Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bowen Beauty & Adventures

Bowen Beauty by Ayala Moriel
Bowen Beauty, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

After visiting Artisan Square and Wren Boutique, miss T and I headed to the lagoon to snack on some overripe cherries; and than tried to make our way to Kilarnay Lake. We got lost on our way and wandered in the forest for much longer than the route was supposed to take - made a big detour and instead of the lake found ourselves in a beautiful meadow with a horse riding arena. The air was filled with a thick scent of coumarin. Rich, enveloping nutty goodness from unidentified wild grasses. Pure pleasure, which stopped us in our tracks for a nice resting time while writing in our little pocket journals... Laying on the grass, of course.

From than, we walked on towards the lake (still hoping) and instead encountered a beautiful grove of pale birch trees immersed in murky pond water, dotted with skank cabages and the like.
From then on, the lake was all too far away, at least if we were to eat any dinner that day and make it back home before the last ferry boat to Horseshoe Bay.

So we marched back towards Snugg Cove; and spotted a trio of unafraid deer roaming by the highway. What a lovely bunch! They let me get pretty close to them, and didn't quite run away. Are they becoming domesticated?!

As we were approaching the main street of "downtown Bowen" an inexplicably beautiful, rich, strange yet familiar smell wafted in the air. It was just by the atelier of a metal and wood worker Stacy Beamer. At first I was sure it must have something to do with all the wood and the fire... But a quick glance at the garden surrounding the atelier revealed it was the hemlock and cedar chips and needles lining the beds (why, of mint of course!). And there were also those gorgeous red-painted dead rhododendrons, which got only one living branch that sprouted a few leaves. They look like earthly corals!

I lingered for so long that even the artist at work noticed me among all the sparks and metal and noise around him; and came out to chat with me. It was the very same scent that greets you in Stanley Park in late summer and early fall: resinous, chypre scent of amber and sappy sweetness and hints of moss and dry cedar. The most gorgeous naturally-occurring perfume you can find on the Pacific Northwest. Now that I finally confirmed the source, I'm determined to bottle this up - there is nothing quite like it. I was fondling handfuls of this fragrant garden-lining and taking deep sniffs for about 10 times, taking breaks only because I wanted to minimize the olfactory fatigue, and get the full-strength of this beauty.

We had just enough time to stop at the Italian restaurant for potato, rosemary & sage pizza and delicious pear salad and Kir Royale (a dangerous mistake which resulted in a lost umbrella, and nearly cost me my an unwanted return trip to Bowen Island). We got back home way too late and with a renewed British Columbian excitement about getting out of the city a little more often...

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Etrog Reviewed by The Non-Blonde

Visit The Non-Blonde to read Gaia's review of my newest Etrog Oy de Cologne, alongside l'Arquiste's l'Etrog.
"Ayala Moriel's Etrog feels almost meditative: uplifting at first and then calming. Like the rare and expensive Etrog fruit itself, the perfume is almost mystical".

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bowen Island

White on Bowen Island
Bowen Island is only a few miles away from downtown Vancouver. Yet, somehow, I only visited it once in all my time here. Today was the perfect timing to come back there - and visit Wren Boutique, which carries my line for about 2 years now.
Follow the signs...
Getting off the ferry after only 20 minutes sail, I followed the signs leading to a shortcut trail to Artisan Square - the island's unique shopping destination where you can find art galleries, yoga studios, chocolate cafe and artisanal ateliers.
Inside WREN Boutique
Wren is a contemporary, eco-minded boutique that curates Canadian fashion, accessories and beauty lines - practically every island girl's dream, but also what visitors to the island from around the world would enjoy: local, sustainable, innovative designs in a chic and beautiful settings.

Erin Norgan, the owner, has art background, which shows in every nook and cranny of the shop: it's laid out in a simple, natural, contemporary style: inviting and harmonious, full of things to discover and marvel at without any clutter; yet not at all cold, pretentious or intimidating. Quite refreshing after all the hipster shopping destinations that dot Vancouver to no end. I loved how she uses reversed canvas frame as trays for the perfumes, or to frame articles she wants to highlight (bikinis, anyone?).

The trio of fragrances curated by Wren was to appeal first of all to Erin herself; but also to the locals who would appreciate a staple all-natural fragrance; as well as tourists that hail from everywhere to Artisan Square and want a truly West Coast scent to take home as a lingering souvenir:
Sabotage, a fresh, everyday unisex scent that is soapy-clean with hints of tobacco leaf; Tamya, a lovable fruity floral that can be taken from day to evening with a deliciously cheerful attitude; and Finjan, a spicy coffee scent that is more suitable for evening and special occasions (or instead of an espresso, for that matter...).

If you are ever in Vancouver area, a visit to Bowen Island is a must - it's fun to get away from the city's constant buzz and experiencing a sweet and short ferry ride is better than non at all - it's such a huge part of the life here by the water that you got to try it at least once. You can easily spend a day there on foot - there are trails, waterfront, kayaking, restaurants and even a public library if you need to stop and gather your thoughts...

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Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang

Amber by Andy von der Wurm
Amber, a photo by Andy von der Wurm on Flickr.

Amber Ylang Ylang is the second in the Private Collection series (the first one being Tuberose Gardenia and the third - Jasmine White Moss).

Although the first one was very true to the name and smelled like a big tuberose gardenia bouquet; the name in this number is a little misleading. It’s really more about amber than ylang ylang; and if anything – it would have been more accurate to call it either “Amber Heliotrope” or “Amber Incense”, or many other things that are much more apparent to the nose in this perfume.

Amber Ylang Ylang begins with a hit of citrus (which is hardly surprising; I can say with almost 100% confidence that almost any perfume on the planet has some citrus to being with). I’m smelling mandarin, though the website is listing bergamot. There is also a woodsy-powdery-sheerness that I would attribute to either rosewood or linalool (practically the same thing). But very quickly something floral creeps in, and it’s not ylang ylang. It’s the powdery, sweet, candied butter scent of heliotrope – vanilic yet with a hint of bitter almond or cherry pie to it. It smells deliciously addictive. There is also a certain floracly to it, but it’s not from any particular flower – I suspect it is actually from styrax – it has that lilac-and-glue-like quality without any petals anyone could point their fingers or count. The only hint or suggestions towards ylang ylang is perhaps the tiniest hint of methyl anthranilate and salicilates. If it’s there, it is so subtle that I keep asking myself - why bother naming it this way?

Then a powdery incense note weaves through the perfume with grace and refinement – a muted nag champa kind of smoking sweetness, making it easily appeal to the hippie crowds that could probably not afford even the lower end, gem-less eau de parfum bottle; and amber. Loads of amber resin just like what you’d find in Banyen Books (the 4th avenue shop of new age books and incense – good-quality and cheap-smelling, all side by side), with glorious resinous benzoin, coumarin, and a smidgeon of patchouli and labdanum. At long last (some 9 hours or more later), as the perfume dries down completely, you’ll find there is more than just a basic dosage of musk at its base. Amber Ylang Ylang could easily be called Amber Musk and give you a much better idea of what to expect. It’s a warm and cuddly kind of musk – not the “white musk” you find in most everything that comes out nowadays; but a more powdery, somewhat old-fashioned musk, reminiscent of the musk ketone of yesteryear.

Amber Ylang Ylang is not exactly boring or linear, but you’ll find very little surprises along the way. If you’re an amber lover, incense lover, musk lover or all three together – all the better for it. The price is a bit steep, and I suspect goes mainly to cover the costs of the gemstones embedded on the bottle's cap. It's not particularly original - it's just a cuddly ambery floriental, nothing ground breaking - but it sure smells good.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Monkey Monday: Best of Summer 2012

Please comment on the post from Sunday if you wish to enter our weekly giveaway!
Winner will receive a copy of my Foundation of Natural Perfumery course handbook.

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Curated for Nicole Bridger

Trio for Nicole Bridger by Ayala Moriel
Trio for Nicole Bridger, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Nicole Bridger is a local and sustainable fashion designer. Nicole designs are fluid, using luxurious organic and sustainable fabrics and creating very livable garments that go beyond seasons and trends. Each piece can take you from daytime to evening with ease and elegance.

Her boutique on 4th avenue is the newest retailer that carries Ayala Moriel Parfums!
I've curated this collection of 3 pure natural perfume oils for her unique Eco and health concious yet fashion-driven clientele.

This trio is designed to accompany you throughout an action-packed day with grace and subtlety:

Bon Zai will gently wrap your aura in morning walks along Kits beach to relaxing afternoon yoga.

Moon Breath will enhance your awareness as you navigate through your work day; while creating a soft, sensual aura that will surround you with warmth through evening time.

Palas Atena is for the bold woman who knows what she wants at work and in love; and will wrap you with an assuring feeling of confidence and natural glamour.

Each 5ml parfum oil is $65 and will last on the shelf for several years (if you wear it lavishly on a daily basis, it will take you under its wing for at least 6 months). Wear it on pulse points (wrists, behind ears, nape of the neck for a subtle presence; and if you want to create a larger aura of scent - also the bend of your elbow, behind your knees and between the breasts).

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Summer?

Summer 2012 by Ayala Moriel
Summer 2012, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

It's not summer unless you get slightly sunburned at least once without trying (not happeneing...); scraped by an underwater rock (check); and nearly get ran over by a boat (check and check!). While the last two happened, this summer was so ridiculous that the corn and cherries didn't ripen till about 3 weekends ago, there is a painful absence of red peppers, and the lineups for the tomatoes are nearly as long as that to the Madame Tussauds museum in London.

And since there was hardly any summer to speak of this year, reiterating the "best of summer 2012" seems to be a completely meaningless act. Yup, it's just about as bad as last year...!
And even going through my "summer themed" perfumes did not seem to work too well in coaxing the summer out of its shell; or making it stick around any longer. I think we got about 20 days of real summer at best; and this seems to be over already - before the school year has even began, there is that nippy morning chill in the air, and I've already had to wear socks and shoes one evening to keep my toes cozy.

I'll do my best though to do a little round up of whatever summer goodness I was able to snatch while it passed through here, barely touching the inhabitants of this town. Keep in mind that as always, this list is completely personal and has very little to do with new offerings on the market or any other hidden agenda.

While in past years I've been known for being as far as possible from being a scent monogamist of any sort - constantly rotating between scents, trying new things as they come along and as the mood strikes me, and being very eager to try new perfumes; In the past 3 years I've been in a long cycle of wearing mostly just my own creations. It's interesting how personal life changing events affect our emotional state and how that is reflected in anything from choice of colours to scents. In summer 2009, my mother has become very ill - it was a life threatening event at the point and I don't even want to go back to tell you what an awful experience it has been to all of us. But I will happily share the news that her recovery - though not fast - is complete; and she is happier than I've ever seen her before and was able to overcome what seemed impossible and regain and reclaim back her life and freedom. Amen to that! What an inspiring woman and full of surprises my mother is.

But this event have put me in an emotional roller-coaster which took a long gradual recovery from: Most of the commercial and synthetic-laden scents have been very unattractive to me, and I was definitely not going to wear anything that I was wearing at the time of the bad news... And it's only time and inspirational people and moments along the way that got me out of that rut. I still do prefer to wear my own perfumes, but at long last I'm curious again about other perfumes and don't feel as if they are taking up my lungs when I wear them.

The emotional stuff aside, I was also experiencing a sort of a burn-out from all the bombardment of new releases, which I more often than not - found to be quite disappointing. These are probably the two main reasons and explanation for why you could find very few new scent reviews on SmellyBlog in the last 3 years.

And as to why things are picking up again on SmellyBlog (at least on the perfume review front) is in many ways thanks to the inspiring encounter with all the fabulous perfumers and perfumistas at the Artisan Fragrance Salon. And most significantly - to reading Alyssa Harad's book launch and reading "Coming To My Senses" this summer, which revived and renewed my interest in vintage perfumes and perfume collecting in general; reminding me why I love perfume so much (not from the creator's point of view - thankfully non of that was lost in that traumatic summer!). I think her book is an amazing exploration of how scent relates to our lives and how it can connect people from different time zones, eras and cultural background; connect them on a very primal emotional level and at the same time there is no shortage of intellectual intrigue and cultural celebration while doing so.

So here comes my list of summery sensations and scent related beauties to enjoy and celebrate and remember this summer by (though more often than not, you will find me enveloped in one of my own scents - Orcas, New Orleans and Etrog being the most prominent this past spring and summer, and the new Treazon which is not due to come out till December but is already well stocked and bottled; but waiting for the new labels and packaging to be complete; for now you can order samples of it though):

Wildflower discovery:
Pearly everlasting.
Beautiful in and out - this flower has a soft, warm, spicy herbaceous scent, more deliacate than other helicrysums that I've smelled.
Pearly Everlasting

Favourite Summer Flowers:

Sweet peas and Angel's Trumpets. Both of which smell a lot like heliotropin and anisaldehyde.
And lots and lots of linden... It's not summer in Vancouver without a lot of it in the air!
Angel's Trumpet (Datura)

Note to obsess about:
I agree, not the first note that comes to mind when the word "summer" pops out; but it hasn't really been summer yet...

Best Beach Scent:
Narcotic Flower by 1000FLOWERS. Make it my favourite white floral of the summer as well!

Best Citrus Splash:
Eau d'Orange Verte is becoming a summer staple (when the weather cooperates) and I've been immensely enjoying Artemisia's Yuzu Citrus. And, of course - there was a lot of my new Etrog Oy de Cologne!

Summer Evening Scent:
Omniscent by Yosh

Soliflore Discovery:
Sweet William by Ineke. I didn't even know till now that sweet william is a type of carnation. Always something to be learned!

Spicy Surrpise:
Santal de Mysore - though I would have liked to smell a tad more sandalwood in it...

Favourite Scented Body Product:
Persephenie's Linden Blossom Dry Body & Hair Oil.
With it's subtle yet delicious notes of coconut and lime, Linden Blossom Dry Oil is a mouthwatering tropical treat. Spray all over the body for a non-greasy and non-clogging oil based moisturizer, or spray some on your finger tips to style and condition frizzy hair. It will keep it shiny yet not greasy and is perfect for dry or curly hair.

Surprise of the Summer (aka the 180 twist of faith):

. I think I actually like you better in the heat!
(Note to self: Seriously, Angel?!!)

Favourite Masculine Fragrance:
A*Men. Man, I love the coffee note in this scent!

Summer Read:
"Coming to my Senses" by Alyssa Harad.

Summer Cocktail:
Kir Royale and Midnight Violet

Midnight Violet Cocktail

Food Discovery:
Fresh tamarind pods, which taste delicious on their own; and using watermelon in a salad! Thanks to Alyssa Harad's tip (via Facebook), I've been making my own version with heirloom tomatoes, sweet onion, Macedonian feta cheese and lots of crisp fresh basil. All you need is a little drizzle of olive oil on top, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Champagne Peach & Thyme

But, I think the most profound food discovery this summer is using surprising fruit and herb combinations. I've really enjoyed the fruit & herb scented kombucha that Lisa Camasi brought to the party at Laurie Stern's home (more about that later); and have really enjoyed white peaches with fresh thyme, for example.

Vintage Discovery:
l'Aimant by Coty. I'm shocked at how modern it smells (very much a skin-musk, from sometime in the 60's). Reviews of all of these 4 to come soon!

Vintage Coty Parfum de Toilette set

Reason why I'm ok it will be fall in a few minutes:
Forest Walk by Sonoma Scent Studio. Certainly something to look forward to!
And don't get me wrong: I LOVE fall. I just like it better when there is a little bit of summer beforehand. It certainly makes the crisp air and fallen leaves seem more magical if there is a teeny tiny heat wave at some point in July or August.
Anyway, I will be looking forward to forest walks in Stanley Park and collecting fallen leaves while enrobed in this veil of foresty, musty and ambery perfume. It's very realistic and beautifully done.
Forest Walk (Sonoma Scent Studio)

Event of the summer:
Artisan Fragrance Salon (in case it's not obvious already...).

Challenge for this summer:
New packaging design for Ayala Moriel Parfums. I'm happy to report that there is huge progress and if all goes well, come fall I will have a lot to show you!

Trio for Nicole Bridger

Achievement of the summer:
Trio of perfumes curated for Nicole Bridger is now at their flagship boutique on 4th!
Including Bon Zai, Moon Breath and Palas Atena. Hope you like the new labels as much as I do :-)

Focus this summer:
Teaching, teaching and more teaching!
And I hope there will be even more of that come fall. This coming year is dedicated to turn my teaching into a more widely distributed book. And since it can never hurt to ask for help: if you know anyone who is really in the know in the publishing world (e-Publishing included) I would love to hear from you!
California stats

In lieu of Monkey Monday's giveaway, leave a comment with your best of summer scents and sensations; and you will get entered to win a copy of my Foundation of Natural Perfumery Course Handbook*

*Please note, this will not include any correspondence consultations sessions, only the book itself. But I hope that it will be a great motivation for the lucky winner to study perfumery in more depth in the future!

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Anatomy of Tamarind


My friend brought me some fruit - figs that she stole from yards in Kitsilano (an annual tradition, without which summer is not quite real for her... FYI: If she does not steal them, the fruit goes to waste. Fact).
She also brought me 6 tamarind pods, which looked like dry beans or very plump carobs; but inside their brittle pods is a soft, pliable, date-like textured pulp. Inside it there are pits.

A couple of days later, I promptly turned into a refreshing drink. The flavour is not nearly as intense as I remember it from the tamarind merchants in the Jerusalem's souk; though it's not unlikely that my memory is confusing them with that of "souss" aka licorice root drink.

I'm sure there are many better recipes out there for tamarind refreshments; what I did was simply peel off the shells, and soak the pulp in boiling water (just enough to cover). That makes removing the seeds or pits quite an easy task. Let the pulp sit for a while, until very soft (I just forgot about it for a couple of hours); then strain and push it through a fine sieve, and dilute with more water. I used only 6 pods for a whole liter of water. Add a sweetener to taste: either raw sugar, or agave syrup. It's cooling and refreshing, and could also make a great base for cocktails. If you have any other ideas for using tamarind I'm listening!

Tamarind by Ayala Moriel
Tamarind, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Monkey Monday Winner (Perfume Player?)

Thanks to those of you who commented with your opinions on the verdict for my friend's faux-suitor. The lucky arrows are pointing at semiloner to receive the bottle of Pink Praline by Soivohle. Congratulations - and don't forget to email me your snail mail address!

As for the rest of the story: Based on my expert fragrance advice, my friend decided to scheme a little and for their next date, she sprayed her neck with the Angel sample he's given her, dabbed some Bvlgari Femme on her wrists, and rubbed her chest with l'Herbe Rouge (the most masculine scent I was able to come up with from my collection). He never showed up though to smell this olfactory dissonance, which only proves our theory that he's a player and has his hands stirring in a few pots simultaneously (a great skill for a chef to have, but not a virtue that you want to find in a lover...).

We're still happy to hear your ideas and takes on the subject of perfume infidelity, so please do keep them coming!

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Narcotic Flower

Beach Flower by Ayala Moriel
Beach Flower, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

You know it's the peak of summer when this honeysuckle tree is in bloom behind the lifeguard station at Sunset Beach. It might not actually be honeysuckle, but it sure smells like it. And so does 1000Flowers' Narcotic Flowers: masterfully composed white floral that I was fortunate to receive as a gift from my dear friend, and its very creator - Jessica Buchanan. Our paths crossed again last summer during an extended trip of hers to the city of mountains and sea. And Narcotic Flower was the only comforting thing I had at a time when my heart was literally smashing to pieces.

Normally, this would keep me away from a perfume (who wants to experience that again?) but since my heart is probably still smashed to pieces (which I keep searching for in the gritty sands of Sunset Beach) - it still has the comforting effect on me: a shining star in the heavy water; a bright flower atop a bed of dark soil.

Narcotic Flower is the first all-natural perfume in 1000Flowers stellar collection of artisan, hand-crafted perfumes. It only became last December; so I was not allowed to talk about it then. Which might be a good thing, because it gave me a little extra time to experience it and crystallize my impressions into words...

Narcotic Flowers begins a little peachy, with natural aldehyde C-14 and white magnolia. It quickly becomes apparent that it's all about indole: a very sheer, floral interpretation of the subject, where jasmine takes centre stage but is adorned by fruity accents from the abovementioned elements; as well others that are very seamlessly blended (rose, osmanthus, tuberose and narcissus).

Narcotic Flower very slowly dissipates, retaining its very floral and vibrant qualities to the end. And somewhere along the way you will notice its very underlining sensuality of dusky patchouli, radiating a salty warmth, alongside musky opoponax resin (which Jessica tinctures herself). The Atlas cedar, vanilla and labdanum are mere accents, adding complexity - it never really gets all ambery and resinous or thick. It's really mostly about patchouli and indole - yet without ever smelling in the least dirty. Patchouli and indole with hints of fruits and flowers - how you *wish* that all the fruitchoulis were (if someone was to pay any attention to balance and subtlety instead of churning up obnoxious blockbusters). A prime example of how patchouli and flowers can work together without being in the least vulgar or cliche. To me it's the perfect beach scent.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Patchouli, Plastic, Prada

la diva.. by luana183
la diva.., a photo by luana183 on Flickr.

Initially, I picked to review this perfume because it's in my "patchouli file". But after repeated applications, and especially after reviewing the other patchouli fragrances, I'm discovering it's on the very other end of the patchouli spectrum, where light, amber and sheer plastic flowers meet for a little public display of affection.

Prada opens a little more floral than expected. Not any particular floral, but more of the floral top notes that amber accords tends to have: the lilac-and-epoxy-glue symphony from liquidambar (aka styrax) and an overall sheer, crystalline effect. If there is any patchouli in there it's completely secondary. The resins are taking centre stage, and while they are sweet, they also have a certain transparency about them that is more woody than foody. It has a simple, flat personality from an overdoze of benzoin (a caramal-like resin that has an understated, powdery yet lasting effect), and peru balsam (which is a thinner and flatter vanilla, with hints of woods). The patchouli has only a balancing act: contributing dryness counterpoint like a throaty red wine with vanilla poached pear. It whispers, never shouts. It gives the vanilla way too much elbow room and as a result the perfume feels very flat - a flat amber accord with dry nuances from patchouli.

The vanilla intensifies over time and becomes a little syrupy only half an hour in. I really wish there was more dry presence to make it ever so slightly less ambery. Prada's other flankers might be more intriguing in that regard (especially the Ambre Pour Homme Intense), but still - it's very decidedly agreeable, which comes at the expense of intrigue or mischief. It smells extremely similar to Dior Addict's vinyl and pleather vanilla theme; and very much like Notorious, just less aquatic and without that dusting of cocoa.

There is no shortage of amber scents in the world in 2004, when Prada debuted, and although I can't pretend it's groundbreaking and I've never even managed to get through half of my 2ml sample - there was certainly refreshing to observe its commercial success despite the fact that it was neither a nondescript floral nor a foody fruity floral. And a lot of others followed with patchouli-centered fragrances, which quickly turned into the much dreaded (though still better than the previous) "fruitchoulis" - those faux "chypre" compositions that juxtapose the mass appeal of candy and fruit notes with an ever so slightly sophisticated scent of natural patchouli and perhaps a few other surprises that none of us would ever sign up for (watery notes, anyone?), such as Black Orchid (Tom Ford), Notorioius (Ralph Lauren) and more.

I find the abundance of flankers from this label confusing at best, but I shall try the Prada Intense to see if it's more patchouli-centered (and hopefully also more to my liking).

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Must Watch: Two Indie Swiss Perfumers

Fascinating video about two indie Swiss perfumers: Vero Kern and Andy Tauer.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Monkey Monday: Player - or Scent-Slut?

As promised last week, I was going to tell you the story of my friend (who brought me a sample of Angel). So, we met at the beach and she was telling me about this guy she went on 2 dates with. On the 2ndn one things got a little steamier, and she couldn't help but notice that on top of the colgone on his neck (Armani Code - kinda fruity woody-oriental that she could recognize from the 1st date), and on his wrists (A*Men - delicious coffee, patchouli and cocoa), there was a very familiar scent all over his chest too...
It took her a few moments to figure out what cause an olfactory cognitive dissonance - and an ever so slightly sense of mistrust:
The perfume of questions, which she first thought might be Jean-Paul Gautier's Classique (the one in the feminine torso), was non other than the rosy-violet sweetness of Bvlgari pour Femme.
In other words: The man could have very possibly just been in the arms of another woman (which can be hardly considered infidelity in this context; but still...). Or: he was a scent-slut and was trying on all kinds of smelly things on...

When she humourously confronted him about it (after all, no girl wants to come across as "jealous" on the 2nd date. We're in year 2012, after all!), he went on about how he just met this lady friend who works at The Bay (and who, fair enough, let him try A*Men and was generous enough to give him a bunch of more Angel samples to give to all the other ladies he's trying to get involved with). Supposedly, according to his robust theory, his friend is a big woman and gave him a big hug, which doused his shirt with Bvlgari Pour Femme; and later when he stopped to drink from a water fountain, the scent further penetrated his shirt to cover his chest...
End of story.

And now I'm passing the ball to you: Do you think his story is true? Is he a player? Or just likes to douse himself with very strong perfumes (and/or strongly scented women)?
I will tell you what my friend decided later...

Among the commenters, there will be a lucky draw on Friday (promise!) to win a bottle of Pink Praline by Soivohle'.

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Monkey Monday Winner (Miss T's Choice)

Cheap & Chic

Miss T picked Moschino's Cheap & Chic, which comes in a ridiculously silly Olive Oyl sillouhetted bottle.
Her camp counsillor was wearing Banana Republic's Rosewood. She had no idea what the brand was, because the "BR" was the only logo on it... Note to self: wait till you are very very famous before you use only a logo on your perfume bottles. Noted. Twice.

Since no one really came close, I've decided to toss a coin between the two lurkers who added their comments last week. And the winner is: Bev Erly.
You won a Tamya mini, plus a purse spray of Fresh Index' Pomegranate Anise :-)
Email me your mailing address so that I can send your prizes!

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Patchouli Days

Someone turned up the heat in Vancouver, and must have also switched the "patchouli" button in me because I'm still craving this musky, pungent and unusual note for over a week.

While taking advantage of whatever little is left of Film Noir sugar scrubs on my bath tab shelf, I dab a tad of Film Noir parfum on to complete the patchouli theme - resinous, thick and rather ancient patchoulis paired with chocolate and benzoin.

But the more "experimental" thing to try in this unusual weather was a spray on each armpit with "Refresh" by Yuko Fukami (Parfum Phyto). She made this special blend as a deodorant, and although don't know everything that's in it, I can tell you that it smells like a lovely melange of lavender, ylang ylang and pathcouli - and thankfully none is particularly strong (I'm not a fan of strongly scented deodorants); yet the patchouli lingers on nicely and beautifully masks the musky eau de armpits. At least it did in the last two days, which were the hottest of the year so far! And that's very impressive for an all-natural deodorant (which can be usually deemed useless).

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Sail!

Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver - full blast heat (28c/83F). Sooo - we're having our 1st ever "Summer Sail"!
It will run through August 19th at midnight. All orders with promo code "Sale Away!" in the comment box (this appears as a "note to seller" during the checkout) will qualify for 25% off for all full-sized perfume from all of the collections, and minis from the Liquid Poetry Collection, and is also valid for our OOAK Perfumes!!!

* While quantities last. Does not combine with other offers. Not valid for candles, body products, sample packages, Liquid Poetry samples, and minis from the regular collection.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I’ve been postponing for years reviewing Angel – because it is not only such a huge commercial hit and an icon with a huge cult following; but also because of its divisive nature. People either love it with a passion, or hate it with just an equal amount of gusto.

Reading through previous notes I made in attempts to describe it might shed some light on my own ambivalence towards it. But first – some background information about how I met Angel. It was introduced to me by a perfume-loving friend. She had blue streaks in her jet-black hair, and the sweet-tooth equivalent in perfume taste. It was at the time when I began going crazy for perfume myself, and I was mostly dousing myself with heavy Orientals: there was not a day without either Shalimar or Samsara, and I craved those perfumed sweets with an ongoing hunger. Angel should have fit right there with all that yumminess; except that it was – well; too much. And although I enjoyed the unsolicited compliments about how good I smelled (from people about 5 meters away from my vicinity) - Angel was one of those rare perfumes I had to return to the store because it did cause me headache at the time, not to mention would never leave my coat’s sleeves, forever clashing with the next day’s scent.

So here are some previoius thoughts on the subject of Angel:

“If you want to be possessed by an angel put some of Thierry Mugler's first fragrance on. It will occupy all the olfactory space around you and leave a visibly blue trail of synthetic chocolate scent behind you. Deliciously sweet chocolate, caramel and honey are strangely balanced by less appetizing notes of patchouli and watery, slightly musty helonial. Most recommended for those on extreme carb-free diet”.


“Angel is the proof that too much of a good thing can indeed be quite bad. Chocolate, honey and caramel – who would have thought that these could be worn as a deadly weapon?”


“This cutting edge, trend setting Gourmand should be praised for its originality, but not for subtlety or finesse. It’s easy to cross the line – it takes only a few misty droplets from the with a fraction of a spritz - between mouthwatering, naïve sweet tooth seduction to a repulsive blue chemical acid – reeking of patchouli in doses that can cause an eating disorder*.

*Patchouli is known for its effect on the appetite and is used in aromatherapy to control and regulate it. Over exposure to patchouli can cause nausea and pathological lack of appetite.

To try Angel anew after many years of feeling about it as the above feelings of “it’s too much” requires much open-mindedness, which apparently I’m not short of. And so the opportunity arose just a few days ago.

It was a warm evening at the beach, and a friend brought me a little sample to try (a token from a faux-admirer of hers, which is another story altogether…). I felt compelled to give it another try, and with the comfort of knowing I can always tone it down in saltwater I gave my right writs a spritz, and rubbed this on to my left one. To use any other word but “sweet” is impossible to describe the opening: a mixture of cotton candy, honey nougat and caramel is what I would have experienced for a while; with only slight floral hints of anisaldehyde, and spacious helional that imparts an ozone-like character. There is something oddly clean underneath it all though, which balances the sweetness in a quite surprising way, as well as a barely-there acid blackberry accord and a hit of bergamot. Crystalline amber accord, with a certain clean woody aspect to it. And there’s also the marzipan, buttery-powdery sweetness of coumarin to anchor that floralcy and spiciness from the anisaldehyde.

And then comes patchouli; which is the redeeming point of this otherwise overtly sugary-sweet concoction. Patchouli that you would smell on your skin for hours and hours – soft, musky, seductive. Real patchouli, thank goodness. So, ladies – and gentlemen – if you wish to try this scent, I recommend you use the lightest of hand (one dab will suffice to perfume your entire aura so do not go overboard!).

It is not till now that I can see references and suggestions towards non other than the grand Shalimar – as if this was a modern homage to this overt luxury: ethyl maltol takes vanillin’s place on the synthetics front; and patchouli creates a contrast and a balance similar to what the leather and castoreum note did in Shalimar, and tonka bean is replaced completely by synthetic coumarin. And it also does not feel nearly as linear as before (though it is still rather linear), with some notes (honey, anisaldehyde for instance) appearing in the beginning and quickly dissipating (mostly into pathcouli, coumarin and ethyl maltol). And in both, bergamot plays a big role balancing the sweetness of the base and core. Interestingly, although it is often touted as a “patchouli and chocolate perfume”, it is well-known industry “secret” that it’s mostly about ethyl maltol (aka Veltol) and patchouli, and although the chocolate impression was requested by Thierry Mugler in the brief, there is no actual cacao or chocolate accord in the formulae…

Love Angel or hate it – one thing is for certain: Since its conception in 1992 (by perfumers Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chiris), Angel has changed the modern world of perfume, and in particular the Gourmand genre more than any other perfume. There is no distinct floral note in Angel (unless you have a very well-trained nose to notice some of the floral nuances), and it relies heavily on food-like elements. After Angel came many sensational gourmand perfumes such as Lolita Lempicka and Yohji, as well as the masculine versions of all three. And less sensational fragrances that took the gourmand and patchouli into various direction – from the more adventurous – albeit sickening - aquatic & fruit patchouli mess (as in Coco Mademoiselle and many of her other copycats) to fruity and candy-like gourmands that are endorsed by every other celebrity on the planet.

You can also read more insights into Angel’s significance in Bois de Jasmin’s excellent article on the subject.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Monkey Monday Re-Run

No one guessed last week's riddle so I'm extending it for another week... So please take a guess at Miss T's choice! New commenters, lurkers et al are welcome too :-)

Winner gets a Tamya mini and a Fresh Index Pomegranate Anise purse spray (my fav from the Fresh Index series, by the way).

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Jalaine's Patchouli

Caramel latte machiato by mspt47
Caramel latte machiato, a photo by mspt47 on Flickr.

The equivalent of caramel machiato of patchouli, Jalaine's take on the subject. Pairing it with a high-calorie dose of sweet notes, Jalaine's Patchouli has smoothed out all the rough edges of patchouli to make it more palatable for the sweet-tooth crowds. The results is a resinous, addictive patchouli with a shot of vanilla syrup, sugary amber and musks to boot, which seems to be an ongoing theme in the Jalaine line.

The texture adds another layer to the experience: the concoction is suspended in an emollient base that gives it the appearance of a highly concentrated luxury item, but I suspect is non other than DGP. It is overall linear, but I'm sure it satisfies the die-hard patchouli-fans who are searching for something more luxurious than an amber glass bottle from the festival bazaar (or headshop, for that matter). They certainly come in a much fancier bottle: cut-crystal with a glass rod dabber.

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Patchouli Antique

Les Nereides' Patchouli Antique was one of the very first niche perfumes I tried that were shamelessly patchouli-centred. I immediately fell for it's slightly "off" (as in rancid) note of aged patchouli and its Bohemian flare, reminiscent of dusty woolen paisley shawls.

The dustiness, woody-dry and pungent character gets accentuated yet balanced with diffusive musks that soften it a fair amount. And then comes vanilla - a warm-woody vanilla, that calms it all down and creates a smooth, warm yet not quite edible feel. It's never too sweet, and never too dry either. And that balance is the best part about Patchouli Antique.

If it wasn't for my encounter with Mazzolari's it would have likely remained my most favourite patchouli-single-note of them all. Ahh, the sorrows of comparison! When putting side by side supposedly similar scents (perfume composition or single notes) it may get very confusing - wither highlighting their differences to the point that you can't smell the patchouli anymore if it's more subdued than other; or a complete blur if they are all well too similar. Just a little warning...

Notes: Patchouli, Musk, Vanilla

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Jam-Session by Ayala Moriel
Jam-Session, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

This morning was off to a good start with a coffee at Preserved BC Sunshine headquarters at Kitsilano. Karin Brauch is the owner and master-jammer and creative force behind the artisan preserves and condiments company. Karin is a kindred spirit and I am always looking forward to her market appearance and seasonal surprises.

Flowery Sugars
She infuses her sugar-reduced fruit preserves with other sutble flavours, from spirits to herbs or spices. They have a real fruit flavour and are made from the freshest local produce, including some foraged berries. Last night, Karin stayed up till the wee hours of the night stirring her wild blackberries, which she shared with me on this stormy morning. It was full-bodied, deliciously smooth and slightly caramel-like and very full-bodied.

Other unusual flavours that were not at the market (some fruit is harder to find and she might make just a handful of jars, which she saves for special occasions - or special customers!), such as her slightly tart Mirabelle plum preserves, also packed with flavour; rhubarb, strawberry & raspberry preserves; raspberry preserves (which is very expensive and rare this year, because of the wet summer - a lot of the fruit, unless it was grown undercovers, has turned moldy); and the highlight of my day: golden currants with elderflowers!

Karin's tomatoes & marigolds

Karin is also an avid gardener, and grows her own herbs from which she makes her herbal tisanes. My favourite is the "Happy" blend - with peppermint, spearmint, rose petals and cacao nibs. She also plucks these pretty marigolds for her other tea blends (which will soon come in pretty jars as pictured below).

Organic Tisanes by Preserved BC Sunshine

Karin also recently introduced flowery sugars to her collection: rose sugar and lavender sugar, which you can incorporate into your favourite shortbread recipe for a memorable aromatic experience; or sprinkle on top of puddings and deserts for finishing touch. I use rose sugar in my Rosy Rhubarb Crumble. The lavender sugar will go very well with a blackberry & peach crumble.

Karin's herbs

And if your sweet tooth is tired of all the goodness, there are also savoury condiments such as the fabulous wine jellies, pepper jellies, Smiling Coyote salsa, chutneys and more; and - lo and behold: the finest fleur de sel and volcanic salts fresh from the pristine shores of the Canary Islands, where Karin spends a month or two each year to reunite with her family abroad.

Last but not least: there is the newest product Purenola, which her daughter Julia invented: it's a grain-free "granola" with chia seeds, hemp hearts and packed with nuts, honey and spice. A little goes a long way, which makes it perfect for travel for many reasons (if you know chia you'll know why!).

I could have easily spent another hour or two with Karin sharing recipes, travel and family stories and admiring her 2 golden labs; but she had to get ready for the afternoon's farmers' market at Main & Terminal; and I had to come home and blog about it!

Champagne Peach & Thyme

But she wouldn't let me go without a bundle of freshly cut herbs from her lovely garden: fragrant & slightly citrusy bay leaves, a branch of rosemary, sage (which she instructed me to sautee in butter and add to pasta for the most easy & elegant dinner affair) and thyme which I am dying to add to my white peaches!

And on that note, of herb-infused fruit, I will have to say goodbye for now and hope you will all take a moment to visit Karin at her virtual home or if you are in Vancouver, check out her tent at the farmers' market near you.

Karin's Tomatoes

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mazzolari's Patchouli

While beginning with a rather pungent patchouli attack, Mazzolari's is actually surprisingly a round, soft patchouli. There is very little in the way of evolution, so don't expect a cast of character to participate in what would be a rather epic journey (most patchoulis last literally forever). Benzoin is perhaps the most noticeable element to join in patchouli's wine-like, fermented-berry qualities. Labdanum further adds to its resinous, honeyed notes. Rich, smooth, linear and strangely comforting, this patchouli is sure to satisfy the craving yet without raising any suspicion that you're trying to mask a certain habit. Amber makes it sweet and warm as could ever be, truly rounding off the dry, bitter and earthy-dusty notes that patchouli often times has. And honey renders it almost edible, resulting in a patchouli single-note that is luxurious, majestic patchouli at its best.

Notes: Patchouli, Benzoin, Labdanum, Amber, Honey.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Coriander and Other Discoveries

I know everyone is mad for Coriander by Kiehl's, and since I was working on a coriander themed perfume this morning (more on that at another time); I went to check it out again only to find out their entire fragrance line except Original Musk is being discontinued. Probably to make room for the shiny and new Aromatic Blends aka body mists that do not seem particularly promising, though I'm sure they will be very inoffensive.

The only essence roll-ons they had at the Robson location were Pear and Grapefruit (neither of which I like - overpowering fruity notes are only fun in shampoo, in my humble opinion). But they still had testers of a few other things, including Coriander and Cucumber.

I'm still not "getting" Coriander (it remains, to me, overly fruity - see my above comment), with a slightly floral treatment on the coriander-linalool theme, drying down to a nondescript woodsy raspberry... But fell in love with an unlabeled scent which I suspect is Pour Homme. There couldn't be a less imaginative yet more descriptive way to name it...

Pour Homme begins with a brisk, decidedly masculine surge of aromatics: pine, lime, lavender and hay. An undercurrent of musky-woody-tobacco notes keep it from being just another fougere. It's very bold, and in my humble opinion the only well-rounded, true "perfume" composition among these scents (although, Original Musk is also brilliantly constructed). While the other scents feel more like different "smells" to amuse one's nose, inspire blending and mashups, or more likely - functional uses (add to this lotion or another); Pour Homme has a beginning, middle and end like a classic perfume. Even though, most North American men will object to labeling it "perfume" and would call it "cologne". It has the classic fougere boldness that could give either a man or a woman an unlikely dosage of courage. That dry tobacco note, melding with woods and hints of raspberry ketones is intriguing and sensual and masculine in the best possible of ways.

P.s. Tomorrow's 1st task: going back to the store to beg for the tester, since no one seems to want it anyway...

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Monkey Monday: Miss T's Choice

First of all: Happy BC Day!
While all of you are back to work, we British Columbians are getting an extra day of summer fun at the beach, kayaking away or visiting Powell Street festival (Miss T and I are yet to make up our minds, but the options are wide open!).

Last week, my daughter came out of her room all smiles and was warning me: "Don't eat perfume!". I noticed an unusual yet familiar scent around her, but I ignored it as I was too busy making breakfast etc.

As I stepped into her room for a moment, there was no denying the fragrance: Oh my - the entire room reeked of perfume! I looked at the funny looking bottled it came from, laughed and asked her to let me smell her perfume; a request upon which she stretched out her wrists in front of my nose, just like a pro... She certainly is my daughter (not that I ever had any doubts...). The perfume is well-made, yet humorous, abstract fruity floral (I can't really pinpoint any particular notes in it, they are all pretty much "made up" but in a good way). It's modern, yet not nearly as disgusting, boring, edible and lame as what most young girls are "supposed" to wear these days. Lastly, it's older than Miss T, but not that old: it was released in the 90's.

It was a happy day for her, that perfume must have put her in a particularly good mood! And the next day, her camp councilor brought a makeup kit for a "style contest" activity, plus her own perfume for Miss T to smell: a fairly recent (though not shiny-new) sweet-woody-musky scent by a rather conservative mainstream North American luxury clothing line. Needless to say, Tamya won the "Best Style" award that week!

So - for today, you get 2 chances to win our weekly prize, if you guess either or both perfumes correctly: what my daughter picked to wear to summer camp; and what her camp leader was wearing.

The prize: a mini of Tamya, and a mini spray of Fresh Index Pomegranate Anise.

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Rebranding & Packaging Progress Report

Signature Collection - Tamya packaging mockup
Summer is the best time of the year to get caught up on creative projects that are important, yet get shoved to the back burner the rest of the year. Something about that extra bit of sun, longer days and time to relax at the beach seems to consistently bring more focus and allow me and my creative team to get fully immersed in such undertaking.

And this year, my graphic designer and I are finally getting this done - rebranding and new packaging design for my 4 collections: Signature, Agent M, Language of Flowers and Liquid Poetry. Here are some snapshots from our very first meeting of asessing mockups for the 3D packaging solutions. Please ignore the hand-cut quality of these mockups. It's the look we're after, not the finesse of the details (which will come later, once it's all printed professionally, cut in the same manner, and hand-assembled by yours truly and my little elves - all known for great attention to detail and meticulous dedication to perfection).

Outer packaging treatment - signature collection
Signature collection - outer packaging treatment. Variation in colours will also reflect each bottle's label.

Agent M Collection
Agent M Collection - this is more masculine (or possibly unisex). We might have colour variations, but these are the first 3 options for an overall look. Possible to have 2 colour variations for "cool" and for "warm" scents. But no more than that.
Outer packaging treatment - Agent M Collection
Agent M outer packaging treatment.

Language of Flowers Soliflore Collection
Language of Flowers Soliflore Collection. 2 different treatments - and the next ones will be somewhere in the middle (and probably vertically oriented...).

Liquid Poetry Collection
Liquid Poetry Collection. These are made of the most exquisite oils, abstract concepts at times, and the focus has to remain the jus in the bottle. Not likely to have any colour variations in the labeling.

The journey continues, and there is still much work to be done on all fronts (not to mention printing, cutting and assembling all these once the designs are ready). But it's all beginning to become clearer and I'm happy that we are making the most out our resources (existing bottles and boxes) yet creating a new fresh look that will better reflect the individuality of each perfume in a less monotonous way (the previous branding established the Ayala Moriel brand; the new branding is supposed to highlight the qualities of each scent or "collection" and make it easier for my customers and clients to pick as scent more intuitively; yet without the risk of visual clutter).

I'm happy to share these with you, and although I'm happy with the direction it's all going and know this is what I've envisioned, it's always great to hear feedback from my customers as well. So feel free to comment!

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Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon

This fall, the Artisan Fragrance Salon will return - and this time it will be hosted in Los Angeles - or Santa Monica, to be exact.
I'm thrilled to announce that Ayala Moriel Parfums will be one of the 20 leading artisan perfumers who will be attending the salon - who are hailing from all parts of North America.

According to Basenotes:
"Fragrance aficionados, fanatics, buyers and journalists can experience the finest in artisan, custom, niche & premium aromas.

Featuring a quality selection chosen and curated by the Organizers, the 1st Annual Los Angeles ARTISAN FRAGRANCE SALON participants include local, regional and national fragrance makers, as well as Salon highlights featuring olfactory tastings, panels and demonstrations, new product launches, author talks, and book signings.More information and a full list of exhibitors can be found at".

You can read more on Basenotes.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

Isolate Quiz Winner

Thank you to everyone who tried their hand at the isolates quiz this week! You all did a pretty good research job - I'm impressed :-)
Here are the questions again - plus the correct answers:

1) What is the name of the molecule that gives spearmint its characteristic scent?
Spearmint has many components in it, but the most characteristic is l-carvone. The "l" is short for laevo-carvone, or levorotary, which means "left handed" - as the propyl radical C3H5 points to the left. In d-carvone, the right-handed (dextorotary) propyl radical creates the characteristic scent of dill or is a little similar to caraway. The formula for both molecules is C10H14O, but their structure is different, resulting in two very distinctive smells.

2) What's the common isolate for these three oils: Hay Lime and Tonka Bean?
Coumarin. Yes, lime is an unusual citrus in that it contains coumarin!

3) What isolate is used to produce the drug Ecstasy?
No one got this one. You all guessed safrole, which is often the start material for heliotropin - which is the correct answer for this question. Also known as piperonal (whose micromagnetic photo was used to illustrate that post), heliotropin requires special licensing when purchased in the USA. It smells like almonds and vanilla, or cherry pie, and very similar to the beautiful scent of the flower heliotrope. More about the flower at another time!

4) What's a characteristic molecule that's common to orange blossom, tuberose and ylang ylang?
Methyl anthranilate. This ester smells like concord grapes with hints of wintergreen, and is responsible for the sweet-fruity, slightly medicinal aspect of these essences. It's also present in jasmine, but I did not want to mention jasmine as to not confuse you with indole. Indole, by the way, is not present in ylang ylang or tuberose. What gives ylang ylang its characteristic animal scent is another molecule altogether, called paracresyl methyl ether.

5) What does citral smell like? And what plant(s) essential oil(s) has/have the highest citral content?
I made this one too easy for you. I was going to select Geraniol, but knew it would be too confusing. So yes, most of you got this correctly. Citral is a characteristic smell of lemon, although most of lemon is just limonene (generic lemon-orange scent). It's the citral that gives it the sweet "lemon drop" aspect, which is even furthermore pronounced in Litsea Cubeba and Lemon Myrtle. It's also present in large amounts in citronella, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon balms and others - but it is very easily recognizable and dominant in Litsea Cubeba aka May Chang, and in Lemon Myrtle, where it comprises more than 90% of the oil.
Citral is of significance, because it is the starting point of many other natural compounds that would have been very expensive to produce or isolate directly from the plant. For example: alpha ionone, which smells nothing like citral - but has the warm-woody scent of candied violets!

Because many of those who answered correctly have already won more than once on SmellyBlog, the winner was not randomly selected this time, but hand-picked by the editor. Congratulations to BridgetTheodore - you won a bottle of Go Ask Alice by En Voyage Perfumes! Please contact me via email - ayala (at) with your mailing address to claim your prize.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Decoding Obsucre Notes Part X: Peculiar Mint (aka Patchouli)

Patchouli Leaves by Ayala Moriel
Patchouli Leaves, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
While patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is strongly associated with the hippie movement in modern Western cultures, this fragrant plant was used for centuries in Asia, where it originates, for many uses, including incense, medicine and even as a "functional fragrance" for its potent insect repellent properties. It's also called Patchouly, Pachouli, Ellai (in Tamil), Xuloti (in Assamese) or Puchaput (Hindi). The origin of these names is the Hindi words "Patch" (green) and Illai ("leaf").

In modern perfumery, it is one of those rare and few natural raw materials that cannot be reproduced in the lab (or at least not cost-effectively). So when you detect patchouli's distinct scent in a perfume, you can at least tell that this one component came from a natural source.

Patchouli is native to tropical Asia and is cultivated in similar climates (i.e.: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillipines, and even in West Africa). The best quality of patchouli, however, comes from Indonesia and India.

Patchouli is a very special and distinct note. It would be difficult to describe it to someone who've never smelled it; and once you have experienced patchouli, you are very unlikely to forget it!

Cockspur Patchouli by dinesh_valke
Cockspur Patchouli, a photo by dinesh_valke on Flickr.

Although it is extracted from the leaves of a plant from the mint family (the flowers, by the way, are also extremely fragrant, and has a beautiful purple colour), patchouli does not smell leafy or vegetale in the least. I remember the very first encounter I had with patchouli: I was about 7 or 8 years old, and was visiting one of my 2 BFF. We were talking like little ladies about clear nail polish, and than the conversation turned to perfume. She bragged how the only perfume her mom would ever consider wearing is "Patchouli". What a funny name, I thought to myself. And the next moment, she pulled out a little vial of patchouli oil from the shelf, opened it and let me take a whiff. Pungent, spicy, warm and utterly strange and unlike anything else in the world - that's all I could make of it. If this is the best perfume, surely the rest would be unbearable... Some years later, I would recognize the scent as something the permeated the air around many of my parents' hippie friend, who probably laundered their clothes in it. Anything from East Indian wool shawls to cotton clothes used as baby diapers seemed to have that scent, which I just thought of as most grown-ups' body odour. And to be fair, when it is used mildly, it is very pleasant, musky and inoffensive. It wasn't until I was a teenager and had a "grown up" friend (probably in her early 20's) that she talked about patchouli again. She was a sweet gal, but she definitely wore too much of the stuff (and smoked plenty of weed to boot) that it was easily associated with that mysterious little vial I smelled in elementary school...

So there you have it - my experience with patchouli is probably the classic hippie-association, and it took me years and years to truly like it again, and appreciate it as a raw material that would stand out (which didn't happen until stumbling upon several varieties of high quality patchouli oils, absolutes and CO2 extractions, which subsequently lead to launching Film Noir in 2006. At the end of 2006, I wrote in my summary of that year: "Breaking out of the box and the hippie cliché was a challenge, and I am now smelling patchouli afresh, from a completely different point of view. The sources for raw materials are what makes all the difference here. A patchouli that was carefully harvested, dried, matured and distilled is completely different from the patchouli found in so many aromatherapy and health food stores. It really makes all the difference, just like in wine – if this comparison is of any help. I think Film Noir really proves that patchouli is a luxurious and magical note that has a lot more to it than masking the fumes of marijuana"…

And to further emphasize: You must find a very good quality of patchouli to truly appreciate it as a perfume material that stands on its own. And this could take time - because many patchouli oils are sold on the market when they are "too young" and still have that "off note". It requires patience to wait for the oil to mature to its fullest potential. I have been fortunate enough to sample several incredible patchouli essences, including some aged and even vintage ones which I'm excited to share their olfactory profile here.

Climbing Vanilla Orchids, Patchouli and Vetiver

Patchouli plant, next to a vanilla orchid vine and a vetiver grass.

Although patchouli is botanically speaking extracted from the leafy part of the plant, the scent belongs to the woody category. It is complex and hard to understand. That is because the leaves have to be bruised, dried and slightly fermented or aged (either in crushed form, or by layering the leaves and allowing them to partly ferment) for several months or as long as several years to produce the fine characteristic aroma. Even after that process, the oil should be further aerated and aged to eliminate unpleasant off-notes that are fatty, rancid and pungent smelling; and to produce the fine, round, warm desired aroma. Unlike other woody notes (sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver), Patchouli is more often used in perfumery for feminine scents - floral bouquets, Orientals and Chypre.

Dark Patchouli:
Traditionally distilled patchouli is processed in iron vessels, and produces the so-called "dark" patchouli oils. The iron affects both the colour (darker reddish brown) and the aroma (sweeter and slightly blood-like). This patchouli oil is earthy, musty, spicy (a little like cloves or even cinnamon), warm, dirty, dry, reminiscent of a wine cellar, and wine, woody, earthy, rich, smooth.

Iron-Free Patchouli:
The iron-free patchouli is distilled in stainless-steel produces a lighter oil, still with a very characteristic patchouli scent, yet is clearer, cleaner, lighter and woodier than patchouli oils that contain iron, and less earthy. The lack of iron oxidation also accounts for its lighter colour, which could be more desirable than the dark brown-red hues of patchouli oils that were affected by the iron in the distillation process. Iron free patchouli is often what would be processed in the USA or Europe. It's olfactory profile is earthy, musty and reminiscent of the scent of a cool cave; yet dry and with a soft presence of patchouli’s typical pungent spiciness and a precious wood dry out. Deep and tenacious, iron free patchouli is also very long lasting. The iron-free patchouli smells cleaner, drier, woodier and lighter than the "Dark Patchouli" (which is usually traditionally distilled in the country of origin).

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)

Dried and crumbled patchouli leaves.

In perfumery, patchouli is especially useful for balancing florals, where it creates amazing effects with oils such as rose (creating a foundation on which the rose keeps blooming and unfolding), and also balancing their sweetness and creating more depth and complexity. Feminine scents will contain more patchouli than vetiver (the latter being considered more "masculine" in Western perfumery). Patchouli always has the danger of coming very strong in the formulation. To balance that, it is often mixed with other woody oils (sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, etc.).

Furthermore, Patchouli is a base (Poucher rates it with 100 - which is the highest rank for the lowest evaporating oils). It will stay on paper or fabric for many months if not years. Patchouli also has extremely powerful fixative properties - extending and lengthening the life of more volatile oils such as citrus and florals.

Principal constituents of patchouli night include up to 80% unscented matter (can you even imagine patchouli being "concentrated" more than it already is?) - although these are likely important for its phenomenal lasting power and fixative qualities. Patchouli includes some unique molecules, most of which cannot be reproduced in a lab - such as Patchoulene, Patchoulol (patchouli alcohol), pogostol, bulnesol, patchoulenol, bulnese, and has Germacrene beta, which has strong insecticidal properties which makes patchouli so effective in repelling moth and other insects.

I also have 2 specimens of unique CO2 extractions of patchouli (which are rather rare to come by). Both are Light brown semi-viscous liquids, but they are quite different in their odour profile:

1st CO2 Sample:
The CO2 process yields a very unique Patchouli oil that is fresh and lively. The aroma is not as earthy as distilled Patchouli and is more like the fresh plant material. Patchouli CO2 also has an aroma similar to Patchouli Absolute.

2nd CO2 Sample
This patchouli CO2 smells realistically like cured tobacco leaves, fresh cigarettes and cigars. It has some of the known characteristics of patchouli – dry, woody, earthy, but is most of all reminiscent of dry tobacco and patchouli leaves. It also has slight ripe-berry and henna-leaf undertones.

I'm also particularly fortunate to have 2 other aged patchouli, one traditional distillation that could date as far back as a hundred years, and is as dark as India ink and another that was distilled in France and is much lighter colour.

Aged Patchouli
Distilled in the West in stainless steel, leaving out the heavier, more pungent characteristics, and being refined by 3 years of aging, this patchouli has the finest, most delicate aroma ever. Even patchouli haters would enjoy its refined musky-woody character!

Vintage Patchouli
Given to me by a friend, this treasure is of the darkest colour of patchouli oil I've ever seen. It is an opaque Indian ink colour! This antique patchouli has much more of the clovely-camphoreous personality, still remaining pungent, yet very smooth and round like a well-aged wine. Think a big, deep, spicy red wine like shiraz, zinfandel and cabarnet.


Patchouli Absolute:
Rare to find, and with a very strange, almost offensive character. Think mud, wet mehendi, dry ink, and the like. It's almost unrecognizable as patchouli; though it's definitely musty. The look is even more opaque than the antique patchouli I have. Difficult to think of uses for it, as it's very difficult to work with. It would go well with tobacco and with animalic compositions, and to impart a more avant-guarde feel to a quirky perfume.

Traditional Uses:
Patchouli's original use in tropical Asia was as an hebral remedy (see below). But perhaps its most valuable and widespread use was to scent clothing and fabrics, due to its very effective moth and insect repellent properties. Patchouli's most traditional uses are in sachets that were placed in linen and silk closets and to scent wool paisley shawls and silk scarves. In the Victorian era, it was the scent of patchouli that was the mark of an authentic imported Indian scarves their mark of approval, and introduced the bizarre scent of patchouli to Europe. Small saches were placed in the large sleeves of Geisha's kimonos in Japan for that purpose, and often mixed with other dried woods, spices and resin (most commonly: cassia, borneol camphor, vetiver, sandalwood and agarwood) to create a personalized scent for each Geisha. Likewise, body incense powders (used for purifying the hands before prayers), and joss sticks in both China, Japan and India contain pulverized patchouli leaves, which add to their delicate woodsy scent.

Medicinal Properties:
In the East, patchouli was used as an antidote for poisonous snake bites. It was also believed to help stop the spread of infections, and the herb was used to treat colds, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdonimal pain and halitosis.

Aromatherapy Uses:
Antidepressant, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Microbial, Antiseptic, Hair Care, Skin Care, Controls appetite, assists in skin conditions (such as Dermatitis, Dandruff, Eczema, Impetigo, Fungal Infections, Athlete’s Foot, and more).
Safety Considerations: Non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitizing

Uses in Flavour:
If you've already experienced patchouli, you probably won't be surprised that it has very limited use in flavour. Interestingly enough, although in small dosage patchouli is an aphorodisiac and will increase appetite. But in larger quantities, patchouli has the opposite effect and will suppress appetite. Besides, who want to eat something that is described as "earthy" or "musty"?!

With that being said, patchouli's traditional uses in the East is as a breath freshener. And this use has been adopting in flavour product dating to 19th Century, when "Breath Perfumes" were in vogue. It was blended with licorice among other flavours in the Sen-Sen pastille/breath freshener. It's also possibly present in another similar expectorant lozenges Vigroids, which are often used to soothe the throat by singers.

Uses in perfumery:
Patchouli CO2, like most patchouli oils, is a tenacious, long lasting and powerful base note that acts as a fixative and transforms all other notes while adding a dry, tobacco-leaf and precious wood character and deepens the other notes. This particular distillation lends itself best to the tobacco and leather categories, where it will add a realistic cured tobacco note – especially when used in a relatively high ratio. In lower concentration, it will also benefit dry woody perfumes and work well in masculine citrus cologne type fragrances and toiletries.

Patchouli can work with anything, and in any fragrance category - but it blends particularly well with: Tobacco absolute, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Vetiver, Spikenard, Bulgarian Rose Otto, Turkish Rose Absolute, Rose Maroc, Jasmine Grandiflorum, Ylang Ylang, Amber, Labdanum, Immortelle oil and absolute, Geranium oil and absolute, Opoponax, Clary Sage, Lavender, Cedarwood.

Patchouli is dominant in the following perfumes:
It's the main note, almost to the point of being considered a "soliflore" in fragrances such as Reminiscence, Prada, Borneo 1834, Coromandel, Angel, Film Noir, and Patchouli being the namesake of several niche fragrances by Lorenzo Villoresi, Mazzolari and Jalaine; Patchouli Antique by Les Nereides and Patchoulissime by Keiko Mecheri, Patchouli Imperiale by Dior, White Patchouli by Tom Ford are other examples of single note patchouli.

As a significant and influential component, but by no means the central theme, patchouli appears in big spicy orientals such as Tabu, Youth Dew, Opium and George Sand; iconic animalic-floral Chypres such as Miss Dior, Ma Griffe, Aromatics Elixir and many more, and in floral bouquets such as Voleur de Roses (l'Artisan Parfumeur) and Tuberose by Scent Systems; and most orientals (including the ambery ones) will include at least a touch of patchouli for added depth - i.e.: Shalimar, Obsession, Anné Pliska; and in more recent releases - adding a dry/mineral note to fresh scents such as Pure Turquouise, where the sulfury grapefruit brings out the best of its mineral personality (perhaps the iron from the still comes out stronger this way?); and - sadly, in the faux-chypre genre of "Fruitchoulis" (oftentimes with a sickening aquatic twist) lead in part by Black Orchid (Tom Ford), Coco Mademoiselle and the like. Chinatown and 31 Rue Cambon also rely on patchouli more than oakmoss to bring across a dry, sophisticated Chypre persona (though non of the true characteristics of the genre), alongside vetiver to create the new "Pink Chypre" category. Last but not least, patchouli's role in masculine fragrances cannot be underestimated: even though on its own it's considered more feminine, it is used in countless oriental, leathery, woody and fougere fragrances for men (Basenotes' database shows over 700 fragrances for men featuring patchouli); including classics such as the iconic Eau Sauvage (Dior), Azzaro for men, Habit Rouge, Mouchoir pour Monsieur, Heritage (Guerlain) Chanel Pour Monsieur, Equipage and Bel Ami (Hermes), A*Men (Thierry Mugler) and it's many flankers, Obsession for men (Calvin Kelin), ArbitRary and l'Herbe Rouge (Ayala Moriel), to name only very few.

Patchouli's versatility is really quite astonishing - especially for a note that is considered an "accessory note" - i.e.: one that is rarely added without changing the composition completely. It has a profound effect wherever you put it - in small or large quantities. It can feel dirty, clean, animalic, refined, bohemian or sophisticated, luxuriously rich and exuberant - or melancholy and sparse in a manner that will fit perfectly well in a monastery. These qualities together with a relative affordability give patchouli a timeless charm.

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