Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Happy Year of the Dragon :-)

Today marks the beginning of another 12 year zodiacal cycle, and being a dragon myself I can only hope for the best. This year it's a black dragon, or a water dragon, and it also marks the end of the cycle of wood and the beginning of a cycle of fire. The dragon is a mythical creature of remarkable size. So big that you can't see both of its head and tail at the same time! So it always has something new to show you when you least expect it. Dragon, unlike the Western evil fire-spitting monsters are believed to brings good fortune in Chinese culture. From all that I gathered means that it's a year of unpredictable things, surprising turns of events that could change for either better or worse - according to all the sources that like to predict things... How convenient for them!

On a more on-topic for this blog notion: my spontaneous search today for a dragon-related plants (preferably aromatic) did not yield anything of interest besides what I already knew about... There is the obvious - 9 bend dragon red tea (probably not the only dragon-inspired tea in China though!) which I've tasted and reported about earlier. But I'm speaking of dragon's blood (the resin of the plant pictured above), which is blood-red, and is used in incense more than in perfumery. I've used in in my Clarimonde perfume. It is associated with the planet of Mars, and is burnt in magical rituals to return a lost love. It has a scent not unlike frankincense when burnt on hot charcoal.

The other dragon-related aromatic plant is tarragon - aka estragon - which means "little dragon". It has a sweet, balsamic, anise-like scent because of the methyl chavicol content (it might remind you of exotic or Thai basil as well), but brighter and greener than aniseed or fennel, and the absolute is out of this world lovely, with buttery, lactonic aspects that are rare to find in plant extracts. I've used it in my Vetiver Racinettes and Black Licorice. And of course - the culinary uses of tarragon are quite delightful - I use it in fennel & orange tea sandwiches, in salad dressings and on fish.

Since I've been so absorbed in my botanical research of aphrodisiacs I think writing about these two in more depth will take place later. But I hope you found this very little bit inspiring and that the year will bring you only happy surprises!

Chinese Herbs and Amber

Chinese Herbs, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Well well, I will spare you the details on why I ended up at my TCM clinic again today (nothing major, but necessary enough to submit my entire body to 12 needles for an hour without movement...while meditating about the strange connectedness of the body. It's not so philosophical - the moment you move as much as a millimeter of the right wrist, for instance, you feel an unbearable pinch in the left leg...).

Anyway, while anticipating the spontaneous visit, I was reminiscing fondly over the scent of angelica that permeates the TCM's office upon entry. Bitter, pungent yet somehow comforting.

I delightfully worn a perfume that I made inspired pretty much by my original painful odyssey at the TCM back in 2009. It's fascinating how good things come out of really terrible, painful (and even tragic) events in our life. I was able to sweeten my medicine, so to speak, not with honey but with amber. And those good things usually have more depth, mystery, intrigue and realness to them. Probably because they stemmed from more than just a pretty idea or a fantasy. They were earned with blood, sweat and tears...

I'm typing this while still gagging on the potion you see in the photo (even though with the honey it's not nearly as bad as I had to take it - straight - back in 2009). But in my memory is still ingrained the odyssey and how it really saved my back (and my life) at the time.

So, you probably want to hear no more about these herbs, and are slightly curious about the perfume I'm wearing today... It's not really a perfume, yet. It's an amber accord, which I created very much as a result of my exposure to these crazily effective, angelica-and-dust tasting bitter herbs. It has the smokiness of don quai (Angelica chinensis - aka Chinese angelica), with a bit of celery-like tones of lovage. Both very dark. And it's sweetly comforting like any amber should be - honeyed, soothing, soft and warming.

I love wearing it on its own. But I've also treated it as an amber base in other perfumes I'm working on. And like so many of my perfumes, it takes years to really refine an idea or develop it. Not to mention that one could and should only release so many perfumes in one year... So it will take time before anyone will be allowed to smell it (unless you come visit me in the studio in person, that is!). I love working on projects like that at their own pace, and with their process unique to them. Unrushed, authentic, yet with some kind of perspective (being reviewed and reworked years after the moment of inspiration is sometimes an advantage!). It's just how it should be.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Gung Hay Fat Choy to SmellyBlog readers who celebrate Chinese New Year.

I wish you prosperity, luck and wisdom for the upcoming Year of the Boar!

* Image of a Chinese traditional pattern for zodiac of boar originally uploaded by ccyytt.

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