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New Perfume: Komorebi

Komorebi

Thank you for everyone who've contributed their ideas for a name for the pacific rainforest amber-chypre perfume. The new perfume captures the wonderful scent that can be experienced in late summer and early autumn in the Pacific northwest rainforests: It emanates from the sun-dappled fragrant forest floor on those warm days when the sun brings out the sweet smells of redcedar, moss & Douglas fir…  This is a perfume I've been trying to capture for many, many years, and when I finally got the result I wanted - the name just wouldn't come up... So I asked for your help, as well as Elena from Perfume Shrine to help to find a word that describes the smell of sun-warmed forest floor...

There were many intriguing names, and it was still a very difficult choice. After much struggle, contemplation and even a poll between the finalists, it made itself clear that while in an ideal world there will be a perfect word just for that - or a name of a place that evokes that smell and feeling of mystery and wonder - the name does not have to fit the smell to a T. So rather than going with Cathedral Grove (a wonderful old-growth forest on Vancouver Island, on the highway between Nanaimo to Tofino) - I've picked Avraham Yehoshua's excellent suggestion Komorebi. While the perfume does not smell particularly Japanese, both the scent and the name evoke the same sensation and feeling of awe for the forest visual and fragrant beauty. After all, things don't have to match perfectly to be true or beautiful.

If the word "Petrichor" describes the smell of the parched earth after the rain; this perfume captures the opposite - the scent of the forest floor after its been kissed by sun. It's the Pacific Northwest equivalent of the Meditteranean "Garrigue" (the intoxicating odour of sunbaked earth and scrubland, dominated by sage and labdanum), and in my mind I've been describing it as "Forest Amber" or "Pacific Chypre".  But non of these names seemed to capture the magic quite as perfectly. So I'm thankful to the Japanese language, which has a special word for the interplay of light and leaves, which includes the sunbeams one would observe coming through the trees and shedding light on the vapour they exhale; as well as the dappled-gold forest floor, a vision that is shifting yet constant, as long as the sun is there. This is the essence of komorebi in the Pacific rainforest. 

This perfume is the first in a series of perfumes dedicated to special places in the Pacific Northwest. Place of inspiration: Cathedral trail in Xwayxway (Stanley Park). It is now offered online as an Eau de Parfum (15 mL and 4 mL) or parfum oil (5 mL). 

Notes: Redcedar, Fir, Oakmoss, Black Cottonwood 

Fragrance Families: Woody, Ambery, Chypre





The Girl Who Smells Music


This Monday, on the very same day, I had two special people enter my home. One is an Iranian santur-maker, who also will install new carpets in my place after many years of begging my landlords to do something about it. I was so pleasantly surprised by his interest in the various random musical instruments scattered around the house, and his noble manners (unlike any other handyman that ever crossed my path) that I'm almost convinced that I should begin learning to play this elusive instrument. If only because they are handmade by him and can be carried around rather than be wheeled out by two bodybuilders whenever you need to move (or get your carpets changed).

The other was Dana El Masri, who you might have heard first about through her blog The Scentinel, through which she shared her adventures studying at GIP (Grasse Institute of Perfumery) and have just a little over a year ago launched her own indie brand, Jazmin Saraï, which is based out of Montreal.

What do perfumers do when they get together? Mostly smell each other's creations and more often than never also share the woes of the industry (packaging agonies, ingredients restrictions and prohibitive costs is what we tend to whine about). It was refreshing to have a lot less of the latter, and a lot more of smelling and marvelling at what came out of each of our ateliers. The whining was more about how people can NEVER pronounce our name properly (FYI: Dana's name is simply pronounced Da-na, now "Dayna" or any other Englishized distortion of these two straightforward syllables, just as we would call her in Israel). It was a fun sniffathon and I finally got to experience not only all four of Dana's creations, but also the fifth one that she's working on. They were all gorgeous, well-composed and original and I must admit that even though when I looked at the website a year ago I was a bit skeptic of the music and perfume connection, once I smelled the perfumes all my doubts have disappeared.

Otis & Me:
Smoky yet light and green. The most subtle, and the most natural-smelling of the bunch (by the way, all of Jazmin Saraï perfumes have a high proportion of naturals, which is very apparent). Unfortunately it did not fare well on my skin and with all the strong personalities next to it I was barely able to experience its evolution on the skin. This one deserves a proper sampling. But suffice is to say that it is based on coffee - a note that I feel is underappreciated in the perfume world. It is actually a lot more diverse and capable than just making appearances in gourmands.

Neon Grafitti:
Fruity yet green, floral and with an underlining musk (FYI: Dana only uses macrocyclic musks, and these are the ones that not only smell better but are also the kind that is naturally occurring in various plants and are more friendly to the environment). It smells cool and a bit metallic, but also very vibrant and colourful. It reminded me of a scentsthat I admire but can't get near anymore, unfortunately (due to negative conditioning) - l'Ombre Dans l'Eau. It also smelled like a more fleshed-out rendition of what I would have imagined Jardin Sur Le Nil should be like before actually smelling it. It has the mango - not quite ripe and overly sweet mango, but still little green, and there is a lot more body and an interesting evolution to it the Sur Le Nil (which I experience to be only an empty aura - sillage with no personality).

How You Love:
Begins very sweet with a well-rounded sweet honey note. Nothing funky there (which is always a challenge with honey). It envelopes you like a hug. It's how I would imagine the honey perfume that Alyssa Harad talks about in her book Coming To My Senses (I know she reveals eventually what it is - but I never smelled it, so I can keep imagining it as something else all I want). There is a nutty element that reveals itself as some point, a little like hazelnut, and the dry down, while still maligning a lot of the honey, also has a warm, slightly dirty musk beneath it all. Dana has graciously left a sample of this behind, so I will wear this again and write a proper "review" of this soon.

Led IV:
Olfactory portrayals of Rock n' Roll often involve patchouli. So this "translation" is not what makes Led IV original. What does is how the patchouli is played: the fermented, wine-like quality of this controversial note are amped up by boozy davana. An herb from the Artemisia family that walks a fine line between smelling like strawberry jam, to someone who puked their strawberry daiquiri... It might sound gross, but it's what makes this note both challenging and satisfying to work with. The more I let Led IV sit on the skin, the more it grew on me: the warm, spicy muskiness of patchouli mingled with this oddball of an accessory note, complementing it but also making it very clear that it's not a patchouli like all the other niche patchoulies that have saturated the market as of late.

No. 5 was the lovelies of them all. It does not have name yet, but it's based in castoereum, and both the leathery and amber qualities really stand out right from the start. These are beautifully complemented by the leathery floral notes of osmanthus absolute. It's dripping honeyed labdanum. It has a luscious, incense with smokey-honey character underlined with a subtle, slightly nutty musk. The drydown reminds me of Laurie Erickson's beautiful Incense Pure. I am pre-ordering a full bottle of this. I have forgotten to ask her what song was the inspiration for this scent. So we will all have wait patiently until its name is revealed...

While the connection between the Santur-making careptman and a synesthetic Egyptian princess may seem only apparent to me - the connection between music and perfume is more than random. Emotions, frequencies and the same area of the brain processing both is what make these two mediums so profoundly deep and ineffable. We remember our loved ones not only by their scent, but also the sound of their voice and the music we listen to while with them. That's why we'll often find ourselves hugging an unwashed sweater while listening to old records when our baby is gone for a little trip (and of course both will trigger the waterworks if we end up breaking up).

Misia



Misia, the new bird in Chanel's flock of exclusive scents has pleasantly surprised me with its soft, down-like softness, warmth and retro sweetness. It immediately brings to mind candied violet petals, with its overdose of alpha ionones, which dominate the opening, giving it the characteristic cedar wood effect. This balances the sweetness of the composition, addinga woody, dry yet powdery and soft air to it. This is quickly taken over by juicy, fruity notes of a plush, dark-red rose. Raspberry and plum notes rule supreme with every stroke of this bold bluish-red lipstick. The iconic Lipstick Rose comes to mind, as well as the scent that pervades most of the current Guerlain cosmetics. But more on points of references later. While there is more than a gourmand hint to Misia, it does not in the least smell too obviously dessert-like, nor trashy. It does, however, give it a most addictive character. As the fruit and rose soften and become rounder, the sweet supporting base note begin to emerge, and they are the perfume-world equivalent of caramel: tonka bean, with its slightly bitter, powdery qualities of almond rocca; and benzoin, which is like liquified brown sugar, with a depth to its sweetness that stops it from being cloying. There is something about the dry down that is not how I'd expect this to end. It's thankfully not too powdery, nor too musky; and sweetness is played just right, balanced with an earthy nuttiness. If there is any leather in there I can't smell it, unfortunately.

If I didn't know the perfumer behind Misia is Olivier Pole (Jaqcues Polge's son and successor as Chanel's house perfumer) I would have guessed it's Sophia Grojsman (Lancome's Tresor and YSL's Paris smell like close relatives). But there is more violet than rose in Misia, which if I were to blind test this would make me think of it is a Guerlain. Not so much the old fashioned violet-laden Apres l'Ondee or l'Heure Bleue, but rather, Meteorites (a scent that was phased out and instead was used to scent their makeup line of the same name); or perhaps a more agreeable version of their recent violet-dominated La Petite Robe Noire (which although I like its idea, I find it to be more than a tad too brash to my taste). But again I will contradict that notion because Misia's character is a more nuanced and less invasive.

With all these references to existing non-Chanel fragrances, you can probably already guess that there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. However, in the context of it being part of the Chanel family, and comparing it to the rest of the collection, it is admittedly quite refreshing to be offered the choice of a perfume that it is not nearly as austere, angular or aloof as the temperament of this house tends to lean on. Misia seems even more "out of place" than Coromandel was at its time - a patchouli fragrance in a collection of iris and aldehydic florals. But even Coromandel has a coolness to it, a bit of a sharp edge that surrounds a very clean, albeit sweetened patchouli. Misha wants to crawl right next to my Bois des Iles bottle and cuddle, while still wearing its silk stockings and with a fully powdered and made-up face.

Top notes: Ionones alpha (Violet notes), Raspberry, Plum
Heart notes: Rose, Orris, Damascones
Base notes: Tonka bean, Benzoin

The Decision


The beautiful thing about deadlines, is that they force you to make a decision. Even deadlines that are imposed by oneself. I wanted to have Narkiss ready in time for Channukah, because that is the time of the year when the narcissi are in bloom in Israel.

I won't pretend it was the hardest decision of my life. Like many other times, I realized at the end of the process that my original concept was really IT. But it was too expensive to create in larger quantities. I had the concept for Narkiss going on for way too long to make it end up as a limited edition, sold only to a handful of curiouis perfumistas. I had bigger dreams for it becoming part of my steady collection - and even design a unique label for it, as part of The Language of Flowers collection.

It boiled down to 2 options. The difficulty was that I really liked both mod 07 and mod 08. Mod 7 started off a little sour, but quite realistically like a pine forest after rain, with that powdery flower lingering in the air. Admittedly, it was quite coumarine-y and green at first, and easily perceived as masculine. When it dried down, it turned into this gorgeous, pine needle and wood aroma - fresh yet deep, woody yet tart. I just adored it.



The 8th mod was very similar to the first idea I had created way back in 2007. I liked it a lot, almost as I did the original. But I didn't like the dry down as much as the 7th version. I had to make a decision and make it fast... And for that sometimes you need an extra set of nostrils. I asked my friend Jolanta to try both with me, just before the start of the Christmas at Hycroft show. She was a little like me, really pining for the 8th mod, but feeling that the 7th would be more popular. I agreed; but also thought out loud with her, saying how so many of my recent releases are not that different when it boils down to the dry down - woody fresh, kinda like Orcas. I felt like I needed to roll out something entirely new.

And that's how I decided on the 8th mod! So you see, in the end, it was worth wasting 6 bottles, countless essences, and many pages in my formulating books. And I truly hope that you'll enjoy my decision!

The Dilemma


With so many mods, the process can go on and on and on... It can be rather daunting at times: sniff this, compare it to that. Add a little bit more of this, and omit that. Does it smell right? Does it really make your nose want to sing? Does it smell unique and fabulous? Is there even a point of releasing something new - or am I just repeating myself and creating yet another white floral, or grassy, hay-like composition?



Composing is tedious, but also very meditative. Creative. Therapeutic, even. It's the analysis stage that can be the killer - I had so many options - the 6 rounds I told you about over the last couple of weeks were really more than that - they were 8 different formulae (or mods), and basically represented two if not three opposing concepts:
1) Retro, luscious floral with a bit of a dark, gloomy and pensieve personality and that is completely abstract.
2) Rainy, greeny winter scent that's supposed to realistically portray a real-life nature scenery (narcissus, puddles and pine forests).
3) Just go wild with narcissus absolute and make it truly shine, purely as a soliflore, with absolutely no regard to availability, expense or demand - which would inevitably create a very limited edition.

It was not the hardest decision of my life but let's say that there were at the end of it, 2 mods that I had to pick. It had to be either one or the other. The difficulty was that I really liked both mod 07 and mod 08.
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