Sunday, June 20, 2010

Put Your Nose Into Use: Father's Day Fragrance Picking

Dior's Eau Sauvage ad
Dior's Eau Sauvage ad
René Gruau

The following is pretty much a summary of the presentation given at my Espionage Tea Party last week. My apologies for taking forever to put this together... I hope you find it useful and wish you all a happy and fragrant Father's Day!

Since it is Father’s Day today, and I’m sure all of you are just dying to finally get your dad to smell nice instead of getting him a tie, a toolbox or an iPad - the topic of masculine fragrances is inevitable. The thing is – we don’t really know what is it about scents that make them masculine. Somehow, we just seem to be able to tell once we smell them, yet without explanation. Is there truly a gender distinction in fragrance? Or is it just that we were programmed that way? Let’s find out.

The entire concept of gender-specific scents did not come into place until recently. India and Arabia, the two most ancient perfume civilizations that have maintined their olfactory culture to this day, pay little attention to such notions and wear whatever scents they find attractive and appealing, flowers included: Indian men love to wear jasmine, and Arab men have always adored roses.

The Western consumers, however, are obsessed with two conflicting concepts when choosing a fragrance: sexuality and cleanliness. The way this translates into the fragrance industry and the products we smell (or not) is quite fascinating. For example: Western perfumes have been for the most part gender-specific for the past 100 years or so, to the point that the world of men’s fragrance seems to have developed their own jargon, separate from the technicalities and specifications that perfumers normally would relate to. For example: you cannot, under any circumstances, expect to call a product “perfume” and expect men to buy into it. Perfume, as it turns out, is perceived as a completely girly and dainty affair. Men would only buy a scent if it’s called “aftershave”, “fragrance” or as it is most often referred to in North America - “Cologne”: a name that has very little to do with the true meaning of the term – which refers to a very light concentration of fragrance, and usually in a citrus-herbaceous category, intended for used mostly for hygienic purposes – and has direct lineage to the “Aqua Mirabillis” of medieval times.

Technicalities aside, the aesthetics of Western “masculine perfumery” pose an interesting challenge for the perfumer. The palette seems to be so much more limited than that which is “allowed” in feminine perfumes. Therefore, masculine fragrances seem to have reached a certain plateau in innovation that is only occasionally shuttered by original or slightly gender-bending scents.

So let’s break a few myths on the topic:

Myth: no. 1: “If a man wears a perfume designed for women, it will make him smell like a girl”.
Reality: Men (or women) who think that way are forgetting the last yet most important ingredient in a fragrance, which is no other than the wearer’s own skin odour!
Each skin has a completely different scent, affected by the diet and metabolism of the person, as well as their own gender’s pheromone makeup. Men and women have a different body chemistry. Therefore, what truly makes a fragrance “masculine” or “feminine” smelling is the person who is wearing it!

By nature, men have a body odour that is more musky and sharp, and women have a body odour that is more ambery and soft. If the perfumer will try to compare these into specific notes, I’d say that the closest notes to a man’s body odour might combine notes such as sandalwood, costus, cumin, hay, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss and tonquin musk. A woman’s body odour can be best imitated with notes such as labdanum, vanilla, benzoin, civet and honey absolute.

So, don’t forget that your skin is the real “base” for your perfume, and that what matters is how it smells on it! Be adventurous, and if you like the smell of amber, rose, tuberose or violet - don’t be shy and try them on. They will smell completely different than on a woman. Take my word for that.

Myth no. 2: “floral notes are feminine and are best avoided when choosing a scent for a man”.
Reality: Attributing floral notes (or any notes, for that matter), to one gender or another is for the most part culturally based and once presented to an individual from a different culture, will likely lose its meaning (as in the example of rose and jasmine I brought earlier). If Arab men feel comfortable enough with their masculinity when wearing soft and voluptuous roses, I can’t see any reason why to avoid this note (or any other floral note, for that matter), in fragrances designed to be worn by men.

The following are just a few examples of floral notes in perfumes that could be very “masculine” in character.

Rose Geranium - the floral fruity rosy yet minty, green and herbaceous qualities make this note perfect for masculine perfumes, which is why it is used extensively in perfumes from the Fougère family.

Orange Flower Absolute - Great for colognes and citruses of all types, but it can also be used for a more surprising, even a cutting edge oriental masculine fragrance. Orange blossom is often a heart note in tobacco based scents, to add a bit of indolic sweetness, fruitiness and a sparkle to the dry tannin notes.

Jasmine Grandiflorum - sweet and well rounded, widely used in masculine perfumes to bridge between sharp top notes and musky or mossy base notes.

Jasmine Sambac – this variety is more fruity and a tad more green (but in a very delicate way) than the grandiflorum, Sambac is an interesting addition to a men's scent, thought rarely used in Western perfumery.

Champaca - this spicy and heady tea-like and somewhat fruity exotic floral blends seamlessly into masculine compositions, such as Orientals and leathery types. It’s very cost prohibitive which is why you’re unlikely to find it in mainstream fragrances though.

Rose – as I mentioned earlier, rose can be somewhat of a challenge for the Western nose, particularly if trying to use it as a main note. But it certainly has a role in many male fragrances, even if it’s not as noticeable. Up until the late 19th century, it was actually still quite popular in bouquets for handkerchief fragrances for men, including also other soft florals such as violet and iris.

Carnation - a soft spicy floral note that is commonly used in Fougères.

Myth no. 3: “some notes are masculine, and some notes are feminine”.
Reality: As you’ve seen in the previous myth-crushing segment, context is everything. More than individual notes having specific gender, I would say the manner in which they interact with one another and the mood and personality they create is what truly matters. One thing that is true though, is that if thinking of the philosophical terms of what “masculine” and “feminine” mean, we could, perhaps, make the distinction between notes that are “projective” as opposed to notes that are “receptive”. Notes that approach you as opposed to notes that draw you in. This might explain why notes such as citrus, herbs and spices are often considered more masculine and are used in abundance in masculine fragrances (they simply “come and get you”), while other notes – more round and “receptive” so to speak, such as the floral and ambery notes, can be more readily perceived as “feminine”. Still, don’t let yourself forget that what really matters is how all these notes interact with one another. The question you should ask yourself is if the perfume itself “projective” or “receptive”.

For various reasons which I’ll attempt to explain in a moment, the archetypal masculine fragrances of Western perfumery belong mostly to four major fragrance families:

Citrus, Fougère, Woody-Oriental, and the Leather/Tobacco (the latter being a sub-category of the Chypre family – which is mostly feminine otherwise). So, when you smell a scent and recognize an immediate “masculine” character, what you are in fact recognizing is a fragrance family!

There are some historical and cultural reasons for those families being so strongly associated with men’s grooming, as well as some that are founded in the nature of masculine pheromones and men’s natural body odour.

Historically speaking, the art of shaving has a great influence on modern masculine fragrances. The Romans brought men’s grooming to heights that no other civilization have dared to explore before, resulting in a more sophisticated men’s grooming culture, some of which has survived to this day.

Fragrant aftershaves serve the purpose of disinfecting scrapes, cuts and wounds that occur during shaving, as well as sooth, soften and moisturize the skin afterwards. The essential oils of citrus peels, and herbs and spices such as bay leaf, juniper, lavender and allspice have disinfecting properties, as well as softening and conditioning the skin. It is through those associations of men’s shaving and grooming rituals that we learned to associate certain scents with masculinity. For example: Bay-Rum aftershave, which is a spicy concoction of allspice, cinnamon, cloves, bayberry, bay leaves and orange peel steeped in rum has a strong connection to the composition of the classic men’s fragrance Old Spice.

Most aftershaves contain notes such as citrus and herbs, chosen originally for their astringent and antibacterial properties, and later on by association became an olfactory trademark of masculinity, which is most evident in the Fougère fragrance family – which is based on the contrast between herbaceous lavender, musky oakmoss and powdery-soft coumarin; and the citrus-fantasy fragrance family.

There is a reason why woody scents are associated with masculine scents: Sandalwood oil has a unique chemical make up that is quite similar to androstenol – a pheromone found in men’s sweat. But sandalwood is not the only woody notes found in abundance in masculine fragrances – cedarwood comes to mind, with its distinct lumber and pencil shaving aroma. Perhaps we have also learned to associate woodworking with masculinity because most of the manual labour was done by men through centuries? But who cares, as long as it smells good!

Guiacwood, with its smoky and honeyed aroma is also a prominent note in tobacco scents. Other woodsy notes commonly found in masculine fragrances are not necessarily derived from woods, for example: patchouli (the dried, cured leaves of an East Indian herb from the mint family) and vetiver, from the root of a tropical grass which comes in a range of varieties from smoky to clean and nearly citrusy.

Some notes have a pretty literal explanation as far as the origin of their sex appeal, to the point that could verge on the vulgar if it’s not played right. Fresh cut grass resembles the scent of a certain masculine secretion, while cumin resembles the scent of men’s sweat. Both can be very appealing – or repelling, depending on the particular scent they are in and how much you apply.

The fresh cut grass note can be fresh and clean-smelling with a subtext that hints at sexual vigor and fertility yet without sending everyone screaming to the opposite direction… Cumin, with its sweet and musky tenacity, rather than smelling dirty to the point of questioning the wearer’s hygienic habits – will create a comfortable and alluring sense of intimacy.

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How To Pick a Fragrance for a Man?

Now to the fun part, and the most challenging of all: how to pick a scent for a man as a gift? This is particularly tricky if you are trying to surprise him, and even more so - if you don't know him very well.

Despite my dislike for making generalizations about large sections of the population, I think it would be safe to say that the majority of men (with the rare exception of male perfumista) won’t readily admit they are interested in scents. It’s unlikely they will wear any fragrance, unless:

1) Their girlfriend (or any other significant female figure in their life) bought them a cologne for Christmas or another special occasion
2) They are deeply convinced that wearing a scent will attract a partner

Therefore, it becomes the women’s responsibility to educate and manipulate the men’s olfactory lives, be it by gifting them with fragrance, or openly commenting on how they happen to smell like.

My male clients are dear to me not only because they are so rare, but also because they have sensibilities about the olfactory world that are different than women’s. In my upcoming tea party I aim to educate my men to take their olfactory life into their own hands, and dare to wear what they like. But for the rest of my clients (admittedly, mostly ladies) – why won't you try to pick a scent that has the potential of captivating your man’s imagination and appealing to his own sensibilities. Men, even if they don’t admit it as readily as women, enjoy and appreciate scent very much, if they are only allowed to believe that it’s important and not overtly self-indulgent!

But how could you tell what they would like?
Part of it is intuition, and part of it is logic. People tend to be drawn to similar types of scents, aromas and flavours in real life, many of which can be found in natural perfumery!

The following tips will give you ideas about how you can gather information about a man’s olfactory preferences, without asking them too many questions. If you know the person for a long time, this might be easier. But if you don’t know him, a quick look around his home and taking notice of his favourite foods and which drinks he orders at the bar might provide you with just enough sufficient information.

When ordering food in the restaurant – does he tend to order spicy or aromatic foods, or is he simply a “meat and potato” kind of guy? If he likes spices, mostly likely he will also enjoy fragrance that incorporate them, e.g.: Spicy Orientals such as Opium, Habit Rouge or Épice Sauvage. If his palate does not seem as sophisticated, you may just want to go with a “safe” classic fragrance from the citrus or Fougère family, i.e.: Azzaro.

If he likes to drink gin and tonic, see how he likes a scent with juniper berries or citrus, such as Arsenal; or if he likes scotch, he probably will also appreciate Espionage’s peaty and full-bodied malty qualities, or enjoy something smoky, e.x. Bvlgari Black. And for the coffee lover – there are quite a few gourmand type fragrances with a pronounced coffee notes, such as Yohji Homme, Thierry Mugler's AMen Pure Coffee - or how about an exotic dermitasse of Finjan, a dark-roasted Turkish coffee scent?

And if you have a chance to spy on his house, see what you find in different rooms about scents and products he uses without raising suspicion.

In the kitchen:

What’s in his spice rack (if he’s got one)? What Herbs does he like to cook with? What kind food or drinks does he keep in his fridge? For example: if he likes herbs such as basil or oregano, it’s likely that he would also appreciate an aromatic Fougère that incorporates these notes, or a citrus with a sprinkle of herbs. If he likes fruity soft drinks, he might also enjoy a fragrance that has a hint of fruit or berries.

In the bathroom:

This is probably where he keeps all his grooming products, fragrance included (although I wouldn’t count on these to determine his personal taste! Like I said, these were probably chosen for him by a girlfriend in high school that thought it was very sexy, and now he’s just stuck with it for life, as well as all his future girlfriends, wives, daughters and granddaughters…). But it’s very likely that the choices he makes about innocent and less indulgent scented products such as shower gel, hand-soap, shampoo, soap bar etc. may give you a better insight into his true scent preferences.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Espionage Tea Party: Virtual Reconstruction

Spy Cam, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

A glimpse into the world of espionage and how the tea party went... Including some revealing shots from the preparations for such a risky operation. Many thanks to Monique Trottier and James Sherrett for their help and for documenting the event. I'm so thrilled with how fun it was and I'm particularly proud of my menu this time. I think for once I made exactly as many items as needed and they really felt like they belonged together.

There will be more tomorrow - about the presentation, for instance, and also about the very special teas and cocktail that were served to all the agents during the events.

Tools of the Trade, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

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Tier 5: Espionage Truffles

Espionage Truffles, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Of course, we had to have some of these... No other truffles would do!
50% dark chocolate (that's bordering with the milk, actually!), smoked salt, lapsang suchong, tonka bean and Hendricks gin!
This is the second recipe of this flavour concept, and I think it's perfection in both flavour and texture. Not that I'm the one to define perfection...

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Tier 4: Sweets

Sweets, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

I'm so proud of the chocolate & orange flower Madeleines (on the left) - they turned out amazing, and this is my first time making Madeleines!

The brownies, which I intended to infuse with thyme (bad idea, so I backed up on that plan, even though the idea came from a very innovative French patisserie). Instead, I created the most perfect (in my opinion) chocolate brownies with a bit of caramel and roasted walnuts. A simple and honest yet absolutely decadent flavour, which is my own recipe, and has no gluten! I'm so proud of this number I will be making it again and again and again.

And last but not least - in the background are my almond & grapferuit friands. Friands are moist and buttery little almond pastries made with almond meal, egg whites and little flour that are drenched in syrup. In this case: ruby red grapefruit and lemon verbena syrup. I'm so smitten with them, and also very glad to report that after 3 days they are just as good!
My recipe eliminated flour altogether because I had to accommodate some wheat intolerant guests - I used potato flour instead.

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Tier 3: Rosemary Cheese Scones

Scones, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

These are basically my dad's classic scones (no sugar!), with some of the buttermilk substituted with plain cottage cheese, about 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, some chilli pepper, fresh rosemary leaves and ground pepper and salt.
I served it with clotted cream, and caramelized onion marmalade which is warm and deeply flavoured with a tad of cinnamon (this was a gift from a friend and I can't think of a better pairing for it!).

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Tier 1 & 2: Sandwiches and Savouries

Eggplant and Polenta Appies, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Here's a closer look at the assortment of savoury canapes and tea sandwiches we served at the party. At the bottom: curried egg salad sandwiches (with a bit of raisins - that was Lucy's idea!) on fluffy brioche; Smoked salmon tea sandwiches with capers, dill and chives (a classic!) - made with Russian rye bread; and behind them (you can't see them) - smoked cheddar & gala apple sandwiches, on multigrain bread.

2nd tier featured roasted eggplant rolls filled with chevre and fig pesto (recipe to follow); and wheat & dairy free "bruchetta" - polenta slices with tomato, basil and black olives drizzled with the lightest sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. The olives makes a good substitute for cheese (this would more typically be served on bread with a sliced of bocconcinni - fresh mozzarella cheese).

8 dried figs
1/2 cup red wine
12 dry black olives (pickled in coarse salt, rather than brine), pits removed
1 cup walnuts
2 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. walnut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak figs overnight in red wine. Strain, remove stems and chop figs up. Blend with other ingredients in a blender until a chunky pesto-like consistency is achieved.
This pesto can be used on breads, cheeses and appetizers as well as pasta sauces.

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The Network

Here are some snapshots of the secret agents that attended the party. Agent M, who runs the network refused to release photos for security purpose (just kidding - she was too busy taking photos and nobody took a pix of her!)

Ayala and the tiered tea tray, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Teas, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


The Preparations

Making a Party, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Noriko and Ayala, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Here's a little sneak-view into the kitchen in the morning of a tea party. Noriko helped me get all the savouries and sandwiches ready and was just as much fun to work with as to hang out in less stressful occasions. Not to mention the result was impeccable - both visually and flavour wise. Thank you, Noriko!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Now Smell This Features Cabaret

Now Smell This article "Natural Perfumes: a few favorites" by guest author Trish Vawter, features Cabaret perfume by Ayala Moriel.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Vancouver Fashion eZine Features Ayala Moriel

The June online issue of Vancouver Fashion eZine features Ayala Moriel Parfums titled Scent Of A Woman. The print edition of this piece will come out in September 2010.
Thank you to Lisa Wong for an enjoyable interview. You should also check out her fashion blog - Solo Lisa, that even features recipes from her own kitchen!

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Recalling Loquats, Discovering Lychee

Walking by Stanley Park's Pitch & Putt the other day, I stumbled upon a blooming bush from the Fabaceae family.
And like I do with most flowers I’ve never seen before, I usually give them a little shake with my nose and say hello – just to learn if they have a scent or not. As it turns out, these nice yellow clusters, the size of lilac’s own blooming clusters, had a very familiar scent.

Many people can recognize a scent right away if they smelled it before. They may not be able to describe it or identify it, but it’s as if the molecules of the scent attach themselves to some part of our brain that they’ve stirred before, and zoom straight in there like magnets. Most people, however, will experience the olfactory equivalence of “a the tip of the tongue” phenomenon: the know it, but can’t name it. A perfumer, however, will most likely be able to recognize the scent right away or within seconds.

While I can’t identify the botanical name of this flower for you right this second, I could tell you instantly that they smelled of ripe, sweet, juicy, fragrant, organically-grown and not-over watered loquats! And to be perfectly precise, ones that were picked and peeled on a cooler spring day (perhaps early morning), rather than warmed-up by a hot April sun (which would have bring their sweetness into a jam-like density).

For a girl who grew up spending most of her spring break stapling brown paper-bags around loquat clusters (to hide them from the greedy birds!), I can tell you that nothing can be more disappointing the market or store bought loquats. They just won’t cut it.

And what’s the lychee got to do with that, you may ask? Well, It will only serve you right to share you this little odd piece of information that I just discovered last weekend: I discovered lychee in one of my perfumes!

One of the things I like the most about interacting with customers directly in events and markets is, that I can gain some of their insights into my scents and get another perspective in a most spontaneous and honest manner. Jenny, one of the two talented fashion designers of Two of Hearts, was visiting me last Sunday at Porotbello West and as she was browsing the perfume collection, she tried Cabaret. Her immediate reaction was “lychee!”. And when I smelled it again, with that notion, I could not for the life of me understand how come I did not make that connection earlier.

That being said, the power of suggestion should not be underestimated. For example, beginner perfumers are warned of an effect called “tunneling” when they create a perfume to match an existing one (a task equivalent to requesting a musician to play a tune “by ear”). The danger in doing so is that tunneling gives one the impression that the two resemble each other more than they actually do.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Milky Oolong

Milky Oolong, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

One gloomy spring day, I sought refuge from the daily stresses and a twitched heart by taking tea at the Urban Merchant’s new tea salon (1070 West Georgia).
Assisting me in search of a tea that is not aromatized but very aromatic - their tea ambassador recommended milky oolong. The name peaked my curiosity, which was temporarily satisfied as I buried my head halfway down a bucket-sized tin of the above-mentioned botanical gem. As it turned out, the tea was well represented: the crunched-up dry leaves had the aroma of butterscotch, which is nothing short of a miracle. Steeped in hot water (95 C / 203 F), the tea leaves unfurl to reveal an aromatic palette that is simultaneously complex, light and rich. The steam emanated a refreshing transparency as the droplets of clear tea condensed on the transparent glass. Sipping away, it was indeed what it promised: milky and smooth, with the illusion of caramel yet with no sugar or milk in sight. It also has a transparent floral aspect to the nose, and than the buttery milky smoothness comes back in the sweet aftertaste, that appears in your mouth and throat after the tea was swallowed. Even the second steeping gave away an astonishingly vibrant aroma (and I wish I had the time to stay in for more steeping – but that would have taken the whole day!).

This milky oolong tea is the most pricy tea I’ve ever encountered, even among fancy oolongs. But the price is well worth it: it can be re-steeped for up to 7 times, and the intensity of aroma is surprisingly potent well into the 4th steeping.

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Japanese Cherry White Tea

WHEN YOU STEP into Michi, there is a particular scent in the air, like mimosa and leather and iris. It is yet to be established whether the scent is intentional ambiance or the result of the new leather furniture in this spanking new café: Michi Waffle and Espresso Bar is a Japanese dessert and beverages cafe that opened on Robson less than 3 months ago, in March 2010. Besides espresso and waffles, they also offer a nice selection of small desserts (Madeleines, tuiles, and the most amazing matcha shortbread I have ever tasted in my life), plus fascinating Japanese smoothies such as matcha with red bean, and fresh taro root. I only discovered it now and it instantly became a favourite spot for neither espresso nor waffles (which I am yet to try), but… tea!

And to be more precise, their organic Japanese cherry white tea. I picked that tea first for a reason - I thought it could serve as a good indicator of the quality of teas overall in that location. Cherry flavours (and cherry-flavoured teas are no exception) are usually very artificial-tasting with a fierce bitter-almond aroma that I’m not fond of at all. I was hoping the fact that it is labeled as “organic” makes for a high probability that there will be none of the artificial flavouring. Thankfully, I was not only spared the bitterness, but also pleasantly surprised: As it turns out, this particular tea is stunning!

The white tea leaves are lightly infused with the light aroma of cherry blossoms: a delicate floral aroma that is a little hard to describe, but has a transparent, floral-nutty and soft texture. There is no bitterness from either the tea leaf or the cherry blossoms. It’s exceptionally beautiful and I only wish I have discovered it earlier, as it would have made a wonderful way to celebrate the sakura season while it still lasted. Oh well, there is always next year!

The other teas at Michi all seem rather promising, or at least decent, including organic jasmine green tea, English Breakfast, Assam, Earl Gray, a few Rooibos flavours and a selection of herbal teas that includes the more obscure rose petals and osmanthus blossom. All teas are served in individual glass teapots that are re-steeped upon request up to several times (and must, because the tea becomes too strong after a while – so be sure to request for more water or remove the strainer before it gets to that point). In fact, I think that a teapot might be better for sharing with another person. Which is really how all teas should be served in, rather than a paper cup with a tea bag.

And there is something to be said about the atmosphere at this place –the décor is sleek and minimalist with dark leather furniture and hardwood floors, an whole spread of fashion magazine in English and Japanese, and a nice lounge by the front windows with couches that would make for a perfect spot for catching up with a few friends. And if you come here alone the staff is as friendly and helpful as you could ever hope for.

Michi is located on 1319 Robson Street, corner with Jervis. Tel. (604) 568-8750

P.s. this article was originally posted June 3rd but was accidentally deleted due to Blogger tech issues today. I have recovered it and posted it again.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Rose Praline

So this is the dessert that inspired Rose Praline by Le Parfums de Rosine: a full-size rose macaron filled with rose cream and fresh lychee fruit, and red ripe raspberries dancing in a circle to keep the layers afloat. And above all - a fragrant edible rose petal and a perfect dew-drop made of honey. The full-bodied floralcy of rose is well balanced with the tartness of the lychees and raspberries. The texture of all is perfectly balanced between crunchy crackling crust and chewy macaron that melts into marzipan in your mouth, and a soft smooth cool cream with the pieces of lychee fruit, which are the real surprise in the whole thing (because you don’t see them until you bite into them!).

Isphahan by Pierre Herme, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

When I visited Le Parfums de Rosine in Paris last year, the young girl at the shop was keen on conversing with me about her favourite macaron. I think only in Paris this can be a topic for conversation with a stranger. Damn, I miss Paris!

Anyway, this conversation lead to the Rosine new perfume at the time, Rose Praline, which was inspired by this dessert. I didn’t wear it much back than, but missing Paris, macarons and going to French class tonight made me try it for real today.

Rose Praline is a bright, fruity-green rose with underlining sweetness of vanilla and chocolate. The opening is tart and green, somewhat raspberry-like but not exactly realistic. It is this opening that made me avoid Rose Praline for the longest time as it reminds me of two of my green-rose vices – l’Ombre dans l’Eau and Rose Ikebana. The berry note in all three is a little off-putting for me. But in Rose Praline it’s a little softer and less in your face.

Geranium plays an interesting role here, adding a crushed leaf impression while also giving the feeling of a mouthwatering fruitiness as well as full-bodied, wine-like rose qualities. It reminds me of how I like to add geranium leaf to iced lychee tea juice…

And speaking of tea: there is the sparkling Earl Grey reference of bergamot, the classic chai spiciness from cardamom, and just a whiff of smoky Lapsang Suchong that is so subtle you can easily miss it unless someone told you about it…

The raspberry and greens never quite leave the dessert here, but stick around while the rose, chocolate and vanilla weave their way in. It’s not exactly a linear scent, but there is not much evolution except that it becomes gradually more like a soft-focus version of its fruity beginnings. The bottom line is musk, which I personally am beginning to tire of. It seems like all modern perfume must have a synthetic musk and it just stops feeling original lately. But with that being said, Rose Praline is a fun scent that I am glad to have at least a sample of to reminisce about Paris until I save up for another trip. That being said, I think Rose Praline has the potential of becoming a favourite Rosine for me, after Poussiere de Rose and Rose Kashmirie. They sure know how to highlight the roses and at the same time create distinct perfumes that are everything but boring.

And I’m even more convinced that Rose Praline was made for me because of the following description I just found on the Rosine website:
“Her universe is her friends. Around a cup of tea, her afternoons shell between candies and confidences. Exuberant and talkative, she is a sparkling and sweet young lady”.
I may not be that sweet, but this is surely my favourite way of spending an afternoon – with my friends, giving them sweets that I bake. Hm…

Top notes: Cardamom, Bergamot, Rose, (and in my opinion also a Raspberry note)
Heart notes: Rose, Geranium, Chocolate Powder, Lapsang Suchong Tea
Base notes: Amber, Sandalwood, White Musk, Cacao (and I suspect a good dose of vanilla too)

Le Parfums de Rosine, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What To Wear On A First Date?

If you frequent perfume fora like I do, you've probably stumbled upon this question - and it's many varying answers - more than once.

Women may spend hours if not days trying to put together an outfit for a first date. And for perfumistas like us, an outfit is never complete without the finishing touch of a dab or spray of perfume that would make you feel special and confident, and leave a lasting impression.

This is also true for men. Making the extra effort of putting a scent on shows the other person that the man got style. I may be a minority, but I think that even bad style is better than no style at all...

First impressions are very important. Within seconds of meeting a new person, we form an opinion of them – based on their looks, their clothing, their emotional state, eye contact, and their scent (are you surprised?).

Selecting which scent to wear can be nearly as daunting as dating itself and as challenging as finding a perfect mate (can such thing even exist?!). The right scent depends greatly on who you are as well as your particular mood, the date setting, and what impression you want to make when meeting a new person. But rather than go through a long, logical thinking process that will go through all the options, scenarios and the combinations possible, I honestly think you should use your gut feeling and pick something that truly represents the real you. Confidence is not only emotionally healthy traits: they are also attractive. And wearing the right scent can boost your self-esteem and make you more attractive.

Wear “your skin but better” scents, to show them the real you. A skin scent would be a scent that brings the best from your own skin rather than mask your natural scent. Body odour is actually an important factor of choosing a mate, so if you cover up who you are, you are makint the task even more difficult for both yourself and your date.

More than any other scent, I have worn Espionage on most of the first dates I’ve gone on, and it seems it always was a good choice (which I may not be able to say about the dates themselves, but surely the presence of my invisible friend floating on my skin helped me survive them!).
Espionage is the one scent that I feel most comfortable in. I feel it best portrays who I am on different levels and dimensions. You may have your own “signature scent” or a scent you’ve traveled so much with in life that it nearly transcends the time-space barrier, making it suitable for any and all situations, moods and occasions. I just happen to feel that way with Espionage.

Other “skin scents” that I adore include Agent Provocatuer and Kisu (be sure to apply it well in advance – and I mean several hours before to get the maximum effect), and the raunchier Muscs Kublai Khan, with its animalic dark musk and costus. All these scents are suitable for both men and women in my opinion. But of course, you will have to try for yourself and pick the scent that is most compatible with your own body chemistry.

If you want to play it more safe, I suggest you go with Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely or Narciso Rodriguez for Her. Both are the “clean musk” type and have a bit of the fresh-laundry vibe to them, which make them cozy and inviting and non-intimidating. Since both are rather feminine, I feel obliged to suggest a masculine counterpart. For the gentlemen going on their first date, something breezy like Cool Water or Pure Turquoise may not be as adventurous, but it can become quite appealing on the right person; and if you want to be a little more edgy, Narciso Rodriguze for Him might do the trick.

Sometimes your choice for a first date fragrance may have a lot to do with your mood or the season though. What can be more perfect than wearing Spring Flower when going on a brunch date or to scout a flea market on a gorgeous spring day? Or Bronze Goddess (formerly known as Azuree de Soleil) or Terracotta Eau Sous le Vent, or GiGi for a walk on on the sunny beach, and for a man – I think the sexiest genre is that of aromatic fougeres with a higher dose of citrus, such as Annick Goutal’s Eau de Sud.

I’ve worn my Hanami on a what turned out to be a very romantic first date: it was a rainy spring evening and all the cherry blossoms were out, and we had to walk together under the same umbrella as he walked me home.

And don’t be afraid to show a side of yourself that is a little more daring if that’s what you are craving. Even a powerhouse scent like Chinatown, Angel, Habanita or Kouros can be the right choice as long as you don’t over apply!
For stronger scents, it’s better to apply by dabbing whenever possible (i.e.: if you own the parfum extrait, they usually come in a flacon with a dabber); or apply the scent by spraying it to one wrist only, than “sharing” this one spritz with the other wrist and at the nape of your neck or behind the ears. Or, you can transfer a small amount to a roll-on bottle for a more discreet application (and for travel).

Lastly, you’ve got to love them aphrodisiacs, as cliché as they may have become by now. Since men seem to be all into vanilla, this can be an effortless affair, with a classic such as Shalimar, or with something a little less demanding and more gourmand such as L de Lolita Lempicka. And for the men who want to impress us women, how about a perfume that has an overdose of sandalwood, which is the closest thing to the men pheromone. I love how it’s played in Egoiste and Bois des Îles (although neither is too easy to find) as well as Tam Dao.

Have fun with picking a scent for your first date, it doesn’t need to be all that serious. It’s just going to leave a life-long, lasting impression this way or the other… And to summarize, I only suggest you remember these two golden rules:
1) Highlight who you truly are by selecting scents that you feel comfortable and confident wearing.
2) Apply with discretion. Too much of a good thing can have the complete opposite effect than you wish. Remember: a scent is meant to attract and invite people to get closer, not repel them and send them gasping for air in the opposite direction!

What scents do you reach for before going on a date? Recommendations from both men and women would be most welcome. I'd also be curious to hear about your horror perfume-dating scenarios (from either side - wearing it or smelling it!).

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