Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on a Year Gone By

It's the last day of the year, which means that it's legitimate to look back and reflect on yet another year that has gone by. On a personal level, it was a great year (considering 2013 was a year from hell,  even though I didn't quite put it that way publicly - this is not exactly surprising).
On a global level, however, in 2014 it seems like all hell has broken loose and the only reason we don't think of ourselves as in the midst of a 3rd world war is probably because no one is brave enough to call it what it is. But I digress. You're not visiting this blog to be reminded of what kind of an awful world we live in. You are more likely here searching for refuge from all those realistic nightmares.

Well, a lot of good things happened in the world of scent; most of them I was too oblivious to notice or pay attention to so you won't be finding too many surprises in my "list" for the fragrant highlights of 2014.

This year I was absorbed in recovery from the awful year prior, and with a renewed boost of energy, I've been tackling all fronts of my business - trying to reach out and teach classes and courses in more places, re-doing a website, narrowing my collection, writing a book, and teaching a lot. All those things, which in the year prior seemed to have a big question mark hovering over them, have found a new meaning in my life and a new sense of excitement and purpose which in the year prior I was really worried will never return to me. But I've been also integrating a lot of my passions and knowledge and experience (both gruesome and positive) leading to a new direction that I feel serves a higher purpose. It will all unfold and make sense as I progress in my studies, art and life experiences. One big thing that occupied me personally and was part of what some like to call "personal growth" has been learning to become a Pilates instructor. I know this seems completely unrelated to perfumery for an outside observer. But to me all those things - working with breath, body, awareness and within the flow and rhythm of life - are all part of the same thing for me. And I don't believe I was born to do just one thing. With that being said, I'm now able to be much more focused, with a much clearer sense of priorities and

Year of the Book: 
This year was dedicated to completing my book, which was in the works (AKA planning and procrastinating, and dreading the intense process that writing a book involves). Somehow, despite the fact that I lost nearly 2 months of work due to the teacher's strike, not to mention many nights of sleep of the yet-another-unnecessary war in Israel and Palestine - I was able to finish it. And I want to thank once again all the people who were involved in the process: Terry Sunderland, graphic designer extraordinaire, Shauna Rudd, superb copy editor and proofreader, Schuyler Corry, proofreader and contributor of some of the chemistry terms in the glossary; and David Shumaker for proofreading some 3 years ago when I started working on this 3rd edition of the book; and last but not least to the Taly and Yitzhak Ginsberg, who thanks to them I actually went ahead with being self-published as well as for pointing me to the right direction to turn my manuscript into a eBook (you'll hear about that soon enough).
Thank you so much for helping me make my dream come true and become a published author!

And - More Books:
This has been a great year for perfume related books. I've mentioned two of them here, the anthology of scented poems The Book of Scented Things, edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby; and Mandy Aftel's new book Fragrant. There is always more to learn, and it's wonderful to see more books published that pertain to the world of scent. It's all part of keeping this rare art alive!

New Perfume Love: 
Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes by Bruno Fazzolari.
This limited edition "flanker" of sorts to the perfume Au Delà is even more beautiful than the original. I will write about it in more depth in the coming week - a beautiful ambery floral with Chypre nuances, that was accompanied by a breathtaking screen print, signed by the artist.

Mainstream Surprise: 
Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez
While I can't say I thoroughly tested even a fraction of the many mainstream perfumes released this year to justifiably crown this the "best" of the year - I did purchase a bottle, and it did not feel like it was a whim at the time. This perfume is full of surprises, much more than the original scent from this brand. In all aspects of design (including packaging) there is elegant simplicity in this release, yet intrigue and originality. It's been a while since I was able to say that about any department store fragrance.

Vintage Discovery: 
Diorella. What a delight to have found a 220 mL (!) of the original, vintage Diorella on a certain auction site. I've been splashing it lavishly in the summer, and looking forward to much more of the same as soon as the spring bulbs and buds begin to open again.

The 180: 
Aromatics Elixir
If you haven't seen much new perfume reviews on my blog, it's because I've been dousing myself quite regularly with this (previously under appreciated by me) bombshell. I used to think of it as way too strong. It wasn't until I blind-purchased a bottle of the Perfumer's Reserve (also via the above mentioned auction site), and discovered to my horror that there's far too much white musk in it; that I just HAD to re-examine the original. I only purchased a tiny spray bottle of it, but a little is all you need, and goes a looong way. There is something about that

Thank You Hermes For Not Disappointing: 
First of all, Epice Marine FINALLY arrived in the Vancouver boutique many months after it should have. And I did enjoy it quite a bit (yet not quite enough yet to purchase a bottle). Cuir d'Ange, on the other hand, arrived in time (or maybe it didn't, but I didn't really expect it), and turns to be a very interesting sheer leather. Samples are still unavailable which is why I haven't written a review yet. It's not earth shattering, but I'm always happy to welcome a new leather kid into my world.

Natural Intrigue: 
Palimpset by Aftelier. There are many offerings in the natural world that I am yet to try. But I was immediately smitten with both Cuir Gardenia and Palimpset, the two new creations of this year by Mandy Aftel. While I'm more likely to wear Cuir Gardenia frequently - Palimpset is the more original, intriguing and unusual. Built around the rare, unusual and difficult to work with Fire Tree oil from Australia - it has an outstanding longevity (I believe the sample I received from Aftelier is the parfum concentration in alcohol base). The opening is very effervescent and citrusy, almost like wild orange, sweetly fruity but not overtly so - then continues to develop into an utterly floral yet woody perfume, with the Fire Tree note weaves in and out while being supported. It's exotic and wonderful. I just received it yesterday, and am planning to post full review of this (and Cuir Gardenia) in the upcoming days.

The new incense cones by Persephenie.
They come in several fragrances, and all burn fantastically well, without leaving any "off note". Original blends, yet with a very strong connection to spiritual rituals from around the world. They are beautifully hand-shaped, and rolled in an outer coating of herbs that adds a visual element to the experience, rich in both colour and texture.

Those who know me well, are concerned about my ever-expanding collections of teas, spices, perfumes, cookbooks, and of course raw materials. Well, this year I have been pretty good about finishing up a lot of the teas I have and narrowing down my favourites to a more workable and manageable scenario (for the sake of my kitchen counter and shelves). Although I won't pretend I don't have excess of teas still, and need to run out of a lot before purchasing anything new; I am quite proud to say I know which teas I love and I am happy to just keep drinking a handful of them and stop feeling the urge to collect them. Some things lend themselves very badly to collecting, and tea is one of them. They just lose flavour after a while... I'm proud to announce, that as long as I have one good black tea (darjeeling, Assam or a cask-aged Ghorka, for instance - for versatile use anywhere from plain black tea, to that adorned with fresh sprigs of mint, or ensembles into a chai), Cream Earl Grey, and either a robust rooibos or a Thai Tea for its almost coconutty aroma, some kind of a good quality green tea (i.e. matcha powder or jasmine) and a Milky Oolong - I'm pretty happy. That's not a lot, right? Of course I also have a kid with her own favourites, usually flavoured teas or a green tea. But that's just extra fun. With a little help from our friends,  I think we're going to have a pretty clear tea shelf by the end of 2015. But in all honesty, what we've been drinking almost every other morning has been chai in a base of almond milk. We make it very simple, because there is no time in the morning to blend too many spices - just some black tea, some cardamom and cinnamon, freshly diced ginger and honey. Blame it on my daughter. It's her idea.

Sweet Tooth:
Persephenie's Salty Jasmine Candies, and my own Oud Truffles, if I may say so myself.

Skincare Product:
It's a well known "secret" that I'm a sucker for anything rosy smelling on my face. My skincare regime is as simple as could be, and includes only two products: floral hydrosol (usually rose, or orange blossom) spritzed on the face, followed by a moisturizer - usually just my own facial elixir. Everyone once in a while I make an exception - but it has to be for something exceptional. Usually it's Persephenie's excellent Rose Pakka. This year I was ogling her new offering for the face - Saffron Rose Face Oil, which is a pure and nourishing facial serum. The makeup of oils shares some common elements with my Elixir (tea seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, carrot seed and rose oils) and the rest is all sheer goodness, as always with Persephenie's creations. I've received it in the mail today and it did not disappoint. It's practically the facial version of my Song of Songs anointing body oil. I'm in a facial New Year's heaven!

Body Product:
Bedouin dry oil by Persephenie. All of Persephenie's body products are top-notch. Bedouin was my favourite scent by Persephenie, but is no longer in production. That's why it was particularly delightful to find out that it is now available as a dry oil - a very lightweight, sheer oil that can be sprayed on either body or hair. Roses and cardamom. Mmm...

Discovery of the Year:
Dabney Rose's extraits and pommades are nothing short of magic. I've experienced her hyacinth extrait, tuberose pommade and ginger lily pommade (the latter are made in a coconut oil base) - all grown in her own garden and hothouse. These beautifully and lovingly crafted pure single note essences are made in the old technique of enfleruage, modernized by an innovative vegan base. Dabney's work is akin to capturing butterflies inside hot resin and keeping them alive and intact even after they've exhaled their last breath... It may sound too good to be true... But it is the most truthful portrait of the living flower if there ever was one.  In other words: alchemy at its best.

Raw Material of the Year: 
Narcissus Absolute. I've been obsessing over it while creating Narkiss, and (great minds think alike!) in Bruno Fazzolari's newest perfume.
Need I say more?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sweet Note to End the Year

Being on holiday mode these days, and recovering from a major computer crash - I'm a bit late in the game to discover this evening that Musk Malabi has been chosen as Best of 2014 in the lists of several esteemed fragrance blogs:

Perfume Shrine
"A natural composed "musk fragrance" that conveys the note and its feel without using musk from the deer. A tinge of delicious succulence, a milky hint of dessert and rose and you're there. Very pretty!"

"It’s a perfume inspired by one of my favorite desserts. It’s a luxurious blend of rose, neroli and botanical musk. If you don’t think natural perfumes are luxurious, then you haven’t sniffed Musk Malabi."

Now Smell This
Providence Perfume Co's Samarinda was the winner. Honourable mention to Musk Malabi alongside Aftelier's Palimpset and Hiram Green's Shangri La. Glad to be in such good company!

It was already released a year ago, so the fact that anyone still remembers it means quite a lot in today's overcrowded fragrance scene. My perfume Narkiss, on the other hand, although just released, and in my humble opinion is a lot more original than Musk Malabi -  hasn't been discovered yet.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 28, 2014


My apartment is poorly lit. And even more so after the living room light got killed. The problem intensified with my laptop crashing - thus taking away the moth-like lifestyle of gathering around the screen at night. Therefore it was no surprise that I particularly welcomed the candle lighting during the holiday of Chanukah. The ritual daily candle lighting have stuck with us in this dark cave. And now every night I light candles around that time - scented candles, tea lights - whatever I can get my hands on - and me and my daughter sit and play games together by the fireplace.

Yet if you think of it, darkness is a precious thing in this day and age. It is nearly impossible to find natural darkness nowadays. As civilization we've defied the natural cycle of night and day. Cities pride themselves for being "nonstop cities". And our brains never shut down - which opens a whole other can of worms, as this situation has a profound effect on our health.

Like quiet, or being unplugged, darkness has become a luxury people are willing to spend large sums of money on to experience, in the form of "darkness retreat".

The value of darkness is also a design concept, in mediums such as architecture, cinema and photography. What would be the equivalent of that in the world of scent? A scentless world? Such a thing does not exist. And too few people know it. While I don't mind at all the fact that most object, animate and inanimate, have a unique odour - our world is cluttered with artificial scents. And that clutter threatens to take away the pleasure of perfume, be it a luxury or a commodity or an art form. With sensory overload in all areas - sound, scent and light - it's surprising that we haven't left the room screaming so to speak. Or have we?

But what I really wanted to get at with this post, was in fact the heightened sensory awareness, both tactile, auditory, olfactory and kinaesthetic, when immersed in darkness. As I walked my daughter back from the "Bright Nights" miniature train in Stanley Park a couple of weeks ago, we made a detour home through a portion of the forest. It was the very end of the moon cycle. There was so little light that you could almost feel the darkness with your fingers. It took a few minutes getting used to and being able to see the paths (especially after the brightness of the festive lights). It was not the first time I walked in the forest in the dark, and I know the paths like the back of my hands (so no risk of getting lost). The feeling of walking in complete darkness, when you don't have any fear or paranoia of the situation, and especially in the well-organized paths of Stanley Park, where tripping is very unlikely - is nothing short of magic.

I remember the first time we did it (which was actually at the end of the summer, or sometime earlier in the fall, when it was still rather warm at night). The air was immersed with scent. My only awareness when walking was the smell and temperature in the air. You could recognize the trees as you walk under them - here is a Douglas fir... Now it's a cedar... now it's a bit cooler, and I smell wet wood and the mushroomy scent of the forest... and then there is that dry, warmish smell of tree bark and dry needless. The scent hit you like a familiar recognition of an old friend. You should try it sometime, if you can.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Decision

The beautiful thing about deadlines, is that they force you to make a decision. Even deadlines that are imposed by oneself. I wanted to have Narkiss ready in time for Channukah, because that is the time of the year when the narcissi are in bloom in Israel.

I won't pretend it was the hardest decision of my life. Like many other times, I realized at the end of the process that my original concept was really IT. But it was too expensive to create in larger quantities. I had the concept for Narkiss going on for way too long to make it end up as a limited edition, sold only to a handful of curiouis perfumistas. I had bigger dreams for it becoming part of my steady collection - and even design a unique label for it, as part of The Language of Flowers collection.

It boiled down to 2 options. The difficulty was that I really liked both mod 07 and mod 08. Mod 7 started off a little sour, but quite realistically like a pine forest after rain, with that powdery flower lingering in the air. Admittedly, it was quite coumarine-y and green at first, and easily perceived as masculine. When it dried down, it turned into this gorgeous, pine needle and wood aroma - fresh yet deep, woody yet tart. I just adored it.

The 8th mod was very similar to the first idea I had created way back in 2007. I liked it a lot, almost as I did the original. But I didn't like the dry down as much as the 7th version. I had to make a decision and make it fast... And for that sometimes you need an extra set of nostrils. I asked my friend Jolanta to try both with me, just before the start of the Christmas at Hycroft show. She was a little like me, really pining for the 8th mod, but feeling that the 7th would be more popular. I agreed; but also thought out loud with her, saying how so many of my recent releases are not that different when it boils down to the dry down - woody fresh, kinda like Orcas. I felt like I needed to roll out something entirely new.

And that's how I decided on the 8th mod! So you see, in the end, it was worth wasting 6 bottles, countless essences, and many pages in my formulating books. And I truly hope that you'll enjoy my decision!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Dilemma

With so many mods, the process can go on and on and on... It can be rather daunting at times: sniff this, compare it to that. Add a little bit more of this, and omit that. Does it smell right? Does it really make your nose want to sing? Does it smell unique and fabulous? Is there even a point of releasing something new - or am I just repeating myself and creating yet another white floral, or grassy, hay-like composition?

Composing is tedious, but also very meditative. Creative. Therapeutic, even. It's the analysis stage that can be the killer - I had so many options - the 6 rounds I told you about over the last couple of weeks were really more than that - they were 8 different formulae (or mods), and basically represented two if not three opposing concepts:
1) Retro, luscious floral with a bit of a dark, gloomy and pensieve personality and that is completely abstract.
2) Rainy, greeny winter scent that's supposed to realistically portray a real-life nature scenery (narcissus, puddles and pine forests).
3) Just go wild with narcissus absolute and make it truly shine, purely as a soliflore, with absolutely no regard to availability, expense or demand - which would inevitably create a very limited edition.

It was not the hardest decision of my life but let's say that there were at the end of it, 2 mods that I had to pick. It had to be either one or the other. The difficulty was that I really liked both mod 07 and mod 08.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice!

Celebrating the longest night of the year with lots of Chanukah candles and burning Fete d'Hiver incense cones, and inevitably eating shortbreads that are overdosed with frankincense resin. I heard that frankincense is good against cancer. So I guess it's okay.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scent Event: Mandy Aftel at Cacao in PDX

Attention Portlanders: Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, author of the new book Fragrant will be in PDX tomorrow night, Thursday at Cacao Chocolate Shop from 5-6pm. 
They have divine chocolate from small-batch makers, and it's also the only place that sells her Chocolate Body Oil and Cacao perfume! 

Mandy will be talking about her new book, as well as serve chocolates flavoured with her Chef Essences. More details on Facebook, where you can also RSVP and invite all your chocaholic friends. There will also be a lucky draw to win a Chocolate Saffron body oil and a Cacao perfume mini.

414 SW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

Thursday, December 18th, 5-6pm. 

For additional information contact: 

 (503) 241-0656

Labels: , , , , ,

Narkiss, Sixth Round

Here I waned to come back to the 6th mod (in round 4), in which the narcissus and coffee flower absolutes create a mysterious, dusky character. I wanted it to also be a very close replica of my first round (mods 1 & 2), in which I used essences I can't source again, or ones that have some issues (i.e.: the oakwood absolute contains a plasticizer). I looked for other woody substitutes and wanted to still create that unique, very retro warmth that is reminiscent of the great aldehydic florals of the turn of the century, yet with my own personal twist.

I ended up making full circle, as this round (AKA mod. 08) is truly a reflection of mod. 01, which I've created back in 2007). 

Base notes: Vegetal Musk Compound No. 3, Liatrix Absolute, Ambreine, Costus, Africa Stone, Pinewood

Heart notes: Narcissus Absolute, Coffee Flower Absolute, Orange Blossom Absolute, Orris CO2, Styrax

Top notes: Bergamot, Szechuan Pepper

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Chanukah!

Here in Vancouver the days have become frighteningly short. We are sitting in the headquarters of Ayala Moriel Parfums and savouring the growing light in front of our 2 family menorahs* and marveling at the many wonderful fragrant friendships, amazing students, some of whom also helped me achieve the impossible and get my book published!
So much generousity, creativity, and lots of support for my fragrant art in the past year. I'm very grateful, and sending you all love and light. 

Happy Chanukah to all of SmellyBlog readers who are celebrating!

* I finally bought one for my daughter, because she turned 18 this year.


Narcissus, Fifth Round

Like I mentioned in my last Narkiss post - I realized at this point in my process that I need to pick between one of two directions, and concepts. For the fifth round, I decided to focus on the puddle and mushroom concept.

Pairing down the puddle and mushroom, pine forest and break in the clouds imagery and sensory concept, to highlight the freshness even more. In this round I used pinewood, green spikenard, angelica CO2 and pine needle absolute along with pinemoss to create that Mediterranean pine grove feel, in all the winter wetness and rainy glory.

To that I added, of course, narcissus absolute with some supporting notes of balsam poplar buds, ylang ylang and jasmine for more floral presence, but still keeping it light and green. Top notes included cabreuva, to create an illusion of rain and wetness, and orris tincture for that wet soil, roots and violets after rain effect.

Base notes: Pinewood, Green Spikenard, Angelica CO2 and Pine Needle Absolute, Pinemoss

Heart notes: Narcissus Absolute, Jasmine Absolute, Balsam Poplar Buds Absolute

Top notes: Orris Tincture, Cabreuva, Szechuan Pepper CO2, Palmarosa
Ylang Ylang Extra, Bergamot

The result totally captured my heart. Although the narcissus is not so apparent in this one, it truly portrays the scenery of Mediterranean winter in the pine forest. Puddles, pine mushrooms picking, etc. My only reservation on releasing this mod was that it's echos too much the other fresh, woody underlined fragrances that I already offer in my collection, i.e. Orcas and Bon Zai.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent

I've had the pleasure and honour to receive a media copy of Fragrant, the new book by Mandy Aftel. It is no secret that Mandy is a great writer, and diving into her book was quite a treat. Especially after months of hard work on my own book - it was like a retreat from all the editing, polishing and spell-checking...

When Mandy initially told me about the book, its premise sounded like a personality study of five essences, and how they correspond to five different appetites of the human nature. The essences are: Cinnamon, Mint, Frankincense, Ambergris and Jasmine. A companion kit was also sent to me from the publisher (which you can purchase at, with a beautiful chunk of frankincense in the middle, and little vials of the other four essences. In reality, the book covers way more than just five essences, extending to spices in general in the chapter on cinnamon; other herbs in the chapter on mint (botanically speaking, many of the fragrant plants used in perfumery are in fact from the mint family - including lavender, basil, sage and the like); the chapter on frankincense talks about many other resins, wood essences and incense in general; amebrgris covers all manner of animal extracts and the myths surrounding their phenomenal magic; and the chapter on jasmine talks about the rarity and fleeting beauty of floral extracts, which are at the heart of Aftel's aesthetic philosophy.  

From the outside, the book is exceptionally beautiful, with meticulous attention to detail as would be expected from any other product that comes under Mandy's artistic direction. The dustcover is a shimmering orange-and-purple colour combination that has become the Aftelier trademark, brimming with historical illustrations from the author's personal collection of historic perfume books (as many would have expected to find after reading Essence and Alchemy), and with deckle edged pages (AKA uncut pages), which allude to a period when most things, even printed books, had a handmade component to them, namely the reader had to slice open each page, as they read along.

In Fragrant, Mandy Aftel really opens up about her creative process, aesthetics and philosophy. To me what was most surprising element of the book. I had many expectations from this book, which was greatly anticipated (Mandy told me about it being in the works about two years ago), but this by far was not anything I would have expected to find there. There is more detail than usual about the creative process, and this is also demonstrated in building subsequently more complex perfumes in the formulae provided for each chapter (another pleasant surprise - but I should have known better: all of Mandy Aftel's book include recipes, so why would this book be any exception, right? I still did not expect it, somehow). For each chapter, you'll find a collection of recipes that are themed around this chapter's theme. For each of the essences, there is a simple accord of 2-4 essences for a solid perfume, a perfume oil and a body oil recipe, and then also an alcohol-based perfume formula, which is more complex and builds upon the initial note and its companions in a more intricate, sophisticated way. There are also some intriguing edible recipes from Deana Sydney's blog, Long Past Remembered. For example, frankincense and lavender shortbread.

The book is very similar to Essence and Alchemy in its breadth and attention to detail, presented in an almost fairytale-like style. The beauty of this new book is the perspective of the author some 13 years later, which comes from both experience in teaching her craft, and running an artisan perfume business. It is delightful to see that much passion still infused into one's art after all these years.

The two books - albeit the 13 years that separate between them - beautifully complement each other, and I recommend both for anyone who cares about perfume, and also for those who are beginning to delve into the art of blending. Last but not least, the book truly highlights the value and benefit of artisan perfumery in our day and age, and anything that is handmade. And with now being the season of excessive consumerism, I think this book brings to the fore important food for thought about our relationship to the material world and how it reflects our culture, innermost desires, connections to others, and more.
Fragrant can be purchased via most major book stores and online, or better yet - directly from Aftelier, where you can also get the companion kit. 

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Narkiss, Fourth Round

This time I tried to illuminate the rustic, ambery, hay-like aspects of narcissus and bring to the fore the scenery of Mediterranean winter. Although relatively mild, the winter in this region is a very dramatic season: thunderstorms, hail, floods (especially in the desert). Kinda like the storm that is attacking the West Coast right now.

Just as fast as these storms appear, they also disappear. And then the mushroom pop up, the bulb flowers bloom, and nature awakens to life thanks to the power of water. The next day would be as sunny and bright as an egg yolk, and as the central cup of Narcissus tazetta.

To capture in a bottle that feeling of picking flowers after the storm, I used quite a lot of pine essences, which are a very wintery scent - pine moos, pinewood, and pine needle aboslute, with its slightly sour, off-note of crushed needles and crackling branches. The balsam poplar buds absolute accentuate the honeyed floralcy of the narcissus.

Base notes: Pinemoss, Pinewood, Spikenard (Green),  Africa Stone Tincture, Clary Sage Absolute 74%, Pine Needles Absolute, Liatrix Absolute, Musk Compound

Heart notes: Narcissus Absolute, Coffee Flower Absolute, Balsam Poplar Buds Absolute, Orris CO2, Orris Tincture

Top notes: Szechuan Pepper CO2, Ylang Ylang Extra (Organic), Palmarosa

The verdict: Although I really liked this version, and how the supporting florals did to the narcissus, I felt lack of clarity in the concept. I felt that I had to *either* go fully with the wintery, puddle concept; *or* go fully with the dusky, mysterious olfactory concept that I first conceived when working with the narcissus absolute in the first round.  Not both. So I had at least two more trials to go... Which I will tell you about next week.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Oud Truffles

Yes, you heard it right:
Oud truffles.
As in chocolate, with oud in it, to eat and enjoy.

This is very unconventional flavour. It creates more of an aroma that enhances the chocolate.

The occasion is my book signing event: I was thinking - what would be reminiscent of old libraries, leather-bound books, something mysterious, alluring and totally out there? First I was thinking ambergris (which I've already created before for my Orcas perfume launch - with amazing result). I had a sniffing session of oud the other day with my student (who's originally from Kuwait - she's in fact, the daughter of an Arabian perfumer and oud merchant). As a result, oud was on my mind... I had a hunch that oud would create a similar effect to that of ambergris - bring the best out of the chocolate. I was right.

I've used an incredibly animalic, rich, and slightly berry-like oud (the same one that I use in my Razala perfume). The result was everything I hoped and non of the bitterness I feared that would result from adding wood oil to the already-bitter 72% dark cocoa. It blossomed into this spectacular, slightly flowery chocolate. Rich in aroma, intriguing, intense, but also very refined and not in the least overpowering. I'm going to pair it with a nice big red, spicy wine like Zinfandel or Shiraz tonight!
Please join me!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Night At The Library of Scents

Celebrate the holidays with Ayala in this last special event of 2014: Book signing at her perfume apothecary on Twelve Thirty Haro Street, Dec. 11th, 5pm-10pm. Ayala will read select passages from her new book, answer questions, let you sniff some special aromatics, and sign your copy of "Foundation of Natural Perfumery" - her new, self-published book. 

Also introducing: the new perfume, Narkiss (a haunting narcissus soliflore); and debut art exhibit by the perfumer's daughter, Tamya.  

Also planned are wintery libations and brews, old-library-scented chocolate truffles (with pure oud essence - yesss!!!), and after-hours shopping for goodies that can only be found in person. 

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Narcissus, Third Round

While the starting point for this was clearly and simply winter, rain and narcissus, it strayed a bit and became more floral. A turn of events that was most welcome.

I began with a core statement of narcissus absolute, on a backdrop of wet-woody, mushroomy and unusual tree notes: pinewood, fire tree, green spikenard, pinemoss and a tinge of bourbon vetiver. To add more body to the narcissus heart, and make it more floral and less spicy-green, I've decorated it with a hint of rose and ylang ylang. Palmarosa and Szechuan pepper add a lift, and also a unique floralcy to the top notes. In addition, I've utilized liatrix absolute in the base, to give a diffusive sweetness. The latter made it feel too "perfumey" in an old-fashioned, powdery way*. So I had to start another bottle, again.

But I have to admit: coming back to it now, many months after its creation (it was made in early March 2014), the liatrix mellowed a bit, which is nice of her. It has a more distinctive, green-floral yet a little juicy-sweet and almost refreshing at the same time. Together with the Szechuan pepper, it gives off more of the crushed-leaves feel in the beginning, despite the lack of glabanum - which is a nice surprise in my book.

* Kinda like Rive Gauche or Je Reviens - great perfumes, but with loads of coumarin that makes them feel quite dated and heavy for today's tastes.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Narkiss, Second Round

In 2014, I decided it was time to get back to my narcissus experiements. I wanted to try a new direction with this flower, after I've received a generous amount of Narcisse de Montagnes (wild, mountain narcissus) from my friend and colleague Jessica September.

With this being a mountain narcissus, I wanted the perfume to link more into my childhood memories of the flower, and the special smells of the Mediterranean winter.

Narcissi and puddles. Picking mushrooms the day after the rain.

Bois des Lands (Pinewood)
Angelica Root
Fire Tree
Narcissus Absolute

To these I later added:
Vetiver, Bourbon
Africa Stone Tincture
Ylang Ylang Absolute

The result was disturbingly earthy, with the feeling of rain getting lost to awkward woods and musky greenness. That's what happens when you're creating an unbalanced composition, even if the idea is great... So I had to toss this flower behind me, and start another fresh bottle...

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 01, 2014

Narkiss, First Round

The Narkiss creation journey started as early as 2007, with a name, and a sketch based on the natural raw materials that W.A. Poucher lists in his 2nd volume of "Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps". These were composed much later (in 2011) into 2 mods that I refer to as "First Round" - because they both represent the same concept, and are in fact a continuation of each other. In fact, I didn't even bother making them in separate bottles*.

This round was all about exploring narcissus absolute, which I had in only extremely limited quantity, and just have fun with it. It was created in what I like to call "intuitive approach": just following my nose, and working with the essences that seems most fitting for make this precious extract truly shine. Perhaps it's not purely intuitive, because I did have a list of per-selected notes to choose from.  But still, many of them were screened out purely based on what my nose and my heart were telling me in the process.

To start with, I didn't really have a concept in mind, besides that of wanting to work with narcissus absolute, and calling the perfume "Narkiss". I wanted to bring out the richness of this essence, and worked with notes that were some of the most elusive and unique on my palette: costus root, Africa stone, galbanum absolute, absolute from oak wood barrels, and last but not least - Jonquille (which extends the narcissus, being very closely related both botanically and in odour profile). 

While the perfume ended up quite minimalist in the number of raw materials (12), the mood of this perfume is anything but minimal. It has a richness to it that really made me think of a candle-lit flower. A little waxy and golden, honeyed and glowing like beeswax candle; but also very richly floral and seductive, like a dim-lit bouquet in a vase. Romantic, but also mysteriously melancholy.

In my fear of destroying what I've created, I didn't add any top notes to my composition. And I also didn't touch it and didn't get back to it till several years later.

* This is something I often do - when I know that the mod is just a beginning of something else. This is also a good way to save space in my overstuffed archives of experimental scents, and also saves on the time of re-blending the first portion, only to be adding more things to it that I already know are lacking in the first formula. It may not be scientific, but it works for me.

Labels: , , , , , ,