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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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blue Diamond

lotus bud

If I were to observe the middle-school version of me and spy on her reading habits via her library activities, I would be deeply concerned for her future not to mention current well-being. Among her favourite books were any titles whatsoever by Kurt Vonnegut, and similarly disturbing titles such as "Catch 22" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". One may argue that this is still better than what real-life tortured teen girls went through  in other books on her reading list, Christiane F. being one such example. Being only a merger 13 years old meant that these books were not read with a critical adult eye, but rather served as wan encouragement and an inspiration for awkward behaviours, because trying to fit in was not only a lost cause - but also a faulty one.* I'd marvel at anything out of the ordinary and sought different ways to look at the world. Such as focusing on very small details in my pencil sketches, or looking through a blue glass prism to see the world multiplied by its many facets.

Thankfully, those days are over and despite all odds, I survived teenager-hood with only a scratch or two. But some things became an inseparable part of me. Such as compassion to anyone who is different from the mainstream society or culture; and also a desire to look at things from an alternative angle, even if

Blue Diamond is an ancient perfume made by renown Danish chemist and author Steffen Arctander in 1979, and no longer in production. The gracious Heidi, a SmellyBlog reader and a long-time customer, has given me a sample when she was visiting in Vancouver this past summer. I heard about it before through another comment on this blog, but never seen it mentioned elsewhere. Heidi's curiosity about the notes in this perfume piqued my curiosity. She suspected the name "Blue Diamond" alluded to a precious blue flower: The legendary sacred Egyptian blue water lily, which is often mistakenly called "Blue Lotus". She was not far off the mark.

Upon opening the vial, a familiar yet mysterious fragrance welcomed me. As I was telling Heidi when I first smelled it - I could smell a high content of natural absolutes in the mix, perhaps tuberose, hyacinth or lotus - but not blue - rather, the pink variety (which is the true lotus). Visually speaking, I can see how a flower may be the inspiration - the unopened bud of lotus looks like a birds-eye view of cut-diamond or sapphire. The other dominant aspect of the composition is aldehydes, of the oily scalp type - C-11 or C-13, giving the perfume a skin-like, awkwardly intimate quality. The perfume is very potent and very long lasting, with the finishing notes being a pleasant cocktail of synthetic white musks.

* In modern perfumery terms, such philosophy is found in some awkward compositions, such as Tubereuse Criminelle - which instead of trying to make the tuberose smell pretty, it amplifies its ugly, rubbery and medicinal character and by exaggeration creates something beautiful.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Musk Malabi Fundraising Campaign for Syrian Refugees

Musk Malabi, my fundraiser perfume to support Syrian Refugees, was launched a couple of years ago. There was only marginal interest in the cause, unfortunately, so I was unable to make any substantial contribution to this cause. 

Now that the refugee crisis has come to the forefront of the media - I hope you can help me raise enough funds to help sponsor refugees who are arriving to Canada in these tough times. For every 15mL bottle sold, $50 will be donated to a community-sponsored family; and from each mini bottle, $20 will be donated.

If you are in Canada, I urge you to find a community-sponsorship as well, or initiate one yourself in your community or workplace. According to Canadian law around sponsorship of immigrants, groups such as religious community associations (i.e.: non-profit NGOs) and community based organizations (i.e.: mosques, churches, synagogues, etc.) but also corporations can sponsor refugees, and any group of 5 or more Canadians that can provide a feasible settlement plan for the refugees. That is one way to guarantee the safe asylum of a family fleeing the horrors of the Syrian civil war, and much more meaningful way to invest smaller amounts of charitable money than to support a huge organization in which whatever contribution I could make will just be a drop in the bucket.

Of course, if you wish to donate to larger organizations - there are some that are more effective than others and which will utilize your donations more efficiently. Do your research first. For example, charities that are recommended for maximum help in the ground zero of the Syrian refugee crisis and that have a minimum administrative costs are listed in Charity Intelligence (Canada) and Charity Watchdog (USA).

Below is an excerpt from the original press release (March 2014) and the updates regarding pricing and donations policy.

Inspiring Peace & Harmony with Musk Malabi’s Olfactory Love Triangle
Vancouver, Canada, March 5th, 2014. Get caught in a love triangle with Musk Malabi Ayala Moriel’s newest limited-edition perfume Musk Malabi. Released to coincide with the spring equinox and Persian New Year, Musk Malabi is an intoxicating floral confection. Unabashedly feminine, subtly exotic and hopelessly romantic - the fragrance evokes the sensory experience of a passionate love affair.
Inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern dessert of the same name, Musk Malabi centers itself around rich, milky musk. Having grown up in Israel, the sights, sounds, and smells of the Mediterranean have always been a source of inspiration for Ayala Moriel, the company’s in-house perfumer. “What has always captured my imagination about malabi is its soft, evocative sounding name, and its unique fragrant combination of rosewater and neroli water”, explains Ayala. “Rose and orange blossom are such noble flowers yet oh so different.”

At the heart of the fragrance, neroli and rose come unexpectedly together with musk to create an unusual and mesmerizing triad. Musk plays cupid, pulling all the strings in between and drawing the lovers (rose and neroli) together. Designed to smell as close as possible to deer musk, the botanical musk brings an effortless fluidity to this magnetic fragrance. A company that prides itself on being all-natural and free of animal cruelty, all of Ayala’s fragrances are created using botanical essences.
With spicy notes of cardamom and coriander as the opening act for voluptuous rose and prudent neroli, the top and heart notes rest on a silky bed of atlas cedarwood, botanical musk and Tahitian vanilla. Light-hearted yet mysterious, Musk Malabi is a fragrance unlike any other and will transport one effortlessly to the exotic Middle-East, jet-lag free.
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

Available in eau de parfum 4ml ($69) and 15ml ($180) via For every 15mL bottle sold, $50 will be donated to a community-sponsored family; and from each mini bottle, $20 will be donated. 

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Behind The Scents

Below is a quick reference guide to the "Behind The Scent" series on SmellyBlog - an insider glimpse into the creative process of perfume creation through Ayala Moriel's natural fragrances.

Zohar: The Birth of a Perfume

Yasmin: A Midsummer's Night Dream

Les Nuages de Joie Jaune (Moroccan Mimosa Memories)

Tamya Perfume

Film Noir

Roses et Chocolat

Vetiver Racinettes Process:
Vetiver Blanc
Vetiver Noir
Wilde Vetyver
Vetivet Rouge

New Orleans 

Immortelle l'Amour

Gaucho’s Journey: The Spark of Two Flintstones
Gaucho's Journey Part 2: Premature Steps 
Gaucho's Journey Part 3: Glamour Profession, Procrastination
Gaucho’s Journey Part 5: Scouting the Grasslands
Gaucho's Journey - Part 6: Evolución
Gaucho: The End of the Journey

GiGi: Grand Gardenia Sans the Drama

Vetiver Racinettes


Ginger & Amber 
Amber & Ginger, Part Two
Ginger & Amber: The Third Party


Zangvil - continued:
Magnolia Lily & The Chinese Apothecary 

Song of Songs 


Etrog Breakthrough
Behind the Scents with Treazon


Musk Malabi
Anatomy of a Flower

Komorebi & Cedrechor

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lotus: A Thousand Petals of Transformation

Pink Lotus

The lotus is an important symbol in several Eastern cultures. There is an ancient confusion between two equally beautiful and elusive water flowers: the true lotus (Nelumbo) and the water lily (Nymphaea). However, both carry very similar meaning symbolically and spiritually. Both plants grow out of the depths of mire and rise above them with a blossoming purity. The flowers in both cases possess an impressive visual appearance and a corresponding intoxicating perfume.

Blue Waterlily

Let's begin with Ancient Egyptians, who referred to the so-called "blue lotus" (Nympheae cerulea) really a blue water lily) with much reverence. In Ancient Egypt blue lotus was abundant all around the Nile Valley. Nowadays, it is a scarce plant that grows in marshes and ponds in that area. The flower blooms only for 3 days, in which it rises 20-30cm above the water, opening around sunrise, between 7:30-8:00am and closing around noon, a cycle that echoes the solar rising and setting.

To the ancient Egyptian imagination, the yellow centre with its shooting yellow stamens set agains the blue flower symbolized the sun set in the azure Egyptian skies, and associated the "sacred lily of the Nile" with the sun god Ra. Blue lotus plays a role in an even earlier Egyptian myth - a myth of creation, which tells how the flower rose from "Nun" - the chaos - even before the sun itself was created.

"I am the pure Lotus which springeth up from the divine splendor that belongeth to the nostrils of Ra. I have made--my way--, and I follow on seeking for him who is Horus. I am the pure one who cometh forth out of the Field." (The Papyrus of Nu). 

Garlands of blue lotus were found in tombs and are portrayed and mentioned in the Book of Coming Forth by Day (AKA Egyptian Book of the Dead) - the guide for the soul in the afterlife.  "Transformation Into Lotus" is described in both in the papyrus of Nu and the papyrus of Paqrer. Blue lotus was also found in countless frescos and decorations on various ritual chalices. The priests would steep  the flowers in wine and harness its narcotic and hallucinogenic properties in their rituals to reach a state of ecstasy.  The flower's naturally occurring amorphine, nuciferine and nornufcferine are what give it hallucinogenic properties.

Blue lotus is not the only waterlily grown in Egypt. There was also the white waterlily (Nympheae lotus) which blooms at night and had only aesthetic use.

Flower of Enlightenment 
Pink Lotus

Another noteworthy waterlily is the Indian Blue Lotus (Nymphaea stiletto), which is sacred to the Buddhists and the Hindus. Buddha is said to sit on a lotus (Padma), and practitioners of meditation and yoga prefer the Padmāsana (AKA Lotus Pose), which literally means "lotus throne", a position that allows a completely straight spinal cord, redirect the blood flow from the legs to the belly, and creates pressure on the lower spine which along with the still position, initiates a calmer state of mind and provides less physical distractions while meditating. The lotus is also a symbol to the Sahasrana, the crown chakra, which has 20 layers of 50 petals each, in all the spectrum of colours.

The Buddhist consider lotus a symbol of Dharma (creation). In Hindusim, the lotus symbolizes the transformation from decay and transcendence above one's  muddled material existence to achieve something greater. Interestingly, Hindu mythology also consider lotus to be the home of their sun deity.

"There is no need to distinguish between lotus and the waterlily because it is recorded in the sutras 'the lotuses of heaven can change according to people's wishes, flowering when needed'. In this way, they bring joy to the hearts of all. There is no need to declare one false and the other real. both are called the wondrous lotus flowers" 
(Roman Keiser, Meaningful Scents Around the World p. 121).

Lotus Bud
If the lotus flower is enlightenment, lotus bud is the potential for the unfolding of the thousand petals.

Merging the Spiritual and the Fragrant
In my early days as a perfumer, I was guided by an insatiable thirst to harness the aromatic potential of plants in spiritual practice of meditation and incense-making. The Perfumes of the Zodiac were part of this process of my spiritual quest, as they are truly a study of human personality in all its many nuances and variation. This was the first collection I created. Lotus was the connecting link between two of the three water signs:

Scropio is the most firey water sign of all. If Cancer is the deep and wide ocean with all of its tides and waves, and Pisces is a babbling brook – than Scorpio is a deep, dark lake in the throat of a lava-mountain, bubbling with heat deep down. Scorpio signifies transformation, and therefore, the essence of lotus is particularly fitting for this perfume. Lotus being a beautiful, pure and fragrant, sacred flower that rises from the dirty swamps of decay and darkness. Other essences in Scorpio Perfume were chose for their association with Mars and the warlike qualities it represents: opoponax, choya loban (burnt benzoin), black pepper and blood orange. I also chose tuberose for its intensity and for supporting the fragility of the lotus flower.

If water means change, than Pisces is the epitome of water. It is changeable and mutable and lively like a cheerful little fish swimming in the brook – sometimes upstream, perhaps… Pisces is intuitive, spiritual, sensitive and emotional. Like Sagittarius, it is ruled by Jupiter.
The essences I chose for Pisces are moist and mossy, and being the end of the zodiac year's cycle are not unlike the decaying of leaves in the forest, on which new vegetation will strive.
Oakmoss, seaweed, amber, juniper, jasmine, lotus and sage make Pisces a simple yet interesting Chypre composition that has salty undertones.

Lotus Harvest

Lotus harvest - photo courtesy of Christopher McMahon of White Lotus Aromatics

Lotus originates in Kashmir, but has travelled with the monks all over Southeast Asia. It grows wild in the ponds of the East Indian jungles. Unlike modern Western perfumers, the East Indian perfumers actually distill their own essence. They are in touch with the plants in their original raw state, and at times even pick them from the wild. Using a light, portable copper still, the perfumer can carry it on his back while entering the wilderness to collect flowers in their blooming season, be it from the coast, the jungle or the pond. To harvest both the lotus and water lily, the perfumer must immerse themselves to the waist in the very murky waters from which they've ascended.

"Lotus Effect"
Lotos Effect
The surface of the lotus is observed on leaves that have water-repelling (ultrahydrophobic) properties. What happened is that the water slides off the leaf and cleans it from impurities such as dust, dirt, etc. In effect, this is a self-cleaning mechanism of the lotus plant, as well as many other superhydrophobic leaves. This is what creates the impressive effect of perfectly pearly drops of water on certain leaves.

Medicine and Myth
Homer's Odyssey tells us about the "Lotophagi" or "Lotus-eaters" - people who live on an island full of lotus plants, and who rely on it entirely for nourishment. As a result, they are in a constant state of peaceful slumber and comfortable oblivion. Perhaps he was referring to the ancient world's junkies: lotus flowers are a hallucinogenic. The Egyptian steeped the blue lotus flowers in wine to create a narcotic concoction that was used by priests in sacred rituals.

Lotus leaves have interesting chemistry, that makes them potentially valuable for medicine, with the following properties (please do not interpret any of the following as medicinal advice or prescription - they are intended for your botanical and cultural interest only):
Astringent; Cancer; Cardiotonic; Febrifuge; Hypotensive; Resolvent; Stomachic; Styptic (and used to treat various conditions such as excessive bleeding); Tonic; Vasodilator.  In TCM, it is also considered an aphrodisiac, calming and cooling, nutritive tonic, nervine.

However it does not seem like this potential was utilized yet in modern medicine. All parts of  the lotus, but particularly the root and seeds, remain a core ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The following are some examples for medicinal applications of various plant parts which I have gathered online. Most of the medicinal preparations are decoctions - method of extraction in which, much like the traditional brewing pf Turkish coffee, the plant matter is boiled to dissolve its active chemicals. TCM uses both the rhizomes or leaves, usually in conjunction with other herbs, to treat "sunstroke, fever, diarrhoea, dysentery, dizziness, vomiting of blood, haemorrhoids. The whole plant is used as an antidote to mushroom poisoning" (Source: MDidea).

Leaf: juice from the leaves is used to treat Diarrhea. TCM
Flowers: a decoction is prepared from the flowers and the flower to treat premature ejaculation and as a cardiac tonic; and from the flower's receptacle (torus) to treat abdominal cramps and bloody discharges. TCM use the pounded petals for syphilis. In Java they are also used for cosmetic unguents.
Flower Stalk: Haemostatic (stops bleeding), and used in instances such as leading ulcers, heavy menstruation and postpartum hemorrhage. TCM  uses the flower stalk with other herbs to treat uterine bleeding.
Stamens: Diuretic, urinary frequency, premature ejaculation and uterine bleeding.
Fruit: fever and heart complaints.
Seeds: Hypotensive, sedative and vasodilator. Contain flavonoids and alkaloids. Lower cholesterol levels and relax the smooth muscle of the uterus; Poor digestion, enteritis, chronic diarrhea, insomnia.
The plumage and radicle are used to treat thirst in high febrile disease, hypertension, insomnia and restlessness. In TCM, the seeds are considered a "cardiac tonic, seminal tonic, astringent, sedative, refrigerant, strengthens kidneys, clears phlegm, clears inflammation of eyes" (Source: MDidea).
Fresh Rhizomes (often called "roots"): Cooling when eaten raw, stimulate the appetite when eaten cooked
Rhizome Starch: Diarrhea, dysentery. Taken internally in the treatment of hemorrhages, excessive menstruation and nosebleeding.
Root Nodes: Nasal bleeding, haemoptysis and functional bleeding of the uterus.

Culinary Lotus
Lotus seeds
These images of the fresh, full bods and the dry empty ones equally spark my imagination. The dry pods are sometimes also found in floral shops, sold on their stalks for long-lasting bouquets.

One of my favourite dim-sum treats are sesame balls that are filled with delicately sweet black paste made of lotus seeds. The seeds are not easy to come by (I will have to make a point to hunt for them on my next trip to Chinatown), and I have only experienced them in desserts; but they can be used in a versatile range of recipes, both savoury and sweet, i.e.: as a filling for sweet festive cakes such as mochi and sesame balls, puddings, Indian sweets, curries, and roasted and puffed for snacking.

Lotus seeds

Lotus root

In contrast to the flavourful seeds, lotus "roots" (botcanilly speaking they are the rhizomes)
are rather bland. Their value is more visual - having a pretty flower-like shape when sliced. They have a crunchy texture and a mildly starchy vegetable taste, very much like that of bamboo shoots of palm hearts. They are used in hot pots, stir fried, deep fried like tempura, or even like a crispy alternative to chips.

Lotus Aroma Chemistry
According to Roman Keiser (Meaningful Scents Around the World), the blue water lily's headspace reveals the following constituents:
Benzyl acetate, anisyl alcohol, (E)-cinnamyl alcoho, cinnamyl  alcohol, and derivatives of (E,E)-undec-5-en-2-ol: (E)-undec-5-en-2-one, (E)-undec-5-en-2-ol and their corresponding acetates, alpha ionone and beta ionone.

White Lotus has 1,4-dimethoxybenzene, which gives it a rather unpleasant medicinal aspect. Hybrids with the Yellow Lotus, AKA Amriecan Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) breed a more pleasant  aroma, as they contain also jasmine and methyl cis-(2)-jasomnate.

Organoleptics of Various Lotus Absolutes: 
White Lotus

White Lotus has a powdery, earthy, dark floral, exotic, strange, dense aroma. Reminiscent of tuberose absolute. Sweet yet subtle with a tad of nutty and mushroom-like quality and hints of anise. Reminds me of old, well-worn silk garment. Dominated by medicinal, warm-herbaceous sweet odour of 1,4-dimethoxybenzene

Pink Lotus is sweet, silky, fruity, intense yet subtle. The rich, over-the-top floralcy is to me a very Indian smell - bringing to mind scouring through my friend's parent's collection of little vials of Indian perfumes. 

Blue Lotus (or Blue Waterlily) is a sheer, light woody-floral, nutty, musky, aquatic/watery, subtle, slightly green, refreshing, hyacinth-like, violet-like, sweet-aromatic, clear, light, effervescent, ephemeral.

Both the white and pink lotus absolutes are a dark orangey-brown viscous liquid, and with highly staining qualities. The blue lotus absolute is a clear light green viscous oil.

Lotus in Perfumery: 
Lotus is a rare and costly raw material and is only rarely used in its natural form.  Most "lotus" perfumes you'll find out there bare very little resemblance to neither the living flower nor the absolute extraction, and customarily belong to the yawn-inducing aquatic floral fragrance family.  Traditional Indian perfumers and modern natural perfumers are the  only ones whom I know still  work with the true lotus and create authentic perfumes that resonate with the spiritual and esoteric layers of the flower - which is inevitable as this is such a weird, complex and rare raw material. It is very rich and can easily clutter a perfume is used incorrectly. However, when it is used in tune with its aromatic and spiritual properties the results are quite astonishing and versatile: it is incredible beautiful and haunting in chypre compositions, where its musty, mushroomy origins are accentuated. On the other hand, when used sparingly and in the right environment, it can create a shimmering, effect that brings to mind the delectable waterlily-like perfume echoing the blue skies from above, or working in conjunction with narcotic, sweet or fruity florals to create a rich tapestry of odours.

Perfumes with noticeable lotus note:
Pink Lotus:
Blue Diamond (Setphen Arctander - created in 1979 and discontinued for many years)
Coeli (Ayala Moriel Parfums) - discontinued
l'Écume des Jours (Ayala Moriel Parfums)
Gypsy (Providence Perfume Co.) - discontinued
Hanami (Ayala Moriel Parfums)
Itoh (Mikmoi)
Pink Lotus (Aftelier)
Scorpio (Ayala Moriel Parfums - discontinued
Waterflower (Soivohle)

Blue Lotus:
Arunima (Strange Invisible Perfumes)
Blue Lotus Oil (Soivohle)
l'Eau d'Issey (Issey Miyake)
Lotus Blossom & Waterlily (Jo Malone)
Lumieré (Aftelier)
Lyric Rain (Strange Invisible Perfumes)
Naima (Ayala Moriel Parfums)
Nymphaea Cerulea (Régime des Fleurs)
Purple (p)Rose (Ayala Moriel Parfums)
Secret Garden (Aftelier)

White Lotus:
Misetu (Soivohle) - discotninuted
Padme Lotus (Dawn Spencer Hurwitz)

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Musk Malabi Reviewed on ScentHive

"... it’s the addition of a few other botanicals that elevate Musk Malabi to the level of chilly weather comfort. As you might have guessed from its name, the musk in this perfume cannot be denied."

Visit ScentHive to read Trish Vawter's full review of Musk Malabi.

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Practice, (Continued)

Fats Domino's Piano, Post Katrina

"One doesn't have to be good at meditation, achieve anything or look for any particular results. As with any skill, only practice leads to improvement. And improvement is not even the point. The only point is the practice"
According the Meriam-Webster's dictionary:

verb prac·tice \ˈprak-təs\

: to do something again and again in order to become better at it

: to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life

: to live according to the customs and teachings of (a religion)

Further meditation on the concept of practice: it can take different roles in your life. It could be something you do over and over again towards achieving the goal of mastery. Or it can just become an integral part of your life. In the first instance (or approach, if you will), the ego can easily get in the way: "I want to be better than anyone else", it will tell you. Or: "Be as good/famous/successful as this role model". This is what would only cause you to procrastinate at best, if not completely abandon any practice at all. Make it a part of your life, integrate the practice in your daily, mundane schedule, without worrying about what everyone else will say - and your world will shift entirely. All of a sudden, instead of trying to get from point A (ignorance, or low skill level) to point B (knowledge and mastery) - your goal is to be in the present. The goal is the practice itself. Or, if you wish to attribute an even richer spiritual perspective, it's akin to the Jewish approach of "... for the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah" (Avot 4:2).

The full definition of practice (same dictionary):

transitive verb
1 a :  carry out, apply 
b :  to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually 
c :  to be professionally engaged in 

2 a :  to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient 
b :  to train by repeated exercises 

3 obsolete :  plot

Here we see that it is the action of applying the knowledge, not just talking or thinking about it, that matters. This frequent performance or repeated action is what will bring one to the level of mastery and professionalism (if that's desired), in which the action itself becomes the way of life. A life of action and doing. A creative and fertile life.

intransitive verb
1 :  to do repeated exercises for proficiency
2 :  to pursue a profession actively
3 archaic :  intrigue
4 :  to do something customarily
5 :  to take advantage of someone 

Interestingly, here's where the double-edged sword of automation is fully expressed. Practice can be a repeated action with the goal of proficiency. Like studying the moves in a dance routine until "muscle memory" is achieved. This is not a very high level of mastery, but a necessary step in the process. However, one can be easily stuck in the mechanical, technical aspect, and be paralyzed by it. I've experienced this time and again in all of the creative mediums I've been engaged in throughout my life. Once the initial novelty of the new medium has worn off, I've been often left with an overwhelming sensation of inadequacy. And I've been led to believe that the only solution for that is achieving proficiency. Now, as my recent dancing classes under different instructors have proven: it's great to do some drilling , break down some moves that are complex or challenging, in order to integrate them into your muscle memory. But ultimately, what's most important for dancing (both from the dancer and audience's perspective) is the soul. A dance without soul is lifeless, boring and an eyesore to watch. Or at best an amusing entertainment in which you can see that drilling does hammer certain dance into a body to the point that they can move without belabouring them. But that does not make it an artful or expressive thing. And it misses the point of practice entirely. Ideally, one should move from "exercising" to incorporating the practice into one's life. Rather than doing things "customarily" with a mundane, yawn-inducing attitude - integrating the practice into one's life, and give it the space and time it needs to become soulful, to become an art.


1 :  the act of doing something again and again in order to learn or improve 
2 :  a regular event at which something is done again and again to increase skill 
3 :  actual performance :  use 
4 :  a usual way of doing something 
5 :  continuous work in a profession 

Throughout my childhood, I've been studying music - my piano lessons began in elementary school, even though I had no piano at home. I practiced wherever there was a piano and whenever I had time (i.e.: lunch breaks), at the underground bomb shelter at school, at our neighbour's homes all over the village, and finally at my own home once my parents finally realized I was serious enough to invest in a piano (not to mention make room for it in a very tiny home).

By high school I shifted my focus on classical singing, which was a most profound way of self-expression, with no restrictive intermediaries such as keyboards and piano room scheduling. I could sing anywhere, but preferably where there was an empty space with decent acoustics and no one listening. Of course I will have my weekly lessons where I had to perform in front of my teacher, and there was choir practice and what not. But the most ideal situation was somewhere where the only witnesses would be blind bats and deaf lizards. While I had my fair share of limelight glamour in those highs school days, in a way having an audience was actually detrimental to my self-expression. Especially if the audience was judgemental or critical. Such environment would immediately choke my "instrument". Looking back at those times, I now know that it was precisely those times of practice where the best things were happening. Not everyone is cut to be a performance artists, but that does not mean that when they sing or play or dance at the private of their own home, they are not creating art.

Contrary to the definition of art as we were taught it in the advanced music classes in high school - I do not believe that art is about the audience at all. Art is an internal process that takes place in the creator's psyche, and often in private - in a studio, or in nature, or just at a writer's bedside where they write their day's thought. The audience is only privy to the finished result, which, granted, can be beautiful. But as beautiful and interesting as it may be - it pales in comparison to the process of creation. When you hear an opera singer performing a polished aria in a concert hall - you hear only the result of hours and hours of practice. Hours of many different phases, including just straight forward solfège, diction and technical drilling of the music from one hand; and spilling out raw emotions, perhaps even bursting into real tears and singing in a choked-up voice - that are usually deemed inappropriate to deliver for a larger audience. But they are all part

Once again, we see that the importance of practice is in the act itself. In other words: "Just do it". Don't say that you want to paint, draw or write, run, dance or swim - or whichever practice your soul is hungering for. There is a reason why you're attracted to a certain discipline or another. It's your calling. Listen to it. Act on it. Practice it. Just do it!

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Friday, November 13, 2015



Naming perfumes is no easy feat. And in the case of KOMOREBI I invited you to the brainstorm with me not only for finding an evocative name for my creation, but also attempt to coin a word that will describe the olfactory phenomenon that inspired the perfume.

I've contacted talented fragrance writer and fellow perfume lover Elena Vosnaki of Perfume Shrine to collaborate with me on coining a new word for describing the phenomenon that Komorebi was inspired by. Elena's knowledge of the Greek language was paramount to this process, and I've learned much from the process - similarities to other languages, myths and lore that encompass the entire globe, well beyond the Greek archipelago.

If petrichor is the scent of earth after rain, then this perfume accurately captured the wonderful cedrechor scent - "blood of the cedar" - the smell of the forest after the sun. Cedrechor can be experienced in late summer and early autumn in the Pacific Northwest rainforests: It emanates from the sun-dappled fragrant forest floor on those warm days when the sun brings out the sweet smells of redcedar, moss & Douglas fir…

The idea behind this ambitious act of smell-naming was to give fellow perfume lovers and writers another word for the scent that is as recognizable as petrichor - and I can only hope it will gain traction and be used well beyond the ad copy for my perfume. There are so few words unique to the realm of scent.

Komorebi is the first in a series of four perfumes dedicated to special places in the Pacific Northwest. Place of inspiration: Cathedral trail in Xwayxway (Stanley Park), which is pictured above.

Notes: Redcedar, Fir, Oakmoss, Black Cottonwood

Fragrance Families: Woody, Ambery, Chypre

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