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The Life Aquatic - Beyond Beach Scents Cliché

Life Saver

Even though most people don't think of water as having a scent - the most favourite nature smells among my clients are that of rain and ocean. This is based on a 15 year long ongoing voluntary data that customers provide me about their fragrance preferences.

I can't imagine what it would be like in summer without the wonderful beaches, lakes and streams. Even summer rains are welcome in my world, as they make the season feel more precious and allows us to continue enjoying greenery and worrying less about forest fires and dreadful droughts. Therefore I'd like to dedicate August's newsletter to water-inspired scents.

There's saline water and freshwater. In a similar manner, water-inspired fragrances can be divided into two: Aquatic and marine. Aquatic perfumes are usually ethereal, light and inspired by water gardens and flowers such as waterlily, lotus and iris and the wet-woods watery quality of cassie as well as the cucumber-like personality of mimosa and violet leaf absolutes. Marine fragrances tend to be more masculine (usually they're a sub-genre of Fougère) and include mineral notes that allude to salt such as ambergris, seaweed, oakmoss and vetiver - and even notes that suggests savouriness, such as parsley, dill, celery and angelica.

Bon Zai is perhaps the first aquatic perfume I've created, and the only one that has absolutely no saltiness to it. I often suggest it to clients who like the smell of rain, because it has the same freshness and crisp qualities the air has when it rains. It's a quite, non-dramatic, peaceful scent. Think about gentle West Coast rain in a Zen garden - no thunder or lightning, only soft rain on pine needles.

Since 2009, with the launch of Hanami, water has been a recurring thread in my perfume creations.  And as you will soon see, I often combine the qualities of freshwater and saline water in the same composition - which gives it a rather sheer quality and a compelling lightness. Although on and of themselves, cherry blossoms are particularly watery - Hanami plays on the theme of wet wood, after spring rain, and that scent mingling with that of cherry blossom and the urban surrounding: metal, wet pavement, and the commotion in and out of the underground train station. The scent is abstract, yet compelling. And for those who are familiar with sakuramochi and brine-preserved sakura and sakura tea - there is also a savoury connotation that balances the otherwise cloying sweetness of the flowers involved, and which makes Hanami perfume even more intriguing.

l'Écume des Jours (2004) was my first watery creation. Inspired by the perfect symmetry and profound beauty portrayed in Boris Vian's most praised novel by the same name. Cheerful Pianola top notes of cassis and freesia lead to Chloe’s deadly Lung Water Lilly. The melancholy base of green moss and watery marine seaweed reflects the tragic conclusion of the tale. l'Écume des Jours is a strange perfume of unusual harmony that inspires appreciation for the simple beauty that is found in all things – especially the Jazz of New Orleans...

And speaking of New Orleans: I also created a perfume that invokes the haunting scents of the Louisiana wetlands with salty seaweed and oakmoss underscoring heady flowers of magnolia, osmanthus, orange blossom and tea rose. There is also Meyer lemon and rosemary that truly cut through the sweetness and add a savoury touch that echoes the salt notes. For a scent so rich with florals, it is surprisingly refreshing, light and easy to wear.

Orcas, the first natural Fougère-Marine fragrance that was nominated for the 2012 Indie FiFi Awards,  now celebrates its 5th year anniversary. Inspired by the breathtaking scenery of the Wild Pacific Trail, a place where ocean meets forest and whales blow and sing above the stormy weather. Orcas perfume is an innovative all-natural marine woody, a unique combination of scents from sea and seashore. Brisk and pungent citrus and herbaceous notes suggest ocean breeze and tea-like clarity, and an array of oceanic treasures such as seaweed and ambergris meet seashore and rainforest notes.

My newest perfume, Lost Lagoon is a Chypre with s a powdery-sweet softness from the juxtaposition of amber, orris and magnolia that balances the bite of galbanum, rhododendron leaf and lemon. It is not aquatic per se, but it was inspired by the dreamy Rhododendron Garden that trails along Lost Lagoon. Again, we find a place where the freshwater is very close to the ocean, and this reflects in the perfume as well. The oakmoss contributes the saltiness, but the flowers are luscious and has a watery air to them - the crispness of violet leaf and iris being the main contributors to that effect.

The last bit of cliché I'd like to tackle is that of beach scents. This popular sub-category of Florientals (or Floral Ambery) tends to be fruity, sometimes even cloyingly sweet, and smells very artificial. It is a strange category because it takes after the scents of ancillary products - namely suntan lotion, suntan oil and sunscreen products. These are usually rather chemical concoctions of white flowers and fruit esters over synthetic musks and amber bases, and sometimes even a bit of aquatic smelling compounds. If you love beach, this would smell fantastic to you; but even if you do - too much of a good thing can get a little overwhelming, or boring at best.

What I tried to do with Sunset Beach, is create a perfume that is neither watery nor marine in character, but rather works with the tropical materials in a more authentic way. To start with, the inspiration is driftwood and the fragrant flowers that might bloom near the beach. So it's entered around sandalwood from both Hawaii and India. I've used massoia CO2 as well as handcrafted tinctures of milky oolong tea and pandanus leaf to intensify the milky quality that is sadly lacking in most modern sandalwood oils. And I've used champaca CO2 for its fruity, spicy and incense-like qualities that I find irresistible, and ylang ylang for its fruity esters and creamy-coconutty qualities. Whenever I wear it I feel like I'm on vacation, and I hope you do too.

In the same way that Hanami contrasts urban and natural elements, my upcoming perfume Coal Harbour juxtaposes the smells that co-exists in my oceanside city's harbour: the salty-animatic notes of seaweed and marine animals at low tide with the rank of jet fuel from the aquaplanes. This disturbing contrast (both smells are quite intense, and together they can be very unpleasant, especially when locked up in a bottle!). To soften this blow, I've added notes of fresh cut grass that wafts off Harbour Green Park, as well as pleasant-smelling local tree blossoms, namely linden, elderflowers and balsam poplar buds.


Floriental Week: My Short But Sweet Taste of Perfume Making

Trailing Roses
Trailing Roses, briar roses at Horton Bay in Mayne Island - a photo by Laríssa on Flickr.

I remember quite clearly the first time I ever met Ayala and came across her fragrances. I was in my first semester of the Fashion Marketing Diploma program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and I met Ayala at Portobello West very briefly while I was in the process of completing an assignment. I have always loved fragrance as more than just a sensory pleasure but also as a complex and powerful art form - the sense of smell is the sense that is most closely linked to emotions and memories. I was immediately intrigued by her unusual scent combinations (urban inspired Hanami and simplistic but powerful Roses et Chocolat were the scents that left the biggest impression on me) and by the stories that were behind each one and I never forgot about our discussion or her fragrances. I met Ayala again a year later at her Etrog tea-party after writing an article about her custom fragrances for a bridal fashion website. We talked about fragrance and bonded over the fact that we are both chypre-lovers (from Ayala's collection I particularly adore Rainforest and Ayalitta). I told her that I loved her product and that if I could ever be of help to her in any way that I would love to volunteer. Another year later and I am lucky enough to have the privilege of working for Ayala Moriel Parfums.

While I was interning for Ayala in July, I was fortunate to be able to sit in on one of her classes and participate in the solid-perfume workshop during her five-day Floriental Perfume Course. While I do have a passion for fragrance and spend a fair amount of time researching fragrance myself, I knew very little about florientals and what key components make a scent a floriental versus a floral or oriental.

Many people think of floriental fragrances as being heavy, rich, ambery, and spicy. But truthfully, Florientals can be best described as a Floral-Ambery: a sub-category of the floral family, and the love child of two harmoniously mingled fragrance families - heady White Florals, and smooth Ambery Orientals. Opulent, smooth scents like Guerlain's iconic Samsara or Chanel's Allure often come to mind but floriental fragrances, while having a similar structure and similar notes, can vary greatly in smell and spirit. They can be light and sparkling, creamy and beachy or dark, smoky and seductive, depending on the composition and accent notes used.

Coralle
Coralle parfum, an all-natural floriental from Ayala Moriel Parfums' archives

Floriental perfumes can vary greatly but are unified in their composition structure. Those who are familiar with fragrance know that notes are only a percentage of what leads to the final smell of a perfume. Florientals are more base heavy than other florals. Amber is always in the base, along with other heavier notes such as incense, sandalwood, vanilla, massoia bark or myrrh. The heart is where the richer flowers (roses, violets etc.) and white florals reside and the top is reserved for the airy citrus notes and lighter flowers (i.e.: mimosa), cool spices (i.e.: coriander, ginger, cardamom), balsams and woods. Perfumers will play around with the composition of fragrances but that is the basic outline of what the formula for a floral-oriental fragrance would look like.

Class Of Summer 2013
Class of Summer 2013 (Floriental Week)

It was fascinating to listen to Ayala explain how the different components and ingredients of a floriental perfume could work together. Perfume is often explained and described in terms of the ingredients or "notes" within a fragrance. Ayala stressed that the ratio of notes within a fragrance is as equally important as the notes themselves. There may be several different versions of a fragrance with similar or the same notes, but each version will smell entirely different based on the amount of each note and the concentration. The subtle but distinct differences between fragrances of the same family was illustrated most vividly when Ayala began passing around different examples of floriental fragrances, some her own creations, some commercial perfumes, and some truly intriguing indie and vintage scents.

I was particularly intrigued by a vintage fragrance that she presented to us called l'Heure Bleue. The perfume was released in 1912 and I was truly surprised at how modern the fragrance smelled.When I used to think of vintage perfumes I would think of heavy abstract florals, thick spices, and animalic, aldehydic notes reminiscent of those on my great-grandmother's dresser. This perfume, created more than one hundred years ago could easily be worn and enjoyed today which made me appreciate the perfume and the perfumer all the more for being able to create a fragrance that can transcend time - not an easy task for an art form as personal perfume.


Floriental Week July 1-5, 2013
Students smelling tea roses at Nelson Park community gardens

During my time as a stand-in student of Ayala Moriel's I found that I most appreciated the way Ayala would connect science with more artistic side of creating a fragrance. What I mean by that is she would tell us about the chemical components of an ingredient and how that would affect a fragrance but would also describe it in imaginative and sensory terms that made it relatively easy for someone like me, with no background in science or chemistry to understand. I also appreciated the way that every lesson was illustrated with examples. If she was trying to show us how carnation blossoms smell similar to clove essences because of their high eugenol content, she would pass around the essences and have us describe any detected differences as well as similarities. Ayala thoroughly saturates you in the content of her lessons, urging you to use every sense while learning. Fragrant snacks (elderflower tea, floral-flavored cookies and bitterly rich dark chocolate), and garden walks allow her students to experience fragrance and explore the different components of fragrances in different ways. It is amazing how one flower, or spice, or balsam can produce essences with completely different aromas. The different facets of natural ingredients are fascinating and really made an impression on me in terms of how complex an art-form perfume-making is. It made me think of music or painting, where tiny brush strokes and notes combine together to create something abstract or simplistic but always emotionally/intellectually impacting. Everyday we are surrounded by different smells, some pleasant and some not so pleasant but they have a strong impact on our perceptions of our environment and on our memories. Fragrance can transport you to a different time, place, or emotional state depending on what you associate with different smells.

Grating Beeswax
Grating beeswax for making solid perfumes
Ceramic Casseroles
Ceramic casseroles for solid perfume making.

The highlight of my week as Ayala's student was the solid perfume workshop. Using beeswax, jojoba oil, and essences we were encouraged to close our eyes and transport ourselves to a place that really represents ourselves and where we feel most alive, inspired, safe etc., a place that we would want to capture and carry with us always. For me that place is Mayne Island, a gulf island close to Vancouver Island. Briar roses, sun-baked blackberries, spruce, pine, broom and salty ocean air are the aromas that are closest to my heart. Using notes of Rosa rugosa, lavender absolute, vanilla absolute, wild frankincense, and ylang-yang I created a fragrance that reminds me of my home away from home and that smells just a little bit vintage-esque because of the frankincense. I named it Marion after my great grandmother who helped build my family's cottage on Mayne Island. It was a meditative but somewhat nerve-wracking experience because of how much a subtle change in the amount of each essence and even the slightest variations of notes can change the entire fragrance. The process of creating the solid perfumes felt similar to cooking and is definitely something I would like to explore for my own enjoyment in the future.

Labradorite Poison Ring
Solid perfume in a vintage poison ring 

Overall what I would say about Ayala's classes are that they are intensive, artistic and scientific, and very hands-on. These are not classes where you will simply sit, read, and memorize. Every one of your senses will be involved while taking her classes. Perfumery is a rich and complex subject and there is always a lot to learn. Ayala has been practicing perfumery for years and years and as she says, even she is learning on a regular basis. In my opinion, the mark of a good teacher is to be able to take a fairly complicated subject and to be able to explain it in easy to understand terms. As Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.". I learned a lot from my couple of hours as Ayala's student even without a base of knowledge to reference.

Truly, perfumery is an art-form that should be further explored and celebrated. It is an incredible form of expression even for those who perhaps don't necessarily want to pursue it as a career. Not only will you develop a new creative skill and outlet but you will become more aware of the aromas and environment around you. I, for example, will never look at a tuberose the same away again after meeting and talking with Ayala about it (such a mesmerizing, multifaceted flower). I encourage anyone who has an interest in aromatherapy or perfume to take one of Ayala's courses, such as her Orientals week-long course from September 30th to October 4th 2013. Registration for this course closes Friday, August 30th at 12 noon PST. 

Hanami Sachets

Hanami Sachets by Ayala Moriel
Hanami Sachets, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
It only took me 2 years from when I received these incredible fabrics (vintage kimono silk) from Japan, to actually making and filling them.

They are hand-stitched (I still need to sew a few more), so very labour intense - a labour of love, if you will. But that's not the true reason for my procrastination. I just did not know what to fill them with!

The solution was partly serendipity, and partly luck. On my last day in Berkeley, I visited Yuko Fukami. She generously gifted me with high-quality Japanese herbs, spices and resins that she in turn received from our mutual friend Ross Urrere. In true Japanese fashion, she beautifully wrapped them with wax-paper, similar to how a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor packages his custom-dosed powdered "herbs" (for all I know, these can range from true herbs and plant matter to minerals and crushed sea-horses, tiger bones, dragon's tails and other mythical creatures body parts).

Japanese Spices, Herbs & Resins
Upon my return to Vancouver, I immediately set to mix together these glorious components, as well as some of my own stashed-away botanicals: dried ume (Japanese sour plum) blossoms, whole tonka beans, and others that for now will remain secret. Crushing the tonka beans with a marble set of mortar-and-pestle was a truly sensual experience. Although there is mostly coumarin in tonka, there is also something else that is nutty and spectacular that you just don't get from the isolate/synthetic molecule alone. I love it! French chefs grate it on microplane and add to chocolate desserts (ganaches, macarons, ice-creams...). In North America it is illegal to use it due to carcinogenic effects. Personally, I think that we are exposed to far more dangerous carcinogens in daily life (your seemingly innocent ink on your grocery receipts has a plastic that is highly carcinogenic, as are most cans used to preserve foods). So I don't feel bad at all making myself a tonka-dessert once in a blue moon.

Crushed Tonka Beans
The sachets were supposed to be a studio-exclusive for my Hanami tea party. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it and will host it either in early May, or next year... So you can now get them online on my virtual boutique. These are very limited edition - I only have enough fabrics and filling for 12 sachets.

The Japanese used incense and sachets just like that to scent their kimonos and stationary so that they will be recognized for their good taste by their lovers (or suiters)... Use these sachets to scent your lingerie drawer, linen closet or stationary. You can also throw it in your suitcase when traveling, or tuck into a wool sweater or jacket's pocket for a lingering scent and to keep moths at bay.

April & May Events Calendar on the West Coast

Who said life on the West Coast is boring? Or scent-less?
I spotted at least 4 events that are taking place within the next 4 weekends alone.


April 11th in Vancouver
 
Photo by Noriko Mahoney

Hanami Tea Party at Ayala Moriel Parfums Studio - co-hosted with Dancing Leaf Design
Awaken your senses this spring with a modern and relaxed tea ceremony!
We will welcome spring with elements that will engage all your senses and delight your soul: 4 hand-blended teas incorporating seasonal local plants, visually inspiring flower arrangements, soothing music, stunning jewellery by Japanese-Canadian designer Noriko Mahoney of Dancing Leaf Design, and of course - the most delightful spring perfumes by Ayala Moriel Parfums.

The party is also a special opportunity to celebrate the new packaging launched for the brand's 12th anniversary; as well as limited edition Hanami sachets (hand-stitched from vintage silk kimonos), and two new soaps. 

Noriko and Ayala will be preparing delightful spring sweets and savoury appies inspired by our Japanese and Middle Eastern heritage. 

For more details, including menu, visit our event page or newsletter.
This event is limited to only 20 people, 10 are already taken - so please RSVP early!

Where:
Ayala Moriel Parfums Studio

314-1230 Haro Street, Vancouver
When:
2-5pm


April 13th in Seattle
Northwest Perfumers Circuit at Blackbird Apothecary in Ballard - hosted by Blooming Dream
Portland-based erfumer and landscaep architext Suzinn Weiss will present her new perfume created espeically for the shop -Blackbird Vert.
Where:
Blackbird Apothecary 
5404 - 22nd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98107
When: 6-9pm

May 5th in Seattle
Artisan Fragrance Salon is heading up to Seattle!
So far the list of perfumers participating includes:
MIKMOI, Artemisia Natural Perfume, Meshaz Natural Perfumes, Blooming Dream Natural Fragrance, Pirouette, Imaginary Authors, Sweet Anthem Handmade Perfumes, Olympic Orchids, Gabriel's Aunt, Rebel & Mercury, House of Matriarch, Jolie Laide Perfume, Coeur d'Esprit Natural Perfumes, and Roxana Illuminated Perfume.
Great opportunity to meet with perfumers and creators face-to-face and make new perfumista friends!

Get your tickets in advance and save


Where:
Pier 66, 2211 Alaskan Way

Seattle, WA 98121
When:
11am-5pm 

May 11th in Los Angeles
LA Scentsation - hosted by Perfume Posse
LA Scentsation will be taking novices and experienced perfumistas alike on an extraordinary day of sniffing, presentations, partying and shopping.  Participating stops on the Scentsation schedule include:
·        Luckyscent Scent Bar
·        Beautyhabit
·        Barneys New York
·        Opus Oils

Registration is limited to about 45 people, and half is already sold out already.
 
Register at PerfumePosse.com

May 11th in Seattle
Northwest Perfumers Circuit at Blackbird Apothecary - hosted by Ayala Moriel Parfums.
Join us for an evening of aromatic tonics and fragrant truffles to celebrate the new scent Ayala Moriel designed for Blackbird Apothecary. More details TBA - the scent is, for now, a secret...!
Where:
Blackbird Apothecary 
5404 - 22nd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98107
When: 6-9pm

24HRS Features Hanami Perfume

Hanami perfume is featured in today's 24HRS beauty section, recommended for both men and women: "Floral and woody, this nature lover's scent is just as sexy on men as it is on women. And because it's not pumped full of chemicals, just a dab of this romance enhancing, pure essence will do".

This spring it's available for the first time in 15ml EDP ($180), and we have a very limited edition of the pure extrait in the beautiful flacons ($300).
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