Smells Like Canada, 2013 Edition...
Happy Canada Day!
Last year I did a little post and giveaway for Canada Day, which was spontaneous and completely improvised... Today I'm preoccupied with teaching my Floriental week-long intensive course, so I'll keep it short.
I'd like to add a few more smells to the growing list of Canadian odours I'm fond of and sentimental about:
Artemisia is the true (Latin) name of what most refer to as "sage". This sacred plant is burnt by the First Nations of Canada at the beginning of rituals to clear space of all negative energy. I begin with this unique plant as a gesture to the original people of this country and as a gesture for healing for the many wounds that the Europeans have inflicted on them ever since landing in the "New World". The local "Sage" has an overwhelmingly intoxicating aroma (wormwood is the only comparison I can make - and technically it IS wormwood). Tannin, acrid, full of ketones and strongly herbaceous and medicinal-bitter. That should make all the negative stuff go away, for sure.
Elderflowers have became an annual obsession last year, when I made cordial for the first time from flowers I bought at the farmers' market; followed by a few more batches of cordial and tinctures from wild-foraged flowers. Their scent has a unique character, simultaneously fruity-berry-like (cassis comes to mind) as well as honeyed-floral and slightly green. If you missed the foraging season, try buying dry flowers and mixing them with osmanthus. Also, Shaktea's Elderlower Cantaloupe Tea is spectacular (green darjeeling with elderflowers, cantaloupe, rhubarb and other botanicals). It makes a fantastic iced tea as well.
Juniper and Canadian Gin:
Juniper are a quintessential foresty scent that is unique as it is not just a straighforward coniferous scent; but also woodsy and spicy at the same time, with a clean and elegant appeal.
A few years ago, the most exotic gin you can get was Tanquary Ten and Hedricks' Gin. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to find the shelves at the liquor store brimming with local offerings, including oak-aged gin from Vancouver Island, and this particularly strange number, Ungava gin, featuring arctic botanicals such as Nordic juniper berries, rose hips, Labrador tea, cloudberry, crowberry and an "arctic blend" of secret botanicals. It has a beautiful bright yellow colour, and goes well with elderflower liquor, bitters or cordial to make a very refreshing and Canadian-forest like cocktail!
Nothing says "Pacific Northwest" better than red cedar (also known as cherry cedar). The oil is hard to come by, and is a little harsh and intensely smoky, but also got some interesting fruity-berry nuances that are not unlike cherries. It also strangely reminds me of the Canadian whiskey, Crown Royal: Burning yet sweet.
Castoreum is probably one of Canada's most important contribution to the world of perfumery. It goes oh so well with birch, another Canadian tree reminiscent of wintergreen, and that can be produced into "birch tar" by destructive distillation.
Douglas fir is a uniquely fragrant tree, also special for the Pacific Northwest. Its needles are deliciously packed with vitamin C and can be added to your drinking water for an added tangerine-like flavour, and - vitamin C. In the springtime, pick the new buds that are as soft as silk tassels. Dry them and prepare a sweet and sour citrusy wild tea. It's also wonderful blended with jasmine tea, which reminds me of my perfume Fetish (the perfume features the deliciously jam-like balsam fir absolute).
Sliced rhubarb reminds me of the ocean and ozone and it is ever so refreshing with its sour crunch. Also a recent discovery of mine (and I'm sure the plant is not unique to Canada but also is ever so popular all across North America); but to me it's as distinctively Canadian as cranberry and maple.
Also a sacred plant to the First Nations, Tobacco was used for healing and for the famous "Peace Pipe". It's use in perfumery is limited, but it makes its mark in the Chypre-Tobacco category and in Leathery perfumes. Also will go well with the abovementioned birch.
Leave a comment with more ideas for what smells like Canada (and Native American botanicals of significance), and enter to win a mini of Immortelle l'Amour - which is about as Canadian as it can get, reminiscent of maple syrup poured over hot cinnamon waffles!