Immortelle l'Amour Soap

Helicrysum italicum

It takes a bit of imagination and creative formulation adjustments and changes to translate some of the perfumes into soaps. Last month, I've whipped up the first version of Immortelle l'Amour soap, which was tricky because immortelle (Helicrysum italicum) is one of the most expensive perfume and aromatherapy materials. The bars have been curing nicely for a month now, made with decoctions and oil infusions of the fresh and dried plants from my organic garden; as well as cinnamon, chamomile, marigold and vanilla beans and powdered cinnamon bark. A little bit of maple syrup added in the as well!

The result is delicious, albeit not exactly like the perfume. It has the same sweet intensity but a little more fresh and light because I did not use the heavy, curry-like immortelle absolute (otherwise nobody would have been able to afford it).

The soaps will be ready and wrapped April 17th, but you can already order them online now!

Ingredients (In order of presence in the formula):
Saponified Virgin Coconut Oil
Saponified Olive Oil
Saponified Shea Butter
Saponified Palm Kernel Oil
Saponified Cacao Butter
Jojoba Oil
Maple Syrup
Vanilla Paste
Natural Immortelle l'Amour Perfume Blend (Benzoin, Peru Balsam, Sweet Orange, Cinnamon Leaf Oil, Marigold, Chamomile)
Cinnamon Powder


New Immortelle l'Amour Tea

Floating maple leaves by Ayala Moriel
Floating maple leaves, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
The other day I had a "Eureka!" moment, when upon blending the 2nd version for my Immortelle l'Amour tea (which was discontinued a couple of years ago, when my tea blending master Dawna retired from the business - though I always hope only temporarily! Her tea blends are exceptional and inspiring). So the moment it got to where I wanted it to be made my heart skip a beat: I smelled the blend, and it reminded me both of my perfume, and of Dawna's original blend. I had to steep a few teapots before sharing the news (what if it was just that scoop that tasted like this?); and yesterday it passed the final test, as I shared a tea pot with this tea's greatest fan - my friend Dean. While it is obviously more vibrant and fresh than what I have left from the previous tea version, I think I've finally nailed it down. Yay!

It was a tremendous challenge to source all the ingredients I needed to re-create the blend, and have my own seal of approval of it, and embed my own interpretation of tea into the project. The first new tea blends I released (Charisma and Zangvil) were my own original blend, so it was a lot easier to simply go wild and blend the best imaginable tea surrounding the chosen ingredients, and with reference to the perfume as a starting point. Both were a purely creative adventure. Charisma being my very first tea blend ever, which was based on a blend of fresh spearmint and verbena leaves with jasmine green tea (and had to be modified for a dried herb and tea blend); and Zangvil being a multi-faceted tweaking project for a very clear vision of a perfumed tea I had in my mind.

With Immortelle l'Amour and with Roses et Chocolat the challenge was greater. First of all, sourcing wise, it was a lot more difficult than I even imagined to source the tea leaves themselves (the black teas for Roses et Chocolat; and the rooibos - as common as it may seem, is difficult to source high quality in bulk, while meeting various wholesale companies' minimums...).

Recently, at long last, things came together in the tea frontier. Partly because deadline was pushing and I really didn't want another winter to pass without my teas. But the other part must have been serendipity, and I was able to work with one of the leading tea importers in town - Pedro Villalon from O5 Tea Bar - and source a few of the missing tea leaves. I now have organic rooibos of the best quality I've ever encountered for Immortelle l'Amour; and a few other teas that you will meet later on in my upcoming new tea blends...

Immortelle l'Amour Tea Blend 2013

My new version of Immortelle l'Amour is based on a robust, full-bodied organically grown red rooibos, a tad malty, reminiscent of vanilla-scented tobacco, ripe apples and is utterly smooth and sweet as it is. With the added elements of Yellow petals of organic calendual add a fiery visual effect that truly reflects the tea's warmth and golden sweetness.

Immortelle l'Amour tea is prepared by steeping the tea in boiling hot water for at 5 minutes. Another brew can be made by re-steeping - resulting in a milder tasting liquor, but still very fragrant and flavourful. Double steeping is rarely a possibility with rooibos teas, so you can only imagine how excited I was about the potency of this tea!

Immortelle l'Amour tea has a very smooth, almost velvety finish, and a sweet aftertaste. It is delicious on its own. For added sweetness and to exemplify the maple-theme of the perfume it was based on*, add a few drops (but no more than 1/2 teaspoon) of maple syrup. And to make it even more luxurious - add a splash of whole (and preferably non-homogenized) milk.

Suggested pairing: this tea will make a wonderful addition to brunch affair with cinnamon waffles or whole wheat pancakes, served with real maple syrup, of course! It also makes a luxurious, relaxing evening or afternoon tea on its own or with a slice of pumpkin pie or with few dried Gala apple chips on the side. Kids particularly like this tea, as it is sweet and fruit and flavourful but gentle on their delicate palates. For a grownup's nightcap, add a shot of whiskey to a warm cup of Immortelle l'Amour tea and stir with a cinnamon stick! 

The next phase is completing the design and print of the label - and of course going to production and making a first larger scale batch. I'm excited and thrilled that it will not only be ready in time for my Halloween Tea Party, but also for the inaugural Vancovuer Tea Festival which I'm part of, taking place November 2nd, 11am-5pm at the Creekside Community Centre in the Olympic Village (1 Athlete Way, Vancouver). You can get your advance tickets for the festival, and also pre-order your own tin of Immortelle l'Amour Tea (please note that it will come in a 2oz white tin, the new tins like the one I was using for the Charisma and Zangvil teas - I just have to wait for the labels to be ready before I can do an Immortelle l'Amour tea photoshoot!). 

* Immortelle l'Amour is a perfume that revolves around the theme of immortelle or helicrysum flower, which is reminiscent of maple and fenugreek

Smells Like Canada, 2013 Edition...

Maple & Asphalt

Happy Canada Day!

Last year I did a little post and giveaway for Canada Day, which was spontaneous and completely improvised... Today I'm preoccupied with teaching my Floriental week-long intensive course, so I'll keep it short.

 I'd like to add a few more smells to the growing list of Canadian odours I'm fond of and sentimental about:

Artemisia is the true (Latin) name of what most refer to as "sage". This sacred plant is burnt by the First Nations of Canada at the beginning of rituals to clear space of all negative energy. I begin with this unique plant as a gesture to the original people of this country and as a gesture for healing for the many wounds that the Europeans have inflicted on them ever since landing in the "New World". The local "Sage" has an overwhelmingly intoxicating aroma (wormwood is the only comparison I can make - and technically it IS wormwood). Tannin, acrid, full of ketones and strongly herbaceous and medicinal-bitter. That should make all the negative stuff go away, for sure. 

Elderflowers have became an annual obsession last year, when I made cordial for the first time from flowers I bought at the farmers' market; followed by a few more batches of cordial and tinctures from wild-foraged flowers. Their scent has a unique character, simultaneously fruity-berry-like (cassis comes to mind) as well as honeyed-floral and slightly green. If you missed the foraging season, try buying dry flowers and mixing them with osmanthus. Also, Shaktea's Elderlower Cantaloupe Tea is spectacular (green darjeeling with elderflowers, cantaloupe, rhubarb and other botanicals). It makes a fantastic iced tea as well.

Juniper and Canadian Gin:
Juniper are a quintessential foresty scent that is unique as it is not just a straighforward coniferous scent; but also woodsy and spicy at the same time, with a clean and elegant appeal. 
A few years ago, the most exotic gin you can get was Tanquary Ten and Hedricks' Gin. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to find the shelves at the liquor store brimming with local offerings, including oak-aged gin from Vancouver Island, and this particularly strange number, Ungava gin, featuring arctic botanicals such as Nordic juniper berries, rose hips, Labrador tea, cloudberry, crowberry and an "arctic blend" of secret botanicals. It has a beautiful bright yellow colour, and goes well with elderflower liquor, bitters or cordial to make a very refreshing and Canadian-forest like cocktail!

Red Cedarwood:
Nothing says "Pacific Northwest" better than red cedar (also known as cherry cedar). The oil is hard to come by, and is a little harsh and intensely smoky, but also got some interesting fruity-berry nuances that are not unlike cherries. It also strangely reminds me of the Canadian whiskey, Crown Royal: Burning yet sweet.

Castoreum is probably one of Canada's most important contribution to the world of perfumery. It goes oh so well with birch, another Canadian tree reminiscent of wintergreen, and that can be produced into "birch tar" by destructive distillation.
 Douglas Fir:
Douglas fir is a uniquely fragrant tree, also special for the Pacific Northwest. Its needles are deliciously packed with vitamin C and can be added to your drinking water for an added tangerine-like flavour, and - vitamin C. In the springtime, pick the new buds that are as soft as silk tassels. Dry them and prepare a sweet and sour citrusy wild tea. It's also wonderful blended with jasmine tea, which reminds me of my perfume Fetish (the perfume features the deliciously jam-like balsam fir absolute).

Sliced rhubarb reminds me of the ocean and ozone and it is ever so refreshing with its sour crunch. Also a recent discovery of mine (and I'm sure the plant is not unique to Canada but also is ever so popular all across North America); but to me it's as distinctively Canadian as cranberry and maple.

Also a sacred plant to the First Nations, Tobacco was used for healing and for the famous "Peace Pipe". It's use in perfumery is limited, but it makes its mark in the Chypre-Tobacco category and in Leathery perfumes. Also will go well with the abovementioned birch.

Leave a comment with more ideas for what smells like Canada (and Native American botanicals of significance), and enter to win a mini of Immortelle l'Amour - which is about as Canadian as it can get, reminiscent of maple syrup poured over hot cinnamon waffles!

Tragic Love Stories, Bottled

I've decided to dedicate my 4th annual Valentine's Day tea party to broken hearts - those of us who are suffering from unrequited love, or are simply lonely on this day that's supposed to be celebrated in a twosome.

There is no real of art more obsessed with love, passion and desire than perfume. Nearly all perfumes are a promise of a love potion; an elixir so irresistible that it will capture your heart's desires, and lure in new ones... And some were inspired by the most tragic love stories. Others, even more so inspiring, by the perfumer's real life stories, agony and muses.

Let's begin with the house of Guerlain. More than any other perfume house I know, their perfumes bottle love stories and are usually inspired by women and created first and foremost to be worn on a woman's skin.

Jicky (1889) In 1864, Aimé Guerlain had to interrupt his studies in England and return to the family's business due to the illness of his father, Pierre-François. Him and his brother, Gabriel, now had to take charge of all aspects of the company - and his role was as perfumers, while his brother's was to take care of the business and marketing side of things. Years later he created this masterpiece, and although another story says this was his nickname for his nephew, Jaqcues - another story says this was the name of the lover he left behind in England.

Mitsouko (1919) is inspired by the heroine of Le Bataille (The Battle) - a novel about a Japanese girl who was abandoned by an American naval officer who married her, got her pregnant and never returned to her. She tried to perform harakiri but was found by one of her maids, who saved her life. The perfume is redolent of Asian woods, spices and delicate aldehydic peach note.

Nuit de Noël (1922) was created by Ernest Daltroff with his muse, lover and business partner
Félicie Vanpouille. She was a dressmaker by profession, and became Caron's legendary package and bottle designer. Her creations really completed the perfume and together the couple created masterpieces in both visual and olfactory aspects. She always turned down Daltroff's proposals, so they never married. But, she did become an equal partner and shareholder in the business, and when Daltroff fled Nazi-occupied France to Canada (he was Jewish) - he gave her the entire Caron company. He died two years later from cancer - or was it a broken heart? 

Shalimar (1925) was inspired by the tragic tale of Shah Jahan (an Indian king) to his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died in child birth and left him broken hearted. The perfume is named after the gardens of shalimar, where the royal lovers spent their happy times together before her untimely death. Next to them Shah Jahan build the Taj Mahal - a tomb and monument for Mumtaz Mahal. His resting place is adjacent to it, so he can watch her monumental beauty for many years. The perfume contains all the abundance of the imaginary oriental garden and is presented in a bottle that resembles a water fountain - or a fruit bowl. Take your pick.

Femme (1944) was released by Marcel Rochas as a coming-of-age tribute to his wife, Hélène. It was, however, created earlier by Edmond Roudnitska, with whatever raw materials he had from a raw material supplier he worked with. The materials were inevitably aged during the war and he quality of the perfume has a certain darkness to it that truly reflects its time. Despite the gravity of the events outside, Roudnitska maintained his creative spirit and his commitment to his art. And that, to me, is the true love story behind this perfume.

Chamade (1969) is the name of a particular military drum beat, and also doubles as the heartbeat of surrender - to love, of course. Jean-Paul Guerlain said he created it for a certain woman in mind - but won't reveal who she was. With notes of black currents, ylang ylang and green galbanum over a base of vanilla and oakmoss it was one of the perfumes that predicted the sharp-angled greens of the 1970's.

Love Story in a Bottle
Please leave a comment with perfumes that were inspired by a love story - tragic or otherwise. Among the commentators, there will be a lucky draw on Friday, February 22nd, to win a package with a mini of Immortelle l'Amour - my own contribution to the world of broken-heart-inspired perfumes.

Monkey Monday Winner (Smells Like Canada)

Happy fragrance summer to all Canadian perfume lovers!
Congratulations to Il Graham, winner of our Smells Like Canada contest of last week. My apologies for taking forever to make the draw. I've been on the road so to speak and immersed completely with the Artisan Fragrance Salon and all the events around it, not to mention visiting our neighbours to the south ;-)
Please email me your mailing address so I can ship your prize to you - a mini of the deliciously Canadian and maple-syrupy Immortelle l'Amour!

We will return on Monday with another Monkey Monday contest + giveaway.
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