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SmellyBlog

Moving

Pathos Still Life

One of the strangest and fondest childhood memories is when me and my mom moved from Jerusalem to our village in her tiny car, whose trunk was filled to the brim with our houseplants. My mom did not trust the movers to handle them gently enough. So I got to enjoy their green grace through this long ride (only two hours, really, but tremendous length in Israeli terms). Their leaves filtered the sun and made the atmosphere cool and comforting. It was like traveling inside a little jungle, that sang a silent lullaby in my ears.

When we arrived at the village, the plants had a special spot in the shade until our cabin was built (we lived in a hut with dirt floor for a while). And I liked to spray their leaves with water and help my mom care for them.

Decades later, I'm returning to the same village only from much further distance. And I don't trust the movers to take care of my plants so I will hope my friends will adopt them. I don't trust the movers to pack my perfumes and raw materials either, so I'm doing it myself, with the help of some mad friends who I have no idea why they would take on such a task; but nevertheless I'm thankful because without them there is no chance in hell that I will be ready to leave in time.

Also in my suitcase are going some seeds I want to saw of fragrant plants, in what I dream to be a miniature perfumer's botanical garden and an part of an educational project for micro-distillation and old-fashioned extortion methods of fragrant plants. I'll start with some violate (Viola odorata) and green shiso (Perilla), and bulbs of lily of the valley, snowdrops and tuberose that I'll have to remember to unearth from my potted plants... The rest I will have to scout and research once I get there.

The Last Garden of Aleppo






"Flowers help the world and there is no greater beauty than flowers. Those who see flowers enjoy the beauty of the world created by God. And when you smell them they nourish the heart and the soul. The essence of the world is a flower" (Abu Ward).
This short TV documentary about the Abu Ward's Last Garden of Aleppo has deeply inspired me. The human spirit never gives up on beauty, hope and continuing living. Even more so when in the shadows of death. My heart goes out to the gardener's boy, who will surely carry on his father's legacy, and I hope will continue growing despite the tremendous loss he's experienced.  



Even if the only pots you have are empty rusty cans and shrapnels - you can grow roses, hazelnut, oleander, loquat and pear - and "rosemary for resistance". Aleppo's remaining residents planted what Abu Ward grew in his nursery everywhere they could in traffic circles and among the rabble. 





Yohji

more raspberry fingers

A significant part of preparing for my trans-atlantic move involves sifting through my countless of bottley possessions. While there has been some reported sightings of letting go, it hasn't made even the slightest dent in the number of glassware filled with precious liquid that I'm going to have to meticulously wrap and prepare for marine freight.

But what has happened was rediscovering of certain scents, and realizing that even though I rarely wear them - they're too special to let go of. Such is Yohji, in its clear "glass coffin" box, whose packaging alone inspires curiosity. By the way, its original wrapping also included being neatly rolled in parchment paper.

Yohji is singular in its execution of the ambreine theme, and turning it into a fully-fledged gourmand  - with a twist. Ambreine is the basis of many great oriental fragrances, and is based on the contrast of vanillin and bergamot, traditionally with rose and jasmine as harmonizers and  a touch of coumarin and patchouli for depth (for reference: this is the core of perfumes such as Shalimar, Emeraude, et al, and the modernized with the gourmand interpretations of fragrances such as Angel, Lolita Lempicka and Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme).

Yohji intensifies this simple pleasure by utilizing the striking sharp green of galbanum that adds a much needed interest to the bergamot facet, as well galbanum resin at the base, which has a decidedly balsamic quality that adds interest to the sugary vanillin. But rather than having rose and jasmine connect these two extremes of balsamic and citrus - the perfumer nestled ripe, syrupy berries in the midst. Namely, raspberries and blackberries.

While the structure of Yohji is very much like that of Angel and Lolita Lempicka, it leaves a memorable mark on the smeller and stands apart from other modern gourmands. Additionally, while it does bring to mind the historic contrast of galbanum and raspberry found in the classic green floral from the 70s, Ivoire, it still comes across as strikingly different, in its decidedly unfloral core and lack of interest in obeying any trends or fitting any expectations whatsoever. It's also unclassified gender-wise - and there is no reason for men not to wear it, despite the lack of the subtitle "Homme".

My memories of Yohji were a bit of mixed feelings - first of all, because of its intensity, which to begin with made me wear it scarcely. Although it's not quite as aggressive as Angel, it is pretty close. Additionally, many falls ago,  when I just "met" Yohji (I've had a purse-size spray received in a swap), was when my doughter was recovering from a summer accident that broke her leg. It was a time of overwhelmingly intense transitions and challenges, and I found the scent to bring just the right amount of confidence and a great complement to brisk cold busy workweek mornings with too many tasks to catch up with and made me feel just a tad braver than before applying it. But that also tends to translate to not being able to wear it again after, simply because of the strong emotional association. Now that many years have passed without me touching it, and when I'm again facing a big life change, I find it to be oddly comforting. Only now I truly embrace its audacity and can appreciate its structure better. The opening, which can be experienced as harsh (there is more than a little acetone-like note going on there), does not bother me anymore, and I absolutely adore the dry down which reminds me of an almond and raspberry torte.

P.s. This review is for the 1996 version of Yohji. It was re-launched in 2013 and I have not tried the new version - therefore unable to comment on it at this time. If you've tried it - I would like to hear from you if it's worth a sniff. Perhaps it is the berry aspect that I'm sentimental about, and maybe that is the berry perfume I've been looking for all summer?

The Life Aquatic - Beyond Beach Scents Cliché

Life Saver

Even though most people don't think of water as having a scent - the most favourite nature smells among my clients are that of rain and ocean. This is based on a 15 year long ongoing voluntary data that customers provide me about their fragrance preferences.

I can't imagine what it would be like in summer without the wonderful beaches, lakes and streams. Even summer rains are welcome in my world, as they make the season feel more precious and allows us to continue enjoying greenery and worrying less about forest fires and dreadful droughts. Therefore I'd like to dedicate August's newsletter to water-inspired scents.

There's saline water and freshwater. In a similar manner, water-inspired fragrances can be divided into two: Aquatic and marine. Aquatic perfumes are usually ethereal, light and inspired by water gardens and flowers such as waterlily, lotus and iris and the wet-woods watery quality of cassie as well as the cucumber-like personality of mimosa and violet leaf absolutes. Marine fragrances tend to be more masculine (usually they're a sub-genre of Fougère) and include mineral notes that allude to salt such as ambergris, seaweed, oakmoss and vetiver - and even notes that suggests savouriness, such as parsley, dill, celery and angelica.

Bon Zai is perhaps the first aquatic perfume I've created, and the only one that has absolutely no saltiness to it. I often suggest it to clients who like the smell of rain, because it has the same freshness and crisp qualities the air has when it rains. It's a quite, non-dramatic, peaceful scent. Think about gentle West Coast rain in a Zen garden - no thunder or lightning, only soft rain on pine needles.

Since 2009, with the launch of Hanami, water has been a recurring thread in my perfume creations.  And as you will soon see, I often combine the qualities of freshwater and saline water in the same composition - which gives it a rather sheer quality and a compelling lightness. Although on and of themselves, cherry blossoms are particularly watery - Hanami plays on the theme of wet wood, after spring rain, and that scent mingling with that of cherry blossom and the urban surrounding: metal, wet pavement, and the commotion in and out of the underground train station. The scent is abstract, yet compelling. And for those who are familiar with sakuramochi and brine-preserved sakura and sakura tea - there is also a savoury connotation that balances the otherwise cloying sweetness of the flowers involved, and which makes Hanami perfume even more intriguing.

l'Écume des Jours (2004) was my first watery creation. Inspired by the perfect symmetry and profound beauty portrayed in Boris Vian's most praised novel by the same name. Cheerful Pianola top notes of cassis and freesia lead to Chloe’s deadly Lung Water Lilly. The melancholy base of green moss and watery marine seaweed reflects the tragic conclusion of the tale. l'Écume des Jours is a strange perfume of unusual harmony that inspires appreciation for the simple beauty that is found in all things – especially the Jazz of New Orleans...

And speaking of New Orleans: I also created a perfume that invokes the haunting scents of the Louisiana wetlands with salty seaweed and oakmoss underscoring heady flowers of magnolia, osmanthus, orange blossom and tea rose. There is also Meyer lemon and rosemary that truly cut through the sweetness and add a savoury touch that echoes the salt notes. For a scent so rich with florals, it is surprisingly refreshing, light and easy to wear.

Orcas, the first natural Fougère-Marine fragrance that was nominated for the 2012 Indie FiFi Awards,  now celebrates its 5th year anniversary. Inspired by the breathtaking scenery of the Wild Pacific Trail, a place where ocean meets forest and whales blow and sing above the stormy weather. Orcas perfume is an innovative all-natural marine woody, a unique combination of scents from sea and seashore. Brisk and pungent citrus and herbaceous notes suggest ocean breeze and tea-like clarity, and an array of oceanic treasures such as seaweed and ambergris meet seashore and rainforest notes.

My newest perfume, Lost Lagoon is a Chypre with s a powdery-sweet softness from the juxtaposition of amber, orris and magnolia that balances the bite of galbanum, rhododendron leaf and lemon. It is not aquatic per se, but it was inspired by the dreamy Rhododendron Garden that trails along Lost Lagoon. Again, we find a place where the freshwater is very close to the ocean, and this reflects in the perfume as well. The oakmoss contributes the saltiness, but the flowers are luscious and has a watery air to them - the crispness of violet leaf and iris being the main contributors to that effect.

The last bit of cliché I'd like to tackle is that of beach scents. This popular sub-category of Florientals (or Floral Ambery) tends to be fruity, sometimes even cloyingly sweet, and smells very artificial. It is a strange category because it takes after the scents of ancillary products - namely suntan lotion, suntan oil and sunscreen products. These are usually rather chemical concoctions of white flowers and fruit esters over synthetic musks and amber bases, and sometimes even a bit of aquatic smelling compounds. If you love beach, this would smell fantastic to you; but even if you do - too much of a good thing can get a little overwhelming, or boring at best.

What I tried to do with Sunset Beach, is create a perfume that is neither watery nor marine in character, but rather works with the tropical materials in a more authentic way. To start with, the inspiration is driftwood and the fragrant flowers that might bloom near the beach. So it's entered around sandalwood from both Hawaii and India. I've used massoia CO2 as well as handcrafted tinctures of milky oolong tea and pandanus leaf to intensify the milky quality that is sadly lacking in most modern sandalwood oils. And I've used champaca CO2 for its fruity, spicy and incense-like qualities that I find irresistible, and ylang ylang for its fruity esters and creamy-coconutty qualities. Whenever I wear it I feel like I'm on vacation, and I hope you do too.

In the same way that Hanami contrasts urban and natural elements, my upcoming perfume Coal Harbour juxtaposes the smells that co-exists in my oceanside city's harbour: the salty-animatic notes of seaweed and marine animals at low tide with the rank of jet fuel from the aquaplanes. This disturbing contrast (both smells are quite intense, and together they can be very unpleasant, especially when locked up in a bottle!). To soften this blow, I've added notes of fresh cut grass that wafts off Harbour Green Park, as well as pleasant-smelling local tree blossoms, namely linden, elderflowers and balsam poplar buds.


Approaching Coal Harbour

Buoys

This week I've finally created a batch of Coal Harbour, which I intend to close the Perfume4aPlace series dedicated to my favourite spots in Vancouver. However, the concept of Coal Harbour perfume predated all the other scents. In fact, it was in one of those morning walks about five years ago in Coal Harbour that I knew I would soon have to leave the city. Walking there and watching the aquaplanes take off and land on water I felt a pang of melancholy, knowing how much I love the marine aspect of the city. And so I promised myself to make a Coal Harbour perfume before I leave, as a goodbye present to the place I've called home for nearly 18 years.

This idea of course was the seed of the entire collection. And as the time to leave approached, I began rolling out the scents. I felt reluctant to launch Coal Harbour, because deep inside I knew that would mean the last farewell. So I did this gradually, with one perfume in each season... Komorebi in the fall of 2015, Sunset Beach in the winter of 2016, Lost Lagoon in the spring, and finally Coal Harbour for summer.

The scent is now maturing in the vat - a concoction that echoes the juxtaposition of natural aromas in their urban surrounding, contrasting marine notes, fresh cut grass and linden blossoms with the penetrating aroma of jet fuel.

The perfume is still in the maturing phase, but you can pre-order a sample (or, if you know you like marine-leathery-green scents, an entire bottle in your choice of eau de parfum application - mini splash bottle, roll-on and larger spray bottle.
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