Smelly Tel Aviv

Blue Smile

When thinking of the scent of a place, the characteristic local earth is one of the first things I think about. For Tel Aviv, what comes to mind is grass on moist hamra soil. This particular soil is bright red colour and full of sand. It has a particular smell that is slightly musty when moist, and more mineral than earthy. Mingled with the scent of coarse grass that's in the many striving gardens and parks of the city, it is an iconic Tel Aviv smell.

The street scene below is from the not-so-aptly named Rehove HaBosem)(Perfume Street), just a few blocks away from my dear grandmother's home in south-east Tel Aviv. This little piece of shanty town is made up of illegal temporary housing made of wavy tin and scraps of other industrial left overs. The garbage can, bearing the white signage "The Perfume 19" is ironic and immediately caught my eye-phone's camera, for reasons quite obvious.

Perfume Street

Tel Aviv, aka Non Stop City, is not exactly renown for its pleasant perfumes. Like most places humid and hot, all the odours get amplified, including the non-polite ones such as garbage, urine-drenched street corners, cat-feces rolled in the sands of the sycamore boulevards, and sweaty people in tightly-packed buses.

I was determined to set on a mini scented journey in Tel Aviv to discover and share with you some of its more elegant and/or intriguing aromas. And here is what I found:

Sycomore figs, ripening on the trees, and further fermenting on the grounds of the boulevards, on benches, etc. Sycamore trees are an inseparable portion of Tel Aviv, and some are many hundreds of years old and are considered protected heritage trees. There was a point in time when these historic trees were attacked by the city of Tel Aviv because the fruit attract flies and bats; now the city has smartened up and forbids any logging or damage to those trees, to the point that some buildings are designed around a tree, in order to preserve it. These are trees that our own grandparents and great-grandparents climbed on and played under their graceful evergreen shade, and our own children can crawl inside their hollow hearts. If you ever visit Tel Aviv, you must seek out these trees and admire them - and if you have little children, they will forever remember the experience of getting inside the "cave" of such an ancient tree.

Frangipanni (Plumeria)

Frangipani (Plumeria alba) flowers, which can be found practically everywhere, are in my mind, a very Tel-Avivi scent. It was here that I was introduced to the flower and its name 19 years ago when I lived here. To me, frangipani will always be a coming-of-age scent, and a trigger for happy memories of independence and romance.

Banana Beach Treat

Banana Ice Cream Bars are a long-time childhood memory from a brief period when I lived at my step-grandmother's in Bat-Yam. My mom took me to the beach a lot back in those days, and did something out of character then, which was to buy me an ice cream bar (she's one of those 1970's granola gals who lives her life in fear of sugar from as long as I can remember) from the ice-cream vendor that would walk on the beaches with a large straw hat and announce his wares carried in an over-the-shoulder icebox. I was glad these merchants are still alive and kicking and made a point of getting ice cream bar for my daughter when we were at the beach (she picked another flavour). The flavour of these banana ice cream bars is very fake, and if anything is reminiscent more of an over ripe, baked banana. If you've experienced Vanille-Banane by Compoir Sud Pacifique - that's bang-on what you get when licking one of these pale yellow treats.

White Chocolate Flower

White Chocolate smelling flowering tree. This tropical wonder (not sure of the scientific name) grows on thorny trees, and produces silky cotton-like fruits.

White Chocolate Flower

Oleanders, both pink and white, are now in bloom everywhere. They smell powdery and sweet, a little like hawthorn, but also green and not unlike the fresh/waxy aspects of frangipani.
Pink Oleander

Highlights from my LA Trip

Fountain/Fan Plant 
Last weekend I embarked on yet another trip to Los Angeles (my second this year! Did I get the travel bug, or what?!). Before I get fully into the reasons behind the trip - the Artisan Fragrance Salon - I thought I'll share a few snippets of scents, aromas and all-around goodness that accompanied me in this trip.

Giant Plumeria by Ayala Moriel
Giant Plumeria, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr

I stayed with Persephenie, a kindered spirit whom I now feel like I have known for ages. She was not participating at the salon after all (all because some good news - her line is now heading to Japan!) but we got to spend some quality fragrant time together.

This gorgeous plumeria tree grows somewhere on 4th street if my memory serves me right, on the way to Persephenie's studio (Edinburgh avenue, just off 3rd street). I was surprised at the very faint and decidedly soapy scent it had in the morning, even though the sun was at full blast by 10am: it was so light, fresh and soapy I thought I was smelling an Ivory soap bar mingled with sun tan lotion... A couple of days later, in the full afternoon sun (apparently there is higher blast than full blast), it smelled very strongly of the original Kai perfume oil - heady, tropical, almost fruity, and just all around paradise-like!

Meeting of the Noses @ Sarah Horowitz's studio

We visited Sarah Horowitz at her perfume studio in Westlake Village. It's set in a gorgeous establishment, with bubbling waters in the courtyard and a couple of restaurants downstairs. We first met there - Persephenie, Sarah and Miriam from 40notes. Then we visited Sarah's lovely studio space and had a full tour, including sneak sniffs into the salon feature - her Chocolate Sunset perfume, which is gorgeous and deserves a whole post all of its own!

And the best part was trying so many wonderful new creations, by Sarah and by the other perfumers whom I met at the salon on Sunday (which I will get to later tomorrow, after ample sleep), and experiencing Persephenie's new and gorgeous as always Island Violet cream. And the greatest surprise (though, come to think of it - not really...) was discovering that not only me, but also other incense lovers (which Persephenie truly is) start their day by burning incense, in any shape or form. One of them was especially rosy - almost like the rahat loukum candy with and overdose of rosewater and vanilla... Can there be a better way to start the day? Probably only a strawberry muffin!

Strawberry-Buttermilk Muffin
Joan's On Third is a marvellous place a friend invited me to when I was in LA back in June. Bakery, cafe and catering company whose owner must be a really lovely person because everything that comes out of her bakery is spectacular. So much so that I had brought nothing home for my daughter but a couple of these luscious strawberry buttermilk muffins! They were so fragrant and just melted in your mouth; and not nearly as sweet as the coffee shop variety. Add a slice of cheddar on the side and you have a pretty substantial breakfast.

California grown Citrons!

And last but not least: the marvellously refreshing, aromatic scent of California-grown citrons!
This lovely and generous gift of noi less than 7 etrogim awaited me at Persephenie's studio - straight from the orchard! I'm going to be tincturing them tomorrow and am thrilled that I will have another fresh batch of citron tincture so that I can continue making more Etrog Oy de Cologn. It's been rapidly gaining popularity, I can barely keep it in stock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Save Bloedel Floral Conservatory

Plumeria (Frangipani), originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

"It was one of those indecisive April days, alternating between cloudy and warm, and pouring rain. For a while, we sought refuge inside the glass dome that housed tropical birds & flowers. There, near the pink parrot that refused to have his pictures taken, I met a blooming frangipanni tree in Vancouver for the first time. You can imagine my happiness: frangipanni is one of my favourite flowers and I have many fond memories associated with its scent. I took with me this single blooming flower that fell off the tree, and savoured it for hours afterward, analyzing its aroma in my head, making notes in my journal as to how to capture its scent. The result is Frangipanni Gloves: a perfume that layers a whiff of frangipanni flowers with the leathery-powdery undertones of suede perfumed gloves of Victorian era. This tropical white floral perfume has an intoxicating yet delicate aroma, sweet and humid, underlined with suede-leather nuances and a hint of spice". (read the rest of the story behind Frangipanni Gloves here)

Proceeds go to the Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. It is thanks to this wonderful tropical gem at the heart of our raincity that I was able to find a real, living frangipanni flower for reference. Unfortunately, the City of Vancouver has cut its funding to sustain the conservatory and it is scheduled to close March 1st, 2010. This will leave tens of tropical birds and plants homeless, and is a huge loss for the people of Vancouver!

When you purchase Frangipanni Gloves, you are also helping this cause. Frangipannin Gloves is offered for a limited time only, until March 1st, which is the scheduled date for closing Bloedel Floral Conservatory. For every bottle sold, $50 is donated to Bloedel Floral Conservatory in order to prevent its scheduled shut-down March 1st, 2010. ($30 for mini bottles).
If the fundraiser succeeds, and it will not close - Frangiapnni Gloves will remain in our regular collection and I will continue to donate money to Bloedel, so that we can continue to enjoy the scent of real living frangipanni flowers!
It can be purchased on Etsy or via Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Other ways you can help the Bloedel Floral Conservatory:

There are three ways to donate:

1. Make a donation at any Royal Bank of Canada branch by quoting our name "Friends of the Bloedel Association" and account number 06080 003 1006428.

2. Mail a cheque payable to the Friends of the Bloedel Association

mail to: Friends of the Bloedel Association
3948 West 23rd Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V6S 1L2

3. Use our secure PayPal FundRazr page on Facebook by clicking here: http://bit.ly/6GsZWt. If you are a member of Facebook, please publish your comment and donation to your stream. This will help us spread the word about our important cause.

Attend the Rumble in the Jungle Gala, January 30th, 2010

Sign this petition

Join Friends of Bloedel

Frangipanni & Leather

Frangipani & Leather, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Today I have finally got around to try out an idea I had in the spring, when I was visiting Queen Elizabeth Park with my friend Junichi for a day.

It was one of those indecisive April days, alternating between being cloudy yet warm, or just pouring rain. For a while, we sought refuge inside the tropical bird & butterfly sanctuary. There, near the pink parrot that refused to have his pictures taken, I met my first-ever blooming frangipanni tree in Vancouver. You can imagine my happiness, frangipanni is one of my favourite flowers and I have many fond memories associated with that smell.

I took with me this single blooming flower that fell off the tree, and savoured it for hours afterwards, analyzing its aroma and writing little notes in my journal. I noticed with surprise that this flower was more spicy and warm than any other frangipani flower I smelled before. It smelled familiar and moments later I realized it was similar to Tomar seed (Zantoxylum). Warm and spicy-sweet and at the same time creamy and soft and floral, a vision formed in my mind about mingling the scent of frangipani with a subtle base of leather notes.

I thought this connection was particularly appropriate taking into consideration the history behind the flower, and the relationships between leather and perfume. Frangipanni was a name of a mid 19th century Italian marquis who invented the method to perfume gloves. The original formula or ingredients of the Frangipanni perfume are unknown, but most certainly had jasmine and orris as two dominant ingredients. Piesse (1879) says it was made of equal amounts of every spice known at the time, with powdered orris added in an equal weight to the entire formula, and 1% of both civet and musk. Frangipanni Gloves were very popular at the time and the scent was only later sold as a sachet and only two generations later as a liquid perfume (by
Frangipanni's grandson), who Piesse considered to be the longest lasting perfume of its time.

Piesse offers a formula for a Frangipanni Sachet in his book "The Art of Perfumery":

3lb Orris Root Power
1/4lb Vetiver Powder
1/4lb Sandalwood Powder
1 dram Neroli
1 dram Rose Otto
1 dram Sandalwood Oil
1oz Musk Grains, ground

And what does all this have to do with the flower? Apparently, the scent of the flower, when discovered, was so similar to the perfume that the French colonists of the West Indies have named the plant* after the perfume!

Poucher in his book "Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps" gives the following Frangipanni Formula no. 1113 that contains very little synthetics (just the rose compound and the coumarin and vanillin, which can be easily replaced by tonka absolute and vanilla CO2, for instance):

60 Bergamot Oil
200 Cassie
50 Civet Extract, 3%
80 Geranium Oil, French
50 Musk Extract, 3%
70 Neroli Oil
150 Orange Blossom
40 Rose Otto
200 Rose Compound
10 Sandalwood Oil
60 Coumarin
30 Vanillin

Coming back to the idea today was not only fun (and a challenge working from memory of a flower), it was also a reminder for that particular day at the park and sanctuary. What I had in my journal was quite open to interpretation - as it was just a list of notes I thought could be used in a frangipanni compound or soliflore perfume:

Frangipanni Absolute
Jasmine Grandiflorum
Leather accord
Mimosa Absolute

This could all make sense as a concept, but carrying this out is not going to be easy. Frangipanni absolute, to begin with, is a very unimpressive essence. It is faint, waxy, with none of the sweetness or headiness of the real blooming flower. It is more green than creamy and does not have a very strong presence (nothing in comparison to, say, jasmine or rose). To make it "work" one has to vamp it up with other notes, and blow life into it so to speak.

Another point of challenge is the "leather accord". I don't work with "accords" typically speaking. I have only done so in the past with my amber accords (I have formulated 7 different "amber" accords that I use in bases for different perfumes). Aside from that, I usually prefer to "cook from scratch" and use the raw materials, as undiluted as possible when I work. It's just a matter of style. In this case, my initial idea also inspired me to try out various compounds for leather that will be light enough to not overwhelm the frangipanni notes. And so this afternoon I have worked on 3 different "leather bases" - the first one minimalistic, light and floral (with osmanthus, Africa stone tincture and broom absolute) and the other two more animalistic (one with and one without Africa stone tincture).

The Frangipanni formula itself turned out very close to how I hoped it would, except for a very poor lasting power; so I have doubled the formula (which makes it smell different) and will have to see how this mellows later on. I won't disclose all the ingredients; all I'll say is that I have used Egyptian jasmine grandiflorum absolute, and I'm just smitten with the essence and the results it gives. It's very sweet and not as indolic as the Indian jasmine of the same species. I have used iris, of course, as well as some French neroli. I'm very curious to see how it will evolve; but for now it did bring me instant memories of that rainy day in the park, armed with frangipanni in my hand. And it felt good to have something in my lab remind me of something long gone.

*The Latin name of Frangipanni, Plumeria, is in honour of Charles Plumier, a Franciscan traveler in South America.

This perfume turned out to be Frangipanni Gloves, a limited edition perfume launched February 1st, 2010, to support the Bloedel Floral Conservatory and prevent its scheduled shut-down March 1st, 2010. For every bottle sold, $50 is donated to the cause.

It can be purchased on Etsy or via Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Other ways you can help the Bloedel Floral Conservatory:

Attend the Rumble in the Jungle Gala, January 30th, 2010

Sign this petition

Join Friends of Bloedel


Gauguin's painting from this website.

One of my NYC souvenirs is a bottle of Songes Eau de Toilette. I got a sample of Songes Eau de Parfum a few weeks ago and fell in love right away: Songes was everything I hoped to find in it – and it is now the first Annick Goutal perfume that I added to my collection. And also one of the few white florals that I really enjoy wearing.

Songes is a creamy and soft white floral, and although it has a definite presence and character, it is very gentle. Wearing is it like being wrapped in a fluflly cloud of subdued flowers from the tropics, washed by gentle rain, than dried again to excude a delicate, far more tolerable sweetness. The opening is a lush, creamy gardenia (not the heady bobmshell of Gardenia Passion), along with ylang ylang and jasmine, and than comes a creamy tuberose with incensey undertones (at this stage it reminds me of Noix de Tubereuse, less the slightly plasticky/lipstick like note there), along with slightly tea-like notes of jasmine and a tiniest hint of green and peachy fruitiness that dissipates after a couple of minutes. It's smooth and round and there is no particular note standing out, all the notes create together a tropical floral dream and a lazy feeling of satisfaction. The dry down is sweet and ambery with powdery vanilla. It's never too sweet nor cloying. Just sheer pleasure with a good measure of modesty. It's a sensual white floral with no bombarding pretence.

The Eau de Toilette is very similar in character (you won’t mistake it for a different scent), though I would have to emphasize that the creaminess (what some refer as coconut note) is not so prominent. Instead, the frangipani and ylang ylang take a first seat for a while, and than gradually make room for a gentle jasmine and a vanilla drydown. Overall, the EDT feels a tad drier and more powdery. Although I love the EDP concentration, the moon bottle, in reality, surprisingly put me off, and I settled for the modest spray bottle with the golden mushroom cap and starred organza ribbon. It does look dreamily gorgeous in this ad though:

I admire Annick Goutal as a perfumer and as person and for being one of the few women in her field. I love her approach and the personal touch that all of her perfumes have - the stories and the emotions behind them. She was a remarkable woman and I wish I was able to meet her in person before her tragically early death.

Unfortunately, most of the Annick Goutal scents do not work for me. Most of them feel too green or green or soapy on my skin, and although they are so delicate and refined, their presence is too sharp for me. I tried anything from Eau de Camille and Eau de Charlotte to Folavril, Eau d‘Hadrien and Eau de Sud and Grand Amour. But I was able to wear none of them more than a couple of times. While most of the above mentioned creations always feel to me too “perfect” and require admiration from a distance, I find in Songes the warmth and sweetness that makes me want to come closer and be able to become part of the perfume when I wear it. It is versatile (I’ve worn it day or night and in warm and cool weathers, equally enjoying the dreamy pleasure that Songes has to offer). yet has a definite character. Camille Goutal may not create the same kind of scents that her mother made, but she did not fall far from the tree in following her heart’s passions and sharing them with the world.

Top notes: Frangipani, Ylang Ylang

Heart notes: Jasmine, Tuberose

Base notes: Vanilla, Incense, Powdery notes

Bottle images and ad from Annick Goutal's website.

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