Sunday, April 29, 2007


I Surrender, originally uploaded by Ana Santos.

Chamade. A perfume like no other. Green. Fruity. Floral. Aldehydic. Mossy. Balsamic.
When I first read about it in the Guerlain pamphlet I received at The Bay, I did not expect to like it at all because it was described as an aldehydic floral. But to sum it up as belonging to one category or another would be missing the whole point: Chamade is Chamade. You must enjoy it for what it is rather than attempt to classify and categorize it. This would be likened to locking a beautiful songbird in a cage, or a free spirited woman in a house and tell her what to wear, eat or do. If you love Chamade you should know better than that!

Yet, the magic of Chamade is not so much in the fact that it is so versatile, but rather, in the unusual assembly of notes that are so different, yet harmonize perfectly with one another. Notes that seemingly contradict each other so much you wouldn’t think they’ll get along at all: the briskness of galbanum and the caramely sweetness of vanilla; the fruitiness of black currant buds and the acrid oakmoss; Not to mention the florals and aldehydes in between which on the paper create an unresolved olfactory mess.

Yet in the Cupid’s arrow-stricken reversed heart bottle, these elements form a balanced tension that leads from the briskness of galbanum and fruity sharpness of cassis to an oily-urinal aldehydes combines with the above mentioned berries. Creamy and hot, pulsating floral notes of ylang ylang mingle with the powdery, green yet sweet hyacinth creating an impression of a flower warmed in a sunny spring garden. And this all leads to a base that is first mossy, slightly acrid-bitter-dry-woody of sandalwood and oakmoss. Hourse later, the magical vanilla that only the dynasty of Guerlain could use so appropriately without making it seem banal or overdone. The same vanilla of Shalimar parfum – dark, resinous-sweet and sexy in the most intimate, close-to-the-skin tastefulness of the classic parfum extrait of this house.

I’ve been fortunate to wear Chamade in a few concentrations and vintages: vintage EDT from the generous Char (I won a contest, can you believe it?), a Parfum Extrait from eBay, in a pristine 30ml sealed bottle; and of course, a brand new EDT, which is delicious and quite true to the original I think (though this will probably change any minute because of the strict oakmoss regulations in the EU and by IFRA). The new Chamade of course smells fresher, and the top notes are more apparent. It shows its vanillic face faster than the vintage I would say. Yet I can still feel the same Chamadeness beating in there. The vintage EDT is fantastic, the top notes are less pronounced, but you can still feel them, and overall the perfume feels much softer, rounder, and goes form phase to phase seamlessly. The powderiness of the aldehydes and ylang ylang is more pronounced, and there is also a bit of a note that I can only liken to the Mousse de Saxe of Caron, or otherwise to Peru Balsam essential oil (rather than the balsam itself). The parfum extrait is a completely different story altogether. It has such pronounced notes of rose and jasmine (and wow! what a jasmine!) that is barely resembles what I learned to know as Chamade from the other two versions. There is some of the galbanum though, but hardly any cassis (if at all) or ylang ylang at first. Which makes me think, it was probably reformulated after all, though I will not be able to give you any dates. The reformulation primarily seems to be downplaying the rose and jasmine to insusceptible quantities and replacing them mostly by the more cost-effective ylang ylang (probably from Guerlain's own plantations; I wonder in which year they got these...).

Top notes: Galbanum, Black Currant Buds, Aldehydes

Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Hyacinth

Base notes: Oakmoss, Vanilla, Sandalwood

A few words about the timing for this perfume: designed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last in the line of the Guerlain heritage of exemplary high-class perfumery (which lasted for almost two decades and was brutally interrupted only in recent years by globalization and greed). The timeless beauty of Chamade only got to show you that Jean-Paul did not lack inspiration before LVMH got into the picture (rather, stole the picture) and perhaps than it was finances that designed the fragrances more than its own talented nose. Chamade was launched in 1969, marking the beginning of the 70's, which in the perfume world was significantly characterized by the emergance of soapy and green compositions, such as No. 19, Private Collection, Silences, Ivoire, Diorella, and very much influenced AnaisAnais which launched almost a decade later, as well as the much later excellent celebrity perfume Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Flower of Flowers

ylang ylang flowers, originally uploaded by chotda.
Background and Origin of Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang is an evergreen tropical tree, remotely related to the Magnolia family (they are both from the Magnoliales order), native to Indonesia and possibly also the Philipines. It grows wild in many tropical countries, and is cultivated for its essences mostly in Nossi-Be, the Comoro Islands, which produce about 80% of the worlds’ production Madagascar and to a lesser extend in the Phillipines, Indonesia, Zanzibar, Madagascar and a few of the French South Pacific islands.

The trees grow very fast, and therefore they are pruned in such a way that they start growing horizontally after they reach 7 feet in height. This way, the blossoms can be easily picked by hand. The flowers are green at first, and have little or no scent, and only start to develop their intense aroma when they are fully mature and have turned yellow in colour (some varieties are mauve or pinkish, but their aroma is considered inferior to that of the yellow variety).

The essence of Ylang Ylang is unusual amongst the florals, because it has an extremely high yield and therefore has a much lower price than any other floral essence. The flowers are most commonly steam distilled, and to a lesser extent are solvent extracted to produce an absolute. The trees bloom all year around, which further contributes to the relative abundance of this oil in comparison to other floral essences.

The scent of Ylang Ylang is considered an aphrodisiac. The flowers are spread on the bed of newly wed couples in Indonesia, and are used to adorn the hair and in lays with jasmine sambac flowers (Sampaquita) in the Philippines.

Aromatherapy uses of Ylang Ylang:
Ylang ylang is considered to have aphrodisiac, euphoric, anti-depressant, and stimulant effects on the nervous system. It is recommended to use for conditions such as depression frigidity, nervous tension, and is generally considered an elevating yet soothing aroma.
Hair: Rinsing the hair with Ylang Ylang encourages the hair’s growth
Skin: Acne, irritated & oily skin, insects bites and general skin care
Circulation: Helps to regulate high blood pressure

My Experience with Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang essential oils vary tremendously in quality and character. A good quality Ylang Ylang essential oil should smell creamy, fruity, tenacious, and headily floral but in a very pleasant way. A poor quality ylang ylang can be so terrible it can give a bad reputation to the essence altogether. My first impression of Ylang Ylang was terrible, because I was first introduced to a very poor quality oil. Even though it was graded an “Extra”, it had an unbrearably unpleasant odour that was sharp, heady and almost peppery-dry. This is not how ylang yang is supposed to smell like! Once I explored different oils from different suppliers, I discovered that I actually like this essence a lot. Enough to make an entire perfume dedicated to it – a Ylang Ylang soliflore!

The Ylang Ylang essences I work with now are many and vary, but they all have a very distinguished, soft, exotic, sweet, full-bodied aroma. Some are more heady than others, but they are all so beautiful. Even though Ylang Ylang is yellow in colour, I consider it to be a "white floral". Yet, my association with it are quite colourful - tropical fruit such as mango and pitango, creamy coconut, lays of flowers, and the many colours of corals - orange, red and pink hues... Besides my new Ylang Ylang soliflore, Coralle, I also used fair amounts of Ylang Ylang in White Potion and Tamya, where it plays a key role in the composition (coupled with tuberose in the first and jasmine sambac in the latter); and lesser amounts in Viola (an excellent example of Ylang Ylang's bouqueting abilities) and Autumn. (a Chypre to which the Ylang Ylang adds a fruity nuance)

Ylang Ylang Essences and Grades:
Ylang Ylang essential oil is distilled into several different grades, which are collected in several stages during the distillation:

Ylang Ylang Extra – Contains almost half of the yield of Ylang Ylang. This grade is characterized by a tenacious, sweet, balsamic, fruity odour. It is the most similar to the absolute, but with a lighter, airy opening reminiscent of lilacs, lilies and linalol. Upon drydown it can even be a tad soapy.

Ylang Ylang 1 - I have yet to encounter this grade (or fraction) of ylang ylang as it is most commontly found blended with Ylang Ylang 2 to form the so-called "Ylang Ylang Complete" (see below).

Ylang Ylang 2 - I have encountered only one specimen of Ylang Ylang 2 from a reputable supplier that sells high quality and organically grown oils for aroma therapeutic purposes. This particular specimen is good enough to pass as an "extra" until you hit the dryout and some sharp, slightly green and almost horseradish-like notes appear.

Ylang Ylang 3 – The third and last portion of the distillation. This grade is suave and sweet and full bodied. It also reveals some of the more woody aspects of this complex raw material.

Ylang Ylang Complete – this is suppose to be a mixture of all the four other grades, or an unfractioned distillation of the ylang ylang in its entirety. However, nowadays a Ylang Ylang complete is most likely to be composed of the less desireable grades – Ylang Ylang 1 and Ylang Ylang 2. Because of the unpopularity of these two middle grades (1 & 2), there is, unfortunately, frequent adulteration of Ylang Ylang essential oils by the different grades – either “upgrading” or “downgrading” them (i.e.: mixing the Ylang Ylang 2 with Ylang Ylang 3, to lable it a “Ylang Ylang 3” and the Ylang Ylang 1 with the Ylang Ylang Extra to label it an “Extra”).

Ylang Ylang Concrete is produced by solvent extraction of the flowers. This is an unusual, hard to find floral concrete, and well worth it if you can find it. It is ever so smooth, creamy, sweet, tenacious and warm. It has a unique fruity and creamy nuances, reminiscent of bananas. Unlike most concretes, which are waxy or semi-solid due to the content of floral waxes, ylang ylang concrete is completely liquid, deep amber coloured, with what seems like little waxy particles floating in it.

Ylang Ylang Absolute is obtained by alcohol washing of the concrete. Again, the yield is extremely high (75-82% of the concrete). It is similar in appearance to the concrete, less the waxy particles, although I have encountered some specimens with an olive green colour. It is similar to the ylang ylang extra, only deeper, richer, sweeter, and with less “top notes”. It is more spicy and fruity, presenting the eugenol and cinnamyl acetate; with fruity notes suggesting banana and mango; and animalic-jasminey-like tonalities as well as creamy buttery qualities. But most notably, it feels like a perfume on its own right, with layers upon layers of silky depth and warmth.

Ylang Ylang's Role in Perfumery:
The importance of Ylang Ylang essences to perfumery is tremendous. It blends well with almost everything, and has a particular importance in almost all floral bouquets and compounds, including: hyacinth, lily of the valley, violet, sweet pea, narcissus, lily, gardenia and many, many more. It blends particularly well with jasmine, rose, vetiver, peru balsam, sandalwood, cassie, vanilla, citrus notes and rosewood. It also plays an important role in oriental compositions, lending a sweet, warm, soft bridge between the heavy bases and the spicy top notes. Ylang Ylang is often used in soap bases, and you may be interested to know it plays a key role in perfuming face powders!

Principal constituents of Ylang Ylang:Benzyl acetate (25%)p-cresyl methyl ether (20%) – which is what gives ylang ylang its distinguished fragrance, though on it’s own it does not smell pleasant at all.
methyl benzoate
methyl salicylate
cinnamyl acetate

Perfumes with Prominent Ylang Ylang Notes:
Mahora (now called Mayotte)
No. 5
(to name only a few...)
A few words about the meaning of the name – up until very recently, I knew it meant “Flower of Flowers”. I now read that in Tagalog it is derived from the words “Wilderness” and “Rare”. If any of you, my dear readers, who is from the Phillipines, can enlighten me with the true meaning of this fantastic flower of your country – I would be most grateful.

Bibliography (besides the sites that are linked to on this article):
Stephen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural OriginJulia Lawless, Encyclopedia of Essential OilJulia Lawless, Aromatherapy and the MindPoucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps Volumes 1 & 2

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Friday, April 27, 2007


Coral Tree, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I’m proud to introduce to you Coralle – my newest addition to “The Language of Flowers” soliflore collection.

Coralle is centred around Ylang Ylang, the tropical creamy-yellow coloured tree flowers with a heady aroma that is like no other – heady-floral, sweet-fruity and creamy-smooth. I chose only the softest, sweetest and creamiest ylang ylang there is, including ylang ylang concrete and ylang ylang absolute from Comores Island, and paired it with the sparkling aldehydic juiciness of Clementine and grapefruit. The heart includes the fruity, full-bodied wine-like aromas of Geranium bourbon and Davana. Sweet vanilla adds a tropical charm and is tampered by a hint of vetiver, creating the olfactory illusion of sun-bleached driftwood.

takes me to a soft sandy beach and a skin-caressing sun. I lean on a trunk of driftwood and let all the worries of the world dissolve in the salty ocean breeze and sink into the sand. I dive into the turquoise water to explore myriads of coral colours. I sundry my skin and wear nothing but bright lays of tropical flowers – orange, pink, red and pure white… They scent the air around me, connecting me to the things that make me the most happy – beauty, nature and scent.

Top Notes: Ylang Ylang Oil, Grapefruit, Clementine
Heart Notes: Ylang Ylang Cream, Geranium Bourbon, Davana

Base Notes: Amber, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vetiver

P.s. The coral necklace in the image above does not come with the perfume. It is a family heirloom passed on to me by my ocean-loving grandmother. Her two daughters always wanted it, so to avoid hard feelings between them, she gave it to her one and only grand daughter - me :)

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Zohar Perfume Featured in Perfume Shrine's Orange Blossom Week

Zohar, Ayala Moriel's orange blossom soliflore (2006) is featured in Perfume Shrine's Orange Blossom Week - just in time for the orange blossom season!
I highly recommend you read the rest of the entries for the week dedicated to orange blossom perfumes.

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eBay, Fake Vintage and Hypocrisy

While eBay was paying lots of attention to a few innocent perfume decant sellers, it fails to address the outrageous scam of vintage perfume fakes sold regularly through its webpages.

As some avid perfumistas on Make Up Alley spotted, empty bottles were bought on eBay, only to be re-sold, miraculously full, as genuine vintage bottles. Outrageous, isn’t it?

Who's going to sue eBay now? Probably not a perfume house that went under decades ago...

Related links: Perfume Posse, Make Up Alley (1), Make Up Alley (2), Make Up Alley (3)

* Thanks to Helg for the tip!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Perfume Decants and Copyright Infringement

Pirate button, originally uploaded by Illuminated.

Is decanting perfumes the same as illegal downloading of music and movies? Are the creators and manufacturers of the perfumes being violated when their fragrances are sold in a different packaging by someone who bought their perfume (for a retail price)?

For several years, the culture of fragrance swapping has evolved tremendously, including the sprouting of micro businesses selling perfume decants on the various fragrance forums and on eBay.

While the music and film industries are coping quite well with the abundance of copyright infringement online (ripping songs and downloading movies) by offering legitimate alternatives to the tech-savvy consumer, the perfume industry seems to drag behind in response to the popularization of perfume. Perfume companies seems to be having hard time accepting the fact that perfume, nowadays, is becoming more of a commodity than a luxury, and that gradually, many people are becoming more interested in the product (AKA the juice) rather than its glamorous packaging.

In the past few years, perfume addicts found creative solutions for subsidizing their expensive hobby by selling off some of the juice of the (usually over-sized) bottles. The buyers for these modestly re-packaged perfumes are usually other curious perfumistas who don’t have physical access to the particular perfume (or brand) where they live, or simply haven’t quite made up their minds if they need 100ml of a particular odour to be added to their already-impressive collection.

A few months ago, I read that a popular decant seller was booted from eBay for this reason, after a complaint (or was it a law suit? I can’t quite remember) from a New York based perfume house. Hundreds if not thousands of perfumistas were puzzled and ticked off by this move. And I don’t blame them. But coming from the side of niche perfume business myself, I can’t claim not to understand the motive behind the abovementioned perfume house. Just imagine how many impulse-buy they lost because of that!

On the other hand, let’s try to imagine how many unhappy customers the decant trade saved these very same perfume companies; ones that would go around the internet and say “such and such brand is overrated” and so on and so forth. Obviously, if one gets a decant of something they end up loving, they will upgrade to a full bottle, and in my opinion are more likely to re-purchase in the future more than just once. But this philosophy of common sense and good karma is perhaps not something that spread neither widely nor evenly amongst all perfume houses.

_MG_5891, originally uploaded by Jonathan Tramontana.

In my opinion, choosing the legal route to respond to this phenomenon is not only ineffective (as if that stopped you from downloading songs onto your MP3 player, right!); it also shows lack of understanding of the current trends in the fragrance industry, perhaps even a lack of confidence in the juice itself. If the juice is ripped of its elaborate packaging, it should be just as stunning and impressive, and definitely worth the money. It is also a symptom of lack of creativity and flexibility of the business structure of the brand, which is usually associated with larger sized corporations. Amongst other solutions, the abovementioned perfume house could have opened their own eBay store – the official brand name so and so store, and offer a more “legitimized” alternative in the same internet shopping neighbourhood.

To conclude, I’ll bring you a short little story of a similar situation, but from the film industry. Mark Achbar, the director of The Corporation, worked on the film for about 10 years. After years of research, filming, fundraising and marketing, the film was a huge success world wide. Everybody waited for the DVD to come out, and when it did - it started to become part of the curriculum in many universities. Poor students on low budgets started looking for free downloads online, and guess what? - They found them, of course. The film was quickly becoming one of the most popularly downloaded documentaries on BitTorrent. Instead of suing BitTorrent, Mr. Achbar is now offering his own downloadable version, directly from his computer, and encourages the downloaders to donate as much as they can afford and support the filmmakers.

Related links:
Badger & Blade
Guide to Buying Perfume on eBay (an outdated advice page!)
Perfume Posse
Perfume of Life (1)
Perfume of Life (2)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Coming up soon on SmellyBlog:

1) Article about Arabian Perfumery and its Alchemical roots will bring to closure the previous posts on the subject.

2) The Vetiver Series will continue, with two more vetiver experiments I'd like to share with you.

3) Due to the devestating news about the possible upcoming citrus oil ban, I will be reviewing some of my favourite citrus perfumes and will also have a feature article about citrus notes, their history and role in perfumery, aromatherapeutic properties, and so on and so forth. After you read this, I hope you will feel even more compelled to join the Campain for Real Perfume.

4) Ayala Moriel's Spring News - I have new perfumes in store for you :)

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Citrus Splash No More?

orange splash, originally uploaded by Photonut (Mr. Dave).

Citrus perfume ingredients are set to disappear, according to Cropwatch’s recent report.

The EU regulatory boards are hitting again with draconian regulations to an essential natural component of the fragrance industry. This time it is citrus oils, present in almost all perfumes today. In another mind-blowing act, without public consultation, the EU cosmetic regulatory board have decided to pull the rug under all citrus oils, because the alleged danger of their furanocoumarins (FCF) contents. On April 4th 2007, Sabine Lecrenier, EU’s Head of Unit for the Cosmetics Sector reported to Cropwatch that by the end of this month (April 2007), both bergapten (5-MOP) and xanthotoxin (8-MOP) (either individually or additively) will be restricted to 1ppm in all finished products, even when naturally present (meaning: in natural essential oils such as citrus and angelica).

It has been known for along time that furanocoumarins (that are found largely in citrus oils) present a risk of phototxicity (burning and pigmentation of the skin when the area covered with the oil is exposed to the sun). This risk is fairly low when the low levels of citrus oils in the composition are maintained, and is even further lowered when citrus oils where the furanocoumarins have been removed is used (i.e.: bergapten-free bergamot essential oil). Furanocoumarins are also present in high levels in other oils than citrus, for instance: angelica. Furthermore, when talking about fragrance, the risk is particularly low when the fragrance is applied to specific areas that are not typically exposed to the sun, such as the wrists and behind the ears.

The reasons behind this decision could not be just safety. There must be a hidden political agenda behind this move, which is remained to be revealed – and is most likely going to benefit the mega corporations of synthetic aromachemicals.

It’s far away, in Europe, you say? Why should we care?
If you think that way, I suggest you glipse quickly at the “made in” lable on your perfume bottle. It will mostly likely be a country in Europe, France in most cases. If you think this won’t affect you because you live somewhere else, you are terribly wrong! Besides, the mega corporations that produce most of the perfumes for all the mainstream labels are probably not going to bother and formulate a different fragrance according to different regulations in each country. They are probably going to go on the safe side and just go ahead and blindly comply with the EU regulations.

And what’s more disturbing, no one has asked the consumers what they want. No one asked the perfumers if they will be able to handle (or want to) such restrictions on their creativity. Citrus notes are such an viable part of the perfume world that it’s going to be feel very lonely and depressing to see them removed from my organ… Thankfully, I am my own boss.

And last but not least worrying of all - the entire industry of citrus growers, distillers, wholesalers, traders is going to suffer so badly – just imagine the loss of jobs, world wide, just because of the greed of the aromachemical companies. Perhaps only the dryout of petroleum will stop their greed from growing on the expense of others. We’ll just have to wait and see.

A few words about the importance of citrus oils:
Citrus essential oils have been an essential component of the modern fragrance industry for centuries. The first alcohol-based perfumes were made of citrus peels tinctured in alcohol along with herbs and spices. These early perfumes were called “Aqua Mirabillis” (Miracle Waters), and were used both internally as a medicine and externally as a refreshing perfume. You may be familiar with famous names of aux such as Carmelite Water, Florida Water, Eau de Cologne, Hungary Waters, and others. Such perfumes will no longer be manufactured if indeed this new regulation is to be realized. So stock up on your 4711 and Eau Imeriale!

This is without mentioning many other perfumes that would have been completely different without the use of pure citrus oil – Shalimar would be come a sickeningly artificial vanilla & lemon pudding, the Chypre family, already suffering from a large reduction of the oakmoss content, would now become even further compromised (can you imagine!). When I look at all the formulas of my perfumes, there are only very few that have no citrus in them - Film Noir and Epice Sauvage, and that’s about it. Citrus notes add an aldehydic and a cheerful fruitiness to many compositions, from all the fragrance families – Oriental, Chypre, Floral, Woody – and of course, the entire fragrance family that is named after them for a very obvious reason – Citrus.

To finish off this depressing post, let’s try to find some hope. There is something you can do. You, as a consumer, have a lot more power than you may like to think. You can protest, you can write letter to the EU regulatory boards, and you can join Cropwatch’s Campaign for Real Perfume by emailing Cropwatch and expressing your interest in joining the campaign and be able to decide for yourself what you use – real perfumes, containing the richness and beauty of real botanical essences, or completely artificial fragrances, made only of test-tube molecules.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Atlas, it's time for your bath

Happy Earth Day to all the citizens of this planet!

Some plant a tree on Earth Day, or participate in eco-activism. I belive Earth Day should be all year around. We really should take care of this planet we live on. But just like we ten to neglect our bodies, we do so to the Earth that is our nourishing home.

For Earth Day, I’d like to bring to your attention a environmental/perfume issue which I was procrastinating to bring up, simply because I don’t’ take bad news well when I’m jet lagged. This is the possible ban on all citrus oils by the EU Cosmetics Regulatory Board. I will elaborate on that tomorrow, but for now, I would like to refer you to Cropwatch’s latest newsletter on the topic.

What can we do? Take matters into consumers' hands! Emailing Cropwatch to take part in the Campaign for Real Perfume.

I am now off to catch up with 5 nights of no sleep. Good night!

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Oud Omani

man with falcon, originally uploaded by dirkcush.

Strongly medicinal and camphoreous at first, so much that I fondly recall pharmacies and clinics from my childhood where I often visited as little bug-bitten girl to be treated with a cooling calamine lotion, ahhh.... Yet, what is at first an animalic-medicinal agarwood evolves into an elusive musk with raspberry undertones that are (not surprisingly) far more interesting and tasteful than Western mass produced oud interpretation, M7. It than develops some green undertones, reminiscent of spikenard and vetiver, but not quite. Smooth notes of rose appear, very subtle. Although it is not as agarwoody as I’d like it to be (being familiar with the raw materials), it surely radiates the exquisite natural luxury of agarwood, even though with the help of a few synthetics. The dry down of the oud from Oman is incensey, woody, musky, clean and masculine, very much like the smoke of a high quality sandalwood incense sticks.

, originally uploaded by ***•***•***.

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Oud Abu Dabi

Turning now her breast toward her crying babe, She did not move her bottom, pressed beneath me.
Imru’l Qais (d. c. 535)

Gentle and delicate, roses weave in and out like floating silk scarves of mysterious dancers. It dries down to the most beautiful woody powdery dry down, resembling high quality sandalwood incense in a Buddhist temple. Overall, it's a lovely soft woody-floral, with dewy rose playing an important role (not unlike how it is casted for the Al Mesk Abyad). I only wish the rose did not smell so artificial in this one, it really takes away from my enjoyment at first. But after the dry down it is a soft and smooth agarwood and musk for the most part - almost as if the formula is a hybrid between Al Mesk Abyad and Oud Omani.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


Anbar, or amber in Arabic, refers to both ambergris and the fossilized resin used as a gemstone whose beads are often used in Masbaha (prayer beaded chains). I got the perfume oil by this name at Majed’s shop, and it is also dark in colour.

Anbar perfume oil is not as animalic as Al Mesk Aswad, but is still fecal, dark, sweet, and has hints of civet. It smells so animalic it may have some ambergris to it. Like Al Mesk Aswad, I smell hints of camphor at first, which smells cool and metallic, with hints of myrrh and benzoin. Most of all, Anbar reminds me of antiques made of dusty copper and brass and of chains of amber Masbaha displayed in abundance in a crowded souk, where fumes of incense weave their way through the abundance of old Persian carpets, coin-decorated belly dancer’s outfits, piles of dusty incense tears, copper lanterns and hookas laid out on the cool, footsteps-polished dusty stone floor.

Photo: Words of Wisdom, by Barbara (overthemoon on Flickr)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Al Mesk Aswad (Black Musk)

Mauritanie, originally uploaded by Ferdinand Reus.

“Sweeter than a fragrant fruit, my young man smells of musk; When I hold his apple in my hand, I’m open-mouthed with lust.”
Abu Nuwas al-Hakami (c. 756 - 813)

In contrast to the ethereal sweetness of Al Mesk Abyad, Al Mesk Aswad is lustful, forceful, dark and heavy, both in colour and in the dense, raw animalic energy it excudes. I got this in the Druze village of Yarka, at Majed’s Perfumery. Yet, although the Majed says this is true musk from the musk deer, I am quite sure there is none there; not just because of the price (20 NIS for 10ml of the pure essence), but also because it smells like an ever dirtier version of Tabu. Dark patchouli, leather and civet rein in this dark oil and a little dab is all you’ll need to anoint yourself king or queen of musk. It might eve surpass Youth Dew in its tenacity and intensity.

Other notes I can detect (besides the patchouli and civet) are camphor and a syrupy concord grape juice, cedar, and the musky-musty fragrance of spikenard and the animalic-powdery subtlety of opoponax. Sweet balsams emerge later on, but the perfume remains forceful and dominant through out its wearing. Use with a light hand is crucial for a thorough enjoyment of this dark elixir. So does a cool to moderate climate.

Al Mesk Aswad is a violent perfume. To say that it is bold would be an understatement. It is the scent extracted from the warrior’s sweat, the cries of the animals escaping from the hunters, the lustful cries of an urged lover... It is as forceful as an army of perfumers set to concur an un-abiding city with scentlar weapons: arrows dipped in thick sticky balsams, rocks smeared with animal maneuver.... Al Mesk Aswad attacks you and if you are not careful it may take over your nostrils.

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Al Mesk Abyad (White Musk)

Smilling woman..., originally uploaded by Vit Hassan.

The sky became curved because of prostration before Muhammad.
The ocean is only a water bubble from Muhammad's generosity.
The moon is a reflection of Muhammad's beauty.
Musk is a little whiff from Muhammad's mole and tresses.

- Persian & Sufi poet Mawlana Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami (1414-1492).

Al Mesk Abyad is delicate and mostly rosy. The musk here is sweet and subtle and suggests ambrette seed absolute of the highest quality (sans the rancid nut tonalities that are usually found in this essence). The rose note smells very much like Bulgarian rose otto, though I doubt it is purely natural. It’s the most sheer, light and ethereal of all the five Arabian perfumes I brought back from Israel and Palestine. It’s cleanliness brings to mind the legends of the Prophet Mohammed's scent of musk and rose, a symbol for his pureness and divinity.

The consistency of this oil is thick and viscous, like light honey, and it's clear and transparent. I've got this from Muhammed Qabbani's shop in the Muslim Quarter of Ancient Jerusalem. The price was 60 NIS for 10ml (equivalent to about $15 USD).

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

What to Wear on a Break-Up?

Dark Spring, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Dear Ayala,

Me and my boyfriend of the past 4 years just broke up. In those last four years not only did I spend the best of my time with him (we lived together), I also became an avid perfume collector. There is not one single perfume in my collection that does not remind me of something we did together and become flooded with emotions or tears. I’m overwhelmed!
What should I wear that will not spoil the perfume for me now that I am so sad and emotional? Should I get a new perfume or stick with the old ones?


Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered

Dear BB&B,

I am so sorry to hear of your loss, and it must be so difficult in Spring, the most romantic and cheerful seasons of them all... Many of us experience the end of a relationship almost as tragic as death. It is indeed an end to a part of our life and ourselves that will never be the same again. But remember, when one door closes, another one opens. May this be a new beginning and an opportunity to learn something new and exciting about yourself and discover new strengths within yourself.

As far as perfume goes, the answer to your question is quite complex. Unfortunately, there is no one right way to overcome the challenges that the strong association between memories, emotions and scent evokes. Here are a few ideas, and with a little experimentation, you will find the right thing for this difficult time in your life. Each solution has an advantage and also presents a challenge. I will point out each side of the coin and this way you will be able to make an informed decision based on what you think will work best for you.

1) Wear nothing!
When I am sick or particularly troubled, I tend to shy away from fragrances. The reason: I don’t want to spoil a scent for myself. Besides, I don’t feel like it. This is perhaps the most safe way to cope with the break up olfactory-wise, because this way you are sure to not associate a perfume with the tragic event.
The challenge: While in this approach you are controlling the association between a fragrance and an emotional state and unpleasant memories, you cannot guarantee that there won’t be fragrance associations imposed on you from the environment. For instance: if you move out to a new neighbourhood, and your neighbour or roommate cooks with cilantro every evening, you may associate the scent of cilantro with the break up later on, after this period is over and you can look back on it.

2) Start afresh!
If all of the scents in your perfume wardrobe stir intense memories of the loved and lost one, you may want to try something new. There is an advantage and a disadvantage to doing is: by starting something new, you will be able to remove any fragrance association from your favourite scents and therefore it is more likely that you will be able to come back to them when you are feeling more stable again.
The challenge: you will most likely create an association within yourself between the break up and a particular fragrance. Keep in mind that you may not be able to wear this particular fragrance later on without associating it with the break up.

3) Harp on those strings, rub your wounds with salt
For some of us, coping with loss and pain means experiencing it to its fullest. If you are like this, you may want to come closer to the scents that remind you of your loss most of all – the scent of your partner’s sweater, his/her favourite soap or shampoo, the special perfume you used to wear for him/her… Burry your nose in those smells and let the tears wash your face and lift the pain from your heart.

4) Stick with your favoruites…
When we feel insecure, uncertain, anxious or sad, sometimes what we need best is just a little bit of comfort; be it the cozy familiar bed, comfort foods, or a long relaxing bubble bath – we all have those little things we can treat ourselves to when we need extra moral support (and even more so when there is no one around anymore…). If you have a comfort scent, you may find it to be your best friend in this situation. A scent that you’ve always came back to before for a sense of familiarity, comfort and well-being. It might be a simple as amber or musk, or a powdery vanillic floral– whichever makes you feel better.

5) And to make matter worse…
If you have a scent you particularly dislike, perhaps a scent that makes you particularly moody or melancholic - you may find yourself drawn to it now. This can be another way to put into good use a scent you don’t normally wear. Perhaps a process of catharsis will occur and shed a new light on your view of the scent (and your situation).

I am sending you a big hug, and hope this will make you feel better and less lonely. Sometimes, when you are in an unhealthy relationship you don’t even have yourself as company, and that is the most profound form of loneliness… Remember, as long as you have yourself, you are not lonely, just alone.

Sincerely yours,


P.s. Care to share your painful/cathartic experience with which scents you worn in a crisis situation and why? Open your heart and enter to win a miniature of my ultimate comfort scent, Cabaret.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Arabian Perfumery in Al-Kuds (Jerusalem)

Sometimes, our dreams become fulfilled without us knowing it. It happened to me last Saturday, in the ancient city of Jerusalem. I haven’t been to the Muslim quarter of the ancient city since I was a very little girl. In those days, my parents were particularly adventurous and their longings for nature lead us to long trips every Saturday in the mountains, villages and orchards surrounding Jerusalem. They also tried to lead a life style as close as possible to that of the local population, namely the Arab, Druze and Bedwin of the country, who lived there for many years before the Zionist jews re-surfaced from their prolonged exiles. This meant buying in the souk in the Muslim quarters. I remember our expeditions there very clearly, and in particular, the one time when we went there to buy hand-made mattresses, one small one with a yellow cover for me, and a beet coloured double size for my parents. The mattress merchants carried them on their shoulders through the streets, and so did many merchants: the souk was a lively, dynamic scene. You can still see some of this happening now in the ancient city, as well as in Jerusalem’s Shuk Mahane Yehuda (the less ancient souk in the newer part of the city, in Nahlaot – one of the first neighbourhoods that was built out of the walls of Jerusalem when the city became over populated in the late….. DATE!!!). Delivery boys from the many bakeries carry rectangular trays full of pitta, challah and fresh bread, and other goods in the Ancient city. It seems as if they will stop at nothing with what they can carry on their heads, maybe even a live goat!

The souk was always humming and buzzing with activity, crowded with curious and busy people, or those who just got lost in the colourful jungle of abundance. Loud cries of the merchants offering their goods – baklavas, caramelized nuts, nougats and other sweets carted on large round trays (you can see these large-wheeled carts to this day); cold beverages back-packed in a large brass container with little taps – lemonade, tamarind or sous (licorice root drink).

I started my short-lived visit to Ancient Jerusalem this year with two of my brothers and one sister in law. It started innocently and only later on I found myself fulfilling not only one dream, but two, with no intentions or expectations.

First, we had an Harissa/Tishpishti that I managed to acquire using my non-existent Arabic. This Harissa was of a quality that I’ve never tasted before: consisting as always of melt-in-your-mouth semolina crumbs soaked in honey syrup, yet with a raw, animalic aroma of goat dairy. I suspect the butter and buttermilk or milk used in this recipe were indeed from goat’s milk, and it made all the difference. It reminded me ever so slightly efeof knahfeh, but not as violently sheepish in flavour. These ones were decoarated with peanuts rather than the traditional almonds, and this was also an interesting surprise.

We sat at a teahouse in the Christian quarter, and fingered the honey-soaked harissa while smoking apple-scented narguilla (hooka) and sipped the sweet black tea scented with fresh sprigs of spearmint. After a watching the passers by, breaking one hooka and exhausting the capacity of the tobacco to steam and release pleasant aroma – our party split, and only those with any energy left after the long walk and the long relaxing smoke continued on.

We kept walking down the paved and roofed streets, which suddenly became crowded, at the “modern” part of the market. Amongst fabricated brand-name goods, green almonds, fava beans and sour plums in season, piously long women’s kaftans, Fulla dolls (the Muslim culture’s rival of Barbie, which were what I was searching for in that part of the market to begin with) in every colour and costume, I found a little shop that stopped me on my tracks. It was a dark, tiny space, filled with bottles from corner to corner, floor to ceiling. They all had labels with Arabic writing on them, and were designed in more or less the same fashion – like large lab flasks. Some were fuller than others, and the colours of the shimmering juice within them varied in colour from clear to dark, dark brown. Empty bottles were stacked next to each other on another shelf – some were fancy crystal bottles, some were small and some were larer, some roll on and some spray and some were even a fill-it-yourself replicas of Flower by Kenzo...

I stepped in, eager to smell Arabian ouds and musks first and foremost. A similar shop I’ve visited in the Druze village of Yarka just a week before had lots of interesting smells, but oud was not one of them. My bluntness about the oudh and Arabic perfumes surprised the merchant, who expected me to search for a popular dupe of a famous French perfume and even tried to sell me an Angel dupe at certain point. Just as I pocketed my 3 new olfactory acquisitions (which will tell you about at a later time), and was getting ready to take some pictures of Muhammad Qabbani in his shop, a few more customers stepped in and I was trying to get better shots so I stayed longer than I meant to stay. We talked a bit about perfumes and Mr. Qabbani shared some interesting anecdotes about the tradition use of natural musk in Arabic medicine, told us about his studies of ancient Arabic medicine and herbalism, and peaked our curiousity by telling us about perfumes that he is not allowed to sell to single women from fear of making men mad. Before long, our conversation turned into a diagnosis session of traditional mystical Arabian medicine as Mr. Qabbani attempted to read my eyes and suggested an explanation to my daughter’s condition as a possession by a demon (he is a sensitive man, and so he used a delicate language to express his ideas to not scare me completely…). He did so all so innocently and genuine self conviction that it was difficult not to listen to him with an open mind and I must confess my first urge after my conversation with him was to study Arabic ASAP (it’s really high time I do this!) and get acquainted with the Kuran, which by the sound of the CD I heard at his store is a wonderfully long poem that can be soothing to the soul even more than Um Kultum and Billy Holiday put together. And let’s just not forget that some of the Arabs and Muslims, were the greatest alchemists and perfumers, and I believe perfumery today owes quite a bit to them.

Next on SmellyBlog: reviews of the Arabian Perfumes I got in Israel/Palestine.

P.s. I just got back a couple of hours ago from my travels finally, but wasn't able to post this earlier. Hopefully the milder weather of Vancouver will allow me to enjoy the two heavier ones in the bunch.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Yizkor - Remember

Yizkor - Remember, originally uploaded by Daedalus42.

Today is Yom Hazikaron Lashoa ve la Gvurah – Holocaust Remembrance Day. Literally translated as “The Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust and Bravery”*.

Today we need to remember the millions that were slaughtered because of who they are: the Jews in World War II, as well many other minorities at the time, such as the gypsies, homosexual, and many children and adults who were sick or disabled. But the genocide nightmare continues to this day, and we should not forget the Armenian Genocide, the Kurdish Genocide and the more recent genocides in Rwanda and now in Darfour. People are murdered every day because of their ethnicity, religion or political views and the world stands by and does nothing for the most part, except for some minor things that probably help the helpers more than the situation and the people who are being murdered.

Another thing that I would like to bring up today is the extreme misery that many Holocaust survivors are experiencing to this very day. This year, the state of Israel dedicates the Holocaust Remembrance Day to preserve the stories before the generation of Holocaust survivors disappears. Perhaps if the state of Israel took better care of the survivors and gave them their basic needs such as food, shelter and medications, they would trust us feel more comfortable sharing their stories with us. Unfortunately, as many as 80,000 Holocaust survivors are living in extreme poverty and barely manage to survive the daily hardship of old age. Ironically, some even prefer to move to a different country, Germany for instance, where they are getting better care and are not required to pay for medication and health care. The money that belongs to them from the moneys and properties belonging to Holocaust victims as well as the compensation money from Germany seems to have been lost somewhere in the Israely and Jewish beurocracy systems, or were already used to build the state of Israel in its early days.

Related articles and links:

YNet: Few Holocaust survivors get subsidized health care

Haaretz: For a handful of shattered people, little will do

BBC: Holocaust survivors 'in poverty'

Haaretz: When being thrifty is unjust


One third of all Israeli Holocaust survivors are stricken by poverty!

If you know of more petitions on the matter, please let me know.

* The word “bravery” refers in particular to the few who attempted to resist the Nazis. This date was chosen to commemorates the uprising in the Getto of Warshaw.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Abstract Orange Blossoms

The next two reviews are devoted to one of the most enchanting floral essences of them all: orange blossoms. I have only two more days left in Tel Aviv & Jaffa, which was famous for its orange groves and citrus orchards. And so I decided to revisit two perfumes centered around orange blossom, yet very different from one another: Orchid by Aftelier, and Narciso Rodriguez Eau de Toilette.

While Aftelier’s Orchid is an abstract orange blossom built around the genuine essence of the flowers, Narciso Rodriguez creates the illusion of orange blossom while using next to none of the true flower essence, and is surrounding the idea of synthetic musk more than anything else.

Tomorrow is the Holocaust Rememberence Day, so no reviews will be posted to honour the day.

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Narciso Rodriguez - Part Two

Calla Lilly B&W, originally uploaded by brianchapman.

Narciso Rodriguez is a quirky yet very wearable perfume. It’s equally mundane and unique. It can be easily dismissed as just another test-tube fragrance, or as a non-scent if you have musk anosmia tendencies…

Starting with a nail polish and a boozy note, Narciso may give off the impression of having barely any scent of its own besides that of the carrying alcohol. It’s light and bubbly as a just-uncorked champagne, and like a good champagne, it can become quite addictive once you become used to it… It's also a bit floral, yet there are no real flower notes there. Just an abstract suggestion of orange blossoms and perhaps even glimpses of osmanthus wannabes. The woody notes which are said to be vetiver remind me more of flour and rancid ground walnuts… A tad of light honey poured on skin and than licked away, leaves a smooth, sensual, faintly-woody and musky-clean trail is the best way I can describe how Narciso Rodriguez smells once it settles on the skin. When it settles on fabric, it may remind you of your favourite laundry detergent and fabric softener…

You may recall my struggle with Narciso Rodriguez a while back. I was equally intrigued and taken aback by its composition. It presented a challenge to me with its very different aesthetic concept: it radiates out, yet when you come near to understand it better, it slips away; a scintillating illusion of a fragrance rather than a real olfactory being. Perhaps it’s the idea of musk vs. amber that was intriguing to me. A sneaky yet alluring phenomenon… A perfume that radiates energy that cannot be tracked to the source.

Writing a review for Narciso Rodriguez was further delayed because I think that Cait Shortell
did it better than I could ever do it, so I encourage you to read her fascinating review as well as the interesting visual connection she discovered to the work of Imogen Cunningham.

Narciso Rodriguez smells particularly wonderful on fabrics (where it will last for days, but not in an obnoxious way like other, very heavy perfumes do;To my surprise, I was able to wear other perfumes even if there is some of it left on my sleeves).

The above review is for the EDT, which is my favourite formulation, seconded only by the pure parfum (comes in a roll on with a black cap). I stay away from the pink bottles in this line, and find the Musc for Her to be too persistent overall though it has its own charm if you are looking for a linear, long lasting musk oil. It's a scent I'll never be without.

Narciso Rodriguez was designed by Francis Kurkdjian and Christine Nigel, and won the Fifi award for Women's Nouveau Niche fragrance in 2004. I believe that this perfume embodies a landmark in modern perfumery and perhaps a new fragrance sub-family of modern non-animalic musky-florals, and will see many followers, in additions to some that we already smelled such as Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker and Ralph Lauren's Pure Turquoise.

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Aftelier's Orchid

The star of the show in Aftelier's Orchid is orange blossom, masked by a contrasting olfactory context to reveal an imaginary fragrance of an exotic orchid hidden in the midst of a tropical swamp. The flowers are floating above musty jungle-dust of toxic purple mushrooms and thick marsh water that is bubbling with silent life and violent decay. The euphoric and intoxicating fragrance lures us through the deadly water to find out more about its mysterious source and become illuminated by its beauty.

There is no true orchid essential oil (except for vanilla, of course, which is produced from the fermented pods of the vanilla orchid). In fact, orchids have a long history in perfumery of being "faked” by the perfumer using what is often referred to as a "compound" - an array of natural essences and synthetic molecule to portray either an imaginary scent or to replicate a scent in nature that cannot be distilled from the original plant or flower.

Mandy Aftel, one of the pioneers of Natural Perfumery, does it with her Orchid solid perfume. While I can't say that this scent reminds me of any particular orchid I’ve ever smelled - I can attest to the originality and imagination that shines in this perfume.

In Orchid, Mandy Aftel artfully paired the sunny, cheerful and spring-like floral note of orange flower absolute with the mysterious and deep aroma of shiso leaves. Shiso (aka Perilla) is a Japanese herb used to flavour meats, soba noodles and sushi. It has a strange and unique scent - warm, herbal and powdery all at once, green and with a slightly cumin-like undertone. The result is stunning and unusual. The base is a subtle sweet vanilla. The only problem I have with this scent is that it doesn't last on my skin for as long as I’d like it to; yet the immense pleasure of dipping my fingers in the elegant silver compact makes up for that, and exemplifies Mandy’s infectious passion for solid perfumes.

Images from the film Adoptation, courtesy of

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

After My Own Heart

I spent the weekend in Jerusalem, and on my Friday’s twilight stroll, I found a bush of lilac in full bloom. The scent of fresh lilacs is dreamy yet also awakening with its subtle green twig nuances. The delicate aroma of the lilac branch I picked ealier, as well as my reunion with my lilac-lover friend Zohar made me crave a spritz of Ineke’s After My Own Heart.

Ineke’s perfumes, unlike their longish titles, are minimalist and calculated. The lilac-bouquet named After My Own Heart is an alphabetized representation of the emotion of longing and romance: a burst of lilac flowers, twigs and all, softly brushing against a blushing cheek in an anticipation for caressing kiss. A promise of love, the buds of passion invoked by hints of indole (I detect distant jasmine and cassie here...) and the luscious juice dripping off freshly picked raspberries. As the crushed twigs and rubbed petals lose their freshness, they make room for rosy and powdery accords, gradually sweetening into a dry out of musk, vanilla and heliotrope.

Lilac perfumes, and particularly ones that capture the imagination as well as the scent of these delicate flowers are sparse and few. Lilac absolute, if it can at all be obtained, is not at all comparable to that of the fresh flowers. Therefore lilac perfumes relay heavily on the use of synthetic compounds that reconstruct the aroma of the fresh living flowers, usually by the means of the headspace technique*. The challenge with lilac as with other flowers that don’t yield themselves well to distillation is to create a genuine impression of the flower that does not feel too artificial and imposed. I’ve smelled this happen with Olivia Giacobettie’s En Passant, where the lilac is chilling, powdery and reminiscent of the blooming twigs and crushed leaves on a foggy day. Ineke Ruhland’s After My Own Heart gives lilac a different interpretation, less abstract and aloof than En Passant. It’s a romantic, dreamy lilac, creating a fleeting yet sensual presence of petals, powder, fruit and musk.

I'd like to conclude with the "transcript" of the little poem in the image above (from Ineke's website):

After and before
Today and tomorrow
Sand becoming a wave
What was it I saw at the top of the world
as I fell asleep last night?
I tried putting lilacs in your dreams
You smiled in your sleep
I hear your words like the wind
whispering in my ear
the most enchanting words
after my own heart

* According to, nowadays, lilac is often produced with the headspace technique. (E)-ocimene is the most dominant in the makeup of the scent, yet it is the furanoid terpene aldehyde , AKA lilac aldehyde, benzyl methyl ether,
1,4-dimethoxybenzene (hydroquinone dimethyl ether) and indole which give lilac is characteristic odour. The other important odorants which give lilac its characteristic smell. Benzyl methyl ether has an intense fruity-etheral scent which is reminiscent of the top notes of ylang ylang. Lilac headspace also contains minute amounts of anisaldehyde, 8-oxolinalool, cinnamic alcohol and elemicin.

** To read another review of After My Own Heart, visit Legerdenez

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Farnesiana is the cream of the crop in the world of mimosa soliflores. It is tastefully decadent, like a buttery almond pastry flavoured with flower essences, Farnesiana is more gourmand than floral.

Farnesiana was recreated by Michel Morsetti from Ernest Daltroff’s notes after his death in 1941. The name is taken from the Latin name for cassie, Acacia Farnesiana, as well as the garden in the Roman palace of Farnese which is the inspiration for Farnesiana. However, there is nothing Mediterranean about it, unless you recall the rich butter-soaked floor of an almond-filled baklava. The sweetness of Farnesiana, however, has none of the burning sweetness of the honey syrup of this Middle Easter pastry. It can be likened to a marzipan flavoured with floral waters, if such a thing ever existed.

In the time it was released in 1947, it was ahead of its time, like an impressionistic olfactory painting. Many gourmands nowadays pale in comparison to Farnesiana’s innovation and class.

Farnesiana opens with mimosa and cassie, but you know right away that this is going to be a very unusual mimosa scent. The heliotrope note peak in right away, with its sweet, fluffy, powdery almondness. The heart is powdery and floral but not as indolic as Mimosaique or Une Fleur de Cassie, as the presence of jasmine is tampered by the lightness of farnesol and linalol in lily of the valley and lilac and the melancholy powder of violets. You won’t smell them on their own, but their effect is felt and adds a certain airy lightnes to what is otherwise a rich, sweet, dark composition. What’s most intriguing in Farnesiana, besides its extreme dessert-like appeal, is its ability to remain so Caronesque, despite the fact that it is dusted mostly with the bright yellow flower of mimosa, ever so light and airy on its own. The most dominant element that creates this Caronesque impression is the presence of opoponax, in addition to the darkly sweet and melancholy heliotrope. It adds a musky, resinous, animalic, daring and unusual touch which is just perfect with the other base notes (vanilla and musk being the most prominent besides the opoponax and heliotrope).

Top notes: Cassie, Mimosa, Bergamot
Heart notes:,Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley, Violet, Lilac
Base notes: Cassie, Opoponax, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Musk, Heliotrope

Farnesiana is available directly from the Caron bouqitues in Paris and New York. I was very impressed with the excellent customer service of the Caron ladies in New York, Cathy Lilly and Diane Haska. They can also be contacted via their toll-free number: 1-877-882-2766.
The package arrived in a couple of days within the US to my aunt’s house, where it rested for a while until my aunt found her way to the post office (which can be easily explained by the fact that she is a busy 50+ mother of twin toddler boys). The long wait just wet my appetite and made me enjoy Farnesiana even more, when I almost forgot I ordered it. It came in the most exquisite silver coloured satin bag, fit for a queen, and accompanied by a few generous parfum extrait samples from the urn fragrances. The presentation made me think instantly of Marie Antoinette, who equally enjoyed pastries and perfumes.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tirbahu wa Tisadu - Happy Mimuna!

IMG_3016, originally uploaded by Goldie&Lior.

Happy Mimuna to all of SmellyBlog readers who celebrate it. I haven’t celeberated it for years, but was fortunate enough to be invited last night to the celebration with friends.

Mimuna is the celebration of Spring and what used to be the original Jewish New Year (now celebrated in the fall, in the 7th month of Tishrei). The month of Nissan (which is now) is considered the first month according to the Jewish calendar.

North African Jews celebrate the Mimuna commencing on the evening of the last day of Passover. As soon as the stars appear and it’s ok to eat leavened bread, the children were sent to bring fresh flour from the nearest grocery store that happened to open especially for that purpose, and the women would prepare “Muflettas” – a soft flat bread, fried in a pan and served with butter and honey. This would be the first bread that is not Matzah that they would eat after the Passover. It symbolizes sweetness, happiness and prosperity.

In the night of the Mimuna (which was yesterday night in the time zone of my lap top and two nights ago where I am now), the people (men and children) would walk from house to house and be greeted by the hospitality of the women in each house (who remained there to welcome the guests an serve them fresh Muflettas). The entire evening is spent with music, dancing, and sweet hospitatly. The following day, the people would go out to the nature to celebrate spring with more music and dancing and outdoor feasts (which now have evolved in Israel into intense Bar BQ in every available spot outdoor and have adopted also by Israelis who are not of North African descendent…). It's improtant to note though, that different communities celebrated the Mimuna differently (the Jews from different towns in Morocco had different customs, and the Jews living in the countryside had other customs as well).

The foods served on the eve of the Mimuna are all sweet. The women would prepare sweets such as candied citrus peels, nuts and dried-fruit specialties and their legendary hand made marzipans for the event during the week of Passover; these all require no flour, and therefore can be prepared in advance without compromising the holiness of Passover. Green foods are also served to symbolize life and its new awakening in the spring, and in particular – spearmint (Na’na) tea and fresh fava (“Full”) beans, which are in season at this time of year. Alcoholic beverages are also served in tiny cups, and in particular Araq, the anise flavoured liquor.

The customary greeting or blessing during the Mimouna is “Tribahu wa Tisadu”, which invites the people to join the feast and blesses them with abundance and riches (I could not find an exact meaning to the word “tirbahu”, so I am half guessing here. The meaning of the name, Mimuna, is said to be originated in either the word "Mamon", meaning riches, or the word Emuna, meaning faith. It could have also originated in the name of Maimonides (an infamous Rabi and Jewish-religious leader, physician and philosopher from the medieval times who moved to North Africa after the Jews of Spain were deported), though this is a very new idea to me that I only found in one place.

So we’ll conclude with this and wish you all a Happy New Year and a merry spring full of abundance and riches – both spiritual and physical:

Tirbahu wa Tisadu!

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy Easter!

Easter Bunnies, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Happy Easter to all SmellyBlog readers celebrating Easter!

It is already Easter Friday in the Holy Land and I am sure I am missing a fantastic ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchure and the Christian Quarter in general.

I am heading north this weekend, and will be away from high speed internet and have no ambitions to post anything on my Mom's antique computer. Don't expect to hear from me before Tuesday... Until than, enjoy the spring, the flowers, the sun... And of course you can catch up with anything from the archives that you didn't read yet and post comments!

Below is a review of Lys Méditerranée which I am dedicating for Easter because of its lovely Madonna (Easter) Lily notes.

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Lys Méditerranée

Lys Méditerranée creates the illusion of inhaling a lush Easter lily (AKA Madonna lily), resulting in a pollen-dusted nose. Top notes of lily are followed by the drip of citrus-honey, light and juicy, and a warm, full bodied orange blossom and rose for a touch of pure elegance. The orange blossom makes this particularly cheerful and happy. The dry down is warm, rich and ambery yet somewhat dry with the prominent note being Peru Balsam oil (which is woodier and less sweet than the balsam itself).

The sweetness is intoxicating but never heady, as it releases itself in small spurts of nectar. Lys Méditerranée may start off as innocent as a Madonna Lily but continues on to an almost pornographic nectar-dripping seduction.

Lys Méditerranée was designed by Edouard Fléchier for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums. Other perfumes by Fléchier: Une Rose for Frederic Malle, Dior's Poison and Tendre Poison, Christian Lacroix C'est La Vie, Montana Parfum de Homme and the reformulation of Montana Parfum de Peau.

Photo: The Secret Life of an Easter Lily courtesy of Steve Kirby.

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Interesting Read: Aftel and Laudamiel featured in Flare

Click here to download two PDF pages from Flare's interview with Natural Perfumer Mandy Aftel and IFF Perfumer Chritopher Laudamiel.
The article presents two different directions in Modern Perfumery. A must read for you!

P.s. It comes in two pages that need to be downloaded one after the other.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Une Fleur de Cassie

Une Fleur de Cassie by Dominique Ropion has a perfumey, flowery-powdery, indolic and wet presence. It surprises with a counterpoint of contrasting elements that work harmonioiusly despite the fact that some of them are very single-minded and stubborn. Aside from a high concentration of Cassie absolute, the notes I find most dominant in Une Fleur de Cassie are a highly indolic Jasmine accord accented even further to the domain of body odours by essence of cumin. The cumin is subtle yet carnal, which is very contradictory to the cool, green and aloof note of violet leaf echoing the cassie. In addition, orris root contributes a buttery powderiness, which along with the cumin feels warm and sensual. The base is sweetened with vanilla and balanced with the lead-like pencil-shaving note of cedarwood, which invokes the texture of wet green clay, musty and dusty.

Une Fleur de Cassie starts a bit perfumey, though not as much as Mimosaique. It is unmistakably a Cassie perfume. Cassie, also known asAcacia Farnesiana or Sweet Acacia, has an intense note that can be quite objectionable when undiluted or in high concentration. As I said earlier, it is one of the most unusual floral notes because it is a floral base note and provides an interesting floral foundation for other lighter floral notes. It is rarely used in such concentration as in Une Fleur de Cassie, and therefore it is not surprising that it often garners ambivalent or repulsive reactions. However, this is what makes it unique. And particularly when played by this particular ensemble of notes such as the cumin.

According to Basenotes, the notes are:
Top Note: Cassie, Mimosa, Jasmine, Clove, Cumin, Bergamot,
Middle Notes: Rose, Violet, Apricot, Aldehyde, Salicylate,
Base Notes: Musk Ketone, Cedarwood, Sandalwood.

The photo is courtesy of my brother, Yotam Dehan, a Desert Ranger in the Dead Sea area. It is a blue robin on an Acacia tree in the Yehuda Desert near the Dead Sea. You can also view more photos by Yotam on his photolight webpage.

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