Cocaigne: Upcoming New Perfume

Cocaigne: Upcoming New Perfume

As the October acenstral festivities are approaching, is time to announce my upcoming new perfume, which has been in the works for close to two years. It is a tribute to my late grandmother (who was never late!). She was hospitalized a week millions of elderly and sick people world-wide, who were hospitalized and have died during this unfortunate times of confusion, loss of common sense, reason and humanity, she has died alone.

During those fives weeks we were not allowed to visit her, and were frankly too scared to do anything about her. The hospital allowed only one family member to accompany a patient to the hospital, and in her case, because she insisted to live in her apartment in Tel Aviv till her last days, that person was her live-in caregiver, a dedicated, compassionate and wonderful woman from the Philippines who she grew very close to in her last six years of life. While we knew she was in good hands, during this time of confusion, even she was too scared to stay at the hospital for too long, from fear of contracting COVID-19 from somebody. These were dark days of fear and isolation. Even me and my daughter, who are now living next door to my mother and three brothers, were completely isolated. We knew very little about Coronavirus back then, and I was terrified that I may be a carrier of that virus (even though my contact with the public is very minimal, as my work is mostly done in isolation to begin with, running an online business and a perfume studio that only hosts in-person events, courses and workshops only a few times a year). So I was neither able to take my daughter with me to visit Grandma, nor leave her with my mom, who is considered at a very hight risk for lung diseases not just because of her age, but because of other multiple chronic health issues. 

I've spent those six weeks of being torn away from Grandma intermittently ridden with worry, guilt, sorrow and an urge to disobey all rules and just go visit; and every time I would run this idea by my family members, was talked out of it as being an impossible option, based on inside information from friends who worked in hospitals and knew the mad visitation policies that suddenly have taken place. This would just drive me so mad with this internal conflict, that I just couldn't bear the thought anymore, and switched gear into perfect oblivion, in which I would just "live in the moment" and try to make the best of the horribly restrictive times. Luckily for us, it was spring, the weather was beautiful, and we live int eh countryside - so even though we couldn't really see people, at least we weren't physically confined to the four walls of our home. I try to emulate an air of calm and happiness to my daughter, who is autistic, and the whole situation that happened overnight without any warning, was very unsettling for her and induced a lot of anxiety (we got the notice that her day program would shut down, contrary to previous notices, at 11pm on Saturday night, when she already had her backpack by the door ready for the next day - FYI workweeks in Israel begin on Sundays). 

After five weeks of hospitalization, grandma was transferred to a special care facilities for the elderly, rather than return to her apartment Tel Aviv, as she was too sick to be at home, requiring 24/7 oxygen and additional medical care. We were kinda in denial that she's going to die very soon. I was truly hoping that she will get over it and return home. We did our very best to get her into a centre that is relatively close to us, and this was still an hour drive, and we were not allowed to visit. But unlike the hospital's nurses, who made zero effort to update family about her condition, or let us talk to her on the phone (she was bed-ridden), the caretakers in the new facility made sure we speak to her on a webcam at least once a day, and updated us in detail about her. She arrived there on a Friday, and by Saturday night they've informed us we're getting a special authorization to visit her once (anyone from the family, but just this one time), provided that we will be wearing face-masks and protective gloves, and will remain at the gate, while she will remain two meters away from it. 

It took the family other day to decide who is coming, and it turned out to be just me and my eldest brother. That day my daughter also returned to her program, so I drove her there, and continued from there to the village Daburya, on the foothills of Mount Tabor. The night before I baked grandma's favourite cake - a fluffy cheesecake with a topped with vanilla whipped cream. 

On the way there, my brother asked me which route I'm taking, and if I'm going to turn right onto Mount Tabor's church site. I said I don't know, I'm just following the GPS steps. A couple of kilometres later, I turned right and immediately was stopped by a police officer. They wouldn't let us go into the village, making silly excuses that it is infected with COVID-19, and that we shouldn't be driving at all (when in fact that day was the first day that everyone were allowed to go back to work again). It didn't matter that we told them that grandma is dying and we were given a special permission by the care facilities to visit her this one time to say goodbye. We pleaded and followed their instructions, supposedly allowing us to go in if we give them our IDs as a reassurance, and call the care home to confirm that we are allowed to visit. After all these efforts, they still said "NO". We turned around, furious, frustrated and genuinely holding back our anger as to not lash out at them (only because we didn't want to get in trouble); but refused to give up. I remember the alternate route my brother was mentioning, and we took that turn, passed the Mt. Tabor church, and went through a winding way to enter Daburya from another entrance. We were not stopped by anyone and were able to deliver the cheesecake to grandma. 

Granda was wheeled to the care home's courtyard, stopped two meters short of the gate, and her caretaker kept trying to get her face bask back on, which slipped back over her eyes, and she had no clue what was going on. Why would a lady who requires 24/7 oxygen, and who has just passed a COVID-19 test (negative of course), both when being discharged from the hospital, and upon arrival at the facility, would be forced such a mask in the open air is beyond me. So we were not able to see too much of her face at first. But seeing her discomfort, we were able to convince her caretaker to take it off (while we remained masked). This is when it occurred to us that both her hearing aids and eyeglasses, as well as false teeth were all left at home! She hasn't had them at the hospital for all these five weeks of hospitalization, and arrived at the facilities completely helpless and unable to communicate, see, hear or eat. Good things the cheesecake is so soft nobody even needs teeth to eat it. 

Savta was not communicative, and I don't even known if she could see to hear us. But I sang her a few of her favourite German Lieder that she taught me, while crying yet trying to remain calm. We spent only ten, maybe fifteen minutes there all in all, because that's all we were allowed. I would never be able to hug Savta again, or eve hold her hand. 

Savta didn't get to eat her cake till a day or two later. And that night, she passed away. We're told she passed away peacefully in her sleep, and in all truth and honesty, I want to believe it to be so; but I saw the torture and fear of death on her face, and the horror of it. I saw her fight death before, walking between the worlds, and trying to untie and make amends and sew together all the unfinished pieces of her life. And get back to life after that. I really wished she would be able to get out of this before the lockdown was over, and get back to her home as she wished, and die there and perhaps even be able to hold her hand one last time. Alas, this was not to be. I made peace with that at that time, telling myself that she wished to die alone, not being a burden on anyone. Not being helpless around those who always leaned on her and needed her strong. It almost seemed as if she needed the quiet of the lockdown and its restrictions, to be allowed to leave this world and cross into the next. 

On the way back from Mount Tabor my bother and I stopped for a little picnic on a cliff facing the Sea of Galilee. We met a new (to use) aromatic medicinal plant there, Mountain Tea, which in Hebrew is called Barzilon, alluding to the word "Iron", and which I hoped will give me strength despite Savta's hreatbreaking condition. I tried to transplant a few but they died too. It was the last road trip I took with any of my brothers, and the last time we felt close as a family. At the end of the Shiva, it felt like the whole family has been torn apart, unable to reconcile, and each and everyone's grief process was different and clashing and nobody was ever able to be sensitive to the other person's needs or sorrows. Especially not those who remained in denial. Only 18 people were allowed to her funeral, and it was heartbreaking and traumatic to pay her last respects in such an disrespectful way. Unable to see and be seen with our grief. Unable to hug people during the Shiva due to COVID-19 fear. Two days after the Shiva the lockdown was cancelled completely and left me bitter, with the feeling of losing a relative in the holocaust just a day or two before liberation. 

This post was not even meant to be about how I lost grandma, but about the perfume I made as a tribute to her living presence and enduring spirit, and comforting home. But as I began writing it, I realized I wanted to share some of it, and as it took me months and months to unpack the trauma of her departure, and be able to sleep again without seeing a grotesque funeral of masked people, and feeling constantly disembodiment and disassociation, not to mention loneliness and suicidal thoughts from the horrid condition that our family has arrived at with its roots, pillar and foundation shattered and fragmented this way. It is a very vulnerable part of me, and I would only share it in hopes that it helps any of my readers who experienced a similar loss during this insane and cruel era. Please do know that you're not alone in this, and this is not right that our funeral and grieving rights were robbed of us. And please don't be ashamed or embarrassed to discuss it and demand justice and healing for your bereavement, and to make amends with your Dead in whatever way shape or form. 

My personal was to visit grandma's house as much as I could, and carefully go through her belonging and correspondence, and sort them and pack them lovingly. Both my daughter and I have suffered much from this loss, both mentally and physically (she was diagnosed with an IBD only recently, after struggling and battling with it over a year and a half, and is only now beginning to heal).

The other part of my healing process included finishing this perfume I began working on one of the last visit I had with her, while she was still alive. So I would like to share some of that process with you, and am planning to launch the perfume on her birthday, December 26th, with a pre-launch October 31st, for Noche de almas perdida and Dia de Los Muertos. This perfume is both nostalgic and ceremonial, and includes some elements of raw materials that my grandmother loved or that I associate with her. But it's not a replica of her scent (that would be impossible to create!), nor the smell of her house. But to create the feeling of it. The scent itself is something new altogether. Which I would classify as both Ambery/Incense and Floral-Aldehydic. 

Grandma's home always smelled like a warm hug. Her hands, wide and reassuring with deepening veins and stained by time, are what gave me strength for as long as I can remember myself.

Landing in her pad was always a comforting and stable place to be, no matter how far and wide I've travelled from. She would greet me with a smile and a table spread at any weird hour, the most generous hospitality that it always felt like a true homecoming to me. And I could always count on a perfectly made bed with crisp, fresh linens. And a good night blessing for golden dreams, sealed with a kiss.

On one of my last visits to my grandmother's home, she gifted me with "The Joy of Cooking". In it I found a recurring word I could not understand, Cocaigne, and when looking it up I learned it is the Land of Plenty, a place for gluttons par excellence. I immediately thought it was the perfect name for a perfume tribute to my grandma. Sadly, she did not live to smell it in it's completion, and it became a comfort to me during the  grief process, in which I have not only lost my grandmother, but also my spiritual home and place of safety, and the pillar of strength, confidence and support she has always been for me.

Notes: Ginger, Cinnamon, Cape Chamomile, Petitgrain Absolute, Jasmine, Hawaiian Sandalwood, Atlas Cedar, Sweetgrass, Bushman's Candle, Palo Santo, Vanilla, Araucaria


Beach Lily

Chavatzelet Shkiaa

Happy Summer Solstice! 
There is a secret spot on the northernmost beach, below the sandstone slopes laden with beach lilies, purple everlasting and sea-celery,  where saltwater meets a freshwater spring. It is accessible only in low tide, when the spring is revealed and its water can be drank and purify before the short stream is swallowed by the thirsty tongue of the Mediterranean Mother. When the tide is up, the flowing spring is immediately consumed by her salty womb and none would know it was in the least diluted. 
Today, 21.06.2020 is an unusual day: the sun is at its peak, and there is also a Sun Eclipse. This reminds me of the merging of the two waters. And therefore, I chose this day to release my new creation, Beach Lily
This is a perfume in honour of one of my favourite flowers - the Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), an endangered bulb flower that usually only beings to bloom at the end of summer and early fall (sometime around late August and early September). This year I have already seen some in bloom in mid-June! It has an incredible scent, very heady and lily-like, with a hint of green, that intensifies in the afternoon and evening, and attracts night pollinators. 
The process for creating this scent was a bit unusual: It actually started as a soap-scent for my Beach Lily shampoo bar with Coconut Milk & Shea Butter, and I loved it so much that I turned it into a fully-fledged perfume. On this conspicuous day, both the Beach Lily shampoo bar and perfume are ready for you to enjoy. And also the label design has just got in.  
Credits are due to my graphic designer who is so talented, hard working and a joy to work with. Thank you, Terry! And many thanks also to my brother Yotam Dehan, who took this gorgeous Sea Daffodil photograph back in 2006 and sent it to me when I was still living in Canada (and missing all these special wild flowers). Wise Woman Inbal Levite taught me that this plant is the teacher of unconditional love, and I think my brother's simple gesture of sharing a photo of something I love so much is an act of love. How blessed I am to live next to such plant teachers, and to my close family that I love so much. 
Each bottle contains a few drops of both saltwater and freshwater, from the secret, swollen spring; and I put a little bit of both low tide water and spring water just for you. With these bottles of fragrance, saltwater and freshwater, I share with you my love for the sea and the wild beaches. May they be clean and rich with sea life! I will donate 20% of each bottle sale to "Mediterranean People", a local organization that works to protect the beaches and sealife (particularly the Sea Turtles, whose eggs are being laid these days), keeps the beaches clean and does ongoing educational campaigns in this beautiful nature reserve, just 20 minutes away from my studio. 
Today I feel truly blessed and grateful for Nature and beauty and a good health and being surrounded by love - far and near. If you ever find yourself feeling lonely or unloved, remember that you contain all this unconditional love within you. May this perfume be a reminder of that, and of all the love you receive (maybe not romantic, but that is not the only love that nourishes us!) and the unconditional love that you too embody.  

Top notes: Bayberry, Galangal, Ruby Red Grapefruit
Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Ginger Lily
Base notes: Sandalwood, Foikienia 


כתלה חריפה Chiliadenus iphionoides

Sharp Varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides), or in Hebrew Ktela Harifa (כתלה חריפה) likes to grow inside rocks and has the most incredibly resinous, rustic, complex aroma. It truly is like a complete perfume all of its own, exemplifying what Garriague and Chypre are all about.

Sharp Vartehmia

I've stumbled upon this plant by chance, first near Keshet Cave in Park Adamit near the Lebanese border. A beautiful place with gorgeous view. It was one of two aromatic plants i was unable to identify, but intuitively knew they are both of medicinal and aesthetic value. I later found Varthemia on the mountain above my house. But it wasn't until I saw Yonat HaMidbar post about it and rave about its lovely perfume that I was able to identify the plant (it was never in bloom when I saw it, and it's near impossible to ID plants when they are not in bloom).

Vartehmia Incense Cones

Shortly after I was not only inspired to finally make incense cones out of it, but also studied some of the medicinal properties of it. Among others, it is good for heart problems and diabetes - and seems like a very gentle herb to enjoy in tea (as long as it's not overly done). I picked some for a friend who just had a heart attack, and figured my own heart could benefit from it too. So I've been sipping a lot of vartehmia. marrubium and white mint tea. A lovely combination, and feels to be soothing both the heart and the soul.

Heart Soothing Tea


My next adventure with vartehmia is infusing it in both alcohol and olive oil. From the olive oil I will make a single-note vartehmia soap (I will also have it brewed into tea for the water component of the soap making process, so that it is as naturally fragrant as possible). From the alcohol infusion, which turned out beautifully resinous and rich, I've created a rustic, garrigue-inspired amber perfume, which I am debating if you launch this fall or not. It's a further development of an old, old, old formula that was almost sickeningly sweet because the amber base in it wasn't my own and I am quite certain contained some artificial molecules. Frankly, that base smelled more like an ambreine accord. The perfume I made with it included a touch oregano that balanced this sweetness to some degree, but not enough. I want the new perfume to be more authentic and local, and use my own herbal infusions in it - but without taking away from the luxurious character of the perfume. It is very different from the original, and surprisingly has a bit of the Espionage DNA to it - even there is nothing smoky about it. Must be the ambreine accord (which, FYI, is the core of Shalimar, Emeraude and the like). 


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.

New Perfume: Lost Lagoon

 Inspired by a hidden garden of azaleas

Lost Lagoon

Happy May Day!
I'm excited to share with you my new perfume for spring and summer: Lost Lagoon.

Every spring, the rhododendrons awaken - first slowly, building anticipation. By early May, they simply burst with colour and aroma, some of the bushes so dense with flowers that you can't even see their leaves and branches...

These fragrant azaleas paint the edges of Lost Lagoon with myriads of flowers of tropical colours and exotic scents as versatile as the number of hybrids planted there: some are reminiscent of lily, others are like ylang ylang and some smell like cool suntan lotion. Bluebells, violets and other bulb flowers and annuals are planted among them; and magnolia, lilac and syringa contribute their luscious perfume to the already fragrant air. Freshly cut grass from the Pitch & Putt is the only reminder you're still in the Northern Hemisphere and not in the tropics...

Lost Lagoon

In case you can't experience this extravagant botanical explosion in person - don't be sad: I've bottled that scent especially for you!

Lost Lagoon is the third installation in "Perfume For A Place" series, which is inspired by my favourite places in Vancouver. This perfume will transport you to a secret lagoon surrounded by tropical flowers. Lost Lagoon is a refreshing Chypre with exotic floral notes of magnolia and ylang ylang and loaded with bergamot and green notes of rhododendron buds, violet leaf and galbanum.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Galbanum, Violet
Heart Notes: Rhododendron, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Iris

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