself as dark-skinned).

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt” (Song of Solomon, 5:5).

“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (5:1)

“His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (5:13).

And there is no more puzzling and elaborate beauty ritual than the one that Queen Esther had to go through to be accepted by King Achasverosh:
"... for so were fulfilled the days of their anointing: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with sweet fragrances..." (Megillat Esther, aka Book of Esther, Chapter II, 12)

Like frankincense, myrrh resin can be easily obtained in many church stores, and you can burn it on charcoal in a most primordial way that will connect you to how this precious perfume was used thousands of years ago.

For seductive applications of myrrh oil, make your own anointing body oil by placing 7 drops of myrrh in 1 tablespoon (1/2oz or 15ml) of cold pressed almond or olive oil. Use for a slow and sensual full-body massage with your lover, proceeding from head to toe.

Aphrodisiac perfumes with a prominent myrrh note: Azuree de Soleil/Bronze Goddess (Estee Lauder), Bois d'Hiver, Champaca (Ormonde Jayne), Dark Season (Neil Morris), Epices d'Hiver (DSH Perfumes), Film Noir, GiGi, Incensi (Lorenzo Villoresi), l'Ether (IUNX), l'Eau Trois (Diptyque), Immortal Mine (Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes), Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studio), Opium and Opium Fleur de Shanghai (YSL), Mahjoun (DSH Perfumes) Parfum de Maroc (Aftelier), Le Parfum d'Ida (Neil Morris), Piper Nigrum (Lorenzo Villoresi), Razala, Sacred (Ava Luxe), Séxual (Michael Germain), Song of Songs, Vintage Gardenia with Cardamom and Myrrh (Jo Malone), Untitled No. 1 (Yosh), to name just a few...

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Monkey Monday - New Weekly Giveaway Feature

Trudy's Favorite Monkey by Dyanna
Trudy's Favorite Monkey, a photo by Dyanna on Flickr.
While many workplaces have fun things going on every Friday (or what they think of as fun, like "Casual Friday" where you can wear jeans instead of slacks) - I have a feeling that it's really on Monday when most of you could use a little cheer-me-up!

My vision for Monkey Mondays is that it will be a little silly, humorous, scent-related post, with anecdotes that you could share. We can all use a good laugh from time to time ;-)
And - to make it even funner, I'll also host a giveaway here every Monday, starting today!

Since Valentine's is just a day away, I'd like to hear from you what your favourite aphrodisiacs are, and why. You can be as silly or as forthcoming as you'd like in sharing your aphrodisiac anecdotes. We all like to think of aphrodisiacs as this irresistible substance that will make us irresistible to the opposite (or same) sex, leaving trails of love-victims along our wake.

We've been discussing aphrodisiacs pretty much non-stop here in the past three weeks or so in the "Aprhrodisiac of the Day" series, as well as previous years' tea parties and other blog features and newsletters on the topic. And although they admittedly work on a much more safe and subtle level, it would be nice to hear stories from you about how a fragrant aphrodisiac either improved your love life - or made someone else's life completely miserable in the presence of your irresistible aphrod-packed potion.

The winner will receive:
1) Gabriel's Aunt 2oz Chocolate Bar Candle
2) Film Noir mini
3) Valentine's Greeting Card from Nikki & I that has 2 aphrodisiac recipes!
4) A pinch of my secret love potion: the Ras El Hanout spice that I've hand-blended myself, including many rare ingredients, in just the exact right proportions...

P.s. For all I care, you can make up the story...

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Feminine Things picks Immortelle l'Amour for Vaneltine's Day

Immortelle l'Amour was created from the most vulnerable place of a broken heart. Probably not my first (or last) perfume created with such "inspiration".
Nevertheless, it's strangely comforting to find it recommended as a perfume of love under the title "Love is not love until love's vulnerable. " on Feminine Things blog by Diana Wiener.

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Aphrodisiac from the Forest: Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries by Tranquillium
Juniper Berries, a photo by Tranquillium on Flickr.
The only aphrodisiac I could think of under "H" being Hyssop (which I'm not so familiar with in terms of perfume, or the culinary world and only find one reference to it's use as an aphrodisiac (along with thyme, pepper and ginger). The letter "I" does not seem too promising for the subject either - which is only reasonable, because after all, romance is not about "me, me, me...".

And so we move on to "J", and for this letter, I could have chosen jasmine, but preferred juniper berries instead, because they are a lot more accessible as a spice and not nearly as often discussed in this blog.

Most of us are probably familiar with juniper’s refreshing, woody and peppery aroma through gin. And gin is wonderful indeed - probably one of the most refreshing and interesting alcoholic beverages ever created. But there is more ways to enjoy juniper besides in gin and tonic.

Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a small conifer tree (or a shrub) that is generously widespread across the Northern Hemisphere - throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Its berries are in fact the tree’s cones, which only have 3 or 6 scales which are often fused, concealing this plant’s seeds. They are called berries because of their glossy, dark blue-black appearance. They take as long as 2-3 years to ripen and turn from green colour to blue-black.

Juniper is an unusual spice: it’s the one and only truly European spice (native to Europe than then imported from tropical countries). In fact, the highest grade berries that are used for culinary purposes are collected in Macedonia and Albania. Its main culinary use is in rubbing, marinades and sauces for wild game, as well as salmon. It is also traditionally used in sauerkraut and in various cooked cabbage dishes (i.e.: red cabbage with apples).

Juniper has valuable medicinal properties as an antiseptic and anti-bacterial. It was considered a cleansing, purifying plant and was used as such by the ancient Egyptians, who burnt it in their temples, and in Ayurvedic medicine. Juniper is especially powerful in cleansing the urinary tract of cystitis and infections - which might be why it is associated with male sexual health and partly why it’s considered an aphrodisiac. Native Americans used juniper berries as a contraceptive (don’t try that at home!), and to suppress appetite. It might also lower blood sugar and there was some research in its aids in controlling insulin levels in type 2 diabetics – but there are some concerns about it lowering it too much... In aromatherapy, it is used for similar effects as it has been in Europe since medieval times (in the concoctions that preceded gin): cleanse the body of toxins, cellulites, reduce inflammation, treat gout and rheumatism, clear cystitis and the like, and chase away colds and flu.

Gin is a component in several alcoholic beverages. The berries contain dextrose, which can be easily fermented to produce alcohol – a Juniper “brandy” (and in fact, many juniper essential oils are not actually steam distilled, but are a by product of this process). The Dutch and Belgians are known to be the first to create gin, along with other herbs and spices such as coriander, citrus peel and caraway - a concoction that was originally designed as a stomachic aid and to treat colds, gout etc. In this regard gin is not unlike most European liquors (and probably has been around in a different version as early as the 11th century). The name “gin” originates from “jenever” – juniper in Dutch or “genièvre” in French). Gin began as a medicinal concoction to treat stomach ailments, pain relief for lumbago (back pain) and it made its way to England after the 80 year war in the 17th century – the English soldiers discovered that it relaxes them before battle, leading to its title “Dutch courage”. Ironically, what began as a medicine for good health, has become a real problem in London – where gin was cleaner than water, and the entire city was intoxicated beyond belief, and it has become infested with home stills for poor quality gin flavoured liquors (usually highly sweetened to mask the vile aroma of turpentine which was often used in the drink rather than the true juniper berries). A far cry from the elegant and sophisticated London dry gins we can enjoy today. London has absorbed so much gin, to the point that theatre performances had to be cancelled because not only the audience but also the actors were too drunk to carry the shows… That is the historical reason for various regulations and rules that popped up regarding gin in 18th century London (and the various gin classifications and rules).

In skin and body care, juniper oil is used in soaps and aftershave for men because of its beautiful clean fragrance. It is also used in cosmetics to treat acne and oily skin.

But we’ve digressed far from the topic of this article: the aphrodisiac properties of juniper. First, in logical and analytical terms - in aromatherapy, juniper is used for it’s beneficial properties to the nervous system: it reduces anxiety, nervous tension and alleviates stress-related symptoms. It also lowers the blood pressure and reduces anxiety – all good things that can ease a less-confident person into a more relaxed state of mind. It has protective attributions in folklore and myth, and whether the person using it possesses this knowledge – feeling protected and secure certainly can help boost self esteem and other emotions that nourish personal relations and intimacy.

Juniper’s sensual aspect is subtle and not quite as easy to interpret as an aphrodisiac. It has a dry, elegant, spicy aroma that is not nearly as harsh as other coniferous notes, and that’s where its charm lies. The berries bare striking similarity in size and shape to those of allspice; and this is also true to their aroma. There is a peppery, warm yet clean dryness to them, which makes them smell sexy and masculine.

For the foodies among you – you must try at least once in your life the Espionage chocolate bar I've created with CocoaNymph. It has smoked salt and juniper and is like nothing else that ever touched your lips. Juniper berries can also be beautifully incorporated into your own personal mélange of Ras El Hanout.

The Sexiest Gin & Tonic Ever
2oz Gabriel Boudier’s Saffron Gin
3oz Blood Orange or Vanilla Bean Dry Soda
Slice of blood orange, for garnish

Use juniper berry oil in a relaxing, purifying bath blend with oils such as frankincense, cardamom, green cognac and ginger. In a diffuser in the bedroom, you may place a drop each of juniper, cypress and clary sage to create a clean, fresh atmosphere and clear the space for new love.

“Gin & Tonic” Silly yet Sensual Bath or Massage Blend
1 drop green cognac absolute
2 drops juniper essential oil*
2 drops lime essential oil
Add to a bath or to 1oz almond oil for a fun-tastik massage.

Please note: Essential oils are highly potent materials so use with care! Juniper oil is counter indicated for pregnant women, children under 12, as well as individuals suffering from kidney disease or cancer. This may also be true for cooking with the berries, so check with your health practitioner before indulging in a juniper overdose!

Additional reading:

Interesting info about using juniper berries in cooking

History of gin

Culinary uses for gin

Perfumes containing a respectable proportion of juniper berry are mostly masculine, as it adds a woody, elegant note that is clean and dry - to the point that it almost gives perfumes a masculine character by default: Bon Zai, Bois d'Hiver, Coriolan (Guerlain), l'Herbe Rouge, Ormonde Man (Ormonde Jayne), Polo (Ralph Lauren), Rebellius, Sombre Negra (Yosh), Terre de Bois (Miller Harris) and too many others to keep count of...

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Origins Ginger Essence

Bubbles by rickhanger
Bubbles, a photo by rickhanger on Flickr.

This zesty concoction will satisfy your thirst for a refreshing cup of ginger and lemon tea, sweetened with honey!
It is as simple as that – fresh, balsamic citrus notes of lemon and a hint of lime, the fresh and pungent yet warm spiciness of ginger sweetened with honey and sparkled with green tea undertones. There may be some trace amounts of vetiver and elemi – there is a hint of woodiness at the base, but overall this is a one-dimensional synergy with one aroma-therapeutic goal: to refresh you while keeping you calm and confident.
It is quite long lasting as well – a lot more than you would expect from such a fresh citrus perfume.
It smells very natural and young: no synthetic chemical notes disturbed my enjoyment of this uplifting juice!
If you like ginger and citrus and need a pick-me-up fragrance for those sleepy afternoon at the office – that would be a great choice.

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Sexy Ginger

Naked Ginger by Ayala Moriel
Naked Ginger, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the rhizome of a tropical plant, related to cardamom (as we mentioned earlier), only that it is the rhizomes, not the fruit or seed that is used – in herbal medicine, aromatherapy, as a culinary spice, and in perfume. Native to Southeast Asia, and cultiaved in tropical countries throughout the world - across Africa, the West Indies, Caribbeans, etc.

In Hawaii, the hoola dancers use the fragrant ginger flowers (or "lilies") in their leis along with plumeria, tuberose and gardenia. In aromatherapy, ginger is considered a nerve tonic, especially effective for nervous exhaustion and fatigue, and - similarly to its used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda - it is used to aid digestion and to fight colds, flu and other "moist and cold" respiratory and gustatory conditions.

Ginger Dry by Ayala Moriel
Ginger Dry, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

The dry roots can be cooked in soups, stews, chai teas and ground for herbal preparations, including some over-the-counter drugs against nausea. In countries where the root cannot be grown - it is mostly the dried rhizomes that were used, as a spice. Throughout North Africa and Arabia, dried and powdered ginger roots found their way to many spice blends such as Hawaij (Yemen), Baharat (Arabia) and Ras el Hanout (Morocco). The Druze in Lebanon, Syria and Israel/Palestine enjoy a warming drink throughout the winter made of dried ginger roots and a hulnejan root, that is believed to protect the body against colds and flu.

However, in European and Western cuisine, the dry roots (usually ground) are more widely used - for practical and historic reason: ginger is not native to those countries, and was introduced to them as a spice, imported from far away tropical countries aboard ships. Therefore - most of these cuisines have used the dried ginger root in spice mixes for breads, bread puddings, cookies, etc. - gingerbread and pumpkin spice being the two most popular and widely recognizable forms of ginger. And only later, as the cuisines of those countries became more versatile and open to the use of spice (with influences from North Africa, India, etc.) - they've also incoporated dried ginger roots in soups, stews and so-called "curry" blends from pre-ground (and usually un-roasted) spices.

The fresh root is better for chai, in my opinion (the dry one having a more musky, peculiar, and somewhat unpleasant after-note), and is used in countless Chinese, East Indian and South East Asian cuisines.

Ginger is good for indigestion, and is wonderful thing to add to bean stews to prevent discomforting gases that are often associated with this excellent-otherwise plant-based source of protein. It's used in countless Indian curries, including Rajam Chawal (beans and rice). Fresh ginger is easily incorporated in any stir-fry and in present in countless Chinese, Korean and Japanese stir-fries, soups, stews and dumplings. And of course - the slices of ginger are pickled in rice vinegar as an acidic accompaniment to sushi and sashimi. Fresh grated ginger - as well as its close relative, the galangal root - are an essential component in Southeast Asian curry pastes along with lemongrass and other citrusy components (kaffir lime leaf and zest, for example) - giving Thai and Malaysian curries their distinct freshness and balanced flavour.


Although for culinary and medicinal use both the dry and the fresh roots are used almost interchangeably, as far as aroma goes – there is quite a big difference between dry and fresh ginger: Fresh ginger oil smells Sharp, peppery, root-like, citrusy-fresh, earthy, woody, dry, a tad floral, grassy. Ginger oil from the dry roots smells rather unpleasant in my opinion - rather sharp, grassy, and even a little oily. However, ginger CO2 from the dry root smells candied, spicy, warm, sweet, overtones with hints of fresh-citrusy, tangy character, resembling closely the sensation when enjoying crystallized or candied stem ginger. Tart, sweet, warm and refreshing are a few of the adjectives that come to mind when experiencing a high quality ginger essence.

As an aphrodisiac, ginger works like most other warming spices – increase circulation and create a warm fuzzy feeling when smelled, inhaled or enjoyed in beverages and delicious foods. Ginger is also one of the main ingredients in pumpkin pie spice - which a famous study found that men found the scent to be most arousing. But most importantly - ginger tones the nervous system and dissolves nervous exhaustion and fatigue, neither is particularly sexy or appealing... In her book "The Fragrant Mind", world renown aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood recommends it against sexual anxieties, and recounts the oil's personality as very sexual and confident.

Using ginger in a menu for an aphrodisiac dinner would be a great idea – and also will help ease digestion, so that it does not get in the way of other things later on…It imparts a unique fresh and subtly pungent flavour to masalas, stir fries and curries. The fresh ginger root can be incorporated into beverages - cool or warm. warm ones, such as the classic chai tea or hulnejan I mentioned above, or more innovative concoctions such as Aftelier's Rose Ginger oolong, and my own Zangvil tea. Or cool ones - such as your own aphrodisiac "ginger ale" with fresh ginger juice, some honey or raw sugar and sparkling water and a slice of lemon, or add some ginger juice to a white wine like the Romans did. Ginger juice is quite a revitalizing beverage as long as it's balanced with less pungent fruit or vegetables - try juicing it with carrot, pineapple, orange - or any combination of these four that strikes your fancy!

Ginger Fresh by Ayala Moriel
Ginger Fresh, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

And of course - we can't forget about dessert! Besides the usual suspects (pumpkin pie, ginger snaps, candied ginger and ginger-spiked chocolate truffles or bars) - there are also more unusual ones to discover that I would have never dreamed of myself! When I saw Steamed Milk with Ginger on the menu of Sun Sui Wah (one of Vancouver’s finest Dim Sum restaurants), it sounded peculiar – as it sounded more like title of a a hot beverage in a coffee shop. When I finally mustered the courage to order it, I discovered that in fact it’s more like a pudding – and further research into the matter (when looking for a recipe) revealed that it is actually a Ginger Milk Curd - an unusual hot dessert that takes advantage of a chemical reaction between hot milk's proteins and fresh ginger juice, forming it immediately into squiggly, slippery pudding. I strongly urge you to try this at home – it is quite the delicacy, and there are even YouTube tutorials to guide you step by step!

For a sensual aphrodisiac massage with ginger, try this:

1Tbs light (aka unroasted) sesame oil

1 drop ginger essential oil or CO2

2 drops jasmine absolute

3 drops frankincense essential oil

You can may also use this blend to condition and perfume your hair.

For a revitalizing room scent, place in the diffuser one drop of each ginger, jasmine and lemongrass. You may also use this combination for a scented bath, to overcome fatigue - one of the worst mood killers after stress.

And of course - there are some perfumes that were already prepared and ready for you to revel in before you embark on your seductive adventures. Here are a few suggestions for aphrodisiac perfumes with a noticeable ginger note: Bois des Îles (Chanel), Camille (JoAnne Bassett), Classique (Jean Paul Gaultier), Cognac (Aftelier), Eau de Reglisse (Caron), Ginger Ciao (Yosh), Ginger Essence (Origins), L’Herbe Rouge, Lys Méditerranée, Orcas, Réglisse Noire (1000Flowers), Sahar (The Scented Djin), Tilda Swinton Like This (Etat Libre d’Orange), Zangvil.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Back to the Harbour

Today was a bright winter day. So beautiful that it reminded me of summer - easy to achieve when I'm at the warmth of my home looking at the sunny outdoors with the birds chirping on the tree. As long as I ignore how nakedly leafless the tree is.

And this sun was giving me just enough boost of inspiration to tackle the difficult matter of the Coal Harbour perfume. Those who have followed this blog know I've began working on it a couple of weeks ago. Those who can read my mind know that I've been contemplating this perfume, with mental notes and sketches of accords in my imagination (and recently also my notebooks) since summer 2009.

Artists are restless. The moment one thing nears completion (see: Etrog perfume) it only gives the confidence to approach more difficult projects that were avoided, procrastinated upon or completely neglected for no reason at all. And so with the progress on my Etrog perfume, I felt even more motivated to open the pandora bottle of the "Coal Harbour Accord" I built around seaweed absolute back in January. It was time to make it pretty.

I proceed cautiously and I will do so quietly for now. But what I have explored on blotter strips back in January is taking shape nicely in the bottle, drop by drop. And I've surprised myself when olibanum (frankincense) was calling for attention from the organ, waving to be included in this perfume. I always find it fascinating how one area of study or focus complements another. I've just finished writing about frankincense and it's been on my mind more than usual. And it seems just right in the perfume. Without me ever knowing it will be there. I love when surprises like that happen.

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