Jasmine: A Summary

Grasse jasmine

"Everybody has some sense of what good food is. 
What many of us actually eat may not taste specifically good, may not be particularly good for us, and probably comes from a farm or factory we don't want to even imagine. But that's not because we don't know what we want. It's just that we always seem to end up eating something else."
(Jeff Crump - From Earth to Table, p. 1)

I could say the very same about perfume. How many times we know what a good perfume should smell like, but buy into the marketing schemes, or make a purchase because of the bottle alone? How many times it's the persona selling the perfume (a model, celebrity, or a brand-owner we find inspiring) that convinces us it's what we should wear? The power of suggestion is even more pronounced in the fragrance industry. Tell someone there is jasmine in their perfume, and they'll find something - anything - to remind them of what the gestalt of jasmine is in their minds.

While jasmine fits in beautifully into pretty much any composition, illuminating it with its aura and creative more space where before dense matter lay flat and barely breathing - adding anything TO jasmine in order to make it beautiful is almost as ridiculous and frustrating as putting makeup on a beautiful 4 year old girl.

The essence of Jasmine is a perfect thing. To add anything to it, or to take anything away, requires both vision and manipulative skill. How can you make it less indolic but not silence the animalic purr that is so prevalent in a good jasmine? How can you make it fruity and juicy, without being too sweet, cloying and cheap-smelling? How can you take something that is essentially perfect the way it is, and create a new fragrance from it, a jasmine statement unique to you as a composer?

I've spend the best part of July testing jasmine perfumes from all walks of life: the mainstream department store types, artisan and/or natural, niche, and even the synthetic cheapie varieties. It prove to be a far greater challenge to find a satisfying, convincing jasmine that truly brings forth the beauty of this raw material while respecting it. The ones that I've shortlisted boil down to a very short list, actually, and appear in alphabetical order below. It would be interesting to note, that the most intriguing of them are those which do not possess the ambition of being overtly jasmine, but at the same time do not shy away from using impressive dosage of this note.

A La Nuit (Serge Lutens) - Straight up jasmine, and quite believable at that. 

Diorissimo (Dior) - Breathtaking Lily of the Valley masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska. Look for the vintage or better yet - the extract, where the jasmine absolute is quite evident, as are the green notes and boronia.

Donna Karan Essence: Jasmine (Donna Karan) - realistic jasmine, even if simple. For similar effect, seek out jasmine absolute diluted at 5% or 10% or so at Intelligent Nutrients (Aveda used to have a "Jasmine Absolute Oil" but it seems to have disappeared) or at various aromatherapy suppliers. 

Drama Nuii (Parfumerie Generale) - fruity-lemony jasmine with musk 

Eau d'Hermes (Hermes) - jasmine with lemon and cumin 

Emotionnelle (Parfums DelRae) - Jasmine, violet and cantaloupe

Eau Sauvage (Christian Dior) - Hedione galore (a staggering 40%) in the heart of the father of all masculines. Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska, which means you must try it (look for vintage)

Jasmin de Nuit (The Different Company) - jasmine popsicle, with lemon and vanilla 

Jasmine AKA Clair-Obscur (Keiko Mecheri) - Soapy lily of the valley and jasmine 

Jasmine Tea (Artemisia Perfumes) - bejewelled jasmine green tea, with fir, osmanthus and green tea

Jasmine Rouge (Tom Ford) - realistically luxurious jasmine

Joy (Patou) - jasmine and rose

Le Parfum de Thérèse - jasmine, plum and basil sorbetto. Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska 

Opium (YSL) - jasmine, orange, patchouli and spices

Samsara (Guerlain) - jasmine and sandalwood

Songes (Annick Goutal) - jasmine ylang ylang heaven

Violetta Cacao

Meet Violetta Cacao: a decadent limited edition* scent of sweet violets, chocolate and vanilla.

There is nothing quite like the bond between a mother and her baby. When I just started creating perfumes, one of the first perfumes I made was Indigo, inspired by my mom’s unique Cancer personality of contrasting warm-and-cold (and maybe a little bit because I really missed the soft and gentle touch of holding her hand which is hard to do when she’s in Tel Aviv and I’m in Vancouver). Indigo captures that sense of soft motherly touch, smooth and almost glimmering like the indigo-blue velvet hoodie my mom gave me before I left for Canada, and with the two scents that remind me of her most of all: aniseed and violet flowers. At the same time, it was a very abstract creation and entirely based on my subjective experience of motherhood on the receiving end.

But it wasn't until years later (when she finally visited me in Vancouver) that I learned that besides these two distinctive aromatics (especially when they're together in the famous French pastilles, my mom also went gaga after the scent of chocolate and vanilla. That was before she lost her sense of smell, of course (Anosmia, loss of the sense of smell can become lost due to several things, such as chronic colds or sinus infections, head injuries, and trauma) but that does not stop her from enjoying the darkest, most velvety chocolate and dark chocolate sorbetto - so I was not surprised chocolate was up there on her list. But vanilla? Well, that was a surprise.

I set off to create something new in honour of my mom (and her lost sense of smell). Something that she can wear and be proud of even if she can't actually smell it. Something she can imagine herself immersed in, no matter what mood strikes (Cancers are infamous for their mood swings!). Something a little simpler and more down-to-earth, not as artsy as Indigo, but still will appeal to the Bohemian princess that my mom is...

And the name came first - a lady's name, perhaps her stage name, but still with an unmistakable first name and surname - but that still alludes directly to what she smells like. Violets and chocolate are the core of this fragrance. The violet is magnified to make her almost larger-than-life with supporting notes of leathery cassie and creamy orris butter. The leathery aspect of cassie is then alluded to in the tobacco leaf as well. Instead of tarragon, there's a tarragon absolute in the mix, which is more confectionery and multi-faceted than aniseed. Deer's tongue absolute makes the vanilla feel even more edible and sweet, yet still adds a certain leafy quality that mirrors the tarragon absolute's hints of green.

Fragrance Families: Floral Ambery (Floriental), Floral Powdery, Oriental Ambery

Top notes: Bergamot , Ginger Lily
Heart notes: Violet Leaf, Japanese Rose, Jasmine Egypt, Orris Root, Rose Absolute (Turkey),  
Base notes: Cocoa Absolute, Cassie , Deer's Tongue (Liatrix), Tabac Blond, Patchouli, Tarragon Absolute, Vanilla Absolute

Violetta Cacao is the olfactory manifestation of boho-chich: violet's fickle ionones tease and tempt and decadent cacao and vanilla are supported by notes of buttery orris, sweet tarragon and liatrix. The resulting perfume is an unconventional indulgence with a regal twist (violets are often associated with royalty). Dab some on and feel like a bohemian princess!

* Note: Violetta Cacao will be only available during the month of May, to celebrate Mother's Day.

Gentille Alouette in the Lab

I love my job!, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
It’s been 2 weeks since I last told you anything about the development of the Gentille Alouette perfume. And this quote is pushing ahead of a the game a bit.. But this is the reaction I was hoping for when I was labouring at my lab and trying to bottle Eliza’s vision for what she would smell like.

By now you are all probably dying to read what essences did we actually pick together?
Well, I can’t tell you everything, can I?

What I will tell you is that this Gentille Alouette perfume was going to be a violet and orange blossom scent with a big retro wink and one foot set in the forests of the Sunshine Coast, where Eliza prefers to spend her free time. It had to be very girly and at the same time have enough adventurous outroodsiness to it to save it from going totally frou-frou. This is just not who Eliza is, and it’s not what Gentille Alouette’s frequent guests are either. These are girls who like to play dress up but also like to use their bicycles rather than get driven by a cab so they can show off their stilettos… The shop is like a little hidden closet you find all of a sudden, full of fashion finds of all sorts: vintage jewels and beaded clutches, hand-crafted gowns and accessories, recycled and reclaimed one-off pieces, and wardrobe staples from small brands that keep rotating – you’ll find something new to discover at the shop every week and unless we meet at my studio, I always end up playing dress-up by the end of every meeting with Eliza. The women who shop there are individualistic, kind spirited and seem to care about the environment as much as they care about their appearance.

But I digress… This post was not going to be about marketing schemes and dissecting the target market of my client and her future perfume. It’s going to be about the creative process that leads to a perfume. Perfume walks the tightrope between art, luxury, fashion and a commodity, so all those factor re just as valid: price range, target market and profitability (or at least breaking even…) are just as important factors as is the originality of the scent, the mood it will evoke once worn, the story behind each raw material, and the artistry that goes into blending all these elements together: perfume, personality, wearability.

I left Eliza’s shop some 2 weeks ago with no less than 20 essences that she loved, and that seem to work together beautifully. Nearly all of them are utterly precious: violet leaf, orange blossom, rose, boronia, tuberose… Each can be the centerpiece of a perfume and take the show. Yet I had to make them all shine together, rather than individually. Which was not easy. To top it off, Eliza also wanted fir absolute AND hinoki in this perfume. I decided to leave the hinoki to later, if necessary, and for now work with the fir only and create two version – one with, and one without.

Perfumer's Notebook, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

To help me not loose focus, I drew a little diagram that shows the dynamics between the different notes: how they relate to one another and how they play different roles in different accords. Eliza loves tea, and she picked some tea like notes: bergamot, which reminds her of Earl Gray tea. Lavender, which is calming and relaxing (she also saws those little tiny lavender cat brooches with buttoned eyes – they’re adorable and give whiffs of lavender whenever you squish them a bit, to give you a fix of relaxation when you’re out and about…).

Citrus notes blood orange and grapefruit will perform the role of bursting open the experience alluring you in from the get go.
And the flowers, of course, are the starts of the show, but they divide into two – the orange blossom accord and the violet accord (so you see, the rose is here only in a supporting role to the timid violet).
Surprising gourmand notes are what will give the perfume a quirky touch, a surprise: star anise and tarragon absolute, along with fresh ginger.
And than there is fir absolute – which is also a woodsy note, but very, very sweet and almost like a jam made of the entire forest and delivered to your door on Christmas Day… So it joins together the gourmand and the woods – the more meditative notes of sandalwood, frankincense and maybe, but only maybe, hinoki…

I spent 2 main sessions with Gentille Alouette in the lab. My first try (August 20th) was based strictly and almost analytically on the sessions we had with Eliza. I thought it to be a little timid, and I was very careful with the concentration – making it rather light. I used only very light hand with the boronia (pre-diluted at 30%) and violet (pre-diluted at 10%). And I made two versions that day: one with a tiny bit of fir, and one without.

I let it sit for a while, and than I thought – why not just get my imagination go wild a bit and compose Gentille Alouette perfume as I envisioned it when I first met Eliza at the studio, and she told me that her favourite scents are violet and orange blossom… She liked White Potion, Zohar and Violat and my little olfactory bulb was sending me signals of what these three, plus a hint of boronia, will smell like… I set off again, 5 days later, (August 24th) and blended that: a rich, dense version with higher concentrations of boronia absolute and violet leaf absolute, both at full strength. I added no fir whatsoever and stayed true to my vision.

I tweaked it just a bit this morning, before I met Eliza: I added another drop of Boronia absolute. I divided the batch into two, and added one drop of fir absolute to one bottle, which would make it the 4th mod of the Gentille Alouette scent. I think the fir was the element that was missing from giving it just that little extra smooth roundedness yet without using vanilla (Eliza clearly does not like this note an I was not going to convince her otherwise! There are enough vanilla-laden florals out there, and her perfume does not need it). I’m loving this perfume and I think I’ve nailed it on the head, but it’s going to be up to Eliza to decide what’s best for her. And also if we’re going to do a parfum extrait or an Eau de Parfum…

Stay tuned to hear about the following: what mod Eliza picked, and how we are going to tackle the next biggest problem: packaging.

Composing with Eliza (Gentille Alouette Round 2)

Today I brought in the essences we hand-picked last time to re-sniff, review, sift through and select the ones that will actually be used to formulate the Gentille Alouette perfume.
Part of the process is selecting which essences to use is also to imagine how they will smell together. Another part is prioritizing – because if you got too many essences the perfume will easily loose character and become just a cacophony of pleasant odours that don’t have anything special to say to one another and just scream “me, me, me!” in an attempt to get attention.

And me being the perfumer and facilitator of such a process is like walking a tightrope: on one hand, I want to listen to the client’s innermost fragrant desires; on the other hand I must guide them so that it won’t be a waste of time, not to mentio precious material. The process must be meaningful and enjoyable, allowing the client to have a say in the decision making throughout the various stages of development. As to not interfere too much with the process, I begin without negating options just because I think that they “won’t work” or because it’s “straying from the original concept”. I will get there at some point, and offer my expertise in what would work and what wouldn’t, give suggestions, alternatives and invent narratives that will make every compromise (if such a thing is really necessary) feel like a choice and not like lessening of the dream.

The elimination process with Eliza was smooth sailing. Although she loves many different types of scents (we picked 30 raw materials to start with!) she also had a very clear vision for what she wanted. And when it came to the 2nd round, she was just as harsh as I was with letting go and cutting things out, understanding that it’s not about the attachment to a particular note – but about how it will work together as a whole with the vision she had for Gentille Alouette perfume.
To assist us in the process, we used touches (scent strips) that we dipped in the various essences and clipped together. Waving them in front of the nose in a spiraling motion gets the molecules mingled together in the air and gives off a scent that alludes to what would be if… this will be mixed with that. And unlike actual blending – it’s possible to not only add things in – but also take them out if you don’t like the result. While it does not give a good grasp on the proportion, a skilled nose can know if he’s heading in the right direction. Because the scents strips are just one part – the other part is the imagination, the vision, and once in the lab – knowing how to put them all together so the essences can dance, sing and bloom on the skin.

Our process was nearing its end, when we had a surprise visitor at the shop: a long time customer of mine and a fellow Portobello West vendor: Gerry-Gail (GG) Endean of Creampuffs by GG. Her signature scent is GiGi, with which she fell in love instantly upon her first visit to the market (by the second or third visit she has already become a vendor…). GG sells her “creampuffs” or girlie boxer shorts at Gentille Alouette and dropped by to restock the shop with more creampuffs AND show off the new fabaric swatches for the upcoming collection. We let her sniff the perfume and as you can tell by the sheer bliss expression on her face – she liked it just as much as we did… And than a bunch of other customers showed up too and we had a blast just looking at their faces as they smell this very particular, freshly made-up combination of notes.

Next post: what I’ve done with all those essences (and what essences?!) when I came back to my studio…
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