Lavender Harvest

Lavender Harvest Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm
Last month I had the pleasure and honour to witness (and micro-participate) in lavender harvest at an organic lavender farm on Saltspring Island, BC. No amount of photographs of lavender field in full bloom could have prepared me for the tremendous multi-sensory beauty that they bestow upon those who visit them in person. 

Lavender Harvest & Steam Distillation Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

Lavender Harvest & Steam Distillation Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

Lavender Harvest Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm 

This summer I had the pleasure and privilege to witness and micro-participate in the lavender harvest and distillation at Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm. Nothing could have prepared me for how wonderful the aroma of hundreds of lavender shrubs simultaneously blooming would be. It's an all-immersing experience that is hard to describe in words.

Everything about those bushes - stems, leaves, buds and petals - contributes to a whole experience of a living, breathing lavender, the reassuring presence of the essential oil content, like a whiff at a lavender sachet in one's linen closet, promising a good night's sleep; and the smell of wet twigs and coumarin that emanates from the rest of the plant. I won't lie to you: it smelled quite familiar, like a rich green, paste-like lavender absolute, or an all-natural Fougère fragrance which would at least have some lavender absolute.

The fields, even though relatively small in size (only 2 acres), stretch upon the hillsides of sacred Mount Tuam, and create a very impressive view of Mediterranean-azure against the natural habitat of Canadian. They really are more blue than any other lavender I've ever seen. So saturated with colour, they are almost fluorescent. Nothing like the dull greyish-purple I've been accustomed to seeing.

As expected, the lavender grows in neat rows of puffy blue shrubs, with plenty of space between the rows to stroll around and tend to the plants. The earth between them lined with black sheets to conserve moisture (a most important thing especially with the drought this year!). Another pleasant surprise: As you walk through the rows, golden honeybees are abuzz on every step you take. They are very friendly, and won't disturb your harvest as long as you don't squish them. It was such a rejuvenating experience, that even my daughter, who usually gets rather puzzled and distressed about any agricultural tasks, knew exactly what to do and walked herself gracefully around the bees and made a beautiful lavender bundle all of her own.

Lavender Harvest & Steam Distillation Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

This farm grows 60 varieties of lavender in their educational demonstration plots, including some less known cultivars, such as a "Melissa" white lavender, and Maillette. They had a "U Pick" which is how Miss T and I were able to scavenge the rows of buzzing angustifolia bushes (which they called "English Lavender" for some peculiar reason; their Lavandin, by the way, was called "French"). To be perfectly accurate, this lavender is about as Canadian as could be. And I'd also like to mention: this is not the first lavender farm I've come across. There was one in Quebec near my dad's country house; there's one I heard about in the Okanagan near Osoyoos, and there is also  the Montrose Family Farm nearby on Bowen Island, who comes to the market every August with their lavender bouquets, sachets and handmade wands which they weave on the spot.

What's unique about this farm is that they are fully dedicated to lavender and also distill the oil and hydrosol on the spot. Every year in mid-July they hold a Lavender Festival to commence the lavender harvest season (which normally lasts between July 20 - September 1), and I was lucky to be visiting Salt Spring Island with my mom exactly that weekend. They had live concerts and dance performances, and this year they had an Italian theme so most of the music was arias from Italian operas, and an Italian chef created an entire menu using fresh lavender flowers from the farm - there was pasta with peas, fresh mozzarella, lavender and basil; pizza with eggplant and lavender, and a Sicilian ricotta pie that was on the drier side (a little like a bar with a shortbread-like crust on the bottom and top), and had a ricotta filling dotted with candied lemon peel and the non traditional addition of lavender, of course.

Lavender Harvest & Steam Distillation Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm
There was a distillation demonstration for a couple of hours, in which you could see how they separate the buds from the branches (after they dry them) for filling sachets, etc.); and also how the freshly harvested lavender is being fed to the still and see a little bit of the oil forming on top of the water (see below).

The yield at the farm is about 0.4%-0.5% oil to fresh plant matter in lavender (L. angustifolia), which means you'll need between 200-250 lb of lavender to make only 1 lb of lavender essential oil and 1% for lavandin (L. latifolia), which will require 100 lb to produce 1 lb of lavandin oil. This is low in comparison to a good lavender yield (110 lb to produce 1 lb of oil - which is about 0.9%) and even lower than an average one (150 lb, or 0.66%). I'm guessing there could be a few reasons for that, one being the climate, which is perhaps Mediterranean in Canadian terms; but rather not in Mediterranean terms. No matter how you slice it, the sun pattern is not the same on the 49th parallel as it is at the 43rd (where the Maritimes-Alpes in France are, for example); and moreover, even if there is less rain on Salt Spring than in the rest of the Lower Mainland - it's still plenty of rain, even in a drought year like this year.
Lavender distillation
But more important is the terroir, and in particular the altitude. The farm is situated just a little above sea level. However, lavender that grows in high altitudes not only produces more esters, but also more of them make it to the finished product. The reason is, that in high altitudes, the boiling point of water lowers down to 93c. Therefore, the oils can get produced at a lower temperature, and without destroying as much as the delicate components (such as esters). This is the two-fold reason why lavender grown in high altitude has a superior quality. Nevertheless, the oil at Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm is quite lovely, with hints of an almost chocolate-like sweetness.

Lavender harvest

At the farm's shop you can get all their locally made lavender products, including lavender and lavandin essential oils and hydrosols, body butters and creams, culinary lavender products (herbal blends, lavender-scented teas and tisanes, etc.), and of course - lavender sachets. 

Lavender Harvest Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

Lavender festival
Miss T and I are the king and queen of lavender, at least for the photo! 

The Joys of Floral Hydrosols

Grand Opening: new "water drop bouquet" grow, harvest and delivery service
Water Drop Bouquet, a photo by Steve Wall on Flickr.

Treasure hunting is one of my favorite aspects of going on vacation. Surprisingly, Mayne Island, a tiny island off the coast of Vancouver Island, is my favorite place to find unique knick-knacks, books, jewellery and food. Mayne is truly my heaven on earth and my home away from my home. Everything about it is comforting, from the sights, sounds and smells (briar roses, broom, salty ocean air, spruce, and sun-warmed blackberry bushes) to the people. The island's population is tiny - approximately 900 people and is like a village. Everyone is treated like a friend, doors are unlocked, and local farmers will leave produce unattended on the side of the road next to a jar to put your money in. Now that is what I call trust (something that is relatively foreign in big cities). The local artisans and artists who reside on Mayne are not only extremely talented but genuinely care about each of their crafts and love spending time with customers helping them choose products that they will be happy with and that will suit their personalities and lifestyles.

I get a huge thrill out of scouring the few shops and thrift stores whenever I am there. Almost everything to be found is one of a kind or few of a kind. My big find this year was a six dollar bottle of Rose Geranium Floral Hydrosol. For those who don't know, hydrosols are the distillate water that is produced when plant materials are steamed or hydro-distilled to create essential oils. Hydrosols contain the water-soluble fragrant molecules from plant, unlike essential oils which are what floats on top of the water, and represents only some aspects of a plant or flower. Hydrosols are a pure luxury  and have many properties and applications, their most prominent use being in skin-care.

If you ever tried your own steam-distillation, you can also create a low-tech hydrosol in which the essential oil (non-soluble in water) are not separated from the distillate water, producing a more rounded aroma profile and preserving many of the therapeutic properties of the plant. These can be found among artisan distillers, usually made in very small batches and often from plants that were wild-harvested or collected in their own garden (if you're interested in distilling your own hydrosols, you can find a small copper still and learn this ancient art from renown aromatherapy teacher Jeanne Rose, who is the eldest pioneer of modern-day's natural perfumery.

Though very aromatic, these artisanal hydrosols are much more gentle than essential oils (their essential oil content would be less than 5%) when used for skin care and can be utilized in enhancing your complexion in skincare products, in body care, home fragrances (linen sprays are such example), as well as in food and beverage.


Lavender hill mob
Lavender Hill Mob, a photo by Billy Reed on Flickr

Lavender (Genus: Lavendula, a purple-flowering plant related to mint), is very well renowned throughout the world, not only for its delicate, sweetly herbaceous aroma, but also for its remarkable abilities to soothe and heal the body and mind and its almost miraculous power in healing burns, cuts and wounds. Lavender hydrosol contain full emulsified plant essences (including the water-soluble coumarin) and have a great deal of benefits to the skin and to one's emotional and mental state. Gentle and versatile, lavender is suitable for every skin type, soothing inflammation and providing a cooling sensation when spritzed on the skin. It has regenerative effects on damaged, irritated skin and when combined with oatmeal creates a gentle, deep-cleansing mask. Lavender hydrosols can be used as a cleanser, toner or makeup remover, after shave, air freshener or as a calming facial mist.


Rose Bush
Rose Bush, a photo by Nesha's Vintage Niche on Flickr

Roses have a fragrance that is immediately recognizable and universally loved. Renowned for centuries for their ability to calm the senses and for their positive effect on various aspects of physical health. Roses provide many benefits in terms of skin care. They have a balancing effect of the PH level of one's skin, can help increase circulation and therefore the distribution of nutrients in the skin, and help to regulate the production of sebum in the skin (the oil that skin naturally produces to keep itself healthy and protected, but that in excess can cause breakouts and dermatitis). Rosewater has a lovely, delicate floral flavor and is used in beverages and baking. It is used extensively in Middle Eastern and East Indian desserts. Many people swear by rosewater as a remedy for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) for its ability to balance female hormones. Some people even find it helpful in soothing sore throats.

Rose's antioxidant properties make it most suitable for mature and dry skin. Rosewater and glycerin are a classic apothecary preparation that can be found to this day in most pharmacies, and is applied to either face or hands as a simple lotion. Spritz rosewater every night on your face as a nourishing toner and moisturizer, either alone or layered with a rosewater based lotion or a rose-scented facial serum or rich cream.

Rose Geranium

Rose Geranium
 Rose Geranium, a photo by hello_imac3 on Flickr

From the flowers and leaves of Pelargonium capitatum, this is my personal favorite hydrosol. I love rose geranium for its uplifting, slightly green, almost lemony aroma. This particular hydrosol is great for combination, oily, or blemish-prone skin, and helps to quickly and effectively restore the skin's balance. This was especially beneficial for me in the summer time when the increased exposure to the sun caused my skin to become a little bit more oily (a common side effect of many skin types in response to sunburn and dryness). Rose geranium hydrosol's can be used as a facial mist, toner, cleanser or even as an air freshener. A natural anti-inflammatory and coolant, rose geranium is also helpful for use on sunburns and summer rashes.

Roman Chamomille

Roman Chamomille
Roman Chamomille, a photo by noriko stardust on Flickr

Wonderfully soothing, Roman chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) hydrosols are great for most skin types and are perfect for skin that is extra sensitive, like babies' skin. Incredibly relaxing, Roman chamomile is renowned for its ability to soothe one's jangled nerves and balance the senses. It can ease muscle cramps and can be taken orally to help with intestinal cramps and spasms. It can be used on the skin to ease any kind of inflammation, as a facial toner or spray. It is also a great enhancement when added to a moisturizer or facial mask.

Orange Flower

Neroli, a photo by Starry Raston on Flickr

Orange Flower Water (Neroli water), from the flowers of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium subsp. amara or Bigaradia) is one of the best for reducing stress, with its citrusy floral hydrosol. Very astringent, this floral hydrosol is best for oily and acne-prone skin. For those with normal, dry or sensitive skin, this water should be combined with a more hydrating water such as rose or lavender. This water is optimal for blemish-prone skin when combined with an oil-absorbing clay mask. It should also be used as a toner or as a spritz (when used sparingly as to avoid excessive dryness) to balance skin and to calm anxiety. Orange Flower Water are also very popular in the Middle East, in both desserts and savoury dishes. Along with rosewater, it perfumes many famous confections such as Rahat Loukum, Malabi, and a wide assortment of syrup-soaked baclavas. It will also make a fragrant salad dressing or marinade for poultry or fish, providing a fresh-floral top note.

With so many options out there in terms of beauty products it is very important to research what is best for your skin type and body. Floral Hydrosols are great in that they are one hundred percent natural, affordable, and serve the skin in a multitude of different ways. They are also great for aromatherapy and provide a great deal of emotional benefits. And if you're a foodie - there are countless ways to incorporate them into the kitchen In other words, it is the ideal beauty product for the lover of all things natural, with an appreciation for fragrance.

News from the Nose: ArbitRary Candle, Vetiver Racinettes and Father's Day

Dear Fragrant Friends,

In this newsletter:

  • Father's Day Celebrations
  • New Arrival: ArbitRary Candle
  • Candle Burning Tips
  • Enjoying Scents in Summer
  • Limited Edition: Vetiver Racinettes

Father's Day Celebrations

Two years ago I was fortunate to celebrate Father's Day with my dad going to the Van Dussen Gardens and enjoying a day outdoors among the beautiful plants. This is where I captured this scene of a child sitting on a tree branch, just like in Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant", waiting to be helped down by someone bigger and stronger.

I was talking to my brother today about scents that reminds him of our father. These turned out to be primarily turpentine and paint thinner. He never wore a fragrance and kept a beard so didn't even use as much as an aftershave by way of fragrance products. This is maybe a bit extreme, but most dads, it seems, would go scentless unless they receive gifts of fragrance. And so this is suppose to be the point where I should have a little spiel in my newsletter convincing you to buy a fragrance for your father. Well, I'll be doomed if that's what I'm suppose to do every year on Father's Day for the rest of my career. I trust that you know what your dad likes, and be it an electronic gadget, hardware or a tie, what will really make him happy is your thoughts of him and spending time together with his children.

So instead of advocating for more fragrance shopping (by all means, go for it if you must...) I just wanted to acknowledge that special day coming up on Sunday June 15th and wish you all a Happy Father's Day. It is a secular holiday that celebrates something that is essential and universally meaningful - parenthood, and thanking our parents for all that they did for us. Aside from that, I highly recommend you read my myth-crashing article titled What Makes a Fragrance Masculine?

New arrival: ArbitRary Candle

Ayala Moriel is proud to present the first perfumed candle in our collection: ArbitRary.

ArbitRary candle is based in food-grade soy wax with pure cotton wick. It has a stunning cold throw that is as refreshing and bright as the perfume itself. It burns with its lovely, refreshing

aroma, filling the room gently with its mélange of basil, lime, lemon
verbena, oakmoss and hay.

Each 8oz candle burns for 50-60 hours and retails for $45. They are now available for ordering and will be in stock next week

In all of our products - perfumes, jewelry, teas and now candles - we put quality, integrity and craftsmanship as a top priotiry. When sourcing production from outside of our atelier, we collaborate with independent artisans who are passionate about their art and value quality and integrity in their business just as much as we do. In doing so, we are committed to creating positive change in our world: we give you the best, pure product we can possibly create and also support like-minded artisans and their businesses. This is our way of creating small change in the way business is conducted around the world.
Our perfumed candles are made with attention to purity, quality and detail: each candle is created and hand-poured especially for us by hand by Nikki Sherritt, the talented and passionate artisan candle maker and the founder of Seattle-based, independent candle company Gabriel’s Aunt. The candle was custom-made especially for Ayala Moriel Parfums, based on the perfume formula of ArbitRary. Nikki and I have been working on adding all-natural perfumed candles to

my line since the fall, and we hope that ArbitRary will be received in the enthusiasm it deserves so that we can create more beautiful candles for you (the next candles are going to be gorgeous!).

Candle Burning Tips

To get the most out of your candle, follow these simple steps:

Safety tips:

- Never leave a burning candle unattended

- Place burning candle away from any flammable materials

- Place the candle away from reach of children and pets; keep matches and lighters away from children as well.

- To avoid large flame, always trip the wick before lighting your candle to the recommended length of 1/8”

- Burn the candle away from open windows

How to care for your candle:

- When burning your candle for the first time, burn it for 4 hours straight, or until there a melted wax pool forms on the entire surface of the candle. This will help avoiding the formation of a hole or a “tunnel” in the middle of the candle.

- To ensure an even burn, always trip the wick before burning, and ensure it is centered.

- Burn the candle away from open windows or drafts to avoid uneven burn and enlarged flame

Enjoying Scents in the Summer

In the heat and humidity of summer choosing the right scent to wear isn't easy. There are many factors that don't work in our favour at this time of the year in relation to fragrance:

tends to make scents feel heavy and suffocating. Therefore, try to avoid scents that are already heavy by nature, such as concentrated floral perfumes (particularly the more narcotic notes can come off as overbearing in extreme heat and humidity). Humidity strangely carries the scents in the air and at times even amplifies them. They may not stay for long on your skin with all the sweating but while they do they could linger quite heavily in the air, carried by the moist molecules.
That is why I recommend only the lightest and preferably "dry" scents for those unbearable humid days. Notes such as woods and vetiver, as well as citrus and fragrances with only a light touch of spices and very little floral notes if at all. For example: Bon Zai with its dry vetiver and sandalwood; Lovender's captivating fresh and calming lavender, lemon, sandalwood and iris notes; and last but not least Sabotage - a clean, sophisticated and somewhat soapy concoction of vetiver, tobacco and lemon leaves with a hint of pepper.

Heat increases the evaporation rate of scents and so you may need re-apply scents more often during the summer. Traditionally, citrus and light cologne or eau fraiche type fragrances are worn in the summer. These are very light and not long lasting to begin with and the simple action of applying the scent is perceived as cooling, which adds to their appeal. Aside from using your favourite light summer fragrances you may also want to try using simple floral water to freshen up in the heat of the day. Neroli (orange flower water) and Rosewater are widely available in many Middle-Eastern, Greece and East Indian grocery stores and are fairly inexpensive. Decant some into a spray bottle or a mister and enjoy the cool water on your face, neck and arms. Some other floral waters or hydrosols can be found as well - including sandalwood and vetiver. Likewise, floral waters or pure spring water can be sprinkled on vetiver fans to produce a cooling waft of air.

When it's really hot, I particularly enjoy wearing ArbitRary, with its citrus-herbal notes of basil, lime and verbena; Fetish, bursting with grapefruit, mandarin and rhododendron; and Charisma, with its exotic green-tea, osmanthus and spearmint notes.

Limited Edition: Vetiver Racinettes

Last year, I have conducted an intensive Vetiver Series on SmellyBlog. Aside from articles about the odour profiles of vetiver from different regions, traditional and medicinal uses of vetiver, and reviews of vetiver-centered fragrances - I have shared my own experiences in creating a series of mods for my very own vetiver perfume. One thing lead to another, and after 4 different vetiver versions (Vetiver Blanc, Wilde Vetyver, Vetiver Noir and Vetiver Rouge) - I have finally arrived at a destination that I have never quite planned to find - my very own signature vetiver scent: Vetiver Racinettes.

Vetiver Racinettes was born out of two forces: my curiousity to study this intriguing and versatile note; and a deep need that I can only describe as therapeutic at that time, which lead me specifically to that essence. The result of this vetiver journey is a perfume that contains all of the elements that I've ever loved in the vetiver scents I've tried, as well as my own conclusions from my journey in the route of vetiver. It has the warmth of earth and firey spices and at the same time - the coolness of clay and vetiver curtains sprinkled with water; the medicinal dryness of herbs and grasses and the luxurious tenacity of woods; the sweetness of tarragon and earth with the bitterness of coffee and mud.

Top notes: Black Pepper, Fresh Ginger, Cardamom, Kaffir Lime Leaf
Heart notes: Haitian Vetiver , Nutmeg Asbolute, Coffee, Spikenard
Base notes: Ruh Khus, Indonesian Vetiver, Vetiver Bourbon, Attar Mitti, Tarragon Absolute, Cepes

I had difficult time deciding when to release Vetiver Racinettes; and after consulting with all of my "sniffing bunnies" I have arrived at the conclusion that the summer would be the best time of year to appreciate the calm coolness that it brings while also accentuating the extremist attitude this scent has. And so Vetiver Racinettes is now at your service, as a limited edition for summertime.

Happy Father's Day!

Warm regards,

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