Thursday, January 30, 2014

Champagne de Bois

 Pearls of colors by spettacolopuro
Pearls of colors, a photo by spettacolopuro on Flickr.

Champagne de Bois is a woody aldehydic floral, which seems to be heavily influenced by Bois des Îles. This modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral genre is beautifully orchestrated with a strong retro feel, yet bolder. It's smooth, seamless and endearing with a texture reminiscent of ripples in silk satin sheath.

Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with incense and amber. First come the notes of oily aldehydes juxtaposed with refreshing lemony-powdery impression of frankincense’s overtones, and a bit of citrus which are quite subtle, providing a bubbly and light counterpoint to the aldehydes and the hints of musk that peak through the layers of the perfume.

There is also a hint of dry cedarwood and a smidgeon of clove bud's warmth together with all these woods creates an almost-Mellis accord (except there's no patchouli);  and jasmine at the heart pulls all the chords together and binds them with its unique perfumey magic without truly being present or noticeable in and of itself.

Frankincense bridges between the different phases. As it deepens and connects the skin-like aldehydic opening to the sweet, resinous labdanum and amber notes. Musk resurfaces and pulls the attention over to the woodsy notes of vetiver and sandalwood. It's smooth, woodsy and precious finish are far superios to the reformulated Égoïste and the thinned-down Bois des Îles eau de toilette you'll find nowadays (unless you're hunting for vintage). Champagne de Bois is my first love from Laurie Erickson's creations, and I consider it to be a modern classic. 

Top notes: Aldehydes, Cedarwood, Citrus
Heart notes: Frankincense, Cloves, Jasmine
Base notes: Sandalwood, Frankincense, Musk, Amber

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Mid-Winter Favourites

With all the whirlwind of the winter holiday stress, followed by end-of-year lists - it's often difficult to make a distinction between the winter holiday season (which tends to inspire very wintery themed scents), when winter technically takes place (December 21st - March 20th).

Technically speaking, we are now in mid-winter. So I've decided to dedicate a post to mid-winter's favourite fragrances and little comforts. That bleh season that's between the winter holidays and the romantic explosion that is Valentine's day is mostly characterized by post-holidays cashflow crunch (for many people in the parts of the world afflicted by consumerism), mundane day-to-day chopping of firewood and working hard to bring food to the table and stay warm. If the fall is the season of sorting, harvesting and gathering (nicer word for hoarding) for the colder months; the dead of winter is the season for using up what we've collected, and for portioning it wisely so we don't starve before the earth re-awakens again in the spring...

How does this translate into perfume? Well, for starters - if you are in a cash crunch, there are many ways to indulge your perfume-cravings (or hobby), that would not cost an arm or a leg. Enjoying what we have is a not just a force of reality, but also a virtue. This is the time to bring out the big guns - all those furry orientals, big white florals, animalic chypres that will be overbearing most other times of the year. Youth Dew, Obsession, Poison, Opium, Tabu, Aromatics Elixir - this is your time to shine! All of the wonderful treasures you are keeping for a special occasion - enjoy them now! They last for a long time, but they might turn one day. So wear them now, and enjoy them in good health. You deserve a special perfume even more so on a non-special day...

This is a great time to re-visit what you have in your collection that's been collecting dust or have been pushed into a dark forgotten corner of your sample drawer.

Keeping a perfume journal is another great idea. You don't need to have a blog to do it. And you don't need Moleskine to come up with a template either... I can provide one for you (in a separate post), and you can start a hand-written, illustrated or typed version of your own perfume journey, to record your impressions and re-invent your interest in perfumes. Sooner or later you'll discover that there is always another layer to what you have in your collection and think that you know inside-out and backwards...
And as to the list? It is the most obvious cliche, but as one of my friends like to say "it all happens for a reason". Thankfully, the reason here is that when its colder, stronger and heavier scents don't come across nearly as intimidating as in the heat of summer; and also, because the lighter, fresher scents tend to have a weaker (and often under-satisfying) presence.

When winter is at its peak, and the nights are still long and cold - there is nothing quite more special than going to bed wrapped with an extra layer of luxury - vintage perfume or one of the most cherished extraits. And other times, it's just wonderful to spritz a bit of sweet citrus deliciousness into the air and walking through it before going on a brisk walk in the fog or a boring treadmill session when the weather is not cooperating with my desire to job on the beach... While all of the selections below are glorious, there is something more mundane and approachable about them, not quite as festive as Nuit de Noel or Parfum Sacre; and not as romantic as what you'd be reaching for when February 14th rolls in (whether or not you have a date).

Miss Dior extrait was my first Chypre love. I first smelled it in a mini coffret I got a trans-atlantic flight. I was in mid-air yet smelling it made me feel very grounded. I was surprised how much I liked it - I was very young then and someone told me that Miss Dior was a more "mature" fragrance, while Diorissimo (my favourite then) was for youngner ladies. Even though it had a very natural warmth about it, all the ingredients were so magically blended that I could not pick out any one from the others. Only later I discovered what Chypre is - and this love affair never ceased. Miss Dior is one of the very few perfumes I stockpile* - from before the oakmoss free days. I have 3 bottles of extrait (one of them vintage) and 2 more of the eau de toilette. Does that make me a hoarder?

Aromatics Elixir a refreshing discovery for me this winter is that I can actually wear Aromatics Elixir without fainting. It comes in small and affordable 10ml spray size (don't you wish all perfumes were bottled that way?) and I've been wearing it daily, more or less, ever since (that's full 2 weeks, very impressive for me - I usually change my fragrances on a daily basis, or even more).

Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer is a toned-down yet very respectful version of the original. It's greener and muskier, and I love the dabbing application (and, shamefully admit to also liking the non-greasy emollient texture of the liquid it is suspended in, even though it's mostly made of silicones). I've been so smitten with both of the elixirs, that I also ordered online the limited edition from 2011 titled "Perfumer's Reserve".  

Youth Dew extrait and bath oil are a sure way to reinforce that sedate state of mind. Languid, haunting, deep and overbearing if not carefully applied - Youth Dew is unique and although it seems very dated, there is no denying its almost-medicinal concoction of patchouli, cloves, narcissus and a myriad of other intense notes. Something you could only get away with in the wintertime.

Obsession Extrait has the smooth charm of amber and is almost overly sweet. If it wasn't for the hint of oakmoss, sandalwood and cyclamen at its base, it would have been really quite too much even for me. But when applied discreetly, it's so enjoyable and mysterious, with depth and lots of subtleties to discover beyond just sweet amber and tangerine. And - there is no mistaking why it has become the success that it was. It's distinct, and it works.

Champagne de Bois, a modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral dream. Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with frankincense and amber.

Shiso Aftelier brings to mind the camphoreous comfort and relief of Asian apothecary as well as the enigmatic allure of the Geisha world - whose use of incense materials usually used for religious rituals in their elaborate grooming rituals, applying charred aromatic woods to their perfectly coiffed hair, and smoulder their silk kimonos with incense smoke, and rub their body with spicy incense powder.

No. 19 Warm Carrot is another great-granddaughter of Bois des Îles and a unique reinterpretation of woodsy aldehydic floral, putting the underrated carrot seed at the spotlight. No. 19 brings out the woody and floral qualities of this modest yet precious ingredient (it is quite costly, and mostly been put into use in anti-aging creams and cosmetics) and brings out its creamy qualities while juxtaposed with ylang ylang, lavender, vetiver, labdanum, amber, benzoin and vanilla. It's also amazing as a body butter.

Prada Ambre Pour Homme Intense (or is the name the other way around?). While the name is long, the perfume is rather simple. Pathouli, benzoin, amber and an overdose of bergamot that makes it almost soapy. And plenty of musks, of course. I have to admit that I like the dry down much, much better than the opening. It's not as popular in my rotation as Patchouli Magique, but it makes an interesting variation on the patchouli theme without being too redundant.

Velvet Gardenia. Gardenia typically has very tropical associations. But this floriental is anchored in a deep labdanum base and beeswax, bringing to mind candle-lit interior of a stone castle.

Eau de Mandarine Ambrée. I admit I'm not crazy for the new Hermese eau de colognes as much as I love their original Eau d'Orange Verte. But Eau Mandarine Ambree has a nice balance between cozy ambery sweetness and mandarine's juicy and zesty charm.

Ormonde for Her by Ormonde Jayne blends a few unlikely worlds - the prude, the witch and the modern seductress. Violet's demure quality bring to mind the first. The foresty, woodsy notes of black hemlock spruce and cardamom honour the witch in the forest over her medicinal brew. But it is the modern synthetic musks that quickly take over and make it so appealing to the modern woman, who wants to connect to her inner animal but can only do this by scrubbing off her natural smells.

What are your winter favourites?

* The others being Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Parfum Sacre, Le Parfum de Therese and Opium Fleur de Shanghai. 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview on

I'm thrilled that there is an English version for the interview I gave Anna Zworykina on her excellent website It is divided into two parts:
Part one
Part two
Hope you enjoy it!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Aromatics Elixir

From time to time, revisiting a perfume that I didn't quite connect with right away proves to be a worthy endeavor. Aromatics Elixir is case in point: a perfume that I sought out on the recommendation of a customer, and found to be quite impossible to handle. That was probably sometime in 2003. I found it overbearing, medicinal, over-the-top herbacous and densely earthy; the type of perfume that when a student shows me something similar I would dismiss as "muddy".  And I won't even tell you how many times a similar mud-brew came under my own hands before I thought I knew better... So the mudiness was not anything new to me, in case you wondered; only that in Aromatics Elixir case, the sillage was amplified beyond control, bringing to mind Nigel's nifty amplifier that goes up to 11; and as he stated in a later interview in the mockumantary This Is Spinal Tap, "you want more loudness, you want more damage".

I eventually warmed up to the idea of Aromatics Elixir with their limited edition Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer (2006). Partly because of the bottle, which has a dabber, so even if the scent is still strong - the discreet application tones it down. Coming across another limited edition from 2011 that was created to celebrate the perfume's 40th birthday, titled Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve (which I'm determined to track down and review as well) peaked my interest in this fragrance again. So here I am revisiting the big bombshell from the 70's; and as it turned out - it really does go beyond.

While still having the earthy and medicinal qualities I remember, there is more of a spicy oriental quality to Aromatics Elixir than I recalled. It opens with very resinous, almost smoky and medicinal notes, vetiver and myrrh being the most dominant.

Aromatics Elixir knocks you down first with a thick veil of smoke, sweaty spices (coriander) and pungent herbs (sage). Than it just works its magic on you, with soothing aromatic oils that are known for their aroma-therapeutic calming effects and beautifying qualities (as Grain de Musc points out, citing the first ad copy for this perfume). Roman chamomile initially calms the nerves, geranium leaf energizes and tones the skin, and mingled with soothing rose; yet the juxtaposition with contrasting bitter-resinous analgesic myrrh and groovy patchouli it creates a mysterious fruity-mushroomy effect.

Once this subsides, the smokiness of vetiver comes in (it smellls like a rich, woody-nutty Bourbon vetiver), which goes hand-in-hand with clean, masculine sandalwood and musk. There is a dry, woody, diffusive appeal to this triad. And it makes a perfect foundation for the spacious yet erogenous jasmine that is at the core of Aromatics Elixir. With the addition of orange blossom and ylang ylang's ability to soothe anxiety and lifts the spirit, Aromatics Elixir walks a very fine line between a medicinal brew and a love potion. Furthermore, it has such a unique composition, which is very base-heavy, non-compromising and yet beautiful in a non-pretentious kind of way.

Top notes: Geranium, Chamomile, Coriander, Sage
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Cedarmoss, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Musk

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Before I begin, I have two announcements to make: First of all, I want to thank the generous Joanna for sharing a decant of vintage Diorella with me. This review is based on my subsequent wearings of this beautiful rendition, prior to the oakmoss banning days. My second confession is that some ten or so years ago, when Diorella was quite widely available (and before oakmoss was so ridiculously restricted) and it did not quite capture my heart. While I liked its freshness and similarity to the brilliant Eau Sauvage, here was something about it that I disliked - a combination of the heaady floral note of honeysuckle, and the soapy aldehydes at the opening. Time perhaps has been kind with Diorella, because she has aged gracefully. Or perhaps it is an even earlier formulation of the same one. But it is certainly different from the scrubbed and lathered version you’ll find on the Dior counters nowadays.

Way before its time, Roudnitska was at ease incorporating fruit salad elements in his fragrances in a most refreshing, light-weight manner... created in 1972, Roudnitska’s fruit has thankfully no affinity with the syrupy, unbearably sweet fruity-gourmand florals of the new millenia; but rather posessed a cheerful lightness paired with complex substance from more earthy and floral notes of natural raw materials. So again, these are far superior to the light, watery fruity-florals of the 90‘s, though these were strongly influenced by the asthetics that Roudnitska developed with the creation of Eau Sauvage, which introduced the concept of space and expansion to modern perfumery.

Diorella is munching on a honeydew melon (or is it a cantaloupe?). It is ripe, juicy yet somehow still crisp, as it is brilliantly paired with citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot and a touch of spicy-sweet green basil. Her peach-toned skin emanates a scent that is similar to white peach’s delicate, milky and slightly nutty aroma, due to the use of peach aldehyde and peach lactone. These unique fruity notes were both brilliantly used in a non-edible way (as Edmound Roudnitska explains beautifully in Michael Edward’s book, Perfume Legends - French Feminine Fragrances). Rather, it brings freshness and a unique texture to the jus. It is brilliantly paired with effervescent, ethereal and soapy honeysuckle, crushed basil leaves and a tad of the oily aldehydic notes backed with ionones, that simultaneously give the clean impression of triple-milled soap, and the dirty allusion to hosiery that’s been worn and sweated in for at least half a day. That dichotomy between anti-bacterial herbs and animal/human secretion seems to be at the core of Diorella.

The oily aldheyde and peach notes fades rather quickly, allowing the basil and citrus notes more breathing room. Orris butter is present yet very subtle, giving a soft-focus background to the composition, and making it somehow smell more feminine. What truly moves to the forefront is jasmine. Pure, unadulterated, indole-rich jasmine at its best. And it is that indole that will accompany Diorella throughout her strut on the skin and the surrounding air - first an ethereal jasmine, and later on a full, unabridged indolic jasmine, with its fruity, jammy peach-like and earthy and animalic character beautifully showcasing this gorgeous phenomenon. The similarity to Le Parfum de Thérèse as well as Eau Sauvage are striking; but what surprised me what the affinity I discovered with Eau d’Hermes. Also a perfume that is all about jasmine, yet from a very different point of view - more warm, sweet-earthy and spicy. It is probably the juxtaposition of jasmine with ionones that creates that olfactory connection for me.

Last but not least, it’s time to talk about the base notes, the foundation of Diorella. No matter how much Roudnitska denies any connection to Eau Sauvage, the similarity is striking, despite the differences. There is definitely oakmoss, but not nearly as much as in Eau Sauvage, which gives it more of a green, dry and woody character rather than a dense, brown-earthy and musky feel. Vetiver also supports it in this direction. Even the patchouli, which appears in both, seems to be toned down and instead of the big-warm-oily patchouli hug you get in some feminine Chypres such as Miss Dior - there is just a single brush stroke of it, done in aquarelle. Last but not least, where Eau Sauvage has a generous dose of hay, which gives it an almost-fougere quality, Diorella has a subtle sprinkle of tonka bean (or perhaps just pure synthetic coumarin - in reality there is a very small difference between the two), giving it a slightly bitter finish, but with that feminine soft-focus that reflects the orris from earlier on.

Diorella is a very Mediterranean perfume, and truly reminds me of Grasse and the surrounding area, including the perfumer’s home and garden (which I visited in 2009). It also reminds me of a perfume that his son, Michel Roudnitska created way into the future - Eau Emotionelle - also playing on the cantaloupe-jasmine-ionone theme, but in oil-pain strokes rather than the sheer aquarelle of his father's. The culture in that area is greatly influenced by Italy and Spain, and there is something very Italian about it, especially in the opening notes. If Diorella was a woman, she would be one with a very outgoing, young spirit. A woman that loves to laugh and enjoy life’s pleasures, and just goes with the flow - but isn’t audacious or dominant by any means, and is very kind, generous and open but without ever being vulgar in the least. There is something truly carefree, open, fun, bursting with life and joie de vivre about it. In case you didn’t know already - it’s a true masterpiece. It has been relatively recently re-introduced along with the other classic retro Dior-fumes: Diorling, Dioressence, Diorama... I’m sure the new version pales in comparison but I’m nevertheless intrigued to find out what they’ve done to it to overcome the restrictions on jasmine levels and the industry’s new (low) standard of avoiding oakmoss at all costs (even though it is still allowed - the washed-down version of atranol-free absolute, and at only very low percentage).

Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Basil, Melon, Aldehydes, Peach
Heart notes: Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Hedione, Orris, Violet
Base notes: Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Coumarin

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Must Read: A Toast Story

Aside from the odd and gimmicky fragrance reference of Eau de Toast, today's must-read article has nothing at all to do with perfume. I strongly urge you to read this inspiring story in the Pacific Standard, written so well by John Gravois. On the surface it seems to be about tracking down the source of a trend (artisanal toasts - have they arrived to your neighbourhood yet?!). But truthfully, it is a story about one woman's unique way to struggle with a major challenge life has thrown at her, and a big reminder on how important it is to stay connected to other breathing, living human beings. And of course, it resonated with me not only because I'm also a woman entrepreneur; but also find there is an immense healing power in swimming in the uber-cold Pacific ocean.
Read it!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Musk Malabi

Malabi by Tom lahat
Malabi, a photo by Tom lahat on Flickr.
If Sahleb is the royal treat of winter, then the rosy, rubbery Malabi (see recipe below) is the queen of summer in the Middle East. Served cold in every other corner and almost every kiosk and restaurant of any caliber, this chilled milk-pudding captures the eye with the contrasting rosy-red syrup oozing all over the white, petri-plate-like to-go containers it comes in. I was never a big fan of its texture (ditto in regards to Rahat Loukum, also unjustly made with corn starch instead of better quality materials), but I adore its fragrance!

What always captures my imagination about malabi was its soft, evocatively sounding name, and its unique fragrant combination of rosewater and neroli. Rose and neroli are such noble flowers yet oh so different. Rose is open, voluptuous, sweet and feminine. Neroli is prim and proper, restrained, clean, ethereal and otherworldly. It's incredible that such a thing even grows from the earth, as has such a heavenly character.

Malabi with pom syrup by Dan Bar Dov
Malabi with pom syrup, a photo by Dan Bar Dov on Flickr.
The balance of these two strong-willed floral elements that inspired the creation of my new, limited edition for Valentine's Day 2014. Titled Musk Malabi, this perfume is a holy triad of sorts, between voluptuous, velvety and soft rose; airy, clean and cerebral neroli, and the pulsating animalic energy of musk. The musk is, in a most profound way, what makes these two oppositional flowers harmonize rather than compete with one another. It is told in the Koran that Mohammed's breath was as sweet as rose, and that he considered musk to be the purest of all perfumes. Musk grains were even mixed with the mortar in the construction of several Eastern mosques and retained their musky scent for years. The botanical musk in Musk Malabi was designed to smell as close as possible to deer musk, and most importantly, act like one: it plays cupid pulling all the strings between and drawing the lovers (rose and neroli) together. It doesn't need arrows, and plays the harp better than cupid, doing all of this work gently and with effortless fluidity. 

Malabi by shai.wininger
Malabi, a photo by shai.wininger on Flickr.

Musk Malabi is a limited edition for Valentine's Day 2014, which is just a month away from today! 
Love it, and it will love you back.

Top notes: Bitter Orange, Cardamom, Coriander, Blood Orange
Heart notes: Turkish Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Tunisian Neroli, Egyptian Orange Blossom
Base notes: Atlas Cedarwood, Botanical Musk Accord, Tahitian Vanilla

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Malabi (Recipe)

Malabi by Ayala Moriel
Malabi, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Malabi is a Middle Eastern dessert, a milk pudding thickened by rice flour, which is usually served cold like Panna Cotta. Unfortunately, most of the malabi recipes, as well as what you'll find on street corners and even in restaurants are made with the inferior cornstarch, giving it (what I think is) an unpleasant aftertaste and a rubbery texture.

The dessert is made simply by cooking milk and starch as if to make a pudding. It is only minimally sweetened, if at all, and always must be flavoured with rosewater and orange flower water, which is the only thing that really sets it apart from the old fashioned baby-food that was served in the 1950's (when mothers were convinced that fattening a baby with modified starches is the way to prove that their kid is not malnourished). You may serve it warm; but the traditional recipe is for chilled malabi, which gives you room for many creative serving suggestions (i.e.: using moulds, fancy cups, garnishes, syrups and toppings).

This recipe is adapted from May S. Bsisu's excellent book "The Arab Table" (p. 322) and from Israeli Kitchen. Please note that malabi has many other names and spellings (i.e.: Mohalabia, Malabia, Muhallibieh, etc.). She also offers several regional variations on this dessert (for instance: whole green cardamoms and saffron strands are cooked with the pudding in Saudia Arabia), including the explanation about the Syrian and Lebanese version using rice flour instead of corn starch, which is my personal preference. Note: if you want a more gooey, jelly like consistency, use Sweet Rice flour, aka glutinous rice, which is easily obtained in Asian grocery stores. For a more wholesome variation (which is great especially if served warm) use brown rice flour. Note regarding the mastic: this resin adds to both the flavour and the texture of the dessert, making it more gooey, but also making the flavour a bit different (and it is an acquired taste). 

8 Tablespoons Rice Flour, whisk and dissolve in 1/3 cup of water.
4 tsp sugar
1 L whole milk
1 Tbs rosewater
1 Tbs orange flower water
Pinch of mastic resin (optional).

For the garnish:
Date honey (also called molasses), Pomegranate molasses, grenadine, rose syrup or rose petal jam.
Toasted, crushed, unshelled and blanched pistachios or almonds; OR fresh pomegranate seeds; OR ground cinnamon and cardamom plus crushed nuts. 

 - In a small saucepan, begin heating the milk and sugar.
- Gradually add the rice flour and water and rice mixture, and cook over medium heat and simmer, stirring continuously in order to prevent lumps from forming.
- Add the mastic, if desired. 
- Once the mixture had thickened into a custard-like consistency (in about 5 minutes), add the rosewater and orange flower water. 
- Pour into small ramekins or dessert bowls, a bring to room temperature. Cover with a plastic warp and refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve with a garnish of nuts and your favourite syrup.
- Please note: These do not invert well (like panna cotta), but will have to be eaten out of the ramekins, similarly to a custard or a Crème brûlée. 

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Cabochard de Grès

Cabochard was reated in 1959 by perfumer Bernard Chant for French couturier Germaine Émilie Krebs (publicly known as Alix Grès or Madame Grès). Cabochard in many ways preceded its time and the trend that will dominate the 1970's - green, formal florals, often soapy, and at times even icy. However, while Cabochard is definitely green, it has the joie de vivre of the genre's founder, Vent Vert, and a warm yet playful personality which I can only guess has a lot to do with Madame Grès' vision and personality.

While most of the successful couturiers fashion houses of Paris followed their success to become more commercial, the house Grès remained purely dedicated to haute-couture. Everything was done by hand, made to measure, and with utmost attention to detail. This can usually only last as long as the founder is alive and working. And so, sadly, when Madame Grès retired in the 1980's, the business was sold, but while the couture was pretty much lost, the fragrance part remained alive and kicking, even if they don't launch a new fragrance every other day...

I came across Cabochard before, but wasn't really "grabbed" by it until a generous perfumista gave me this vintage coffret of minis of various concentrations, which is probably from as far back as the 80's. Enough time to disintegrate the rubbery lid (I had to use an actual corkscrew to pluck it out!) but it has retained its scent beautifully.

I was first intrigued by the scent; then by the story of Madame Grès - whatever of it I was able to pick from the very little information is found about her - mostly in French. She's not nearly as known as Gabrielle Chanel, and even more enigmatic. She was married to the Russian sculptor Serge Czerefkov, which I'm certain had some influence on her art: her pieces have the a solid structure wrapping around the female form, yet draping in innovative ways, showing the fabric's flow, texture and bringing out intriguing shapes and silhouettes by the interaction between body and garment. As to her personal style - she seems to be sporting a turban at almost all the photographs of her, which makes me wonder if she had hair at all, or was just obsessed with the Orient.

Cabochard means stubborn or hard-ass in French, and the personality of this fragrance makes me think that there is something to it. I was, however, surprised to find out via Fragrantica (and upon further investigation in Michael Edward's Perfume Legends), that her fascination with India is what inspired both Cabochard and another twin fragrance called Chouda, supposedly a floral, which never quite came to be. The latter was designed by Guy Robert, and was an ethereal floral, to resemble a flower she encountered in India, possibly water hyacinth (which I find unlikely, as it is native to the Amazon basin). By the sound of the name, I think it might have been kewda, which has hyacinth-like quality. Although this was reportedly Madame Grès' personal favourite between the two, she decided to go with the bold green chypre, which was more trendy at the time.

Despite some marketing material alluding to Cabochard being inspired by a walk on the beach of Southern India (again, rather unlikely that a tropical beach would smell that green and bitter), there is nothing quite India-related in Cabochard as far as I can smell. But it sure smells like a strong-headed gal with a great sense of humour, which is how I imagine Madame Grès to be in real life. Some further reading also revealed that unlike Chanel, she strongly opposed the Nazi occupation of Paris, and insisted on displayed the tricolor flag on her shop (which ultimately resulted in the Nazis closing her shop). I admire her now not only for her talent, but also for her courage.

Cabochard is so many things - green, leathery, woody, floral, indolic... It begins with a definitive juicy-green character, like frsehly squeezed wheatgrass; yet there is something ashy and dry underneath. The health-concious wheatgrass juicer is also a chain smoker. The nicotine in her veins brings the best of her - creativity, energy, laughter. It's balanced again with some medicinal sage, and pretty, clean and proper neroli and enough rose to make you think of a rose garden but not smell like an English lady. Orange blossom and jasmine make advances as the perfume develops on the skin. These two bold notes, while indolic and dirty, also have a zest of life to them, a very forward personality, with the methyl anthranilate shining through beautifully and bringing some sweetness into the green. They are only ever so slightly soft-focused with powdery orris note. As for the base - it's what you've always dreamed of: oakmoss, tobacco and vetiver, with some isobutyl quinoline for good measure.

Cabochard to me seems to have predicted the future of the 1970's - No. 19, especially, to whom it is a very close relative with the same motifs of leather, greens, juicy citrus notes, iris, leather and vetiver; interplay between green, dry and floral-powdery. As well as everything that followed, dominated by green, herbaceous and soapy notes. The leading scents in this trend were No. 19, Ivoire, Estée Lauder's Azurée (by perfumer Bernard Chant), Alliage and Private Collection; Coriandre, Calandre, Chamade, 1000, AnaisAnais, and Aromatics Elixir (also designed by Bernard Chant), and of course Rive Gauche. I'm glad I found out who is the perfumer behind it (though I'm certain that Guy Robert's Chouda was magnificent!) and see the connections with his other creations.

Top notes: Sage, Rose, Neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Orris

Base notes: Vetiver, Leather, Oakmoss, Tobacco

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Bal à Versailles

Versailles by Ayala Moriel
Royal Boudoir, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Smelling Jean Desprez's Bal à Versailles is what I can imagine Jean-Louis Fargeon (Marie Antoinette's personal perfumer) would concoct especially for her: in his dusty apothecary in Paris, he would measure into the beaker with much abundance the costliest of all extracts: tuberose, jasmine and jonquil enfleurage from Grasse, attar of rose from Morocco, shipped across the Mediterranean, aged orris root tincture, tincture of vetiver, oakmoss from the Albanian forests, collected by wolverines in the moonlight, and every animal extract he could get a hold of: Ambergris? you got it! Tonquin musk? Oh yeah. Civet? Sure, but only a little bit...

Although I've been reading a lot of reviews that go on and on about the civet being the star of the show, I beg to differ. Bal à Versailles, although I still think agree that it could have been more aptly named - my suggestion would not be "Orgie de Versailles" (which is what it would have been if civet were the star of the show - as it is in Tabu, for instance), but rather more delicately, as in "Boudouir de Versailles".

The Eau de Toilette I have on hand is vintage, probably from the 90's, or late 80's at the most. It is redolent of black pepper, opulent flowers and dry, musky oakmoss. While it has a definite carnal energy about it, it is not due to civet, but rather, musk and white flowers. I was scratching my head for a while trying to recall what it reminds me of. And when I got it, I was a bit surprised - more than anything at all, it reminds me of my very first version of Schizm, when I was so naive that I thought that the "black musk" that was sold at the Persian Arts jewellery and antique store in Pacific Centre were in fact vintage perfume bases (hence containing synthetic musks, including the defunct musk ambrette and deliciously animalic musk ketone). The old Schizm was just like this - a surge of pepper, tuberose, narcissus, oakmoss and musk, with a bit of cedarwood accentuating the dry aspect at first, and turning into something sweet (taken over by the oakmoss) in the end.
And sure enough, the drynenss of oakmoss' top notes, the cedar and pepper bows and lets the sweeter song of raspberry-lined musks to make their coiffed entrance, powdered wigs and all. Vanilla, dark and real, is not too loud but makes its presence known, like a seasoned seductress partly hiding behind a black laced fan. And just like this confident woman in black, which does not need find the urge to flash her assets to be noticed, you'd also find a hint of the leathery, a nuance of fur and purring with its dry breath of isobutyl quinoline.

This early version of Schizm was never sold commercially, therefore I realize this comparison is not the most relateable. To give you a more familiar point of reference, I'd say that Bal à Versailles, despite it being a child of the 60's (launched in 1962) reminds me of the good old Caron fragrances: it has the same dry-peppery feel as Poivre and the delicious muskiness of Parfum Sacré
(well, this is not really old, it's from the 90's yet it has the same vintage feel), yet at the same time an underlining dark, almost dirty, boudoir feel of Nuit de Noël. In short: don't let it scare you. While very old-fashioned in feel, it is neither dense nor overbearing. It is very easy to wear, although I would definitely reserve it for special occasions, or at least for the evening, when you can truly savour it, sipped slowly like a glass of spicy Syrah.

Top notes: Black Pepper, Cedarwood, Citrus 
Heart notes: Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Narcissus, Orris Butter
Base notes: Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla, Amber, Leather

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Hopes, Dreams, Resolutions...

Untitled by Tom Allison
Untitled, a photo by Tom Allison on Flickr.
The year 2013 left much to be desired. And so, I'm happily moving onwards (and, hopefully also upwards) in 2014, in what I can only pray would be a better year. Here are a few things that I wish for from this year (some of which are entirely up to me, but some are perhaps also dependent on other factors):

1. Finish my 3rd edition for the Foundation of Natural Perfumery - a course handbook which I have been planning to publish more widely for over 2 years now. I'm at the final stages of editing (the long winter vacation was very helpful in that regard), and the next steps would be to create a digital version of it, as well as a paperback book, locally printed, and much prettier than the spiral-bound manual I've got going so far.

2. Create more dialog here on SmellyBlog. I have to admit that I have no idea how to make this happen. I tried to do giveaways on a weekly basis for a while (which, combined with shipping costs, is frankly beyond the budget for this little blog). It's been generating more comments from the same people (who got to win multiple times - yay!), but it has not encouraged my readers to come out of their lurking cave. I've tried to blog on topics that I would think would encourage dialog, but they have reaped very few results (while in other blogs, quite effortlessly, just in response to "leave a comment on whatever you want to talk about today" gets over 100 comments within a day). Any thoughts on the subject?

3. Outreach and Education: For this year, besides offering 2 week long courses back-to-back in May (Citrus & Colognes Course May 19-23 and Oriental Perfumes Course May 26-30), I'll be also teaching olfactory awareness and botanical perfumery lectures at one of the botanical gardens; and offering perfume making workshops outside of the studio in a new co-op boutique I'll be part of (more on that once the details are ironed and official!).

4. Become a little more visible than I was last year. As much as I wish it was otherwise, and hate to admit it - for a perfume company, and even more so a small one like mine - unless you come up with a new perfume every year (or every quarter), no one is really going to pay any attention to you. There have seemed to be only marginal interest in the many other new things I churned up (which were, by the way, a lot more work as well to develop) - I launched an entire tea collection of 4 beautifully packaged teas; created 2 beard oils (Blackbeard Oil and Orcas beard oil; 3 new soap bars - ArbitRary, Bon Zai and Film Noir; and my first hair oil - Palas Atena; a 6th Anointing Body Oil - Zohar; and relaunched Elixir facial serum, which has the best ingredients you could ever find and feed your pretty face with. Hardly anyone took notice of that at all, with the exception of some local fans and a handful of online-boutique customers. It seems like the market is either saturated (the local holiday shows certainly are), or was I just hiding under a rock? I suppose I will have to work ten times harder promoting myself this year, which is exhausting and daunting and truly takes away from my creativity in other areas. And, I might just have to release a new fragrant baby or two, which have been hidden in my vaults so to speak...

5. And on a more personal note: I would love to be the person who would say yes to climbing this trail. If not realistically, then at least metaphorically speaking. That must be the best cup of tea, ever. Context (and timing) is everything!

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Custom Perfumes Coverage by Mrs. Robinson

Visit Mrs. Robinson's online magazine to read about unique custom perfume services offered in Canada, including Ayala Moriel Parfums.

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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Fallen Leaves

Fall, leaves Fall by Cindy's Here
Fall, leaves Fall, a photo by Cindy's Here on Flickr.
Anna Zworkynia must be fascinated by the season. As I am. In her work, completely unknown to me just until a few months ago - I found my Russian twin and partner in crime in the art of natural perfume... Although I am yet to have a face to face conversation with her, I suspect we share a few things in common in our passions and philosophy.

Like Apple Orchard, this perfume is very much a continuation of exploring the olfactory themes of fall, fermentation and fertility. At first, there is the musty smell of camphoreous cardamom and musty patchouli, suggesting petrichor and transitioning into the resinous bitterness of myrrh. Sweet vanilla mingled with immortelle absolute gives a more perfumey undertone, reminiscent of wet fallen leaves fermenting on the ground. Immortelle's close resemblance to maple syrup brings to mind maple leaves by way of association. Dark yet voluptuous, the Earth Goddess will turn the golden leaves into dirt, and fermentation yields the most surprising aromatics out of ordinary botanicals, as in what happens upon fermenting hay, tea and tobacco - vanillin, coumarin and many other surprising molecules appear and add richness and layers to the leaf.

Top notes:  Hops, Cardamom
Heart notes: Guaiacwood,  Pomegranate Seeds, Orris
Base notes: Labdanum, Immortelle, Frankincense, Himalayan cedar, Myrrh, Vetiver, Atlas cedar, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Patchouli

Fall Leaves by Errol Elli
Fall Leaves, a photo by Errol Elli on Flickr.

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

Arabian Coffee Dance

A sweet customer just brought to my attention this mention of Finjan on Perfume Posse from December - The Nutcracker Reimagined and Set to Perfume:

"Then, as horns bleat mutedly and cymbals ting, the Arabian coffees, vapourous with Ayala Morial Finjan, undulate, their honeyed perfume sensual with cardamom and tolu".

Surprises like this make me happy. It's great to discover a new way that people experience my perfumes, as if it has taken a life of its own.

P.s. I love the video above even though it's a dress rehearsal: It's raw and imperfect, the prima ballerina, Canadian dancer Jamie Reid, is only 15 years old, and you can hear the choreographer's instructions. The choreography is quite unusual for this Nutcracker piece - far more authentic belly-dance influenced moves, and it's all female dancers (I found that most performances have a trio of male dancers and one female soloist).

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The Perfume Suite

In  the 1960's, Duke Ellington recorded The Perfume Suite he's written with Billy Strayhorn. The music was inspired by how perfume affects women's mood and self-perception. As "out there" as some commercial perfume titles may sound, there is a fundamental truth to them. Perfume can make you feel like as powerful as a god/dess, regal as a queen/king, an unleashed animal on the prowl, as naive and playful as a child... 

1st movement: Under The Balcony Seranade (Pure Love)
2nd movement: Strange Feeling (Violence)
3rd movement: Dancers in Love (Naïveté)
4th movement: Coloratura (Prima-donna)

What persona or aspect of yourself has perfume help you to access or unleash?

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Friday, January 03, 2014

Apple Orchard

Apple Orchard is yet another moody masterpiece by Russian natural perfumer Anna Zworykina. Like the few others I've reviewed before, it has a very Antique-Asian feel to it, while still being true to its title. In fact, I find all of the perfumes I've tried so far to beautifully deliver what they are meant to portray. Some perfumers are just talented that way, which adds another special dimension to the composition, in my opinion. No matter how sophisticated the audience might think they are, they always will respond more emotionally to a poetic name rather than just a number title, for instance.

Apple Orchard is not so much about apples as it is about the orchard. And I  envision an abandoned orchard, at the end of fall. Some of the apples are still dangling from the naked boughs, but most of them are already rotting on the ground...

Despite the fact that the perfumes are using similar materials to my palette (Like yours truly, Anna Zworykina uses only natural oils, absolutes, tinctures and CO2 extractions, and no isolates), it is not easy to dissect them from one another. The perfumer has masterfully succeeded in creating something new and enticing from rather familiar notes. There is a certain medicinal quality that seems to be the perfumer's trademark, and which gives it that feel of an old Chinese apothecary, with chest full of drawers mysteriously labeled, the wood thoroughly soaked in the aromas of the magical herbs contained within it for decades. All of the perfumes I've tried have a very unique "fingerprint" in that sense, and I suppose you can either find it charming, of completely off-putting. But to me this is a reminiscence of another era, where herbs, medicine, magic and perfume were all intertwined, when incense was burnt to ward off evil spirits, and sweet floral waters were sprinkled to attract good ones...

Back to Apple Orchard: At first, there is an apple-y accord, but with a significant amount of mustiness, which makes you immediately think of the abandoned orchard I describer earlier... Then you are reminded of the fertile soil underneath, forgiving the inattentive farmers and receiving these rejected fruit with open arms. This gradually evolves into the spiciness of oak barrels, with hints of musky opoponax, allspice and cloves.

The perfume is so subtly blended that I could not really discern the notes too well. Also, I could not find the notes anywhere online. But the perfumer herself provided me later with this information as to the perfumes' composition:

Top notes: Galbanum, Blackcurrant Buds, Oregano, Kashmir Lavender, Ginger Lily 
Heart notes: Mango Leaf Absolute, Jasmin Sambac, Champaca, Roses
Base notes: Angelica, Agarwood, Cedarwood, Labdanum, Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss

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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Without Words

Anna Zworkyina's Without Words leaves me speechless. But I'll attempt to describe its beauty without relying on other art forms.

Apple-like notes tease at first, but also bring the melancholy feel of fall: it's harvest time. Gather your apples, or you'll risk losing them to mother earth, to whom they will return in rot. The illusion of apples comes from the juxtaposition of bitter almonds, agrestic wormwood and hops - that green, skunky oil that's used to preserve beer and give it the distinctive bitter taste and citrusy-fresh aroma. Cardamom lends a medicinal, camphoreous note that brings to mind a white-washed, silk-wrapped geisha in a dim-lit wooden pagoda, and that dusky feel of Japanese body incense powder remains for a while, until it is quietly succeeded by the undertones of dark amber notes of vanilla and labdanum absolutes.

Top notes: Bitter Almond, Wormwood, Black Pepper, Green Pepper, Cardamom
Heart notes: Rose Attar, Ambrette Seed
Base notes: Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver, Labdanum

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

Happy New Year 2014  by Ayala Moriel
Happy New Year 2014 , a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Wishing you all a very happy 2014!

May it be a beautiful year, full of love, health and happiness! And may you always find time to smell the roses, both literally and figuratively speaking. Time is our greatest asset - may we all learn how to use it wisely!

The above is a photo of a photo: a beautiful postcard of the steam-clock in Gastown, taking by my photographer friend Zak of Fertile Images that was given to me last night by the artists, beautifully packaged with glittery snowflakes. 

Laying out plans and goals and establishing a renewed interest in the values and people that are important to us has become a sort of a secular Western tradition. New Year's resolutions seem to be too often focused on very specific goals (losing weight, exercising, making more money...), usually neglected before January comes to a close. I've been always a firm believer in making each day of my life be what I want my life to be, in all its aspects if at all possible. Maintaining a balance is not a small feat in our hurried, shallow and cluttered lifestyle.

It's all about time. While we don't know how many days or years we'll get to live, we all are allotted 24 hours a day. It's entirely up to us what we do with these 24 hours. For me, a perfect day will be one which is balanced and contains the things that are important to me. In essence: breath, love and create.

The purpose of new year's resolutions should not be to make you feel like an underachiever, but rather to inspire you. That's why I like the daily approach. It's not about taking it "one day at a time" (which could easily lead you to slipping steadily down a slippery slope to destruction, or plateau at best); but to make achieving those goals all the more doable. If you're a task-oriented person, setting up big goals might lead to procrastination because you might be worried that once you start, you won't be able to leave your desk until the job is finished. With the one day at a time approach, as long as you dedicate a sufficient amount of time each day to those bigger goals and projects in your life -  you will get there. You will get it done.

So, what do I really wish for us all this year? Find the time, each day, to do the important things to us: breath and connect to the present moment and our body; play with our kids; wake up each morning with the excitement that today, we will create something new. 

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