Monday, August 30, 2010

When the pricing is perfect...

Pricing is considered an art form by some. Not so much the art of crunching numbers and making sure that a business can be feasible with the price point it sets for each individual product, and the price range it offers to customers of various buying powers or whims... But more so: which price will be the winning number, which price tag will get more bottles off the shelf at the right pace - not painfully slow - but not exuberantly fast either.

After some soul-searching, there have been some price adjustments to some of the products. The main change is to the 10ml roll-ons and the 9ml extrait in the pretty French flacons... I decided to give them both the same price.
While the price increase ($120 instead of $110) for the flacons might be a little devastating to some, it reflects the exclusivity of the bottles (they are more hard to find than I can being to tell you... And I'm running very low on stock and having really hard time to re-stock). The 10ml roll-on bottles, on the other hand, went down by $10 (they are now $120 as well, but used to be $130 till recently). I have decided to change the price to make it more attractive in comparison to the 5ml roll-on. Getting the larger size saves me the trouble of packaging and labeling 2 bottles instead of just one - and you get $10 off!

Another labeling and packaging woe always goes to samples. From an introductory $8 a sample some 6 years ago, the price went gradually up to $10, $11 and finally, the actual price it costs me to put a sample together - considering the natural raw materials, alcohol, labels, vials and last but not least - labour!
It takes just as much work to bottle a sample that it is a full bottle. It is also just as much work to put together an order for a single sample (print order, do the customs form for the package, etc.). My prices now reflect that. And while I'm happy to send individual samples, I'm happier to put together a sample package which contributes more to the cashflow and is just about the same amount of work - so these will still be offered at a slight discount. Another reason, which actually more important, is that most of my customers like to have a fragrance wardrobe, so the sample package is an important step to help them choose this wardrobe. And for those who can't afford a full wardrobe just as yet - the sample package gives a little taste of the experience in a small portable size...

These days I'm working slowly but surely on restocking all my perfumes for the fall. The holiday rush seems to already have began, believe it or not! I am already getting fragrance wardrobe orders, and the holiday markets are going to begin in no time.

Therefore, I've decided to pre-package some of my 10ml roll-ons in some scents that are extremely popular in the oil base. I'm aiming to have everything in that size come fall, but for now, you will be happy to know that there are a few of them awaiting you in the abundance of 10ml pure perfume based in jojoba oil:
Bon Zai
Roses et Chocolat
White Potion

And of course, if you want to order anything else, I will gladly prepare it for you, but it might require a maturing time of 7-30 days (it depends on what materials are in each perfume - some require a longer aging process and even filtration, while other do not).

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Frangipanni Gloves in Fragrantica

Frangiapnni Gloves is mentioned in Fragrantica's article about Plumeria, or Frangipanni. It's also featured in the website's fragrance directory.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hybrid Mom of the Week + Giveaway!

As it turns out, I was chosen as the Hybrid Mom of the Week by Hybrid Mom online magazine & community for business-mothers...
And there is also a giveaway! As part of Win-It-Wednesday, I'm giving away a mini of Ayalitta parfum to one lucky commenter who shares with us your dreams about your own custom scent!
Answer the question of the week here, or on the Facebook page, or for an extra chance to win - comment on both pages!

What is Hybrid Mom?
"Hybrid Mom (hy brid mom, n.): An adult female who has discarded outdated and unrealistic conceptions of motherhood. She is parent, wife, volunteer, and sometimes entrepreneur, all in one. Known for her strength, sense of humor, and flexibility, a hybrid mom is actually a fusion of roles that suit her own individuality.

Hybrid Mom is a reality magazine for moms, by moms, Hybrid Mom magazine truly taps into the minds, hearts and emotions of today’s moms".

Are you a Hybrid Mom too? Leave a comment below and tell us how you do it all!
This will automatically enter your name to win yet another giveaway: a mini of your choice* (value of $48) from Ayala Moriel's collection.

* Not including the boutique exclusives.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Progress Report

Trying to get ahead of the game (aka the holiday rush), I did some serious blending of batches today: ArbitRary, Bon Zai, Song of Songs, Vetiver Racinettes... Last time I blended these was in April. It took only 4 months to sell out of the jus. Wow! And a particularly big wow for Bon Zai, which I make giant batches of (in my terms). I hope I will be able to keep up with the demand for these sparkling incense scent.

It's been a very busy summer so far (and it's not quite over yet). Some of my goals haven't even been remotely met (namely: filing my tax return). In other (and I think more important) areas, I have exceeded my expectations: opened in 4 stores in Vancouver (yay!): Gentille Alouette, The Velvet Room and Dream (the latter has two locations - one in Granville Island and the other in Gastown).

I also completed the first products in my body products line: 2 sugar scrubs and 4 anointing body oils. I'm excited to be adding a new bath salt scent (Vetiver) to replace the Lavender one. I've also come up with larger packaging for the bath salts (anywhere from 400-500gr, depending on salt involved).

This summer has been also busy with press - lots of interviews, almost one a week. The Georgia Straight article was certainly the highlight, it really makes me feel fuzzy inside to my bottles featured at the same week as Cirque de Soleil in Vancouver's most widely distributed and probably most widely read weekly newspaper. But this is just one in a list that is too long to mention, and it's all thanks to my publicist's wonderful work.

And when there's press, there is also more work to do... My Midsummer Tea Party has been more than just full, and there were lots of new guests to the studio in the summer months (weren't you all suppose to be on vacation somewhere?!). So I have to come up with a serious to plan as to how to stock enough truffles or other simple to serve yet decadent treats to whomever sets foot on my door.

And also, I've been lucky to participate in several exciting events, which I have enjoyed very much. The most fabulous of all so far has been Polymath's fashion show at the Opus Hotel, which I've sponsored with my fragrant truffles * gift certificates for the goodie bags. And in others, although I was merely a guest, I found very valuable for networking with like minded business people in the fashion as well as sustainable living and food industry... It seems like the city has come along way since I came here nearly 12 years ago (back than, nearly nothing was open past 9pm and there was nowhere, and I mean nowhere, to go to). So all in all - it's been a fantastic summer, and this week is going to be packed with more events, after which I think I will have to take a little break from all this over-socializing, as much as I enjoy it, and start getting my daughter ready for school etc.

But as long as summer is still here... I'm going to enjoy my summer routine as long as the sun will allow me to: doing the majority of my computer work in the patio or the courtyard by the lovely pond we got in the back of the building), work hard all day and than go and camp at the beach with a basket of cherries till sunset...


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Winner of Summer Giveaway

The winner of our Summer Scents 2010 blog feature giveaway is:
You will receive a 15ml bottle of Song of Songs Anointing Body Oil.
Please contact me via email with your mailing address.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let's Give Them Something to Blog About (Giveaway)

10pm. The phone rings. My brother is in a crisis situation: he forgot to put a scent on before leaving his house to go out with a bunch of friends. Good thing his sister lives only 4 blocks away... I get 2 minutes to pull out a scent that he will like and will be suitable for his dangerous mission.

The specifications: something from Hermes (he's really smitten with Poivre Samarkand, but I don't have that one). I bring down all my Hermes scents... Line them up. I picked up 2 things, and was hoping he would pick something that he has never worn before. What would that be?

Guess the answer correctly, and enter to win a mini of Jo Malone's Grapefruit Cologne.
If you haven't a clue, click here to listen to the song that inspired the title of this blog post!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Composing with Eliza (Gentille Alouette Round 2)

Today I brought in the essences we hand-picked last time to re-sniff, review, sift through and select the ones that will actually be used to formulate the Gentille Alouette perfume.
Part of the process is selecting which essences to use is also to imagine how they will smell together. Another part is prioritizing – because if you got too many essences the perfume will easily loose character and become just a cacophony of pleasant odours that don’t have anything special to say to one another and just scream “me, me, me!” in an attempt to get attention.

And me being the perfumer and facilitator of such a process is like walking a tightrope: on one hand, I want to listen to the client’s innermost fragrant desires; on the other hand I must guide them so that it won’t be a waste of time, not to mentio precious material. The process must be meaningful and enjoyable, allowing the client to have a say in the decision making throughout the various stages of development. As to not interfere too much with the process, I begin without negating options just because I think that they “won’t work” or because it’s “straying from the original concept”. I will get there at some point, and offer my expertise in what would work and what wouldn’t, give suggestions, alternatives and invent narratives that will make every compromise (if such a thing is really necessary) feel like a choice and not like lessening of the dream.

The elimination process with Eliza was smooth sailing. Although she loves many different types of scents (we picked 30 raw materials to start with!) she also had a very clear vision for what she wanted. And when it came to the 2nd round, she was just as harsh as I was with letting go and cutting things out, understanding that it’s not about the attachment to a particular note – but about how it will work together as a whole with the vision she had for Gentille Alouette perfume.
To assist us in the process, we used touches (scent strips) that we dipped in the various essences and clipped together. Waving them in front of the nose in a spiraling motion gets the molecules mingled together in the air and gives off a scent that alludes to what would be if… this will be mixed with that. And unlike actual blending – it’s possible to not only add things in – but also take them out if you don’t like the result. While it does not give a good grasp on the proportion, a skilled nose can know if he’s heading in the right direction. Because the scents strips are just one part – the other part is the imagination, the vision, and once in the lab – knowing how to put them all together so the essences can dance, sing and bloom on the skin.

Our process was nearing its end, when we had a surprise visitor at the shop: a long time customer of mine and a fellow Portobello West vendor: Gerry-Gail (GG) Endean of Creampuffs by GG. Her signature scent is GiGi, with which she fell in love instantly upon her first visit to the market (by the second or third visit she has already become a vendor…). GG sells her “creampuffs” or girlie boxer shorts at Gentille Alouette and dropped by to restock the shop with more creampuffs AND show off the new fabaric swatches for the upcoming collection. We let her sniff the perfume and as you can tell by the sheer bliss expression on her face – she liked it just as much as we did… And than a bunch of other customers showed up too and we had a blast just looking at their faces as they smell this very particular, freshly made-up combination of notes.

Next post: what I’ve done with all those essences (and what essences?!) when I came back to my studio…

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Handpicking Essences

Life is a waving feather., originally uploaded by Olivia Bee.

We start from the top notes, which are easy and accessible, as they are very fleeting and familiar– citrus notes such as grapefruit and blood orange. Spices like star anise and fresh ginger root. Eliza surprises me with picking up lavender and telling me how much she loves it. Most people finds it calming and relaxing and associate it with the feeling of well-being. Here’s a twist and a turn to what I thought would be an herb-free perfume… She also likes rosewood, which shares some similarities with lavender, but is more light and floral and “perfumey”.

I was sure Eliza will love all the heart notes, but she ended up being more a base note gal. I knew she’s going to love rose and jasmine (and she did), but I was surprised she did not like tuberose and orange blossom, even though she was extremely smitten with the Neroli! Another two surprises where her immediate connection and ease with more quirky essences, namely geranium and boronia… Both essences which I would have not thought of to begin with, and haven’t put them in my initial “sketch” for the perfume.

Moving to the base notes, we complied quite an overwhelming collection of notes. All the woodsy notes drew Eliza in like magic – sandalwood, agarwood, amyris, hinoki, frankincense… Everything woody seems to invoke a dreamy expression on her face as if she just found a vintage fabric she forgot she had and now she can finally find a use for it. But locally growing trees like fir and cedarwood made her even more excited.

This is why it’s so important to do the olfactory journey session, even though it takes a long time, through this process the client unlocks memories and discovers essences that played a big part of their lives but are long forgotten, or discovers new loves. And from the perfumer’s point of view, the seemingly random array of notes that the client picks poses a challenge. How can they work together? And will they work together? Which fragrance family could they belong to, if at all? These strange combinations, the imperfections so to speak, the most challenging pairings, are what make a perfume interesting and can make the whole difference between just another pretty smelling thing to a work of art.

Tomorrow I will be bringing all the essences we hand-picked in the 1st round last week, and we will sniff through them again to pick the ones that resonate most with Eliza and the spirit of Gentille Alouette. We have no more and no less than 30 essences that were chosen in the 1st round, so there is a lot of wonderful smells to go through. And this time I’m even more curious to see what stories and expressions they will bring out this session, because it will be a lot more focused.

We start from the top notes, which are easy and accessible, as they are very fleeting and familiar– citrus notes such as grapefruit and blood orange. Spices like star anise and fresh ginger root. Eliza surprises me with picking up lavender and telling me how much she loves it. Most people finds it calming and relaxing and associate it with the feeling of well-being. Here’s a twist and a turn to what I thought would be an herb-free perfume… She also likes rosewood, which shares some similarities with lavender, but is more light and floral and “perfumey”.

I was sure Eliza will love all the heart notes, but she ended up being more a base note gal. I knew she’s going to love rose and jasmine (and she did), but I was surprised she did not like tuberose and orange blossom, even though she was extremely smitten with the Neroli! Another two surprises where her immediate connection and ease with more quirky essences, namely geranium and boronia… Both essences which I would have not thought of to begin with, and haven’t put them in my initial “sketch” for the perfume.

Moving to the base notes, we complied quite an overwhelming collection of notes. All the woodsy notes drew Eliza in like magic – sandalwood, agarwood, amyris, hinoki, frankincense… Everything woody seems to invoke a dreamy expression on her face as if she just found a vintage fabric she forgot she had and now she can finally find a use for it. But locally growing trees like fir and cedarwood made her even more excited.

This is why it’s so important to do the olfactory journey session, even though it takes a long time, through this process the client unlocks memories and discovers essences that played a big part of their lives but are long forgotten, or discovers new loves. And from the perfumer’s point of view, the seemingly random array of notes that the client picks poses a challenge. How can they work together? And will they work together? Which fragrance family could they belong to, if at all? These strange combinations, the imperfections so to speak, the most challenging pairings, are what make a perfume interesting and can make the whole difference between just another pretty smelling thing to a work of art.

Tomorrow I will be bringing all the essences we hand-picked in the 1st round last week, and we will sniff through them again to pick the ones that resonate most with Eliza and the spirit of Gentille Alouette. We have no more and no less than 30 essences that were chosen in the 1st round, so there is a lot of wonderful smells to go through. And this time I’m even more curious to see what stories and expressions they will bring out this session, because it will be a lot more focused.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Gentille Alouette Custom Perfume - Round I

Thursday morning. I'm in Gastown with a duffel bag containing roughly 400 vials of volatile essences. This is going to be the first round of creating a custom perfume for Gentille Alouette, a tiny boutique that opened about a year ago by fashion and costume designer Eliza Lau. Gentille Alouette also carries apparel by other indie and local designers, wearable art and unique jewelry pieces.

Eliza is a die-hard perfumista. We met at Make It Vancouver and she fell for my perfumes on the spot. On her first visit to my studio she confessed to me her life-long dream (or as she calls it - her "bucket list") has been to create her own custom scent. When I hear stuff like that I don’t know what to say – I am just awe-struck as to why she has picked me. And I feel humbled and at the same time really excited to work with someone that is so passionate about perfume. It’s rare!

On that visit, she also told me that her favourite notes are violet and orange blossom. With my hyperactive olfactory imagination, I immediately imagine how that would smell and envision a perfume that would smell like a cross between Viola and Zohar… But I must not get carried away. We have to do this properly and explore all the essences that Eliza holds near and dear.

So, that very Thursday last week, the purpose of our get-together at the shop was exactly this: to begin the process of hand-picking the most gorgeous essences, the ones that Eliza has the strongest connection with and feels that would be most suitable for what she has envisioned for Gentille Alouette’s perfume.

I enter the shop. Eliza just got back from a “weekend” the Sunshine Coast (retailers will hardly ever take the real weekend off like normal people) and she’s all happy and relaxed. Édith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien is playing in the background. A most befitting soundtrack for the little shop’s settings and also for the scent that Eliza envisions – seductive floral with a retro wink to the grand dame’s era. We ambark on a journey that will take nearly 2 hours – picking the scents that together will sing the sparrow’s song in harmony… It’s an adventure for both of us: neither of us really knows where this journey is going to lead us. But we both know we will turn whatever we find on our journey into a beautiful and exciting new perfume.

Without this process, creating the perfume will be very much the perfumer’s work without much involvement except verbally from the person commissioning it. I intend to do no shortcuts with this perfume because if it’s Eliza’s dream, than we must make the creation itself something to dream about and look forward to…

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Must Read, Must Act

The chances that you in the USA and as a result in all North America will be able to use any natural products, essential oils and natural perfumes included, is in danger. Not to mention the livelihood of many small businesses, due to the "Campaign for Safe Cosmetics".

"The thinking behind the wording of SCA 2010 is naive because there is an assumption that substances are either “safe” or “toxic”, and that if we simply eliminate the toxic ones from personal care products, the world will be a better place. It may seem like an excellent idea, but once you start talking about parts per million or lower, it is unnecessary and unrealistic. Not even foods are regulated to that degree, and our exposure to foods is far greater than our exposure to cosmetics".

Read the rest of Robert Tisserand's article, and if you live in the USA, please please please act on it and Sign the Oppose SCA Petition, write Congress, write Your Senator, vote "Oppose" on Open Congress, and see your representatives & senators in person during Summer Recess August 9 - September 12. If you are on Twitter, please follow the #OpposeSCA hashtag. to oppose this bill, which is draconian and ridiculous and will only ensure that we will all be only using synthetics that are manufactured by large corporations and are supposedly safe, rather than plants and oils that were used for thousands of years. It will do nothing for improving safety in cosmetics.

Other relevant links:
Oppose SCA
Indie Business Blog
Essential U
Personal Care Truth


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scents To Go With Summer + Giveaway

Before summer slips away… here are some of my summer staples this year in my perfume wardrobe. We’ve been blessed with a warm and sunny weather this summer (which I hope will prove to remain this way till it fades into fall). I’ve been spending each evening at the beach swimming in the otherwise freezing waters of the Pacific ocean. And I believe that this temporary change to my lifestyle, where my 2-level apartment turns into a beach house (quite literally: the entrance gets covered with sand every evening), my perfume choices are anything but the typical-Ayala wardrobe this summer.

I’ve been keeping my scent choices to the bare minimum. I find that scents are generally overbearing in the heat and tend to keep my scent choices similar to my garments this season - a minimal wardrobe whose highlights (both practically and style-wise) is Vancouver designed and made bikinis - and the rest are light fabrics to help me cool off (transparent white cotton shirts, bamboo and linen dresses, and screen printed nightgowns that are light as a feather), and some splashes of colour to keep everything lively and fun (how about some azure, turquoise and coral?).

So this is how my scent wardrobe looks like. It’s embarrassingly sparse but I love it this way.

Eau d’Orange Vert
Those who know my perfume tastes well enough should know that citrus is NOT my favourite fragrance family. I adore the scent of lemon verbena and lemongrass, not to mention the simple yet timeless aroma of freshly squeezed lemon and their zest dripping into the lemon juice (my favourite way to make a salad dressing is this and a drizzle of olive oil. Nothing more is necessary!). However, I find most citrus scent to lack dramatically in the area of originality or interest. This is greatly due to the fact that most citrus notes are top notes, and fade at an embarrassingly fast rate, usually leaving behind a “meh” trail of nondescript florals or woods, or, worse, the dreaded synthetic musks that are so common in nearly all modern perfumes. Eau d’Orange Vert is everything but a boring citrus. It bursts like a bubble of ether on a plump bitter orange peel. It’s dry yet juicy and nearly mouthwatering – as refreshing as a gin and tonic. It is absolutely non floral at all, which helps to cut through the heat, whether dry or humid; and last but not least important - it conceals a slightly mossy base with a light sprinkle of oakmoss, and that gives it the ultimate appeal for a Chypre lover like myself. Unforutnatley, this has been reformulated quite recently to include no oakmoss at all. And while it still has the juiciness of a grapefruit pulp plus a hint of green mango, both of which very refreshing, it is not as classy as the original. Nevertheless, still better than many other citrus out there.

Terracota Eau Sous La Vent
For those fine evenings at the beach, this strange product which is suppose to enhance tanning (I’m not sure I can attest to that) smells like a stunning white florals at nightfall and is refreshing yet creamy. It makes for a erfect beach scent, and its scent blends nicely enough with most sunscreens – and especially my favourite, which I will discuss shortly.

Hawaiian Tropics Sunscreen
Of all the sunscreens, this is the only one that I actually love its fragrance. Everything else makes me feel uncomfortably covered in an unwanted scent (not to mention some sticky or greasy texture). I can’t say it’s not sticky or greasy, but the scent definitely makes up for every other fault it may have. After all the sunscreen and preservative ingredient list, the very end reads like a tropical vacation – extracts of papaya, mango, guava and plumeria (frangipani) flowers. This might explain why the flies come for a sniff the moment you put it on at the beach, as if you just sliced up a fresh mango fruit! Thankfully, the can realize quickly that there is no real food involved and they leave you and your bikini alone with your beach daydreaming…

Vanille Banane
When I was a little girl, a trip to the beach always included a frozen treat. Usually – a banana flavoured icecream bar with faux chocolate covering. This is an intense and wearble version of this experience, and makes for a wonderful compliment to any pigrimage to the beach, even if you are already covered in sunscreen. Several dips in the ocean will also take the edge of its sticky sweetness.

Bronze Goddess (formerly known as Azuree de Soleil)
Whatever shape or form this fragrance comes from is quite the experience. Though I have to admit that when the brozed body lotion is a little mature the scent turns into something not altogether unique or pleasant (more like a heady drugstore mess). So use up the body products fast! Which is what makes me start thinking that the scent is perhaps better than applying the body oil or the glittery bronzed lotion (it’s full of glittery mica which makes one look like a goddess alright). As for the body oils – I’ve been switching to body oils of my own concoctions instead, and find them to be a lot more reliable as a product, as the scent does not turn into something nasty after maturing.

Song of Songs Anointing Body Oil
My own concoction, which I just released at my tea party, has been a long time favourite that I’ve decided to share with you. The term garrigue came up on this blog while discussing Mediterranean scents. Well, this is a combination of that impression (though no herbs are used in it per se). The responsible element to that effect is the labdanum. It’s like the heated rocks and herbs on the mountains, adorned by sensual roses and saffron. Applying it to the skin leaves it perfumed for some 24+ hours, not to mention a very nourished, silk-like feel to the skin itself, as if it was immersed with botanical gold. It has squalane oil (olive derived, which is a very rejuvenating to the skin as it is very similar to vitamin A), and tea seed oil (a natural anti-oxidant). The particular formulation there is very nourishing yet at the same time very light weight and fast absorbing.

This was my take on how to make a citrus not boring. Jasmine green tea accord is refreshing, especially with an overdose of lemon-verbena-like notes of litsea cubeba, and that underlining fir absolute, which is surprisingly refreshing despite its Christmas tree association. I shouldn’t brag, but Fetish keeps me interested even though it’s a citrus. And I wear it when it’s hot to the point of bothering and it’s not in the least cloying despite that hint of vanilla at the base (vanilla is one of those few natural notes that has a tendency to grow with time rather than fade).

I admit I worn it only once this summer. I also ate green figs once this summer, which come to think of it, is more than I usually get when I stay in Vancouver! A friend picked them from a tree in Kitsilano. As much as I appreciated them, they were pale in comparison to the fragrant figs we get in warmer, dryer Mediterranean countries. A summer without green figs is incomplete, and Philosykos can be a stand-in for the real thing.

Sienna Musk
Last summer Laurie and me had a little exchange of samples of our own scents and this one was love at first sniff. It was a very hot summer, and the forest fires were roaming so there was no sense in trying he Feu de Bois, because it was already smoky!
Sienna Musk is a subtle woodsy musky scent, from the same family as Kyoto (which is another favourite of mine). Wearing it reminds me of peaceful summer evenings on my balcony, burning incense and hanging out on the hammock.

ArbitRary Candle
It may sound counter-logical to burn a candle to reduce the heat. However, when temperatures go up, just placing an ArbitRary candle in the room brings in the refreshing aroma of basil, lime, hay and jasmine.

L’Eau d’Issey
Smelling an ozone-like aroma floating above the water surface was magical got me interested again in l’Eau d’Issey, a scent I wear sparsely and rarely. I love how it is in the parfume extrait form; though admittedly the white-musk dry down is a bit of a let down. But what can you expect from a designer scent?

Un Jardin Apres la Mousson
I worn this practically all summer last year; but neglected this scent for the most of the summer in favour of Eau d’Orange Vert. However, in the past 4 days it’s been so hot that the aloof character of this scent seemd in the right place, especially with its bracing iciness of vetiver, ginger and coriander seed.

Which scents go with your summer? Leave a comment and enter to win a Song of Songs Anointing Body Oil!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Midsummer Tea Party

Desserts - photo by Noam Dehan

5 tiered tea tray - Photo by Shawn Nygren

Here are some images and notes about my last tea party August 8th. This party was dedicated to the awesomeness of summer!!!

This weekend was the very middle of the summer, so I thought there's no better way to celebrate that with yet another fabulous tea party, great company of the local perfumistas and sensualists, to whom I prepared the full spread of tea treats, homemade baked goods and tea sandwiches and canapes, all made of market-fresh ingredients grown locally.

The Dancing Leaf Design + Ayala Moriel Parfums display - Photo by Shawn Nygren

I was also very honoured to host my dear friend and uber-talented artist Noriko Kobune of Dancing Leaf Designs with her beautiful Japanese beading jewelry. Noriko was at the event in person, helped me put together the most beautiful display ever and summery flower arrangements. She brought her collection with her one-of-a-kind pieces, some of which you can view on her blog. Keep in mind that they are 100 times more adorable in person, and 200 times better when worn.

I used the party as an opportunity to
reveal to my guests and local devoted clientele my upcoming body care line, which will be launched in the fall. The guests were privy to these luxurious yet light-weight anointing body oils, sugar scrubs and revitalizing bath salts with tantalizing aromas that I try to make as original as my perfumes. These were offered for sale for the first time in affordable trial-size packaging during the party, and will be posted online as soon as a few last details are figured out (i.e.: pricing, photos and ad copy).

Nourishing sugar scrubs

Anointing body oils

Ritual bath salts (new, bigger and better packacing, with a wooden scoop to boot)


Noriko and Keiko - Photo by Shawn Nygren

Guests at the party - photo by Shawn Nygren
Guests at the party - photo by Shawn Nygren

More photos here.

Scents from the Ocean: Creating Orcas perfume
In this presentation, the guests got exposed to essences that come from the ocean or that have salty and oceanic qualities, such as: seaweed essential oil, ambergris tincture, oakmoss absolute and choya nakh.
I also let them have a sniff-peak at some of the different mods of some of my secret project perfumes, including a perfume that represents the scents of New Orleans before Katrina; and of Orcas - my upcoming natural marine scent inspired by the scenery of Tofino.

Tea Selection:
Charisma Tea House Blend
Wild Chrysanthemum served with fresh mint over crushed ice and a few drops of agave syrup (courtesy of Dao Tea)
Jungjak Green Tea served over crushed blackberries and crushed ice (courtesy of Dao Tea)
Lavender Earl Gray

Other beverages:
White Wine & Tea Sangria with Magnolia & Pomegranate White Tea (from Shaktea tea)
Homemade Limoncello

Roasted beet and blue cheese sandwiches - photo by Noam Dehan

Tier 1:

Tea Sandwiches & Savouries
Cucumber + Mint tea sandwiches
Polenta with tomato + Basil + Bocconcini ***
Roasted Beets + Chèvre + Raspberry Chipotle Tea Sandwiches

Tier 2: Scones
Lavender-Rosemary Scones
Served with Devonshire Cream + Raspberry and apricot jams by Preserved BC Sunshine

Scones - photograph by Noam Dehan

Tier 3: Fresh Seasonal Fruit Platter
Cherries **
Apricots **
Fresh Rhubarb Compote **
Desserts - photograph by Noam Dehan

Tier 4: Desserts & Petit Fours Jasmine Tea Tarts with Lemon Curd & Fresh Basil
Brownies with Raspberry Sauce **
Classic Madeleines (vanilla bean and lemon zest)

Tier 5:
Black Summer Truffles*
Guilt Truffles (orange blossom and wild orange)*
Saffron Robe Truffles (saffron salt and orange flower)*

* Wheat free
** Wheat and dairy free
*** Dairy and/or wheat free substitute options available upon request

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Sugar, Oil, Salt...

Using pure and simple ingredients for making nourishing and uncompromising bath and body products. To avoid the whole notion of needing to use powerful synthetic preservative and emulsifiers, I've avoided using any water altogether in these products.

Instead, using light-weight yet moisturizing natural oils such as jojoba, virgin coconut, avocado, tea seed, rice bran and shea oils, I've concocted a simple line of body and bath products that I love using and wanted to share with you. Fractionated coconut oil helps to improve these nourishing oil and create an oil base that is fast absorbing and that leaves the skin silky and moisturized for more than a day, yet without clogging pores or feeling greasy at all.

Anointing oils, highly fragrant and act like a perfume for the entire body, leaving it moisturized and nourished but non greasy. I'm really excited about sharing these oils with you, I've been experimenting with a few types of oil bases (mixtures of various nourishing oils, along with the fractionated coconut oil to give it a non-greasy finish that is the natural equivalent of a "dry oil". Not all perfumes are suitable for body products. I chose the ones that incorporate beneficial oils to the skin. My personal favourite so far is Song of Songs, which stays on the skin the longest (24 hours later, when I bathe again, the warm water releases the scent yet again from my pores!). White Potion is more delicate and releases the scent better on the skin than from the bottle. The salycilates in the tuberose tend to get camouflaged in the oil bases and remain dormant. They won't wake up until they hit a warm living skin... The Tamya tropical oil is really fun. I am hoping to package it in a spray bottle rather than a pour-bottle. It really feels like a "dry oil" and the scent is very light and refreshing. Megumi is the newest addition. I created a vetiver base first (there was a gentlemen who kept requesting a vetiver body oil), and I felt it really needed a little extra something, which is the jasmine as in Megumi. The spiciness is due to the addition of ginger and cardamom, which are less irritating to the skin than the allspice in the perfume formula. It's a very warm, woody and sensual scent with a light jasmine tough that makes it feel more perfumey.

Sugar scrubs are my favourite way to exfoliate. A good sugar scrub should be easy to work on the skin and my personal preference is for scrubs that exfoliate as well as moisturize and nourish the skin. It saves that step of applying a moisturizer after bathing, which to me is a huge bonus as it saves time! Most of the sugar scrubs I like are quite messy in the bath tub, which although requires more frequent cleaning of your tub (which is never a bad idea), is a lot of fun in the process. Scrubs that in addition to the sugar have exfoliants such as ground nutshells or coffee beans are among my favourites... the sugar itself dissolves in the water. The ground nuts and shells should be large enough to not stubbornly stick to the surface of the tub.

I made my sugar scrubs with both white and brown sugar, and added exfoliants such as cacao nibs and ground coffee, in a carrier of vegetable glycerin and nourishing oils. after using them you don't need a moisturizer, and the skin is left exfoliated, soft and non greasy.

Bath salts, a pure way to unwind and cleanse the body from toxins. Although these are not by any means new products (I launched them on Mother's day 2009) - I just created a larger size packaging for my bath salts, and will change the collection a bit. The Lavender, Licorice & Vanilla bath salts are a very slow seller so I will likely discontinue them and will replace them with a Vetiver scented bath salts. I found some really neat bath salts that I'm excited to use - Ancient Canadian Sea Salt from Manitoba!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Chrysanthemum Sunshine

Last year, I had an interesting guest at my holiday soiree - a Mexican gentleman who lived in China for two years, and just moved to Canada and founded a tea company, Dao Tea. Pedro was backpacking and scouting the mountains China and Korea for fine handcrafted teas. His mission is simple yet profound: to connect with tea masters and farmers in small tea gardens, and bring to Canada and Mexico fine teas that are crafted sustainably and with great care. He told me about his chrysanthemum tea, harvested by a lady who is about 90 years old. Her face is covered with wrinkles and she picks wild chrysanthemums from the mountains that tastes alive and fresh like a spring morning.

Last week, I met Pedro again at another function - Vancouver Foodster Magazine's 1st year anniversary event. His assistant Akiko was serving no other than this very tea, iced and sweetened a bit, garnished with a fresh spearmint leaf. It blew my mind away. There was nothing musty, dirty or earthy about it like you would find with most chrysanthemum teas (these are made from the cultivated flowers). It was intensely floral, sweet, and with a minty quality to it that makes you happy - like fresh spearmint from the garden and a meadow full of daisies.

Pedro gave me a bag to take home and when I opened the bag my mind was blown again. If I thought that the minty sweetness was from the spearmint or the little sugar added - I was mistaken. These little flowers, which look exactly like daisies or large chamomile flowers, were intensely fragrant and sweet. When brewed - they bloomed in the teapot and their aroma was also quite sweet and a tad minty (and that is with no sugar or mint added).

These little flowers are surprisingly potent, and unlike most herbal teas, can be re-steeped up to three times. It's a beautiful, relaxing tea, and it's nice on its own, either warm or chilled. The added spearmint is a brilliant idea and I will be serving this at my Midsummer Tea Party this Sunday.

The fruit of Pedro's labour is a growing selection of fine teas, of which I have only had the opportunity to taste two so far. I will tell you more about these teas as I get acquainted with this inspiring line. In the meantime... the website provides for fascinating stories about the tea masters, the terrain where each tea was made, and even the coordinates where the tea was grown and prepared. The motto of the company is "A cup can say a lot". Each tea tells the story of its terroire, the hands that tended to the plants and prepared the tea. And the intermediary is a genuine person who traveled the distance to get to know these places and the people behind the teas. It makes for an authentic and heightened tea experience, on all levels.

Wild Chrysanthemum tea is wild harvested in Qiao Ban village (Zhejiang province, China) by Tea Masters Zhan Zimei and Wen Xinzgou. To purchase online and for more information, including tips for a multi-sensorial tea experience, visit

October 19, 2010 edit:
Here's a video showing where the flowers come from, the couple harvesting it and how they are roasting them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saffron Scones

1/2 stick (4 Tbs) butter
2 cups unbleached white flour (or half and half whole wheat and white flours)
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of hot water or milk
1/4 tsp. Saffron salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup buttermilk)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400F
Soak the saffron in hot water or milk.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt
Cut the butter into the flour mixture and using a pastry blender, create a crumb dough
Whisk egg with the buttermilk and add the soaked saffron
Pour over crumb dough mixture
Knead with fingers until a soft dough forms (do not over knead!). Add flour if dough is too sticky.
Flatten into a shape of a disk, about 2" thick, and cut with cookie cutter
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown (if using smaller scones, bake for less)

Serve with orange marmalade and clotted cream (in the picture, it is served with Preserved BC Sunshine's Seville Orange Marmalade, which is lightly sweet and fragrant)

These lovely scones will be served at my Midsummer's Tea Party August 8th!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Gentille Alouette

Get a whiff of Ayala Moriel Parfums at the adorable Gentille Alouette boutique (227 Carrall street @ Cordova in Gastown, Vancouver). The perfumes offered at Gentille Alouette are Rainforest, Song of Songs and Zohar.

The boutique, with an intimate setting reminiscent of your grandmother's closet, carries indie designers, wearable art and unique jewelry pieces, and is ownes and operated by fashion designer and die-hard perfumista Eliza Lau.

Eliza's life-long dream has been to create her own custom scent, and she has picked me of all perfumers to help her realize this fantasy. Next Thursday I will be at her shop to start the process of hand-picking the most gorgeous essences to scent the feather of this gentle sparrow...

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mediterranean Scents

Ines of All I Am A Redhead has invited me and a bunch of other fragrance bloggers to write about the scents of the Mediterranean the world over. I can't think of a better summer topic so this will be a bit of a nostalgic summer post for me. Although thanks to the warmish weather, I'm able to enjoy the beach this year - both sand and swimming - on a daily basis.

Of course, there is no comparison between the two. The Pacific ocean is deep and vast, and in the Pacific Northwest it rarely reaches temperatures that make it hypothermia-risk-free. Even in the middle of the summer when it’s relatively warm it doesn’t even reach room temperature… The Mediterranean, on the other hand, is like a little kid’s pool in comparison, and just as warm. That comes with all kinds of interesting “side effects” which I have learned to associate with oceans and sea. Therefore am always a bit disappointed at the lack of them here, even though I live way closer to the ocean here than when I lived in Israel. So lets’ begin with the most important Mediterranean scent of them all – the scent of the sea itself.

Sea salt, Seaweed and Fish
When approaching the sea, there is always a strong scent of seaweed, sea salt and fish. This smells is every so much fainter here by the Pacific ocean. Party because it is so much colder at any given moment. But also for some reason I think the water here is far less salty (the melting icebergs, perhaps?).

When arriving at the beach, no matter where – up north (Banana Beach aka Achziv beach, near Kibbutz Achziv in the Western Galilee), in Tel Aviv or down south in the dunes near Ashkelon – there is an intense sense of freedom and mystery the moment that sea smell hits the nose. It’s a vibrant scent that combines the water evaporating from the salty sea, the warming seaweed and algae dancing in its azure waters, the fish (dead or alive) that inhabit its warm and friendly water. And than there is the endless erosion of anything that’s built close to the sea: the buildings get literally eaten by the salty air. Rust forms on all the fences and window bars. And even stone seems to be eaten by the salty kiss of the balmy ocean breezes.

And than there are the amazing fresh seafood restaurants right by the water in the ancient port cities – Jaffa, Akko – you can eat the fish right after it was caught by the fishermen and it’s usually simply prepared by pan-frying and served with fresh lemon wedges. I’m not a fish eater, but walks on the old ports of this ancient cities seems incomplete without getting a whiff of the catch of the day being cooked and served right by the water and the boats. And if there could be any good place to eat fish, that would be it – right where it was caught. The one rare occasion when I felt deeply compelled to try fish was on the water of another Mediterranean beach – at a seafront restaurant in Cannes.

First Rain
Rainfall is sacred and sparse in the region, and there is always a special smell after it hit the ground first after the long dry summer. Unlike British Columbia, where rain can happen any day and any time of the year, it usually only rains in the winter. And in that transition between late fall and winter, the arrival of the first rain is so magical that we even have a special name for it in Hebrew (Yoreh).

Olives and Olive Oil
After the first rain arrives, it washes away the dust from all the plants, including the olive branches and the fruit on it, that should reach optimal ripeness by this time and becomes ready for picking. A trace of the smell of fresh green olives remains in virgin olive oil. But it is so much stonger when you slash the green olives or crack them in preparation for pickling. Pickeld green olives, black olives in brine and virgin olive oil are the best ways to enjoy olives. There are lots of mediocre quality olives spread the world over, but those who come from the true olive regions in the world are very picky and know how to pick them. A real olive should have character in both texture and flavour. If you can’t figure it out, find someone who knows to show you what a real olive should be like…

And as for olive oil – it should be fragrant as well, and can be used in so many other ways besides food. I’ve already written about this before in my article Virtues of Olive Oil.
There are not too many perfumes that have an actual olive note in them. The only one that I know of with a true olive fruit note in it is being discontinued – Cognac by Aftelier.

Not a native of the Mediterranean region, but it certainly made itself at home there. It has become such a staple in our kitchens and a favourite just as much if not more than the oranges. And when it’s not available or in season everyone is in panic and helpless about hwo to dress their salads. Vegetables are a staple food, unlike North America where everyone overeats starch, we love our vegetables in the Mediterranean sea, because they taste so fine; nevertheless, they taste better with lemons!
And speaking of citrus, one perfume which I find particularly Mediterranean is non other than Eau d’Orange Vert. I’ve been wearing it all summer this year and found it to be (surprise surprise!) not boring at all. I usually find citrus scents to bore me to tears, but not this one.

Growing basil in a sun-drenched garden results in a very fragrant, potent, spicy and flavourful herb that makes any pesto or salad or dish taste amazing. There is something about basil that is just plain pleasurable and cheerful, whether on a pizza or in a perfume. Perhaps this is why I love Le Parfum de Thérèse so much. It’s such a true Mediterranean perfume – perhaps one of the very few that can be worn in the excess of heat as well.
Eau Sauvage is another basil-infused perfume that is refreshing and classy. And it also reminds me another thing I love about the Mediterranean region: men actually take the effort to smell good, rather than try hard to not have any scent at all (the North American way)

Also to go with your olives and basil… Tomatoes are the first thing Israeli like to complain about after they arrive in Canada (well, probably not the first, actually… They will first complain that everyone don’t speak Hebrew). But certainly, after the first visit to the grocery store, seeing the price and how disproportionate it is to the lack of flavour of the coveted fruit, they seek refuge in complaining about it. That being said, Israelis have been complaining about tomatoes for generations now. It seems like every generation, the tomatoes become worse than the previous one. Growing up, we grew our own tomatoes, and the variety we grew was not the Roma tomatoes (over there the variety is called “Moneymaker”) but “Mary Monde”, which is more juicy and flavourful and very offly shaped, with a little of yellow hued stripes on their skins. These were good tomatoes. What you find in most of the markets in Israel is a far cry from what a tomato should and could be. The heirloom tomatoes sold at the Farmer’s Markets here in British Columbia are actually better. And of course, they also cost a fortune and you have to line up at 8am on Saturday to get any of them. And than they rot way too fast in your fridge. That is when the complaining portion of this post ends. And to continue with the tomatoes raving – could there be any more exciting and fun scent than that of tomato vines? Anything more summery? There are some perfumes with that note, but not many (i.e.: the ones I know of are Yerbamate
and Folavril; but the only one in which it is actually noticeable is l’Ombre Dans l’Eau).

Also a novelty of summer, green figs are the most vividly fragrant fruit, and must be eaten as soon as possible after they have been picked, before they’ve lost their aroma. Philosykos is the closest perfume to capture this little piece of heaven.

Mountain Treasures: Wild Mountain Thyme, Hyssop, Bay, White Mint, Sage and Labdanum
Wild herbas are even more exciting than basil, because they grow wild and you find them when you don’t expect them. And of course they are a culinary gem in the form of bouquet garni… or in more unusual places like desserts (chocolate with thyme?) and perfumes (many Chypre perfumes have sage in them, for example, my favourite Miss Dior).

But of course the most important mountain herb of them all is not really an herb, but the resin that emanates from the rockrose bush, and that is called labdanum. Perfumes would not be what they are today with this precious sweet balsamic resinous scent that is ambery and sun-warmed and beautiful. It forms the base of all ambers, ambery orientals and chypres.

Grapes and Wine
Spirit was celebrated in the region so much that there are deities in charge of wine (Bacchus or Dionysus). Growing grapes was not exactly ideal where we lived (too humid I think?) and the grapes pretty much turned into wine on the vines, unless the birds got a hold of them first. The sour fermented grapes heating on the vine tucked away from birds inside paper bags makes for a strange olfactory memory… Though it is probably a smell that many of you are familiar with if you ever visited a winery.

Wheat and Freshly Baked Bread
Wheat was a blessing, and bread was sacred. Bread is the most basic food of the region, and wheat is the basic grain. There was none of the nonsense of “wheat intolerance” and anti-wheat movement when I was growing up. And the most plain bread in Israel, the one subsidized by the government, actually tastes pretty darn good… Actually, not too far from some fancy sour doughs sold here in artisanal bakeries.
Another scent I miss a lot is the freshly baked bread in all grocery stores, supermarkets and corner stores. When I was taking a tour-guiding course in Jerusalem after finishing high school (I was supposed to become a tour-guide in the army, go figure…) we were set up in an apartment right next to the largest bakeries in the country. We thought the location was perfect and there was no doubt that besides the convenience of getting fresh warm bread every morning, we will also be smelling its fine aroma for hours every morning. It filled the whole neighbourhood!

Cold Stones
Catacombs, caves, chapels, arched souks and stone paved streets in ancient stone-built cities – these all bring a coolness to this hot region. And there is a certain musty mystery to it that is difficult to explain unless you smelled it. Perhaps it’s similar to vetiver, or even patchouli. But it certainly gets better when the walls have soaked hundreds of years of frankincense and myrrh burning smoke. And than there are also the cold marble floors (or any tile for that matter, because in that area, our homes are made of real bricks and stones and cement, and the floors are tiled, and therefore they can also be cleaned properly! Sorry, I did not mean to rant again besides the tomatoes. But what's with the wall-to-wall carpets everywhere here? How do you expect to have a clean home when it's floors are covered in dirt-and-dust-sponge?!
We don't just mop our floors, we wash them with water, and soap, and wipe them dry till they are shiny. At least once a week. It's a ritual. And it makes the home smells clean (usually like lemon).

And that brings me to the 12th and not the least important scent:

Linen and Cotton From The Laundry Line
Fresh laundry from the laundry lines is not as soft as that from the North American dryers, but it sure feels stiff, crisp and clean. It soaked sun and fresh air (and probably also whatever pollution there is in the region now, but who cares, it feels clean). And of course, whatever scent is in the laundry detergent, though this is secondary.

And last aside note: in Israel, I rarely felt the need to wear perfume. Everything is perfumed, or has a smell. At the end of hot days, the buses are filled with those few inconsiderate people who don't wear deodorant; and in contrast - in the morning or evenings, everybody's soap and shampoos seem to trail behind them with balmy air moving the scent around swiftly and freely. Come to think of it: there are also really bad smells everywhere, which make the pretty scents such as orange blossoms and dry wheat and hay fields on a summer night smell that much more beautiful.

Visit the other participating blogs:
Perfume Shrine
All I Am A Redhead
Bonkers About Perfume
I Smell Therefore I Am
Notes from the Ledge
Suzanne's Perfume Blog
The Non Blonde
Waft by Carol
Hortus Conclusus
A Rose Beyond The Thames
Katie Puckrik Smells
Perfume in Progress
Roxana's Illuminated Journal
Scent Hive
Under The Cupola

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