Thursday, November 30, 2006

Perfume the Movie Contest

To celebrate the long-awaited release of the film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” this January, SmellyBlog is running a contest: comment below on what you have thought of the book, and why you liked or didn’t like it, and enter to win one of 10 double-passes to the pre-screenings in Vancouver and Toronto, on January 3rd and 4th!
When you post your comment, please mention if you are from Vancouver or Toronto, as we will be running two separate draws.

Let all your friends who live in the Greater Vancouver or Greater Toronto area know about this contest and refer them to SmellyBlog!

The 10 lucky winners of the movie tickets will also win a $25 coupon towards their next purchase at Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Tune in for more special announcements re the release of this unusual film. There are more suprises to come in January next year, and if you live in Vancouver and Toronto you shouldn't miss them!

Below is the unofficial film review of yours truly, who was fortunate enough to watch it before most Canadians - just two nights ago in Vancouver. The official release date in Canada is January 5th 2006.

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Film Review: Perfume

“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” was quite a difficult book for me to read. Not so much because of the subject, which on the surface is quite objectionable, but rather because I found the book, particularly the first part, to be exhaustively descriptive. To top it off, it’s impossible to identify with the (anti) hero: Jean-Baptiste Grenuille is detached, emotionless not-quite-human character, and basically lacks in all the areas that could possibly make another human being feel sympathy. His constant suffering does not make one feel more for him in the least; even his thirst for fragrance and his obsession with creating the perfect perfume seems excessive to the point of loosing most of its meaning, as it is so exquisitely detached from the human emotions that most people associate with scents. Grenuille is described in the book, more than once, as a tick. And throughout the book, there is not one moment when I managed to have more feelings towards him than I do towards a blood-sucking tick.

The film, however, was everything I hoped it would be, yet without taking away from the concept of the book. What before was an exhausting and linear storytelling filled to the brim with scent descriptions, was now appropriately replaced with accurate images so tactile that you can feel and smell them. Whomever said the book was unfilmable, was obviously wrong. Thanks to skillful screenwriting (by Director Tom Tykwer, and screenwriters Anrew Birkin and Bernd Eichinger) , the film plays in a far more convincing way than does the book. The exposition is laid out intensely to illustrate a rich odorous world with all its magnificent nuances: from the stench of the fish market, where Grenuille is mistakably born, through myriads of mundane odours, to the coiffed, powdered wigs and fine perfumes of the ear.

The casting is excellent for the most part, and the acting is outstanding. Ben Whishaw, even if a tad too handsome for what anyone could imagine Grenuille to be*, is brilliant in portraying the odd outcast sociopath with no scent of his own yet an incredible gift for discerning and remembering scents, which leads him to become a perfumer. He manages to pull off the character truthfully, and at the same time also raise just enough empathy in the audience to make his motives understandable and almost logic. His love for scent and his raw passion to acquire the ability to preserve it comes through clearly, and dictates a flowing cinematic storytelling, assisted by sparse narration. We are just as bewitched as he is with the striking fragrant beauty of the maiden (Karoline Herthfurth) that became the muse who haunts him for the rest of his pathetic life.

In his role as Maestro Baldini, Dustin Hoffman’s performance adds a much needed humour and human swarmth to the film, and also creates a bridge to Grenuille’s mind and to understanding his motives later on. Alan Rickman is perfectly casted for Monsieur Richis, Laure’s father (her name is Enlighized to Laura in the movie, and she is played by the appropriately teenager actress Rachel Hurd-Wood), the man who unveils Grenuille’s murder scheme, contributes a heart-trembling performance with his usual tragic presence and expressive voice.

From a perfumer’s point of view, some of the scenes are a nosewatering eye candy: the antique perfumery of Maestro Baldini, with all the beakers and vials and elimbics and flacons and flasks; Even his supposedly-boring lecture about the Egyptians and the 12 essences and the 13th secrete essence is intriguing for a perfumer staring at the screen…(and, it niely reduces his number of Grenuille’s victims from 26 to a mere 14…) And of course - that feature Grasse (which to us, by the way, is the Mecca of Perfume, rather than the Rome…) – from flower harvesting to enflourage (the image below is enflourage of jonquilles), maceration and distillation. If you are a perfumer, this film will make you want to visit there more than ever, so perhaps you should reserve your airline tickets before you reserve your seat at your neighbourhood cinema…

By the end of the film I could visualize the 13 essences used for the perfume and almost forget the horror that was required to extract them. And of course, the metaphor of robbing the scent from flowers to make our perfumes, as they gradually die in their sleep, still echoes in my head till now…

The only thing I was worried about was the ending. In the book, this is the only point of true redemption for our hero Grenuille. As much as one might buy into believing that the perfect perfume will redeem him from his cursed state of un-love, it is not until he is devoured by his own people that he becomes part of them. And I am utterly grateful that the film ended that way. The only thing missing from that scent was a burp…

*Grenuille the child though is a total miscast, even if played extremely well; look at Alvaro Roque in the eye, and try to tell me you don't like him. His skin looks too healthy and dark to be Grenuille the grown up serial killer. He looks almost like the charming Italian boy from Cinema Paradiso, for heaven's sake!

Stills from the film courtesy of Paramount Pictures and from To view more photos, including a fantastic panoramic views from the set (my favourites, naturally, being the perfumeries), visit the film's official website.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Refreshing Olfactory Break

The last two weeks have been particularly peculiar and appropriately gloomy for the time of year. It all started one morning when I detected a musty, earthy aroma in the water when brushing my teeth. It was very early in the morning and I put that information at the back of my head. We drink spring water anyways, so it wasn’t until a few hours later, when I wanted to take a bath, that I noticed the intense muddy scent again. It was too late. I was already covered with it, so I decided to go ahead a take a mud bath. Only later in the day I learned that the water reservoir has flooded with an abundance of rain (hardly anything unusual for Vancouver) and the water was full of sediments that the water system has failed to filter for some reason or another (I find reading the news to be a tedious and useless activity for the most part, as they change all the time; the important stuff gets to me anyways, either by adventurous self discovery or by the juicier means of gossip).

It was nice to smell most earth again. I never though I would smell this in Vancouver, as the dirt is covered by many layers of dead leaves and foliage, and is never released, despite the many rains and showers. I love the scent of earth after rain, in fact it is the first scent I missed from back home. But once the novelty of smelling it from my tap water has worn off, all I could notice was the lack of relaxing baths (we all reverted to showers so that we get less dirty when we bathe).

To top this all off, I spent almost the entirety of last week waiting, indoors, for deliveries to come in. After amny mishaps with both the courier and the furniture store, by the very end of the week, the furniture I needed so badly for my perfumery arrived, and are being gradually assembled; AND I am finally the happy owner of the newest MacBook thanks to my beloved boyfriend’s guilt feelings for wrecking my computer (unintentionally, of course) a couple of years ago while cleaning it, something he couldn’t forgive himself until he got me the dream laptop! Thanks for ruining my computer, Darling! It was worth the wait. I know I can trust you to wreck it again when this model becomes obsolete ;)

However, before we had enough time to rejoice in the new gadgets, the earliest snow storm in the recent history of the province has emerged, and since Saturday we are enjoying a white city, gradually icing up with black ice and all other sorts of ice and slush and the constant threat of school closures.

It was perhaps that sense of intensely early winter gloom that got me interested for the first time in wearing Jo Malone. The first day I managed to leave the house after the deliveries have arrived, I went to Holt Renfrew and snathed the almost-last Miniature Cologne Collection from the line, containing 6 scents. 3 of which I already knew I had an affection towards, and the other three were meant to be given away as gifsts, or sold on eBay.

I am going to dedicate the following posts to my most favourite of the line, most of which were contained in that handsome little miniature set, and also review the new addition to the line, Blue Agava & Cacao.

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Vintage Gardenia

While most of the Jo Malone scents are very simplistic and leave me cold for the most part, Vintage Gardenia made me feel instantly at home. It reminded me of the smell in my best friend's childhood home. It is similar to a certain soap they used. Therefore, Vintage Gardenia to me smells both clean and warm. I find the combination of notes to be working fantastically well, although they are quite unusual. Cardamom is one of my favourite spice notes, and thankfully it is present here in abundance and adds depth and character to what could otherwise be an overly heady white floral (as in too many gardenia scents that I can possibly mention). After the initial heady notes of the sambac and cardmom subside, a creamy heart of tuberose emerges, gentle, soft and slightly resembles and petal-kissed skin. It’s a tuberose with no off-putting notes (nothing rubbery, green or too sweet, just sheer pleasure of soft perals). The base is warm and slightly bitter from the myrrh, which also balances the sweetness of the floral notes really well. Overall, the perfume smells to me like a combination of jasmine sambac, cardamom, tuberose and myrrh. Vintage Gardenia is not only one of the most original Jo Malone scent, and my personal favourite - it is also one of my most favourite gardenias!

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Orange Blossom Cologne

I ignored this cologne from Jo Malone for the longest time, even though I never thought it unpleasant. In fact, I ignored most of the line, because for the most part I find the scents too "traditional" and the prices too high for something so conventional. Another reason I ignored it was due to a sample mix-up: even though they were manufacturer’s samples, my Orange Blossom and my Lime, Basil & Mandarin samples got confused, and so I thought that Orange Blossom was a conventional citrus & herb cologne and dismissed it with no second thoughts. Than when I got that mini-package - an extra mini bottle of Lime Basil Mandarin was slipped in as an extra, so I decided to give it a try. I quickly realized there was a mistake in the samples, and after further investigation learned that my charmging “Lime Basil and Mandarin” was actually Orange Blossom…

I was just stunned by how gorgeous Orange Blossom was! This is no ordinary citrus, nor what you would expect from an orange blossom scent, and it is quite unique. The note that stands out for me is the mandarin. When I put it on I was immediately transported to our family orchard I took care of my entire childhood, where I played and watered and weeded the trees. It was one of my favourite places and any scent that brings me back there is welcome to my collection. The heart is definitely orange blossom, which is one of my most favourite notes, and it helps that citrus top notes to linger just a tad longer than most other citrus colognes would.

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Black Vetyver Café

I wish the miniature cologne collection included some Black Vetyver Café, but it didn’t. This is my second favourite from the Jo Malone line - right after Vintage Gardenia. Black Vetyver Cafe is exactly what it sounds: vetyver and coffee! The combination sounds strange, but it works magically well. It starts with black coffee note, and than dries down to a clean, woody vetyver. I can smell another woody element there, which makes it softer than just straight-up vetyver. I think it's sandalwood, but it could be the sequia note. I just wish the coffee note lasted longer and that the dry down was a tad sweeter, not all that woody. Compared with Vintage Gardenia, Black Vetyver Café is more intriguing, yetless balanced in my opinion. I am not a fan of layering, but it does smells better when layered with Vintage Gardenia, if you use a much lesser amount of the Black Vetyver Café. Any way you look at it – from a vetyver or a coffee angle - this is a unique scent and should not be missed.

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Amber & Lavender

When I lived on the ground level of an old Victorian-style building just a few blocks away, with a hardwood floor and a (non-operaive) fireplace, one of the sample vials of Amber & Lavender fell on the floor and crashed one day without me noticing. I remember laying at bed at night and wondering how come I can smel the cologne of a guy passing by on the street. Living on the ground level that was actually possible just as much as being affected by skunks passing by!
When I woke up the next day to find out that this men’s cologne is still around I was a bit worried… It wasn’t until days later that I found the crashed vial of Amber & Lavender on the floor and had to have a good lough and called my boyfriend to let him know I am no longer worried about the stocker with the sexy cologne…

Amber & Lavender is not so much about amber or lavender as it is about Fougere, and not the most ambery Fougere at that. It’s herbal and clean, with a bold presence and a classical masculine appearance. The base is a tad animalic, even indolic, and a tad spicy. Apparently, this was Jo Malone’s creation for her husband, and I am not surprised. A good Fougere scent is the epitome of masculine scents, and what I associate most with my man.
If you follow some of Jo Malone suggestions for layering with Amber & Lavener, you’d be surprised how versatile this scent is. It is equally warm and fresh, and adds an interesting twist to some of her other scents. The notes that stand out most for me are lavender, sage, cloves, amber and oakmoss.

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Grapefruit Cologne

The Grapefruit Cologne used to be one of my favourites from the line, but after I discovered the true identity of Orange Blossom, it kind of lost some of its charm for me. It’s a rather simple citrus cologne, and conjures a very aromatic grapefruit, so expect nothing of the sweetness of Guerlain’s Pampelmousse. Grapefruit is not the first thing that you think of when smelling this cologne, but rather – citrus. It’s a reviving and refreshing scent, and very handsomely done. I think one of the most incredible thing about it though is how well it layers with other Jo Malone scents. It makes the nasty Blue Agava and Cacao smell delicious and alive, and adds spark to anything really.

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Blue Agava & Cacao

This is a very peculiar Jo Malone, and is really different from the rest of the line. Even more different than Pomegranate Noir, as it not only combines notes that are very unusual and not often used in perfumes, but also notes that don’t really go very well together… This starts off kind of aromatic and green (must be the agava), but you can smell the cacao bitter-sweetness in the background. For some reason, this smells like a toilet duck to me. I usually try to stay away from such associations to describe scents, but this is what this reminds me of, in a peculiar, perfumey kind of way. Thankfully, it’s a well done toilet duck and it actually smells pleasant in its own odd way. The dry down smells to me almost exactly like Coty’s Musk Vanilla. Very nice. But we all know of the price difference between the two… And Musk Vanilla not having the toilet duck scent and also costing a fraction of Blue Agava and Cacao – I think the bottom line can be left out as it’s so obvious.

Blue Agava & Cacao also stands out (in a negative way, I am afraid) because of its lack of balance. The other Jo Malone scents, even if theoretically sweet (such as Vintage Gardenia) or gourmand (Black Vetyver Café) do have something else to balance that sweetness, and so the final result fits in well with the “Cologne” concept of the line: simplicity, freshness, elegance. Blue Agava and Cacao seems as an artificial installation in this clean gallery of odours. It may please many, but it doesn’t seem like a “real” Jo Malone.

To me it smells like "Jo Malone meets Tom Ford", an event that might have taken place in the Estee Lauder boardroom.

It does get better though, when layered with other Jo Malone classics, such as the Grapefruit Cologne or the Amber & Lavender Cologne.

As a side note, Agava just sounds plain horrible in my native language, so I may not be all that objective after all. It sounds very similar to both the name for syphilis and tomato… Ouch!

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

News from the Nose: Winter Holiday Specials

Dear Fragrant Friends,

In this newsletter:
* Winners Announcement for the Perfume Review Contest
* New Perfume Launches – Razala, Film Noir and Bois d’Hiver
* Cool New Gifts Packages and Stocking Stuffers Ideas
* Liquidation Sale Reminder and Update
* Updated Info about Ordering From Us

First of all, I would like to deeply thank all of you who participated in the Perfume Review Contest and took the time to review and post your impressions of my perfumes. Most of Ayala Moriel Parfums are now reviewed on MakeUpAlley and on Basenotes:

The Perfume Review Contest Winners are:
Carrie from Minnesota (won 9ml flacon of Kinmokusei);
Christine from Nebraska (won Perfumed Pendant filled with Palas Atena);
Leena from Helsinki (won a mini wardrobe of 4 of our newest scents); and
Kara from Minnesota (another lucky winner of the mini wardrobe!).


Ayala Moriel Parfums is proud to introduce our first perfume to include ambergris:


Razala is a passionate, modern love poem to thorny hills and Desert Mountains. It pulsates with vibrant, colourful spices, seductive flower petals, and precious resins and woods of Arabia. Razala is the perfumer’s Arabic nickname.
The ambergris used in this perfume was beach harvested on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and no whales were hurt or killed in the process. It was naturally cured by the sun and ocean and sea salt, and adds a stunningly smooth, animalic and sweet effect in this parfum, making it a real treasure.

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Saffron Crocus, Magnolia
Heart notes: Orange Blossom, Rose, Tuberose, Jasmine
Base notes: Ambergris, Oudh, Myrrh, Vintage Patchouli

This perfume is selling fast so place your order now!

In Winter 2007, Ayala Moriel will launch our one and only –




Film Noir is a heartless and topless perfume – with base notes only. This is a mysterious concoction of dark chocolate, patchouli and myrrh. Inspired by the cinematic genre of dark and tragic tales, this perfume is as musty and deep as the sewers of Vienna in the Third Man, as dark and tragic as the alleys of Chinatown where the anti-heroes and heroines find their death time and time again every time you watch them on the screen… But most importantly, it is as dark as the soul those who make and watch these films… It is sensual and multi-faceted despite the simplicity of its compositions, and it unravels its dark story as you wear it on your warm skin.
Film Noir is already starting to gather attention and was reviewed recently on Perfume Shrine blog by perfume reviewer Helg from Greece on Perfume Shrine Blog.

You can order a sample or pre-order a bottle, which will be ready for you just before Christmas!

We are very pleased to offer to you this season a limited edition that is both masculine and festive:


Bois d’Hiver, our masculine version of Fête d’Hiver is a limited edition for this winter. It is a very similar formula to what is known from previous years as “Fête d’Hiver pour Homme”, only now with the addition of the mouthwatering candied Christmas tree note of Fir Absolute, and fabulous, sparkling Orange Flower Water Absolute to chase away winter gloom and bring joy to your heart!

We love the new look of our sample vials, and think that they can make a great stocking stuffer, but we wanted to offer a more generous amount of juice in a more affordable price that you can use as a fragrant stocking stuffer.

Our new, limited-time offer for the Holiday Season mini bottles are 2ml, filled with parfum extrait and are adorned with our cute fairy-logo on the lid. These are offered alone for $31.99, or you can purchase a Deluxe Mini Wardrobe for only $89.99 (see below).

You can now have a miniature collection of 4 exquisite and scrumptious perfumes from Ayala Moriel to suit all moods and occasions!
Ayala Sender, Natural Perfumer and Fragrance Consultant, will help you design your own mini wardrobe, or you can choose your own.

We would like to suggest the following combinations, particularly suitable for the Holiday Season:

Winter Festival Collection:
4 Festive, luxurious scents that are particularly suitable for the winter, including three new releases:
Fete d’Hiver, Bois d’Hiver, Film Noir & Razala

Cheerful Collection:
Cheerful notes to chase away winter gloom
Tamya, Zohar, Bois d’Hiver, Yasmin

Winter Man:
A collection of 4 luxurious masculine scents, particularly suitable for winter
Bois d’Hiver, Rebellius, Finjan, L’Herbe Rouge

Now available - parfum extrait refills for your flacon!
These 15ml refill bottles can accompany your next purchase to ensure you won't run out of your favourite scent. These are attractively priced at only $180 for a package of one 8ml Parfum Extrait flacon and one 15ml refill bottle.

Don't miss this opportunity to buy larger amount of your favourite scent at a significantly discounted price! This packaging is being discontinued, as it was replaced by 8ml French Flacon with ground glass stopper. All of our perfumes are now sold only in pure parfum or parfum oil concentrations, for $90 a piece regular price.

All bottles are hand painted with our signature Fairy and the Drop logo, and the name of the perfume.

Visit my “BLOWOUT SALE” page on SmellyBlog for the most updated list of perfumes and sizes available.

Please take a look and pass on to your fragrant friends!

If you haven’t visited recently – you can now order online via our new PayPal shopping cart. Cheqeus and money orders are still accepted.
The shopping cart is quite primitive, but it’s easy to use. Each perfume has the available sizes and forms that you can purchase on the perfume’s page.

If you want to order a Fragrance Wardrobe, a Sample Package or a Signature Perfume, the purchase buttons for those appear on this page (just don’t forget to email us to let us know which perfumes you are ordering).

For more newsletters and special offers, click on the “Perfume Discounts” link on the right sidebar on SmellyBlog.

Wishing you a joyful and fragrant Holiday Season,


Image credit: Detail of Snowflakes by tin.G

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Cuir de Russie

While Tabac Blond is a rebel, with an elegant off-beat premise – Cuir de Russie is an unusual take on luxury and chic.

While the animalic notes in Tabac Blond are abstract and allude to leather bound books and horse-takcs, and set the mood of a desired loneliness, in Cuir de Russie these are present to make a statement of uncompromised luxury and decadent style.

Cuir de Russie, more than other leather scents that I met, really makes me re-think the relationships between luxury, wilderness, death and perfume. The animal essences here are so strongly present, that you can’t help but think of the forests in Russia where wild animals’ lives has been taken away for the sake of their skins and furs. I cannot wear Cuir de Russie without thinking about a fur coat and a furry Russian hat. Maybe it’s because my mind is set on these clichés. Maybe it is because the first time I smelled Cuir de Russie was in one of the most luxurious spaces – the Chanel boutique. Perhaps it’s really the scent doing this, as reeks of luxury quite blatantly.

Wearing Cuir de Russie is like wearing a fur coat. Which is a big statement. It’s going all the way for appearance. It’s telling the world that you are willing to kill for your looks. That you don’t really care about wild life. But it’s also a reminder that once upon a time, before we learned how to make textile and fabricate our clothes, we had to burrow other animal’s skins and furs to survive the cold long winters. In those far-away days, where fur was a question of life-and-death.

When I wear Cuir de Russie, I think of a snow-covered forest in Siberia, where a hunter is just recovering the hunted animal, breathlessly giving away its winter coat which is soon to be traded for rye bread, sausages, vodka, and other Russian necessities of life.

Chanel’s Cuir de Russie reeks of animal essences – primarily castoreum absolute, an essence extracted from the Russian – and Canadian – beavers, after they have been hunted for their furs. There is also civet galore. It’s amazing how furry this perfume is thanks to those essences. But there are other notes as well, and these are what make Cuir de Russie such a masterpiece:
It opens with notes of cade and a resinous, dark myrrh. Than, leathery cassie notes fleet around, like a misty cloud of foggy vapour – airy, powdery, barely visible. Soon enough, we move into a phase of an airy white floral bouquet – jasmine sambac being the most visible of all. Roses undfold later and the perfume turns into a smooth bouquet of notes that are not quite separable from one another, but harmonize to create an overall creamy, smooth leatherness. There are sweet resins and balsams (namely benzoin and labdanum), a subtle, sexy musk, and a most definite note of castoreum paired with civet. Hours later, I smell a familiar oakmoss dry down, but it is very subdued.

*Image of a Woman in a Fur Coat by Nick DeWolf dated December 8th 1970, courtesy of dboo
**I chose this picture because it is elegant, yet it seems the woman really needs the warmth of the coat...

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to SmellyBlog’s readers in the USA!

The handsome Horn of Plenty above is from the garden of Autsin-Hypnosis


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tabac Blond

Leather perfumes have so much character, that it’s hard to believe I am having hard time writing about them. Perhaps they have too much personality? Maybe it is because they can all be summed up in one word: Leather. They are not all the same, but they all boil down to some kind of leather – suede, fur, horse saddles and tacks, and so on. Strangely, I find myself associating leather perfumes with things rather than people or emotions. Mind you, very pleasant things, such as old books and libraries, horse saddles, shoes and shoe stores. All things that I don’t really associate with a particular emotional state or memory for the most part, just a simple pleasure of serene rainy afternoon reading an old book or near quiet horses at the stable. So perhaps leather perfumes are the scent of serenity for me, where no complex emotions are involved – just enjoying things, aka objects?

Tabac Blond is the first leather perfume I wanted to write about. It is so original, and as it has been launched as early as 1919, it preceded most of the leather perfumes that followed in the 20th century. First whiff of Tabac Blond immediately reminded me of my old German dictionary that I found in one of my old school’s library giveaways (apparently, nobody read dictionaries at my school except for me). It had the most gorgeous gothic letters throughout, not just the cover, but also inside. I thought that having it in my private library was the most fantastic thing which would make me feel very sophisticated and worldy, not to mention help to enhance my German needed to expressively sing the romantic Lieder by Schubert and Schuman.

That was my first impression of Tabac Blond, and this is how it smells straight from the flacon. Wearing Tabac Blond is a different story altogether though. It unfolds with its rich notes, and every time I discover something different in it. The rich dark and dense notes unfurl and uncurl, open up their dark buds of smudge and resin. They do so slowly and without any attempt to compete with one another.

Tabac blond opens with the notes of old leather bound books in a monastery’s library. It’s dim-lit, and full of studying monks and dark brown robes (perhaps they are Franciscans?). The structure gives away the age, but the building is well preserved – the rocks as well as the burnished wood. As satisfying a note as this may be, it is enriched with other dark notes – starting with the rich, sweet-spicy floral eugenol of carnations, which to me, reeks of luxury. When the carnation wears off a tad, I can sense the sweet clean woody scent of vetiver, and a sweet floral note that could be the ylang ylang, but to me smells more of rose and jasmine, very subdued. The florals are there just to smooth rough corners, as there is nothing really floral about Tabac Blond. The base is a rich, balsamic, resinous mélange of patchouli, vanilla, ambery labdanum, and musk. A base that develops into something that is somewhat reminiscent of Shalimar’s dry down on my own skin…

The notes, based on the Perfume Addicts Database, are:

Top notes: Leather (achieved by castoreum absolute, in my opinion), Linden, Carnatnion
Heart notes: Iris, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Cedar, Patchouli, Vanilla, Amber, Musk

As you can see, there is no tobacco here. Not in the listing and none that I can detect with my own nose. Like Narcisse Noir, the name is mostly fantasy. And so is the perfume itself!
The reference to tobacco is more likely to have more to do with the twist of history, than with tobacco itself: right after World War I, when women started to smoke more openly in public, amongst other signs of emancipation. I can't smell the linden either, but I won't be surprised to find it there one day, when least expected. And Tabac Blond is indeed an unusual scent for a woman in its time, one that would wear pants, smoke in public, wear her hair short, and insist on having a political opinion strong enough to cast a vote. So it is not surprising that nowadays it is worn and admired by men and women alike.

If you live in North America, but not near any reputable Caron boutique that carries the urn scents, I highly recommend you contact Diane Haksa at the Caron Boutique in New York. She can also be reached by phone on this toll-free number: 1-877-882-2766
The Caron Boutique in NYC accepts credit cards as well as personal cheques. The only draw back is if you live in Canada: you can send a Canadian cheque but you will have to have a kind family member or a buddy in the US that can accept the package and redirect it to you. My aunt in Washington DC will be hearing from me soon... (Well, she hears from me quite often anyways).

Here are the prices for the Urn scents:
- Don't be alarmed by the price: these are pure parfum extrait, and are worth every penny!
Plus if you buy these you actually are supporting a classic perfume house that is not owned by LVMH and is standing up to it's unique artistic vision for the last century.

Image credits:
Image of Monastery Library courtesy of That Other Guy.
Image of Tabac Blond vintage flacon from the Museum of Grasse.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Perfume News: Razala

Ayala Moriel is pleased to announce the launch of our new perfume for Fall/Winter 2007:

Whether if you are a Harem Queen or a Beduine Shepard at heart, Razala is a passionate, modern love poem to thorny hills and desert mountains. Razala pulsates with vibrant, colourful spices, seductive flower petals, and precious resins and woods of Arabia. This is also our first perfume to include the scarcest building block: beach-harvested ambergris, adding smoothness and an underlining raw animalic energy.

The original vision for Razala was to bottle the sense of freedom that is felt when climbing a mountain and spending an extended amount of time in the wilderness. It’s a scent that is all about seduction of the senses and the mind, leading you to the sensual serenity of a dim-lit feast of many spicy exotic dishes and luxurious colours and textures of the fabrics of a harem, the most sensual of them being one’s own skin…

The notes are:

Razala was inspired by the thorny hills where I grew up – where goats used to herd on the fragrant bushes of hyssop, sage and labdanum. I spent hours on end on these mountains, enjoying the textures of the rocks, the essence of the soil, and the smooth barks of red arbutus trees, occasionally alarmed by the sound of goat bells and the cries of the goat herds that followed them.

Razala is one of my nicknames and is the Arabic translation of my name (which means a doe, by the way). There was something that always really fascinated me about deer and goats: their fragile innocence reflected through their eyes, yet their enormous strength and resilience and the stubborn manner in which they lead their way through rocky, bushy, thorny hills and mountains.

Razala went through several transformations before reaching the perfection of what it is now: I started with the raw essences of hyssop, sage and oregano, paired with flower notes of rose and jasmine and the greenness of a tangerine peel. The base, originally, was spikenard (a musty root that is reminiscent of wet soil), costus (a musky root that smells like goats), and labdanum (the resin from the same rockroses that grew on the mountains that were my inspiration). Although the original formulation smelled exactly like the mountains when a herd of smelly goats pass by – it was crude and not so wearable. It wasn’t until recently, when I decided to change direction and go all the way with the sensuality and shameless seduction of notes used in traditional Arab perfumery – Audh, Ambergris, Myrrh. This was the base, and to that I added the most luxurious vintage patchouli – it is aged for several years, which makes it sweet and sublime, soft and almost powdery, and truly an aphrodisiac. To these I added my favourite spicey notes – cloves, pink peppercorns and saffron, as well as the most luscious flowers of all – orange blossom, rose, tuberose, jasmine and magnolia. I must admit I am terribly happy with the result and this is in my opinion the best perfume that ever came out of my atelier. It is my new personal favourite, even though when it comes to my own line, I am not allowed to have one. It creates a unique aura in collaboration with your skin and than really grows on you.

Razala is available in parfum extrait only at this point: 9ml parfum flacon for $89.99 or a flacon + 15ml refill bottle for $179.99.

Image of Bedouine woman courtesy of Kunja.

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7th Annual Basenotes' Award

Vote in the 7th Annual Basenotes Awards and nominate your own favourite perfumes in 18 different categories, and enter to win a $200 gift certificate for Aedes de Venustas!

Categories are for both men and women's fragrances, including: Best Fragrance overall, Best New Fragrance, Best Daytime Fragrance, Best Evening Fragrance, Best Packaging, Best Designer/Mainstream Fragrance, Best Niche/Independant/Artisanal Fragrance, Best Mass Market/Drugstore Fragrance, Best Celebrity Fragrance, Best Fragrance House, and last but not least - for the first time this year:

Best Fragrance Blog!


Sales and Special Offers

Here is where you can find information about Ayala Moriel special offers, discounts and sales:

Blowout Sale 2006 :
Your last opportunity to get Ayala Moriel parfums in their former EDP form, in larger 1oz and 2oz bottles. This post will be constantly updated to reflect what's left in stock.

Our newsletters, including information on all new releases, new products and sizes, and special seasonal discounts - including limited edition fragrances. This link is updated regularly to include all of our newsletter up to date.
If you would like to join our mailing list, you can do so on our website, at the bottom of the page, or you can email us and let us know you would like to receive our newsletter.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Film Noir reviewed on Perfume Shrine!

Visit Perfume Shrine to read a review of Ayala Moriel's upcoming new release, the topless, heartless Film Noir.
Film Noir is made of base notes only - dark chocolate, patchouli and myrrh.

Film Noir will be released this winter, and is now available for pre-ordering.

Image from

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Decoding Obscure Notes Part VI: Leather Notes

When trying to understand leather perfumes, one cannot ignore the connection of the perfume industry to some of the foulest-smelling man-made creations (or by-products): death and feces.
I am not being sarcastic, though obviously I have just used one of the most alarming yet well-tested demagogue techniques: shock the audience to get attention.

Now that I have captured your attention, I am going to skin it, and use it to create a brief map of the history of leather scents and draw the connection between perfume and scents that are much less fine.

Let us start from the beginning: Death.
Leather is animals’ skin, pulled off their dead bodies after they have been hunted or slaughtered (usually for food), and than processed in various ways. Leather has been an important material for mankind for thousands of years. It helped our forefathers to survive the cold winters (clothes and shelters) and create and build many different tools that were crucial for their survival. I won’t bore you with the details, as I am sure we all learned something about the pre-historic men in elementary school or sometimes afterwards. Now that we have invented the wheel, and along the way also the ability to create many useful man-made materials for protecting our bodies from the climate etc., leather has become more of a luxury good than a necessity. But whatever the purpose of the leather used –from horse-saddles, to warm boots, to leather outfits for our fetishes and fantasies – at certain point early in its process the skin had to be cleaned and treated in a way to ensure that it does not smell like a rotting dead animal as well as softened to enable it to be useful and workable. The scent of death is not enjoyable and it is not even an acquired taste. I think this is one of the few scents that triggered a consensus amongst humans. And so, the leather hides from the animals have to go through an elaborate process of curing and tanning in order chase away any bacteria. For more details on the traditional curing process visit this website, and to read about the modern process, visit here:

Barks from trees were used to preserve the leather, colour it, enhance its texture and also, as a side effect, give it a more agreeable scent. Most of the barks and materials used contain a high concentration of tannin.

Here are a few of the oils that are known for their use in the tanning process and that are also used in perfumery:

Birch TarSmells intensely of wintergreen and is used frequently in tanning Russian leather.

Cassie flower and bark
Cassie is a type of mimosa, only far more intense, woody, and deeply scented, as it is a base note. The bark and the flower absolute are used in the curing process due to their high tannin content.

Cade Oil
This dark oil has an intense smoky odour of forest fires. This is the destructive distillation of a species of juniper (the plant material is actually burnt during the distillation and therefore the intense smoky aroma). Also used in Russian leather, and provides durability for leather. Books bound with Russian leather will not get mouldy, according to this site.

The oil of myrtle is used mosly in Turkish leather tanning. This is not used in lperfumery very often for creating leather accords, as this is a very green, clean, fresh, camphor-like scent and it’s not associated with leather as much as the other notes.

To read more about plants used for tanning Visit this website .
We are now going to move to the mundane and familiar odour of feces, especially those which filled the metropolis of ancient times, before the sophisticated sanitary systems that we enjoy today in our air-polluted cities. The open sewers were an inevitable part of the daily lives of all the people who lived in the cities, rich or poor. But the rich and the noble ones could afford to suffer just a bit less of it, as they were able to afford coaches and horses which provided some distance from the stench; and also the nobelty had certain privileges such as walking in the middle of the street and away from the sides where potties could be emptied on their heads…The stench of the streets lead to the creative collaboration between glove makers and perfumers:

The first thing that one wants to do is to cover their noses from the stench… And the hand was usually covered with a glove… Which was, indeed, covered with scent strong enough to mask the terrible odour of the old urban jungles.

With the improvement of the sanitary systems in the cities the gloves fashion gradually faded out. But it left behind it an elaborate legacy of European perfumery. Later on, the leather as a scent made a come back with Chanel’s Cuir de Russie – this time romanticizing the exoticism of furs of wild animals caught in the woods of cold, far away Russia (or, perhaps, Canada). It employed an impressive amount of castoreum, a by-product of the fur industry. Castoreum is a secretion from a gland of both the male and the female beavers that live in Russia and Canada. It can only be found after killing the animal, thus making capturing beavers a double-shot of wealth for the hunter. On its own, castoreum smells like death. It really does. As repulsive as death could possibly be, combined with the guilt of smelling the remains a wild animal hunted for its fur and sexual smell. When highly diluted, castoreum smells just like leather. Like old leather bound books. Dry, leathery, exquisite.

So now that we have pretty much exhausted the topics of dead animals and poop, perhaps we can move on to the two main questions that you have in mind are (in hopes that your appetite for that fragrance family isn’t ruined yet):

The answer is simple: they smell like leather!
Step in to the nearest shoe store, and get your nose close to a pair of leather boots.
Go to your nearest horse-barn and get acquainted with the saddles and tacks.
Bury your nose in an old leather book…
That’s what leather perfumes smell like, at least in part.

To this may be added spices, resins and balsams for sweetness and warmth; flowers for a sophisticated perfume-y impression; Tobacco that accentuates the tannin scent of cured leather; aldehydes for softness and warm roundness or an oily skin like residue; citrus for clean freshness and to add balance to the heaviness and darkness of leather; and more often than ever – there will be smoky notes.

By now you probably guessed that there is no leather essential oil, and perfumers don't soak and tincture leather to make leather perfumes... The only animal material that has any importance in leather perfumes is castoreum.
Although castoerum is a key ingredient in many leather perfumes, it is not essential to kill animals to enjoy a leather aroma. When well crafted, other “vegan” notes, such as tobacco, black tea, labdanum, cade, patchouli and birch tar can create the impression of leather without drawing as much as a drop of blood from an innocent animal. I am proud to say that such an example lies in my line in the form of Espionage – the formidable leathery concoction that dries down into a musky-vanilla skin scent.

Leathery perfumes can be taken to all kinds of directions – aromatic, woody, floral, even gourmand (if, like Charlie Chaplin, you find leather appetizing). Technically, leather is considered a member of the Chypre family, which is where it originally branched out from. Many leathery perfumes have oakmoss in at least minute quantities, and are considered a sub-category of the chypre family. However, there are some leathers that have very little in common with Chypre, and are more of an oriental. I personally think that even though it may be convenient to add more and more sub-categories to the Chypre family, that perhaps the Leathery scents truly deserve a category of their own. Scents such as Tabac Blond, Cuir de Russie, Bandit, Feuilles de Tabac, truly deserve their own family.

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Mini Sniffapalooza in Vancouver

I was blessed with a fragrant guest from out of town today: Sofia Madeen from Colorado. It’s very unusual that anybody that I know comes to the city who loves perfumes, and so we went on a little perfume expedition in downtown Vancouver, and explored some of the best perfume destinations.

Sofia stayed at the Listel hotel, just a block away from where I live, and just a block away from where our perfume adventure started. We had breakfast at the nearest creperie, and spent a good time there getting to know each other in person (as opposed to emails and perfume forums) and talked mostly about perfumes.

Our first stop was at the Bay, which is the exclusive retailer of Annick Goutal in town. We sniffed our way through the entire collection, and exchanged our impressions. I always find the vocabulary each person uses in reaction to the same fragrance is sometimes completely different. While I find the Goutals very fragile, yet sharp and green (for the most part), Sofia mostly ldescribed them as soft and feminine (which they are). We lingered loner on describing and discerning notes for Grand Amour, Quel Amour!, Folavril, Passion, Eau de Charlotte and Eau de Camille.

We than set to go across the street to Holt Renfrew, which carries many boutique lines, which I don’t think Sofia can find in Colorado.

The Armani Privee collection waited for us at the entrance, with the solemn black wooden cases and the smooth gemstones at the top. The ones that cought our attention the most were Cuir Amethyst, Pierre de Lune and Bois Encens. After showing off a perfume-proficiency beyond what the SA is familiar with, she was convinced to give us samples of our favourites. I think Sofia got Pierre de Lune and Bois Encens, and I got Bois Encens and Cuir Amethyst. The latter, unfortunately, unfurled on my skin completely differently than on the scent stripe: while my initial impression of it was of burnished leather with powdery cassie notes, on my skin it turnes into too much powdery, with none of either (cassie nor leather) managing to maintain their presence. Bois Encens is exactly what the names suggest though – inencese – primarily frankincense – which is very true to the burning resin as many of us know mostly from Catholic churches.

We than discovered the location of the Dior Homme exclusive boutique colognes. The sales lady was really nice and not pushy, and she said she would let us make our own samples next time we come in. Here are my initial impressions as I remember them from the scent stripes:
Bois d’Argent – soapy and musky, clean, similar to the dry down of Thiery Mugler’s Cologne. I really liked this one and will have to try it on my skin for a day or two.
Eau Blanche – the most citrusy of the three and I quickly dismissed it even though I am ready to be surprised upon a proper skin application.
Eau Noire – unusual, original, earthy and spicy, aromatic. With notes of turmeric and dry licorice root which reminded me of the old Muslim market in Jerusalem, and also notes of lavender absolute. The colour of this cologne – a rich green tint – gives the lavender absolute away (the raw material is turquoise liquid, and changes the colour of the fragrances it’s used in similarly).

We than set to check ouit the Jo Malone’s boutique, to try the new Blue Agava and Cacao. To me, it smelled like a repulsive bathroom cleaner at first, than dries down to a nice Coty’s Musk Vanilla combo. Sofia did not think it smelled repulsive at all. We than sniffed our way through some of the highlight of this very English collection – including the handsome Lavender & Amber, and the Grapefruit Colognes, but also the more unusual ones such as Pomegranate Noir, Vintage Gardenia and Black Vetyver Café.

We than wanted to try Soir de Lune, but a sales lady wanted to get us into MyQueen and Stella, but we had to leave as my nose at this point was just too tired. We tried Soir de Lune on a scent stripe, and Sofia mentioned something about a honey note in it that makes me want to go back and try it more seriously. After all, it is a newly released Chypre that actually smells like Chypre! We had a little tea break – we both drank Matcha Latte at Blenz, sweetened with honey, which is my favourite drink, yum! I was very pleased to see that Sofia liked it too.

We went back to Holt Renfrew to try Tom Ford’s Black Orchid. Of course they didn’t have samples (and they don’t have any to this very day, I check every time I visit there!), but I did want to try it on my skin this time. At first, Black Orchid seems to stand up to all the expectations the packaging and the anticipation has created: luxurious, Femme-Fatale infused mushrooms sautéed in spices. If you think these are the base notes you’ve been deceived: these wear off quickly, gradually revealing a phase of rum-soaked berries and than a rose opens its velvety petals for a short while as well. From this point on, it’s all goes downhill: the patchouli showing some unlikely affiliation to a marine note, and the whole thing turns into a better version of Allure Sensuelle – not as obnoxious, and definitely more wearable. Black Orchid is disappointing: I can accept the idea of some scent having less than lovely top notes, even marine top notes, as long as they evolve into something more than just that. Tom Ford has shown us that this is possible in reverse, and created the most disappointing fragrance in 2006.

We continued to the Hermes counter (where I showed Sofia the wobbly display table that Tamya was unfortunate to knock off and break the Terre d’Hermes when it just came out LOL! The saleslady was not even in the least upset, and that gives a thousand points immediately to a retail store in my book!). We sniffed some Hermes scents – Hermes Rouge, Hiris, Bel Ami. Talked about Olivia Giacobetti. Which our mutual friend Hilda has introduced me to when we met in Toronto, and talked about her signature “paper” notes (something that Hilda pointed out to me, and she was very right; It wasn’t till later that I learned that many of my favourite scents are Giacobetti’s creations – Philosykos, Ofresia, Premiere Figuier, and of course – Dzing!).

Once we sniffed everything we could at Holt Renfrew, we set off to visit Nasrin at The Perfume Shoppe. Nasrin is the most knowledgeable perfume retailer in town, probably in entire British Columbia. Her love for her perfumes is evident, and her shop is a wonderful gem in a city that otherwise smells like rainy rain drizzled with more rain on the top.

I tried Alamut (on my other wrist) for the very first time – a very soft, well-rounded floral chypre, outstandingly gorgeous with a rich floral heart (orange blossom is one of the main notes, but none really stand out). The drydown, however, is too ambery for me.

We also sniffed some of the oudh line of Montale: Black Oudh, Roses Musk, Oudh Rose Petals, Oudh Ambre, Royal Oudh, Oudh Cuir Arabie (with lots of castoerum) and Blue Amber.

We tried Yosh’s Omniscent (on Sofia’s wrist), and another scent that to me smelled sickly of synthetic tea rose.

Sofia bought a bottle of Dzing! – as a souvenir of our day. I would have done the same if only it wasn’t the last bottle!

We than had to go back home and passed by the Hermes boutique without stepping in, as we ran out of time and it was time to get something to eat. We had a late sushi lunch on the way at my family’s favourite Japanese restaurant called Tsunami Sushi (they have a bar with little boats floating with sushi and you can just pick what you want, a thrill for kids, but if it makes you dizzy you can always sit at a table). We had edamame, gomai and yam-and-avocado sushi rolls, as we sniffed along a gift box of my sample vials.

Image: Read Between Your by RobinThom
(It was taken on Robson Street in Downtown Vancouver, and I believe it's a window for the Lush store. Can you recognize any interesting words in the text?)

P.s. I apologize for not having uploaded any original photos for a while. The downside of having my fabulous new Mac is that I can't insert the little Sony memory cards right into the computer (like I could with my previous Sony laptop) and I can't find the cable that connects the camer to the computer!

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Leather Month

November was scheduled in my book to be dedicated to leather perfumes. We are almost half way through the month, and I have lots of catching up to do!
So, the following couple of weeks will be dedicated, for the most part, to leather. Leather perfumes and their history, decoding the obscurity of leather notes, and of course - reviews of my favourite leather fragrances and a few significant others...
So stay tuned, and if you know any other leather fetishizers out there, refer them to SmellyBlog!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


All the people who died in wars
In all the many countries on this blood-soaked planet
Soldiers, defending territories, countries and governments for reasons known, unkown, perhaps for no reason at all.
Civilians, defending their families and loved ones and their violated rights for life and freedom.

When they lost their lives, we lost them.
They left behind them a wound that will not heal.
Their pillow will no longer soak their scent so cherished by their loved ones.
The memory of their smile is a phantom of happiness shared long ago.
Their favourite dancing tune are now the saddest song.

The pain, the blood, is everywhere.
It's here for us to share.
And remember to not make this mistake again.
Let's share life and happiness instead.

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Friday, November 10, 2006


LesNez is a new niche perfumery from Switzerland, founded by René Schifferle. It launched just recently, with three scents, all created by Isabelle Doyen, the Nose behind many Annick Goutal beuties, such as Eau de Sud, Ce Soir ou Jamais, Grand Amour and others - including my current love Songes.

All three scents have the dreamy, fragile, perfectionist quality that can be found in many of Ms. Doyen’s creations for the house of Annick Goutal – I find all the three LesNez scents to be softer and easier to wear. They do not have the somewhat sharp greenness of the other creations.

I found it interesting that two of the three perfumes have reminded me of fantasy books in some way or the other. Following this post are reviews of all three scents. They can all be obtained from the LesNez Online Shop.

The image is of "In The Wind", a sculture by Gillian White. A limited edition of 200 bottles is presented within this sculture.

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An invisible ink that leaves a trace,
Foreseen rather thanfelt,
Yet whispered,
Like a creased bed linen scent wandering along your curves...
(Isabelle Doyen)

L'Antimatière is the most innovative, yet the most easy to wear (for me, anyways) of the trio. Initially, it seem simple. Once worn, the simplicity works a spell in the shape of the softest angora sweater just coming out of the drier. It’s probably shrunk, but it smells great. A clean musk scent, with an unmatched warmth that resembles ambergris tincture. It’s there but it isn’t... After dry down the reason for its charm is revealed – there is vetiver in the base, and the woods add depth and interest and turn an everyday routine to an out of the ordinary sensation.

Flawless, invisible, I don’t think I could describe this better than Ms. Doyen did herself in her minimalist poem. I think the fact that this scent is so functional (i.e.: wearable and flattering to the skin) makes it even more artistic. It’s like a breath of whispered inspiration floating around, comforting with its presence. It’s like a muse, a spirit, one sneaky warm breath-of-wind in the middle of winter.

l'Antimatière is so versatile and flawless you could make it anything you want it to be… It can be easily mistaken for one’s own skin. I imagine it will layer very well with other scents if desired. It has the potential and versatility for becoming a signature scent or at least a wardrobe staple.

Although this perfume did not remind me of a fantasy book, this scent is fantasy. If The Unicorn Spell is wondering around the forest in search for a unicron, l'Antimatière is petting the unicorn's soft plumage on its pure white nose.

Image credit: Antimatter, by Nicolas Lloyd

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Let Me Play the Lion

Scents of dusty trails,
Of lightly sweetened ochre,
Of sun-weathered wood,
Of silence swept by mild breezes,
Of skies open like an endless azure cut oozing signs of the coming storm.
(Isabelle Doyen)
Let Me Play the Lion is the warmest and spiciest of the trio. It opens with a burst of cayenne pepper – dry and warm, notes of burning cedar and dusty frankincense. It can be compared to other perfumes that contain cayenne pepper – i.e.: Piment Brulant, Poivre Samarkand – only softer. My associations run between a dusty, temperamental desert lion, yet with a mane so soft you want to sniff it; and than I am reminded of a secluded cabin in the forest where the fireplace is burning with fragrant cedar and I am meditating with frankincense incense…

The lion association reminded me of a favourite chapter of one of my most favourite childhood books: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. It reminded me of the lion Grograman, the king of Goab, the Many Colour Desert.
Image credit:
Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater, Negeve Desert, Israel), by David Haberlah

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The Unicorn Spell

If by dawn still linger on your skin mixed scents of leaves, frost and violet
blooms, and that relentless yearning for stellar sights, you will know that,
at night, you felt the milky breath of a unicorn.
(Isabelle Doyen)

The Unicorn Spell is an iris scent, and a very magical one at that. It starts off like a shake of frost from a unicorn mane, with a cool tinge of violet, and crisp, frost-bitten white rose petals in a crisp foggy November day. There is an underlining softness, milky indeed, of the orris and a tad of wood. This is the most floral of the trio, and the least approachable for me as it has that coolness, slightly sharp greenness that makes most green scents difficult for me to wear. But after overcoming the first sharpness I can enjoy the rose and the softness of milky orris.

Like Mandragore, which was inspired by the Mandrakes in Harry Potter’s herbalism class, I can’t help but associate this scent with the trails of silvery glowing spilled blood of the dying unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. This perfume is like searching for the unicorn in a dark, damp forest. The unicorn’s presence is there, the steam of its breath as its running away frozen in the air, the trails glistening with the quiet mist of its magical spell, but we can’t find it yet…

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And the Winners of the Perfume Review Contest Are:

Caribou55313 is the lucky winner of 9ml parfum flacon of Kinmokusei . Congratulations!

Purplebird7 is the lucky winner of the Palas Atena Perfumed Pendant (pictured on the left). Congratulations!

And for the last prize, a mini wardrobe of 2ml of our most recent releases, Kinmokusei, Zohar, Razala and Film Noir - the drawing judge (Little Miss T) has decided to draw two names instead of one:
Nalle3 & Pasikonik777

Those who I don't know their secret identity will be contacted through their forum profiles so I can send them their prizes.

Thank you so much to all of you who have posted your fabulous reviews of Ayala Moriel Parfums! You really helped to spread the word about my little perfumery, and I for that I am feel both grateful and honoured.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Last Chance to Enter: Pefume Review Contest

Today is the last day to enter Ayala's Perfume Review Contest. For more info read our original annoucnement.

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The Dawn of Pink Chypres

Since the early 90’s, IFRA and other European regulatory organization have gradually tightened their embargo on the use of oakmoss in perfumes. Ever since than, slowly but surely, the rich heritage of Chypre is gradually collapsing. First, with the sneaky reformulation (partially rumours from devoted Chypre consumers, partially official statements from renown houses) of what seems to be all the mainstream chypre classics; Currently, the minimum amount of oakmoss allowed in a fragrance have reached the lowest of lows: a mere 0.1%. Reformulating all the classics – Miss Dior, Jolie Madame, Mitsouko – must have taken a few good years. It is now a sad but true common knowledge amongst fragrance aficionado that the chypre of today is not what we learned to love and cherish. This article, however, is about what we are gradually conditioned to perceive as the Chypre of Tomorrow.

The motives and the reasoning behind the IFRA regulations is something I prefer not to delve in. It opens up issues that are complex and quite puzzling, full of contradictions and conflict. Unfortunately, the recent developments in the Chypre world force me to open this Pandora Box at least a tiny bit, and I hope I will not be tempted to look back as I might just petrify right there and than. I will, however, refer you to this article on Cropwatch, which addresses some of the issues that every modern perfumer that is interested in using certain natural aromatics is now facing.

Until very recently (perhaps just until last year), perfume labels were mysterious and vague. They usually looked like this:

Alcohol, Parfum (as shown on my box for Miss Dior parfum extrait from 4 years ago). If it happened to be an EDT or an EDP, there will also be “Aqua” in there. Occasionally, maybe, also a name of one other the other colouring agents.

Now they look like that:
Alcohol, Parfum (Fragrance), Aqua (Water), Hydroxycitronellal, linalool, alpha-isomethyl ionone, hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, cinnamyl alcohol, coumarin, limonene, benzyl benzoate, benzyl alcohol, evernia furfuracea (treemoss) extract, citronellol, geraniol, evernia prunastri (oakmoss) extract, hexyl cinnamal, eugenol, amylcinnamal, cinnamal, benzyl salicylate.

(This is from the package of the Miss Dior EDT I bought a few weeks ago; and no, this is not the actual formula for the perfume inside the bottle, it’s just a list of all the ignredietns that are suspicious as allergens or sensitizers). My apologies for any spelling mistakes in the above list. Neither me or my computer know chemistry well enough to run a spell check through it.
To read more about the oakmoss ban, I urge you to read through the Cropwatch site, as well as read Elena's excellent article on Perfume Shrine.

But if you think that the solution for that lies in reformulation alone, you are mistaken. In the 90’s we have witnessed a new trend in perfumery, that was at first silent and polite towards the old-timers Chypres that we have learned to know and love (and spend lots of money on because they deserve it). Compositions that are not quite floral; not quite musky; not quite anything that we know really, and contain a safe 0% concentration of oakmoss; yet they have a certain appeal to the exact same perfume-user-group that adores Chypres. I can’t point out which scent has started it all, but lets just assume it was Agent Provocateur (2000), a stunning seductress that gives off the impression of a classic floral-animalic Chypre of yesteryear, without using as much as a single drop of oakmoss or even labdanum for that matter. Agent Provocateur uses a combination of aldehydes, along with spicy and floral notes over a base of vetiver and musk to create a seamless, old-fashioned shamelessly erotic scent that fits with the Femme Fatale image of the lingerie brand that created it. Though the first impression of Agent Provocateur is very Cypre, in the last phase of dry down, there is none of the typical forest-floor, decay and earth-like warmth that is always found at the bottom of each true Chypre. Instead, we find a new kind of musk. A sensual musk, nevertheless, yet a clean and dry one, rather than the heavily warm and powdery suffocating musks of the era that Agent Provocateur reflects in its first phases of development.
What is to follow in the next seven years is a slowly but steadily growing number of releases that use the word chypre either as their classification or as a note. Yet there is no oakmoss (or labdanum) to be detected, and unlike Agent Provocateur, which ironically lived up to its name as a provocateur of the so-called new concept of Chypre. Lets assumed it was just sent out there to test the waters: would people notice if we DON’T use oakmoss? Would they still think it’s a Chypre? The answer is yes. But this is because Agent Procovateur is so well crafted and also has enough natural ingredients in it to resemble the rich floral bouquets at the heart of most Chypres that live up to their classification. What has followed is nothing shorter than horrifying, from a Chyprophile perspective.

Coco Mademoiselle (2001) has an alternating classification floriental or fruity-chypre. As charming as it may be (and this scent has wide fan-base) here is nothing in this composition to resemble Chypre even in the wildest of dreams. This younger sister of the bombshell oriental of 1984, Coco, maintains only a few ideas from the original, such as it’s expanding sillage that is equally sweet and spicy, charmingly bold yet with a certain unique transparency. Coco Mademoiselle is a concoction of fruity citrus, litchi and a marine accord over a floral heart and a base of clear patchouli, vetiver, musk and vanilla. But it couldn’t possibly have prepared us for the upfront sacrilege of what was about to come from the esteemed house of Chanel in 2003, in the form of a round Wheel-of-Fortune bottle of Chance. Chance is officially classified as a fruity chypre, and while it shares some similarities with Coco Mademoiselle, it fails to have any connection whatsoever with any true Chypre family member. Where this concoction of marine and fruity notes had let down many old-time Chanel fans it sure has attracted some new client base of (probably younger) consumers. With watery fruity-floral marine accord of pineapple, hyacinth, jasmine, and spicy pink pepper over a base vetiver (again) and patchouli (yet again) and musk, this is one slap in your face if you actually know what Chypre is. Of course, if you don’t, you might buy into it just the same as you would if you didn’t know that the whole idea behind keep all the bottles the same was a sign of classy minimalism and pure good taste. Which also happens to give more importance to the fragrance rather than the packaging.

Also in 2003, and this time classified as a Chypre-Floral – Escada Magnetism. This is more fruity than floral if you ask me, opening with mouthwatering pineapple, black currant, melon and litchi. The heart may be floral (official notes are magnolia, rose and jasmine) But don’t be deceived, this develops into something completely different and original (and I am not being sarcastic): once dried down, it’s the most sensational milky scent of orris, muted heliotrope, creamy sandalwood, and (although not listed as a note) white chocolate. Like other modern Chypre wannabes, this also has vetiver and patchouli at the base, though I can’t claim I noticed them too much. Again, no oakmoss in the horizon of this Roman milk bath.

Following the same train of thought of the two Cocos, we are now facing in 2006 something that couldn’t be more tragic: Miss Dior is being blessed with a baby sister, but this time it is a vicious one who threatens to replace the original. The bottle design is very similar (unlike Chanel, who for the most part use the same bottle design for all their fragrances, Dior is known for coming up with very different designs for most of their creations; so the same bottle is a huge statement; and in a visual world like ours, many people accidentally miss the word “Cherie” at the end and buy it by mistake – for themselves or for others – while intending to purchase the original. Even the scent ribbons has that “New Look” – white stripes, yet with silver lettering). Miss Dior Cherie is now the “New Chypre”, classified as a fruity chypre, this time strawberries, paired with the less than agreeable combination of patchouli and caramel popocorn. The result, I am afraid to say, is horrid. Especially when knowing the chances that Miss Dior (the original lady) will survive are very slim - what with that glamorous looking sister around paired with the toning down of oakmoss in its reformulation.

Pure Turquoise by Ralph Lauren was launched this year as well (2006), the same year where we see the reformulation of many beloved all-time-classic Chypres. This scent is quite nice actually, with intense grapefruit top notes that linger longer than usual, and a very clean, dry base of refined (meaning very synthetic smelling) patchouli. In between there are all kinds of fantasy notes such as cactus flower and night blooming cereus and even rum (which I couldn’t find there at all). This is all nice and fun and refreshing, but to call this is Chypre is going completely overboard.

Another turning point was the release of Narciso Rodriguez For Her (2003). At first I was ambivalent towards it not only because of its popularity, but also because it is a very obscure scent. Since than it has become a staple in my perfume wardrobe, and I couldn't agree more with what Ms. Shortell had to say about it. Behind its prettiness hides quite a revolutionary concept and I am quite certain that a few decades down the road, it will be considered a milestone in fragrance history. This fragrance has a unique subtlety and is completely abstract (despite of the fact that certain “real plant essences” are listed in the brief, such as orange flower, osmanthus, vetiver). It’s a unique combination of manmade musk with abstract woods and florals. Although it’s categorized differently in different places, it was quite clear with defining the 2005 release of the Eau de Parfum version as a “Pink Chypre”.

Following Narciso Rodriguez we can now enjoy a few other scents that have a very similar concept – obscure florals, musky base with abstract, refind woody notes. Lovely (2005) by Sarah Jessica Parker has musk paired with refined patchouli, crisp alcoholic apple notes and abstraction of Paperwhites (a species of narcissus); Kisu (2006) by Tann Rokka explores rosewood and cedar along with musk and an abstract ylang ylang note. Incidentally, this perfume was developed by Azzi Pickthall, the same nose who created Agent Provocateur.

The bottom line question is: are oakmoss and labdanum being replaced by synthetic patchouli, vetiver and musk as the necessary requirements for the Pink ((aka New) Chypre? And why would we do so when there are so many fragrances out there who has been using patchouli and vetiver for decades if not centuries, but were classified as oriental, woody or florals?

These last scents mentions (Narciso Rodriguez, Lovely, Kisu) are all unique fragrances that stand apart from other “pink chypres” (i.e. combinations of fruit, patchouli and vetiver) so to speak. They have something new to add to the perfume sphere. Classifying them as chypres poses a serious question about the reasons behind that. I am no paranoiac, but there might just be a silent scheme to gradually phase out the concept of Chypre and replace it with something new. I can see in my mind a boardroom full of perfume industry market researchers trying to figure out what is it they can give Chypre lovers that does not contain oakmoss. Perhaps they even did a cat scan of huge focus groups of chypre perfume users to find out what else they have in common, scent wise, besides oakmoss. Are perfume industry marketing professionals afraid of creating a new fragrance family with a new name? Or maybe, they just want to capitalize on the Chypre market just before they completely take away the real chypres? These questions, for now, remain unanswered, unless, of course, you attempt to answer them by leaving a comment.
Image Credit: Salmon Pink Dawn, originally uploaded by Steiner62

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perfume Review Contest - Extended till November 7th

The Perfume Review Contest has been extended until November 7th.
If you haven’t posted any reviews yet, you have another week to do so and enter to win one of these three smelly prizes:

Kinmokusei 9ml Parfum Flacon

Palas Atena Perfumed Pendant

Mini Wardrobe (4 x 2ml vials) of Ayala Moriel most recent scents – Kinmokusei, Les Nuages de Joie Jaune, Zohar and Razala.

Post a review of any of Ayala Moriel Parfums that you have tried either on Basenotes or Make Up Alley and be automatically entered into the draw!!!

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Goutal Mystery Scent Revealed!

None of you guessed it, and I don’t blame you. This was a sheer surprise to me. The Annick Goutal perfume Tamya has picked several times in a row and even tried on her own skin was none other than… (ready, set, go!):

The Magnificent,

The Rosy,


No one guessed it correctly, so I am going to just send all of the readers who commented on the Annick Goutal blog entry a sample of Tamya parfum (if you haven’t experienced it yet). Camille, Haus Von Stone, Saj and the anonymous commenter, I don’t have your mailing address, so please email it to me so I can send the scents along to you.

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Blogala Ending

Thanks to all of you who have commented and participated in our Autism Blogala this month - We raised $51 that will be donated to Autism Community Training in BC. Although this is less than I was hoping to raise, I have a feeling that I contributed by sharing my thoughts and stories with you, and help other parents and individuals with autism to feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.

We will have another autism Blogala in October 2007. In the meantime, you are invited to visit our Pumpkin Blog.

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