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Neroli Tincture

Bitter Orange Flower Tincture
Often I'm asked if it is possible to make orange blossoms tincture. My snarky response is that you can tincture anything. Can't guarantee the results though... Fresh flowers, generally speaking, don't let themselves well to alcoholic tincturing. That is why enfleurage and solvent extraction techniques were invented in the first place. Otherwise why bother with such sophisticated process if it is possible to make such an easy homemade extraction with alcohol?
There are a few problems at play. One is the water content in the flowers. Once the flowers sit in the alcohol, it dries them up completely, which means it sucks all the moisture out of them. That's what alcohol does. It readily bonds with the water. This dilutes the alcohol's solvent powers. 
The other problem is that the alcohol dissolves also less desirable aspects of the plant matter, resulting in a very vegetal smelling tincture. It may be fine for medicinal purposes (which is the the main objective of most fresh plant matter tinctures). For fine perfumery - not so much. 
Bitter Orange Flower Tincture
Either way, one needs to watch out for over-steeping when preparing tinctures. Less is often more. Meaning, it is better to recharge the alcohol several times with the flowers until the desired odour strength is achieved. This is akin to steeping tea: Steeping the same amount of tea over a longer period of time will definitely give you a stronger tea, but not as fragrant and delicious as one that you've paid attention to preparing according to the appropriate steeping time and amount of tea leaf. When wishing you prepare a stronger tea, there is no way around using more tea. This is not the time or place to be thrifty with your raw materials. Remember the time and effort taken to grow, harvest, clean and infuse your plants. Remember how much you paid for that 96% alcohol. Don't waste these resources. 
So, with all that being said, the neroli tincture (bitter orange blossoms steeped in alcohol) smelled nice enough. I was smart enough to strain it before turning vegetable. It wears ok on the skin. But needs another recharge or two. In my opinion, aside from the cache of using something from my own orchard in my perfume, it does not offer anything more than what my high quality neroli oil and orange blossom absolutes have to offer. But we shall see once I use it within a composition. I will include some in my upcoming batch of Zohar (my orange blossom soliflore). Maybe it will transform into something more WOW inducing then. Either way, the process was fun. But I a more inclined to stick to traditional raw materials with these flowers and get a still ASAP to make my own orchard hydrosoles and perhaps even oils some day soon. 

Musk Malabi Fundraising Campaign for Syrian Refugees


Musk Malabi, my fundraiser perfume to support Syrian Refugees, was launched a couple of years ago. There was only marginal interest in the cause, unfortunately, so I was unable to make any substantial contribution to this cause. 

Now that the refugee crisis has come to the forefront of the media - I hope you can help me raise enough funds to help sponsor refugees who are arriving to Canada in these tough times. For every 15mL bottle sold, $50 will be donated to a community-sponsored family; and from each mini bottle, $20 will be donated.

If you are in Canada, I urge you to find a community-sponsorship as well, or initiate one yourself in your community or workplace. According to Canadian law around sponsorship of immigrants, groups such as religious community associations (i.e.: non-profit NGOs) and community based organizations (i.e.: mosques, churches, synagogues, etc.) but also corporations can sponsor refugees, and any group of 5 or more Canadians that can provide a feasible settlement plan for the refugees. That is one way to guarantee the safe asylum of a family fleeing the horrors of the Syrian civil war, and much more meaningful way to invest smaller amounts of charitable money than to support a huge organization in which whatever contribution I could make will just be a drop in the bucket.

Of course, if you wish to donate to larger organizations - there are some that are more effective than others and which will utilize your donations more efficiently. Do your research first. For example, charities that are recommended for maximum help in the ground zero of the Syrian refugee crisis and that have a minimum administrative costs are listed in Charity Intelligence (Canada) and Charity Watchdog (USA).





Below is an excerpt from the original press release (March 2014) and the updates regarding pricing and donations policy.

Inspiring Peace & Harmony with Musk Malabi’s Olfactory Love Triangle
Vancouver, Canada, March 5th, 2014. Get caught in a love triangle with Musk Malabi Ayala Moriel’s newest limited-edition perfume Musk Malabi. Released to coincide with the spring equinox and Persian New Year, Musk Malabi is an intoxicating floral confection. Unabashedly feminine, subtly exotic and hopelessly romantic - the fragrance evokes the sensory experience of a passionate love affair.
Inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern dessert of the same name, Musk Malabi centers itself around rich, milky musk. Having grown up in Israel, the sights, sounds, and smells of the Mediterranean have always been a source of inspiration for Ayala Moriel, the company’s in-house perfumer. “What has always captured my imagination about malabi is its soft, evocative sounding name, and its unique fragrant combination of rosewater and neroli water”, explains Ayala. “Rose and orange blossom are such noble flowers yet oh so different.”

At the heart of the fragrance, neroli and rose come unexpectedly together with musk to create an unusual and mesmerizing triad. Musk plays cupid, pulling all the strings in between and drawing the lovers (rose and neroli) together. Designed to smell as close as possible to deer musk, the botanical musk brings an effortless fluidity to this magnetic fragrance. A company that prides itself on being all-natural and free of animal cruelty, all of Ayala’s fragrances are created using botanical essences.
With spicy notes of cardamom and coriander as the opening act for voluptuous rose and prudent neroli, the top and heart notes rest on a silky bed of atlas cedarwood, botanical musk and Tahitian vanilla. Light-hearted yet mysterious, Musk Malabi is a fragrance unlike any other and will transport one effortlessly to the exotic Middle-East, jet-lag free.
Top notes: Bitter Orange, Cardamom, Coriander, Blood Orange
Heart notes: Turkish Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Tunisian Neroli, Egyptian Orange Blossom
Base notes: Atlas Cedarwood, Botanical Musk Accord, Tahitian Vanilla

Available in eau de parfum 4ml ($69) and 15ml ($180) via www.ayalamoriel.com. For every 15mL bottle sold, $50 will be donated to a community-sponsored family; and from each mini bottle, $20 will be donated. 





Musk Malabi

Malabi by Tom lahat
Malabi, a photo by Tom lahat on Flickr.
If Sahleb is the royal treat of winter, then the rosy, rubbery Malabi (see recipe below) is the queen of summer in the Middle East. Served cold in every other corner and almost every kiosk and restaurant of any caliber, this chilled milk-pudding captures the eye with the contrasting rosy-red syrup oozing all over the white, petri-plate-like to-go containers it comes in. I was never a big fan of its texture (ditto in regards to Rahat Loukum, also unjustly made with corn starch instead of better quality materials), but I adore its fragrance!

What always captures my imagination about malabi was its soft, evocatively sounding name, and its unique fragrant combination of rosewater and neroli. Rose and neroli are such noble flowers yet oh so different. Rose is open, voluptuous, sweet and feminine. Neroli is prim and proper, restrained, clean, ethereal and otherworldly. It's incredible that such a thing even grows from the earth, as has such a heavenly character.

Malabi with pom syrup by Dan Bar Dov
Malabi with pom syrup, a photo by Dan Bar Dov on Flickr.
The balance of these two strong-willed floral elements that inspired the creation of my new, limited edition for Valentine's Day 2014. Titled Musk Malabi, this perfume is a holy triad of sorts, between voluptuous, velvety and soft rose; airy, clean and cerebral neroli, and the pulsating animalic energy of musk. The musk is, in a most profound way, what makes these two oppositional flowers harmonize rather than compete with one another. It is told in the Koran that Mohammed's breath was as sweet as rose, and that he considered musk to be the purest of all perfumes. Musk grains were even mixed with the mortar in the construction of several Eastern mosques and retained their musky scent for years. The botanical musk in Musk Malabi was designed to smell as close as possible to deer musk, and most importantly, act like one: it plays cupid pulling all the strings between and drawing the lovers (rose and neroli) together. It doesn't need arrows, and plays the harp better than cupid, doing all of this work gently and with effortless fluidity. 

Malabi by shai.wininger
Malabi, a photo by shai.wininger on Flickr.

Musk Malabi is a limited edition for Valentine's Day 2014, which is just a month away from today! 
Love it, and it will love you back.

Top notes: Bitter Orange, Cardamom, Coriander, Blood Orange
Heart notes: Turkish Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Tunisian Neroli, Egyptian Orange Blossom
Base notes: Atlas Cedarwood, Botanical Musk Accord, Tahitian Vanilla

The Joys of Floral Hydrosols

Grand Opening: new "water drop bouquet" grow, harvest and delivery service
Water Drop Bouquet, a photo by Steve Wall on Flickr.

Treasure hunting is one of my favorite aspects of going on vacation. Surprisingly, Mayne Island, a tiny island off the coast of Vancouver Island, is my favorite place to find unique knick-knacks, books, jewellery and food. Mayne is truly my heaven on earth and my home away from my home. Everything about it is comforting, from the sights, sounds and smells (briar roses, broom, salty ocean air, spruce, and sun-warmed blackberry bushes) to the people. The island's population is tiny - approximately 900 people and is like a village. Everyone is treated like a friend, doors are unlocked, and local farmers will leave produce unattended on the side of the road next to a jar to put your money in. Now that is what I call trust (something that is relatively foreign in big cities). The local artisans and artists who reside on Mayne are not only extremely talented but genuinely care about each of their crafts and love spending time with customers helping them choose products that they will be happy with and that will suit their personalities and lifestyles.

I get a huge thrill out of scouring the few shops and thrift stores whenever I am there. Almost everything to be found is one of a kind or few of a kind. My big find this year was a six dollar bottle of Rose Geranium Floral Hydrosol. For those who don't know, hydrosols are the distillate water that is produced when plant materials are steamed or hydro-distilled to create essential oils. Hydrosols contain the water-soluble fragrant molecules from plant, unlike essential oils which are what floats on top of the water, and represents only some aspects of a plant or flower. Hydrosols are a pure luxury  and have many properties and applications, their most prominent use being in skin-care.

If you ever tried your own steam-distillation, you can also create a low-tech hydrosol in which the essential oil (non-soluble in water) are not separated from the distillate water, producing a more rounded aroma profile and preserving many of the therapeutic properties of the plant. These can be found among artisan distillers, usually made in very small batches and often from plants that were wild-harvested or collected in their own garden (if you're interested in distilling your own hydrosols, you can find a small copper still and learn this ancient art from renown aromatherapy teacher Jeanne Rose, who is the eldest pioneer of modern-day's natural perfumery.

Though very aromatic, these artisanal hydrosols are much more gentle than essential oils (their essential oil content would be less than 5%) when used for skin care and can be utilized in enhancing your complexion in skincare products, in body care, home fragrances (linen sprays are such example), as well as in food and beverage.

Lavender

Lavender hill mob
Lavender Hill Mob, a photo by Billy Reed on Flickr

Lavender (Genus: Lavendula, a purple-flowering plant related to mint), is very well renowned throughout the world, not only for its delicate, sweetly herbaceous aroma, but also for its remarkable abilities to soothe and heal the body and mind and its almost miraculous power in healing burns, cuts and wounds. Lavender hydrosol contain full emulsified plant essences (including the water-soluble coumarin) and have a great deal of benefits to the skin and to one's emotional and mental state. Gentle and versatile, lavender is suitable for every skin type, soothing inflammation and providing a cooling sensation when spritzed on the skin. It has regenerative effects on damaged, irritated skin and when combined with oatmeal creates a gentle, deep-cleansing mask. Lavender hydrosols can be used as a cleanser, toner or makeup remover, after shave, air freshener or as a calming facial mist.

Rose

Rose Bush
Rose Bush, a photo by Nesha's Vintage Niche on Flickr

Roses have a fragrance that is immediately recognizable and universally loved. Renowned for centuries for their ability to calm the senses and for their positive effect on various aspects of physical health. Roses provide many benefits in terms of skin care. They have a balancing effect of the PH level of one's skin, can help increase circulation and therefore the distribution of nutrients in the skin, and help to regulate the production of sebum in the skin (the oil that skin naturally produces to keep itself healthy and protected, but that in excess can cause breakouts and dermatitis). Rosewater has a lovely, delicate floral flavor and is used in beverages and baking. It is used extensively in Middle Eastern and East Indian desserts. Many people swear by rosewater as a remedy for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) for its ability to balance female hormones. Some people even find it helpful in soothing sore throats.

Rose's antioxidant properties make it most suitable for mature and dry skin. Rosewater and glycerin are a classic apothecary preparation that can be found to this day in most pharmacies, and is applied to either face or hands as a simple lotion. Spritz rosewater every night on your face as a nourishing toner and moisturizer, either alone or layered with a rosewater based lotion or a rose-scented facial serum or rich cream.

Rose Geranium

Rose Geranium
 Rose Geranium, a photo by hello_imac3 on Flickr

From the flowers and leaves of Pelargonium capitatum, this is my personal favorite hydrosol. I love rose geranium for its uplifting, slightly green, almost lemony aroma. This particular hydrosol is great for combination, oily, or blemish-prone skin, and helps to quickly and effectively restore the skin's balance. This was especially beneficial for me in the summer time when the increased exposure to the sun caused my skin to become a little bit more oily (a common side effect of many skin types in response to sunburn and dryness). Rose geranium hydrosol's can be used as a facial mist, toner, cleanser or even as an air freshener. A natural anti-inflammatory and coolant, rose geranium is also helpful for use on sunburns and summer rashes.

Roman Chamomille

Roman Chamomille
Roman Chamomille, a photo by noriko stardust on Flickr

Wonderfully soothing, Roman chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) hydrosols are great for most skin types and are perfect for skin that is extra sensitive, like babies' skin. Incredibly relaxing, Roman chamomile is renowned for its ability to soothe one's jangled nerves and balance the senses. It can ease muscle cramps and can be taken orally to help with intestinal cramps and spasms. It can be used on the skin to ease any kind of inflammation, as a facial toner or spray. It is also a great enhancement when added to a moisturizer or facial mask.

Orange Flower

Neroli
Neroli, a photo by Starry Raston on Flickr

Orange Flower Water (Neroli water), from the flowers of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium subsp. amara or Bigaradia) is one of the best for reducing stress, with its citrusy floral hydrosol. Very astringent, this floral hydrosol is best for oily and acne-prone skin. For those with normal, dry or sensitive skin, this water should be combined with a more hydrating water such as rose or lavender. This water is optimal for blemish-prone skin when combined with an oil-absorbing clay mask. It should also be used as a toner or as a spritz (when used sparingly as to avoid excessive dryness) to balance skin and to calm anxiety. Orange Flower Water are also very popular in the Middle East, in both desserts and savoury dishes. Along with rosewater, it perfumes many famous confections such as Rahat Loukum, Malabi, and a wide assortment of syrup-soaked baclavas. It will also make a fragrant salad dressing or marinade for poultry or fish, providing a fresh-floral top note.

With so many options out there in terms of beauty products it is very important to research what is best for your skin type and body. Floral Hydrosols are great in that they are one hundred percent natural, affordable, and serve the skin in a multitude of different ways. They are also great for aromatherapy and provide a great deal of emotional benefits. And if you're a foodie - there are countless ways to incorporate them into the kitchen In other words, it is the ideal beauty product for the lover of all things natural, with an appreciation for fragrance.


Lemon & Verbena Cupcakes

Lemon & Verbena Cupcakes by Ayala Moriel
Lemon & Verbena Cupcakes, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
That wonderful lemon verbena in the gardens in the village where I was staying truly inspired me to make a verbena-soaked lemon loaf. But I didn't have my loaf pan, so I made cupcakes instead! I used a bit of semoline instead of all-flour as you'd find in most cupcake recipes. This adds a nice grainy texture, and interest to what is otherwise a very simple yellow batter. However, it is also packed with lemony tartness and aroma, from both the juice and the zest.

For the glazing, I've used both lemon verbena tisan (brought to room temperature, of course), and along with the vanilla sugar, it had an intense lemon-candy flavour, just like that of the classic Israeli lemon popsicles (which are amazing). Must be all that citral and vanillin. Mouthwateringly delicious, and would make a great addition for a Shabat afternoon tea. Shabat Shalom! 
For the batter:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina (cream of wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk * 
zest from one lemon
1 Tbs lemon juice

Lemon Verbena Glazing:
2 Tbs strong tisane from fresh** lemon verbena leaves
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 package vanilla sugar

- Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
- Butter and flour a dozen-cup muffin tin (or use paper cupcake liners)
- Cream together the butter and sugar
-  Add and beat the eggs, one at a time until light and fluffy
- Add vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest, and beat just until incorporated
- Sift together the flour, semolina, baking powder and salt
- Add half of the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
- Add half the milk and continue stirring
- Add the remaining two halves of the flour and milk, gently folding mixing until fully incorporated 
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean
- In the meantime, prepare the glazing by beating together the lemon verbena tisane, lemon juice and vanilla sugar. Gradually add the icing sugar and continue beating until smooth and runny.
- When the cupcakes are ready and have cooled down, brush them with the glazing.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Do not refrigerate!

* Of your choice, can be dairy or non-dairy
** Substitute with dry leaves if you don’t have them.
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