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Licorice Notes

Happy Spooky Halloween!

Today will be dedicated to licorice notes – the notes used to flavour the gooey chewy sticky black candy that is of the signature flavours of this holiday. Licorice notes are strange. They are usually either loved or loathed. Very few people have intermediate feelings about them. The peculiar scent of licorice notes is a reconciliation of contrasts: spicy warmth and minty chill; rough dryness with smooth, mouthwatering sweetness. Perhaps it is the sweetness of licorice that is the most peculiar. I used to chew licorice root as a little girl, and it was a completely sugar-free candy, yet felt very sweet. I am saying “felt” rather than “tasted” because I think the licorice aromas cheat on the senses to create an impression of a sweet taste that is not really there.

Licorice root is not the only source for licorice sorcery. In fact, most licorice candies are flavoured with oils of aniseed, star anise and fennel. Anise is the sweetest of all three, and feels warm and diffusive. Its ability to mask odour only adds to its mystique. Star Anise is a tad more dry, clean and spicy in feel. Sweet Fennel is sweet indeed, with a hint of green. Tarragon is another plant with a licorice aroma, only greener and herbal, with a sense of tangy freshness. Tarragon absolute is a thick, syrupy version of tarragon, accentuating the licorice-candy qualities of this herb.

Here are a few perfumes for the licorice lovers amongst us. These may not mask your body odour when you go fishing or ghost busting, but they sure are olfactory stunners thanks to the mystical presence of licorice notes.

Apres l’Ondee might have been one of the very first scents to use aniseed note “out of the box” and in an unusual context. Here, the obscure quality of anise complements the melancholy of violet and orris.

L’Heure Bleue further expanded on this theme, and here the aniseed note is paired with the almost-gourmand almondy notes of heliotrope, sweet violet, carnation and woods.

Lolita Lempica (Au Masculine) makes a definite gourmand statement that is once again paired with violet. Vanilla and rum add sweetness, and woods and cistus add an underlining pine-like masculinity that is maintained through out the composition. The feminine version is just as high on licorice and anise, again paired with violet, only with a slightly different base (vanilla, tonka, musk and vetiver).

Chinatown takes licorice notes to yet an even more extreme sweetness, as star anise and fennel do in the infamous Five Spice. Like a Five Spice salt, Chinatown creates a strange, sweet and warm sensation, balanced by exaggeration as it is paired with even sweeter white florals and peach juice, and a counterpoint of patchouli and vetiver.

Eau de Reglisse, Caron’s most recent addition to their outstanding collection, takes a different route. Here licorice is taken as it is – the dry root – and infused into a refreshing lemonade drink along with litsea cubeba. The licorice is subtle and is revealed once the sparkling lemon notes of litsea have subsided. It is more like chewing licorice roots than the gooey candy. Eau de Reglisse is an interesting eau, while being cool and refreshing still retains the woody warmth of licorice twigs.

More perfumes with licorice notes:
Anice (Etro)
Anisia Bella (Guerlain)
Jean-Paul Gautier Classique (aniseed top note)
Piper Nigrum (Lorenzo Villoresi)
Salvatore Ferragamo for men
Rive Gauche pour homme
Silver Rain
Indigo
Black Licorice
And two of my Zodiac perfumes: Sagittarius and Cancer

Licorice Recipe: CHOCOLATE & LICORICE LIP BALM

A fun activity that is easy to make. Young children will love making it - and using this fragrantly sweet lip treat.

Ingredients:
4 Tbs. almond oil
2.5 Tbs. coconut oil
3 Tbs. beeswax (unbleached), grated
1.5 Tbs. dark chocolate (at least 85%), preferably unsweetened
1 tsp. honey
1 Capsule Vitamin E
10 drops aniseed oil
10 drop sweet orange oil
(or any mixture of these two oils)


Measure and mix all the ingredients except for the essential oils and vitamin E.
In a Bain Marie (double boiler), melt them all down over low-medium heat.
Once all the ingredients have melted, remove from heat and let it slightly cool off.
Add the essential oils and vitamin E, and pour immediatley into containers. Make sure the consistency is neither too liquid nor too hard to touch and use.

l'Heure Bleue




L’Heure Bleue is one of the true masterpiece by Jacques Guerlain. I see it as standing hand-in-hand with its sisters Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit. There is certain quality that underlines those three masterpieces and makes them even more than an amazingly beautiful-smelling perfume to wear - but truly a work of art.

L’Heure Bleue is sophisticated and anigmatic, and yet has a unique melodramatic peacefulness that definitely does not lack reflective, philosophical melancholy…
When you realize, once the last dusky lights are giving themselves away to the first stars, how beautiful the day was, and how wonderful the deep blue night is, and the world is so vast and immeasurable and so full of beauty that it may even make you want to cry…
This moment of beauty is so eternal that it makes you feel your mortality in a painful way. Still, you are content with yourself and your life that you know if it will be taken from you that moment, you will feel complete and in perfect harmony with the universe…

You breathe in the silent fresh air of your warm summer garden… The night blooming jasmine is beautiful and intoxicating… The grass that has been just watered, full of murmurs and insects’ summer-songs… The orange blossom flowers are just folding themselves for a long, peaceful night sleep. You pick a late blooming rose, a deep, velvety-purple-crimson rose, her petals already soft after warming up in the sun for the past three days. You hold the rose and fondle the petals and hold them against your cheeks to sense the warm scent of a mature rose releasing the peak of her last fragrance into the night air... And it is all part of you now, there is no need to hold on to it.

Those beautiful, magical notes interweave with each other so gently that it is hard to tell one from the other. Together they create one impression that in my mind I visualize as a very earthy brown colour, though somewhat rich and copper like. I simply cannot see a deep blue when smelling l’Heure Bleue, though the different notes on their own make sense and tell the story of this time of the day:
There are the subtle citrus and anise top notes that are there to accentuate the soft florals, including violet flowers, and link them to the deeper base notes.
The root of the composition, apparent from first application, is a soft and bittersweet heliotrope, combined with tonka bean that accentuates the softness, yet also possesses the bitter-almond-like undertones. Vanilla and orris root are also present, to support the overall powderiness and soft, mature and philosophical nature of l'Heure Bleue.

The drydown is somewhat more smooth and ambery (though it is hard to see l’Heure Bleue as an oriental per se –it has such a unique individuality and perhaps deserves not to be categorized at all…Just like Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko, I am afraid it does not quite fit into categories…)– The drydown is a bit less powdery, with a vanillic accord. It also has some woody notes in the drydown – I suspect vetiver, but cannot quite pin point it. I will not be surprised to find some oakmoss in it either, though not in a chypre context but an oriental context, and perhaps some underlining spices that are subtle and are not meant to be recognized but rather create a warm undernote to support the rest of the scene.

There is something in it that totally reminds me, surprisingly, of Mitsouko – the fruitiness that is quite dry, bittersweet (dry peach like notes in Mitsouko, and the cherry-like notes in l’Heure Bleue); and a certain dark woodiness at the base that is interesting, mysterious, hard to grasp – but once you get it you are totally captivated!
The fruitiness of l’Heure Bleue lasts much longer though – as it originates in the heliotrope base notes, rather than the peach top notes in Mitsouko (that most people find they fade just a bit too quickly after been exposed…).

Top notes: Bergamot, aniseed
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Rose, Violet, Carnation, Orris root
Base notes: Heliotrope, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Woods, Spices

L’Heure Bleue is probably the most incredible inspiration one could have ever found for a perfume – the name is beautiful, captivating, alluring, enchanting...
Initially, the fragrance itself did not do the same thing to me - It seemed to be extremely sweet, with a dominant, bittersweet heliotrope note in it, and dries down to a rather interesting and comfortable ambery-powdery vanilla. It wasn’t until I tried l’Heure Bleue in pure parfum that I got to enjoy, understand and appreciate it more – although I believe I only touched the surface of this aromatic mystery. It smelled intensley of jasmine when I smelled it directly from the bottle, and from there the images started flowing...

When I first heard about l’Heure Bleue I was so fascinated with the inspiration for it that I decided to create my own interpretation for such a magical hour. It immediately made me think about my mother – an enigmatic lady (I am still trying to figure her out…), she is an aquired anosmic who always loved anise and velvet. I created for her the perfume Indigo, an enigmatic concoction of anise, caraway, bergamot, boronia, orange blossom, jasmine, violet, spices, incense and amber. To be honest, there is hardly anything in common between the two fragrances, left for a few notes and the insipration. Indigo is soft and cool as satiny-velvet, and smells like a nightfal in the Wadi – the dried riverbed, full of luscious greenery and vegetation, and the sounds of frogs and crickets.

I only learned about l’Heure Bleue’s sweetness after creating Indigo (I didn't find l'Heure Bleue until after I created my own interpretation for that inspirational and magical hour). So, once I actually smelled the original creation I must admit I was somewhat confused and initially, perhaps a bit disappointed: it was not what I expected, it did not make me think about the blue hour – until after I worn it several times in the parfum form, which unfortunately is becoming harder to find by the minute…Like Mitsouko, I think it takes rare personality to carry it through easily and without tapping into it first…

Now that I have given l’Heure Bleue a chance, and tried it several times, I must confess that I understand why this classic has survived two world wars as well as the currently overwhelming age of perfumery.

p.s. Although the other concentrations are nice too, the pure parfum is for sure the best one. The Eau de Parfum is quite true to the parfum, while the Eau de Toilette is more similar to Apres l'Ondee. The other concentrations will be reviewed later.

Artwork: Frank Holmes - Blue Twilight
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