Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perfume Workshop in New York

I am THRILLED to announce that I found a space to host my perfume making workshop in New York this coming month!

Enfleurage New York
237 West 13 Street, New York, NY

Friday, October 12th, 8:30-11:30am

You will get to make your own custom perfume using my collection of pure natural raw materials, and take your own 15ml perfume home with you with your own label!
Spaces for up to 6 students only.

Please RSVP by October 5th - AT THE VERY LATEST.
email to or call (778) 863-0806.

More details online

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Best of Salon Awards - LA Artisan Fragrance Salon 2012

The Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon awards were announced yesterday (click on the medal image to see all the categories). Congratulations to all the perfumers who won, and also to those who didn't win - because I think you are all doing amazingly creative and meticulous work and being amazingly couragoues and daring to put it out there!

Special congratulations to the new lines who launched during this salon - Parfums Lalun and SANAE Intoxicants. And to the Best of Salon winners - Sarah Horowitz Parfums, 40notes and House of Matriarch.

I'm pleasantly surprised to find out that Ayala Moriel Parfums got three awards - 2 Bronze for "Most Unique" and "Best New Product" - and a Silver award for "Top All Around Product Line"!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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Chocolate Sunset

Scorching Sunset by Ayala Moriel
Scorching Sunset, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Chocolate Sunset was created by Sarah Horowitz Parfums especially for the LA Artisan Fragrance Salon. It's part of her Banque de Parfums phenomenon: exclusive monthly limited edition perfumes that are created for her loyal customers. Every month you can find something new and exciting coming out of Sarah's studio in Westlake Village - and is replaced by a new, singular experience the following month.

Sarah Horowitz Parfums

To quote from Sarah herself: "Chocolate Sunset is our nod to the final glorious days of summer and the richness of fall; two seasons that collide in September, neither yielding to the other as they put on a show of their beauty".

Chocolate Sunset, just as Sarah described it in her own words, is mostly a base notes perfume. You will immediately smell patchouli, Sarah's all-time favourite (as I learned from my visit to her studio along with Persephenie and Miriam). She has many different patchouli accords in her organ, and has created more patchouli perfumes that I could recount - including some private label and custom perfumes she created for her "Fragrance Journey" customers. From her steady collections - you can enjoy Love Comes from Within (a spicy, dry oriental that is based on patchouli, carnation and cloves, with a nod to the timeless Tabu and Cinnabar), and the surprisingly dry Perfect Bliss.

But it wouldn't be Chocolate Sunset without cacao! And while patchouli is immediately recognized - from the vial as well as upon application - it's the chocolate that acts as a "top note" to intrigue and almost has a "come hither" role. The darker side of chocolate is extended by an oud accord, dark and resinous and animalic, which leads us to the musky finish: Egyptian musk, which is what lingers the longest and creates a clean, skin-scent quality, still with some woodsy warmth. But eventually it's the musk that takes over. It's never obviously gourmand; nothing like Angel either as you'd expect from the chocolate and patchouli marriage, which might be due to the tiny hint of jasmine, which seems to simply have a bouquetting effect if recognized at all. It's a mellow, cozy yet sexy scent that can be worn in the heat wave of Los Angeles in September, and will lead you through a cooler fall anywhere else with warmth and ease.

Sarah & Miriam 
Sarah Horowitz-Thran (right) and Miriam Varledzis (left) 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Highlights from my LA Trip

Fountain/Fan Plant 
Last weekend I embarked on yet another trip to Los Angeles (my second this year! Did I get the travel bug, or what?!). Before I get fully into the reasons behind the trip - the Artisan Fragrance Salon - I thought I'll share a few snippets of scents, aromas and all-around goodness that accompanied me in this trip.

Giant Plumeria by Ayala Moriel
Giant Plumeria, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr

I stayed with Persephenie, a kindered spirit whom I now feel like I have known for ages. She was not participating at the salon after all (all because some good news - her line is now heading to Japan!) but we got to spend some quality fragrant time together.

This gorgeous plumeria tree grows somewhere on 4th street if my memory serves me right, on the way to Persephenie's studio (Edinburgh avenue, just off 3rd street). I was surprised at the very faint and decidedly soapy scent it had in the morning, even though the sun was at full blast by 10am: it was so light, fresh and soapy I thought I was smelling an Ivory soap bar mingled with sun tan lotion... A couple of days later, in the full afternoon sun (apparently there is higher blast than full blast), it smelled very strongly of the original Kai perfume oil - heady, tropical, almost fruity, and just all around paradise-like!

Meeting of the Noses @ Sarah Horowitz's studio

We visited Sarah Horowitz at her perfume studio in Westlake Village. It's set in a gorgeous establishment, with bubbling waters in the courtyard and a couple of restaurants downstairs. We first met there - Persephenie, Sarah and Miriam from 40notes. Then we visited Sarah's lovely studio space and had a full tour, including sneak sniffs into the salon feature - her Chocolate Sunset perfume, which is gorgeous and deserves a whole post all of its own!

And the best part was trying so many wonderful new creations, by Sarah and by the other perfumers whom I met at the salon on Sunday (which I will get to later tomorrow, after ample sleep), and experiencing Persephenie's new and gorgeous as always Island Violet cream. And the greatest surprise (though, come to think of it - not really...) was discovering that not only me, but also other incense lovers (which Persephenie truly is) start their day by burning incense, in any shape or form. One of them was especially rosy - almost like the rahat loukum candy with and overdose of rosewater and vanilla... Can there be a better way to start the day? Probably only a strawberry muffin!

Strawberry-Buttermilk Muffin
Joan's On Third is a marvellous place a friend invited me to when I was in LA back in June. Bakery, cafe and catering company whose owner must be a really lovely person because everything that comes out of her bakery is spectacular. So much so that I had brought nothing home for my daughter but a couple of these luscious strawberry buttermilk muffins! They were so fragrant and just melted in your mouth; and not nearly as sweet as the coffee shop variety. Add a slice of cheddar on the side and you have a pretty substantial breakfast.

California grown Citrons!

And last but not least: the marvellously refreshing, aromatic scent of California-grown citrons!
This lovely and generous gift of noi less than 7 etrogim awaited me at Persephenie's studio - straight from the orchard! I'm going to be tincturing them tomorrow and am thrilled that I will have another fresh batch of citron tincture so that I can continue making more Etrog Oy de Cologn. It's been rapidly gaining popularity, I can barely keep it in stock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Nicole Bridger's Blog

Visit Nicole Bridger's blog to read Eau My Goodness - their rundown of the trio curated for her boutique on 4th Avenue. Nicole Bridger is an uber talented eco-minded Vancouver designer, and I'm very excited to be working with her and her team. Better yet - stroll over to Kitsilano for a visit at her boutique to experience this charming little gem of luxury eco-minded fashion: rich textures, beautiful colours, shapes and flowing designs.

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Monkey Monday: Sweet Dreams...

As our patchouli theme is coming to a close, and my trip back from LA has drained about every ounce of energy from me today - and we're amidst the high holidays season - there is no Monkey Monday giveaway today. I'm simply too tired to check what's in my stash of perfumes to give away and put together a more sensible post... So, I'm so very sorry, and promise to return next Monday with another giveaway and contest/discussion theme.

For now, I'd love to hear from those among my readers who have visited the Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon about any feedback, favourites from the show, and so on. The highlight of the day for me, as usual, was reuniting with my perfumer friends, making new connections in the industry - and last but not least: meeting face to face with unusual people such as yourself, who truly appreciate the olfactory arts.

Sweet dreams!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guava Odour

Guava vendor by Coshipi
Guava vendor, a photo by Coshipi on Flickr.
Few scents signify the scent of fall for me better than guavas. The lush, in-your-face ripeness of this sub-tropical fruit has always been a topic of controversy. You'd either love it, or hate it with a passion!

How can I describe it to someone who never smelled it?
Would it be of any help if I told you that 173 components were identified in guava GC, with (E)-beta-caryophyllene, alpha-terpineol, alpha-pinene, alpha-selinene, beta-selinene, delta-cadinene, 4,11-selinadiene, and alpha-copaene being the major ones. Aliphatic esters are the most important contributors to guava's flavour. I have a suspicion that guavas have some sulphur in them,

A single fruit is plenty to scent a room with an unmistakable odour that is simultaneously pungent, ripe, rude and opulent. As Flavors of Brazil blog points out, the scent is "strong aromatic, sometimes alarmingly so... very flower and heady".  It has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes. But perhaps the disturbing or funky part is somewhat, just ever so slightly reminiscent of stinky socks (especially when the fruit is over ripe - which is very common in store-bought guavas).

Guavas are native to South America, and from there they have spread to different tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. Their significance in the culture of the tropics is exemplified in the book title Fragrance of Guava, which is conversations with Nobel Prize Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They are even grown with much success and popularity in Israel, and there is no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than eat a fruit freshly picked from the tree. My personal favourite variety is a cultivar called "Ben Dov" which is most fragrant and has a very firm yet creamy texture. The pink guavas, in my humble opinion, are watery and not nearly as fragrant - and this variety is what is used for most guava juices. The fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C - and, most unusual for any fruit - also in calcium.

Guavas are mostly prepared as fruit juice, candy, jam and the ever so popular South American guava fruit paste called goiabada which has an intriguing consistency and texture reminiscent of quince marmalade. It has such a distinct, stand-alone aroma that it usually takes centre stage in desserts such as sobretto or gelato, and stuffing dessert empanadas (usually with cream cheese or coconut); although it pairs really nicely with creamy bananas and even in refreshing, aromatic fresh fruit salsas, as in Cuban tomato and guava salsa.

Have you experienced fresh guavas? How would you describe their scent?

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Vetiver Racinettes Soap V.01

Vetiver Racinettes has arrived back from S.C. - my student and soap maker down in Oregon. And the timing couldn't be better for the Artisan Fragrance Salon in Los Angeles!

We had some challenges with this experimental batch as we tried a few ingredients that are not normally used in soap, so we will have to make another test batch this fall. However, it only affected the look of the soap, and not it's other important attributes: V.01 still performs wonderfully and smells incredibly true to the scent that inspired it.

This cold processed soap has amazing lather - in fact, enough to challenge most shaving creams, and can be easily use as such. It is also quite moisturizing, with castor oil added to the mix for that purpose.

The soap is scented with refreshing, invigorating and quirky notes of vetiver, cardamom, espresso and kaffir lime leaf. I'm especially grateful for this clean scent in my shower while staying in over-heated Los Angeles (highs of 32c/89F today). Makes for a very fresh start for the day and a much-needed cleansing experience in the evening. The scent lingers on the skin after the shower and even garnered some unsolicited comments from my lovely hostess Persephenie!

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Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon

The 1st LA Artisan Fragrance Salon is just a couple of days away - and Ayala Moriel Parfums is thrilled to take part in it! Visit me at booth no. 16 to experience our newest creations: Etrog Oy de Cologne (just in times for Sukkot!), our new Vetiver Racinettes soap bar, and a pre-sniff of Treazon - aka my killer tuberose!

Participating perfumers: Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery, SmellBent , COGNOSCENTI, Roxana Illuminated Perfume, Artemisia Natural Perfume , Parfums Lalun, 40notes Perfume, Sarah Horowitz Parfums, Sebastian Signs Fragrances, Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes, House of Matriarch, Luckyscent, Opus Oils, A Perfume Organic, PK Perfumes, JoAnne Bassett, Ayala Moriel Parfums, Sanae Intoxicants, Imaginary Authors.

Civic Center Auditorium
1855 Main Street
Santa Monica
California 90401

Sunday, September 23rd, 11am-5pm

Get your tickets here

18ain Street, Santa Monica California 90401

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who Needs a Boyfriend?!

When Boyfriend perfume came out, the story behind it as I recall was that Kate Walsh (not sure who she is - Comedian? Actress? Singer? All of the above?) longed for a long gone boyfriend's smell and thus created a perfume that will remind her of the shirt he leaves behind.

It's comforting to know that not only I sniff old boyfriend's sweaters (blush); and also, unlike the endless possibilities of cheesy videos that a perfume with such name could have rendered - I think it has a brilliant marketing campaign: It walks the tightrope of being nostalgic and emotional to a fault yet laughs at oneself while at it. Which is a healthy balance when delving into the dangerous world of romance. Even the packaging is well done - the bottle, engraved with a long list of popular Anglo-Saxone names (if you haven't dated them all, please circle the one that best applies). The only thing they overlooked in that regard is a big red marker to circle around the boyf's name/s that apply to you... I suppose I will have to source mine elsewhere.  But either way - the bottom line is that the whole campaign made me have a good laugh. Which is most welcome when it comes to the most "serious" matters of the heart... 

I guess all in all, I was the perfect target for this product: endlessly single gal in her 30's, career oriented, pretty hopeless when it comes to romance, and pathetically smelling old boyfriend's t-shirt when nobody's watching... Well, mine has gone stale long ago. I was so worried that the perfume will disappoint me that it took me another year to come closer to it (responding with a big smiling recoil at the daring dose of patchouli). And remembering that, I had to come back for a real try this week to complete my patchouli series.

Boyfriend begins with a robust fruity notes of dark plum, underscored with massive amounts of resinous benzoin - a sheer foundation for the most popular amber personality of the decade - "crystalline amber"*, whose sweetness can only be forgiven as it's anchored in a woody, dry, musky notes: bitter myrrh, reminiscent of the tears of sacrificial love that every woman worth her salt has put into a relationship only to find out that yet again, it isn't working; patchouli, to reminisce after his patchouli-lade Eau Sauvage aftershave (I'm just making things up... If I met a man who uses Eau Sauvage aftershave I would be single no more!). Vanilla kicks in shortly after the myrrh, but it's rather full-bodied and thick, bringing to mind real vanilla extract with a powdery heliotropin finish.

And lastly, Boyfriend dries into a clean patchouli and musk cocktail, that is not too uncommon for present day, but quite nicely done - a clean skin scent that is not unlike Pure Turquoise, though with a much warmer beginnings.

Boyfriend is surprisingly well-done, not just in comparison to other celebrity scents, but even just as it is. It's refreshing to see a celebrity taking her scent so seriously and bringing so much humour to a rather sore subject - kudos to her! Please don't kill it with meaningless flankers! (too late...?).  

*Crystalline amber is the kind that is light on the sweet resinous animalic aspects of labdanum, rendering its amberiness from fraction distillation of labdanum, which are more transparent, woody and clear in colour as well - plus some synthetics that I won't get into right now)

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Monkey Monday: Fruit & Herb

Strawberry+mint by TAYMOUR SENBEL©
Strawberry+mint, a photo by TAYMOUR SENBEL© on Flickr.
 I've been fascinated by fruit and herb combinations this summer; and today I've spent too much time on SmellyBlog already sharing the 6 salads that dominated our summer menu (well, we mostly picniced by the beach, regardless of the weather). I'm always looking for more recipes and ideas, and am happy to hear yours: have you been using any fruit and herbs in cocktails, salads, agua frescas or what not?
Comment and enter to win a fresh slice of my 1st batch of Vetiver Racinettes soap!
(More on that tomorrow...).

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Soba, Eggplant & Mango Heaven

This soba noodle salad recipe is an adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from his book "Plenty" (which I highly recommend). I've been obsessed with fruit & herb combinations this summer, and this salad shows that the possibilities are limitless, and being creative leads to much excitement for the taste buds (as well as one's nose).

The author dissects the charm of this dish as "the sweet sharpness of the dressing and the muskiness of mango that makes it so pleasing". I couldn't agree with him more; but I think the true secret here is the contrast between lime zest, which has a slightly coconut-like effect, harmonizing with the almost floral aspect of mango in a way very similar to that of jasmine and lime; and to top it off - basil and cilantro goes amazingly well with both the lime and the mango!

It is also very appealing texture-wise, with the soggy fried eggplants, crunchy onions, slippery noodles and mango, and bits of herbs and spices and heat from the chile. Delicious is not good enough to describe it...

My adaptations or variations on the original recipe are in the method of cooking the eggplant (to reduce the amount of grease involved without compromising taste) as well as substituting sugar and rice vinegar with agave syrup and apple cider vinegar (my personal preferences). I also feel that the recipes always go overboard with some of the ingredients (herbs, vinegars and spices) so mine is toned down quite a bit, including omitting the garlic (which I think is overboard with all that red onion in there) - and I like it best this way - and hope you do too! It's full of flavour and like all the recipes I'm sharing today (see below) to celebrate the end of summer - it's a perfect picnic food and actually can be a meal all on its own! Especially if you add a bit of pan-roasted tofu - see comment below.

To prepare the eggplant:
2 eggplants, diced to about 3/4"
1 Tbs coarse sea salt

Sprinkle with salt and set aside to drain for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hrs. Pat dry with a towel, or squeeze additional excess moisture over the sink. Fry the drained eggplant pieces in about 3 Tbs or more (no more than 1/4cup) vegetable oil. You can do this in a large saucepan or a wok. Sautee and stir until slightly browned and fully cooked (but the pieces still hold their shape). Set aside to cool off.

For the soba noodles:
Cook 2 bundles of soba noodles (preferably wheat free and yam flour free - I even found a brand that is organic and 100% buckwheat flour!) according to the manufacturer's directions, until they are "al dente". Rinse off with plenty of cool water and leave to drain over a sieve. Once completely drained - coat the noodles with:
2-3 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs soy sauce or tamari

Add the cooled off eggplant, and:
1 ripe yet firm mango (I prefer Ataulfo mango), diced
1 generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 generous handful of torn basil leaves
1 red shallot, thinly sliced (or 1/2 red onion).

For the dressing:
1 Tbs dark roasted sesame oil
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice from 1 ripe lime (pick the one that is as more yellow rather than the dark green ones)
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tsp chile flakes (or 1 fresh red chile)
Combine all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. If serving the next day, add an extra garnish of fresh basil and cilantro for an extra burst of flavour!

In a cast-iron pan, roast 1 package of extra firm organic tofu that is cut into 3/4 dice. This is simply done by warming the tofu inside soy sauce or tamari until the tofu is brown and crispy on the outside. Add more sauce during the process to prevent scorching the tofu and the pan prematurely...

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Watermelon and Heirloom Tomatoes Salad

Thanks to Alyssa Harad's inspiration, I've been enjoying this salad repeatedly this summer. Also one of those salads that holds shape; therefore making it a perfect picnic food that won't wilt by the time you hit the beach!

This salad is so easy to make it's almost ridiculous - but the results are mind-blowing spectacular. It will make an impressive appetizer or salad course.

To make it you will need very few and simply ingredients. It's a great example for a recipe where the result is far greater than the sum of its parts. If you are already a lover of the classic Balkan & Mediterannean combination of salty feta cheese and sweet-juicy watermelon, the rest will come natural to you. Unlike most of my salads, this calls for no acidic component (lemon, lime or vinegar). There is enough juiciness coming from the watermelon and split tomatoes. And plenty of complementary flavour from the feta and olive oil. Make sure you use the best ingredients for truly stunning results!

1/4 ripe yet firm watermelon
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes, of varying shapes and colours
2 scallions, or 1/4 onion (sweet or red Spanish - depending on how spicy you want your salad to be!), thinly sliced
150-200gr diced Macedonian feta cheese (or look for another kind that is creamy and full of flavour - you don't want it to be too dry in texture)
Black Nicoise olives
Handful of hand-torn basil leaves
2 Tbs top-quality olive oil (unfortunate, most of the Italian olive oil that comes to Canada is poor quality; try to find olive oil from Greece or Lebanon as it has much more body and the desired olive fruit flavour)

Cut the watermelon into large cubes or small wedges. Quarter the tomatoes. toss with the sliced onions and torn basil. Top with olives and diced feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and toss just before you serve into each diner's plate.

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Marinated Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad by Ayala Moriel
Cucumber Salad, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
This cucumber salad is one of the things to look forward to all summer long. It is wonderful with crisp, fresh cucumbers; but originally was designed to use up tired, limp cucumbers from composte oblivion... My grandmother taught me how to make this from old cucumbers and she would sometimes also use radishes that lost their luster in the mix. You can also make a similar version with mint, onion and radishes only (perfect in the winter time!).

6 small cucumbers (this recipe would not work with field cucumbers or long English ones; although larger dill pickel cukes might do the trick)
1/2 white sweet onion (or 1 shallot; or scallions if you find raw onion to be too much)
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
3 Tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
Lots of freshly ground peppercorns, to taste
1 Tbs chopped dill weed (optional)

Slice the onion very thinly and cover in the vinegar, salt and lemon juice.
Slice the cucumbers (if they are tired and grumpy you may also peel them).
Toss with the remaining ingredients and marinate for at least 1/2 hour before serving. Excellent the next 2 days as well and makes perfect picnic food!

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Faux Papaya Salad

Papaya inspired salad by Ayala Moriel
Papaya inspired salad, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Fresh and fragrant green papaya are unmatched by anything, really. However, they are not easy to find in Vancouver (when I tried, the middle was ripe and soft, and the outside rather flavourless. It made for a very difficult juliening job!).

So, in lieu of papayas, you may use pale julienned carrots with very satisfying results. My version also is a vegetarian one, as I’m not all that excited about fish sauce and shrimps… Feel free to use them if that’s what you’re after.

4 small leaves of butter lettuce
2 yellow carrots (orange ones will do as well, but they will look less like green papaya), julienned into thin long strips - or 1 small green papaya if you can find it
Handful of bean sprouts (optional)
12 green string beans, cut into halves and then also lengthwise “French” style
2-3 Tbs skinned unsalted roasted Spanish peanuts (Note: If they are salted on their skin you’ll be fine, but if you’re buying them skinned, make sure they are unsalted)
1-2 tsp crushed chile (or 1 fresh red chile, chopped finley)
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn by hand

For the dressing:
Juice from ½ lime
1 Tsb apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbs neutral vegetable oil (i.e.: almond or grapeseed oil)
1 tsp agave syrup
Sea salt to taste

To assemble the salad, line a shallow bowl with butter lettuce leaves.
Toss together the other vegetables and herbs and seasoning, and add the dressing ingredients (you don’t need to make “vinnigraite” on the side – simply toss all the ingredients together).

Place the salad on the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts, and serve immediately.

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Mexican Inspired Cabbage Salad

Mexican inspired coleslaw by Ayala Moriel
Mexican inspired coleslaw, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
We're enjoying an Indian Summer in Vancouver, which is most welcome as summer didn't start till August this year!

So I'm taking the opportunity to share with you 3 salad recipes that I've been immensely enjoying all summer long - celebrating the flavourful fresh herbs that mark the season.

This cabbage salad was inspired by two things: the Mexican cuisine that I've been really craving since my last few visits to California. There is really nothing quite like this food when it's an authentic recipe, made from fresh seasonal ingredients. far departure from the boring jarred salsas and bags of chips...

The other important part of the inspiration was the beautiful cone-shaped cabbages I found at the farmers' market. Only one farmer grows them, and they are not only smaller in size (which is more doable for a small family of two, for instance), lighter to carry home, and are so crisp, tender and delicious that they can be easily eaten up within the week (and if not that's ok too, as they keep really well).

We've been mostly eating dinners at the beach all summer, so non-leafy salads, which keep well till dinner time (or even the next day or two, while marinating in flavours) are much preferable over tossed greens (which are also mostly air in volume and are not nearly as filling).
Cone cabbages by Ayala Moriel
Cone cabbages, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

I've made this salad with a few variations, but the best of them was when my cilantro plant came to seed and had those fresh green corianders as you can see in the picture.

1 head cone cabbage (or half a larger cabbage), finely shredded by slicing it as thin as you can get with a chef's knife
1 carrot, grated
1 sweet yellow pepper, halved and sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 sweet white onion, thinly sliced (or use scallions if you prefer)
1-2 green fresh jalapeno, sliced thinly with seeds (the seeds are the part that gives the most heat! So that's your way of controlling the heat level as well).
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro leaf (if you have some fresh seeds growing on your plant, feel free to use them as well - simply chop them with the leaves)
1 Tbs fresh peppermint leaves (you could use spearmint, but I like the sharper taste of citrus mint or English mint in this recipe)
1 tsp Korean pepper (this is a hot pepper with the seeds removed; it has a deep, sweet flavour but not nearly as spicy as other chiles; if you can't find it you can use crushed chiles or non at all - this part of the recipe is mostly for the colour anyway).

For the dressing:
Juice from 1 lime
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp agave syrup
1-3 Tbs vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil, but you may also use sunflower seed oil, almond oil or avocado oil for a more intense flavour).
Sea salt to taste

Prepare all the ingredient and add to one large bowl. Dress immediately (you do not need to mix the dressing ingredients separately, by the way) and let the salad marinate in the fridge until serving time - at least 1/2 hour, and up to 2 days. Makes a perfect picnic dish, alongside blanched almonds or roasted hickory smoked ones. Also goes well with vegetarian quesedillas, corn-on-the-cob, or as an additional topping for fish tacos or any other white fish dishes.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shana Tova!

Crab Apples by Ayala Moriel
Crab Apples, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Shana tova umetuka to those of you celebrating Jewish New Year in the next couple of days. May the year be as fragrant as freshly picked guavas and full of blessings like a pomegranate.

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New Olreans Winner

Congratulations to Ms. Watson, winner of last week's giveaway, which is very special: mini New Orleans perfume which renders the scent of the magical Southern city.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon - Giveaway

Los Angelinos - you just got double lucky with an extra giveway this week. Ayala Moriel Parfums is giving away 2 complementary tickets to the Artisan Fragrance Salon next weekend!
September 23rd, 11am-5pm at the Civic Center in Santa Monica.

To qualify, please send me an email with your full name and contact info no later than tomorrow at 2:30pm!

The first 2 to respond are the lucky winners and will be notified in person.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme

Lighthouse Park by jimoftheday
Lighthouse Park, a photo by jimoftheday on Flickr.

Is it randomness or is it fate, which will forever link a certain fragrance with a certain place? Perhaps even a little of both... But the result is the same, and will forever be engrained in my brain, psyche, heart - call it what you may.

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme is not exactly what you'd wear on a hike on a sunny and warm May day, but that's precisely what I will forever associate it with. Sitting on the rocks and trying to figure out what's in it - and whether I like it or not.

I'm re-visiting it again tonight, after stopping at Oakridge Mall on the way to the train station. Historic moment, by the way: in an unprecedented moment, a sales associate at The Bay has voluntarily offered to take $10 off a bottle just to make a sale... Three hours later, I wish I took her up on that.

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme begins like a mist of citrus peel with florals thrown in the mix - the familiar crystalline feel of bergamot, and some tangering and orange. Non of which is strong enough, of course, to cover up the brownie, chocolatey, delicious earthiness that's lurking underneath.

First comes amber, with a load of benzoin; then the bergamot makes a second entrance, only to be pushed away by a clean, woody patchouli that almost smells like cedar. The amber and patchouli remain the main components for the next three hours, feeling a little too crystalline and transparent to my taste at first; but becoming more bold and dominant and deep, with only sandalwood occasionally making some white noise, and vanilla that is almost chocolatey and edible. Lastly, a familiar note of vetiver joins in and adds an extra layer of wood that is clean, elegant and delightful.

Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme has a long and clumsy name, but it's well constructed, with a structure similar to the great Shalimars of the past, and could be easily worn by both men and women, as long as they go hiking with it.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Air is Changing

The air is changing. The transition from one season to another always fascinates me. Am I the only one? When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my aunt gave me a little black & red blank notebook. I didn't know what to put in, but after a friend's mother (who was a writer) suggested I can write and draw in it, I filled it with innocent little illustrated poems. About 95% of them were about spring, a season I had an undying love for (until I met spring allergies in Vancouver, I guess).

One day, a friend of my step-father came for a visit. He was a funny and also quite intense red-haired guy with a red beard and was a poet. I proudly presented to him my little book of poems about spring, where flowers, birds and butterflies reign supreme. He read the book from cover to cover (I'm sure that was fairly easy), and confessed he is really not all that interested in season. In return, he wrote a poem of his own in my notebook, which was somewhat repetitive and mostly talked about a tree of singing fruit that grew next to singing children, and then the singing children ate the singing fruit... (Oh well, I thought to myself, What a silly poem...)

Years later, my notebook is long gone: I have destroyed it in a rare purging moment as a result of embarrassment from how naive and pathetic all this spring love talk was). I was probably 10 or 11 then - and deeply involved in doing sketches in black charcoal and pencils. My naive expressions have turned into perfume, but thankfully I have way less of that destructive self-criticism than can prevent one from doing anything at all with their life from fear of not being validated by someone else who "knows". Add to that some more painful experience and dark moments and even the brightest flowers can be painted with more depth than to be dismissed as naive or innocent.

So back to the seasons I come. And as redundant as this topic might be, and probably is, if I glance at SmellyBlog from a bird's view and see how much I talk about them; seasons are always going to be an important part of my life. And so they should. It's the magic of the air changing, and feeling that something exciting is going to happen. Because even if it did happen a million times before us, there are going to be ever so small little details that will make this autumn special, this day unique and this moment - when we watch the sunset and know that it might be the last sunset that we ever watch and savour every stroke of elongated clouds on the horizon. And maybe every minute a baby is born, but today it's my friend's baby, and a new life begins.

So, I will just keep writing up my perfume related fall thoughts every September; salivate over the first snow like a little kid who's never seen it before; get excited for spring whenever its first signs arrive (usually by December 25th, actually... I pay a lot of attention to detail!); and pretend it's a summer beach day as long as the water temperatures is over 10c.


Monday, September 10, 2012


Back when Chanel's Les Exclusifs came out, I wrote about Coromandel: "a modern oriental much in the vain of Prada and Allure Sensuelle, but one that I can stomach without gagging. If I happen to change my mind about it I will let you know. Promise".

Well, I haven't changed my mind. But since the patchouli series is still going, I thought I'll give it a more proper wearing and describe it in slightly more detail than before.

Coromandel has a funny name and is a thin, rather non inspiring oriental if there ever was one. Beginning with a floral-fruity mess that quickly leads to the patchouli premise everyone is hoping for, it does so with the assistance of agricultural-smelling molecules of upturned soil (geosmin?) that hints at less appetizing visions of sugar plums developing mold on the ground in late fall. Fruit and dirt might be a fertile combination, but not for the nose...

Once the chemicals quiet down, you can sense more of the patchouli, with what seems to have been its usual-accomplice (benzoin) and richer powdery vanillin that will pitch in only later.

I know Coromandel has its die-hard fans somewhere, but to me it was a very under-satisfying experience, even after the fruitsy notes left the stage. I would have expected something more polished, lacquered and poised with sophistication and depth - even if it has such a funny sounding name. In efforts to please the crowds, the result is less than pleasing and not quite befitting of the Chanel legacy. Pity, because I think it had a full potential of being one of those Chanel big-guns - Coco, for example; but instead tries to reach the younger audience of patchouli wannabes that can't tell musk from amber.

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Monkey Monday: City Scents

Rotshield St. Tel Aviv by Omer Simkha
Rotshield St. Tel Aviv, a photo by Omer Simkha on Flickr.

“Cities are smells: Accra is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense, and honey. A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable. Exiles have a shared smell: the smell of longing for something else; a smell that resembles another smell. A panting, nostalgic smell that guides you, like a worn tourist map, to the smell of the original place. A smell is a memory and a setting sun. Sunset, here, is beauty rebuking the stranger.” (Mahmoud Darwish, "In The Presence of Absence" - translated by Sinan Antoon). - Special thanks to Caitlin Shortell of Legerdenez for enlightening me with this quote!

I was quite certain that today's post was going to be "Monday Blues" and ways to beat it: yesterday Vancouver returned to its classic disposition: soaked, dark, contemplative, introspective and completely overcast. It's difficult to see the light through such a thick blanket of clouds; and most of the city's inhabitants seem to be in an ongoing SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder): happy and friendly on the rare sunshine days; but otherwise constantly battling with doom and gloom the remainder 85% of the year, which translates into introversion, inclusiveness and workaholism... Well, at least we get the job done here in the Pacific Northwest! And we do it fast, to keep ourselves warm while at it!

You can only imagine my delight to open the curtains this morning to a glimpse of sunshine that's been peaking among the highrises; and after greeting the school bus and walking down Bute street to visit the Nelson Park Community Gardens - I was noticing the enticing freshness of the sticky, semi-fermented leaves on the brick-paved Bute Square. Such an unusual smell that only comes out after a long dry period that is followed by a day or less of rain (usually when the rain comes to town it stays for way longer...). Delightful, and rare!

That smell of freshly rained pavement in the first rays of morning sun; sticky semi-fermented leaves of some unruly maple that's oozing honey and sticks to everyone's shoes - reminded me vividly of Tel Aviv in the early fall: completely unprepared, I'd find myself in Rotshield boulevard in a violent rainstorm - that although lasts as briefly as a run through the length of the boulevard, just enough to get me in to my first boyfriend's (to become husband) apartment... The boulevard is party paved and partly covered in sandy terracotta earth, street cat's excrement and an abundance of bat's favourite - semi-fermented sycamore fruit that has turned into a black marmalade spread lavishly along the boulevard.

And I could not agree more with Darwish's observations of the various cities he summarizes in a few scents: each city has a definitive odour, often comprises of several random characteristic smells (be it from food and other manmade odours - and malodours - created by city living, juxtaposed with the natural surroundings and unique vegetation that was chosen by the city's carefully designed - or uncalled for - flora and fauna). And indeed, "A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable". Which is precisely what Vancouver has been to me from the moment I arrived here, one terribly rainy October day (which lasted a month). Though it's not true that I did not recognize any scents, they were by no means lingering in the air. The city's only distinctive smell greeted you when entering someone's fungi-infested wooden home. And that was a common scent that takes years getting used to.

Likewise, it took me years discovering Vancouver's hidden olfactory treasures - privet hedges in bloom at the beginning of each January; plum cherry blossoms' savoury, bittersweet aroma that are reminiscent of coumarin and sweet red beans; the subtle salty kelp and boat motor oil that is dispersed in the air on the rare days when the city is above room temperature... You really know you know the city when you can sum up its smells with such vivid clarity. I feel I can only do that well with cities I actually lived in or visited more than a handful of times - so let's try:

Jerusalem is the smell of bus exhaust mingled with fresh spearmint and parsley bundles, dusty cobblestone and freshly baked bagels with sesame.

Tel Aviv is the smell of rusted fences, sweat, fermented sycamore fruit and sand impregnated with too many cat visits.

Akko (aka Acre) is the smell of fish on ice, brine, rahat loukum and chickpeas cooking.

Vancouver is the smell of fungi-infested wood, wet leaves, kelp, jet fuel and plum blossoms.

Victoria is the smell of stale tea leaves, English roses, expensive soap and moss-covered stones.

Montreal is the smell of metal and cement in the metro, rain-covered raspberry, ripe Bartlett pears, pink lotus flowers and almond croissants.

San Francisco is the smell of live honeysuckles and angel's trumpet, and nag champa mingled with cannabis smoke.

As you can tell, I'm getting worse and worse at this the more further I stray from the familiar... In other words - I need your help! Please leave a comment below, and enter to win a mini of the only city-themed perfume I've ever created: New Orleans. I never visited there (yet!!!), but I created it based on the city's native's description of it and the feedback from NOLAns was that it is very accurate.

P.s. Monkey Monday winner from last week's giveaway is yash - who wins a sample package from House of Matriarch.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Allure Parfum

For Adrian... by pieceoflace
For Adrian..., a photo by pieceoflace on Flickr.

Angular, crisp and non-accommodating, allure eau de toilette never appealed to me. I tried to fall for it, but it didn’t happen. There was something just so harshly chemical at first, and than bland through and through – I kept waiting for a surprise to happen, and it never did.

While reviewing Dune, I realized how similar the two fragrances are, and how much Allure was influenced by Dune. So I’ve given Allure another chance, and tried it in the pure parfum (I have a mini that was sent to me by a fellow perfumista – to this day I can’t remember if it was a trade, a gift or one of those “thinning the herd” sales…). Either way, I’m glad I had (and still have) the opportunity to smell Allure in the parfum concentration. Traditionally, perfumers will design a new fragrance in parfum extrait first, which means this is their truest intention. Now you’ll sometimes see perfumes released first in other concentrations: Cristalle, for example, was first created as an eau de toilette, and was never offered in extrait.

Allure parfum is slightly a different animal: It opens with a similar crisp, angular tonality – but it is actually recognizable as bergamot, even though a very crystalline version of it. Than a slightly peachy note comes in, as well as the musky, oily-scalp type aldehyde C-11 (Perhaps a reference to No. 5?; overall, Allure brings to mind the soapy cleanliness of No. 22) as well as the full-fledged floral bouquet of rose with underlining green hints, and supported by white floral notes - jasmine and magnolia. Together with the aldehydes it gets quite a "perfumey" personality - very French and not nearly as modern (read: thin and one-dimensional) as the EDT.

It is a little smoother, sweeter and warmer than the eau de toilette, which is a good thing in my book and there is more depth to it. There are crystalline vanilla notes as well, nothing syrupy or pastry-like about it; sheer woods and musks, and an ever so quiet whisper of vetiver – which is probably the best part about Allure (although it's not really all that obvious, it creates an effect that really saves it from being too cloyingly floral and chemical), which gets stronger over time once the aldehydes and florals tone down a bit. It's a clean, bitter, gorgeous vetiver, and smells Haitian alright! At the very end, Allure dries into a pleasant powdery musk, though not nearly as generic as you’d expect (musk is so over used nowadays, in florals like any other genre).

Still, there is a certain acrid, harsh note lurking underneath Allure’s innocent and agreeable purr; and that is something that disturbed me in all other concentrations. It’s not nearly as apparent in the parfum, but it’s still there – making me wonder – what were they thinking including that thing?! And what IS it? It might be the waterlily accord – as it is a very chemical smell (and most “waterlily” scents heavily rely on watery synthetics. It could be this with the vetiver. I smelled a similar note in Dune, and I'm not sure if it's one raw materials or just the result of combining similar notes with some natural vetiver in the mix.

Allure’s olfactory structure is described as a “faceted” one, with illustrated by a hexagon, divided into 6 triangles:
1) Fresh : Citron note.
2) Fruity : Sicilian Mandarin.
3) Timeless Floral : May Rose, Oriental Jasmine.
4) Imaginary Floral : Magnolia accord, Honeysuckle accord, Water lily accord.
5) Woody : Haitian Vetiver.
6) Oriental : Vanilla from Réunion.

A quick glance at this makes one wonder. After all: citron and mandarin (Sicilian or otherwise) are both top notes. The florals in facets 3 and 4 are all heart notes; and lastly, vetiver and vanilla (facets 5 and 6) are both base notes. So it does not exactly convince me that it’s any different form a “pyramid”. The one thing I do get from this illustration of a 6-faceted is the angular quality of the perfume. It is softer than the EDT, and and softens more over time in the parfum version. But there is something sharp and angular, crips and faceted about its personality. I experience it mostly as a linear scent. There is none of the complex evolution that can be found in other Chanel perfumes (say, Bois des Îles) and it’s pretty much offers what its got right from the start, with very little surprises.

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Etrog in Perfume Shrine's Summer Favourites!

Thrilled that Etrog was so well received by Helg at Perfume Shrine, that she's included it in her rundown of summer favourites for 2012:
"Light, tangy with pommelo, natural, with an aromatic, oleaginous background, Etrog Oy de Cologne is a scent to see you through hot summery noons and to brighten darker autumn dawns".

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Thursday, September 06, 2012


Powder Puff Flowers by Stigter_H
Powder Puff Flowers, a photo by Stigter_H on Flickr.

Keiko Mecheri’s rendition of the patchouli theme is significantly different from other niche houses’ offerings: it is dominated by clean musks and flowers, which almost take away from its patchoulesque cleanliness and woody dryness. Far more complex than others in its genre – if blind-tested, you’d probably place it elsewhere – in the floral powdery family, perhaps.

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Borneo 1834

Resinous chocolate milk filled with oozing caramel, on a pretense of being bittersweet… Only saving point is its dusty cocoa powdery note, and an underlying masculine-oriented notes of tobacco and some synthetic musks.

Here is the thing with evolving taste and being exposed to so much more: it takes away from the pleasure that “beginner’s luck” brings. I remember liking Borneo a lot and finding more patchouli in it when I first smelled it. It was this unabashed, shamelessly patchouli scent. But now it feels as if there is not enough patchouli in it….

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Chypre Time of Reflection

Fall is gracefully entering the skies... Bright and blue, they are now crisp in the morning and by high noon are warmed by gentle slightly angled sun rays. The breezes are creating ripples and larger waves even in the quiet Straight of Georgia and the more sheltered False Creek.
The days are getting shorter and suddenly the notion of dressing up and having friends over for a cup of tea (not iced!) does not seem awkward anymore.

This time of the year I am drawn to Chypres time and time again - especially the Chypre Fruity, such as Mitsouko, Femme, and also other classics like Sous le Vent (which I was wearing two days straight now). I'm feeling sad that there has been much less interest in this fragrance family. I wish the rants about discontinued members of this family were backed up by purchasing habits to support its continuous existence. I'm definitely not seeing very much sold of some of my perfumes that I'm most proud of. And I'm sorry to say, unless this changes drastically in this season, I will have to say goodby to these perfumes and cease from producing them.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe customers need to know when a product they love (or say they love) is getting pulled off the market. It's always been my mandate to never truly discontinue a fragrance (I can always make things on-order, unless an ingredient is nowhere to be found).
Also, customers need to know that complaining about what companies do and don't do for them is sometimes beyond the point. Those who are loyal and actually do purchase the product - I feel for you (and you know that just like you I will be scouring eBay for beloved long-gone or reformulated perfumes). But just complaining about a company's actions is not always fair. I'm all for criticizing the big boys' preference for the bottom line (aka profit), and it often seems that they would go as far as completely bastardizing their formulae to achieve that goal.

In my case (as I sure is also the case with many other niche brands that are struggling to remain visible in the vast ocean of 1000 new releases per year with budget far larger than theirs): not only am I not really profiting from this, I'm actually losing money for keeping these perfumes in rotation: It is seriously getting to the point when even keeping all the specialty ingredients that are required to keep this on hand is simply not realistic in the current economic climate when people are taking second jobs (if they manage to keep their first one) and companies are cutting costs everywhere possible. I don't want cost-cutting to affect the quality of my products, EVER. But I cannot go on subsidizing people's olfactory curiousity at the expense of my (non-existent) pension plan and my daugther's (non-existent) college funds.

Sample sales are just not enough to justify keeping a perfume on the shelf. I don't even make profit off selling samples: they just barely pay for the cost of producing and shipping them. It's harsh, but that's life - there isn't an unlimited space in my tiny studio, and rent ain't cheap! Each fragrance takes up space and needs to be kept in stock to be offered on the website or anywhere really. And if there isn't enough interest (backed-up by actually putting money towards where the declarations of love are directed), then I need to act very business like and discontinue them.

The perfumes in question are Autumn, Megumi and Schizm. Three perfumes I've always been very proud of. However, I can't even remember when someone bought a full bottle of any of these (and I usually remember those kinds of details - including who purchased it within this year) - and these used to be constantly sought out by Chypre loving perfumistas and my regular customers... I know there is nothing "wrong" with these perfumes per se - although of course I can always make them more "intense" and more "dramatic" and more "noir" and flanker them to death and relaunch it (if I had a million dollar budget), but I thought long and hard and I think I will just have to let them go - unless I'm seeing some orders coming for full bottles of these beauties by the end of 2012. Which means that you will only have the options of the fresher, greener Chypres - Ayalitta (thankfully among my best-sellers), ArbitRary (dito) and Rainforest.

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Cinnamon Skies

Maupiti Sunrise by SF Brit
Maupiti Sunrise, a photo by SF Brit on Flickr.

Sous le Vent literally means "under the wind", and refers to Îles Sous-le-vent - aka Society Islands or Leeward Islands in French Polynesia. While the agriculture of the island mostly consists of coconuts and vanilla beans; the perfume brings a whiff of cinnamon wind - that I would imagine would come off the Spice Islands combined with a good whiff of good old island of Cyprus - complete with the garrigue scent of Mediterranean hills covered in warm rockrose bushes.

Sous le Vent was created in 1933, and is an angular and rather masculine Chypre. First off, you will smell aromatic notes of lavender and juniper berry. There is some citrusy notes - lemon and also a strong presence of geraniol - could there be geranium in there? The labdanum comes through right away: warm, round, enveloping in contrast to these brisk sharp notes. Rose blooms on the skin, accompanied by the spiciness of cinnamon and carnatnion, and luscious, fruity jasmine which adds space and and a sense of expansion. Like most Guerlain's scents, there is also a hint of iris notes here - but there is no melancholy to speak of: it's more of a sweet, rounded addition reminiscent of violets more than the austere root, as it is paired with the quirky little dragon - tarragon. The flowers and spices together make it smell like suede leather and apricot skin.

There is a recognizable dose of coumarin in there too - perhaps from the classic guerlinade accord (tonka, iris, vanilla); but also from the lavender. The coumarin in conjuction with the lavender gives it a masculine, fougere-like quality. As Sous le Vent dries down, it leaves behind it a rather dry, almost bitter trail of woods and moss - green oakmoss, in a very sheer presence that is due to the removal of atranol (all recent oakmoss absolutes are treated that way - which makes it impossible to have that full-bodied, nearly ambery wine-barrel personality that oakmoss used to have.

Sous le Vent is very natural smelling - so much so that I was shocked when I smelled it at first because it reminded me of Democracy - almost to a T. Although it is very likely to have been altered or reformulated when it was re-introduced several years ago as a boutique exclusive; it has a very sheer, modern feel that was ahead of its time (1933) - one might arguably think the nose behind it is a later perfumer - Edmond Roudnitska - whose signature was that expansive, sheer, light quality all the while maintaining a high level of sophistication and complexity - as opposed to Guerlain's multi-layered baroque style.

I purchased my bottle at the Guerlain boutique on Champs Elysees, and to my dismay, I found out the bottle completely cracked on the flight home - but discovered just in time to transfer all the precious jus to a Boston round lab bottle (not nearly as pretty...) so I still have 100ml of it to enjoy for years to come (and share from time to time...). The box mentioned something about it being inspired by Josephine Baker (also the muse for Bois des Iles). Definitely a departure from today's "celebrity scents": it seems to bring forth more of her inner self; rather than the exotic fantasy image around her professional persona. Very fascinating, especially considering how masculine it smells. I can definitely imagine her as being a true free spirit, that could not care less if her scent is perceived as belonging to a different gender. It smells fantastic, and that's all that matters!

Top notes: Juniper, Lemon, Bergamot, Tarragon, Lavender

Heart notes: Rose, Geranium, Jasmine, Orris Root, Carnation, Cinnamon

Base notes: Labdanum, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Tonka Bean

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Monkey Monday: Vacation Mode

Hope you all had a great, long, and enjoyable Labour Day weekend!
I'm on vacation mode till Wednesday and to be honest have absolutely no peculiar scent related anecdote for Monkey Monday! Shame on me!
However, I thought we can use this post to bring up any topics you would like to read more about on SmellyBlog. i.e.:
What should be the next theme for the "Decoding Obscure Notes" series? Some mentioned mineral/salty notes via our Facebook fanpage, and there were some other good ideas floating around there...
Any perfume review requests?
Anything else at all?
I'm listening :-)

Among the commentators, there will be a lucky draw to win a sample collection from Matriarch (Value: $100).

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Patchouli & Amber Cologne Intense

Joyness by ceca67
Joyness, a photo by ceca67 on Flickr.

Jo Malone's newish "Cologne Intense" collection came out in August 2010, in noir bottles, of course. Although the names are the usual Jo Malone formula (One Ingredient & Another Cologne), they are concentrated around heavier scents and are not nearly as "British" and scrubbed-clean as under Jo Malone's artistic direction (the company was sold to Estee Lauder, and ever since then there were a few uncharacteristic scents that came to play, at times interesting - such as Sweet Lime & Cedar or Blue Agave & Cacao; and at other times just very pretentious, as if trying to keep up with the "Niche look" headed by Tom Ford and the like. Meaning - that everything has to be "Noir" this or "Noir" that and have a heavy dose of patchouli or synthetic oud and amber - which has come to be represent with "luxury". In reality, these are pale imitations of what the true raw materials would smell like, thinned out (or completely replaced, whenever possible) by their synthetic imitations.

Patchouli & Amber is no exception. It brings nothing new to the table (except for being the first and only patchouli offering under the Jo Malone brand) and it is paired with crowd-pleasing amber, which dominates it in a similar manner Prada’s eponymous scent does. It doesn’t hurt anyone to have a god amber scent around; but it by no means provide anything new and interesting (which Dark Amber & Ginger Lily already did). From a curator’s point of view – it’s really quite pointless. But I’m sure the accounting department would be in favour of such a scent.

Patchouli & Amber has all the usual suspects: Overdose of thin, caramel-like benzoin with hints of dark Indonesian or Indian patchouli, an under-dose of resinous Spanish labdanum. It’s as disappointing as Prada as far as representing patchouli goes. And the amber is nothing interesting either. Very pleasant and easy to wear – yes; but interesting? No. There is really very little to write home about, and the only reason I’m writing about is because of the patchouli theme that’s been lingering in SmellyBlog’s quarters. My favourite from these "Cologne Intense" bunch remains Rosewater & Vanilla (which I will write about at another time).

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Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Happy Labour Day!

Summer is not quite over yet, so I'm taking advantage of all the flavourful fruit still available, as well as the bit of free time before we switch gears into the fall/winter madness.

This blueberry upside-down cake is adapted from by Bettina Schorman, from her cookbook co-authored with chef Jeff Crump: Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm.
The recipe there is excellent, except that it’s sweetness of way over the top to my taste (and I have a sweet tooth, believe me!). I felt a deep urge to not only reduce the sugar and substitute it for honey in the glaze for the fruit; but also add lemon zest to balance the fruit’s sweetness. Also serving with crème fraiche makes all the difference!

For the blueberry & glaze:
In a 10” cast iron skillet or cast iron pan, melt 3 TBS each of butter and bluberry honey (or any local honey of your choice). Cover with 2-3 cups of fresh blueberries (you want to create about an inch-deep layer of berries at the bottom of your pan). I personally do not own a skillet but simply a cast iron frying pan; so for this recipe – I need to muster to the task my smaller frying pan (7”) as well and divide the recipe between the two.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
In the meantime, put together the ingredients for the cornmeal batter:
1cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup raw cane sugar
zest from 1 lemon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour (preferably organic)
¾ cup purple cornmeal (yellow will do just fine too; but will affect the colour)
1TBS baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup buttermilk

Sift together the dry ingredients.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract and eggs – one at a time.
Pour over the flour mixture. Continue beating. Add buttermilk. Pour over blueberries and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-50min, or until a toothpick (or a cake tester) comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven once ready, and wait 10-15 minutes to slightly cool off. Run a knife around the edges of the cake. While cake is still warm, invert it on top of a plate, tray or cake case.

Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with a spoonful of crème fraiche.

There is something to be said about fruit desserts. They are the best, in my humble opinion – where the pastry is there solely to present the fruit and highlight its elegance and singularity. In this one the cornmeal adds an interesting colour (you will get a beautifully bright yellow, which will contrast nicely with the purple bluebberries as well) - but most importantly, a slightly crunchy and sandy texture; and a delicious, rustic yet delicately sweet flavour of polenta. Admittedly, sometimes I feel that cheesecakes and anything vanilla flavoured are the best. If you serve this with crème fresh or crème chantilly (vanilla flavoured whipped cream) – you get the best of both worlds, which to me is as perfect as dessert can be.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012


Wind Painting - Death Valley National Park by Joshua Cripps

Slightly charred vinyl flowers on sand and rubber tires abandoned in the heat of the summer and splashed over by salty sea water. If you were lucky, it would cling to your clothes the way ozone does after coming in after a brisk walk in the chilly air. There’s a wind blowing and it brings forth the scent of desert flowers (is it broom ?) and perhaps even beach lilies, mingled with grassy shrubs and metal frames that were left behind and are now blooming with deep-red rust.

Dune is not often discussed or mentioned among pefumistas. I can’t think of a single person I know that loves or wears this scent. And it’s one of those cerebral, and slightly moody scents, which I was never able to connect with, but always admired for its role in the history of contemporary perfumery.

Launched in 1991, Dune has impact beyond what meets the surface. It was one of (if not the first) modern perfume to disregard the “pyramid” structure of beginning, middle and end (also known as head/top, heart/middle and foundation/base). Instead, it takes a completely linear path that fades into the horizon like a curved mass of sand.

Jean-Louis Sieuzac, Nejla Bsiri-Barbir and Dominique Ropion created Dune in 1992, and in 1993 it won FiFi awards. It is a scent that had an immense impact on perfume culture throughout the 90’s, though not too many are aware of that ozone/marine scent. If l’Eau d’Issey and Cool Water began the trend of transferring aquatics from the pool to the bottle (Aquatic/Watery Florals and Fougeres); Dune was more about the open space near the seashore, and explored the concept of “ozone” or the scent that is in the air around the ocean. It was well ahead of its time, and as it turned out - it is the father of all the "mineral" or "salty" scents that are slowly but surely gaining momentum in the new millennium.

It might have taken a while, but Dune to me is a scent that explores the movement of a vast body such as a sand dune. It comes in as a wave and fades out as one. A year later came another perfume that questioned the authority of the pyramid structure: Angel, with its linear, homogenous yet aggressive personality. But while Angel took the spirit of the 80’s and amplified it ten fold to push strong-minded fragrances to the next generation; Dune was all about refinement and subtlety, and inspired other perfumes with similar character.

In its time, Dune resembled no other scent - so much so, that it took me literally years to be able to wrap my head around it. It was so cerebral and I had difficult time connecting to it, “reading” it. It did not really “speak” to me with its very unnatural, sci-fi personality and abstract raw materials… In the meantime, Dune has influenced many similar scents – linear, woodsy and warm yet clean and cerebral: Tocade (1994), which is about as linear as any scent could ever get; Allure (1996), which supposedly has the “faceted” structure, but if you look at it closely feels and smells very much like a copycat of Dune (even the “facets” which are just different aspects of this one linear processions – are dominated by the same notes: Mandarin, Vetiver, Vanilla, with the white flowers being the only visible variant); and lastly – the salty ambergris-centred Eau de Mervelleis (2004), Bois d’Orage (2007), Dans tes Bras (2008) and Terre Hermès (2009).

So now after exploring these scents and observing its influence, coming back to Dune seems on one had to finally make sense; but in the other hand – lost a bit of its novelty for me.

Dune by default fits in my gestalt with the Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel bearing the same name. And just like that novel, which walks between modern mythology and political commentary – Dune questioned our paradigm of how perfume should behave, and at the same time has become such an iconic perfume on several levels: the choice of raw materials (and the inclusion of helionial to create very realistic ocean-side nuances), the linear structure linear as linear could be – as and far as I know the first of its kind (followed only a year later by another modern icon – Angel).

Even the bottle is brilliant – reflecting the curvature of the dunes, their pale golden and glowing colour, at the same time flowing yet set in its own ways – just like the jus within it.

Dune is singular, unusual and very out of the way from my comfort zone or natural leaning. Although it is, as mentioned and emphasized earlier about 10 times, a linear scent – there is a certain progression, and in the beginning you would smell pale, transparent hit of green abstract notes, which are mingled with mandarin and resemble citrus leaves (only cleaner and not in the least eau-de-cologne like). Fairly quickly these just fade to become part of the greater picture – abstract flowers, sand and mineral notes mingled with salty air (yet not in the least algae-like) and revealing slowly an undercurrent of vetiver, amber, musky woods and vanilla. And it also lasts and lasts and lasts – easily for 10 or 12 hours; though not in a menacing or overpowering way. It’s just present.

And if you really "need" to see more specific notes of succession of Dune's aspects, you might like this part (the flowers are very unoticeable though, in my humble opinion):

Fresh & Airy – Broom, Wallflower, Bergamot, Mandarin

Flowery – Lily, Peony, Jasmine, Rose

Rich & Velvety – Amber, Lichen, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Io Capri

cuppa heaven by Az~Kate
cuppa heaven, a photo by Az~Kate on Flickr.

A few years ago, I received a Carthusia sample set from the rep at Holt Renfrew. This was back in the day when they re-opened their Vancouver department store and launched “Holtscents” – a niche (or mini boutique) in the store front with interesting perfumeries from around the world. Unfortunately, by the time I picked my favourite among the samples – the line got discontinued (along many other good brands, such as Miller Harris and Ineke), which was disappointing and disheartening to see – just another proof for Vancouver’s very limited appreciation for scent. Thankfully, Frederic Malle is still there and they keep rotating other niche brands (currently the new kid on the block is Byredo, which I don’t care much for). Io Capri and the other scents from Carthusia can be found in person and online at Anthropoligie, The Perfume Shoppe and ScentBar, so it’s not all lost...

But ranting about retailers choices aside: Io Capri was not what I thought I would fall for. I’m usually biased towards the heavier, smokier, spicier, oriental or chypre members of a perfume line, with an occasional unusual floral that I find intriguing. With Carthusia, I found myself drawn to the two light and fresh ones: Io Capri and Mediterrano.

Like most winning scents in my history, it’s the combination of familiarity and intrigue that usually “grabs” me. And Io Capri is a prime example. There was more of the unfamiliar in it; and on the surface, it’s not what I would pick over smoldering incense or moss-laden composition. There is a fine balance between crisp eau-de-cologne like freshness and the complete opposite – a flowery, feminine perfume with a sultry and salty undercurrent.

Io Capri opens with a bitter, acrid sharpness of citrus mingled with herbs. But immediately you will notice a violetty, floral mélange that has an almost nostalgic bittersweetness to it, and as it grows on the skin it takes the shape of parma violet in full purple ripeness. Green garden notes of tomato leaf become apparent suddenly – totally unexpected; and a slightly soapy, overripe purple fig floats on a cup of iced green tea. After this succession of notes, Io Carpi settles into an abstract cup of violet and fig tea scent, paired with salted green almonds - and other than that, remains rather unchanged throughout its skin life.

Contrary to my initial observations of Io Capri, it is actually a rather complex scent. It does remain linear after that initial burst; but there is more to it than "just" tea. Aside from the whimsical surprise of green tomatos, it is really that intriguing combination of candy-like beta ionone and salty notes that got my attention. A look at Carthusia's own website reveals an interesting scent pyramid that would explain quite easily why it won my heart:

Top notes: Wild Mint, Sicilian Lemon, Chinese Eucalyptus, Aromatic Litsea, Star Anise, Brazilian orange

Heart notes: Fig, Wildflowers, Tea, Apple Blossom, Egyptian Jasmine, Ceylonese Citronella

Base notes: Seaweed, Tobacco flowers

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Monkey Monday Winner (What Summer?)

Thank you to all who participated and shared their summer scents and sensations. It was so much fun reading your comments and my only hope is to have more dialogue on SmellyBlog (regardless of giveaways...). It's really nice to know that people are actually reading the content I put together for hours on end ;-)
Congratulations to melou, our Monkey Monday winner for this week's giveaway!
You will receive a copy of Ayala Moriel's Foundation of Natural Perfumery course handbook. And I might just have to throw in a sample of Treazon since I know how much of a tuberose lover you are!

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