Every month, I join a group of ten other women, for a Friday of unusual fun. We are led by our two sages, who choose a surprise spot for us outdoors, where we will spend a the day soaking up beauty. Being outside in a natural environment and discovering beauty in unexpected places (not always so wide and wild, as those areas are fast vanishing from the horizon). We start the day alone for about an hour of solitude, meditating, contemplating, or just staring at our surroundings in quiet time along. Some of the day is dedicated to photography exercises, using simply our smartphones and learning how to take better ones, with very little focus on technique and more focus on a specific topic that is seasonal and we tackle it from the twelve different angles that each of us provide. We mostly lavish in the luxury of having time for ourselves away from family, home and work responsibilities. And just with ourselves and sharing time, space and love for nature with one another. We share a meal and sometimes also our thoughts and feelings. It's very simple yet so hard to come by these days.

Yesterday, I drove through a wide gravel road leading to some of the country's last wheat fields of Yizrael Valley, behind Bethlehem of Galilee (possibly and logically, where Jesus was truly born, but not traditionally considered his birthplace). And from the midst of the fields, we were lead through two gates to a naked oak grove amidst the green.

The theme for this month is "Green". The colour of life, renewal and the heart chakra (along with pink). Yet in contrast to all of that, I have to admit I was not particularly excited to tackle this topic aesthetically. It seemed too easy. Too lovable. I felt strangely uninspired.

Moss Green
On the artist's palette, as well as in nature, there are more shades of green than any other colour. Forget about fifty shades of grey. We're talking about 295 shades of green! Can you name any of them? There are precious gems like emerald, jade and peridot; There's sea green and forest green, and then there are myriads of plants and foods with distinguished greens, such as sage green and olive green, pistachio, avocado, lime and many more; The beloved mushroom green (which is the shade I use for my logo), fern and moss green (both dark and light), and of course grass green. The names alone make me feel rejuvenated and recharged.
Sea Green
And rejuvenated I did return from this week's outing, because despite my reservations I did go. I didn't find any earth-shuddering shots or any other ground-breaking revelation. And that is totally okay. I marvelled at the fields of green wheat, and the green pastors among the naked oak trees. Cyclamens galore with their heart-shaped leaves of green snake-like patterns, and plenty of mandrakes just going into fruit, Jerusalem sage, mullein, watercress and stinging nettles  are just a few of the more distinguished plants among a sea of green grass, mostly. I placed a little wicker mat among the white anemones and cyclamens and realized what a ridiculously simple luxury it is to just sit or lie down on the grass facing the sky and the trees like this. And how precious it is to just be in my body in this place. I took in the green, stretched my limbs and spine in the pleasantly caressing rays of the winter sun, and when I looked around I also so moss on the rocks, so bright and vivid. I wondered why I do this lying down and doing nothing only at the beach and promised myself to do it anywhere else I can lay my body on and feel like doing so.

Reseda Green
Reseda odorata, AKA Mignonette (pictured above) is just one of a few typically "Green" notes on the perfumer's palette. But it is not the only one. And it is also rarely available now as an absolute, so I would love to try my hand at extracting it using the enfleurage method. The leaves themselves smell pungent and more than a tad repulsive - almost like rotten tomato leaves or goosefoot leaves (a stinky relative of quinoa). But the delicate cluster of tiny white flowers smell surprisingly amazing! Reminiscent of tuberose dipped in a field of green, it is heady and heavenly with hints of orange blossoms. This note can be found in the stunning Private Collection by Estee Lauder, and is what gives it its unique personality above all other components. When I smell reseda, I find it really hard not to think of this perfume.

Green Grass
For the perfumer, "Green" is not just a colour, but a whole category of aromas that bring to mind imagery of leaves other than aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage and eucalyptus don't count as "green" even if their colour is). The smell of fresh cut grass, one of the most beloved among the thousands of people I interviewed throughout the years, is a universally loved scent. The molecules (Z)-3-hexenol and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate are what give the distinct fragrance of fresh cut grass. They develop once the grass blades are crushed. These are not extractable into essential oils, perhaps because their concentration is very low. However, they have a high odour intensity which gives off a scent that is associated with relaxation, summer lawns and poolside giggling. They are now synthetically produced to create a very realistic impression of something fleeting that can't be captured otherwise. When trying to bottle an impression of the grassy lawn of Harbour Green park in Coal Harbour perfume, I've used a combination of galbanum oil, tart pine absolute and linden blossom.
Green Mask
Another synthetic molecule that is very frequently used to create a green character or nuance in a perfume is spirogalbanone. This is a manmade molecule is intensely green and powerful, sharp and persistent, and not at all found in nature, but that takes its inspiration if you will from the natural essential oil of galbanum. The resin from this Persian native of the Apiaceae family gives off a most characteristic bright and GREEN personality that is like intensely heady and sharp parsley with hints of balsam, grass blades and freshly squeezed lemon rind, dripping with green juiciness. Galbanum can be found in many classic perfume compositions, the key one being Vent Vert, the Godmother of all green perfumes. Then there are Miss Dior, Ma Griffe, Chamade, Crystalle, Ivoire, No. 19 and more. Galbanum is THE natural perfumer's key green resource, and you'll find it in Ayalitta, Rainforest, Lost Lagoon and Grin.
There are other green notes in natural perfumery: violet leaf absolute (which appears in quite a few of the perfumes discussed today), hay absolute and even oakmoss has an inherent green quality to it. And there are a few categories as well - Floral Green or Chypre Green. Perhaps there is a green nuance in a perfume you love that belongs to a completely different category - for example, the legendary Vol de Nuit, which also contains galbanum, oakmoss and sage but is walking the tightrope between Oriental and a Chypre and manages to smell both mysterious and natural.

For now I will just let you meditate on green wherever you are - be it a green garment, a mundane object such as a garbage bin, or the lovely and nutritious food you eat. Notice the colour and the exact shade of green. Do you see other colours in it and other associations? Does the green you meet have a scent? Do you like it? What does being meeting the green make you feel?

Greens for Patrick

Happy St. Patrick's Day, originally uploaded by jciv.

I’m in the ferry boat to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital whose downtown is dotted with Irish pubs. I’m on a strange spring break-meets-spring-cleaning tour. In other words, my space is being redecorated and I’m trying to avoid the chaos of living and working among scattered furniture and splashes of paint (the walls will be green, of course, when I return home in two days).

The sea route goes through the lusciously green Gulf Islands, where Celtic hippies reside; and today I’m told they will summon the devil with their squeaky violins as they drink alfalfa juice specked with spirulina powder. Therefore it is only appropriate to talk about green scents.

And although I’m away from my explosive library of samples and my head is dizzying as the ferry spiraling in-between the fjord-like moss covered rocky islands in an attempt to enter Salt Spring Island’s dock - I will make an attempt all the same to list all those green scents that make life worth living and hay worth harvesting.

There are all kinds of green. This has become even clearer to me as I had to go through swatches of paints to choose from - dill pickle green, or avocado mayonnaise? We went with the timothy hay after all. But I digress, as my intention was to talk about green scents and not so much the colour. Yet, there is some kind of equivalence - green being a mixture of blue and yellow can lead to difference direction - dark and cool with more blue; or bright, lively and vibrant with more yellow. There are the olives, which are more dirty; and than there are greens that are bordering with grey.

Similarly with scent, there is the green the evokes crushed living leaf and than there are the greens that reminds us more of dry stacks of hay. Green goes both ways - sharp and fresh or warm and sweet-herbaceous. There is coniferous green and than there is also floral green. And I haven’t even mentioned green tea yet!

Galbanum - Sharp or Sweet:
Galbanum, the resin from a plant related to carrot and fennel, is responsible for the green bite in scents such as Vent Vert and Miss Dior. However, in its absolute form it is sweet and soft and almost berry-like. Yohji perfume accentuates galbanum’s sensuality by anchoring it with caramel and berries, resulting in a delicious, powdery-green-caramel confection.

Green Tea - Sheer and Fresh:
Miller et Bertaux Eau de Parfum #3: Green, green, green and green, is exactly the kind of scent that has both green tea and freshness. Balmy Days & Sundays by Ineke brings a more brisk and minty aspect to the theme of tea. And if you like the tea but not so much the greens, opt for Eau Parfumee au The Vert or Osmanthe Yunnan.

Not-So-New Mown Hay
Many fougere fragrance play on the bitter-sweet aspect of the coumarin present in hay or liatrix. Yerbamate is an example where the sweetness is amplified.

Tomato Leaf - Quirky Garden:
For a floral green, get a taste of originality with l’Ombre dans l’Eau’s juxtaposition of green tomato leaves and dewy roses. Tomato leaf appears in only very few other fragrances and adds the distinct aroma that rubs to your hands along with the colour green while attending to your tomato vines.

Cucumber, Violet and Iris:
Violet leaf has a cucumber-like, floral powdery scent. The accent on the cool rather than the powdery-sweet-floralcy of violet appeals to me especially in No. 19 and also in the more recent Kelly Caleche.

P.s. And as if my day wasn't green enough, when I arrived to Victoria I had dinner at Green Cuisine.

Photo: Happy St. Patrick's Day, originally uploaded by jciv.

Balmy Days and Sundays

The first thing that crossed my mind this morning as I thought of Balmy Days and Sundays was a walk in an herb garden in an early summer morning, picking spearmint leaves, all the while getting my barefeet all wet on the freshly-cut green grass. Only moments later, the kettle is whistling. As the first sun rays hit the concrete floor of my balcony, my feet start drying and warming up a bit, and so do my hands holding a cup of fresh spearmint tisane sweetened with honey.

It’s my day off, and once the grass dries a bit, I will lay on my back on the grass and let my closing eyes gaze at the warm of the sun. The grass is humming with secret activity: little ants carrying their loot to the nest, bees above hoarding the honeysuckle nectar, and an exhibitionist butterfly poses right in front of me showing off its graceful white wings.

Balmy Days and Sundays is a particularly charming green fragrance, as it combines the the effervescent sparkle of greens alongside a calm warmth. The minty notes offer this contrast on their own, but also the choice of sweet florals paired with grass (rather than the traditional and often cool and sharp jasmine and rose paired with galbanum and orris that are usually found in green compositions), adds to the experience of a summer garden: refreshingly luscious and sun-warmed, a sensual delight to both eyes, skin and nose...
Balmy Days and Sundays starts with a "B" and is the second installation in Ineke’s ABC’s (or a chapter in her olfactory book, if you will).
This is purely a scent for those who love gardening and everything about it, and having met Ineke in person, and learned that she does indeed love gardening, the first two perfumes in her collection make even more sense than ever: the lady likes everything fresh and

Balmy Days and Sundays opens with the sweet greenery of fresh-cut grass and sweet warmth of mint, moves to a heart that is a heady floral (I smell mostly freesia and lily of the valley, but the perfumer also lists honeysuckle, rose and mimosa). The base is somewhat powdery with musk and moss, and like After My Own Heart (and the rest of Ineke’s line), is subtle and clean, yet in a non-sterile manner (think the musk of Lovely). The top notes and the heart notes definitely steal the show here.

The fragrance notes, according to the perfumer’s website, include:

Top notes: Freesia, Leafy Greens, Grass
Heart notes: Honeysuckle, Rose, Mimosa

Base notes: Chypre Accent, Musk

I am not usually in the habit of using the “marketed” images of fragrances (which are too often imposed and pretentious) but in this particular case I think the images so accurately portray the scent, and are so non-pretentious, that I feel it is necessary to use them to give an accurate picture of the perfumer’s intentions, and the same goes for her own words to describe the scent – the little poems or stories that accompany the packaging – from the outer box (and website) to the actual bottles, which is printed with lovely delicate details, words and symbols. When the perfumer-creator is the one responsible for every stage of the process, you get results that are not only stunningly beautiful, but also genuine. And that makes all the difference to me, not to mention that in this case the perfumer is a perfectionist who has an utter sense of visual and conceptual aesthetics besides her olfactory sensibilities.

I may not see the same garden in my mind as Ineke's, but the olfactory impressions and visual and tactile connotations are crystal clear. The mood of a sunny garden is created here, and you just need to step into your own favourite when you smell it. I am very curious to read the next chapters in Ineke's book...

P.s. if you liked Herba Fresca, you are most like to enjoy this one. But also, if you liked some things about Herba Fresca, but found the grass notes there too harsh and the base too chemical, you might find that Balmy Days and Sundays is a more mellow impression of a summer garden (minus the intense citrus notes of Herba Fresca though).
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