My visit to Tofino last summer left a lasting impression on me, and I was determined to turn it into perfume one day. The scents of the ocean never cease to amaze me, and fortunately, there are some raw materials in my palette that are authentic in both their origin and their manifestation. Take seaweed, for instance (which comes in oil, absolute and more recently - molecular distillation). It is so true to the scent of seashore and ocean breeze that it makes my heart skip a beat every single time, just like when the sea line approaches on the horizon on a Beach Day and you can see the lifeguard’s red flag saying swimming is not forbidden but a still a little dangerous…
Tofino, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a little town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which faces the great Pacific Ocean. Unlike the beaches within the Georgia Straight – the waves there are high and forceful. There is a high risk of tsunami there, because it is not too far from the “junction” of no less than three tectonic plates!
There are many magical spots in that area, which is almost continuously draped in mist regardless of season. The iconic big rock at Long Beach, which looks like a giant altar for sacrifice for the gods of the sea; The rainforest there are so clear, that moss grows on the trees in abundance, moss that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Every place you turn is like pure magic, even the hundreds of dead squids that were washed to shore and made some of the beaches reek of rotting marine carcasses. But certainly, the most memorable thing was the Wild Pacific Trail, where we spotted whales blowing and gasping for fresh misty air above sunken ships from centuries past.
In my very early days of perfumery, I created Orcas. It was a strange oceanic that smells a lot like Coca Cola – because besides the seaweed and the rosemary, which provided the core of the “ocean breeze” theme, I also put some lime, rose geranium, litsea cubeba, cinnamon and cloves. I liked Orcas, but it never really made it. I phased it out when I did the name switch (from Quinta Essentia to Ayala Moriel). I felt it’s time to update this perfume and give it a new spin, and that’s what I’ve been working on in the past month. I Love the name and wanted to keep it that way. I want the new Orcas to be more on the masculine side, very expansive and light, and distinctively oceanic.
Oceanic, Aquatic and Ozone notes have probably began with Dune by Maurice Roger (created in 1991 for Christian Dior). Although rather complex with its array of notes (Broom, Wallflower, Bergamot, Mandarin, Lily, Peony, Jasmine, Rose, Amber, Lichen, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla) - it was more about creating the impression of sand, seashore and ocean air rather than an evolution of notes. It is also the first in the genre of oceanic perfumes, later on expanded into the ozonic/oceanic and aquatic-floral fragrance family, with the introduction of the man-made molecule calone.
Creating a marine or oceanic natural scent poses a challenge because the palette of oceanic notes is limited and narrow – primarily the seaweed essences I’ve mentioned. What can be built on top of that relies heavily on the perfumer’s imagination, creativity and their own association with seashore and ocean.
For some reason, I find rosemary to fit in perfectly with that theme. And so I’m quite set on focusing my attention on the seaweed and rosemary accord, which is quite lovely. My first version (or my second, counting the original Orcas) is very simple and minimalist, with blue spruce absolute, seaweed, Haitian vetiver (which has a certain ‘saltiness’ to it), angelica, violet leaves, clary sage, rosemary and fresh ginger. These notes to fit in together quite nicely into a Pacific mist meets rainforest kind of accord, and the rosemary (usually a top note) gets a surprisingly long appearance. But it’s not a perfume quite yet. There is a lot missing – a heart, for example.
To be continued…