Friday, November 30, 2012

Bloom Market

This weekend I'm off to Fort Langely to take part in Bloom Market - a holiday market that is filled with amazing local artisans at the historic Fort Langley Community Hall and charming gardens. There will also be over 40 artisans, as well as a European-inspired outdoors food and craft market there, with food trucks and fun activities, demos and live music!

Bloom Market is unique event and one of the best markets in the Lower Mainland, bringing the best of BC's designers & artisans to the Fraser Valley: art, glass, wood, jewellery, clothing, leather, knit wear, body products, paper goods, and more, you’re sure to find something personal and wonderful for everyone on your list!

Visit me there to taste my one time only Fetish truffles (with fir and jasmine tea), and get a whiff of my new candle collection for winter 2012: Épice Sauvage, Bon Zai, Orcas and Vetiver Racinette.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Meet Laurax

"Meet Laurax, a not-very-bold, not-that-exciting new fragrance"...

A new study in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel by Tali Weiss and Kobi Snitz discovered that blending together completely different molecules in identical intensity level produces an odour that is surprisingly lacking in character, and is hardly any different from another blend created with the same principles. "As long as the individual ingredients are different enough, and roughly equal in intensity, whiteness emerges".  

What are the implications of finding such a thing as "olfactory white"? It might help shed more light on how we perceive and process olfactory information (as did the discovery of white light and white did for understanding seeing and hearing). But it might also have some functional implications for perfumers - which to most of us might seem rather obvious: not to put too many things that are too different and unrelated at all in the same perfume, as it can take away from creating a definite olfactory statement.

I'm wondering if the smell of everything, all at once is somewhat like a white noise. It sure is to me, in the mental meaning of the concept - it gives a sense of olfactory calm, with a nondescript mishmash of my workspace that permeates the air of my entire abode and makes me feel at east. Much more so than the "neutral" scent of an unscented home, a space that is devoid of any personality.

How would you imagine a "white scent" to be? Leave a comment and enter to win a decant of No. 18 from Chanel's Les Exclusifs collection.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vetiver Salon at O5

The best part of Monday this week was spent at O5 tea bar, where we conducted a Vetiver Salon.
I brought all my vetiver oils and essences - 10 altogether, and from 7 different locales:
India (Vetiver essential oil, CO2, ruh khus, and co-distillation with mitti attar); and vetiver essential oils from South Africa, Surinam, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Bourbon and Indonesia.

Vetiver is used in many of my perfumes, but I brought 7 to create a diverse little collection that features vetiver in a prominent enough manner: Bon Zai, Hanami, Jasmine Pho, Megumi, New Orleans, Sabotage and Vetiver Racinettes and some of my OOAK vetiver perfumes: Vetiver Blanc, Wilde Vetyver, Vetiver Noir and Vetiver Rouge. And it goes without saying that there were some soap and candles involved...

And I also brought the dried roots, so that we can brew some warm vetiver infused tea. In the picture you can see the Anji Bai Cha - a Korean tea that is somewhere in between green and white. It brought out the nutty, sweet warmth of vetiver. We brewed it with another white tea - silver needles from China - to produce a more cool, clean, slightly grassy tasting liquor that would probably taste even better chilled in the summer. And our last experiment - vetiver roots with green pu-erh, which worked quite harmoniously, tasting fresh and not nearly as dirty-like and earthy as black pu-erh teas tend to be.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of semi-regular perfume and salons that I will be co-hosting at O5.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Annual Perfume Review Contest Extended

I'm extending the perfume review contest till the end of November, to give more of you time to post something, and also some of the websites take time to approve/upload reviews.

Here is how to participate:

Post a review of one of my new perfumes (released in 2011 or 2012) on MakeUpAlley, Basenotes or Fragrantica.

To make it easier for you, here are all the links to each database that features these new perfumes:

Add a review of Treazon on Basenotes, Fragrantica or MakeUpAlley.
Add a review of Etrog on Fragrantica, Basenotes or MakeUpAlley.
Add a review of Orcas on Basenotes, MakeUpAlley or Fragrantica.
Add a review of New Orleans on MakeUpAlley, Fragrantica or Basenotes.
Add a review of Zanvil on MakeUpAlley, Basenotes and Fragrantica.

Post a comment here  telling us which perfume/s you reviewed and where; and tell us what you think of the name Treazon! Your name will be entered as many times as your reviews and comments :-)

Prize: Treazon min i($90 value) or another mini of your choice!

Lucky draw date: November 30th at 11am (PST). 

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Pear Bundt Cake

Spiced Pear Bundt Cake by Ayala Moriel
Spiced Pear Bundt Cake, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
After a long day of bad news from Israel and Gaza, I just had to do something relaxing and positive. I baked a bundt cake. Flipped it over on the cake stand. Buried my nose in the midst and indulged in the comforting steam of baked butter, honey, spice and caramelized Flemmish pears. I wish I could send some of this comfort to all my family and friends in the war zones.

Pears are a relatively new obsession of mine - poached, or in a brie sandwich, or better yet - in a frangipane tart - there is something utterly luxurious and elegant about this rather humble-looking, delicately flavoured and subtley textured fruit.

This cake is another way to enjoy pears, especially if you happen to be greedy like me when they are in season, and buy a few extra ones that got a little too soft for poaching or sandwiches... It requires making a home made caramelized pear sauce or puree - which sounds complicated, but is really a breeze. The original Martha Stewart recipe that this one is based on instructs you to peel the pears. But I felt that this took away a bit of the texture. So my recipe is my own little twist on the theme, and in my opinion feels more pear-y, which is what I'm after. You will need at least 5 pears for this recipe (6 pears if you are decorating it with the pear chips).

A little note about the bundt mold: Yes, you will need it. I'm not a fan of having a special piece of equipment for every type of cake under the sun. However, there are some exceptions (i.e.: Madeleine molds, heart cookie cutters...). But yes, even though I waited about a million years to get my bundt mold - it's totally worth the investment. It has opened up a whole world of recipes for simple yet elegant and impressive cakes right before my eyes. And now also yours. Do it!

For the Caramelized Pear Sauce:
1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
5 pears, cored and cut into medium chunks (peeling optional)

- Spread the sugar evenly in a wide sauce pan and cook on medium heat until the sugar on the edges starts to brown.
- Stir just until all the sugar has melted, and immediately add the pears.
- Cook the pears while stirring occasionally. 
- Once the pears are soft, use a potato-masher to make a chunky pear puree.

For the batter:1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened in room temperature
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
4 large eggs, in room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs freshly grated ginger root 
2 cups spelt flour
1 cup (100gr) ground blanched almonds (aka almond meal)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

- Preheat the oven to 350F (180c).
- Sift together dry ingredients (flour, almond meal, spices, salt, baking powder and soda).
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, honey and sugar in medium speed, until fully creamed and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and continue beating for .
- Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for a few more seconds.
- Reduce to low speed and add about third of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
- Add the pear sauce and beat shortly.
- Add another third of the flour, and continue beating just until combined.
- Add the buttermilk and continue beating just for a few more seconds.
- Add the remaining flour, and beat briefly - just until the last bit of flour is incorporated into the batter.
- Butter a bundt pan and dust with more spelt flour. Tap out excess flour.
- Carefully pour the batter into the pan and spread until even.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake ring comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. While the cake is still warm, invert it on a cake tray or case, and allow to cool completely before decorating it with powdered sugar or the suggested decoration below. Only once cooled, you may cover it with a lid or a glass dome.

To decorate the cake:

A simple decoration for this cake would be a little dusting with powdered sugar, which is elegant and pretty and perfect if you're just making the cake for yourself and your family or casual entertaining. If this is for a special occasion - this cake can make an entrance that is in my humble opinion more impressive than some of the most sophisticated layer cakes I've ever made. And still quite simple to carry out.
For that, you will need to create a cream cheese icing, and candied pear chips (recipe below). The white icing looks regal and sensual set against the dark, caramel-coloured spiced cake. Add to that homemade candied pear chips - and you're up for a memorable fall cake that is reminiscent of fallen leaves on fresh snow. Delightful for both your eyes and taste buds!

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:
4oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs milk, more if needed
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract, or the "seeds" scraped from half a vanilla pod. 
- Whisk the ingredients together with a wire whisk or with an electric mixer.
- Drizzle all over the cake once it is cooled, one tablespoonful at a time on the top - it will run down the streams created by the bundt mold and is sure to be pretty!

For the Candied Pear Chips:
1 unripe pear
1 cup granulated or evaporated cane sugar1 lemon, cut into half
1 cup Water

- Preheat the oven to 200F (95c). Line a baking sheet with parchament paper or Silpat.
- Shave the pear lengthwise using a mandolin (I tried it without a mandolin and it does not work - so here's another kitchen investment I had to make...). There is no need to remove the core of the seeds - they will add to the visual appeal of the pear chips, and during the baking process they will become easily edible.
- Rub half a lemon on each pear slice (to prevent it from browning).
- In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, and keep it simmering.
- Put the pear slices in the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot with a  slotted spoon, and drain on a sieve. 
- Spread the drained slices on the lined pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes - until crisp but not brown.
- Once cooled, place the slices atop the glazed bundt cake.  Doesn't it look spectacular?

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Behind the Scents wtih Treazon

Treazon by Ayala Moriel
Treazon, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
I kept the creative process of Treazon concealed from you for the most part. A little glimpse into the artistic direction have been published last year - at which point the formulation was actually ready!

Treazon perfume has been a raw concept for quite some time now. It all began as an impromptu study of tuberose, broken down into its many components - specific molecules, and raw materials that help coax the tuberosiness out of the rather subtle absolute.

Poucher's book played a big role in helping me discover aspects of tuberose I've never before thought would be so important and prevalent in creating a "big tuberose":
From that, I created a sketch that was very simple, yet powerful: tuberose, birch, vanilla, anise, cinnamon and cassis. I blended them up guided by my nose, and set them aside to oblivion with a random name "Treazon" sketched all over the formula and the lab bottle. That was back in October 2005!

This simple little perfume turned out to be crucial in creating the effect I desired so much years later, after experiencing the epiphany of Tubereuse Criminelle in Paris; yet being disappointed at the drydown (too similar to Fleur d'Oranger, in my humble opinion): the almost disturbing scent that takes over the room after dark after bringing home a stem or two of tuberose from the flower shop. It usually happens only in the summer time. And when I find them - I always feel particularly lucky. They are often hard to find, and even once you do find one or two - they tend to be either buried in a bouquet with a bunch of indolic lilies; or very unimpressive visually as they travel long and far and the edges of the petals are often browned and damaged.
 Yet non of this prevents the flower from taking up the entire house (I live and work in a two story apartment) and it makes the few days of living with a tuberose stem quite memorable. Across the street from my home there is a retirement home, and more often than never there are service cars that take folks to their last trip, which is rather sad to watch; but is also a constant reminder of the frailty and preciousness of life. I feel like we live in a very unhealthy segregated society where we separate ourselves from the threatening realities of illness, death and depleted youth; not to mention the "inconvenience" of chattering children, toddlers etc.

So imagine the evening coming down, the bone-flower  placed on my windowsill facing downwards on an ambulance across the street... And the scent of heady flowers coming off strong and potent, non apologetic, and invisibly takes over the scene. That was the inspiration for Treazon at its final stages, which helped me refine my vision for it and also develop a visual representation for the perfume - an aspect that is challenging for such a small establishment; yet sometimes very helpful not only for marketing but also for creating the right mood and being able to communicate my olfactory "story" to my audience. Which is what I'm trying to do now.

It's also a challenge to explain how or why I pick the names for my perfumes. You will notice, if you glance at my perfume collection, that there are some scents that are particularly bold and have big somewhat political names - Espionage, Schizm, Sabotage... These always have a healthy (I think) dose of humour in them but are tackling rather heavy political phenomenon that have caused mankind much pain and strife. I suppose it's just my way of dealing with the things that constantly cast a shadow over our lives and my particular life story (which thankfully is only "not-directly" affected by all the big wars that have been fought by my ancestors and all their resulting misery - displacement, wounding and so on and so forth).

Treason is perhaps the most unforgivable thing: betraying your own people for a very questionable and doubtful cause. Yet it is something we do on a daily basis without even noticing: we betray the people we love the most. We do that unknowingly by revealing something personal about them to someone else who wants to hurt them or gain from their loss. We say bad things about those who are near and dear to us and betray their secrets just because we are weak and need someone to listen to our troubles. And simply because we don't know any better. So you see, treason is not something that is only reserved for heroic wars and to great betrayers of countries, spies and defectors. It's something that we commit in times of truce - or peace - as well.

And to me, all those things associated with treason and treachery have that toxic, bittersweetness of seductive poison. Which is why I picked notes that are rather strange and unusual and controversial. The original sketch has all these components: birch, which is full of salicilates, feeling simultaneously medicinal (wintergreen, menthol and cough syrup) and candy-like (grape and cherry). Cassis is at the same time delicious and berry-like, yet also has what many refer to as "cat pee" smell.

And last but not least: tuberose itself is a flower that people tend to either love or detest. So I won't be in the least surprised if this is the reaction that Treazon will garner: people will either love it, or hate it, for what it is, what it smells like, what it represents - and the name (spelled with a "Z" to make it a little more fun and less literal; besides, I love the look of the letter "Z" and I've been traditionally substituting it for the "s" in many of my perfume names where it is slightly possible).

To the "basic" sketch of Treazon I gradually added other notes to fine tune it and create more complexity and sophistication. Massoia bark for extra milky lacontic goodness. Wintergreen to make it even more medicinal and grape-like. Yellow mandarin for intense floralcy. And that spectacular orange blossom from Egypt for it's particularly grape-like quality, only to intensity the tuberose effect. There is also a tea rose from China (a thing of a rarity), and orris butter and load of vanilla absolute - the dark, slightly woody, real stuff. And did I mention the African stone tincture yet? It brings forth the animalic quality and makes it just ever so slightly meaner - and deeper. And most importantly: a very salicylic tuberose from India, to balance the more buttery and slightly green one I had. All in all, there is 34% tuberose in the entire formula. And at $8,000 a kilo, this makes the final (aka retail) price of Treazon hardly a profitable affair. But I want you to enjoy it while I can make it - so please do!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Intoxicating Flowers: Tuberose Demystified

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)
Polianthes tuberosa - single stemmed flowers, the ones that are used for perfumery. 

To the layperson, the mention of tuberose usually brings to mind “rose”. The name, however, refers to the tuberous roots of the plant, which is related to narcissus and is native to Central America and Mexico. Nowadays, it is mostly cultivated in India and to a lesser extent in Egypt and in Southern France. Currently there are only two tuberose fields left in Grasse, which are processed by enfleurage: the preferred method for this flower, which possesses the rare quality of emitting more scent after it’s been cut and separated from the plant. Therefore, enfleurage is actually more cost effective as it yields much more absolute than by solvent extraction. Enfleurage, however, is not possible in India because of cultural and religious restrictions: for enfleurage requires two types of animal fats - and tallow. Cows are sacred to the Hindus, and pork is prohibited by the Muslims - two major populations in the flower growing regions of India. The good news is, that Indians are currently exploring enfleurage with vegetable fats - certainly something to look forward to!

The flowers themselves look somewhat like lilies arranged on a tall stalk that is one meter in height. The plants grow from a bulb for 4 years before they bloom in July! This of course furthers the cost of the absolute as the land remains in use but with no profitable crop for so long.The tuberose for perfumery is different species than the one for bouquets that you’d find at the florist (though their scent is similar) – they are from the single flower variety, where as the ornamental ones (grown in gardens and available in the flower shops) have two flowers clustered together on the stem.

As far as the fragrance goes - tuberose has made a name for itself as a narcotic, sedative scent that is dangerously seductive to the senses and even has the powers to make innocent girls unable to control themselves sexually. Virgins and young girls are not permitted on the tuberose fields after dark from fear that their innocence will be compromised... As a perfume, tuberose scents are known for being grand and at times even obnoxious (i.e.: Poison, Fracas, Jardin de Bagatelle, Carnal Flower, etc).

Tuberose absolute, however, is everything but loud and obnoxious. It is soft, smooth, waxy, with hints of green and almost mushroomy qualities. Some specimens might feel a bit rubbery or medicinal - and this can be either an interesting and desirable quality or an unwanted one, depending on the perfumer's perspective. The best tuberose would feel buttery, creamy and with sweet grape top notes from methyl antrhanilate (also present in large amounts in orange blossom, ylang ylang and other white floral notes). A somewhat off-putting medicinal note may also be present, reminiscent of wintergreen or birch - which comes off the methyl salicilate that is also one of the constituents.

According to Bo Jensen, tuberose’s chemical makeup comprises of “benzyl alcohol and -acetate, methyl and benzyl benzoate, methyl salicylate, methyl anthranilate, eugenol, geraniol and nerol and -acetates, and farnesol, but its power and original effect is due to a multitude of gamma- and delta-lactones, some of them only found in tuberose” (i.e.: 6(Z),9(Z)-dodecadiene-4-olide, tuberolide and tuberolactone). It is probably those lactones that account for that creamy-dreamy, buttery characteristic of a good tuberose absolute, which is even more obvious in the tuberose floral wax.

Tuberose in the Flower Shop
Tuberose at the flower shop - this is a different variety, that is double-stemmed. 

To say that tuberose is one of my favourite raw materials would be an understatement. It's the queen of the flowers, mistress of the night and a welcome participant in too many perfumes I've created. I say "too many" because it is a very costly raw material, going for about 8,000 per kilo, making some of my perfumes almost unrealistic for commerce.

White Potion was the first perfume I've created with it, back in my very early days in 2001. In White Potion, the tuberose plays centre stage but has a very muted, well-mannered persona (thus making it a perfect member of the Language Of Flowers - my soliflore collection that is an homage to time past where soliflores were synonymous with elegance and refinement. And it was particularly fun to use tuberose in the other spin-offs of White Potion: the body oil, which only "opens up" once it's on the skin (due to how the salicilates are behaving in the oil base - they are almost "invisible") and in the fragrant white chocolate bar. I used it later in my contemporary, all-natural soliflores to give a white floral, creamy nuance in Gigi (gardenia soliflore, where tuberose has a traditional place to accentuate the big white floral qualities of gardenia), InCarnation (carnation soliflore) and Zohar (orange blossom soliflore).

, also created in 2001 - was an outrageous Chypre floral animalic, with all the white florals imaginable (tuberose, orange blossom, sambac and grandiflorum jasmines), counterbalanced with dry cedarwood and salty oakmoss, and a touch of tart mandarin and savoury cepes and black pepper.  Schizm was the first perfume I created with a name in mind first - and than the perfume came along. The concept was for a perfume with "schism" or division with it; and indeed, it begins more dry and almost acrid; yet develops into this sensual, floral-musky chypre.

In Razala, tuberose plays in the exotic, nearly erotic fantasy of an animalic, Arabian-inspired perfume. It has all the makings of a harem perfume: myrrh, oud, ambergris, saffron, rose... Tuberose gives it a creamy touch which along with the magnolia brightens it and brings some light into a rather dense and seductive composition.

l'Écume des Jours is that rare place where my wildest imagination followed Boris Vian's book of the same name. It is a true fantasy perfume, and the tuberose played a role in the deadly "lung water lily accord" - which is simply a made-up illness that only Boris Vian could come up with and make it seem beautiful.

Last but not least is Treazon: my newest perfume, which is a study in tuberose that has gone wild (more on that in a separate post). It's like White Potion's evil sister, accentuating all the aspects in tuberose that are more controversial and disagreeable. It was done before me (it was compared to Tubereuse Criminelle, which does not surprise me), but this one is with natural ingredients, exaggerating the salicylic aspects with an overdose of wintergreen and utilizing lactonic notes such as massoia bark to bring forth that creamy, milky and sweet aspect of tuberose, yet keep it dark and extreme.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Wear at your own risk: Treazon is ready!

"A traitor needs two things: somebody to hate, and somebody to love." - John LeCarre

It is Treazon time at Ayala Moriel Parfums!
I'm pleased to announce that Treazon is out of the lab and ready for your enjoyment - at your own risk, of course!
So far, this scent is proving to be highly addictive and controversial...

The original launch date was scheduled for 12.12.12 - yet I've decided to release it a bit earlier, due to prodcution and schedule changes. Treazon is the first perfume with the new packaging that my graphic designer has been labouring over since the spring. Very excited to share it with the first who dare order a bottle of Treazon!

Tuberose stems unveil toxic wintergreen; narcotic blossoms stare at death across the street. Nightfall. Window screens.

Treazon is tuberose at its darkest and most dangerous moment – right after dark.
From than on, the seemingly innocent little white flower’s aroma is so intoxicating,
that young maidens were prohibited from walking through tuberose fields, from fear that
their decency will be betrayed, and their innocence defeated by lust.

Try this at your own risk: bring home a fresh-cut tuberose stem. Wait till after sunset and explore your the limits of olfactory seduction. Alternatively, you can dab a drop or two of Treazon on your pulse points, and watch your heart race to meet... danger! 

Top notes: Aniseed, Cinnamon, Wintergreen, Sweet Birch, Cassis
Heart notes: Tuberose Absolute, Orange Blossom, Orris Root
Base notes: Benzoin, Vanillla, Massoia Bark, African Stone Tincture

Rave Reviews for Treazon Perfume!

"The composition isn’t your usual floral fare – Treazon has an odd mix of infatuation with opulent Tuberose and a nonchalant glamour of something a bit retro". -
Visit Beauty Huile to read Nav's review of Treazon, my upcoming killer tuberose.

"Ayala Moriels's tuberose is a true femme fatale. She teases and tempts, all the while you know she's nothing but danger (...) what I love most here is the even more narcotic vanilla in the dry-down. It's infused with all the spice and nectar that run through the veins of Treazon, and has a distinct dark and almost animalic character that make the fragrance wonderfully sexy and addictive".
Visit The Non-Blonde to read Gaia's full review of Treazon.

"The opening blast of wintergreen will knock your socks off (...) Treazon, which is a natural perfume, softens into a silky, dusky, not-buttery tuberose accented with vanilla and spices. It has an almost wine-y undercurrent".

Visit Now Smell This to read the rest of Robin's review of Treazon - which is described for the 2nd time as "breathtakingly beautiful" (the first one to say it is Gaia aka The Non-Blonde) and "very wearable". I'm also particularly honoured that this review comes next to the wonderful Forest Walk by my friend & colleague Laurie Erickson, and the 7 Virtues Afghan Orange Blossom (which I'm yet to smell).
And last but not least - read Fragrantica's review of Treazon. 

If you've already tried Treazon, please add your reviews of Treazon or our other recent perfumes - Etrog, Zangvil, New Orleans and Orcas - to MakeUpAlley, Fragrantica or Basenotes and you will be entered to win a Treazon mini ($90 value), or your choice of scent (same or lesser value). Winners will be announced Saturday night (November 18th). Your name will be entered into the draw as many times as your reviews.
Plus: to further increase your chances of winning, leave a comment below telling us which perfume/s you reviewed and where; and tell us what you think of the name Treazon! Your name will be entered as many times as your reviews and comments :-)

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rememberance Day Perfume

Poppies by Ayala Moriel
Poppies, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
In honour of Remembrance Day today I’m wearing my red and white poppies, and - FlowerbyKenzo, which incorporates the symbolic poppy in its bottle design and supposedly has notes of Himalayan blue poppies (a place I'm yet to climb to). 

FlowerbyKenzo is a rather young (12yrs) blockbuster if to judge by it's rather steady place at the top selling perfume lists in Europe. The bottle design must be a big part of this perfume's success - I think it is beautiful and well-designed and the marketing campaigns for it, including installing entire fake fields of poppies in various urban destinations, are brilliant and thought provoking (the main thought being: wow, they sure invest a lot of money promoting this fragrance!).


It has a soapy, sweetpea-like scent, with violet, rose and cassie notes, wild hawthorne, Himalayan poppies, opoponax and most of all - loads of heliotropin and musks. It begins begins a bit peppery and is slightly reminiscent of Parfum Sacré, with the juxtaposition of spice and powdery, sweet musk. Yet roses do not play nearly a big role here as in Parfum Sacré, and neither does the incense (whcih is very muted in FlowerbyKenzo, but still there with an underlining smouldering effect).

Once it's dried down it's a rather linear powdery, sweet musk scent that does not offer much of a surprise. There is an element in it that runs though most of the Kenzo scents that I've tried - a certain almondy, floral yet fresh note. I think it's an accord that incorporates cassie absolute and heliotropin. I can detect it in SummerbyKenzo and also in KenzoAmour. To keep a continuity in a fashion designer without an in-house perfumer is not an easy feat, and I think that alone is what gives Kenzo it's edge and visibility in the highly competitive fragrance market. 

FlowerbyKenzo is not something I'd normally wear - although it shares some elements and qualities with some of my favourites scents -  it is a tad too powdery and perfumey to my taste, and if I'm after a spicy powdery musk - Parfum Sacre gives that without all the powdery almondy fluff. And for the cassie notes I'll get much more of what I'm after from Farnesiana or Fleur de Cassie

FlowerByKenzo - Kenzo - 50 euro (save 14e)

Top note: Pepper, Cassis, Bulgarian Rose, Parma Violet
Heart notes:
Wild Hawthorn, Cyclosal, Hedione, Cassie
Base notes: Heliotropin, Bourbon Vanilla, Opoponax, White Musk
, Incense

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Winner Announcement: Colours of Fall

Thank you to all of you who participated in the Colours of Fall giveaway!
The lucky winner is brie!
You will receive a package with samples of some of my favourite fall fragrances mentioned in the story: Sonoma Scent Studio's Forest Walk, Parfumerie General's Un Crime Exotique, Yosh Omniscent 0.96, Ayala Moriel's Schizm, Democracy, Megumi and Autumn - as well as some teas!
Please email me with your mailing address so that I can send your prize.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Angel is turning 20!

Angel is turning 20!
Angel, the iconic yet divisive fragrance from Thiery Mugler is turning 20, and The Bay in downtown Vancouver is throwing a party! This week, you can marvel at 5 haute-couture gowns by the Parisian contemporary fashion designer whose fantasies inspired this peculiar scent that have turned from an obscure cult fragrance into one of the top 10 best sellers world-wide.

Spent my lunch today at The Bay learning about the fascinating world of Theirry Mugler and his obsession with stars, the colour blue, tall angular blondes and cotton candy. There was sushi, popcorn, marshmallows, mimosas, a giant blue cupcake - and blue macarons!

But, the best part for me was smelling the three "facets"* of Angel:
1st being the "celestial facet" - which smelled like pristine, clear, cut citrine stone. To be more specific - it smelled of crisp green apple, calone, helional and a lot of bergamot.
2nd is the "delicious facet" with notes of blueberries, blackberries, coumarin, cotton candy and a slightly mikly fig (which kicks in only hours later on the scent strip).
3rd and last is the "sensual facet" -  voluptuous notes of patchouli paired with musk galore.

In the picture above you can see one of the Limited Edition Angel Parfum flacons - from 2002 (same campaign as the ad featured in my SmellyBlog review). They brought a limited number of them to Canada to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Angel today and I tried some on my wrists - the Parfum is so much nicer and softer than the EDP and dabbing is a much welcome practice for such a powerhouse fragrance. And I could detect the merest hint of vetiver in the mix...

It was a rather enjoyable lunch affair (except that I would need more food to handle a mimosa that early in the day!) and the presentation quite delayed, and much prolonged with multiple sampling of ALL the various body products scented with Angel. According to the sale reps there - all the lotions, harisprays, shimmering powders, shower gels and exfolianting creams are scented with no less than 30-40% (!!!) of perfume. They must be mistaken. This can't possibly be a legal and safe level for use in a body product... But regardless it explains why Angel is always so overwhelming - for those who embalm their entire life with them, it's more than required for scent alone. It becomes more of an environmental-fragrancing that could take care of an entire mall. And I am not exaggerating. You could smell it across a building when someone wears it with the "layering"** method.

I had to dash off to my next meeting before the presentation was completely wrapped up, and will have to come back to snatch photos of the rest of the bottles and dresses. My only regret is, that all along - the nose of Angel - Olivier Cresp - was not mentioned AT ALL. What a shame to pretend as if Thierry Mugler is the nose/perfumer. This is not incidental. The booklet that came along with the presentation sites the same. Supposedly Thierry Mugler is a dancer, choreographer, photographer, fashion designer AND perfumer. I would have not doubted his many talents otherwise; but adding the perfumer title makes everything else look less reliable, somehow...

With that being said, it did not take away from my appreciation of the artistry behind the gowns themselves - each crystal is hand-sewn and arranged in a specific pattern. Each gown is completely impractical and if I had to choose between strutting down the street naked or wrapped in one of these, I would most likely pick the first. They are so impractical to wear that it would have been simply dangerous unless you have invisi-cables lifting your weight away from the ground and ensuring you're not being weighed down by all those rocks! Some of Thierry Mugler's SS13 ready to wear collection (which is actually wearable) has already arrived at The Bay. 

Even the bottle of Angel is a thing of marvel. A new technology had to be invented to carry out Mugler's vision: a device for rotating the mold while it's being filled with the liquid glass to ensure even distribution of the glass to the very uneven and angular shape of the bottle. This was a breakthrough in glass-making technology thanks to Mugler's very particular vision and his evident obsession with the shape of stars and the colour blue...

Thierry Mugler's Angel gowns

*FYI: By "facets" what they really are saying (without knowing it) is that Angel is linear, and this is one of the main accords or themes that are woven into its linear being. And of course it works nicely with the faceted, angular bottle shapes...

** Layering application of scents refers to using the same scent in various stages of one's body care: showering with it, applying it as a moisturizer, and than also adding the scent. 

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Rose Garden in Autumn

Rose Garden in Autumn by Ayala Moriel

Rose Garden in Autumn, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Yesterday was a glorious golden autumn day. My morning walk on Coal Harbour seawall inevitably lead me to the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. Approaching the garden, I noticed two unusual things: the deep golden brown hues of the cherry trees just below the garden; and the unusual melding of the warm sweet scent of rotting fall leaves on the forest floor with the unexpected perfume of... Roses!

Rose Garden

Yes, the roses were still in bloom, although it's already November. We had a dry and rather sunny weather halfway through October; and even now the weather is rather mild by comparison to season's average. There were still so many buds and flowers I could even see them from afar. And as I approached, they looked still rather colourful - little curled buds with bright glazed-flower-petals appearance. Yet, I noticed that although they were trying to open up, the deadly threads of fall have caught onto them with wetness and cold nights and spores in the air. Up close the buds just froze in mid blooming and are beginning to curl up in silky fibres of fungus and mold...

Rose Fungi
And down the lawns the mushrooms were having a little party, growing in groups of orangey-brown slimy caps crowded together as if whispering secrets of spores and the underground... Mushrooms are considered the Queen of the Dead with their ability to decompose and transform any dead being into rich compost. Their role in the ecosystem is invaluable, as they can break down many toxins that we careless humans pollute the planet with. A robot sent to the ruins of Chernobyl detected no life forms whatsoever; yet mushrooms were able to survive there, breaking down transforming the world's most toxic waste; and surviving. There is still very much to be learned about mushrooms' role in the universe, or how their immensely mysterious intelligence operates (and this is a translation of the article from Hebrew). Another fascinating video about the importance of the mycological world is Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world.

This all makes me wonder sometimes - how little do we know about ourselves too? And our role in the bigger scheme of things? Maybe the mushrooms, with their immense network of underground threads are the rulers of the world, and they are just using us to carry their spores and transfer ideas around... And maybe the Western self-centered attitude is all wrong, and we should think of humanity as more of a fabric that should work and stretch and mend itself as one, rather than go in many erratic selfish directions that seem (insofar) to bring much misery and self-destruction to isolated individuals; perhaps this is just another illusion and we would be much better off giving up the sense of "self" to something more sustainable and positive?

But these are all big questions that I'm never going to be able to answer, not on a morning walk and not otherwise either. They do cross my mind, fine-tune my attitude, and bring inspirations which strangely finds its way to this blog - and stranger still - to perfume.

Mushrooms are fragrant. There is no doubt about it. Some more so than others. But there is an unmistakable scent to mushrooms and fungi - some more pleasant and perfume-inspiring than others. The supermarket variety range from pale and versatile button-mushrooms, which when fresh have that crisp scent not unlike a mild brie cheese. Other mushrooms have a far more earthy or even animalic scent, such as portobella mushrooms, or porcini. And than, of course, there are truffles! Pungent, unmistakable and precious truffles...

However - in perfume, there is very little use for mushroom as far as I have been able to gather. Forms of fungi are crucial in the process of fermentation, which is important for alcohol production. And alcohol has many uses in perfume: as a diluent or carrier; and also as a solvent for making tinctures and absolutes of various raw materials: animal essences such as ambergris, various seeds (ambrette), fruit (citrus zest) and herbs (deer's tongue). But aside from that - do mushroom every get used as a note in perfumery? Not so much...

Cèpes (Boletus edulis) or Porcini Absolute
Variety of this absolute are quite two opposites: it can either smell like Marmite (a nutritional yeast spread that is popular in Greater Britain and Australia), hints of sour cocoa and bouillon cubes, which will inspire perhaps a wholesome brew of celery stalks, carrots and other hearty vegetables. I opt for the other type - those which smell richly chocolate-like, earthy and as nutty as pecans. Delicious through and through, and well balanced like a dish that has both savoury and sweet within it. This is hard to come across.
Perfume containing Cèpes are exclusively from the natural perfumers world: Cèpes and Tuberose (Aftelier) Colette (JoAnne Bassett), the original smoky chocolate version of Guilt (Ayala Moriel), Oud Luban and Sepia (Aftelier), Oudh Laquer (Soivohle), Vetiver Racinettes (Ayala Moriel) and Schizm (Ayala Moriel).

Cognac Absolute
An indirect mushroom scent can be find in cognac absolute. Cognac requires yeast and fungi to ferment the grapes (most notably botrytis), and from the sediments or lees, a cognac absolute is extracted. There are two varieties: green and white (frankly I don't find much difference between the two, but some claim the green is sweeter or fruitier). Either way, it has that boozy, fermented grape odour that is not easy to get away with and turn to your side (from a perfumer's point of view). Just like a cocktail - it's best cut down with a lot of citrus and green note.
Perfumes containing cognac as a prominent note: 7 Sinful Scents: Sloth  (Gendarme) Aramis Cool (Aramis), Arsenal and (Ayala Moriel), Botrytis (Ginestet), Cognac (Aftelier), Colette (JoAnne Bassett), Gaucho (Ayala Moriel), Michael Jordan, and the recently launched with the worst commercial ever (until No. 5 with Brad Pitt came along) - Encounter (Calvin Klein).

Is not strictly a "mushroom" note, but the essence forms only as a response to various bacteria and fungi that attack several species of tropical trees in the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Some trees are also cultivated in Assam region in India. Ouds scents are very varied, and some are more musty and fungus like than others; while some are intensely dark and animalic, or even containing raspberry-like sweet undertones. Oud has been a dominant presence in the past 3 years "niche" offering, spilling out to many semi-mainstream scents. Without any ambitions to list all oud fragrances, or all remarkable oud fragrances, I'll just mention a few that I find significant for either historic reasons or because they are well made or all natural:
The Montale oud line, which preceded the trend by many years, as did M7 (Yves Saint Laurent). Skipping forward - the very recent collections of Oud Stars and Keiko Mecheri's Bespoke both pretty much sum up the oud trend.
And from the all-natural ouds: Reflections Parfum (JoAnne Bassett), Oud Luban and Sepia (Aftelier), Oudh Laquer (Soivohle), Rose Boheme (Providence Perfume), Temple (Anay's Garden); and
Razala, Song of Songs, Megumi and Bon Zai (Ayala Moriel Parfums).

3-OctanolA natural isolate whose odour is reminiscent of fungi and mushrooms, with spicy hints of gasoline, and waxy, creamy dairy-like nuances. The sharpness in it is not unlike truffles.

TuberoseMost tuberose absolutes have a green, waxy, creamy nuances that are reminiscent of mushrooms and fungi. Very few perfumes play on that aspect though, and prefer to amp up the orange-blossom like qualities of tuberose (with added methyl anthranilate).

The culinary gold of only rare times of the year when a few shavings would cost you as much as a whole week's grocery list. These underground fungi are scouted by female pigs, who can identify the scent as it contains pheromones identical to that of the male pig. The scent is sharp, ripe, somewhat fruity, mineral and very hard to describe otherwise. There are two main varieties - white truffle, which grows in winter which is sharper-smelling, almost peppery and like over-fermented cheese; and black summer truffle which is fruitier, more deep and smooth and full-bodied (considered inferior or at least not as expensive, but is my personal favourite). Unfortunately, the aroma of neither black nor white truffle yields well to distillation, tincturing or oil infusion. As much as they'd like us to believe, "truffle oil" is simply olive oil (or other cheaper vegetable oils) "infused" with 2,4-dithiapentane  and perhaps some other lab-made organic compounds that are responsible for the truffle's sought-after aroma.
Therefore, as you've guessed, perfumes with "truffle" note must be containing synthetics. Examples:
Black Orcid (Tom Ford), Cumming (Alan Cumming), Exotic (Boadicea the Victorious), L.I.L.Y. (Stella McCartney),Oxford Street (Hugh Parsons), Une Rose (Frederic Malle) and Valentina (Valentino). Most of these are quite recent creations - so it could become a trend... Mark my word and watch for yourself - but you've seen it here first!

We have now pretty much exhausted the supplies of natural mushroom notes in perfumery. But there are several perfumes of interest that feature a mushroom or a mushroom-like note - be it natural or  synthetic. And in these coming weeks I will be writing my impressions of some of my favourites among them - or the ones I just find intriguing enough to inspire a post!

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Autumn Fruit Open Sandwiches

Autumn Fruit Sandwiches by Ayala Moriel
Autumn Fruit Sandwiches, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Fruit and cheese are a classic combination, though may seem unusual when you try it the first time.

Autumn harvest fruit make particularly good pairings: concord grapes, a seasonal symbol, go wonderfully well with the sharp decay of blue cheeses. Ripe crisp apples balance the earthy sharpness of aged cheddar, or even better - the smokiness of applewood smoked variety, which invoked burning leaves and wood-stoves. And of course you can't beat the classic ripe pear with Brie cheese, renown for its fresh mushroom-like nuances and elegant, neat round mushroom-like look.

For even more memorable versions of the sandwiches, here is my personal twist. Freshly baked sourdough bread are the best choice for open sandwiches; while whole wheat sliced tea-sandwich bread type that's pre-sliced with precision at the bakery for tea-time sandwiches. Crusts can be removed from (closed) tea sandwiches - or not - depending on how fancy you want this to be. I personally like the crusts more than any other part of the bread! The concept behind removing them is to make a finger-food snack that won't require cuttlery or messing up your fancy nobelty clothes (these were the only people who could afford an afternoon tea; which takes about 4 hours to prepare if you have servants; or more like 4 days if you don't). The crusts on most standard (aka non-sourdough) breads is rather thin and easy to bite through anyway... So I would save the extra bread bites if this is a lunch snack; and remove them only if you are serving a traditional afternoon tea menu.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).

FRUIT: 1 ripe yet firm pear (Bartlett or Spadonna are the best for this purpose; Bosc have too rough of a skin). Cut into half, core, removed the stem and slice into about 4mm thick slices.
BREAD*: These go best on a freshly baked baguette bread. I also like it on the cranberry semolina bread by A Bread Affair. You will need one loaf if you are feeding small crowd of 12 people or so.
CHEESE: 200gr Brie of a creamier nature, i.e.: St. Andre's. Slice as thin as you can without making a mess. Cheese knives are invented for these soft semi-gooey consistencies.
SPREAD: Cassis Dijon grainy mustard

50gr roasted whole hazelnuts, skins removed

- On each slice of bread, spread a thin layer of cassis mustard.
- Top with thin slices of brie cheese, just enough to cover the bread slice.
- Top with pear slices, neatly arranged.
- Sprinkle hazelnuts on top. If they keep rolling off you can gently press them onto the pear and cheese slices, which are rather yielding...

Suggested tea pairing: Cassis Noir from Soirette.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).
BREAD*: 1 loaf whole wheat bread (regular bakery variety, or wholewheat sourdough) sliced
SPREAD: 15gr or about 1 TBS Butter (at room temperature) or Mayonnaise
FRUIT: 1 Apple of choice - The sweeter Honey Crisp, Gala or Pink lady are a nice sweet contrast to the smoked cheeses; while the tanginess of Mutsu or Granny Smith balances the nutty earthiness of aged cheddar. Remember - they all make wonderful sandwiches as long as they are fresh and crisp! Core, quarter and cut the apples to about 2mm slices
CHEESE: 200gr Aged Cheddar cheese, or Applewood Smoked Cheddar Cheese - thinly sliced (about 2mm)
EMBELLISHMENT: 50gr raw walnuts, coarsely chopped

- Spread each slice with butter or mayonnaise
- Top with cheese slices
- Arrange apple slices
- Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
- If using regular bread, top with the other buttered slice, and cut into triangles. If using a wholewheat sourdough bread - leave open.

Suggested tea pairing: Cask-aged Ghorka Estate black tea from O5 Rare Tea Bar.

Bon appetit!

* If you are on a gluten-free diet, or simply want to cut down on bread - these two recipe go swimmingly well with rice cakes. The thinner ones are better, and are delicious as open sandwiches. I love them so much and eat them even more often than the "real" sandwiches.

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Many Colours of Fall

Fallen Leaves by Ayala Moriel
Fallen Leaves, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

As I was driving northbound on Blenheim street yesterday afternoon, I noticed the many colours that draped over the trees: there was a deep plum from the Japanese sour plum trees, ochre, mustard yellow, burnt orange, citrine, olive, and sprinkle of scorched crimson red and burgundy from the Japanese maples. And all that beauty set against the backdrop of the North Shore’s Coast Mountains. Breathtaking!

Fall’s glorious colours resonate with how I experience its subtle outdoors aromas: the cedar and fir mulch that lines gardens and the forest floor in the Pacific Northwest; ripe rosehips falling on the ground and becoming one with it; the robust fruit aromas and flavours; burning leaves from an unseen law-breaker; that crisp, brie-like fungi smell that permeates the air from the sprouting mushrooms after the rains; and all the traditional comforts of scents and flavours that are designed to warm one from within as the temperatures drop: spiced teas, wood smoke, warm cider, and aromatic fruit being poached and baked to much delight.

So, to make this fun and a little different from previous years’ autumn lists, here comes a colour coded one to wrap up fall (the moment after Halloween’s midnight, I already came across Christmas oldies on the radio – yikes! We still got Rememberance Day before we should get started on that!). So let’s celebrate whatever is left from summer’s bounty.

Citron, of course!
This is where fragrance and flavour are one this season, surrounding the theme of Etrog.
This fall I’ve been obsessed with the fruit in all manners possible: candying etrog fruit, making marmalades out fo them, tincturing for liquor and for the next batches of Etrog Oy de Cologne.
I’ve also just recently receive a sample of l’Etrog by Artquiste, which is utterly delightful though very much in the realm of fresh citrus. Reading the ad copy I was fascinated to find that Arquiste’s interpretation also alludes to dates (which is what I have incorporated with the balsam poplar buds absolute). And the myrtle note is rather inevitable, but still nice to see the recurrence in two creations that knew very little of one another. Although you could argue that

Sous la Vent, with it’s breezy, fresh and sunny personality with a dark edge, and is equally fougere and chypre. A man should be able to wear this without threat to his masculinity.
Flavour: The aromas of just-picked green olives, before they were pickled or pressed into an oil. Perhaps it’s too literal, but it’s exactly the

Fragrance: Golden osmanthus is in bloom in late October in Japan – so to me it’s always a seasonal symbol, echoing the sakura theme of the spring. I’ve been rotating between a few osmanthus fragrance for an upcoming theme on SmellyBlog. But admittedly, I’m rediscovering my own Kinmokusei in oil parfum form. It has a surprisingly honeyed base more so than the alcohol based eau de parfum. Which I have no explanation for except for concentration. And I’ve been enjoying the quite animalic interpretation by Artemisia which I will elaborate on in my upcoming osmanthus series (yes! Coming this week!). Last but not least in the osmanthus world is the beautiful, haunting incense that my friend Noriko brought me from Japan. Nothing natural about it, but it does smell just like the real fresh flowers I’ve met at Ineke’s garden this summer. Soapy, sweet and effervescent.
Flavour: Osmanthus green tea. Visually beautiful tea blend of grassy green tea from China, specked with fragrant golden osmanthus. And the liquor has a bright citrine colour and a flavour that is refreshing and mysterious – like a mixture of violet, apricots and green tea, of course.

Fragrance: Un Crime Exotique, with its soothing comfort – it is reminiscent of poached pears in star anise. The warmth and comfort I derive from this scent is only matched by how soothing I find the right shade of mustard yellow to be…
Flavour: Quince. Incidentally, there is also an Italian tradition of making quince mustard! The rosy nuances in fresh ripe quince’s aroma are sublime; and strangely enough, quince turns a beautiful pink once cooked. It’s quite magical!

Fragrance: Cognoscenti No. 19 (Warm Carrot). It’s so unusual, refreshing in concept and execution, both with carrot seed being the main theme, and also the structure or how the notes are orchestrated. It’s up there with Bois des Iles in my opinion.
Flavour: Golden Curls tea from Yunnan region (imported directly from the farmer by O5 Rare Tea Bar). It has notes of roasted butternut squash, and smooth, delicately toasty and sweet.

l’Artisan's Tea for Two. Everytime I wear this I ask myself why I don’t wear it more often.
21 year old aged oolong (O5 Rare Tea Bar)

Forest Walk, by Sonoma Scent Studio, evokes that magical time of the year in the deep Pacific Northwest forests, where coniferous leaves begin to rot and the first rains bring out a spurt of wild mushrooms. The warmth of oak leaves, and the coolness of damp soil. And there is also an incredible labdanum incense by Airs, which my aunt gave me years ago and I can’t find anywyere. I’m down to my last 2 sticks.
Flavour: Freshly picked wild chanterelles and black trumpets. And cooking them too.

Omniscent 0.96 with its luscious, multi-layered festival of flowers, incense and fruits. It makes a bold statement like carrying an orange bag.
And there is also a candle to go with this colour: Harvest by Gabriel’s Aunt. Literally, the scent of a burning Jack O Lantern with hints of pumpkin pie. We are talking real pumpkin and spices, not that fake fragrance that takes over the dollar stores at this time of the year.
Flavour: Guavas, which occasionally make their way to the grocery stores are a tropical fruit that I will forever associate with fall and the time when my daughter was born. Their aroma has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes, and an ever so slight reminiscence to strawberry and stinky socks.

Chinatown, with it’s strange juxtaposition of peonies, gardenias, 5 spice, juicy peach and modern woody-chypre base. It’s the warmth and quirkiness in it that makes it very suitable for fall. It can be a little too loud for most other seasons.
Flavour: Poached red Bartlett pears in star anise, vanilla and Zinfandel.

Mitsouko. There is no fall without it.
Flavour: Cask Aged Ghorka Estate black tea (O5 Rare Tea Bar). Full-bodied, with hints of baked apples. Do I need to say anything more?

Nuit de Noel, which I’ve been craving earlier than usual this year. It’s rosy without being rosy, and is reminiscent of roasted chestnuts.
Flavour: Plum & hazelnut coffee cake muffins. The nutty, caramelized aroma of roasting chestnuts on charcoals – a unique scene on Vancouver’s streets which begins in the fall and goes on through the colder months until the chestnuts run out.

What are your fall colours? And which scents and sensations make this season for you? Share your favourite fall flavours and fragrances, and enter to win a little sample set of some of my own favourites, teas included!
Lucky draw entries close on Friday, November 9th, at noon.

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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Halloween Giveaway Winner Announcement

Hope you all had a fantastic Halloween!

Thank you for everyone who commented and participated in this week's Halloween giveaway of Immortal Mine perfume by House of Cherry Bomb. The perfumers are both New York based and have their hands full with the hurricane aftermath. I hope that just by posting this it will help send some easing energies to them, as I know it's very tough there. And I also know that at these times everyone who is capable jumps to the task of helping those who were affected more badly. And it's heart warming to know that when needed, people find this positive power within themselves, which I always find inspiring and encouraging in light of all the negative stuff we usually hear about in the news.

Now you're probably all curious to hear who's going to receive the Immortal Mine perfume?
Well, as it turns out, the gods and goddesses of randomness have picked LCT. So, please contact me with your snailmail addy so that I can send it your way - weather permitting!

Stay safe, warm and dry - wherever you are.

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Plum & Hazelnut Coffee Cake Muffins

Frosted Prune Plums by Ayala Moriel
Frosted Prune Plums, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
These muffins are made coffee-cake style, with the fruit on top. Spelt flour gives it a nutty texture, which greatly complements the roasted hazelnut meal that is incorporated into the recipe. The result is a moist, melt-in-your-mouth muffin that's not too sweet and is delicious with your morning coffee, or with a slice of cheese on the side for a light lunch or snack. What I like doing is prepare all the ingredients the night before - keep the dry ingredients covered on the counter, and the wet ingredients refrigerated. When I wake up at 6:30am, all I need to do is preheat the oven, mix the ingredients and pop it in the oven. By the time everyone in the house is dressed up and ready to start their day (usually shortly after 7am), the muffins are out of the oven and breakfast can be served!
You may say it's only the kind of thing someone who works from home can muster, but I've been doing this when I was working at an office job in my early twenties that started at 7am. Of course then I would wake up at 5:30...

2 cups spelt flour*
1/2 cup ground roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon    
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs 
1tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 fresh and ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and cut into small chunks**

-Preheat oven to 375F.
- Beat eggs in a bowl. Add oil and buttermilk.
- Combine flour, ground hazeulnuts, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl.- Gently fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Avoid over-stirring.
- Spoonfuls of the mixture into greased or buttered muffin tins.
- Spread plum pieces on top and gently press them down.
- Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with cinnamon and sugar.
- Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick or a cake tester comes out clean.

These muffins are best served warm. If you can't gobble up all 12 muffins you can keep them for up to 3 days, but I do recommend cutting them into half lengthwise and warming them up in the oven for 5 minutes before serving. 

* You can also use whole wheat or white flour, but of course the texture would be different. 
** you can also use frozen ones; I had mine for about a year in an airtight container and they were as good as fresh!

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