Peony, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I’ve been wondering about the scent of peonies for a while. You see them mentioned so often as a note in mainstream perfumes. Yet, I couldn’t say I’ve smelled enough of them to recall the scent from memory. This summer, as if on demand, Vancouver’s gardens and nurseries seduce with me with peonies wherever I go. I even spotted them on reception desks by day and hair salons by night. I had encountered so many that I even managed to find a few adjective to describe them. To me, they smell like a combination of a subtly luscious rose, fresh carnation, and a hint of green. There is also a bit of a marigold element but it’s very subtle. There is nothing particularly original about peonies, they just smell like a lovely bouquet of these flowers. I guess it’s their voluptuous appearance, reminiscent of both of rose and an oversized carnation, sparks the imagination. It is hard not to notice it’s resemblance to many patterns in Chinese art, and perhaps this is what makes them seem so mysterious and vaguely oriental.

Thinking about it, it might just be possible to recreate it from naturals alone...

Phantom Peony, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Tree of Mystery

Tree of Mystery, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
The first time I encountered this tree was in east Vancouver, near Grandview elementary school. I was amazed at how closely it resembled orange blossom, though it has nothing to do with orange. It looks as if it belongs to the fabacea (or legumes) family, just like Spanish Broom, mimosa and Sweet Pea.
And indeed, it shares quite a bit of similarity to sweet pea as well – which I haven’t noticed before. Overall, it smells like a mélange of orange blossom, sweet pea, and a very indolic jasmine, to the point that you’d think there is some civet thrown in… only that this isn’t perfume! It’s a flower and there couldn’t possibly be any civet in there even if you tried hard to find it. Maybe in coffee, but not here…

Mysterious White Blossoms 01, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
P.s. Thanks to my reader, Veronica, I now know the identity of the mystery tree: Robinia pseuodoacacia, aka Black Locust or Witte Acacia. Veronica, please email me so I can thank you properly with a mini of my mimosa perfume, Les Nuages de Joie Jaune.

According to W.A. Poucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps (Vol. 1, p. 296): "Source: Natural. Flowers of Robinio pseudo-acacia, L. Leguminosae. The absolute is obtained by extraction with volatile solvents. Possesses an intense odour of the blossoms. Chemical: Contains indole, methyl antrhanilate, linalool, benzyl alcohol, heliotropin, and trepineol, with traces of aldehydes and ketones of peach odour". 

THE Rose Bush

Luscious Rose, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I have passed by this rose bush a million times, but perhaps it is only now, after 9 summers in the city, that I am starting to associate it with itself and with here and now – as opposed to the roses of my childhood (a rare and precious encounter, but nevertheless, it belonged only there for the longest time and seemed to have hard time moving on). These roses are just… perfect. Rosier than any other rose, with honeyed, full-bodied, wine-like presence. I’ve stopped by this rose bush so many times, ignoring the embarrassingly pitiful glances from by passers. Ignoring the laughter of those observing how difficult it is for me to move on, as my nose pulls me back into the deep velvety petals, my arms heavy with grocery bags and begging me to just move on and go straight home, but I can’t… In case you didn’t get it the first time – these roses smell perfect. Sigh…

Voluptious Rose, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.


Lilac, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

There are so many different lilacs here. Different colours, different sizes of clusters. Maybe this particular one isn’t exactly lilac either. But it sure smells like one. And against the pale blue sky, it is starting to become a symbol of summer for me. In a cheerful way, and without all the misty, dewy and a bit melancholy aspects that lilac can sometimes have on me.

Acacia, Botanical Invasion and Leather

Mimosa, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling back and forth between Tel Aviv and my little village up north. In one of our rides together, my brother Yotam pointed out to me the dangerous abundance of Mimosas across the country, and the fact that they are now considered invasive species in Israel. Mimosas were sparse and almost exotic way back when, and I remember specific spots along the road where they could be found. When the blooming season arrived, we would pick them for my step-grandmother, who admired them greatly. Now, however, they can be found everywhere, not just in parks and city gardens or along the roads. They can be found in the middle of fields or on hillsides, where they are gradually taking over and use up resources such as space and water, therefore endangering the survival of the indigenous plants.

Now, in springtime, the view of mimosa is glorious and abundant, particularly in full bloom. Otherwise, these bushes embody the mood of desert and negligent greenery scattered in random places where it leaves no impression whatsoever except, perhaps, the gloom of heat and burning sunrays.

Mimosa is from the family of Fabaceae, which also includes the legumes. And indeed it has seeds that are arranged in elongated pods. It belongs to the subfamily of Mimosoideae, which includes also plants, shrubs and trees, some of which perform rapid movement like the “touch me not” plant (Mimosa Pudica).

The Acacia (commonly known as Mimosa) is an invasive species in other parts of the world. Although it is native to Australia, it is cultivated in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, France, Italy, Algiria, Lebanon an India. I suspect it was brought Israel at the turn of the century, along with Eucalpytus trees which exude an equally gloomy appearance where they remain as a statue to lost wetlands or malaria-beaten swamps and marshes that my Zionist ancestors fought vigorously and turned into depressing little forests instead.

The particular mimosa that is widespread in Israel is the Blue Leaf Wattle (Acacia cyanophylla). It is not extremely fragrant like the Acacia decurrens or the Acacia farnesiana (Cassie). But it does have a light, floral powdery sweet aroma wafting about it without making too much effort to leave an impression. I noticed that the scent is more apparent when smelled from distance, rather than sticking your nostrils amongst the pollen-laden wands decorated with the little yellow pompoms.

Mimosa has many uses in the leather industry. The bark as well as the pods are rich in tannins, and therefore make an excellent agent for preserving and tanning the leather. By way of fortune, I had the honour to get some information about the uses of mimosa from Stu Miller, a life long leather tanner and an expert in the field who consulted to leather tanneries across the world. mimosa bark. Mr. Miller’s daughter is known to some of you as Loukumi in Basenotes or Elizabeada in Perfume of Life forum. When she tried my mimosa soliflore, Les Nuages de Joie Jaune, she immediately recognized a familiar scent from her father’s tannery. She was intrigued and assisted me in finding out a little more about the use of mimosa in modern tanning industry, which, surprisingly, still uses many natural and locally grown materials in the tanning process. For instance: Cabracho from Argentina, chestnut extract, and sumac which used to come from Albania but is pretty rare today (sumac, in Hebrew, is called “Og Haburskaim”, which means “Plant of the Leather Tanners”, and grows wild in the mountains of Jerusalem), mangrove. Many tanneries use plants that are rich in tannin that are grown locally, for instance - some kinds of Eucalyptus in Australia, and unknown plants in South America, that are “used to tan fluffy curly white sheep skins that we sometimes see here”.

Mr. Miller’s tannery imported powdered mimosa pods from plantations in Africa and Brazil, which had 40-50% tannin. It was particularly used for tanning saddle leather, which tanned and dyed entirely with vegetable substances. At times, iron is added to mimosa powder to create a black dye: the tannin reacts to the iron and turns black. When asked if the mimosa pods had any smell, Mr. Miller said they just smelled like wood. He suggested that the scent his daughter smelled was a solvent – either butyl acetate (which smells a bit like bananas and is commonly used in the flavouring industry, particularly to create the scent of Granny Smith apples), or butyl alcohol.

The two species of mimosa that are of particular interest from perfumery as well as aromatherapy aspects are commonly called Cassie and Mimosa. Mimosa is the Acacia decurrens (Green Wattle) species. It is a middle to top note, with a scent that is at once watery, powdery, only slightly flowery and woody and very much cucumber-like. The absolute is a thick substance that tends to solidify once exposed to air and become brittle. This absolute is high in Palmic aldehyde, anisic acid, enanthic acid, acetic acid, phenols.
Because of its antiseptic and astringent properties, mimosa in aromatherapy, it is used as a muscle relaxant, skin conditioner, and for skincare of oily and sensitive skin. It also assists in nervous tension, anxiety, stress and insomnia.
Mimosa is mostly grown in Australia, Africa, France, Italy (based on HerbBee).

Acacia Farnesiana, AKA Sweet Acacia or Cassie absolute, is an unusual floral note: it is one of the most rare floral base notes. It has a far more intense, wet quality to it than the mimosa absolute has. It smells green, woody, wet, similar somewhat to violet leaf, yet floral with an intensity that is quite similar to that of jasmine. It is a valuable fixative in floral compositions.
According to the HerbBee, Cassie absolute contains Benzyl alcohol, methyl salicylate, farnesol, geraniol, linalool.
It is considered anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, aphrodisiac, balsamic, and can be also be an insecticide.
In aromatherapy, it is used for rheumatism, dry skin, sensitive skin, increases sexual desire, depression, nervous exhaustion, stress. It is also used in the flavour industry. Cassie is mostly grown in France, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and India.

Coming up next: reviews of mimosa perfumes.

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