Summer Sentiments


Summer is time of lightness: we wear less layers, we worry less (or at least we try), we spend more time outdoors and generally feel more carefree and relaxed. But it is also a time when exciting things can take place - trying new things, going on adventures, traveling, meeting new people, or making big changes in our lives before things supposedly turn back to "normal" in the fall.

It's been a few years since I've made a summer scent list. This summer I'm feeling particularly sentimental, as it's the last one of my daughter's childhood, and our last summer spent in Vancouver. So consider yourself warned: the following post contains an extra dose of nostalgia that will permeate my selection.

Berry Picking:
Whether in the forest or in U-pick field, berry picking is something unique to the northern hemisphere. And in Canada we are blessed with some many wonderful berries. I will never forget my first time picking wild strawberries in Bic (Quebec) and the bushes of bright red raspberries that grew in my dad's garden at his country house (my stepmom was complaining about how much she dislikes them, and I was amused that anyone could hate such an exotic thing as berries). Wild strawberries are seem nowhere to be found ever since I moved to British Columbia, except maybe I recall seeing something similar near Alice Lake in my first year here. But we have the bright orange (and mostly flavourless) salmon berries which appear in late spring; the tiny red huckleberries which were my first local berry love. They pop in your mouth with bursts of tart red juice, and bigger purple ones too. We have native blackberries, that taste like bubble gum (and I mean it in the best possible way), and the less known thimbleberries, which look like a red velvety cap and taste like apricot compote - tart and smooth and full of flavour. Then there are the invasive blackberries from the Himalayas, which grow in every possible corner including along the beaches, and taste musky at best, or watery, or in the worst cases - are full of tiny invisible black bugs that give them an unmistakably disgusting aftertaste. But they do make amazing jams and syrups (I cook them with maple syrup to make a sugar-free topping for pancake and ice cream), and are especially good when paired with sage. Either way, no walk in the forest is complete without them in the summertime.
Is there any perfume I love with berry notes? Not really. Mure et Musc and Angel are not my type, and Hanae Mori Butterfly, although doused with every possible berry (wild strawberries, blackcurrants and bilberries) - it is just too sweet to my taste. I'm curious to find something that is interesting and not overly girly that incorporates strawberry as a noticeable note, but is not so sweet and gourmand.

Toad's Stool

Summery Forest Strolls:
No matter how hot it could get here (which is not very hot, but never mind), there is always the forest to escape to. Strolling under the shady trees is both protective and refreshing; and when it's warm there is always a different scent to the forest - sun warmed coniferous needles and a more dry-earthy note although some dampness is normally still there as well, and you can spot (and smell!) mushrooms in the rainforest pretty much year-around. One of my favourite places to visit during the summer is Golden Ears Park, which also has plenty of refreshing water to enjoy: Gold Creek and Alouette Lake.
Perfume to match: KomorebiForest Walk by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Gold Creek

In the summertime I wear some of my scents more as ancillary products than anything else. And when it comes to beach time, they also have to match and complement the Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen that I love (it smells like a combination of mango, guava, pineapple and coconut and just a hint of plumeria and gardenia - I will have to stock up on that before I leave, because nothing comes close to this...).  Some of the best matches for this tropical goodness are many of the Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille series, in particular Vanilla Pineapple and Vanilla Banane, which smells like "shoko-banana" ice cream bars. Which reminds me of the awesome peelin' banana that they stopped selling for some ridiculous reason - a modern take on banana flavour which me and my daughter also adored. And admittedly, a summer is not complete without at least wearing Azuree de Soleil/Bronze Goddess Body Oil a handful of times.

Beach Cherry Picnic

Picnics & Iced Tea: 
One of the things we look forward to the most in summer is picnic - by the beach, lake or forest. The weather doesn't have to be that great for that - just as long as it doesn't rain. The classic picnic affair include cold cooked and marinated salads of all sorts, cherries for desserts, and either kombucha, homemade soda, elderflower cordial or iced tea for sipping. Few tea-scented perfumes actually capture my attention more than a fleeting moment (which is shortly they stick around), but summer is exactly the time of the year when all of this don't matter much. That's when I enjoy lavishing myself with the barely-there Osmanthe Yunnan (which is cool and restrained as iced osmanthus-scented tea with a sprinkle of pepper on top), and also can make peace with the fact that Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne has its character maintained for about fifteen minutes before it turns into a musky nondescript mess. In summertime it somehow seems less of a missed opportunity - rather an invitation for noncommittal olfactory flirting.

Skunk Xing
Come spring, all the skunks come out of hibernation. As they roam the neighbourhood freely they also often get spooked by the colourful population of the neighbourhood that must be foreign to their black-and-white universe, and release their underrated elixir of potent strengths. It's not so much that the scent is all that unpleasant, but it's so pungent and intense that it makes one recoil and want to cross to the other side of the street (or close all the windows - it just depends when that happens). The West End is home to countless skunks, and also to skunky smells of other neighbourhood (and alley) favourites that try to compete with it: freshly ground coffee beans, which never manage to surpass the odour of the striped creature; and cannabis, which almost succeeds to do so). No scent that I know of uses skunk as a note, but some try to emulate cannabis, without much success; and the ones that include coffee so so in such a non-intrusive way that I'm just going to leave this category blank.


Although native to the Mediterranean region - and not at all unique to Vancouver - I now associate honeysuckles with summertime and Sunset Beach - a favourite place that has several botanical treasures around it, for those with a keen nose. There is a big cluster of honeysuckles that grow right there by the pipe crossing along with clematis (probably to mask the nasty whiff of sewage). Come midsummer, and their scent stops me on my tracks overtime I go by on the seawall: their long eyelashes tickle my nose as I take in their aldehydic, sexy floral scent reminiscent of human skin, peaches and just the tiniest underscore of indole - yet somehow also smells very clean and elegant, a tad citrusy even. My favourite honeysuckle fragrance of all is vintage Diorella, of which I've stocked up for a lifetime with a 200mL splash vintage bottle I scored on eBay. Diorella is the essence of summer personified - it is carefree, effervescent, bright and clean with notes of melon, basil and vetiver; yet also very soft, rich, expansive and sophisticated with all that hedione, honeysuckle, peachy aldehydes and powdery orris and violets.

Crisp Cantaloupe

The Farmers Market & Summer Fruits:
When the West End Farmers Market opens, it's a sure sign that summer is around the corner. And this has been an important part of our lives here for many years. It's that rare place where you really feel the community comes together and a place where my daughter can safely shop around for her own weekly treat and practice her money handling skills and make new friends among the generous and friendly vendors. These markets take place right next to the Nelson Park Community Gardens, which are filled with fragrant herbs and flowers (anything from marigold and melissa, lemon thyme and fennel to heirloom roses, sweet peas, iris and peonies). The market itself is full to the brim with fragrant, freshly picked berries of all sorts, apricots, white champagne peaches, fresh basil leaves and vine-ripened tomatoes, pungent garlic that hasn't even cured yet, smoked Sockeye salmon, coronation grapes, corn on the cob (and that incredible corn husk smell!) - and of course pastries galore which don't tend to have that much connection with seasons. Sometimes you'll even smell Tire sur la neige (maple taffy that is cooled down on ice instead of it native Quebecois snow). And if you're really lucky, you may find fragrant flowers such as white peonies and sweetpeas to take home and enjoy for a week. All this goodness is reflective of what's unique to this place and its abundance, and it's always touching that farmers go from so far away to connect with us city dwellers and bring  this richness to our lives. Even though farmers markets are everywhere now (a growing trend, thankfully) - I will terribly miss all the farmers and vendors that have been an important part of our weekend routine; and all those little details, the specifics that make this market so fun even though it's very small.

For celebrating summer fruits, here are my few favourite recommendations:
Cantaloupe: Un Jardin Apres La Mousson (Hermes) is juicy and sweet yet refreshing and no boring, due to the balance of spices and vetiver that go with it. It's effect reminds me of the feeling of creek-soaked gauzy white shirt on the skin and getting the dry desert breeze cool it off as it's drying the fabric.
Fig: Philosykos (Diptyque) and Premier Figuer would also do, in a pinch, as would Fig Leaf & Sage.
Apricot: Vanille Abricot (Comptoir Sud Pacifique) and Saveur de l'Abricot (Artemisia Perfume)
Melon: Le Parfum de Thérèse (Edmond Roudnitska's creation that was "published" by Editions de Parfums).

Summer Camps & Corn Maze: 
You know that smell your child has when they come back home after a day spent outdoors chasing butterflies with their friends, or wondering inside a corn maze? The sweet, sweaty child smell, which perfectly matches the exuberant expression on their face after they've truly enjoyed themselves and will pretty much agree to anything after a long day of activities. And by "anything" I usually mean: doing nothing at all, which is usually best achieved on a  picnic blanket by the beach, listening to the water and knowing that the day is complete.

Poolside and the Water Park:
Since moving to Vancouver, I only go to the pool when it rains. Outdoor pools are not my favourite thing in the summer here, as I prefer outdoor swimming in the ocean, lakes and creeks. Besides, the neighbourhood's only public outdoor pool is situated in a very windy corner at 2nd Beach, and I haven't paid a visit there for so many years I can't even count... But every summer my daughter goes to camp and gets to do things I always only dreamed of doing as a child, such as going to Splashdown (an adventurous waterpark full of slides and the like). And I'm happy that she gets to experience it. As for me - I will always associate the smell of chlorine with that freeing feeling of the beginning of summer, and skipping down the hill in the kibbutz to the pool for the first P.E. class that took place there as soon as the pool opened. This event always meant that the "big vacation" of summer was just around the corner... And I also have earlier fond swimming pool memories from the long vacations I spent at my aunt's in Be'er Sheva (in the southern Negev desert, which was very far from where I grew up - in the north of the country). Some scents simply remind of the pool's wonderful chlorine smell, which comes from a combination of synthetic musks, which smell like scrubbed-clean tiles, and aquatic-smelling synthetics such as calone. l'Eau d'Issey is one such fragrance, and for the boys reading this blog I recommend a scent I only recently paid any attention to - Eternity for Men, which is actually a very well-done aquatic Fougère that has a very distinctive oakmoss and vetiver dry down.

Aquatic Garden

The Flower Gardens:
Summer at its peak here means many fragrant flowers and impressive gardens, and all the roses blooming all at once. I don't know that there is anywhere a better climate than this temperate, British-like Pacific Northwest. Although the botanical gardens are the famous ones, as is Stanley Park's rose garden - there are many "unofficial" gardens as well, such as the many community gardens (Nelson Park's is a favourite which I visit daily), and the aquatic garden that pops up every summer at Beaver Lake, full of invasive irises and waterlilies (pictured above).  There is no scent that gives any of those visual and olfactory experiences justice, so I'm just going to mention here Anaïs Anaïs, which I've re-discovered this summer, and brings me memories of my grandmother and her love for botanical gardens. I will always cherish our joint visit to those in Montreal, which have beautiful garden of lilies, and at the heart of Anaïs Anaïs  are lush Madonna lilies and greenery.

Linden Blossom

Linden Blossoms on the Robson Street:
Another one of those natural scents that simply does not receive justice when perfumers try to bottle it. Although the note appears in several fragrances, non of them truly satisfies the tillia lover's desire to be surrounded by the airy smell of honeyed skies and treetop greenery. That is the kind of scent you just have to get out of your house to catch as you stroll down Robson street, Stanley Park's Pitch & Putt or Main Street (to name just a few areas that really get properly lindened every June).

Previous summer lists of interest:
Ultimate Summer Wardrobe - Scents for Every Occasion (2009)
Barbershop Scents (2015)
Super Summer Scents 2013 
To The Ends of the Earth: Ten Fragrances That Will Transport (2013)
What Summer? (2012)

Barbershop Scents

Barbershop Sign, Downtown Wabasha
As you may have noticed, I've been on a bit of a roll with drugstore machos and barbershop fragrances. I've searched high and low for fragrances in this category - on the drugstore's shelves, in fancy department stores, and niche parfumeries. I've even went as far as attempting to grow a bit of chin hair and a stick-on moustache so that I could impress the neighbourhood's barber that I need some manly grooming.

Alas, the last trick did not work very well. When I stepped onto the checkered-floor I felt even more invisible than on Vancouver's chick-unfriendly streets. On the bright side, that allowed me to scour the shelves and get a good whiff of the very sparse merchandize available - mostly consisting of shaving creams and aftershave balms in minimalist packaging that bear old-world names. There were nothing worthy of sampling or reporting there, and after being completely ignored for 10 minutes I gave in and asked one of the barbers if they have any colognes or aftershaves I can smell. They said they sell none, but there is this one product they use on their client at the end of each shave, which they kindly let me photograph and sample.

Pinaud's Lime Sec is an acid-green liquid with a disgusting aroma that is what I would imagine they've blasted on the masses of refugees at the close of WWII, and would continue on as an insect repellent spray throughout the 50s. In other words - it smells terrible, and has very little to do with lime. Even rancid lime oil does not smell that terrible.
Barber's chairs
Needless to say, I stepped out of the store feeling disappointed and dismayed, and with a stark realization that you can't experience barbershops unless you're a man. So I can only imagine what it would be like to get an old-fashisoned shave with a straight razor, having your bristly whiskers  softened with a soapy cream, slapped on the face by skilled hands and then surrendering to a sharp blade sliding on your throat. The ritual, if I'm not mistaken, ends with a blindfolding act with a steaming towel, and then some more slapping - this time with a stinging alcoholic aftershave that hopefully does not reek of wartime disinfectants, but rather with one of the sexy fragrances from the list of favourites that I've complied.

While these fragrances vary greatly, they can be divided into three major categories, there is a common thread running among them, which is rather utilitarian: softening the stubble before the shave; and treating the skin to prevent post-shave rashes and infection.

The majority of the fragrances belong to the Fougère family in this way or the other. This is not surprising if you take into consideration that lavender soothes the skin and is an excellent disinfecting treatment for nicks and cuts. Unlike so many other disinfectant essential oils - this one also has a soothing smell which would create a positive association for visiting the barber. Add to this plenty of musk and baby-powder notes, geranium and chamomile, hints of warm, sweet spices - and you get the distinctive, reference barbershop fragrance.

Canoe (Dana) 
It's been a long time since I've encountered this fragrance on any of my local drugstore shelves; but if my memory serves me correctly, this is a rather sweet, ambery and floral rendition of the Fouler theme, utilizing heliotropin and eugenol in addition to a high dose of coumarin, and of course the compulsory oakmoss, lavender and linalool.

Royal Copenhagen
This one take the musk and baby powder to a new height. Like a return to the crib for the inner-baby that hides within each grown man. There is really not a better way to describe it.

Lime Sec Barbershop Fragrance

A little more aromatic than Canoe, and not nearly as musky and powdery as Royal Copenhagen, Bruth is herbaceous yet also very soft. It has a cheap bottle-green plastic packaging that makes it look like a mouthwash and off the top of my head I can think of at least 10 much better fragrances for men; but it's a classic drugstore fragrance that has initiated countless of boys into manhood. It is far better than Axe or Drakkar Noir for that matter.

If you'd like to opt for a more fancy, prestigious fragrance in this category, may I recommend Caron's Pour Un Homme. With its lavender and powdery animalic notes of civet and musk give it a very soft, diffusive, powdery and luxurious personality, that reeks of old-world refinement and gentlemanliness. The kind of scent you'd want to sprinkle your handkerchief with. Other options along these lines are Pour Monsieur (Chanel) and Mouchoir de Monsiuer (Guerlain).

DIY Bay Rum Aftershave & Cologne Recipe

The Bay Rum aftershave is a mainstay staple in men's grooming and is as old as imperialism itself. In the tropics, the disinfecting qualities of Europe's Aqua Mirabillis had to make do with the local antiseptics. We're talking about hard-core eugenol territory - West Indian Bay Leaf (Pimento remecosa), Bayberry (Myrica rub), allspice, cinnamon, cassia and of course clove buds - were steeped in a highly distilled cane sugar liquor (rum) to create a skin-burning (to say that it stings is an understatement) to help reduce the negative side effects of shaving. Bay Rum is not unlike spiced rum, so I suspect it was also consumed by sailors either before or after the shave. Because, er - why not?

There are many low-cost bay rum aftershaves in the market, and you can easily make your own if only you can get a hold of West Indian bay leaves (they are different than the Mediterranean bay laurels - Laurus nobilis).
Old Spice is a case in point, in which the bay rum theme was elevated to another level, and the romanticism of sea navigation has been well-marketed, and thankfully also well crafted. The spices are softened with geranium, vanilla, coumarin, have a distinctive carnation-like character that makes them feel more fancy and dandy-like; and the citrus add a lovely lift to the composition.

Paco Rabanne takes the medicinal qualities of spices to a whole new level by adding medicinal salicylic notes and camphor. Yet there is something very charming and manly about it nevertheless. At least as an aftershave. The balm would leave your man's cheeks glossy and smooth.

Continuing on the spice route, we have also some more sophisticated fragrances, that come in all kinds of grooming products such as Tabac Original - a delectable spicy vetiver with a heap of freshly microplanes nutmeg, woodsy-elegant allspice and clean musk dry down. And if you're after something more sophisticated (and pricy) - Equipage delivers a similar theme albeit a tad more leathery, tannin, dry and even floral with its heart of carnation.

Barber Shop Golden Hour

Disinfectant qualities are not limited to spices or herbs, but also are shared with citrus oils. In addition, they have skin-softening qualities, which make them perfect for shampooing hair and softening those stubborn whiskers. I'm quite confident they're used for that purpose in many shaving creams and soaps. And in any case, a splash of old-fashioned eau de cologne type fragrance will sure create a pick-me-up effect after sitting in the chair for a while and being pampered.

4711 is what I'd imagine a barbershop in Europe to smell like. At least in Germany, where it is one of the most iconic and most favourable smells. My grandmother (a Berlin native) remembers her own grandmother and mother wearing it. And judsing by the large sized bottles of 800 mL and even a full litre - this Aqua Mirabillis is used in a  rather utilitarian way to this day.

English Leather has a bit of a misleading name. It smells more like a soapy eau de cologne with tobacco base notes than anything else. That's due to plenty of linalyl acetate (the primary ingredient in petitgrain and also in lavender). In any case, it's affordable and rather chic although I have a suspicion they've significantly tampered with the formula.

Pino Silvestre, a pine-and-moss themed coniferous cologne that used to have a fantastic natural glow about it but was sadly reformulated without the oaks. With a price point that is still as low as ever, a bottle that look like a green pine-cone still and a box that provides enough amusing material for a bathroom read - perhaps all can be forgiven. Or maybe not...

For those wanting to spend a little more mulah and achieve a fancier citrusy, classically gentlemanly barbershop effect, consider splurging in a bottle of Azzaro - a slightly anisic lavender Fougère with a distinctive juicy-citrus and herbaceous combination of basil and tarragon. That is what I'd imagine gentlemen in Italia to splash on their face before going out on the town. And then of course there is the even juicier, refined and beloved Eau Sauvage the epitome of masculine fragrances, barbershop or otherwise.

Reflections on a Year Gone By

It's the last day of the year, which means that it's legitimate to look back and reflect on yet another year that has gone by. On a personal level, it was a great year (considering 2013 was a year from hell,  even though I didn't quite put it that way publicly - this is not exactly surprising).
On a global level, however, in 2014 it seems like all hell has broken loose and the only reason we don't think of ourselves as in the midst of a 3rd world war is probably because no one is brave enough to call it what it is. But I digress. You're not visiting this blog to be reminded of what kind of an awful world we live in. You are more likely here searching for refuge from all those realistic nightmares.

Well, a lot of good things happened in the world of scent; most of them I was too oblivious to notice or pay attention to so you won't be finding too many surprises in my "list" for the fragrant highlights of 2014.

This year I was absorbed in recovery from the awful year prior, and with a renewed boost of energy, I've been tackling all fronts of my business - trying to reach out and teach classes and courses in more places, re-doing a website, narrowing my collection, writing a book, and teaching a lot. All those things, which in the year prior seemed to have a big question mark hovering over them, have found a new meaning in my life and a new sense of excitement and purpose which in the year prior I was really worried will never return to me. But I've been also integrating a lot of my passions and knowledge and experience (both gruesome and positive) leading to a new direction that I feel serves a higher purpose. It will all unfold and make sense as I progress in my studies, art and life experiences. One big thing that occupied me personally and was part of what some like to call "personal growth" has been learning to become a Pilates instructor. I know this seems completely unrelated to perfumery for an outside observer. But to me all those things - working with breath, body, awareness and within the flow and rhythm of life - are all part of the same thing for me. And I don't believe I was born to do just one thing. With that being said, I'm now able to be much more focused, with a much clearer sense of priorities and

Year of the Book: 
This year was dedicated to completing my book, which was in the works (AKA planning and procrastinating, and dreading the intense process that writing a book involves). Somehow, despite the fact that I lost nearly 2 months of work due to the teacher's strike, not to mention many nights of sleep of the yet-another-unnecessary war in Israel and Palestine - I was able to finish it. And I want to thank once again all the people who were involved in the process: Terry Sunderland, graphic designer extraordinaire, Shauna Rudd, superb copy editor and proofreader, Schuyler Corry, proofreader and contributor of some of the chemistry terms in the glossary; and David Shumaker for proofreading some 3 years ago when I started working on this 3rd edition of the book; and last but not least to the Taly and Yitzhak Ginsberg, who thanks to them I actually went ahead with being self-published as well as for pointing me to the right direction to turn my manuscript into a eBook (you'll hear about that soon enough).
Thank you so much for helping me make my dream come true and become a published author!

And - More Books:
This has been a great year for perfume related books. I've mentioned two of them here, the anthology of scented poems The Book of Scented Things, edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby; and Mandy Aftel's new book Fragrant. There is always more to learn, and it's wonderful to see more books published that pertain to the world of scent. It's all part of keeping this rare art alive!

New Perfume Love: 
Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes by Bruno Fazzolari.
This limited edition "flanker" of sorts to the perfume Au Delà is even more beautiful than the original. I will write about it in more depth in the coming week - a beautiful ambery floral with Chypre nuances, that was accompanied by a breathtaking screen print, signed by the artist.

Mainstream Surprise: 
Narciso by Narciso Rodriguez
While I can't say I thoroughly tested even a fraction of the many mainstream perfumes released this year to justifiably crown this the "best" of the year - I did purchase a bottle, and it did not feel like it was a whim at the time. This perfume is full of surprises, much more than the original scent from this brand. In all aspects of design (including packaging) there is elegant simplicity in this release, yet intrigue and originality. It's been a while since I was able to say that about any department store fragrance.

Vintage Discovery: 
Diorella. What a delight to have found a 220 mL (!) of the original, vintage Diorella on a certain auction site. I've been splashing it lavishly in the summer, and looking forward to much more of the same as soon as the spring bulbs and buds begin to open again.

The 180: 
Aromatics Elixir
If you haven't seen much new perfume reviews on my blog, it's because I've been dousing myself quite regularly with this (previously under appreciated by me) bombshell. I used to think of it as way too strong. It wasn't until I blind-purchased a bottle of the Perfumer's Reserve (also via the above mentioned auction site), and discovered to my horror that there's far too much white musk in it; that I just HAD to re-examine the original. I only purchased a tiny spray bottle of it, but a little is all you need, and goes a looong way. There is something about that

Thank You Hermes For Not Disappointing: 
First of all, Epice Marine FINALLY arrived in the Vancouver boutique many months after it should have. And I did enjoy it quite a bit (yet not quite enough yet to purchase a bottle). Cuir d'Ange, on the other hand, arrived in time (or maybe it didn't, but I didn't really expect it), and turns to be a very interesting sheer leather. Samples are still unavailable which is why I haven't written a review yet. It's not earth shattering, but I'm always happy to welcome a new leather kid into my world.

Natural Intrigue: 
Palimpset by Aftelier. There are many offerings in the natural world that I am yet to try. But I was immediately smitten with both Cuir Gardenia and Palimpset, the two new creations of this year by Mandy Aftel. While I'm more likely to wear Cuir Gardenia frequently - Palimpset is the more original, intriguing and unusual. Built around the rare, unusual and difficult to work with Fire Tree oil from Australia - it has an outstanding longevity (I believe the sample I received from Aftelier is the parfum concentration in alcohol base). The opening is very effervescent and citrusy, almost like wild orange, sweetly fruity but not overtly so - then continues to develop into an utterly floral yet woody perfume, with the Fire Tree note weaves in and out while being supported. It's exotic and wonderful. I just received it yesterday, and am planning to post full review of this (and Cuir Gardenia) in the upcoming days.

The new incense cones by Persephenie.
They come in several fragrances, and all burn fantastically well, without leaving any "off note". Original blends, yet with a very strong connection to spiritual rituals from around the world. They are beautifully hand-shaped, and rolled in an outer coating of herbs that adds a visual element to the experience, rich in both colour and texture.

Those who know me well, are concerned about my ever-expanding collections of teas, spices, perfumes, cookbooks, and of course raw materials. Well, this year I have been pretty good about finishing up a lot of the teas I have and narrowing down my favourites to a more workable and manageable scenario (for the sake of my kitchen counter and shelves). Although I won't pretend I don't have excess of teas still, and need to run out of a lot before purchasing anything new; I am quite proud to say I know which teas I love and I am happy to just keep drinking a handful of them and stop feeling the urge to collect them. Some things lend themselves very badly to collecting, and tea is one of them. They just lose flavour after a while... I'm proud to announce, that as long as I have one good black tea (darjeeling, Assam or a cask-aged Ghorka, for instance - for versatile use anywhere from plain black tea, to that adorned with fresh sprigs of mint, or ensembles into a chai), Cream Earl Grey, and either a robust rooibos or a Thai Tea for its almost coconutty aroma, some kind of a good quality green tea (i.e. matcha powder or jasmine) and a Milky Oolong - I'm pretty happy. That's not a lot, right? Of course I also have a kid with her own favourites, usually flavoured teas or a green tea. But that's just extra fun. With a little help from our friends,  I think we're going to have a pretty clear tea shelf by the end of 2015. But in all honesty, what we've been drinking almost every other morning has been chai in a base of almond milk. We make it very simple, because there is no time in the morning to blend too many spices - just some black tea, some cardamom and cinnamon, freshly diced ginger and honey. Blame it on my daughter. It's her idea.

Sweet Tooth:
Persephenie's Salty Jasmine Candies, and my own Oud Truffles, if I may say so myself.

Skincare Product:
It's a well known "secret" that I'm a sucker for anything rosy smelling on my face. My skincare regime is as simple as could be, and includes only two products: floral hydrosol (usually rose, or orange blossom) spritzed on the face, followed by a moisturizer - usually just my own facial elixir. Everyone once in a while I make an exception - but it has to be for something exceptional. Usually it's Persephenie's excellent Rose Pakka. This year I was ogling her new offering for the face - Saffron Rose Face Oil, which is a pure and nourishing facial serum. The makeup of oils shares some common elements with my Elixir (tea seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, carrot seed and rose oils) and the rest is all sheer goodness, as always with Persephenie's creations. I've received it in the mail today and it did not disappoint. It's practically the facial version of my Song of Songs anointing body oil. I'm in a facial New Year's heaven!

Body Product:
Bedouin dry oil by Persephenie. All of Persephenie's body products are top-notch. Bedouin was my favourite scent by Persephenie, but is no longer in production. That's why it was particularly delightful to find out that it is now available as a dry oil - a very lightweight, sheer oil that can be sprayed on either body or hair. Roses and cardamom. Mmm...

Discovery of the Year:
Dabney Rose's extraits and pommades are nothing short of magic. I've experienced her hyacinth extrait, tuberose pommade and ginger lily pommade (the latter are made in a coconut oil base) - all grown in her own garden and hothouse. These beautifully and lovingly crafted pure single note essences are made in the old technique of enfleruage, modernized by an innovative vegan base. Dabney's work is akin to capturing butterflies inside hot resin and keeping them alive and intact even after they've exhaled their last breath... It may sound too good to be true... But it is the most truthful portrait of the living flower if there ever was one.  In other words: alchemy at its best.

Raw Material of the Year: 
Narcissus Absolute. I've been obsessing over it while creating Narkiss, and (great minds think alike!) in Bruno Fazzolari's newest perfume.
Need I say more?

Spring to Mind

What scents spring to mind when spring is in full swing? While florals are the usual suspects for the season, they are not the only ones on my list of favourite spring scents this year. The scents of spring are not limited to wildflowers, but also melting snow, budding conifer trees, Japanese cherry (skura) and plum (ume) blossoms, the snap-pea scent of tulip stems, fresh bouquets of freesia and lily of the valley on 1st of May, balsam poplar buds and cotton tree blossoms.

I have a love-hate relationship with floral perfumes. The love is with how they remind me of the real flowers (when they are done well). The suffering (thus, olfactory hatred of sorts) comes from the fact that most floral perfumes on the market have a screechy, overtly heady edge to them that makes it unbearable for me to wear them for any prolonged period of time. Almost like too much of a good thing... But not quite so. I'm pretty sure these kinds of preferences have more to do with personality make up and scent memories than with anything else. Especially considering that florals are the most popular of all fragrance families. So when I meet a floral I can actually wear for several hours without the urge to scrub the scent off and replace it with something that has more prominent base notes (I'm by nature inclined towards orientals and chypres) - it does not go unnoticed.

As far as perfume and scent goes - here are my top 12 favourites this year: 

1. Ofresia:
Hurray for a perfume that reminds me of freesias - my favourite cut flower. Their peppery, green, slightly sweet aroma is exaggerated in Dyptique's lovely Ofresia. There is a gorgeous vanillic drydown that saves it from giving me a florist-shop headache - and instead gives me the delicious urge to sniff and re-sniff my wrists all day long.

2. En Passant:
What saves this lilac from being too soapy or redolent of cheap bathroom-fresheners, is its masterful blending of notes you'd never think have anything to do with lilac. Wheat absolute, cucumber, indolic jasmine and watery white musk - all bring to mind a lilac blooming on a balmy night only to be rinsed by late spring showers. A lovely bush to pass by. A nose-grabber, actually. The dry down is a tad too white-musky for my taste, but I still love it. In fact, I am finally finished my decant - a sure sign that it's time to get a real bottle of this.

3. Diorissimo:
I won't lie: even though I adore it, Diorissimo EDT could give me that intolerable headache. It could have something to do with me wearing it for my honeymoon and getting a sunstroke or two on an overtly sunny Israeli spring day in the upper Galilee. Which is why I stick to the parfum extrait. In this version, the jasmine really shines, the lily of the valley smells less prissy and virginal, and the green galbanum and oakmoss and even a hint of magical boronia really come through. I wear it every May 1st, and when I'm in an especially good mood. Thankfully, this does not happen often because who knows how long that bottle would have lasted  - and the reformulated Diorissimo is not the same, what with the jasmine absolute restrictions in Europe and all...

4. Aromatics Elixir:
What I've been wearing more than anything else this year - and finding it oddly comforting. What I love most about it is the contrast between sheer, expansive, jasminey hedione and the heavier, earthy-herbaceous notes of vetiver, patchouli and chamomile.

5. Spring Wind:
Just arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, fresh from Russia and handmade by the talented Anna Zworykina. Spring Wind is made of the highest quality natural essences, and is masterfully blended. There is always so much mystery and beauty in Anna's perfumes. And this one is an intriguing scent of greenery and flowers: green-tinged jasmine sambac, jasmine ruh, galbanum, tuberose and osmanthus - giving an illusion of boronia with this mingling of jasmine, greens and ionones. Spring Wind is a befitting name - and this one is green and without even the tiniest hint of melancholy that so often pervades green florals.

6. Diorella:
There are two perfumes that always are on my spring lists, whether if I list them or not: Diorissimo and  Le Parfum de Thérèse. This time, Diorella is getting some love instead - because I finally have got my paws on a stash of over 200ml of vintage Diorella, just as its author intended it to be. Diorella has every bit the sunny, carefree spirit of Thérèse; but with a little more lady-like, manicured and coiffed appearance. I like to think of her as the Italian twin of Thérèse. The honeysuckle (an Italian plant, by the way) and fruity and skin-like aldehydes make it a lot more "perfumey" and a tad soapy. It's sexy, old-fashioned yet easy to wear, and makes me instantly think of the Côte d'Azure - or perhaps the Riviera Ligure?  

7. No. 19
Freshly crushed leaves, jasmine, rose de mai, lily of the valley... These all shout of spring - except that nothing about this perfume is obvious. It's all understated, and full of surprises. These include: Lemon. Leather. And did I mention the orris root yet? Ahh, iris...!

8. New Conifer Buds:
New growth of conifer buds is the most astounding, refreshing small-scale forest phenomenon. It's a delight for all senses - their bright colour against the darker mature needles; their cool and soft, silk-tassel texture; their tart, almost lemony yet sweet like wheat-grass flavour; and of course - the sweet, balsamic yet citrusy aroma. I collect them for my upcoming Rainforest tea blend; and use the fresh ones muddled into cocktails, or minced thinly sprinkled over fiddleheads, or mixed inside goat or cream cheese for an original spring afternoon tea menu.

9. Elderflower Cordial:
It has become an annual tradition: me roaming the forest edges and clearings, and picking a cluster of elderflower here and there. I make at least a batch or two of elderflower cordial to add to sparkling spring water; and that also serves as an excellent substitute for tonic waters in various gin cocktail. This year's discovery: Ungava gin (a bright yellow Northern Canadian gin with snowberry, cloudberry, Labrador tea and rosehips), shaken with ice and elderflower cordial and served with muddled spring of new-growth fir needles.

10. Rhododendrons:
I can never get enough of the many varieties of rhododendrons growing in Vancouver's gardens. So many hybrids, smelling incredibly versatile - some like lilies, or ylang ylang, others like tropical flowers or suntan lotion... Apparently, the sky is the limit when it comes to azalae hybrids!

What are your spring favourites? What springs to your mind when you think of spring? And what do you enjoy the most about spring 2014?

Mid-Winter Favourites

With all the whirlwind of the winter holiday stress, followed by end-of-year lists - it's often difficult to make a distinction between the winter holiday season (which tends to inspire very wintery themed scents), when winter technically takes place (December 21st - March 20th).

Technically speaking, we are now in mid-winter. So I've decided to dedicate a post to mid-winter's favourite fragrances and little comforts. That bleh season that's between the winter holidays and the romantic explosion that is Valentine's day is mostly characterized by post-holidays cashflow crunch (for many people in the parts of the world afflicted by consumerism), mundane day-to-day chopping of firewood and working hard to bring food to the table and stay warm. If the fall is the season of sorting, harvesting and gathering (nicer word for hoarding) for the colder months; the dead of winter is the season for using up what we've collected, and for portioning it wisely so we don't starve before the earth re-awakens again in the spring...

How does this translate into perfume? Well, for starters - if you are in a cash crunch, there are many ways to indulge your perfume-cravings (or hobby), that would not cost an arm or a leg. Enjoying what we have is a not just a force of reality, but also a virtue. This is the time to bring out the big guns - all those furry orientals, big white florals, animalic chypres that will be overbearing most other times of the year. Youth Dew, Obsession, Poison, Opium, Tabu, Aromatics Elixir - this is your time to shine! All of the wonderful treasures you are keeping for a special occasion - enjoy them now! They last for a long time, but they might turn one day. So wear them now, and enjoy them in good health. You deserve a special perfume even more so on a non-special day...

This is a great time to re-visit what you have in your collection that's been collecting dust or have been pushed into a dark forgotten corner of your sample drawer.

Keeping a perfume journal is another great idea. You don't need to have a blog to do it. And you don't need Moleskine to come up with a template either... I can provide one for you (in a separate post), and you can start a hand-written, illustrated or typed version of your own perfume journey, to record your impressions and re-invent your interest in perfumes. Sooner or later you'll discover that there is always another layer to what you have in your collection and think that you know inside-out and backwards...
And as to the list? It is the most obvious cliche, but as one of my friends like to say "it all happens for a reason". Thankfully, the reason here is that when its colder, stronger and heavier scents don't come across nearly as intimidating as in the heat of summer; and also, because the lighter, fresher scents tend to have a weaker (and often under-satisfying) presence.

When winter is at its peak, and the nights are still long and cold - there is nothing quite more special than going to bed wrapped with an extra layer of luxury - vintage perfume or one of the most cherished extraits. And other times, it's just wonderful to spritz a bit of sweet citrus deliciousness into the air and walking through it before going on a brisk walk in the fog or a boring treadmill session when the weather is not cooperating with my desire to job on the beach... While all of the selections below are glorious, there is something more mundane and approachable about them, not quite as festive as Nuit de Noel or Parfum Sacre; and not as romantic as what you'd be reaching for when February 14th rolls in (whether or not you have a date).

Miss Dior extrait was my first Chypre love. I first smelled it in a mini coffret I got a trans-atlantic flight. I was in mid-air yet smelling it made me feel very grounded. I was surprised how much I liked it - I was very young then and someone told me that Miss Dior was a more "mature" fragrance, while Diorissimo (my favourite then) was for youngner ladies. Even though it had a very natural warmth about it, all the ingredients were so magically blended that I could not pick out any one from the others. Only later I discovered what Chypre is - and this love affair never ceased. Miss Dior is one of the very few perfumes I stockpile* - from before the oakmoss free days. I have 3 bottles of extrait (one of them vintage) and 2 more of the eau de toilette. Does that make me a hoarder?

Aromatics Elixir a refreshing discovery for me this winter is that I can actually wear Aromatics Elixir without fainting. It comes in small and affordable 10ml spray size (don't you wish all perfumes were bottled that way?) and I've been wearing it daily, more or less, ever since (that's full 2 weeks, very impressive for me - I usually change my fragrances on a daily basis, or even more).

Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer is a toned-down yet very respectful version of the original. It's greener and muskier, and I love the dabbing application (and, shamefully admit to also liking the non-greasy emollient texture of the liquid it is suspended in, even though it's mostly made of silicones). I've been so smitten with both of the elixirs, that I also ordered online the limited edition from 2011 titled "Perfumer's Reserve".  

Youth Dew extrait and bath oil are a sure way to reinforce that sedate state of mind. Languid, haunting, deep and overbearing if not carefully applied - Youth Dew is unique and although it seems very dated, there is no denying its almost-medicinal concoction of patchouli, cloves, narcissus and a myriad of other intense notes. Something you could only get away with in the wintertime.

Obsession Extrait has the smooth charm of amber and is almost overly sweet. If it wasn't for the hint of oakmoss, sandalwood and cyclamen at its base, it would have been really quite too much even for me. But when applied discreetly, it's so enjoyable and mysterious, with depth and lots of subtleties to discover beyond just sweet amber and tangerine. And - there is no mistaking why it has become the success that it was. It's distinct, and it works.

Champagne de Bois, a modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral dream. Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with frankincense and amber.

Shiso Aftelier brings to mind the camphoreous comfort and relief of Asian apothecary as well as the enigmatic allure of the Geisha world - whose use of incense materials usually used for religious rituals in their elaborate grooming rituals, applying charred aromatic woods to their perfectly coiffed hair, and smoulder their silk kimonos with incense smoke, and rub their body with spicy incense powder.

No. 19 Warm Carrot is another great-granddaughter of Bois des Îles and a unique reinterpretation of woodsy aldehydic floral, putting the underrated carrot seed at the spotlight. No. 19 brings out the woody and floral qualities of this modest yet precious ingredient (it is quite costly, and mostly been put into use in anti-aging creams and cosmetics) and brings out its creamy qualities while juxtaposed with ylang ylang, lavender, vetiver, labdanum, amber, benzoin and vanilla. It's also amazing as a body butter.

Prada Ambre Pour Homme Intense (or is the name the other way around?). While the name is long, the perfume is rather simple. Pathouli, benzoin, amber and an overdose of bergamot that makes it almost soapy. And plenty of musks, of course. I have to admit that I like the dry down much, much better than the opening. It's not as popular in my rotation as Patchouli Magique, but it makes an interesting variation on the patchouli theme without being too redundant.

Velvet Gardenia. Gardenia typically has very tropical associations. But this floriental is anchored in a deep labdanum base and beeswax, bringing to mind candle-lit interior of a stone castle.

Eau de Mandarine Ambrée. I admit I'm not crazy for the new Hermese eau de colognes as much as I love their original Eau d'Orange Verte. But Eau Mandarine Ambree has a nice balance between cozy ambery sweetness and mandarine's juicy and zesty charm.

Ormonde for Her by Ormonde Jayne blends a few unlikely worlds - the prude, the witch and the modern seductress. Violet's demure quality bring to mind the first. The foresty, woodsy notes of black hemlock spruce and cardamom honour the witch in the forest over her medicinal brew. But it is the modern synthetic musks that quickly take over and make it so appealing to the modern woman, who wants to connect to her inner animal but can only do this by scrubbing off her natural smells.

What are your winter favourites?

* The others being Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Parfum Sacre, Le Parfum de Therese and Opium Fleur de Shanghai. 
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