Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kyoto, Pagoto Kaimaki and Mastic

Mastic Pudding, originally uploaded by binnur.

In a deserted boulevard at night time in an Arab city, lit by neon street lights, a peculiar company of adults and children were lining up in search for a lost treasure: Gleeda Mastic. The chill of the dessert rolling on the tongue released a strange flavour, familir to the adults who longed for it for years on end; and a new, unforgettable experience to their youngsters who they dragged in their azure-blue Jeep in those streets one summer night in search for a childhood dream from an era long gone.

Comme des Garcons' Series 3: Incense is perhaps one of the most haunting of their entire collection. Amongst the heavily fumed smokes of Avignon and Zagorsk hides a little treasure of sheer light and icy pleasures – Kyoto.

Although it is said to be inspired by Japanese incense ceremonies (Kodo), and named after Japan’s ancient city that cultivates the Japanese traditions of ceremonial arts, Kyoto to me means one thing: “Gleeda Mastic”, meaning Mastic Ice Cream. In Greece this is called Pagoto Kaimaki. The same bush that I have raved about in my last post produces a fragrant gum, transparent pale yellow, brittle and fragile that can be readily powdered to flavour ice cream, puddings and sometimes accompany Sahleb.

Kyoto by Commes de Garcon in a delightful incense scent, that smells more like a steam bath with green leaves than burning and smoke. Although has no mastic listed as a note (according to LuckyScent, it contains notes of incense, cypress oil, coffee, teak wood, vetiver, patchouli, amber, everlasting flower, Virginian cedar), it smells exactly like the resin: sweet-balsamic, fresh, woody-resinous and almost pine-like but less sharp, with hints reminiscent of frankincense yet far less heavy, and a hint of greenness as well. And of course there is the unmistakable “Mastic” odour that has to be experienced on its own, either in the delicious Meditterranean desserts, or simply from the resin itself, which can be easily obtained in most Greek grocery stores. My nose detects also underlining notes of cedar and white musk, but Mastic is definitely the star of the show.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grand Amour

From the first second I smelled Grand Amour, I knew I could not remain indifferent to this perfume. It reminded me instantly of the bushes of mastic where I used to hide as a little girl: either from friends and siblings while playing hide and seek; or from greater horrors imposed on little children by the adults of the world. The scent of the mastic bushes is unique and unmistakable. And although mastic is not mentioned as a note in this perfume from Annick Goutal – the precise makeup of this particular perfume creates the impression of the scent released from the crushed crisp leaves between little fingers of a child hiding in the dense evergreen bushes.

The gum or resin from this bush is the same “mastic” which is used to flavour baked sweets and ice creams in the Middle East and Greece (more about this later). The Latin name of this bush is Pistacia Lentiscus, and it is from the pisttachio family. In ancient times it was used to create a chewing substance (mastic is chewing gum in Arabic and Hebrew), and it is also used as a medicine and a spice. A synthetic substance with similar chemical makeup is created especially for the chewing gum industry.

For those who are unfamiliar with the aroma of mastic, and particularly that of the raw leaves, I would try to describe it as it is in Grand Amour: it is green yet not like grass or leaves, sappy, but not resinous, and with an undercurrent of powdery warmth, while releasing a gently and evenly floral aroma in such manner that no particular flower stands out. It also resembles Chamade in some ways, though I detect none of the galbanum, oakmoss or vanilla notes that are so prominent in Chamade. Perhaps it is the hyacinth, a note that appears in both perfumes.

When I discovered Grand Amour some two or three years ago at The Bay in Vancouver, I immediately lavished myself in it carelessly in excess that can be only explained by my excitement. I was not able to enjoy it very much, the memory of those evergreen childhood hideaways brought a throat-clenching sensation, like the one that visits us just before bursting into inexplicable, shameful tears. I neglected the fantasy of wearing Grand Amour, but haven’t completely given up. I took a vial with me on my trip to Israel this spring, and decided to wear it in the natural environment and compare it to the live bush. I was right about their similarity. But imagine my surprise when I managed to enjoy the juice for three days straight while staying at my Mom’s place, surrounded by the bushes and the spring blooming greenery. In Hebrew we say “Meshane makom, meshane mazal” which means, that when you change location or place, your luck might change too. So true for perfume.

This review is for the Eau de Toilette, which is lovely in my opinion except for the fact that it is not extremely long lasting when dabbed. When sprayed the performance is excellent. The official notes (per the Annick Goutal website) are lily, hyacinth, honeysuckle, Turkish rose, amber, musk and myrtle.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Land of Milk and Honey

Juice Stand, Tel Aviv, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I am traveling again, hence the pathetic lack of posts since last Friday. I spent the last week packing, flying, and than catching up on two nights of sleep missed after I flew to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt, and spent a European spring day there (mostly in the Palmen Garten). I will report later, as the internet connection I am getting is interrupted (hopefully be fixed by Sunday), and I am also heading to Clil, the little wire-less village I grew up in to celebrate my long awaited birthday for the first time in my homeland in 9 years! There is no way I will even attempt to use dial up connection. But I will have plenty of time to write up some interesting posts that I've been planning to publish here. So stay tuned to more photos and olfactory stories...

Photo: juice stand in Sheinkin street, Tel Aviv. The signs (from right to left) say:
Carrot + Ginger
Research: Pomegranate saves from cancer

I had a delicious banana, peach and melon juice, while Tamya was sipping away her pineapple, banana and strawberry juice. We than headed to the beach, were we are planning to spend the best time of this spring soaking up on vitamin D and producing more serotonin than ever...

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Vetiver Noir

Cuppa Coffee and Jack, originally uploaded by CaymanGirl.

One of the most original vetiver accords I’ve smelled is Black Vetyver Café by Jo Malone. I was so impressed with this imaginative combination, yet hoped the coffee note will linger longer. Given that coffee note is a heart note and not a base note dictates that it cannot last for too long on the skin. But in Black Vetyver Café it is more of a top note than a heart note and disappears really fast, leaving behind mostly woody vetyver. Therefore, I simply could not resist the temptation to try my hand at combining these two essences in their natural form – black coloured just like the dark-roasted coffee beans and vetiver oils from around the world in different proportions.

I decided to go wild with earthy vetiver varieties from India, including the co-distillation with Mitti Attar. The pungency and the earthiness and a hint of brash greenness seems to provide an interesting counter point to the coffee. And also by staying away from the “woody” I was hoping to create something different, albeit not original (Jo Malone deserves all the credit for thinking of this combination!). Indonesian vetiver adds a rough smoky touch, and the wild Indian vetiver oil (Ruh Khus) adds a sweetness that is well rounded and complex. To this I added nutmeg absolute. There is something about nutmeg absolute that just works so well with vetiver. It’s so sweet and rich (not like the oil, which is quite sharp and peppery!). It adds warmth to the sweet yet cool earthiness of vetiver. I could barely resist the temptation to sneak in a few drops of cardamom CO2, which goes so fantastically with coffee. But I don’t like to repeat myself.

I am really enjoying this vetiver mod. Perhaps it is not my favourite so far of all the three, but I feel I am getting somewhere in exploring the possibilities that vetiver has to offer. Hopefully by the end of this journey I will come up with something that I can truly call my own vetiver.

I like the complexity in this scent, even though it only has three elements: vetiver, coffee and nutmeg. It is earthy-sweet and warm, and feels rooty and almost edible without being obviously spicy or sweet. I am wondering what would happen if I chose a more mellow vetiver as a pivotal point, maybe the Sri-Lankan oil. Or add another woody element such as patchouli, or sandalwood or agarwood. Yet I think I should be trying a new mod before drawing any conclusions. In fact, I much rather keep blending vetiver-dominated scents and discovering the interaction between vetiver and other notes. It’s a fascinating study and it really should never end.

Samples of Vetiver Noir, Vetiver Blanc and Wilde Vetyver (Khus Khus) are available for you to try, you can get all three samples for $15 including shipping world wide. Just email me and let me know, or simply PayPal me and I will ship it to you immediately.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vetiver Fans for Vetiver Fans

Vetiver Fan, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Marcia Elston from Samara Botane kindly sent me a lovely Vetiver Fan. This is going to be a must have for all vetiver fans, pun intended!
The fan is weaved from vetiver rootlets and surrounded by an outline of firmer branches to hold up its shape. It is recommended to use during the hot summer days after sprinkling it with water or better yet - vetiver hydrosol.

I will be taking this with me on my travel to warmer parts of the world so I can report on the effectiveness of combating heat. A real challenge.

To order your own vetiver fan, contact Marcia.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vétiver Oriental

Perhaps the title of this post should be “expectations” rather than the name of the perfume I am abouit to review. From a consumer’s point of view, expectations are perhaps one of the most dangerous things that can happen in the perfume world. Be it the posters, commercials, ad copy, reviews by fellow perfume addicts, or a simply stunning bottle – the final decision is in the juice, or as they say it “the proof is in the pudding”. However, this decision is often so wildly affected by the previous mentioned marketing maneuvers and peer pressure, that proportions are all lost once the moment of truth (i.e.: sniffing) arrives.

In my Vetiver Marathon, I was hoping to find interesting treatments of this unusual yet humble note. I started with what I thought was one of the classics – Guerlain’s Vetiver. Yes, it is citrusy. But it definitely smells like vetiver. I was hoping to find other perfumes that take vetiver to the forefront yet shed a new light, provide a refreshing angle. It seems that the more “adventurous” and “avant-garde” the vetiver I try – the further it is from the “truth” of vetiver. To my nose, anyways; so do feel free to disagree.

Vétiver Oriental starts up woody and peachy, with notes of Virginian cedarwood, Sandalwood, Atlas cedarwood and a hint of peach. This last note make it smell very much like a wooden-version of the plump, juicy oriental Asja by Fendi.

The heart develops a more powdery, dusted-sweet presence with orris and cocoa, which is quite similar to Dior Homme. But while Dior Homme offered a surprising, almost cutting-edge presence in a (recently) predictable and mostly uninspiring mainstream line, Vetiver Oriental pales like a shy speechless odour in comparison to the richness and bold statements of its peers (i.e.: Arabie, Fumerie Turque and Muscs Kublai Khan).

It is only in the late heart-notes phase that the aroma of vetiver emerges, still very subtly – it is nutty, roasted and sweet. It emerges for a very brief time, and is not particularly pronounced either, reminding me for a glimpse of grace f the roasted-sesame notes in Vetiver Tonka. I even thought for a second that I got a hint of roasted coffee (another hint for a vetiver I am biased towards, this time Jo Malone's Black Vetyver Cafe), but it puffed away and kept mumbling the same lame fake sandalwood tune, dusted with pleasant and agreeable woody sweetness like a rice-powder makeup in peach hues worn on cheeks suspended in an artificial smile.

I am sorry to say that as much as this scent is wearable and pleasant, it fails to excite me at all. I find myself disappointed over and over again by scents that have more vetiver in the name than in the formula. Whatever vetiver is left in Vétiver Oriental is so prettified and peached that it looses most of its appeal for me by the time the vetiver finally makes an appearance. It does so in the end, accentuating the sweetness of vetiver rather than its earthiness or the green freshness that the roots so brilliantly offer all at once in a harmonious contradiction that is reserved to Nature alone. In the dry down it is so similar to Dior Homme that I feel tempted to nickname it Dior Femme: a lacy garment weaved of bleached and peach-hued vetiver rootlets dusted with powdered sugar and makeup...

Top notes: Virginian Cedarwood, Peach
Heart notes: Atlas Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Orris, Cocoa
Base notes: Vetiver, Oakmoss

I’ve been longing to try Vétiver Oriental for a long time. From all I’ve read about it, it sounded like a scent that I had to try. Thanks to Lee who sent me a generous sample, I was able to taste this pudding; a peach pudding if to be precise. I hope the above review does not sound ungrateful, which I truly am. I could have never known it unless I tried it thanks to your generousity. May it serve as a reminder to us all to us all to always test before we buy, instead of relying on perfume reviews in SmellyBlog or otherwise!

If you want to read the complete opposite of my views of this fragrance, you can read this review.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Interesting Read: Scent and Memory

We all know from experience how strongly scent and memories are connected. This study sheds an interesting new light on the topic, as it links fragrance association with learning process (memorization) as well as sleep patterns and the role of sleep in our processing and internalizing information.
Students who were exposed to the scent of roses while learning a new task and than exposed to the same scent during their deep sleep remember 15% more than students who did not have the scent/memory association and were not introduced to the scent again in that phase of sleep.

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Le Labo's Vetiver 46

smoke, originally uploaded by Silent Image.

Le Labo is a relatively new (2006) independent perfume house that commissions different perfumers to design their fragrances. I am not familiar with other scents from this line, nor do I know who is the nose behind this particular scent - but what I do know about about Le Labo’s perfumes is that they all bear names of building blocks followed by a number to indicate how many other building blocks went into the formula.

In the case of Vetiver 46, I can smell the other 45 ingredients far more than building block that gave its name. To be more precise, I smell labdanum and incense. The Le Labo website describes Vetiver 46 as the most masculine of the line, and themed around Haitian vetiver. I find this quite surprising, given the woody, incensey, at times almost smoky quality of the perfume that pervades most of its life on the skin.

Opening with labdanum, cistus oil, olibanum (AKA frankincense) and smoky notes of guiacwood and burning cedarwood, the scent gradually softens but remains rather linear and unchanging. Its aroma is rich, nevertheless; yet while I find the combination of notes appealing on its own, I find the persistence of the labdanum and oakmoss here to be leaving more to be desired.

However, I am quite certain that if the name hinted the promise of incense I would have not been disappointed, even if I found out at the end that there is an underlining mossy, musky quality to the perfume (which gives it its “masculine” nuance). Given that it is called Vetiver 46, I find it difficult to assess the scent based on its performance in an objective manner. If you are looking for a vetiver scent, you won't find it here. If incense is what your heart desires, look no further, it's here in a juice form. Not a joss stick as pictured, but the resins thrown on a hot charcoal in a censer.

While Villoresi’s Vetiver was quite far from being a single-note vetiver, and also, like Le Labo's, plays up the cistus notes - it still was able to derive certain qualities from vetiver (i.e.: the dryness, the astringent freshness) and come back to it in the end. This perfume from Le Labo is the most remotely related to the building block that is its namesake that I’ve smelled of the genre. If it was called Cistus 45 I couldn’t have found this more fitting as a name. The 46th ingredient, Vetiver, got lost in the smoke and was left behind.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Interesting Read: What The Noses Say

Visit OsMoz for an sweet and short roundtable among perfumers in the industry regarding their thoughts about the building blocks and their relationship with the natural essences.

You can also read about the different manufacturing techniques of the building blocks that make perfumes today: Expression, Distillation, Extraction, Enflourage, Softact, Synthetic Molecules and Nature Print.

p.s. Thanks to Anya for the tip!


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Khus Khus (Wilde Vetyver)

putting down roots, originally uploaded by Splat Worldwide.

In my second mod of vetiver I wanted to focus on the unique Ruh Khus, a traditional East Indian distillation of wild vetiver. The note is challenging for the uninitiated-Khus-Khus-nose. As I mentioned earlier, this distillation in copper alembics makes for a very unusual note, not just because of the raw, earthy tone of the root itself, grown in Indian soil, but also because some of the copper remains in the oil and adds colour as well as olfactory residues.

I wanted to go wild all the way with the Ruh Khus, and bring out its characteristics by adding two additional oils that are quite unusual as well: Attar Mitt, which is a distillation of baked Indian earth into sandalwood oil, and also a co-distillation of both vetiver and Mitti (earth). All three oils, Ruh Khus, Attar Mitti and the co-distillation of Indian vetiver and baked earth make for a genuinely earthy olfactory experience.

To balance some of the sharpness from the copper tones of the Ruh Khus I also added a bit of the milder varieties of vetiver in my possession: the woody vetiver from Sri Lanka, and the sweet & tart Haitian vetiver. I also used a bit of the Indonesian vetiver to add body and intensity, and balanced it all out with a tad of Peru balsam, for a rounding, smooth sweetness.

The result was at first alarmingly earthy, but it mellowed with time. Last week I sensed in the mid-top notes a certain aromatic green sweetness that made me recall the unusual scent of unripe guavas. This has subsided a week later (and about 4 weeks after maturing the mod), and now presents a new olfactory resemblance to freshly uprooted root-vegetables, particularly garden carrots, dug out of the garden in a cold winter day and eaten by the enthusiastic gardener after rubbing in the wet grass – which inevitably means that some dirt is consumed along with the crispy sweet vegetable.

The dry down is indeed showcasing the natural, earthy complexity and simple harmony of Ruh Khus. The connection to earth cannot be portrayed in a more immediate way than these particular essences. Once you delve into it, I hope you will understand why it is called “The Oil of Tranquility” in India.

Samples of Wilde Vetyver (Khus Khus) are available for $8 including shipping internationally. You may also order

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Friday, March 09, 2007

25th Anniversary to Eau d'Hadrien

Annick Goutal Decor, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

On Tuesday, March 6th I attended a special event held at The Bay in Oakridge Centre to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Eau d'Hadrien, Annick Goutal's second and most successful fragrance. The event was advertised as an opportunity to learn how to create your own custom scent by choosing scent to layer from the line. I must admit my main objective of attending the evening was to finally get a hold of the Songes Moon Bottle. Songes only arrived in Vancouver that week, and I was waiting since the summer for that day to come.

A special room was decorated with golden frames and butterfly bottle posters, golden table-clothes glittered in dim candle light and sparkling water, fruit and other fancy snacks were offered to the guests. There weren’t many guests, so the atmosphere was intimate and quiet, even a bit shy at first. But with a lively hostess such as Marie-Lise Bernie, things warmed up and became more exciting in no time.

With her energetic presence and charming French-Canadian accent, Marie-Lise told us the stories behind the scents of Annick Goutal, accompanied by thorough fragrance sampling and a couple of video clips featuring Camille Goutal (the infamous muse inspiring Eau de Camille and Petite Cherie, who is following her mother’s footsteps and is leading the company after her death).

While many of the stories were not completely new to me (and I don’t believe they will make any news to you, so I will only repeat some details that I think might be interesting and refreshing to my internet-savvy readers).

The entire line carries on with the concept of tying emotions and personal experience to every aspect of the product, from scent to packaging and naming the scents. I must admit that in a market flooded with endless uninspirational and impresonal fragrances, this has a lot of appeal to me, even if most of the Annick Goutal fragrances don't work so well on my skin because of their greenness, floralcy or soapiness (except for Songes and Eau de Sud). It's nice to see a house that is carried on by the founder's daughter and that seems to stay true to the original intent and true spirit of the line despite the fact that the woman who conceived it is no longer with us.

Contrary to what most North American seem to think, the name for Folavril, Annick Goutal’s first fragrance, does not mean April Fool, but rather, refers to the antique shop Ms. Goutal worked in before she started her perfumery. Folavril, composed of unusual and refreshing notes of boronia, mango and tomato leaf, creates a soapy, almost powdery and somewhat old-fashioned impression, yet with a very individualistic twist. The signature packaging of Annick Goutal’s perfumes, AKA “The Butterfly Bottle” is fashioned after an antique bottle that Goutal found in that shop. The butterfly is, in fact, two butterflies kissing, which only intensifies the romanticism of this perfume house.

The Butterfly Bottle is always packaged in cellophane. Although this may seem odd, particularly for such a perfectionist line, there is a meaning behind that as well: Annick Goutal’s father was a chocolatier and to earn her pocket money, Annick would help him wrap the candy in the store. Hence the cellophane wrap of the Butterfly Bottles, which should be opened like a gigantic olfactory candy!

The golden ribbons of the scents from the days Annick Goutal was alive are also a detail that takes it’s inspiration from the golden threads used to tie the chocolate boxes. Now that Camille is leading the company, all the scents that were launched after Annick’s death, are tied with an organza ribbon of a significant colour. The first fragrance that Camille was involved in creating was Le Chèvrefeuille. Designed to evoke a summer memory from the South of France, of Camille playing dress-up with her cousins, and crowning themselves as princesses with tiaras made of honeysuckle. The yellow ribbon for this fragrance represents these honeysuckle-crowns.

Eau d’Hadrien, Annick Goutal’s second and most popular fragrance which is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, was inspired by the book “Memoirs of Hadrian” and was created as a unisex fragrance that contained no flowers. Years later, Camille re-read the book and created Les Nuits d'Hadrien, a more sensual, with the addition of floral notes (ylang ylang) as well as patchouli and vanilla, alongside the citrusy notes of the original creation.
For the 25th anniversary of Eau d’Hadrien, a few new products will be introduced, probably as a limited edition, including a body tonic water and miniature votive candles.

The evening was calm and enjoyable and the crown was small and sweet, a bit shy at first but as the fragrances started to change hands the reactions did not fail to become vocal and people started opening up and sniffing each other's wrists enthusiastically, as you may e xpect in scent-loving circles. By the way, the only man around was a security guard that let us out because this event took place after hours (he was dressed in casual clothes and I was almost convinced he was a patient boyfriend waiting for his young lady inside, but I was mistaken; perhaps such patient young men only exist on duty!).

Although the evening had the premise of being all about layering, the only significant layering event that took place was Gardenia Passion and Petite Cherie layered together by a young lady. She was a Petite Cherie fan when she entered the room, and after much sniffing could not make up her mind between Gardenia Passion and Songes. When she layered both, the results was quite interestingly similar to Songes, but a little bit more gardenia-focused. It smelled lovely on her. The same creative young lady also won the book “Memoirs of Hadrien” in a draw that was held at the end of the evening.

The Songes Moon Bottle (and in fact most of the “Butterfly Bottles”) have to be special ordered in most of the Annick Goutal counters at The Bay. So I pre-ordered it and also snatched a couple of Eau d’Hadrien votive candles before they disappear. I really enjoyed the Noel candles this winter, so I hope this will be a nice companion on my upcoming trip to the hot Mediterranean spring.

Marie-Lise Bernier, Annickg Goutal's National Training Manager in Canada, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I would like to conclude with an interesting perfume-application tip that Marie-Lise offered in her presentation. She explained in much detail how to use the Butterfly Bottle – or any flacon with a dabber for the matter – without spoiling the juice:
1) Wash your hands
2) Open the flacon
3) Using one finger at a time, seal the mouth of the flacon and dab the perfume to one pulse point at a time.
4) Each time, change the finger, so always a clean finger is touching the juice.
* According to Marie-Lisehen using the dabber, you might add your own skin cells and bacteria to the juice which can cause spoilage. The same thing can happen if you use the same finger over and over again to apply the perfume.

A little trivia question, with an Annick Goutal related prize for the first to answer correctly:
What other name, besides Songes, did Annick Goutal went through a court battle for?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Perfumed Collectibles: Viola Compact

I am pleased to announce my first Perfumed Collectibles auction, with the tender creme parfum of Viola. This is a violet flower soliflore. Violet flower is an essence that is cost prohibitive and is not available on the market. It is, however, possible to reconstruct this scent using only natural essences. And this is what I did in Viola. Notes of violet leaf absolute and the creamiest, softest orris butter (iris palida essential oil) from Italy were combined to recreate the scent of violet flowers, and amplify the tenderness of this unique humble-looking flower. Other notes include tonka bean, ylang ylang, vanilla and rose.

The lovely compact was made in Murano, Italy. The lid is made of porcelain and is silk screend with an image of Parma Violets, making it a perfect vessel for this particular perfume! The base (or "bowl" of the compact is made of stainless steel and has a spring closure mechanism. It is filled with 1/4oz (7.5ml) creme parfum of Viola, in a base of jojoba oil and organic, unbleached beeswax.

The starting bid: $90

At least 20% of the final sale price, or at least $20 of this auction will be give to charity causes to help the citizens of New Orleans re-build their lives and the city after the Katrina Hurricane. That means that that higher you bid, the more we'll be able to donate.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Industry Trends: The Future of Perfumery

Those of you who followed closely the recent developments of Cropwatch’s petition and actions to restrain IFRA’s threats on the use of natural materials in perfumery recently may have already read IFRA’s public statement of their support of synthetics and promoting them as the main (if not the only) means to add scent to our lives.

If you managed to delve thus far into these recent developments, you are probably now left wondering what is the future of perfumery and where is the industry going. As it stands now, I made a few observations and speculations and I can only hope that regardless of how the mainstream perfumery is going to smell like, you, who love perfumes, will be able to at least make your own choice about how to smell and what to put on your skin.

IFRA’s official position on synthetics and against natural is going to create a clear schism in the industry. Natural vs. Synthetic will no longer be a theoretical debate in books, on blogs and perfume forums. It will be real separation between the industry of perfumes made only of synthetics, and perfumes made only of natural. There will be no in-between as we observed last century, with classics such as Jicky, No. 5 and others. There will be a complete dichotomy in the industry. These classics will most likely be gradually reformulated to include only synthetic substitutes, and more likely – will be replaced by new perfumes that call for no naturally sourced building blocks in their formulation.

Despite the power of the big fragrance & flaovour corporations, and organizations such as IFRA which stands behind the aromachemicals industry and support its efforts to ban naturals and vanish them from the face of the earth, I would like to be optimistic and say that this will not happen. While those mega-corporations are all plastic-happy in an excitement that resembles the love for lino floors and plastic jewelry in the 50’s – a vast portion of the consumer world (and the most educated, I must add) is moving towards the use of natural and organic materials in their life, and is trying to stay away from artificial, man-made materials, genetically engineered and pesticide-sprayed foods.

And so, intelligent consumers will soon collaborate with niche perfumery houses that care to keep using natural aromatics, and together they will support growers and distillers of natural essences around the world so these traditional crops will be maintained and cared for, and those precious essences that have been friends to mankind since the birth of civilization will be nurtured and preserved.

While the large companies are producing more and more perfumes that are less and less satisfying as a whole – the consumers are left to take matter to their own hands. We’ve seen the growing demand for bespoke and custom perfumes, and this is only going to grow. After all, in a fragrance market that adds more than 500 fragrances each year (I heard that this year it will be even 700 or 800!), it may be a lot more convenient, time efficient and cost effective to commission a personal perfumer rather than spend the year trying three fragrances a day until you find the right one…

Furthermore, perfume consumers will lean more and more towards creating their own personalized scents and scenting their own body products. This concept has been quite popular for many years, but now it will make even more sense than ever. People have been mixing and matching perfumes for a long time, and many companies have been trying to cash on that and launch elaborate lines of incomplete perfumes for that purpose (sold, of course, for more than an average, “complete” perfume would), and encourage over spending on behalf of the customer. I think more and more people will now be curious to learn how to blend their own perfumes instead of relying on the pre-mixed, often under-satisfying concoctions of such lines.

Will the prices for naturals go higher? Will the decrease because of the lack of demand from the large fragrance houses? We are yet to see. I am not an economy expert, but this situation could lead to interesting developments in the industry and the marketplace that I find very difficult to predict. But I think either way, the result will be extreme and will make a mark that will be hardly forgotten in the history of perfume.

You are invited to partake in this discussion and tell us what you think will happen to perfume in the future. Is there any hope? Are we going to have a choice as consumers? Are perfumers becoming mere puppets of large money-driven corporations? Are we going to be able to afford quality perfumes with natural essences in the future? Are ntural essences going to become completely extinct? Tell us what you think, we will listen and publish your comments.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Vetiver Blanc

dear aga,, originally uploaded by _kasia_.

Starting with a blank sheet of paper… Focusing just on vetiver, the very basics, with the barest additions possible. I prefer to name mods with a real name, this way they have a certain personality and existence. I also find numbers utterly confusing when used as a labeling method. They are great for showing chronology, but terrible for helping me to recall which one was my favourite…

My first attempt was to create a vetiver that would be clean and woody, and almost simplistic. As a pivotal point I chose a vetiver that I was not so familiar with: the vetiver from Sri Lanka. As I mentioned earlier, it has a far more woody aroma, a softer presence. I paired it with very few other essences: bits of other vetiver oils (Haitian and Indonesian), and besides this, nutmeg absolute and fresh ginger oil. The fresh yet warm presence of the spices is very subtle, and fades out very quickly, leving a trail of very woody vetiver, almost like sandalwood and powdery sawdust…

If you want to try Vetiver Blanc, email me and I will make sample sizes available for purchasing via PayPal (the price is $8 including shipping worldwide).

Next Saturday you will hear about my following vetiver mod: Wilde Vetyver.

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Vetiver Mods

I told you earlier about my new fascination with vetiver. And I promised I will let you in on bits of my process for making a vetiver “soliflore” – well, that would be a single note, not a single “floral” literally, because vetiver is a root. Not a flower. I am not sure where this vetiver adventure is going to lead me. I am hoping to discover new things about vetiver, as well as new and exciting combinations that will go with the different varieties at my disposal. I may launch a perfume that is all about vetiver, or I may not. This is an experiment and a study of vetiver made public on this blog, and I hope you will enjoy your ride with me here.

What I do know is that I will publish here on my blog my notes and thought and descriptions of my different mods, and if you are curious to try, I will make sample sizes available for purchasing upon request (the price is $8 including shipping worldwide). It will be like an open-ended dialog about vetiver, and you will witness some of the process here on SmellyBlog.

Another thing that I would like to do during this vetiver marathon, is take a moment to observe some of my olfactory relationship with vetiver, as well as some particular ways I utilized it in some of my perfumes. I think this will provide an interesting insight into the versatility of vetiver and how it can contribute to perfumes that are very very different from one another. But this has nothing to do with the mods for vetiver, so let's begin in the beginning: Vetiver Blanc.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Apprenticeship Program - Second Term Began Today

Off to Work: Gion, originally uploaded by mboogiedown.

I hope I am not exhausting everybody with posts today, there just seems to be so much going on, so much to write about and all in such a short time!
Today, March 1st, is the first day of the second term of the Apprenticeship Program at the Artisan Natural Perfumers’ Guild. I felt very fortunate to be offered the role of Program Coordinator at the Guild last August, and do a service to the growing field of Artisan Natural Perfumery and the Natural Perfumery community. The
The reason I would like to talk about it here on my blog is two-fold: Firstly, I believe it is a fantastic program (and if you read more about it, you will understand why); and secondly, I can’t even count the instances where I received emails with inquiries about perfume education, requests for problem solving, etc., that I thought it would be nice to announce this on my blog:

a) The Apprenticeship Program is in existence and is open to all Guild members in the enthusiast level, so if you consider joining the Guild this is one of the most amazing benefits the Guild offers.

b) There is a study group on Yahoo, hosted by the Guild’s director, Anya McCoy, which is open to all levels of natural perfumers. This is a very friendly community with members anywhere from the professional master perfumer to the novice. A great place to network as well as find many questions answered (the group has archives of over four years, complied of tried and true information from working perfumers and enthusiasts).

c) If you want to receive in-depth Natural Perfumery education that is tailored to your level and your needs, one of the best thing you can do (besides work really hard) is find a perfumer who would be willing to either teach, or take on an apprentice. I happen to be one of them, so if you are interested in studying natural with me, contact me to receive more details and to register.

The Artisan Natural Perfumers’ Guild offers an Apprenticeship Program to its Enthusiast members. The Apprenticeship Program is a six-month period (AKA term or semester) in which an Enthusiast enters into a Mentoring agreement with a Perfumer, wherein the Enthusiast submits one question per month. The program is free of charge. The Apprentice may, upon submittal of application, continue on in the program for more semesters, after review by the Guild President and the Apprenticeship Program Coordinator.

The philosophy behind the program is to maintain, nourish and evolve the tradition of Artisan Natural Perfumery. The Apprenticeship Program provides a structure in which new generation of natural Perfumers will receive training and guidance from the wealth of knowledge of a working Perfumer in the field.

The Apprenticeship Program provides an opportunity for beginner Perfumers to enhance their knowledge and strengthen their skills in all areas of Perfumery: aesthetics, technical, business and marketing, as well as sourcing of materials. The Mentoring Perfumers get the exciting opportunity to enhance their teaching skills and network with members of the Natural Perfumery community.

The Apprenticeship Program is inspired by the model of the classical Apprenticeships programs of the Guilds in the Middle Ages: hands-on experience and personal interaction between Mentor and Apprentice are key to a deeper understanding and internalizing of the subject matter. In this new era of advanced communication technologies, we use the internet, email, internet phone and webcam conferences as means of communications when the Perfumer and the Apprentice are not from the same city.

This structure encourages curiosity, exploration and supported self-learning accompanied with feedback and assistance on an as-needed basis. Despite the fact that the Guild’s members are from everywhere in the world and cannot meet in person very often, we use advanced methods of communication via the internet, email, phone and internet phone and chat software, in order to make the experience personal and meaningful. This is complemented by an exchange of perfumes made by the Apprentice and the Mentoring Perfumer in the duration of the Apprenticeship.

P.s. For those of you curious why the Geisha photo - I picked it because I like it and it is showing a master of an art with her apprentice, and although both are continuing an ancient tradition they seem to be quite in harmony with the modern environment.

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Les Exclusifs de Chanel

Chanel Logo, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

March 1st was a strange day. The city awoke to a thin veil of snow that gently melted in the sunrise. A few hours later, as I was walking to the Chanel boutique (this time before I went to the gym), the sky was sprinkling some indecisive flakes of snow that glittered in the vague sunlight.

The night before, I got invited to the boutique by Cathy Davis, the Beaute Analyste of the Chanel boutique in downtown Vancouver to come to the boutique and get a personal tour of Les Exclusifs before most Vancouverites (or perhaps tourists?) discover them.

While the rest of the world seemed to have been awaiting the arrival of Les Exclusifs with breathless anticipation, I maintained my cool. While most perfume bloggers managed to get samples or decants quite early and the so-called “olfactory grey market” of samples of decants was taking pre-orders months in advance, I found it quite easy to just wait till they fall in my lap. Was it the exaggerated buzz that turned me off? Perhaps that helped. But what really did the trick was the

A couple of weeks ago, I casually stopped at the Chanel boutique after one of my sessions at the YWCA gym (two blocks away on the same street), and asked when they are going to be in. They weren’t sure, so I left my card and forgot about it until I got the call last night. I asked Cathy if I could discreetly make modest samples of the fragrances when I arrive, so that I can properly review them on my blog, and she kindly agreed. And so the big day was today, and this time, to avoid feeling intimidated by the boutique’s formal and demanding atmosphere (a feeling that only a girl who grew up in a little village in the middle of nowhere can truly understand), I actually put a little more effort in my dress (which basically means that I covered my leggings and vintage-inspired tunic, which I was planning to use in the gym right after, with super-high leather boots, my usual-chic, all-purpose coat (you don't want to know where I got it...), and a matching handbag of contrasting black and white; Don’t you just love accessories? If it wasn’t for them I would be lost fashion wise...

While most of the cosmetics and fragrances are usually in the front of the boutique, right at the entrance, Les Exclusifs require you to go all the way in and be fully committed to the process. So I was glad I dressed up (a bit...). I remember a few years back, when I came in to inquire about Cuir de Russie, Gardenia and Bois des Isles that they were also stored in the back, almost as a piece that the shop was embarrassed to admit they carry, or perhaps something that requires some repair work before being presented to the public - in a dark storage cabinet. You had to know about them, ask for them and get helped in every step of the way of sampling and purchasing. Les Exclusifs now have a completely different presentation, the entire ten laid out as the Corinthian pillars in a Pantheon that will scare of the laymen, even the ones who shop Chanel - but delight and lure the perfumista at heart.

I tested all 10 scents (including the former Rue de Cambon ones int he Eaux de Toilette) on the little pre-named blotter cards (later to be inserted by Cathy into little matching envelopes), and received a miniature anthology of ad-copies for all the ten fragrances. The bottles, by the way, are all 200ml and are sold for the modest sum of $200.00 CAD (which is very close to the same amount in USD, because the Canadian dollar is mighty strong these days, yet imported products seem to disregard that obvious fact, and ask for a higher price here than in the United States). The bottles have an interesting magnet mechanism that makes the cap always close in a neat way, presenting the logo lined-up properly at all times, to avoid an untidy, sloppy impression no matter how clumsy the owner is. If it came with a Ginny who cleans your house for you and replaces you once the unavoidable request for a daily massage from the SO comes in - I wouldn't be surprised either...

This size is way to big for me for any fragrance really. 100ml is more than enough even for my most favourite scent in the world. When it comes to perfume, I like the philosophy of less is more. I adore the concept of flacons. In my opinion, these create a feeling of preciousness and appreciation for the juice, as if it is liquid gold or a rare piece of jewelry.

The following are my very preliminary impressions of the collection, and if you find my remarks to be too sarcastic or cynical, I will not be surprised, but I also hope that you won't be offended either. In another article my attitude to the subject matter will be explained and hopefully clarified. However, please keep in mind that my complaints are not necessarily directed at the house of Chanel or its house perfumers; it is really the current trend in perfumery that I am frustrated with. I can reassure you that I will expand and elaborate on this later, in a separate article.

No.18 was the one I was most curious to try. Like its premise, it is mostly ambrette seed, surprisingly very true to the real seed – not the absolute or the essential oil as we usually find them (which have a very subtle, musky-powdery skin-like odour), but rather, the un-crushed, unshelled seeds with an intense, penetrating musky aroma. This phase lasts only two hours, and than comes a very subtle skin-scent, slightly sweeter, almost berry-like actually, along the same lines as Mure et Musk and M7. This is the only scent that I am in the risk of spending money on in this collection. But sure enough, I’d rather spend the cash on buying two kilos of the seeds and tincture them myself, for the same price and I quite adore my own ambrette-seed infused perfumes, so I don’t anticipate the urge will be uncontrollable.

28 La Pausa, the orris scent, is quite lovely, but honestly – do we always have to have an iris scent in every exclusive/niche collection? Apparently, the answer is yes.

Eau de Cologne, a citrus cologne, obviously, which is said to be inspired by a discontinued Chanel cologne from 1929; As much as I like it, I think there are enough citrus colognes as there is, and for that price I could get a lifetime supply of 4711 which I admire but never wear anyways.

31 rue Cambon is suppose to be the revolutionary new chypre with no oakmoss. The result? A hybrid between Bois de Isles in the opening (sounds promising, right? wait and see!), but leading to a x3 the price but very similar scent variation on Opium Fleur de Shanghai. At least I found a substitute for that when I finish my 150ml remaning of this affordable gem, so if this scent (and me) will still be around by than, I might add it to my collection.

Coromandel, a modern oriental much in the vain of Prada and Allure Sensuelle, but one that I can stomach without gagging. If I happen to change my mind about it I will let you know. Promise.

Bel Respiro, a green floral in the same vein as No. 19 and Ivoire – only lighter. One may ask – why making something so similar to a scent already existing in the collection? My only guess: No. 19 is either going to be changed to the point we wont recognize it due to reformulation (it does have oakmoss, you know…), or it could be completely phased out. Another possibility is the simple lack of either confidence or imagination of the perfumers involved, making sure they have something similar to what they already have and is popular rather than taking risks.
Let me just remind you how No. 22 was available everywhere until the release of the somewhat similar Allure (white floral, anyone?). All of a sudden, you can only get No. 22 at the Chanel boutiques. I won't be surprised if No. 19 will receive a similar status of endangered species.

As if to make matter worse, I have to give you some bad news: Bois des Isles and Cuir de Russie will no longer be available in their Parfum Extrait (the 15ml that used to be available in the Chanel boutiques is now replaced by the gigantic eaux de toilettes dilutions of the re-launched bottles). Not in Canada anyways. Do you want to hear even worse news? The last bottle of Bois des Isles parfum is GONE. I snatched it before you would. Sorry...

These are very preliminary impressions – I have only skin-tested two of these today (No. 18 and 31 rue Cambon). The ones that deserve more attention in my opinion will be posted later as separate, stand-on-their-own reviews.

If you'd like to get a different angle on Les Exlusifs, I recommend you read the following reviews of the line in general (as opposed to specific, elaborate reviews you will find in some of the blogs). I took the liberty to divide them into "Yay" and "Nay" response (the "nayers" not necessarily thinking that they are awful, but expressing some kind of disappointment, criticism or under-impression from the line:

Perfume Posse (Patty's favourite three)
Perfume Posse (March's reviews)
Perfume Posse (part 2)
Luca Turin in NZZ Folio
Perfume Smellin' Things

Perfume Shrine
Victoria's Own
The Scented Salamander
Perfume Posse (Patty's not-so-favourite three)

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Back to the Roots

Vetiver Roots 03, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Yesterday I got my shipment from Penn Herbs, including dried, chopped Vetiver roots. The main objective of the order was to tincture dried deer tongue leaves for the rich coumarin sweetness for another project I am working on (which you will hear about very soon!). I glanced through the website and spotted vetiver roots, and added them to the shopping basket with no hesitation.

What I found when I opened the ziplock bag is the incredible richness of the full plant roots – cleaned from the soil, of course, and with an earthy, grassy, bittersweet scent, and that familiar dry woven basket aroma. All I could do is chug the ziplock with my nostrils, and suck in all the fragrant air. I want to do so many things with those magical roots – put them in a pillow for easy inhale around bedtime, make a bathing sponge out of them (don’t ask me how, because I haven’t figured it out), grind it into body scrubs – you name it.

Penn Herbs labels this as a stimulating tonic, and recommends to drink it as a tisan (1 cup of boiling water to ½ or 1 tsp. of the dried roots, steep for 4-7 minutes and drink as is or with honey and/or lemon), and counter indicates it for pregnant women.

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Villoresi's Vetiver

" Dernier feux ... ", originally uploaded by dmviews.

Interesting opening, with a pronounced note of herbaceous lavender, lavandin and lavender concrete - painting a rather masculine atmosphere. Galbanum is also a apparent, though more coumarin-like than the sharp green I am accustomed to find in this interesting resinoid. The unusual, green-herbaceous-leathery notes of osmanthus absolute peek through from the heart and create a mysterious warmth, leading us to a cistus essential oil (it’s different than labdanum, a lot more pine-like). Neroli barely manage to surface in this environment of resinous thickness, but it does if you pay close attention. Notes of oakmoss emerge later with much warmth and sophistication. But for the most part what I smell all along is labdanum, lavender concrete (a lavender absolute pre-stage which creates a base note of lavender), and only the bearest hint of vetiver earthiness. My skin tends to feel at home around labdanum and amplify it, so you are more than welcome to take my assessment of the vetiver presence here with a grain of salt. On a second thought, usually my skin also amplifies vetiver, but it does not happen here. I can barely smell the vetiver and probably would have dismissed it completely if the scent had a different name!

Vetiver by Villoresi, much like his Patchouli (which smells like spikenard on me), does not smell too much like the note from which it borrowed its name. It is worth mentioning in this vetiver marathon for its originality and unique combination of notes. Yet if you are looking for a vetiver scent that will showcase the typical characteristics of vetiver, this will not be among the ones I’d recommend. As an interesting exercise in an ambery fougere this is a superb offering with impressive amounts of natural essences, more than the other scents from this house that I’ve tried.

Top notes: Lavender, Galbanum, Cumin,
Heart notes: Osmanthus, Cistus oil, Neroli
Base notes: Labdanum, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Lavender Concrete

For an entirely different fragrance pyramid and to read more reviews of this fragrance, visit Basenotes.

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