Sweet Spring Sap

Mystery tree that gives off a sweet, balsamic fragrance reminiscent of vanilla, cured tobacco and labdanum. It took me as long as several years to identify the source of this heavenly, unmistakable smell... It is hidden, because it comes not from flowers, but from the resin surrounding the budding leaves, which first appear in spring on the completely barren trees. Sources of smell are varied and many, and somehow, even though black current buds are a known fragrance material, it just did not occur to me that this sweet smell is coming from yet to be opened buds.

An attempt at tincturing the fragrant new leaves.

Black cottonwood buds. Sticky, fragrant - very close to balsam poplar buds absolute.

Nerve's Root

Uprooted by Ayala Moriel
Uprooted, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
"A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so" (Herman Hesse, Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte [Trees: Reflections and Poems] ).

On living vertically: the tree stands still. It only knows upward motion to the light; or drilling to the depths of the dark soil with its roots. Even when the roots need to bypass a resistant rock or crack through a boulder, they are still vertically-oriented. Even when the branches are twining around an obstacle (another life-form, a building or a cliff) they are still climbing towards the sun.

The tree suffers silently. The tree does not even dream of escape or refuge from discomfort or disaster. Fires, logging and frost will attack it to its death, which it will welcome with barely as much as a sigh. It only knows of wandering and travel from the little birds that perch on its branches and whisper their sweet songs of freedom into its foliage.

When its arms are severed and when it is uprooted, a tree does not complain. It continues growing, silently, creaking only when the wind attempts to bend it beyond its range of flexibility. I long for the trees. When the snow and ice piles heavy on its boughs, the tree will carry these heavy waters as a water-bearer with a big family waiting in the village.

Despite all of these limits, the tree knows love. To the birds nesting on its boughs, feeding their youngsters. To the beetles that eat through its bark and tickle its thick skin. To the wind that caresses its tender foliage in springtime. To the children that climb its branches, jump on them and scrape their knees on them. To the earth that hugs its roots, and to the underground parasites pinching at its nerve endings. And even to the savage winds that uproot it; the loggers who take away its pride. It will still continue to grow and move forward, sending shoots of new life around the mother-trunk. 
 I am grateful and perhaps also cruel. In my apothecary I hold many lifetimes of trees and forests combined: essences from the fruits of junipers; needles of fir, spruce, cypress and pine; flowers of linden and balsam poplar; heartwood of santal, cedar, agar and oak; and tears (or sap) from frankincense, myrrh and hundreds of years old olive trees.

From my horizontal point of view, I might envy the tree now. I long for its dangerous exposure to the four elements. Admire its brave silence in face of all adversity. a sudden spring wind had sent me her blessing and promise of hope with a sprinkle of ume (Japanese sour plum) petals on my exercise mat that's been permanently placed by the windows now. The Hanami season is fading, and the scent of balsam poplar buds fills the air with its cotton-like warmth, reminiscent of honey, apricots, yeast and cloves.

New Discoveries

New Discoveries by Ayala Moriel
New Discoveries, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Monday was spent on the road mostly, doing a round trip to Seattle to reconnect with the West Coast indie perfume community, and smell some new raw materials. The fresh Szechuan pepper essence pictured here made the trip worth my while, but there were some other fascinating raw materials worth writing about.

Elemodor: fraction of elemi resin, which possesses no resemblance to its origin, with only the slightest hint of resinous woody. The best way to describe it is as orange zest and juice on speed.

Elemi (Canarium luzonicum): Sharp, crisp, like lemon and black pepper combined, and also with hints of both cilantro leaf and pink peppercorns.

Tobacco absolute: Time and time again, I'm surprised at how muted tobacco is. It can easily disappear in a blend, and it sometimes seems as if the more you add, the less you'd smell of it. A challenging raw material to work with, but powerful and very elegant when used properly. Although it does not have a very strong odour intensity or diffusive power, it is a distinctive note, reminiscent of freshly cured tobacco leaves (read: not stale!), fermented hay in a meadow, and with an undercurrent of animalic energy. A truly good tobacco bring a sense of reverence and reminds me of the original use of this as a sacred, medicinal plant.
Please note that this absolute is nicotine free, unfortunately, so don't try this as a substitute for your nicotine patch!

Cypriol/Cyperus/Nagramotha (Cyperus scariosus): from the vetiver family, this root oil possesses as urpentie, sharp top note, woodsy-dry base, and a very clean, elegant dryout reminiscent of the hint of tart freshness of Haitian vetiver.

Bois des Lands or Pinewood is a co-extraction of French pine resinoid with a Virginian cedarwood oil. Smells of wood, mushroom-y forest floor, moss and a tiny smoky, with a cheese-like fermented undertones. Dries out to a woody-balsamic finish.

Cedarwood fraction: From Texas cedarwood. Sharp cedar note, a little sweaty-herbaceous reminiscent of oregano.

Olibanum Wood: co-distillation of olibanum (frankincense resin) with Virginia cedarwood, which creates an interesting new note that is more stable and woody, more reminiscent of dusty frankincense tears rather than the oil or the smoke.

Vanilla CO2 with 20% vanillin:  This is just about as sweet as one can get, in a very elegant way.

Ambrette Oil (Abelmoschus moschatos): High content of ambrettolide, resulting in a typical "white must" scent without the skin-like, buttery, nutty and wine-like quality of most ambrette seed essences. 

Szechuan Peppercorn, Fresh: Green, floral, surprisingly citrusy (reminiscent of ruby red grapefruit, bergamot  and yuzu), tomato leaf and yerbamate. Very distinct, fresh and tenacious.

Poplar Buds Absolute: Honeyed, boozy, hops-like, hint of cloves, dominant propolis note, hint of nutritional yeast odour.

Mimosa Olessence: Gentler extraction method, resulting in a more true to the flower profile. Reminiscent of almonds, marzipan, hints of fennel, floral, woody and clean.

Elderflower Absolute: That nutritional yeast note again, with only the tiniest hint of what the fresh flowers are all about - cassis-like and floral. More like hay than a flower overall. Similar to linden blossom absolute, which also presents a similar problem.

KF1150: Isolate that smells grassy green and sharp - like a combination of gasoline and freshly cut grass. Your dad is going to love this!

Black Tea Absolute: Smells like a wonderful container full of fresh Assam tea, maybe hints of Darjeeling too.

Eucalyptus Forte: Combination of of solvent extraction and molecular distillation. Green, balsamic, eucalyptus pods, hints of animalic/indolic quality, surprisingly. Very tenacious, resinous-woody-balsamic dryout.

Just a little glimpse into where a perfumer's palette can expand.
And that's all, folks!

Etrog Oy de Cologne

Just in time for Father's Day, our new Etrog Oy de Cologne is now available online!

Due to its delicate flavour and sweet perfume, citron (Citrus medica, or Etrog in Hebrew) garnered mythical significance like no other citrus fruit. It is one of the 4 species in Sukkot, alongside myrtle, willow and palm. Etrog symbolizes the heart, and is said to represent a complete, balanced person: one who has both knowledge and learning, as well as good deeds.

And like all good things, citron fruit is rare, and its essences is even more difficult to find. Therefore, the perfumer had to tincture her own: fresh organic fruit was tinctured by her family in Israel, and the rabbi of downtown Vancouver donated his family's Etrogim for 3 consecutive years. Thanks to this community effort - the first "Oy de Cologne"!

Ayala Moriel's Etrog Oy de Cologne is a modern twist on a timeless classic: citron zest is paired with pomelo peel to accentuate its subtle floral-citrus aroma, alongside green myrtle and Japanese mint to balance its fruity sweetness. Balsam poplar buds created a honeyed, pulp-like texture alongside Australian lemon myrtle and citron leaves. Ancient olive and incense resins make a lasting impression.

Families: Citrus, Citrus Floral

Top notes: Citron (Etrog) Tincture, Japanese Mint, Pomelo Peel Tincture, Green Myrtle

Heart notes: Balsam Poplar Buds, Lemon Myrtle, Petitgrain Cedrat, Honey Absolute

Base notes: Frankincense , Olive Tree Resin, Ambergris, Opoponax


Thawing, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

This Saturday we went for a little hike in Lynn Canyon (which have become painfully touristic, fast becoming only another version of Capilano suspension bridge affair - it's only a question of when they will be charging us to cross the bridge!). Thankfully, the trees and the vegetation and melting snowtops take no notice of who is watching them and the show went on as far as their concern went...

New smells of spring grab my attention this year - especially balsam poplar buds. At least, that's what I think is what I'm smelling. Smells are never easy to describe, and especially not without reference to another smell they resemble (in this case: Sève Exquise). Or it could be the smell of cottonwood trees in bloom, which unlike the latter, was not discontinued. But I'll attempt to put these comparisons aside and try to describe it as it is.

The air of the forest surrounding Lynn Canyon was chilly from the moisture in the air and rushing river of freshly melted snow. But it smelled warm and balmy, graced by a fuzzy warm blanket of honeyed sweetness and wild flowers. It smelled so warm and sweet that it might as well have been the sole cause for the thawing snow capped mountains.

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