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Vitriol d'œillet



Vitriol d'œillet is not so much about angry carnations, and more about toxic violets. Chemically speaking, vitriol is the archaic name for sulphate (also spelled sulfate), referring to its colourful, glassy-looking crystals, and brings to mind alchemy, magic and medicine (The name originates in Latin (vitrum means glass) and Old French); And œillet simply means carnation in French. Vitriol is also defined as "cruel and bitter criticism" - also an interesting note because this perfume has received such lukewarm reviews at the time (it was launched in 2011) that I didn't even bother procuring a sample.

A few days ago, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wide selection of Serge Lutens at Sephora on Robson Strasse. I immediately fell for Vitriol d'œillet's mysterious opening that is at the same time floral, warm, powdery, spicy and mysterious. Pink pepper, mace and a gentle dose of helioitropine, anisaldehyde and a hint of jasmine combined with ionones give both mystery and familiarity that is comforting and intimate. There is hardly any of the characteristic molecules of carnation (iso-eugenol), nor cloves (eugenol); but rather, pink pepper reigns supreme above all the spices here, giving it a bit of a cool edge, rather than the expected spicy heat.



Rather than conjuring up the jagged petals of the clove pinks, Vitriol d'œillet's juxtaposition of heliotrope, jasmine and anise brings to mind angel's trumpet (or datura) and combined with violets it creates a very interesting fragrance.

As Vitriol d'œillet progresses on the skin, it becomes less complex, and more about cedar wood and violets, accentuated by musk, and vaguely references the Lutens-Sheldrake original collaboration on Feminite du Bois, sans the honey, much more toned-down spices, and an additional pencil-shavings note of Virginia cedar wood. It also brings to mind two other favourites of mine - Si Lolita and Ineke's Sweet William, yet is a lot less spicy and vibrant than these two. Another scent it greatly reminds me of is Kisu by Tann Rokka. While these are all lovely perfumes, neither has the same audacity as Tubereuse Criminelle, the other flower for the Lutens collection that Vitriol was meant to emulate.

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Anise
Heart notes: Carnation, Iris, Cloves, Jasmine 
Base notes: Atlas Cedar, Virginia Cedarwood, Musk, Heliotropine

More reviews of this perfume can be found on the following perfume fora and blogs:
Basenotes
Bois de Jasmin
Fragrantica
Grains de Musc
MakeUpAlley
Now Smell This
Perfume Shrine
The Non Blonde

Seven Fragrant White Flowers for Shavuot



Shavuot is beginning this evening, and to celebrate, I've put together a bouquet of 7 white flowers that are currently in bloom. Wearing white is a Shavuot tradition, and so is wearing wreaths of flowers on the head. When I was a little girl, this was the time of the year when fragrant roses will be in full bloom, and the children lucky enough to grow them in their garden will have a flower or two of deep, wine-coloured burgundy rose in their baskets of first fruit - alongside apricots and green almonds. I am grown up enough now to own up to it and say I was deeply jealous of their baskets, and couldn't keep my nose away from it. This collection of seven flowers will not include white rose (or jasmine, for that matter) because I would like to make room for less known white flowers and hope that you find this post inspiring and alluring.

1. White Peony:

I find the white variety to be more well-rounded. White peonies smell a little more heady  than the pink and a tad jasmine-y but still also peppery and fresh. There is a strong resemblance to lily of the valley, and also there's a hint of hyacinth's heady floral and sharp green-onion-y notes. The flowers fills the room with their beautiful scent for a full week after being brought home from the florist. The pink ones are a bit of a hit-and-miss. Some smell rosy and with a hint of spicy carnation note; others are more green and dewy; and some smell funky, like rotten vegetables...

There is no shortage of peony-themed fragrances, but non has captured my nose as of yet. If you have any recommendations, I'll be happy to try them!

2. Choisya "Aztec Pearl" (aka Mexican Mock Orange)

Smells more like heliotropin than orange blossom to me, but is related to the same family (Rutaceae). The flowers have a powdery-sweet aroma with hints of methyl anthranilate. Very soft and alluring. I only know of one fragrance that is centred around it - Choisya candle by Dyptique.

3. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia): 


The black locust tree is native to the Southeastern United States, but have found its way to many a gardens across the world, where it has become naturalized (and in some cases invasive) in temperate North America, Europe, South Africa, Asia. The origin of the name: Because of their similar fruit shape, Jesuit missionaries confused it with the carob tree Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua). 

The flowers have a havenly sweet-pea aroma mingled with the scent of intensified orange blossom. The methyl anthranilate aspect really coming through like a candy from the gods in this tree flower from Fabaceae family. The flowers are edible, having a sweet and aromatic flavour, but the fruit is not (though some say the seeds are edible too). Try using the flowers in a sugar syrup for desserts, or crystallize them in a similar way that rose and violet petals are treated. The entire flower clustered are dipped in batter and deepfried into fritters

I'm currently experimenting with some black locust syrup and tinctures recipes, and will report to you once they've rendered successful (which they are bound to be! The syrup is already tasting amazing halfway through the maceration process).

4. White Carnation (Dianthus): 

Dianthus seems to be the flower of the season, popping up in many gardens in the West End this year more than I've ever seen it before. I finally planted my own two Dianthus "Coconut Surprise" plants in my balcony's forelorn planter. They will only go till the end of fall, and I plan to thoroughly enjoy them!

I've gone into much detail about the scent of carnation. The white variety is what's mostly used for carnation absolute production for perfumery. The flowers have a beautiful, sweet-warm and soft-powdery scent and I can't help myself but get on my knees to smell everyone I meet on my walks in the neighbourhood.

Favourite carnation perfumes: InCarnation, Bellodgia, 

5. Philadelphium:


To my nose, Philadelphium smells like fedjoia - fruity, exotic, edible and unusual.
Is is also known as Mock Orange, but is a different plant than Choisya, and smells completely different. 

6. White Magnolia (Magnolia × wieseneri):


This particular magnolia has a magical scent. According to Wikipedia: 
"Its most notable feature is the remarkable fragrance of the ivory-coloured flowers, which has been likened to pineapples and seen adjectives such as "ethereal", "spicy" and "aromatic" used". It significantly changes its scent throughout the day, smelling like a dewy jasmine-tea in the evening, and developing a more fruity-aldehydic and lactonic character during the day, reminiscent of peach (aldehyde C-14) and a fatty, oily-skin-like scent (aldehyde C-13) during the day and once the flower is "overripe".

Favourite magnolia perfumes: New Orleans, Opium Fleur de Shanghai


7. White Lilac:

White lilac has more indole than the purple or pink ones, giving them a more perfumey character. Additionally, lilacs have the scent of powder, hints of green fig and cucumber, and in many cases also a rather dominant styrene presence.

Favourite lilac perfumes: Ineke's After My Own Heart and Olivia Giacobetti's En Passant (for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum). 

If you want to celebrate Shavuot with the traditional desserts, here are my recipes for the perfect blintzes and best ever cheesecake!


Divine Flowers



Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) is native to the Mediterranean region and in the wild, a delicate annual with flesh-coloured little flowers that bloom in late summer with only five petals of pinked edges. Curiously, the wild flowers have very little scent if at all. Carnations are one of those rare cases when breeding did not only make the flowers more showy, but also more fragrant! Dianthus flowers possess a distinctive spicy scent of cloves and underlining powdery vanillic sweetness. 

An absolute is produced (in limited quantities only) mostly in Egypt, Southern France, Holland, Kenya and Italy. The yield is very low*, however, and synthetic carnation compounds are much more widely used. Carnation absolute is an interesting raw material, even if not as pretty as the fresh flowers - it has a very rich, warm, complex, dense character that only opens up once it's been diluted to 5% or even less. The good news about that is that a little goes a long way! 

Carnation absolute is waxy-looking and viscous in texture, with an orange-brown-olive colour. The scent is rich, warm, sweet-herbaceous, hay-like, honeyed and spicy with the characteristic clove-like notes of eugenol, though not as pronounced as you'd expect. According to Bo Jensen: "1980s more than hundred components were identified in Egyptian carnation absolute. A smaller number of compounds predominate: eugenol, phenethyl alcohol, linalool, benzyl benzoate, (Z)-3-hexenyl benzoate, benzyl salicylate, and esters of higher aliphatic acids (...). The biological purity of these chemicals, and their surrounding by a multitude of trace components, are responsible for the softness of the scent of carnations". Additional modern molecules have been developed to mimic carnations at a lower cost, such as: "benzyl isoeugenol, or 2-methoxy-1-(phenylmethoxy)-4-(1-propenyl)benzene, a solid with a balsamic note and a powdery carnation-like sweetness, and Methyl Diantilis ® (Givaudan), or 2-ethoxy-4-(methoxymethyl)phenol, which has a sweet-smoky odor with powdery aspects reminiscent of carnation".

The origin of its various names can be explained as follows: Dianthus was coined by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, and originates in the Greek word Dios (divine) and Anthus (flower); Pinks refers to the shape of the flower's petals; Carnation might allude to coronation, or "corone" (flower garlands), or the Latin word for flesh, "Caro" or "Carnis" or perhaps incarnation; Cloves, contrary to common-sense, does not refer to its scent, rich in eugenol and thus reminiscent of the clove spice (Syzygium aromaticum) - but rather comes from the French word "clou" ("clout" aka nail in English) and alludes to its appearance, which resembles a nail - and just to happen to be true for the spice as well. 

There is no shortage of mystical and cultural meanings and symbolism associated with carnations - anywhere from romance, motherly love and even socialism. Christian legend tells us that pink carnations sprang from earth as Virgin Mary shed tears once observing her son's suffering while bearing the cross. Therefore, pink carnations are strongly associated with a mother's love - and the meaning has evolved over the years to also mark a mother's passing with a white carnation and celebrate her life with red or pink ones on Mother's Day. 

"In Portugal, bright red carnations represent the 1974 coup d'etat started by the military to end the fascist regime ongoing since 1926." Soldiers that participated in this movement stuck carnations in their rifles as a sign of non-violence. And on May Day (Labour Day), it was worn by many in workers' demonstrations. In contrast to that, carnations also have been popular among the French dandies, who worn a single flower as boutonnières.


Pperfumes with pronounced carnation notes: from classically constructed soliflores such as Bellodgia (Caron) and Sweet William (Ineke's Floral Curiosities line), and my own InCarnation which is a carnation soliflore; to haunting, complex florals such as l'Heure Bleue (Guerlain), l'Air du Temps (Nina Ricci) and Oeillet (Scent Systems) and Chypres such as En Avion (Caron) and Crêpe de Chine (F. Millot) and countless spicy orientals, including Tabu (Dana), Youth Dew (Estee Lauder), Opium (YSL), Asja (Fendi), Aqaba (Miriam Mirani), Égoïste (Chanel), Tabac Blond and Poivre (both by Caron).

* According to Stephen Arctander, between 0.2-0.3% concrete in relation to the weight of the flowers themselves; and this is further extracted into an absolute which is between 10-25% of the concrete. Annual production of carnation absolute was estimated to be between 20-30kg in the 1960's (which is when his book "Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin" was published). 

Happy Mother's Day!


Bluebells, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Happy Mother's Day!
I hope all the mothers among you were treated well today and got the appreciation you deserve!

I always associate purples and blues, and violet, iris and lavender scents with my mother: If she were ever to be a perfume wearer, I would imagine her wearing l'Herue Bleue or Apres l'Ondee. The violets and heliotrope in both are exactly what I associate with motherhood: tenderness and mystery.

Today I wore Indigo, the perfume I created for my mother. At its heart are violets, supported by boronia and iris, the spiciness of carnation and the opulence of orange blossom. It's an odd perfume in my collection and not really accessible. The top notes are strange: caraway and anise. But they really complement the unusual boronia and violet perfectly. The base is incense and amber with suave cedarwood from the Himalayas.

What scents do you associate with motherhood, and which perfume did you wear today? Comment and enter to win a sample of Indigo perfume!

Lady in the Dark

Spotlight on Wild Sage - Image by Jane Siet © All Rights Reserved (published here with photographer's permission) jane.siet on Flickr

Oeillet takes me to times when taking a bath by the candle light was not a luxury but a necessity. Once a week, the “Geyser” was turned on to full-blast to heat up enough water for the entire family of 7 (this is not the natural phenomenon, but the name of an archaic gasoline-operated boiler that had such a tall chimney it looked like a rocket ship). One after the other, we went into the tub tired and dirty (the week was long but Friday seemed even longer with all the hard to get ready for the Sabbath); and we came out purified and rejuvenated.

Before my bath, I would pick a dozen branches of mountain sage and steep it to make the darkest tea possible to rinse my hair. The tea was so dark it nearly stained the bathtub. And it was so strong it made my hair smell of sage for the next couple of days (when it was rinsed again, but this time with whichever water temperature the tap had to offer).

Oeillet is dusky, dark, earthy and seductive. It reminds me of rinsing my hair with sage tea on those Friday nights but also more in general the winter life in our electricity deprived village - oil lamps and candles lighting the room and me and my little brother cutting citrus peels into strange shapes and than burning them in the fireplace.

Oeillet opens juicy and citrusy and with a definite hit of sage, cistus and galbanum absolute that gush out and breathes like drips of blood and wine on earth. Spicy heart of carnation is set against an earthy and musky backdrop of inky patchouli absolute.
Although oiellet means carnation in French, this is not a simple carnation soliflore. I don’t think of it as a floral perfume either; I would classify it as a herbaceous, spicy oriental. Original and vibrant to the point that it’s hard to believe all these plant essences aren’t real living and breathing animals.

Top notes: Galbanum absolute, Clary sage absolute, Bergamot, Indian Carnation Absolute
Heart notes: Cistus absolute, Basmati flower, Heliotrope absolute,
Base notes: Patchouli absolute, Plant musk

Scent Systems' Oeillet perfume is made of natural ingredients only and was designed by George Dodd.
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