Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Butterfly Ginger Pommade



Dabney Rose's Butterfly Ginger (Ginger Lily) Pommade is nothing short of a miracle. But for you to understand, let's first explain what pommade is. And no, it is not spelled "pomade", much to my autocorrect's disapproval. This is the French word for a step in the enfleurage process. Enfleurage is the fat (usually from an animal source) that has been fully saturated with a flower essence. Once this is achieved, the pommade will be washed with alcohol and produces an extrait (an alcoholic dilution of flower extract). When this alcohol is removed by evaporation, it leaves behind the pure flower absolute (much like any other extraction process).

There are a few things that are unique about Dabney Rose's pommade: first of all, she makes them by hand from plants that she lovingly grows in her garden and hothouse. Secondly, it is sold as is, without further washing in alcohol - thus offering a pure, fresh flower scent in a solid perfume form. Thirdly, the fats she uses to absorb the living flower's beautiful perfume are vegan (I believe it is coconut oil, but it might be mixed with other vegetable oils).

Specifically, the Butterfly Ginger Pommade is stunning. Even though it is made of just one plant, it smells like a complete perfume, yet also smells very alive. As a point of reference, thing of a floral green such as Laura Ashley No.1, sans all the sharp and headachy notes that this genre tends to give me (much to my dismay, as I do admire green florals). It also reminds me of a certain fancy soap that was the household name at my best friend's home: a fine white soap with a very clean yet floral, exotic aroma.

This ginger flower is not at all ginger-like, even though it could be described as slightly spicy. I haven't smelled it in real life, so forgive me if my points of reference are commercial items. At the same time though, I'm sure this is very true to a fresh living flower. It perfectly retains that character and authenticity. This is the kind of thing that you may not be able to describe, but you certainly can feel.

Dabney Rose's offerings are seasonal in nature, and are made in very small batches. The website doesn't a catalogue or shop yet, so it's best to follow here Facebook and twitter stream, and order immediately when something that strikes your fancy is out of her still or enfleurage trays.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marriage of Life and Death

Earlier this winter, as I went deeper into the forest trails, my eyes met with a devastating sight. After several days of rain and wind storms, two beautiful, tall and rather ancient Douglas fir trees (well over 200 years in my estimate, although this is probably young in fir years) were uprooted and simply flipped over. It's a sad sight, and one that literally pierced my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The air around the trees was filled with their tragedy, and I heard their screams and shrieks of pain from being uprooted and losing their life-giving connection to the earth.

Here is the strange thing about an ancient fallen tree: it dies a slow painful death. Perhaps even move the course of several weeks when in such moist conditions that as the rainforest. Maybe it's not that slow in tree years, but it sure seemed prolonged to me, as I was walking by the same trail several weeks in a row, and still saw signs of life in these two fierce yet fallen giants.

First the roots alone feel the change: they are accustomed to life of darkness and the cold yet nutritious moisture of the earth. All of a sudden they are exposed to the foreign presence of air and light. The tree's equivalent of nervous system must have felt the pain of the roots as they leave the ground and disconnect from the smaller rootlets, and the shock along the tree's spine as it hit the ground. Over the next few days, if not weeks, the tree's storage of moisture will get used up, perhaps slower than before. The roots will attempt to cling to any moisture they reach from the damp rainforest air, but circumstances are largely not in their favour.

I get closer to the tree. Touch its rain-soaked bark. Feel the tremendous pain its in. The tree that once had stood so proud and high above all creatures is now lying horizontally. I can feel its pulse, weak, trembling but still there. I pat the damp moss on the base of its bark and on the formerly superficial portion of its root system. What about all the lesser life forms on the tree? Did they notice the change? Are they worried about their future? Perhaps not. The tree's body will nourish these fungi, fern, lichens and moss strands for countless years to come. And water is present in abundance for these plants from prehistoric kingdoms.

And this is how life meets death. Or perhaps the other way around - death is the one that greets life and reaches out to it. In the rainforest the coexistence of these two opposites is the most obvious, natural. And if it weren't for the drama and tragedy of the storm, those two states of being just weave in and out of each other seamlessly. The trees took about four weeks to use up their water, shut down their entire systems of livelihood, and say their farewells to the world as they lay horizontally and stare at the barren skies through the space their missing canopy left behind. After checking their plus this weekend, I am pretty sure that they are now among the dead. Not only are the needles no longer green, many have already began falling to the ground. And there is something you cannot see, but only feel, that tells me they are now just inanimate objects, vegetal corpses providing nutrients to the new generation of trees, bushes, housing birds and squirrels, bugs and microorganisms that will take many years to penetrate the strong essential oils in the heartwood to completely break it down. It will become, eventually, part of the soil and part of the root system of those new plants and create an intricate piece of the rainforest ever changing landscape. 


We humans are strange creatures. Life should be life; and death should be plain and simple, cut and dry. But how many of us live in a state of a dream (or a nightmare) and constantly attempt to escape the present moment? How much of our lives we wish we were somewhere else than where we are, and be someone else - or be with somebody else than the people and creatures that are present in our lives? I am beginning to think that constant discontent with the present moment is the root of all illnesses. That and the lack of gratitude to what IS in our lives, what is present, what we "have" so to speak (at the end of the day, I don't believe ownership truly amounts to much). That obsession of what would happen next - after we finish work, or after we finish resting; after we finish living, or once we stop dying. This mindset is so futile, counter-productive and ultimately shows very little gratitude. We should be thankful every moment that we are alive, and literally, live up to what that entails. 

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cold Milk



I was a couple of years late into the game trying Santal Massoïa Jean-Claude Ellena (created for the Hermèssence collection). Perhaps it was after the Iris Ukioye that I felt a little disappointed in the line. I feel that the majority of the new creations are becoming victim of their own style. As if the creator's commitment to stick to a certain genre of aesthetic statement. I feel that no matter what theme would be picked for this line, and no matter how outrageously intriguing the combination of notes may be, the result would be the same ethereal, non-descript quality of non perfume. Something quite pleasant, utterly wearable and easily so.

Like many of the scents in the collection, in the several times I wear it and try to find words to describe it - I stick my nose really close to my wrist and shake my head from side to side in search for something more. And before it has any chance to appear, the scent disappears altogether. Which is truly unfortunate in the case of Santal Massoïa. I was truly excited to discover what Jean-Claude Ellena would do with such an intriguing raw material as massoia bark: a rarity in the world of naturals, offering an extremely milky, lactonic odour reminiscent of toasted coconut and melted butter. It would have been the perfect accompaniment to sandalwood - highlighting its milky, creamy qualities, especially the Mysore kind which is practically non existent. This would have helped, I thought, to create a similar quality even in lesser varieties from, say, Australia or New Caledonia.

Instead, I get a watered-down, vaguely woody rendition with hints of peppery spice - sort of a cross between Iris Ukioye, somewhat violetty tea-like hints like Osmnathe Yunnan, and a very subtle wink towards Poivre Samarcande (but with non of the piquant originality of the latter). The sandalwoodiness of it is practically a reflection of a reflection of a clear water pool in a mirror; and the milkiness is more reminiscent of cold milk that one would gulp to wash down a very dry and neutral flavoured shortbread. Maybe if this appeared before any of the above scents did, it would seem original. But being the tenth fragrance in the collection, I desire for something more, something original and surprising. Which haven't happened since the launch of Vanille Galante, and only happened again with Épice Marine (the 11th in the series). This is very thin and linear, which is unfortunate, because neither sandalwood nor massoia are. It left me lukewarm and wanting much more.


Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rave Reviews for Ayala's New Book

A few days ago, I received this incredibly supportive feedback about my book from my fellow perfumer and renown author Mandy Aftel. I simply had to share! 
"This wonderful new book is a welcome addition to the literature on natural perfumery! Ayala Moriel's techniques are born of her talent, intelligence and long experience, and she gives a solid foundation in the basics, via formulas, detailed instructions, a glossary, and information on suppliers. You will be smitten with both her expertise and her enthusiasm."

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Alternative Methods of Application for Sensitive Skin



What if you weren't blessed with a thick skin like most of us? How can you keep scent in your life yet keep skin rash out of it? I was approached by a customer who happened to develop a nasty rash to her favourite perfume (Immortellle l'Amour, thanks for asking). No matter what, she still wants to enjoy it (which makes me equally sad and flattered). It suddenly dawned on me that she may not be the only one who could benefit from tips for how to enjoy scent without ruining your epidermis.

There are several alternatives for wearing scent that I highly recommend you try experimenting with. They can be divided into three major categories: Scenting the hair, scenting the clothing, and jewelry. The methods that can be used also can be further divided into application of liquid perfume (either oil or alcohol based, which you would spray, dab or splash on another object that is worn close to the body but not directly touching the sensitive skin); scenting through incense smoke; or taking advantage of your own body's warmth to coax the scent out of a piece of jewelry it's encased within; and lastly - saturation or immersion by proximity, as with placing scented sachets among the objects you'd like to scent.

HAIR
Hair holds great potential for those who can't enjoy it on their skin. There are ancient tradition world-wide for scenting the hair. Its ability to retain scent makes it especially appealing. In Arabia, women use incense smoke to scent their hair after washing. And in India, women scent their hair with fragrant oils, such as sesame oil from seeds that have been saturated with the scent of jasmine petals, Monoi de Tahiti (coconut oil infused with the island's native gardenia flower) to scent and nourish the hair and protect it from the sun. And if you live in a tropical country - tucking a flower behind your ear is all you'll need - be it a champaca flower as they do in India, or plumeria or gardenia in the tropical islands (i.e. Hawaii and Haiti).

Liquid Perfume Application: Dab a little of perfume on your fingertips, and work it into strands of your hair. Avoid the scalp to prevent skin reaction. It's better to use oil-based perfume on your hair, especially if your hair tends to be dry and frizzy. Scented nourishing hair oils are another great way to enjoy fragrant without affecting your skin, and give your hair an extra boost of nutrients and lock in moisture. If you are using hair oil, it's best to apply them on damp, towel-dried hair before you style it.

Incense Method: Burn your favourite incense, and surround yourself with smoke for 10 - 15 minutes so that your hair will absorb the scent. Be extra cautious that the ember at the tip of the incense stick (or hot bowl and embers if you are burning loose incense on a charcoal) do not touch your hair - it will burn and smell awful!

SCARF or SHAWL:
First of all a word of caution: if your skin is very very sensitive, you might not want to use this method on a scarf you are worn directly on your neck. In this case, a shawl might be a better idea - or a handkerchief (see more below).
Another thing to keep in mind is that perfumes often can stain. So it's best to use this method with dark scarf. Also, natural fabrics from animal origin such as wool and silk retain the scent better than cotton or linen.
Spray: To scent your scarf, spray your favourite scent into the air directly above it. This will reduce staining, and distribute the scent evenly on a larger area of the scarf.

HANDKERCHIEF:
Handkerchief perfumes were very popular, especially among men, in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. They would carry one, neatly folded, peaking from the jacket's pocket. They were scented with specially formulated "handkerchief perfumes" - usually a bouquet of several floral notes, or soliflores. The advantage of a scented handkerchief is that if you go through a very stinky part of town (or are stuck on a stinky bus) - you can bring it to your nose and escape the stench... In addition, you needn't worry about your skin getting any rashes, but will still enjoy the perfume as it drifts up from your pocket.

Liquid Perfume Application: Dab some perfume or apply a few drops on the handkerchief and place in your pocket.

Saturation Method: Such handkerchiefs can also be placed inside drawers or between your sweaters and clothing or even stationary so that they can absorb their pleasant scent.

CLOTHING:
The result of adding scent to clothing is usually quite subtle, and I won't lie to you and say it's the same as applying it directly to your skin or hair. It's not as intimate. However, it is a wonderful and inoffensive way to add scent to your life, as well as joy. The Japanese, whose scent culture does not include much of skin-application of fragrance, would tuck sachets of fragrant woods and spices into their kimono sleeves (which are very wide, and were used also as pockets of sorts).  Another less known fact about scenting clothes is that while you move, it also moves the scent molecules around, leaving a pleasantly fragrant trail in your wake...

Liquid Perfume Application: Spraying fragrance in the air is usually  more effective (see above re scarf). But even a little dab on your jacket's collar or on the sleeves near the wrists can add some scent to your daily life.

Saturation Method: Place sachets or scented soap between your garments. You can purchase high-end Japanese sachets, that come in either paper bags or fancy silk pouches - or sew your own simple linen sachets of single notes such as lavender buds, patchouli leaves, liatrix leaves, etc. Even whole spices such as star anise, vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks can be placed in drawers or shelves to scent clothes. Some herbs and fragrant woods, such as patchouli leaves and cedar blocks (or balls) also will protect your wool and silk from greedy moth.

JEWELRY:
Women in biblical times (and till this day in Ethiopia) would wear a chunk of myrrh on their neck that would warm up against their body to release its delicate scent. This is what the Song of Songs is referring to "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me; she shall lie all night betwixt my breasts" (Song of Songs 1:13 based on the King James Bible translation). While wearing it directly on the skin might be too risqué for a person with sensitive skin - if it is enclosed in a pouch or a container, the damage may be minimized. Same for solid perfumes: they will warm on your body and release the scent so that you can smell it rising from your chest - even if you can't wear it directly on the skin.

If you have any other tips for enjoying scent without coming into dermal contact with it - please do post a comment! And this is also an opportunity to remind you that we do have a monthly contest here on SmellyBlog. All of your comments during the month will be entered into a draw come February 1st, and the winner will receive a set of vintage minis from the 80s.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, January 12, 2015

Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes


Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes is a limited edition "flanker" of sorts to the perfume Au Delà by San Francisco-based visual artists and perfumer Bruno Fazzolari. In addition to the perfume, Bruno created numbered, limited edition silkscreen prints of narcissus flowers that accompany the first 50 bottles sold. While online the print looks beautiful, when I unwrapped the poster-tube, it took my breath away. What is it about all things handmade? Perhaps the intimacy, knowing that human hands have created an object. Perhaps the design itself. This kind of quality is inimitable. It's something that is felt beyond the technical terms and defies explanation. And that precise quality is also felt in a perfume that was created in that fashion. There is no substitute to that, even if the formula is followed to a T, and even if the exact same colour swatches are reproduced. Not only is it not going to look the same. It is not going to feel the same if it's produced in any other way. Not only is the media the message; also the method is the message.

Even the box for the perfume is hand-collaged with striped black and white paper. Again, the kind of thing you might not be able to really see online or even from the shelf. But once you touch it, it's an unmistakable quality - texture, and the minute visual details that give off that human warmth to an inanimate object.

The perfume itself opens with heart-aching green notes of narcissus, iris and galbanum, and resembles the great No. 19 by Chanel. It unfolds as an entirely different flower though: if No. 19 is a cold and angular steel flower, Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes is a velvet flower with round, plush petals. And it only becomes more warm and round as it wears on the skin. Sweet, cedarwood-like violet unfolds and gives the perfume a voluptuous body and presence. And from it emerges a sunny, shimmering amber, like the glittering light upon the sea at sunset. The amber is very much the same as in the original Au Delà, reminiscent of the underlining amber accord in Obsession*.

That amber is even more apparent here than it was in the original, and lingers for several hours. But don't let this prevent you from experiencing the dryout, which holds some surprises, albeit subtle: a  woodsy, almost incensey dry down, with hints of vetiver and also a bit of bittersweet coumarin note (but not nearly as much as in the original).

Ida Meister has described it even better than I could, on Fragrantica:
"This perfume begins afresh, anew, étincelant: the premier flush of spring. Jasmine and orange blossom wing their way close upon the heels of bergamot and narcissus…the sun is eclipsed by darkness. What was brilliant and glitteringly green is now muted by shadow—slowly at first, then gaining momentum until we are submerged, engulfed in the depths of moss, resin, mood. Narcisse des Montagnes has claws: she burrows into your psyche with the intention of taking up residence."


Top notes: Narcissus absolute, Bergamot, Galbanum, Neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Ionones
Base notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Incense, Coumarin

* By the way: I have a vintage of the extrait, and it is stunning. You'd be hard pressed to believe it was a designer fragrance, once upon a time, and it is about as dietary as Shalimar ever was.


Labels: , ,

Friday, January 09, 2015

How 2 Make Perfume

How to make perfume? 
My niece's nightgown teaches us to use the following ingrnedients: Petals, water, and a the magic ingredient - little bit of glitter...
Alternatively, you can sign up for my Citrus Week (May 4-8) and learn the ins and outs of the craft and the trade. Advanced students are also qualified to attend the Leather & Tobacco Week (May 11-15)
Registration is now open. Email me with your CV and a coverletter, and arrange for a phone/Skype interview. There are only limited spaces in each (6 students maximum). 


Labels: , , , , , ,