Untitled by kivellotephotography
Untitled, a photo by kivellotephotography on Flickr.
Every once in a while, I owe myself a visit to the circus. It doesn't only wake up the sleepy towns in Carnivale, but also the soul: bringing unsurfaced fantasies into the mundane and awakening the never-ending quest for more. And so I found myself at Cirque de Soleil's newest performance Amaluna last night, amazed at the commitment and dedication that each moment of the show requires from a host of artists - off and on stage.

The show surrounds the moon and it's fluctuating cycles, battles between fire and water, and the constant quest for love despite obstacles. One of my favourite scenes was the balancing act of sticks shaped like prehistorical bones, floating in space in a breath-stopping, slow-motion spin (pictured above).

The morning after, I pulled out my sample of Eva Luna that Charna from Providence Perfume Company kindly sent me at the end of 2012: a sheer concoction surrounding two unlikely partners: carrot seed and jasmine. Both related to the moon (as most aromatic seeds and white flowers are), it just seemed befitting to wear after the show.

Eva Luna begins with the jasmine being far more prominent than the carrot, paired with watery spearmint note. Bright, sheer and beautiful, it soars above the skin like a seagull from the water. The carrot seed whispers in the background with warmth anchored by the muskiness of ambrette seeds. Chased with a fresh yet sweet amber and frankincense accord, Eva Luna is unexpectedly easy to wear, more of a summery daylight scent than a lunar orchestra.

Aphrodisiac of the Day: Ambrette Seed

Aromatic Aphrodisiacs

Ambrette was discussed here before in other contexts, for example: in my article about vegetale musks, and how it was employed in my newest perfumed tea. Today I want to highlight its aphrodisiac qualities, and how you can use it creatively in your own kitchen (or the bedroom...).

Ambrette seed is the seeds of Abelmoschus moschatus - an evergreen shrub from the hibiscus family, with yellow flowers with purplish-pink centre. These little innocent looking seeds are the perfumer's best choice for replacing animal-musk, although admittedly, it's far more gentle, sublime and not as sharp as animal musk.

Ambrette seed has a subtle and sublime musky odour. It is warm, but not quite like what one would call "spicy" - if anything its complexity reminds me slightly of that of coriander seed, although it's not nearly as heady (coriander has citrus elements in its chemical makeup, due to molecules such as limonene; and also light woodsy floralcy from the linalol). Ambrette is also slightly floral (probably due to the farnesol content); but has a very distinct aroma of its own, hardly sharing anything with other fragrant plants I'm familiar with. Possessing wine-like, nutty and fruity aspects reminiscent of overripe fruit or even lychee (probably because of the isoambrettolide - a macrocyclic musk that has some "red fruit" or berry characteristics). It also has some palmitic acid (which gives it a "fatty" or "oily" aspect). But most importantly - it is very rich in ambrettolide, which smells like what we learned to identify as "white musk" - clean, sweet, slightly floral or even soapy, and with berry undertones as well.

Ambrette Seed (Abelmoschus moschatos)

Ambrette also has medicinal benefits as well: to ease indigestion, cramps and nervous dyspepsia, and also can be ground made into an emulsion with milk to treat itchy skin.

And of course - ambrette seed is considered an aphrodisiac, both as a perfume and incense material and also in its less known culinary uses. It is used as spice in the East, either on its own or within exotic spice blends such as Moroccan Ras El Hanout (which was originally an aphrodisiac spice blend, by the way, and often calls for animal ingredients such as Spanish Fly, ambergris or musk). Ambrette seeds are also used by Arabs to flavour coffee (much like they do with cardamom seeds). The tincture is used to flavour liquors and tobacco - although I doubt that either will do you much good as aphrodisiac agents!

For my 3rd annual aphrodisiac tea party in February 12th, 2012 I will be serving my guests ambrette seeds in the Ras El Hanout spice blend I'll create, and also will infuse them in chocolate ganache to create aphrodisiac white chocolate truffles. You may also want to think about infusing ambrette seed in warm milk alone or along with vanilla and orris - or add it to sahleb and warm puddings of that nature. They may also work wonders in semolina desserts (cookies, harissas, etc.) along with spices such as coriander, cardamom and rosewater - in which case you should grind them before use and add like you would any other spice.

It's very unlikely you will find ambrette seed in your local spice shop, so you will have to find it online. Look for shelled but whole, un-ground seeds, as the fatty and oily components inside the seeds can easily get rancid once exposed to the air, which will greatly affect the scent and aroma. It's the skin of the tiny seeds that possesses most of the aroma anyway, so grind just as much as you need for immediate use and store them whole in an airtight container and away from heat, light and moisture - where they will remain fragrant profile for years.

I adore ambrette seed as a perfume material and use it in countless of my perfumes, but most notably in Cabaret, Sahleb, Tamya, Espionage and Zangvil, where its subtle musky notes come through and greatly complement the floral, powdery and ambery notes. It's so delicate, and really brings out the best of florals. Together with the flower essences (i.e.: rose, orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose) it really transforms - similarly to ambergris - and opens up on on the skin to what is definitely what I would call an aphrodisiac.

Perfumes containing ambrette seeds calm the mind and make me feel connected to my own skin, and to me that's what aphrodisiacs should be all about. They don't necessarily need to transport you into a far away exotic land or make you feel like some mythological sex goddess or act as a non-stop viagra dispensing machine (not that one like that exists, last time I checked) - but silently turn a little key and make the necessary switch from the worries of everyday life into something more sensual and pleasing that allows for things to happen. I suspect the "trick" of ambrette seed is two-fold: the fact that it helps to ease stress and nervousness, and also its stark resemblance to human skin (it is, somewhat, reminiscent of the scent of a baby's head too!). So wear a perfume with an ambrette seed in its base, rather than a synthetic musk, and enjoy the subtle yet powerful action of true botanical aphrodisiac.

Zangvil Tea Mystery Ingredient Revealed!

Mature seedpod and seeds in side ....Trái Bụp Vang đã khô và hạt ...

Zangvil's mystery ingredient is...
Ambrette seed!
The seeds of Abelmoschus moschatus (an evergreen shrub from the hibiscus family, with yellow flowers with purplish-pink centre) are known for being the most similar plant aroma to that of the deer musk!
Because of its beautiful, musky odour, floral, wine-like, nutty, reminiscent of overripe fruit or even lychee. It is very rich in ambrettolide, which smells like what we learned to call "white musk" (yup, the one by The Body Shop!). Ambrette seed is considered an aphrodisiac. It is also used as spice in the East, and is used by Arabs to flavour coffee (much like they do with cardamom seeds). The tincture is used to flavour tobacco as well as liquors. Ambrette also has medicinal benefits (mostly used to ease indigestion, cramps and nervous dyspepsia.

Ambrette Seeds 7832

Zangvil tea can be re-steeped as many as 6-7 times, with the woodsy, musky vanillic notes of the hand-sliced vanilla beans and aromatic ambrette seeds and hints of spicy sweetness from the organic candied ginger lingering on and on even beyond the tea leaves themselves (which still emit their subtle, peachy-jasminey aroma till the 4th steeping).

Congratulations to ahsu for guessing correctly (the 2nd time around...).
You will be receiving a 50gr tin of Zangvil tea (value of $30), which will be sent to you when Zangvil perfume & tea are launching - 20.11.2011.
Until than, you can pre-order it online!

New Perfume: Sahleb

Sahleb, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

A flower and a dessert… Sahleb is the stuff dreams are made of. Flavoured with rosewater and crushed mastic resin, Sahleb (orchid in Arabic) emerges from every street corner in steaming copper caldrons. The creamiest orris root is the core of this buttery-smooth perfume; complete with rosewater, vanilla and butter and topped with coconut, cardamom, mastic and nutty ambrette – Sahleb is ready to seduce you into winter.

Ayala Moriel is proud to introduce Sahleb: the perfume version of a Middle Eastern winter favourite. This scrumptious pudding beverage, flavoured with rosewater and crushed mastic resin is offered by street vendors straight from a copper caldron throughout the cooler seasons across the Middle East. Served warm and topped with coconut, pistachio and cardamom, Sahleb has become an essential part of winter and a way to make even the gloomiest street corners cozy and home-like.

The creamiest orris root from Italy was used to create the smooth texture of this starchy and soothing pudding-beverage. A hint of the finest rose otto from Turkey, coconut and butter essence and crushed mastic resin complete the exotic flavour, and finished with a hint of vanilla and nutty ambrette seed Sahleb is ready to seduce you into winter!

Top Notes: Coriander Seed, Rosewood, Mastic Resin Heart Notes: Orris, Rose Otto, Butter Base Notes: Ambrette Seed, Coconut, Vanilla Absolute
Fragrance Family: Floral Powdery, Gourmand

*Available in Parfum Extrait (9ml flacon $160; 1ml sample $17)

Related links:

Buy Sahleb Perfume

Consumer Reviews of Sahleb on MUA

Travel Memoirs: Instanbul Part 3 (Perfume Shrine)

Now Smell This new perfume announcement

Orchid, Pudding, Perfume: The Sahleb Story

Sahleb Orchid, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Sahleb perfume was born from three simple elements: Beurre d’Iris, butter essence the obscure and comforting pudding-beverage. It was meant to be a simple comfort scent, with no particular baggage or deep history. The name of the beverage suggests its origin: Sahleb is in Arabic word for orchid (Sachlav in Hebrew). And indeed, Sahleb is made of the ground starchy bulb of a Mediterranean species of orchids: Early Red Orchid (Orchis mascula).

Several orris butters have passed by my nose in my last 8 years of perfumery. But no orris root really fascinated and excited me as much as a particular batch I received from Eden Botanical: Beurre d’Iris (aka orris butter -which really is the essential oil, but with a consistency of crumbly butter or powdery wax). It come stright from Florence, Italy, where the Iris pallida grows, and is the most creamy, smooth and sweet orris I’ve ever encountered. Warm rather than the cool and vague, distant powderiness that most orris butter present.

Orris butter is one of the most precious perfumery materials, currently set at nearly $7,000 per pound. There is much labour involved in the process: the roots need to be washed and peeled by hand and than mature for several years in dark cellars. They are than pulverized before being distilled into an essential oil. Lastly, the yield is relatively low which makes it prohibitive; yet at the same time, the presence of irone, a violet-like molecule similar in its aroma to ionone, makes it invaluable in perfumery. The particular orris butter in question had 15% irone, which is almost the highest irone content one can hope for (sometimes, 20% irone is available).

The butter CO2 is a molecular distillation of this beloved dairy product. If you ever fry your eggs with a bit of butter, or make homebaked crumbly butter cookies or pie crusts - this is the scent of butter CO2. When I first smelled it I was simultaneously repulsed and intrigued by how realistic and potent it was. It simply hits your nose with this burnt-butter sensation, suffocating and comforting at once. Just like a late, fat Sunday brunch.

Sahleb Merchant, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

My constant inspiration comes from home, where I grew up in the Middle East, surrounded by an abundance of flavours and fragrances native to my country. Living in Vancouver most of the year, I miss all of the plants and smells and little edible pleasures of daily life. Especially on days when I go to my neighborhood Middle Eastern deli and there is no sahleb on the shelf (or worse: no tahini! But that’s because my brother probably ate all of the tahini supply in the city in his 12 months stay in Vancouver). On days like this a perfume can help bridge over the physical distance and give the illusion of closeness, and the comfortable certainty of nostalgia.

For those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to try sahleb (yet), you must know that it is the most comforting beverage you can imagine, and at the same time exotic and intriguing. It is made of ground starchy orchid root powder, cooked with milk and a bit of sugar and rosewater (sometimes ground mastic resin is added too). It is served warm and topped with crushed pistachios, coconut and spice (most typically cardamom and cinnamon). In Café Clil in my home village, it is served with a split banana and some peanuts on the side as well, which is original, different yet appropriate.

Sahleb Ingredients, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Somehow, it all came together in my mind and I was determined to make a perfume inspired by Sahleb. Sahleb required subtleness and richness and had to be very milky and starchy. So it was only natural that I would use the obviously milky butter essence, and the haunting orris butter with 15% irone. And that how Sahleb was born. Ambrette seed was crucial for the composition’s fatty quality and also to make it more perfumey and skin-like. There is only very little rose in the perfume, as well as a bit of mastic resin tincture which I had to prepare myself. The spices and top notes used also have some starchy quality to them – coriander and rosewood.

Unfortunately, when I was ready to launch Sahleb this season, I learned that my supplier have run out of the orris and were not able to anticipate when this quality iris will be back in stock. I have a feeling that the wave of iris scents that washed us throughout last year (i.e.: Iris Ganache, Infusion d’Iris…) have used up a large portion of the world’s supplies and I am now in a bit of a panic regarding finding quality orris butter for my perfumes.

Therefore, I have decided to launch Sahleb as an exclusive limited edition, which means with a price point ($160) that truly reflects it’s cost, and in very limited run of only 11 bottles (2 of which were already taken). Also, there are no samples offered for Sahleb perfume - aside from samples that I have given out before I knew of this little “orris crisis”, and 5 more that are in stock there will be no samples available.

Sahleb, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

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