Wednesday, February 03, 2016

New Perfume: Sunset Beach

Summer 2012

Sunset Beach is a little piece of heaven tucked away in the midst of boat-bustling False Creek and busy bridges that cross over it. Sunset Beach is that happy place where time stops and the only things that matter are the tides, the currents, and basking in the gentle evening sun. You can spend the day there or just bring a hectic workday to a serene close with a beachside walk or a leisurely picnic.

Fragrant Harlequin glorybower and Robinia embellish its borders, and in midsummer you'll find musky wild blackberries and hot-pink everlasting peas along the shoreline. And if you're particularly lucky - you'll find yourself swimming alongside a playful harbour seal!

Sunset Beach can be anywhere... Mine just happened to be in Vancouver. I invite you to uncork a bottle of this daydream and experience a truly creamy sandalwood perfume complemented by handcrafted tinctures of pandan leaf and milky oolong tea, coconut, massoia bark and dreamy champaca.

Sunset Beach is the second perfume in "Perfume for a Place" series, dedicated to Ayala's favourite places in Vancouver.


Top Notes: Pandan Leaf, Milky Oolong Tea Tincture, Cedarwood
Heart notes: Champaca, Coffee, Nutmeg, Ylang Ylang, Orris Butter
Base notes: Indian Sandalwood, Hawaii Sandalwood, Chocolate, Coconut, Massoia Bark

Fragrance Families: Woody, Floriental

Available in: Eau de Parfum only, in the following sizes: 1mL sample ($18), 4mL mini ($48), 5mL roll-on ($69) and 15mL splash/spray ($120).

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Serge Noire

Japanese Temple Incense

I'm much behind on checking out "new" scents, including this "recent" offering from the leading niche house of Monsieur Lutens... I've been skimming through new releases with very little interest in the past few years (in case you haven't noticed the waning volume of perfume reviews here). And when yet another fragrance with artificially blackened subtitle showed up, I've become not even in the least curious about it... However, aside from the (lame) name, Serge Noire was a pleasant surprise: it is the liquid version of Zu-koh, AKA Japanese body incense.

My first encounter with Serge Noire gave me the impression that it's yet another violet-cedar oriental, full of ionone and cedrol. Then, when I tested it at Sephora it smelled entirely different, and totally won my heart: Camphoreous-woody and underlined with balsamic sweetness. I was smelling a whiff of of borneol camphor at first, sprinkled with cassia and over a looming backdrop of dark woodsy notes of patchouli, cedar wood and sandalwood. The finishing touch is a base of powdery, comforting puff of amber and vanilla. And it is a dead ringer to Tokusen by Shoyeido, which I adore.

If you're unfamiliar with the experience of body incense (zu-koh), this is a special blend of powdered woods and spices that were originally intended for purification before prayer. Instead of washing one's hands before entering a temple, you'd sprinkle your hands with this powder and rub your palms with it. It can also be worn much like liquid perfume - a sprinkle on the chest or behind the ears and on the wrists and inside bend of the elbows. You'll be enveloped in a dusty cloud of spice and wood, and enjoy the benefits of incense (minus the smoke) or perfume (sans the alcohol). I'm very fond of this perfume, and it makes one feel both sensual and spiritual at the same time... It is how I'd imagined the "char black" perfume that is mentioned in Memoir of a Geisha... It is sensuous, and at the same time also inspired meditation and contemplation, bringing instantly a magical, ancient feeling of serenity and deep thought, as deep as the roots of the trees it came from.

Surprisingly, Serge Noire is the first Lutens in many years that I feel the urge to purchase. However, to my dismay, the carded sample I originally got still smells too much like the signature Lutens cedar-honey-violet accord which was originally introduced in Feminite du Bois. It's not so much about my personal preference but more about how much this style was copied over and over by "niche" brands that made it feel redundant and no longer original... Such is the nature of trends, unfortunately. I'll have to go to Sephora to try it again and make sure the bottles they carry are more like the body incense and less like artificial cedar and violets. Alternatively, I can just revisit my Tokusen zu-koh and enjoy what I have.

It also reminds me very much of a special Japanese incense that my friend Noriko brought me from a temple in the countryside.

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Must Read: Phantasomia

The New York Times has a fascinating article about phantom smells that appear after losing a loved one. Author Julie Myerson began smelling whiffs of the perfume of her mother-in-law five years after her death, and tried to decipher this disturbing yet delicious phenomenon...
Have you ever smelled a perfume that was not there? In other words - have you experienced a scent hallucination? And if so - what was the context?


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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Incense Through the Ages

Smouldering Incense & Perfumes
It's winter. The most glorious season in Canada, where the energy is directed indoors, and focuses on social gatherings large and small. As usual, I'm an outsider peeking into what this is all about from the viewpoint of a traveller passing by. For, like, 17 years.

I am looking forward to the quite and solitude that tomorrow brings. For someone who grew up in Israel, it's funny to see how once a year, Canadians are experiencing the only tight-lid closure of stores and services. The rare sight observed today - of long, hectic lineups at the supermarkets and grocery stores, the traffic congestion, etc. are a weekly sight in Israel, where every Friday families stock up for a full day (gasp!) without shopping... I find it amusing.

One of my favourite things this time of year is walking in the West End (my neighbourhood  and home for my entire Canadian adventure) and coming across a waft of real, wood stove smoke. Am I the only human for whom the smell of pyrolysis stirs up strong emotions? I think not. It is at the same time a signal of danger in the forest, and the safety of the caveman's tribal bonfire.  No other recent can conjure so immediately and powerfully the feeling of freedom, adventure and coziness. It transports me to cozy nights with my family by the fireplace, my home village burning in a bush fire, and more recently - bonfires when camping in my imaginary gypsy tribe or spice caravan.

Come wintertime, and few things please me more than immerse myself in fragrant smoke. And I'm not alone - incense, and in particular - frankincense and myrrh, from the desert trees which grow wild and are cultivated in Southern Arabian peninsula and West Africa is a symbol of the Nativity Scene and is burnt in many Churches. Beginning with some basics, just straight-up burning of substances in their raw form, preferably on hot charcoals: white sage, leaves and twigs of redcedar, frankincense tears and sticks of palo santo (that tend to self-extiniguish repeatedly...). And then to some wonderful Egyptian Kyphi - a concoction that is my own modern spin on the ancient recipe. Although not accurate, it is done according to the technique and the scholarly deciphering of its original 16 ingredients. It may not be accurate, but I can attest to its fragrant heavenliness and ability to banish the worries of the day - which is what Kyphi is all about...

Dabney Rose's modern Kyphi

I've been blessed with wonderful incense friends, who generously send me their incense creations. Above you can see Dabney Rose's version of Kyphi, in 3 different "flavours" (from top to bottom): Soliliguy, Févriér Amour and Winter Sleep (Conifer). They are made very differently from mine, which is granular and is meant to be sprinkled on the hot coal. Rather, after the ingredients have been pounded into a more-or-less uniform level, they've been shaped into little "candies", and one is meant to break off little pieces to place on the hot charcoal, or on a mica plate. Although the shapes are adorable, I am wondering about the extra work required both by the incense maker (who needs to put a ton of effort into each piece!), and the user - who needs to break off the piece from a very hard piece of re-bound resins. Perhaps I am missing something in the process or the technique. It sure would make for an interesting ritual if there was a special knife that would cut through these elegantly.

But what truly matters, more than shape or form, is the scent itself. And in deep winter Winter Sleep is a most befitting incense to burn. It's a wonderful way to celebrate Winter Solstice; and once the celebrations are over -  to rejuvenate and counter the winter blues that tends to follow the over-partying or maybe just feeling left out after
The name is a bit misleading though: it's actually a great way to wake up from winter hibernation! The elegant incense candy smells like juniper, spruce needles and pinon pine, and it reminds me of a crisp winter walk in a snow-covered coniferous forest. When it's burning, I'm smelling primarily myrrh, but also the resinous coniferous notes and a sweet-balsamic after-note.

Another favourite of mine to burn at this time of year is Ross Urrere's "Ocean of Night" loose incense that look like kohl or charcoal with bits of woods and oakmoss strewn in. Ocean of Night is a rich, luxurious, ambery-balsamic yet floral blend that is very perfumey. It reminds me of the floral Russian and Greek Church incense, yet without the unpleasant synthetic aftertaste these have. It's like an incense version of Nuit de Noël!

Curious to explore more incense-themed perfumes - check out my Christmas 2015 Newsletter: Smouldering Incense Gift Guide.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Making Incense Cones

Sandalwood Incense Cones and Sweetgrass

This winter I've returned to my humble beginnings as an incense maker. Here are some photos from the meticulous production process of making Indian-style incense cones. I made them in two luxurious yet simple "flavours": Sandalwood and Agarwood.

I'm still experimenting with other ideas of more complex formulations, but for now I'm just wowed by what a simple incense (read: one note) smells like. With these two woods, that's really all you need...

Incense Dust
The most frustrating part of incense making is grinding. Bonus effect: if using an  effective heavy-duty electric grinder, the fine powder will go up your nostrils every time you check on the progress. Major sneezing fits may ensue. Or just an unregulated high from botanical substances. This one had tobacco leaves in it (grown for medicinal/ceremonial purposes). My nose did not agree with it and I had to put up with watery eyes and itchy nose that afternoon.

Incense Trail
Indented incense trail, with the trial mix sprinkled inside it.

Incense Trail
The true test - incense trail. If this burns through to the other end, we're off to a good start. If it also smells wonderful - we're good to go!
Incense Making
Now that the blend has been perfected, and confirmed to both burn through and smell good, it's time to add water. It will form a clay-like putty. It can't be too try, nor too moist. Gotta be just right...

Incense "clay"
To make the incense cones uniform in size, I've rolled them into a snake and cut into little gnocchi-shaped sections. Each is rolled by hand to form a cone, and left to dry.

Incense Selfie
Incense maker's selfie of sorts... The incense is now ready to pack away - and burn!

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Smelling Through Your Fingertips

A Captured Moment with my Grandson

A fascinating BBC article (with a photo of what first looks like very hungry pairs of multi-fingered hands) about scientific findings about the sense of smell left me quite philosophical. Researchers discovered that scent receptors that are supposedly responsible for our sense of smell are not unique to the olfactory bulbs. The same type of receptors were found in the kidneys, heart, lung, gut and even in the tiny blood vessels in our skin!

The scientific implications of that are a better understanding of the interactions of various environments in our body, and how these work together to reject and eliminate toxins (as is done in our blood-filtering organs, the kidneys), pushing away foreign objects from our airway systems, and work in harmony with the the colonies of bacteria in our digestive system, are just among the discoveries described in this article.

These are fascinating discoveries, and I'm certain that down the road (and perhaps not that far from now), there will be some applicable medical and technological uses for this fascinating discovery. At the same time, to me personally this is yet another layer of knowledge that only confirms what I've been learning throughout my perfumery work and my personal experience with the sense of smell and how it relates to emotions.

The part that truly hit home for me is that these "smell receptors" are really chemical-sampling cells (which is how we've evolved from single-cell organisms like amebas to the complex creatures we are now), and their job is not limited to the brain (which the olfactory bulbs are part of). It makes sense to me just in the same way that we experience emotional pain in our brain like physical pain; and in  extreme emotional pain, it will be felt in the body as well, as if every fibre of one's being, to the last skin cell, is achingly tortured. How we interact with our environment has everything to do with how we evolved to be an interactive part of our environment. Emotions, smell and the tactile world are connected because this is how we "feel" life. Unlike the "higher" senses of sight and sound, these are very "hands-on" senses, that require a direct contact with a surface or a substance to be experienced, and that's what the cells or receptors need to be activated.

Our environment is not only external but also internal. So it only makes sense that we sense inside our bodies, and not just form the outside. Taking into account the internal milieu of emotions, it only makes sense that when we feel sad, angry or scared, there will be a change of chemicals in other organs besides our brain - the taste in our mouth becomes bitter when we are terrified, so why won't it became sour (perhaps) in our bellies when we are angry? And how much of our interpersonal interactions are actually through sounds (words and tone) or visual (facial expression) and how much of it really is all about the chemicals we transmit through a handshake?
It seems to me that even with not very intimate relationships, the experience of smell and touch that accompanies them communicates a lot more through this ability to "sample chemicals" from the environment. We can communicate a lot more through a handshake and the subconciously-perceptible scent we are emitting when we are feeling sad, happy, angry, disgusted or scared.

I'd be curious to hear what aromatherapy practitioners think about this. We already know that essential oils absorb readily through the skin into the blood stream and find their way with ease to the organ that needs healing. Do you reckon that the smell receptors in our skin and other organs have anything to do with aiding this process? And what about anosmiac people? Do they have less smell receptors in other areas of their bodies, or smell receptors that are less effective? My mother has a rare syndrome whose one of its symptoms is susceptibility to lung infections, and one of the unfortunate side effects is anosmia. Reading in this article the role this smell receptors have in assisting the cilia in the lungs to identify foreign bodies in the lungs and rid the lungs of them makes me wonder what happened first - the cilia's dysfunction, or does it have anything to do with smell receptors?

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Scent Safari: Video Review for Komorebi



Maximilian Must Know Episode # 431 (Scent Safari - Ayala Moriel)

First video reviews ever for Ayala Moriel Parfums! And first review of my new perfume Komorebi - yayMaximilian compares it to Serge Lutens' Fille en Aiguilles, and says describes it as redolent of "woods, some forest funk, and this note of pine-like tree sap with some berries (...)" . FYI the vial titled "Forest Amber" is really Komorebi - before I had a name for it.

Also reviewed in this episode: Etrog, Film Noir, Espionage:
"The key word with these fragrances from Ayala is quality, development, power and performance (...) there is no gimmick (...) really high quality perfume made with passion and ingenuity and no shortcuts (...) This is as good as it gets. These are regal fragrances, fit for royalty". 

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