• Best of 2011
  • Best of 2011

Best of 2011

Oh dear, what a year!
Like 2009, it started all positive and wonderful with fun traveling and adventures, and many creative moments; yet plummeted to the depths of despair towards the end of the summer. I hope this is not how my life is going to be every other year, because honestly I don’t think I will be able to take this on a regular basis. But if it does, I guess I will just have to!

On a more positive note, 2011 had shown me who my true friends are, and connected me to the vibrant and supportive perfume community of the West Coast – most of which seems to be centered around the San Francisco Bay area. I made new friends in this community, and previous friendships have become stronger and more meaningful. So for everything this year has brought my way, I’m very grateful for. Not to mention, in the current economy – which no one wants to talk about – just being able to stay in business and continue supporting myself and my family with my art alone is a huge accomplishment.

This year I’ve made a few lifestyle changes focusing on reducing environmental damage by supporting local. I continue to do the majority of my grocery shopping at the farmer’s market (which requires driving way out of the West End in the winter time, but is well worth it). And I hardly purchase anything else unless it was made by someone I know in person. This seems to go for perfume and body care products as well. I’m just getting less and less interested in anything mainstream. Shopping in major department stores just lost its luster for me. Even shopping in craft shows or trade shows I find exhausting as most of it ends up talking shop and networking. So I would most likely buy if it’s from someone I know while I’m visiting them at their own home or studio.

So in this post, as much as I love perfumers of the world over, I’m dedicating my choices to perfumers and companies that are from the West Coast – and most are even closer to where I’ve been calling home for the past 13+ years: The Pacific Northwest.

Favourite Perfumes in 2011 (in alphabetical order):

Angel’s Trumpet by Ineke
This is from Ineke’s Floral Curiosities collection, created exclusively for Anthropologie. I first smelled it at Yosh’s house in the amazing party she threw for me and fell in love immediately. It is thanks to Ineke, an avid gardener and fellow Canadian indie perfumer (originally from Ottawa, Ontario) that I even know about the existence of this fragrant flower. I’ve first smelled the scent in the accord she created for “Evenings Edged in Gold” back in winter 2008.
Angel’s Trumpet smells exactly like the flowers after sunset – there is a bush I discovered in English Bay and this is as close as it gets to sticking my nose in that long flower and inhaling deeply the citrusy, candy-floss and heliotrope aroma of its intoxicating nightly vapours.

Fleur No. 1 by 1000Flowers
Created in Nelson, BC, while Jessica Buchana was spending time sorting out her return to her new home she’s making in Grasse, France. Fleur No. 1 makes more than a subtle nod to No. 19 – but it has its own Canadian touch with essences such as pine bud absolute. It’s delicate, fragile almost, and brings

Incense Pure by Sonoma Scent Studio
I know it was launched in 2010, but I’ve only discovered it this year, and I love, love, love this take on incense that is like no other. There is the usual suspect – frankincense; yet it’s not Gothic like so many other incense scents are; but rather ambery, smouldering you with resin-y vapour of cistus labdanum and immortelle, which are as thick and sweet as honey, with that interesting herbaceous animlistic undertone.

Oud Luban by Aftelier
Created for the Clarimonde project, this solid perfume is a true agarwood using 8 different varieties. It’s a smouldering, rich, resinous and animalic incense perfume with smoky undertones (from the choya ral) that is only brightened with elemi, frankincense and blood orange. To experience a real agarwood perfume is especially refreshing after the 2-year (or is it longer?) agarwood fad that has been dominated by faux oud notes that are neither authentic nor satisfying in my opinion.

Sombre Negra by Yosh
A dark, woody and spicy-warm dusky vetiver, accented with patchouli, tobacco, choya loban opoponax oakmoss, davana, pink pepper and mushroom. I love how earthy and mysterious it is.

The funniest perfume name:
Eau Pear Tingle
I haven’t tried the perfume, but sifting through the lists of new releases in 2011 on Basenotes.com I stumbled upon this one and thought it was funny – as it looks like a wordplay on “au pair”.

Favourite Teas:
This year was all about white tea for me, and exploring the white teas from which to select the “base” for my Zangvil perfumed tea was a subtle adventure into the world of tea. I especially cherished the help I received from Libby Gibson of Tula Teas in the process.
But hands down, the best tea experience of the year was sharing no less then two teapots of tea – Frankincense GABA oolong and Rose & Ginger oolong with Mandy Aftel at her own studio.

Favourite Incense:
Rose Nerikoh by Perfume Phyto.
This year I had the pleasure to meet to other incense makers (they must be even more crazy then perfumers, because incense making is, in my opinion, ten times harder!) and one of them I even got to meet twice – in San Francisco at Yosh’s and also at my very own studio. Yuko Fukami is a Japanese-born natural perfumer, and studied with Lisa Fong of Artemisia. The
Rose Nerikoh is a ball of various resins, rose petals and rose absolute, and had that luxurious camphoreous woody scents that most Japanese incense posses. It’s not meant to be burnt, but rather warmed in the Japanese kodo style (or you can use an aromatherapy diffuser to achieve the same purpose – just line it first with some aluminum foil as to avoid the resins from sticking to your pot permanently.

Favourite candle:
Winter Moss by Gabriel’s Aunt.
I’m pretty sure this was launched in 2010, but I’m still as smitten with it as I’ve ever been. This candle brings the bitterness of cold winter, snow and crisp moss-covered boughs of conifer in the clean air of the Pacific Northwest to your home without carrying a tree in and without dealing with the aftermess of needless all over the floor. I'm also smitten with pretty much all the candles that Nikki created - they are so much fun and I'm always on the lookout for what new creations come out of her candle lab: Lemon Bar, Royal Couple, Boheme to name a few; and a the new favourite are Southern Tea and Milk & Sugar.

I was also privileged to try the new, beeswax based Apricot & Lemon candle by Aftelier and it's such a delightful, cheerful scent - just the kind of thing one needs in the winter time for a little pick-me-up.

Favourite soap:
Juniper Ridge wild-harvest all their herbs and distill their own oils they collect while hiking in Oregon and Northern California. And their products all have a very authentic, outdoorsy quality.
Big Sur soap – medicinal, like immersing oneself in a tub filled with witch herbs. Siskiyou Cedar is as close as possible to bathing outdoors under redwoods and looking at the stars peaking through the branches.
Neither of these leave my skin dry (and as evidence, I don't even bother using a moisturizer or oil afterwards). Just the kind of soap bar I like.

Favourite Body Product:
Velvet and Sweetpea’s Purrfumery's whipped body frosting (from shea & virgin coconut oil) are a luxury that you must try if you haven’t yet. I’m still savouring whatever is left of the Cashmere Rose and the Tuberose Gardenia ones I’ve bought in Blunda LA back in 2009. They emit the subtle and exotic scent of virgin coconut oil as they melt on your skin, along with the luxurious florals they are scented with. Besides, their maker, Laurie Stern, is such a sweet lady who keeps her own bees (and her honey is delicious!).

Favourite Skin Care Line:
Belmondo’s skincare line is designed and handmade in BC. This organic skincare line made form fair trade ingredients is the brainchild of aesthetician Daniela Belmondo, who provides the best organic facial treatments in town. True to her vision of simplicity and minimalism in caring for one’s skin, and inspired by her own Italian heritage, the line is based in olive oil and is designed to benefit all skin types – providing a simple and healthy regime of cleansing and hydration.

Stunning packaging:
Persephenie’s eponymus line of body care and perfumes (which I’m yet to try). I love how minimalist and luxurious these look.

Promising New Line:
Rebel & Mercury is a new line of natural perfumes by Nikki Sherritt, the creative force behind Gabriel's Aunt. If it's anything like her candles, expect to find surprising gems in this new line. I've already experienced a few of them (Encens Blanc, Bohem) and was instantly smitten.

Favourite Perfume Notes (Raw Materials):
In case you haven't noticed, almost everything I created this year had seaweed in it this way or another. My love for the ocean only grows fonder the older I get; and smelling like seaweed is just my kind of thing it seems. My other obsessions in the world of raw materials have been mimosa, galbanum absolute, and oakwood absolute. But the most surprising revelation is my new fascination of eucalyptus.

Favourite Foods & Spices

This year I've finally become excited about cooking and being more creative with it. And I've been particularly inspired by this book. I also started eating fish, which seems to be just the right thing to do living in the West Coast with very little sunshine. I need to get my vitamin D somewhere... I also finally got the fascination so many people have with red wine, so I've definitely turned into the "other side", and I'm not even able to tell you if this is good or bad... Kale is probably the vegetable of the year for me, and pear the fruit discovery (they usually end up too soft and mushy in this household - from lack of interest). My interest in star anise have definitely increased this year (poached pear, anyone?). But black cardamom is probably the most notable spice that changed my life this year. I'm looking forward to trying it in perfumery next year!

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy New Year in 2012!
May it bring you the courage to do the changes you wanted to make in your life, and may this world become a better place for us all!

Visit the other participating blogs in this round of the Best of 2011:

Another Perfume Blog

DSH Notebook


Perfume Shrine

Scent Hive

The Non Blonde

Best of 2011 image by Roxana of Illuminated Perfume

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