The Different Company's Osmanthus

Linden Blossom

Sometime in the spring, I took the train to Tel Aviv for a day of fun with my daughter. Among other things, we went to Individual in Neve Tzedeq, a new perfume boutique that carries only niche brands, among them Different Company. It was a chance to revisit Osmanthus, a fragrance that from my memory captured best the elusive scent of this tiny flower while it's still intact on the bush. The absolute does not portray an accurate picture, although it is gorgeous on and of itself. I only had a chance to smell white osmanthus one evening in San Francisco at Ineke' private fragrant garden. It's the kind of scent one could ever forget. The osmanthus incense my friend Noriko brought me from Japan also comes pretty close to it, and does not smell terrible artificial even though it is.

The shop owners at Individual are evidently passionate about perfume, and know how to sell it (not being pushy is crucial, as is giving samples to try at home several times). I've revisited the sample of TDC Osmanthus over the course of a few months now, and I'm still on the fence if to get it or not... But before I launch into describing my experience with this scent, a word of caution to any perfumer trying to recreate this scent or even attempt to compose with osmanthus absolute: it is extremely challenging. That is not to say that there aren't any gorgeous perfumes with that scent, or that it's impossible to work with, or to discourage one from trying; but the results are more often watered down florals that lack body or character, except for a very artificial and synthetic feel (the examples for this genre of osmanthus approach are many, from to the swimming-pool clean l'Eau d'Issey or whitewashed Pure White Linen to the fruity-shampoo persona of Nuit de Cellophane). Some of the natural and niche perfumeries have churned up descent or interesting perfumes in which osmanthus is the star of the show - Osmanthus Oolong and Un Crime Exotique are two of my all-time favourites.

TDC Osmanthus starts realistic and promising, with that mysterious, fruity yet powdery, diffusive and  delicately ephemeral live osmanthus on the bush; yet there is a slightly oily element which interrupts this harmony. This is not uncommon in osmanthus absolute, by the way. There could be a tad of a rancid oil off-note. As long as it's just a hint, that's okay. Then it becomes  bit more honeyed and before you know it - it turns into realistic rendition of living linden blossoms in mid-June. Like  whiff of blue skies on a cool summer morning. Bright and fresh like crisp linens off the laundry line, with hints of iced tilleul tea. It is pretty, but I'm missing some kind of a darkness or body or a contrasting point that would make it more interesting and less linear.

Approaching Coal Harbour


This week I've finally created a batch of Coal Harbour, which I intend to close the Perfume4aPlace series dedicated to my favourite spots in Vancouver. However, the concept of Coal Harbour perfume predated all the other scents. In fact, it was in one of those morning walks about five years ago in Coal Harbour that I knew I would soon have to leave the city. Walking there and watching the aquaplanes take off and land on water I felt a pang of melancholy, knowing how much I love the marine aspect of the city. And so I promised myself to make a Coal Harbour perfume before I leave, as a goodbye present to the place I've called home for nearly 18 years.

This idea of course was the seed of the entire collection. And as the time to leave approached, I began rolling out the scents. I felt reluctant to launch Coal Harbour, because deep inside I knew that would mean the last farewell. So I did this gradually, with one perfume in each season... Komorebi in the fall of 2015, Sunset Beach in the winter of 2016, Lost Lagoon in the spring, and finally Coal Harbour for summer.

The scent is now maturing in the vat - a concoction that echoes the juxtaposition of natural aromas in their urban surrounding, contrasting marine notes, fresh cut grass and linden blossoms with the penetrating aroma of jet fuel.

The perfume is still in the maturing phase, but you can pre-order a sample (or, if you know you like marine-leathery-green scents, an entire bottle in your choice of eau de parfum application - mini splash bottle, roll-on and larger spray bottle.

The Smell of Freedom - 2014 Edition of "Smells Like Canada"

MRS. LANDINGHAM: Consumer Reports rates it very high. It's very safe. And when you get inside, there's this... (Mrs. Landingham gestures, trying to find the right word).
BARTLET: Smell? MRS. LANDINGHAM: How did you know?
BARTLET: It's the smell of freedom...and the chemicals they treat the dashboard with.

(Aaron Sorkin, "The West Wing", S2 E21 "18th and Potomac")

I've covered almost any scent that I consider Canadian in the last 2 years since I've started "Smells Like Canada". Douglas fir, maple syrup, rhubarb, tobacco, mildew, snow, artemisia (known in this parts of the world as "sage" even though it's not), elderflowers, Canadian gin, cherry red cedar, and castoreum from the Canadian beaver. To that list I can only add two more scents that somehow got ignored in previous years:
1) Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) aka False Acacia - a native to the Eastern parts of the continent; and which smells like a sweet blend between heliotrope and orange blossom.

2) Linden blossoms (Tilia vulgaris) which although are not native to here, are in full bloom at this very moment, and line many of the streets and boulevards of Vancouver, painting the city's olfactory landscape with the colour of clear, blue sky.

3) Sweet Grass (Hierochloe odorata), aka Holy Grass or Vanilla Grass -
neatly braided and ceremonially burnt by the prairie First Nation people for its coumarin-sweet character to invite positive energy into the circle (after it's been cleansed with sage).

This year I want to focus on what freedoms smells like. To the fictional American President Bartlett it's the smell of new car. What is it to you?

To me it's the smell of chlorine as you approach the pool in the summer. The smell of hay stacks on which you can jump and free-fall with complete oblivion to any risk of injury. The scent of saltwater and marine life at low tide - complete with fermented seaweed, muscles and barnacles and jet fuel and boat fuel. And the knowledge that for the next few hours the world's worries will come to a halt because you're at the beach. The smell of coconutty tanning oil and tropical sunscreen won't hurt either. But now I'm really getting carried away...

No matter what smell association freedom, summertime or Canada has to you - freedom itself is priceless. And the commitment to this value is what makes this country so special. Of course it doesn't hurt that we're not really at war with anyone, at least not at our borders. Which of course makes for a lot less conflict of interest between "freedom" and "safety". Something that a lot of Canadians are either not aware of - or just haven't ever needed to experience that kind of conflict.
To be a Canadian means to live in peace, in a country where everyone is indeed considered equal, and where the mandate in public schools is to educate our young children to accept the other without prejudice. As long as public schools are open (which is a whole other issue...). Additionally we get to drink clean water and breathe pure air. Or at least cleaner and purer than many other countries - both industrial and third world ones. Yes, we can be better, but that does not mean we should not appreciate what we do have going for us. Not to mention we don't need to worry about our kids getting kidnapped, or murdered, by terrorists, and that pretty much tops it all, doesn't it? 
We are truly blessed.

And now, to this year's contest: What does freedom smell to you? Add your thoughts in the comment section, or add any Canadian smells that I might have missed.
Winner gets a mini of my Gaucho perfume, which is the closest thing to the smell of sweetgrass; and incense cones that are inspired by the First Nations ceremonial smudging. It has tobacco leaf and sage (true sage from the Mediterranean, not the white sage grown locally). It smells amazing, and I only share this with very few people.

Eau du Ciel

Eau du Ciel is all about linden blossom, and has one of the more realistic rendition of the ephemeral scent that wafts in the air when walking under linden trees in mid summer: the honeyed blossom, green twigs and tender leaves swaying in the cool summer breeze of late June.

The initial honeyed, characteristic linden blossom note is quite realistic, yet very fleeting, and quickly subsides. Here enters neroli, with its cool, elegant and slightly woody character. Petitgrain contributes to the dimension of crisp tree foliage. And underneath it all, a bittersweet, slightly powdery aroma of coumarin (new mown hay) softly brushes at your ankles. The final dryout notes also are reminiscent of green tea.

Eau du Ciel is very aptly named, as it is as spacious as the blue sky and light as feather clouds on a sunny summer day.

Lime vs. Linden

Lime by Ayala Moriel
Lime, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Linden is often referred to confusingly as “lime blossom” (which is its common name in Britain) It should not be confused with the citrus lime (Citrus aurantifolia), which bears the green lemon-like fruit that you might know from Mexican cuisine.

The two thing the two have in common in the confusing nomenclature; other than that - they share nothing in common, neither botanically nor olfactory wise.

Linden Blossom

Linden Blossoms (Tilia vulgaris) tree are prized for the flavour they lend to honey, and are also used as an herbal remedy when steeped in hot water to make a tisane often called “tilleul”. Linden blossom are very calming and are used in folklore and herbal medicine to treat conditions such as hysteria, anxiety, cold and fever, palpitations and migraines. Similarly, it is used in aromatherapy to treat insomnia, migraine and other stress related conditions. Also used for cramps, indigestion and liver pains.

Linden absolute is solvent extracted from the dried flowers and the "leaf" attached to it. It is thick and sticky, dark green semi-solid mass. It is hard to work with and has to be diluted in alcohol for its aroma to be fully appreciated. Linden absolute is mildly sweet and herbaceous, dry, dry grass and hay-like, and somewhat floral and honeyed, reminiscent of a sweet herbal tea.

There is also a CO2 that is harder to come by, that is clear, with more intense honey notes, lighter yet sweeter, and less reminiscent of hay (in both scent and appearance).

Use in perfumery, the aroma of Linden Blossom is unusual and rarely used. It adds a honeyed, green, floral-herbaceous and slightly wine-like note and helps to balance sweet florals such as jasmine and tuberose, as well as sweeten and mellow green, citrus and herbal accords.

The principle constituent of linden blossom is farnesol. This may explain why it is not commonly used in mainstream perfumery. Farnesol is significantly cheaper as a synthetic than the linden blossom absolute (and obviously is often used to adulterate the true absolute...). Therefore, it is not surprising that linden blossom as a note is fairly rare overall. A few perfumes that incorporate linden blossom are mostly delicately green, fresh, light floral, for example: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Goddess, Fresh’s Violet Moss (1997), L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse au Papillons , Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani Absolute (2003) and Parfums Delrae Début (2004).

Linden Blossom Soliflores are far and few, and are not nearly as popular as other soliflores:
Aftelier’s Linden Blossom (discontinued, but available through their website as special order through the Product Archives page), D’ORsay Tilleul (1995), Jo Malone’s French Lime Blossom (1995) and l'Artisan Parfumeur L'Été en Douce (2005) and Annick Goutal's Eau de Ciel (1986).

Natural Perfumes Containing Linden Blossom:
JoAnne Bassett’s Le Voyage (2000), Aftelier’s Linden Blossom (see above) and FiFi finalist Honey Blossom (2010), Ayala Moriel’s Kinmokusei and now discontinued soliflore Tirzah.

Lime (Citrus aurantifolia, and on rare occasions also a type called Citrus limetta will be found - which is the finest of the all) was probably originated in the East Indian archipelago, from where it made its way to South America, and also spread to Iran, Arabia and East Africa (where it is often called "Persian Lime"). Lime is more often than never produced from the green, unripe fruit (if you are ever picking lime at the store and want sweetness - get the yellow ones!). Lime is a unique and unusual citrus notes in several respects, and is extremely versatile in its uses in the flavour and fragrance industry (both fine and functional). It is produced in two different methods - expression and steam distillation, producing two slightly different profiles:

Expressed lime oil is the preferred raw material for perfumery, since it has more complexity and also has better tenacity. Expressed lime oil is produced by either hand-pressing the peels only; or expressing the entire fruit with special machinery (the peel is very thin, and the fruit is quite uneven in size and shape) and separating the essential oil from the juice with a centrifuge. The two methods will be slightly different smelling, and the yield lower than that of distilled lime: It has has a full-bodied, green, spicy, woodsy aroma, with sweet, lactonic undertones. It is complex, featuring much less of the characteristic citrusy limonene molecule (which has a mild lemon-orange scent) than is noticeable in other citrus oils; and has woodsy-coniferous character (from both alpha and beta pinene), slightly medicinal/green aspect from 1,8-cineole (the main constituent in Eucalyptus), and other peppery-spicy molecules. Curiously, it also contains methyl anthranilate (grape-wintergreen smelling molecule that occurs in many "white florals"), as well as coumarin, which gives it a lactonic, coconutty finish that makes it so suitable for tropical beach scents. On another more technical note, the combination of methyl anthranilate and aldehyde rarely occurs naturally. It is what is called "Schiff's Base", which most perfumers try to avoid, as it creates discoloration and odour-changes down the road.

Steam distilled lime oil is produced either from the acid juice of the unripe fruit, or from the crushed peels. It is most commonly used in flavouring, and the distillation process is not only cheaper, but also preferred for this use because it takes off some of the characteristic bitterness and "dry mouthfeel" that expressed lime oil (from the peel) has. Its "sweet" character is probably due to oxygenated compounds such as citral, aliphatic aldehydes (C-8 to C-10). The freshness comes mostly from limonene.

Most people will probably prefer the distilled lime oil over the expressed one because it smells more familiar from the flavoured lime products we are all exposed to: You will probably notice right away the similarity of the aroma of this oil to that found in many soft beverages (i.e.: cola) and lime flavoured candies or bubble gums. Steam distilled lime essential oil has the same distinctive lime fragrance as the expressed, only that it is sweeter, rounder and less green upon opening. The dryout, however, is less sweet and refined than the opening and becomes dry, woody, almost rough textured upon drydown.

You would find lime oil in many applications for household use (because of its solvent and anti-microbial properties). Most commonly - blended with pine and lemon oils and their derivatives for bathroom cleaners of the "Pine-Sol" type. And, as I mentioned earlier, it's a huge hit in soft beverages like cola (along with cassia and cloves), citrus-flavoured sodas (ginger-ale, 7-Up, etc.).

In fine fragrances, you're like to find lime in many masculine fragrances, where its woodsy personality blends so well with the typically masculine woodsy bases, as well as in fougere (it adds an extra dose of coumarin to the mix, along with tonka bean, hay or synthetic coumarin), and has interesting effects in Chypre, Coniferous and even floral compositions, where its brisk freshness serves a contrast to other more intoxicating notes.

Examples: Dior's Eau Sauvage (1966), Miller Harris' Citron Citron (2000), Ayala Moriel's ArbitRary (2001) and Lime & Cacao; Jo Malone's Blue Agava & Cacao (2006), Parfums Delrae Début (2004), Parfums de Nicolai's Eau d'Été (1997), Aftelier's Haute Claire (2011), Rochas Moustache (1949), JoAnne Bassett's Napoleon (2006), Diptyque's Oyedo (2000), and too many others to count.

Do you have any favourite lime scents? Or cocktails? We will be happy to hear about anything linden or lime related in the comment section of this post!
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