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The Perfumer's Purple

Lavender Soliflores

LAVENDER'S PERFUMERY USES & APPLICATIONS
Lavender on the perfumer's palette provides for a range of purplish-blue hues, metaphorically speaking, of course. The oil itself is clear; and the absolute literally is a turquoise colour.

Lavender Toilette Waters
The earliest application of lavender in perfume is in the classic Lavender Waters - which the English perfected. Many historic recipes can be found for these type of eaux. Another sub-category of which is the lavender-amber waters, which include, in addition to lavender, either amber or ambergris.

Eaux de Cologne
Another important historic use of lavender oils is in the Eaux de Cologne type of fragrances. Here both lavender and lavandin are used extensively. Lavender imparts a softer, more floral nuance, where as lavandin gives a more herbaceous edge, often in synergy with rosemary or mint. Lavender can be found in countless classic eau de clone formulations, such as 4711, Guerlain's Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) and Eau du Coq (1894) etc. Florida Waters are a New World interpretation of the Eau de Cologne in which lavender takes a more prominent role, and also includes lime, cloves and cassia bark. 


Lavender Soliflores & Gems
Lavender soliflores are a richer, more developed and rounded version of the lavender waters; or simply a more concentrated form. Classic examples are: Yardley's English Lavender (1873), Lavande Velours (Guerlain), Floris' Lavender, etc. Then there are some more sophisticated, layered and exciting renditions such as Jicky (Guerlain), the liquorice-velvety Brin de Réglisse (Hermes), my own Lovender (part of The Language of Flowers soliflore collection) and let's not forget the underrated, wonderfully vanillic Caron's Pour Une Homme.

Fougère
The first use of synthetic aroma chemicals was marked by the creation of Fougère Royal, a concoction that used for the first time a laboratory-made coumarin. But coumarin is only one of four key components that are crucial for creating fragrances of this genre, the other three being oakmoss, linalool and lavender. One could argue that the bare bones of Fougère place lavender in an even more important place, if you strip it down to an even more simple accord of oakmoss-and-lavender, since the other two components (coumarin and linalool) naturally occur in lavender.
Other famous members of this family are Azzaro, Grey Flannel, Brut, Canoe, Amber & Lavender Cologne (Jo Malone's), Jazz (YSL), Xeryus Rouge (Givenchy), etc.

Springtime in the Forest

On this beautiful Earth Day, I'd like to share with you the wonders of my part of the planet. Subtle scents permeates the air in the Pacific Northwest at this time of the year: Soft tassels of new growth fir and spruce trees - their scent reminiscent of citrus and fresh-cut grass. Fiddleheads emerge from the damp forest floor. They spiral towards the light and their shoots are tender and delicious. Miniature galaxies of elderflowers, with their blackcurrant-like aroma dot the forest like little fragrant stars. And last but not least: the balsamic sweetness of the budding black cottonwood trees, which envelop the forest trails with a promise of sweet, warm sunny days. 

All of these are nature's reminder to steer away from the floral cliches and celebrate spring with other plant-parts. If you are like me, spring is the time of year to rediscover the classic Fougeres in your wardrobe, and discover new plants that are coming to life, as well as discover new wild plants to forage and bring nature home, literally, after our long hibernation.

1. Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the budding, coiled “leaves” of ostrich ferns  (Matteuccia struthiopteris). The fiddleheads are present in early spring, and are considered a delicacy. They have a very similar to asparagus in both flavour and texture - but a lot more tart. 

Perhaps it's the fiddleheads - spring to me is the best season to enjoy fragrances from the Fougère (fern in French) family. Namely, l'Herbe Rouge. You might also want to try my idea for an Edible Fougère Recipe: Fiddleheads in Lavender Butter

2. Fir Buds & Violet Leaves

A wonderful way to enjoy the scents of the forest all day long is place a few of these conifer buds in your water bottle. Douglas Fir is the most delicious of all - and the needles can be used that way year-around. You'll stay hydrated and also benefit from the vitamin C that is naturally occurring in these leaves (the only local source of those until the summer berries ripen). They smell like a Christmas tree and have delicious, slightly tart lemon-tangerine aroma.   


Rainforest perfume captures the scent of the temperate Pacific Northwest forests - the largest of the temperate forests in the world, and with the most productive biomass. It combines the fragile, crisp cucumber notes of violet leaf with damp forest floor with sprucejuniper and pine
Rainforest also makes use of my very own wild-harvested elderflowers essence - which is our next topic! 

3. Elderflowers

If you've ever visit my studio in April and May, you'll be served the fragrant and refreshing elderflower"champagne" - effervescent soda infused with wild-foraged elderflowers that I make at home. You can create your own by following my recipe on SmellyBlog. Also, you may enjoy a subtle nuance of elderflowers in Sandal Ale - where it adds a fruity aroma to balance the sweet apricot and funky hops notes.

4. Cottonwood & Balsam Poplar Buds

I'm yet to try this Cottonwood Bud Oil Recipe, an infusion that has healing properties for muscle aches and damaged skin; but I've been inspired to capture this scent in a perfume by tincturing it. 
Etrog Oy de Cologne, however, uses a different part of a tree from the same family: balsam poplar buds absolute. It gives it a unique, honeyed aroma that echoes the sweetness of the rare citron fruit. And speaking of citrus - have you heard about the Citrus & Cologne Week-long Course (May 4-8)? It's perfect for beginner students of perfumery, and there are 2 spots available. 

For more ideas on how to celebrate the beauty and diversity of this planet with local, handcrafted perfumes made with wild-harvested botanicals, visit ayalamoriel.com

Green Madness

Summer girl by Zhanna_Minina
Summer girl, a photo by Zhanna_Minina on Flickr.
Зеленое Безумие (Green Madness) by Anna Zworykina is about hay stacks and citrus, and is a fougère in the most natural meaning of the way. At the heart of the matter lays lavender absolute: as velvety as it is herbaceous; as earthy as it is ethereal, reminiscent of the last days of summer, where the hay is at its driest, and the sun a tad gentler. An evening stroll in the fields of vegetal death might reveal some hidden life: a wild carnation here, or the regal flowering bulb of sea squills (Drimia maritimia) there, proclaiming the arrival of autumn and the death of summer...

And all of a sudden, the burden of the heat began to lift brings relief mingled with sorrow: the bittersweet farewell to summer's perceived freedom (in reality it keeps me sealed indoors even better than the rainy season). And that's how nostalgia is born.

Fougère has a strange tendency to bring on soft memories, yet has strong masculine nature: strong arms rolling bales of hay, working the fields, the freedom and the abundance of sweetness on a balmy summer night. Green Madness has all of that, and also remains a tad quirky, working unusual cognac notes into the heart, yuzu and tarragon into the otherwise lime-centred head notes, and putting accent on woods along the mossy base. It's may not look like a classical fougère because of the absence of niether coumarin-dominated note at the base nor lavender and linalool notes in the top; but it sure has the overall feel of a fougère, even if unintentionally (the perfumer-creator categorizes it as a "chypre" but I beg to differ). Technically, I can explain it by the presence of coumarin in both lime and lavender absolute. Also, the Himalayan cedarwood has an affinity with rosewood's linalool-rich personality. As with impressionism, it's the overall picture that matters, not the exact details. There are several other brush strokes of unrelated colours  - yet if you step back you'll see that it is, after all, a bale of hay.

Top notes: Lime, Tarragon, Yuzu, Lemon
Heart notes: Seville Lavender Absolute, Green Cognac
Base notes: Oakmoss, Himalayan Cedarwood, Vanuatu Sandalwood

Fougere Week May 7-11

Fiddlehead by Ayala Moriel
Fiddlehead, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Fiddleheads. Ferns. Rhododendrons. Lilacs. Spring's awakening... Best time to learn perfumery in Vancouver!

This week I'm excited to be teaching my Fougere week long course, where students will be learning about the history of this fragrance family, raw materials, composition and how to attune their noses to the many wonderful scents in the air!

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