Chez Noir

Chez Noir stands out in Coeur d'Esprit perfumes that I've smelled, with it's very retro, animalic-floral smooth bouquet. What makes this perfume particularly unique is the aging process, something that you don't get to smell much in the fast-paced world. Thanks to several years of maturation (I believe this was created in 2007 and left to mature ever since), and the usage of ambergris, the perfume became very smooth, like a homogenous being with a life of its own. There is a seamless transition from one phase to another, which is the mark of a well-aged perfume. This goes to show you that time is everything in the world of perfume. And that's also the magic of animalic notes, in particular ambergris. You may not smell it in the composition, but it has a unique effect of connecting all the elements together beautifully.

Chez Noir (which I suppose means "Among Black" in French) begins with intriguing licorice accord - the traditional anise is paired with green and sweet tarragon, and piquant cardamom, leading into a smooth floral bouquet of rose, jasmine and ylang ylang in which no particular note stands out, but rather all three flowers give the perfume a put-together, cohesive feel. There is something fruity about it, but not as a syrupy fruit salad, but rather reminiscent of the dried fruit (peach, plum, apricot) you'd find when they just discovered the fruity aldehydes (vintage Femme comes to mind). Following the faux-dried-fruit-phase, a nutty, warm phrase emerges from underneath, hinting at the dry-woody base notes, which converses delicately with the licorice and jasmine.

Licorice is the heart and soul of Chez Noir, with sandalwood in an important supporting role. The sandalwood is rich, warm and spicy. Woody with only a slight hint at lumbar dust. The other striking element is patchouli: a beautifully aged one at that, smooth and musky, without the sharp musty edge that traditionally appeals to those who are trying to mask their pot-smoking habits.

Top notes: Anise, Tarragon, Cardamom
Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Labdanum, Ambergris

Happy Birthday to My Smelly Scorpio Brother!

emperor scorpion BP

Today is my oldest brother's birthday, and I'm wearing (and mailing him another bottle) of the custom perfume I've created for him a few years ago, which I named after his nickname Yoyo.

He is a Scorpio, ruled by Mars and therefore the complete opposite of me (Aries, also ruled by Mars). Scorpio's motto is change, death and renewal, and they live their life with such force that they draw much attention with their charisma, yet once you know them better you realize it's really hard to tell what's hidden inside their shell. In their most dangerous incarnations, they will sting themselves with their own poisonous tail. In their more benevolent role, they are ambasadors of change and are not afraid of create it for themselves and for other, destroying and ridding themselves and those close to them of the unnecessary, and making room for new growth.

Like most men on the planet, my brother wanted his perfume to be irresistible to women; yet some of his favourite scents are very arguably quite revolting. My brother's favourite scents include some scents that are not exactly what you'd think pretty or desirable in a perfume (this is how their order of recollection as he described them for me on the phone in 2006):
Bakery early in the morning
Pipe smoke
Tomato leaves
Earth after rain
Books - both old and new
Gas station
Paint thinner
Leather in a cobbler's shop, and the smell of new leather sandals
Wood-shavings and the smell of a carpenter's shop
Scorched potatoes in a bonfire
The smell of goat's barn from far away

Quite a diverse list with not even a single flower in sight. Sigh...

How do I not make that smell hideous?
By focusing on the leather and the licorice. I built the perfume around licorice notes (star anise and aniseed, but also the lactonic tarragon absolute, to mellow things out and give a suggestion of banana). I also decided for a very unusual exception, to dip into the sample of castoreum that was sent to me by a manufacturer about 10 years ago. So the leather actually included real animalic leather note from poor Russian beavers, mingled with intensely smoky cade (for the scorched bonfire potatoes), dry tobacco absolute balanced with sweet cocoa absolute. For a hint of paint thinners, I opted for styrax, which has a very chemical-like smell (which I'm very fond of, by the way). There are more notes to it, but this is the gist of what Yoyo's perfume is.

And of course, re-blending it, I'm realizing there were essences that I was too scared to add before (costus, for example) that will certainly be fantastic there, and what was I thinking not putting it there? So the 2011 edition is going to be a little bolder and richer, and with more pronounced animalic notes. And it will finally be in a spray bottle like my brother always wanted it to be.

Oh, and by the way - the 2006 version must have been irresistible enough, because he's happily married and expecting a 2nd baby next year.

Happy birthday, Yoyo!

Everything Licorice

What could possibly be more spooky and appropriate for Halloween than licorice?

Both the candy, aroma and Black Licorice perfume, which incorporates sweet notes of rockrose, honey and rose with licorice-drenched star anise, coconutty tarragon absolute and a hint of patchouli.

However, Licorice flavour is not limited to the candy and root alone. The aroma actually exists in aniseed, licorice root, star anise, fennel seeds, leaves and bulb, and herbs such as tarragon and some varieties of basil.

Indigo has violet and anise, an unusual combination that has become somewhat of a classic since the legendary l'Heure Bleue, and is even paired in violet-anise pastilles, but also caraway seeds, which have an air of mystery about them and are used in breads and harvest seed cakes (I even used them in my Madeleine seed cakes), and also tarragon, which has a greener anise note to it.

Vetiver Racinettes also has tarragon, which gives the earthy, dry roots of vetiver a rootbeer-like sweetness.

These aromas of herbs and seeds can all be incorporated into delicious foods during the fall for a warming, savoury-sweet effect. Like I said - licorice is not all about candy!

My ever so popular Tarragon-Fennel tea sandwiches have become somewhat of a classic in my fall tea parties. To make them you will need:

1 Loaf of sliced, dense white or whole wheat bread (such as: brioche or the square breads found in Asian markets - i.e.: T & T and K-Mart)

200gr cream cheese (I prefer the organic cream cheeses, as they are easier to spread and don't have all the extra stabilizers)

2 Tbs. fresh organic tarragon leaves, chopped quite thinly

Grated zest from one (preferably organically-grown) orange

1/4 or 1/2 bulb fennel (depending on size), quartered and sliced thinly

Mixed together the cream cheese, grated orange zest and chopped tarragon leaves.

Spread on both slices.

Sprinkle with one even and thin layer of fennel slices.

Close two slices together and trim away the crusts.

Cut into smaller pieces (i.e.: lengthwise into 3 "finger sandwiches", diagonally into 4 small triangles)


Vetiver Bath

Vetiver Roots 02, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

This afternoon I blended some vetiver bath salts... You may remember from a short while back this summer, I mentioned how unpopular were the Lavender bath salts, and how I was going to replace them with a vetiver scent... The lavender is probably not the problem, but rather - the accompanying notes (or their names... go figure): licorice and vanilla. Vanilla is popular alright, but licorice tends to divide people: most either love it or hate it. Very few feel lukewarm, on the fence or just pleasantly ok about it. And for the most part, it is an acquired taste... There are some cultural preferences around licorice. I knew for quite sometime that most Asian cultures do not enjoy licorice candy or licorice flavour (though they seem quite fond of star anise! Go figure…). And just recently, I learned from my Swiss intern Olivier, that in Europe there is something that is called “the licorice border” that runs along the Elbe river: everyone north of that line loves licorice, and to the south of it – they cannot tolerate it… The border runs along a river.

Back to vetiver: the bath salts I’ve created are a simplified version of Vetiver Racinettes. It has a hint of coffee, spices, wild mushroom and tarragon (can’t escape the licorice, can I?) but really, just a hint. It’s all about vetiver, and a lot of Australian sandalwood to boot – which gives it this smooth woody scent which I find to work beautifully in body products. I used some special salts in this which I’m very excited about: Ancient Canadian bath salts from Saskatchewan, Dead Sea salts from Israel. So you can understand why I’m feeling really at home with this bath…

While my stuffed grapevine leaves were cooking on the stove*, I immersed myself in a Vetiver Ritual Bath this evening and the scent lingered for a long, relaxing hot bath even though I haven’t used that much salt; and my skin still smells delicately of vetiver and sandalwood as I write this.

* You won't believe it! I found some freshly picked leaves in the farmers' market last Saturday and I'm making them for my brother's birthday feast tomorrow... So excited: it's been 2 years since I had these last, probably 3 since I last made them from fresh leaves!!!

The Licorice Side of Herbs

bees love anise hyssop, originally uploaded by Pocket Farmer.

About a week into the game, and my violet-lavender perfume has developed beautifully, softening and at the same time becoming more extremely sweet and powdery. The vanilla I've used in this particular fragrance is a rare find - a food-grade vanilla absolute extracted with
sugar-cane alcohol as a solvent, making it sweet and rum-y. It's as if the iris and the violet have become more creamy and

The other experiment I've blended August 11th, inspired by the ice cream of the day before, still requires more maturation before I can judge it further. So far all I can say is that I'm really enjoying this odd aspect of licorice-y herbs, a side-track of my attempt to marry lavender and basil together. I've used a methyl-chavicol type basil, which is heavier and spicier, with that licorice aftertaste to it. And than of course tarragon oil to accentuate that and tarragon absolute for the base. I have initially intended to use cocoa absolute at the base as well (as you may recall, it was the basil-chocolate ice cream that is to blame). However, I am finding myself using chocolate in too many situations so I'm going to try to stay away from it at least in one of my developments for the lavender-basil theme. I may need to add more tarragon to the August 11th formula to contribute to the overall underlining herbal sweetness and accentuate the licorice aspect of basil a bit further; and than start another one that would have chocolate at the base, just so I have a point of reference (and don't feel like I'm missing out on anything).

And last but not least - this weekend I have promised myself (and a few other people) to make basil-flavoured chocolate truffles. Cross your fingers for me, I really want this to turn out smashing!
  • Page 1 of 2
  • Page 1 of 2
Back to the top