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Jardin Parfum Reviews Ayala Moriel's Kyphi, Incense Cones and Komorebi Perfume

“That Ayala is a highly esteemed perfumer is no secret. She also has a talented hand at incense, another fragrant pursuit she has had perhaps as long as or longer, than perfume.”

Visit Dabney Rose's blog, Jardin Parfum, to read her thoughts on Komorebi and my incense cones and my vetiver take on ancient Egyptian Kyphi.

“Her vetiver  Kyphi was INCREDIBLE. At some point in her life she had to have been a ‘ladybug’ on the wall when the ancient Egyptian priests were formulating in their temples.”

Incense Through the Ages

Smouldering Incense & Perfumes
It's winter. The most glorious season in Canada, where the energy is directed indoors, and focuses on social gatherings large and small. As usual, I'm an outsider peeking into what this is all about from the viewpoint of a traveller passing by. For, like, 17 years.

I am looking forward to the quite and solitude that tomorrow brings. For someone who grew up in Israel, it's funny to see how once a year, Canadians are experiencing the only tight-lid closure of stores and services. The rare sight observed today - of long, hectic lineups at the supermarkets and grocery stores, the traffic congestion, etc. are a weekly sight in Israel, where every Friday families stock up for a full day (gasp!) without shopping... I find it amusing.

One of my favourite things this time of year is walking in the West End (my neighbourhood  and home for my entire Canadian adventure) and coming across a waft of real, wood stove smoke. Am I the only human for whom the smell of pyrolysis stirs up strong emotions? I think not. It is at the same time a signal of danger in the forest, and the safety of the caveman's tribal bonfire.  No other recent can conjure so immediately and powerfully the feeling of freedom, adventure and coziness. It transports me to cozy nights with my family by the fireplace, my home village burning in a bush fire, and more recently - bonfires when camping in my imaginary gypsy tribe or spice caravan.

Come wintertime, and few things please me more than immerse myself in fragrant smoke. And I'm not alone - incense, and in particular - frankincense and myrrh, from the desert trees which grow wild and are cultivated in Southern Arabian peninsula and West Africa is a symbol of the Nativity Scene and is burnt in many Churches. Beginning with some basics, just straight-up burning of substances in their raw form, preferably on hot charcoals: white sage, leaves and twigs of redcedar, frankincense tears and sticks of palo santo (that tend to self-extiniguish repeatedly...). And then to some wonderful Egyptian Kyphi - a concoction that is my own modern spin on the ancient recipe. Although not accurate, it is done according to the technique and the scholarly deciphering of its original 16 ingredients. It may not be accurate, but I can attest to its fragrant heavenliness and ability to banish the worries of the day - which is what Kyphi is all about...

Dabney Rose's modern Kyphi

I've been blessed with wonderful incense friends, who generously send me their incense creations. Above you can see Dabney Rose's version of Kyphi, in 3 different "flavours" (from top to bottom): Soliliguy, Févriér Amour and Winter Sleep (Conifer). They are made very differently from mine, which is granular and is meant to be sprinkled on the hot coal. Rather, after the ingredients have been pounded into a more-or-less uniform level, they've been shaped into little "candies", and one is meant to break off little pieces to place on the hot charcoal, or on a mica plate. Although the shapes are adorable, I am wondering about the extra work required both by the incense maker (who needs to put a ton of effort into each piece!), and the user - who needs to break off the piece from a very hard piece of re-bound resins. Perhaps I am missing something in the process or the technique. It sure would make for an interesting ritual if there was a special knife that would cut through these elegantly.

But what truly matters, more than shape or form, is the scent itself. And in deep winter Winter Sleep is a most befitting incense to burn. It's a wonderful way to celebrate Winter Solstice; and once the celebrations are over -  to rejuvenate and counter the winter blues that tends to follow the over-partying or maybe just feeling left out after
The name is a bit misleading though: it's actually a great way to wake up from winter hibernation! The elegant incense candy smells like juniper, spruce needles and pinon pine, and it reminds me of a crisp winter walk in a snow-covered coniferous forest. When it's burning, I'm smelling primarily myrrh, but also the resinous coniferous notes and a sweet-balsamic after-note.

Another favourite of mine to burn at this time of year is Ross Urrere's "Ocean of Night" loose incense that look like kohl or charcoal with bits of woods and oakmoss strewn in. Ocean of Night is a rich, luxurious, ambery-balsamic yet floral blend that is very perfumey. It reminds me of the floral Russian and Greek Church incense, yet without the unpleasant synthetic aftertaste these have. It's like an incense version of Nuit de Noël!

Curious to explore more incense-themed perfumes - check out my Christmas 2015 Newsletter: Smouldering Incense Gift Guide.

Tarnished Silver

Naming has the power of brining our attention to the subtle qualities of a scent. In Tarnished Silver, botanical extract expert Dabney Rose brings forth the metallic qualities of violet. I've been fortunate to experience several of Dabney Rose's innovative botanical enfleurage of hyacinth, which she added to my order of hydrosols, and have also traded a copy of my book for her gorgeous pommades of tuberose breathtaking butterfly ginger which I have recently reviewed here. Tarnished Silver is the first perfume blend I'm experiencing from this talented lady. This time it arrived in my mailbox completely unannounced (though most welcome!) alongside a beautifully assembled collection of handicapped Kyphi incense. They all arrived right before I left for my trip, and I left them behind, knowing I will not have the appropriate conditions for incense burning on my travels.

Tarnished Silver, however, was tucked in my carry-on and I'm enjoying it immensely. I am now riding the train to the north part of Israel - the Western Galilee. Stretches of fields, meadows, orchards, and factories pass by the window, and glimpses of the Mediterranean sea delight the spirit as the train gently rocks and hums its way to our destination. There is wi-fi here (which I won't easily come by when I reach my home village, and off-the-grid hippie haven). So here I am again with a dab of Tarnished Silver on each wrist, enjoying the scenery.

It opens with a melancholy tinge of violets: at once sweet yet also bitter. Sharply green yet soft and diffused, almost powdery. It's amazing that fresh violets can be captured so beautifully with this vegan enfleurage - truly a labour of love. To the sweet ionone facets are added some other notes though subtle: honey, perhaps a tad of hay or flouve as well or something else that gives it a bitter sweet coumarin undertone. A touch of rose and oaks give it a very vintage feel, like Chypre from the turn of the 20th Century.


Tuberose Pommade and a Flower Meditation



The other enfleurage pommade I ordered from Dabney Rose was a tuberose one. If you've smelled fresh-cut tuberose before, you'll be appreciate the glorious beauty of the living flower that has been captured in the vegetable oil base of this pommade. You can read more about the process and what pommade means in my post about the equally stunning Butterfly Ginger pommade.

Capturing a living flower's true scent is an enormously challenging feat. Dabney Rose does an incredible labour of love growing her own plants in a glass hothouse and her own little garden, and she must be tending to each blossom and petal with much care while growing them, and of course handpicking and placing them in the coconut-base vegetable alternative to enfleurage.

The Tuberose Pommade brings to mind spring eternal when the entire room is intoxicated from a single cut stem. It transports you to a hot summer night on the beach, adorned with a lei of tuberoses and gardenias. I am yet to experience this in real life, but my imagination is quite satisfying and a dab of real tuberose is enough to make it feel real. All is needed is to close one's eyes and surrender your senses to this beauty, for it is fleeting.

The pommade is not a solid perfume, but a pure, single note extraction - a rather antique method, like the one invented in the city of Grasse. It does not last long, which demands you do pay attention to it while it lasts. With such rare beauty, a floral meditation is in order, once you apply this white unguent to pulse points or even finger tips. Take a few moments off your stressful day to appreciate this beauty. Or better yet - start your day that way. Dedicating the beginning of your day to gratitude and appreciation is the best way to start the day. Invite life's blessings and pause to fully appreciate it, and more will come your way.

Butterfly Ginger Pommade



Dabney Rose's Butterfly Ginger (Ginger Lily) Pommade is nothing short of a miracle. But for you to understand, let's first explain what pommade is. And no, it is not spelled "pomade", much to my autocorrect's disapproval. This is the French word for a step in the enfleurage process. Enfleurage is the fat (usually from an animal source) that has been fully saturated with a flower essence. Once this is achieved, the pommade will be washed with alcohol and produces an extrait (an alcoholic dilution of flower extract). When this alcohol is removed by evaporation, it leaves behind the pure flower absolute (much like any other extraction process).

There are a few things that are unique about Dabney Rose's pommade: first of all, she makes them by hand from plants that she lovingly grows in her garden and hothouse. Secondly, it is sold as is, without further washing in alcohol - thus offering a pure, fresh flower scent in a solid perfume form. Thirdly, the fats she uses to absorb the living flower's beautiful perfume are vegan (I believe it is coconut oil, but it might be mixed with other vegetable oils).

Specifically, the Butterfly Ginger Pommade is stunning. Even though it is made of just one plant, it smells like a complete perfume, yet also smells very alive. As a point of reference, thing of a floral green such as Laura Ashley No.1, sans all the sharp and headachy notes that this genre tends to give me (much to my dismay, as I do admire green florals). It also reminds me of a certain fancy soap that was the household name at my best friend's home: a fine white soap with a very clean yet floral, exotic aroma.

This ginger flower is not at all ginger-like, even though it could be described as slightly spicy. I haven't smelled it in real life, so forgive me if my points of reference are commercial items. At the same time though, I'm sure this is very true to a fresh living flower. It perfectly retains that character and authenticity. This is the kind of thing that you may not be able to describe, but you certainly can feel.

Dabney Rose's offerings are seasonal in nature, and are made in very small batches. The website doesn't a catalogue or shop yet, so it's best to follow here Facebook and twitter stream, and order immediately when something that strikes your fancy is out of her still or enfleurage trays.
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