Sunday, July 29, 2018

Summer Splash!

Enjoy 15% off when ordering $60 or more online and using the code SummerSplash18.
Also, there are store-wide reductions (see post below). Offer expires July 31st at midnight.

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Price Changes... Not What You Think!

Restocking, Repricing

Three years ago, I switched my website to Shopify. While this made the website way more user friendly, it also forced me to seemingly increase my pricing. In reality, what truly happened is that while you were all used to them being presented in USD (which reflected the true cost of my raw materials), they now had to be shown in CAD. This made the prices look higher by about 30%. Not a good thing for sales. Even though there was no real price increase!

I tried everything to make this less confusing and reduce its effect on my sales. For example, making the price visible in USD conversion (but still customers would be billed in the end in a seemingly "higher amount" because it charged them the value in CAD). Besides being confusing to the eye, I imagine it also did not add to the credibility of a business who increases their amount at the checkout ;-) Sigh...

Not surprisingly, this has hurt my business quite a bit, so I'm trying to change this, although this will continue to affect my business. I have recently went through the entire website, and brought back the "original prices" when everything had a price that reflects the actual value of it, and was viewed and billed in USD. So that you will be able to see the true value of each item, what I did was go through the ENTIRE WEBSITE, and create a "sale" on each product, by reverting the prices to the numbers you are all used to from the good old days (and still showing the original amount that it should have cost), only that this will be in CAD.

Needless to say, this will make me lose a lot of money per product - but I hope will win some new customers (and bring some of you back). This is not an easy step for me, and one that I have been debating with myself ever since the website has started. Because, the fact and the matter is, that my raw materials pricing has only increased. For example: 3 years ago, the price of an ounce of jasmine was just a little over $100. Now it is more than $200. Similar price increases are found in everyone of the core ingredients that I use across most of my creations - rose, vanilla, and more. The prohibitively costly raw materials such as boronia, osmanthus, champaca etc have gone through the roof, and still I stick to my old formulae and never compromise. If I ever reformulate it is only to make a perfume BETTER - never cheaper.

Part of my values (which are not listed anywhere formally), are that I don't particularly have any interest in making my perfumes an "unattainable" item, something that only celebrities and oligarchs can afford. Neither do I want everyday people who feel the pressure to be like celebrities or oligarchs need to break their banks and go into debt to obtain them. I want real people like you and me to enjoy my very real perfumes: creations that come straight from my heart... and hopefully also touch yours.

Neither do I ever have any interest in mass marketing (and producing) them. I create everything in small batches, and sell them in small sizes that allow anyone to afford them - at least once a year on your birthday or anniversary, if you save up a little bit (but most likely more than that). Most of my sizes, when used daily, will last you anywhere from 6-12 months.

Another thing is the actual volume in containers vs. the amount listed: my roll-on bottles changed, and even though when I purchased them as 5ml bottles, they take 6ml to fill. This may sound like a small change, but when we're talking about a parfum at 30% concentration, this is adding up a lot to my costs... So consider yourself lucky to get one extra millilitre, and for way less money than ever before... Ditto the miniatures, they are usually filled with more around the 5ml than 4ml. But I just didn't want to make a big deal out of it and increase the cost. So there you are.

So, this is all good news for you, and I hope this will allow you to
purchase this perfume you always thought was too expensive... Even though you probably didn't know it was the same price as it was 3 years ago...

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Rose Petal Beads

Rose Petals
Here's a glimpse into a five day process of making fragrant rose petal beads (perfect for rosary or any kind of prayer/meditation jewellery). This a time-consuming process that requires daily attention, but it's very satisfying to create something from garden to the finished product.

Rose Petal Beads, Day 1
Here the rose petals are beginning to cook with some water and a binding gum. I am not disclosing which kind because I followed a recipe with gum arabic and I was not happy with the results to added another gum at the end. In other words: this is a work in progress and I'm not sure which gum really is the best. When I know something, I'm happy to share it (most of the time). When I'm not sure I would rather not mislead you.

Rose Petal Beads, Day 3
Day 3 or so of rose petal cooking...

Rose Petal Beads, Day 4
More stewing on day 4. The rose petals are not broken down yet so I've decided to grind them in a food processor.

Rose Petal Beads, Day 4
Now it's a nice paste! But still not gooey enough.

Rose Petal Beads, Day 4
Trying to make a bead (and it wasn't formed well enough, which is why I added more gum on the last day).
Rose Petal Beads, Day 5
Day five, time for more cooking and finally the fun part: Forming the beads!

Rose Petal Beads, Day 5
Piercing the rose beads, one a time. Nails that I stick into a  scrap of foam (styrofoam would probably be a better choice but I didn't have anything handy).

Rose Petal Beads, Day 5
The rose petal beads were left to dry on the nails for about a week (depending on the humidity levels, this can take less time). Make sure to twist them a bit on the nail so they don't completely stick to i.

Rose Petal Beads, Off the Nails
Coming off the nails...
Rose Petal Beads, Off the Nails
And... voila! Now I just need to decide which kind of jewellery I want to make out of them.

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Raspberry Streusel Coffee Cake


Summer is here and the fruit is ripe - and gets overripe before there's time to completely enjoy it... So some has to become this cake, which is one of my favourite cakes ever... It's the second week in a row that I'm making it and we have no trouble finishing it up - and thankful whenever there is a guest over to help us out!

It's super simple to make, and the best part - it smells so beautiful when it bakes - nothing quite like pastries baking when they have loads of almonds, butter and vanilla in them!

100g Melted butter 
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour 

Prepare the streusel by mixing together the dry ingredients, then pouring the melted butter on top. If the mixture is too moist, add more flour until crumbs have formed. Refrigerate and proceed with making the cake

For the cake: 
10 Tbs. salted butter, room temperature
2/3 Cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or 1 tsp. vanilla paste
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Zest from 1 lemon
3 eggs
2 cup unbleached white flour
250-300g raspberries, fresh or frozen, tossed with 2 Tbs flour 
2 tsp. double acting baking powder, or 1 package baking powder 
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk 

• Use an 11 inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper.
• Cream the butter with the sugar, vanilla and almond extracts.
• Beat in eggs, one at a time.
• Sift the flour with the baking powder Beat into the egg mixture. Add the buttermilk and mix well.
• Toss in the dusted raspberries (flouring them first ensures that they won't sink to the bottom; if using frozen ones, let them thaw a little bit before adding the flour, so that it actually sticks to their outsides and covers them).
• Spread the batter into the baking pan.
• Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out pretty clean (as long as you don’t insert it through the fruit!)
• While the cake is baking, prepare the Raspberry Sauce. 

For the raspberry sauce:
250g raspberries
160g powdered sugar
2 Tbs Créme de Cassis liquor 
Juice from 1 lemon (about 2Tbs)
Blitz in a food processor until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

To serve:
This raspberry torte is best served on the day of or the next day at the most (if it will last at all!). Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle the raspberry sauce all over it.
Or, serve at room temperature with a  dollop of whipped cream and drizzle with the raspberry sauce as well.

Raspberry Coffee Cake

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Black Gardenia


Russian Leather meets tuberose in Anna Zworykina's Black Gardenia. Zworykina's plays up the rubbery nuances of tuberose with the addition of  leathery-smoky quality of castoreum*, and I suspect there is also a tad of birch tar or cade in there. The green and creamy aspects of tuberose are still felt, but they feel mushroomy and dark, and stay true to the promise of the name Black Gardenia. This is by no means a shy flower, but rather a fleshy, dark, prowling feline-like beast that becomes more aroused the longer it lingers on your skin.

Along the tuberose star, there are frangipani, neroli and ylang ylang as a supporting actresses. The first two bring out the stem-green aspects of tuberose and gardenia; the latter highlights its creamy, leathery, salicylic qualities. There are some oak-barrel-like undertones from the sandalwood and agarwood, giving the leather a sturdy frame to stretch on. Slowly the smokiness dissipates and makes room for a smooth, woody-vanilla skin-scent. There is also a hint of something fruity-floral (perhaps the davana), and the floral gardenia illusion, although subtle, is felt in a suave, smooth, tropical-floral-on-warm-skin way.

The interesting things about complex compositions and raw materials: Once you notice something, you will notice it again in different stages of the composition. Another time around wearing Black Gardenia, the  juicy fruitiness of the Davana comes off right away, adorning the tuberose, shimmering and reflecting the ylang ylang juicy banana aspects, and creating more of a tropical-fruity effect, where as in the first times I worn it, I noticed the creamy-green tuberose facets more.

While Black Gardenia has a clear personality of leather-tuberose, it has many nuances that piques my interest throughout its duration on my skin. It is lovely, a little addictive and a case in point that white florals can take a stance without being loud, and be pretty without ever becoming boring.

Top notes: Ylang Ylang, Neroli, Frangipani
Heart notes: Tuberose, Jasmine, Rose, Orris, Davana
Base notes: Castoreum, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Agarwood 

* A botanical, vegan version is also available, which I haven't smelled

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Candy Lei

fallen plumeria'
Cuir de Gardenia smells more like a flower candy than leathery gardenia. Surprisingly straightforward for Aftelier, who usually pairs together two contrasting elements. This time around the sweet-floral aspects of gardenia are amplified by isolates that take away from the complexity of the gorgeous tiaré absolute it is built upon. I have smelled the absolute and it is a perfume on its own right - which is why I assume the perfumer tried to add as little as possible to it. The Tiare absolute combines a heady florally with a hint of sharp verdant aspect in the opening, and a buttery-creamy softness that balances it perfectly.

The choice of oil for the base is a bit at odds with the white floral theme - oil does not do justice to many white florals, and tend to hide them in their fat folds instead of allowing their shimmering beauty to shine. Also the intentional lack of top notes does not do this justice either, creating an effect of plunging into a decadent layer cake without any notice. Ethyl maltol (the  same cotton-candy molecule that gave Angel its powerful chocolatey effect), Ethyl Phenylacetate (providing a sweet pea-like fragrance), which further sweetens it and perhaps barely accentuates the naturally occurring green aspects - they still end up completely buried in this sugary floral lei. Thankfully, I'm not smelling an overdose of methyl anthranilate (we've already smelled what that does in Chanel's Gardénia). I'm also surprised to smell no jasmine or vanilla absolute, both "the usual suspects" for a gardenia composition, and could have worked well here without taking away from the tiaré.

The castoreum, which is supposed to give it the "cuir" and interesting balance is barely there, which is a shame. Because gardenia and leather could be beautiful together. Sometimes when we are too careful to lose an essence by adding other elements to it, we end up doing just that.

When all the sugary isolates fade away, there is a return of the tiaré absolute, but only a shadow of it as the oil absorbs much of the scent and creates a different aura to it. I really wish I could smell it in alcohol base. I am certain it would do it more justice.

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Carnal Flower

Pink orchid 011

Carnal Flower opens with a slightly fresh fruity note and hints of green (melon and eucalyptus). Than it’s mostly tuberose with a full-bodied, sweetened orange blossom, much in the same vein as that note in Lys Mediteranee. Even the base is the same to my nose – supposed to be musk, but I smell a balsamic-woody sweetness similar to peru balsam essential oil (which smells very different than the crude balsam). There isn’t much coconut in it, but it does help improve the initial impression and add creaminess to the tuberose.

I like this a lot and it’s easy to wear (I worn it on a very warm day and it was never cloying at all). However, this is not my favourite tuberose, and in the light of Lys Mediteranee being so similar, I do feel a tad disappointed from this installation in the Editions de Parfums

Top notes: Melon, Eucaliptus, Ylang Ylang, Salycilates
Heart notes: Tuberose, Orange Blossom, Jasmine
Base notes: Coconut, Musks

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Chanel's Gardénia

Black Gardenia

Chanel's Gardénia was never really meant to be a realistic gardenia, but an olfactory representation of the designer's favourite flower, the (scentless) white camellia. Like Narcisse Noir, this abstract floral has an orange-blossom-like quality at its core, but it's not nearly as dark. At the same time, it does not have the bright clarity orange blossom usually creates. Instead, it plays up the methyl anthranilate, and fleshes it out with a muted, slightly mushroomy-green tuberose back note, waxy aldehydes and powdery violet-rose accord that bring to mind lipstick, scented candles and makeup. As it dries down, it becomes less sweet and smooth and a little dusty-woody, like cedar wood saw dust. Perhaps there is also a hint of cedar moss as a fixative as well, some vanilla and musk. All around there is an incense feel in the air that accompanies the abstract floral frontline. But all in all, it is quite linear and very well blended that the character somehow maintains itself despite these changes.

If you're expecting a luscious, larger-than-life tuberose-gardenia you'll be disappointed. This is demure by comparison, and has more fruity floral character than a big white floral as this name would suggest to anyone familiar with the flower. It's very well-behaved, staying close to the skin but at the same time has depth and a harmonious, even if not complex evolution. This is the perfume extrait I am referring to, which I believe was discontinued when the Les Exclusifs were launched. Which is too bad, because it was replaced by a thin and pale shadow of its former self, and a very short lived experience. And I hear that even this older version I have may very likely not be the original composed by Ernest Beaux. Read more on Perfume Shrine about how Gardénia has changed and evolved (or devolved...) in different eras since it launched in 1924. To me it smells more like a Caron than a Chanel - it has warmth and sensuality, while most of the Chanels are generally aloof and have a cool manner about them.

Nevertheless, it will still satisfy elegant ladies in beige linen suits or cream satin gowns, or those who enjoy an unusual floral with a retro yet not old-fashioned feel. It is elegant, understated and the aldehydes are not terribly dominant (as they are in No. 22, for example). The new version that replaces it is louder at first, with a more identifiable fresh flowers of tuberose-gardenia with their intense headiness and almost realistically dewy gardenia petals, but just for a few minutes. It is so light and sheer that it disappears very quickly and makes room for an accord that is quite true to the core of the original composition - incense, wax, lipstick rose-violets - just a tasting menu of it all, not a full fledged Gardénia.

Top notes: (Modern EDT version has green-dewy gardenia top notes, the vintage I have has no apparent top notes). 
Heart notes: Orange Blossom, Tuberose, Rose, Violet
Base notes: Incense, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Musk

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Different Company's Osmanthus

Linden Blossom

Sometime in the spring, I took the train to Tel Aviv for a day of fun with my daughter. Among other things, we went to Individual in Neve Tzedeq, a new perfume boutique that carries only niche brands, among them Different Company. It was a chance to revisit Osmanthus, a fragrance that from my memory captured best the elusive scent of this tiny flower while it's still intact on the bush. The absolute does not portray an accurate picture, although it is gorgeous on and of itself. I only had a chance to smell white osmanthus one evening in San Francisco at Ineke' private fragrant garden. It's the kind of scent one could ever forget. The osmanthus incense my friend Noriko brought me from Japan also comes pretty close to it, and does not smell terrible artificial even though it is.

The shop owners at Individual are evidently passionate about perfume, and know how to sell it (not being pushy is crucial, as is giving samples to try at home several times). I've revisited the sample of TDC Osmanthus over the course of a few months now, and I'm still on the fence if to get it or not... But before I launch into describing my experience with this scent, a word of caution to any perfumer trying to recreate this scent or even attempt to compose with osmanthus absolute: it is extremely challenging. That is not to say that there aren't any gorgeous perfumes with that scent, or that it's impossible to work with, or to discourage one from trying; but the results are more often watered down florals that lack body or character, except for a very artificial and synthetic feel (the examples for this genre of osmanthus approach are many, from to the swimming-pool clean l'Eau d'Issey or whitewashed Pure White Linen to the fruity-shampoo persona of Nuit de Cellophane). Some of the natural and niche perfumeries have churned up descent or interesting perfumes in which osmanthus is the star of the show - Osmanthus Oolong and Un Crime Exotique are two of my all-time favourites.

TDC Osmanthus starts realistic and promising, with that mysterious, fruity yet powdery, diffusive and  delicately ephemeral live osmanthus on the bush; yet there is a slightly oily element which interrupts this harmony. This is not uncommon in osmanthus absolute, by the way. There could be a tad of a rancid oil off-note. As long as it's just a hint, that's okay. Then it becomes  bit more honeyed and before you know it - it turns into realistic rendition of living linden blossoms in mid-June. Like  whiff of blue skies on a cool summer morning. Bright and fresh like crisp linens off the laundry line, with hints of iced tilleul tea. It is pretty, but I'm missing some kind of a darkness or body or a contrasting point that would make it more interesting and less linear.

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