Jasmine & Cantaloupe


When visiting Grasse in spring 2009, I was intrigued by Salade de melon et jambon de Parme
 (AKA Prosciutto e Melone - a simple carpaccio dish that seemed rather alluring even to my eternal vegetarian-born-and-raised palate. Thin slices of cured ham were layered flat on a plate, and wedges of cantaloupe arranged on top. It seemed so odd to me to pair something so meaty and brown with something so vividly orange and juicy. But, living vicariously through the carnivore boyfriend I had at the time, I gathered that the magic lay in the contrast between the saltiness of the prosciutto and the fragrant sweetness of cantaloupe - not unlike the Balkan signature pairing of crispy sweet watermelon with creamy and heavily brined feta cheese.

Later research into the matter also informed me that pork has a coconut, peach and apricot-like notes to it from lactones, which makes it so suitable for pairing with fruit as well as certain fruity white wines or lightly oaked reds. Vegetarians may enjoy a somewhat similar experience by savouring tiny cubes of well-aged Pecorino Romano with abovementioned cantaloupe; or if you want to go overboard, find yourself a coconut-gouda and watch out for exploding tastebuds. And since we are on the topic of coconut, vegans can also enjoy the coconut and cantaloupe contrast by sprinkling fine coconut flakes on their melon; or toasted coconut curls for an even more decadent experience.

Prosciutto e melone

While in Grasse, I had the pleasure and honour to meet with Michel Roudnistka - a multi sensory and visual artist (photographer, perfumer and filmmaker who combined his videos into a film that is accompanied by five difference ambient fragrances, each for a different indigenous culture around the world), and that is when I firs experienced his magnificent perfume Emotionelle, which he created for Parfums DelRae in San Francisco. How does Emotionelle smell?

Picture this in ripe, juicy, room-temperatured cantaloupe in your mouth, with a full-bodied flavour filling your entire palate:

Crisp Cantaloupe
Suddenlly and immediately, you are interrupted by more than a whiff of this indolic jasmine:
Grasse jasmine
That is the basis for Emotiomelle, the main structure upon a complete, original and unusual perfume is built. One could argue the source for this pairing is in Le Parfum de Thérèse (which the perfumer's father created for his mother), or Diorella. However, the other two had melon, not cantaloupe. And that is a huge difference. As far as influence goes, I would suspect that a new cantaloupe molecule or base was invented that year in one of the Grasse houses, because both Emotionelle and Un Jardin Après la Mousson (which pairs this very cantaloupe note with more bracing, chilled spice notes and cooling vetiver) were released the year prior (2008).

Emotionelle opens with a big, ripe, juicy cantaloupe note and is paired with sultry jasmine and sweet violets. It’s hard to believe these will get along, but they sure do. The key is in the balancing of the animalic indole in the jasmine with softly-blended, oily violet, musk and cedar notes, almost like pastel crayons smeared with a persistent finger to create a bold picture with loud colours yet with very soft texture.

The result is magical, even if a little disturbing, like striking the right chord in the right time. After all, we are talking about pairing something very edible, with something very floral and animalic. To me Emotionelle is very sexy, sensual. I like the fact that it's a distinctive tricolour - with cantaloupe, jasmine and violet being in the centre at all times. There is a complexity and tension that all three bring to the composition, but there are also other subtle layers underneath that keep it from being too simplistic and ordinary. Those who yell "cantaloupe" and dismiss it (most of the reviews I read, actually) miss the entire point. There are many composition styles, and Michel Roudnitska's is one that takes a theme and goes all the way with it. It's also what I smell in Noir Epices: it's very bold combination of geranium, cloves, orange and cinnamon. But it's brining a new, modern meaning to the ages-old pomander scent (the root of all Oriental-Spicy scents, if you ask me) - by not trying to play it quieter, but rather amplifying the seeming dissonance between those notes. Those who pay attention will find it actually humorous, playful and at the same time sophisticated. In the case of Emotionelle this is achieved with low dosage of musk to offset the animalic indole; cedar wood to substantiate the ionones; and warm, sweet notes of honey, amber and labdanum to deepen the sweetness of the cantaloup, with tiny sparkling of spices (cloves, cinnamon) for a bit of warmth and dimension.


To me this perfume will forever remind of Southern France and in particular Grasse, and the visit to Michel's studio and home in Cabris where I first smelled Emotionelle. There was an osmo-art (multi sensory film) projected in one of the room of the MIP (Musée International de la Parfumerie, AKA International Perfume Museum) of which an image of a ladybug crawling along a split cantaloupe was the olfactory if not visual highlight. And lastly, the cantaloupe in the above photo is one I bought and ate there, in its entirety, one afternoon. I didn't have a big enough refrigerator in my hotel room there, so I had to eat most of it room-temperature (which is actually delicious, by the way: it makes the fragrance more apparent than when chilled). It is the perfume of a hot spring day up on the mountainous Alpes-Maritimes-Cote d'Azur, where the sun shines generously, people are warm and hospitable, life is slowly savoured with the people you love, lunch breaks span over two hours minimum, and an afternoon siesta to follow is not a bad idea at all, especially when the room is permeated with a fragrant cantaloupe.

Top notes: Cantalupe, Tangerine, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Prune
Heart notes: Jasmine, Violet Flower, Violet Leaf, Rose, Cinnamon, Honey
Base notes: Vanilla, Cedarwood, Cloves, Patchouli, Musk, Amber, Labdanum


Habanita was the first item I won on eBay - an EDT mini bottle, in the shape of the bottle originally designed by Lalique. And of course – I bought it unsniffed, and completely confident that I will love it, which prove to be true.

Dark, bewitching bottle in a suggestively bold and masculine shape, adorned with embossed figures of bathing naked feminine figures…After all, it is a feminine perfume by Molinard. The screw cap did not readily yield to my efforts to open the bottle, but after my boyfriend lent his helping hand, the genie was finally released from its long captivity in the dark flacon. I was quite surprised to discover that the smell was very familiar, very masculine. It immediately reminded me a scent worn by a man long time ago in my life. The only one I could think of is my grandfather, even though for all I know only used Old Spice after shave and no scent at all...

Perhaps this is why it brings to mind lonely adventures, and radiates a definite confidence of a man aware of his weaknesses and knowing well how to hide them. In a far away country in South America, away from his beloved family, and doing everything to make sure they are safe and constantly prove to them that they are loved… He is keeping a secret, too many secrets, and the weight is heavy on his shoulders. Yet he knows and shows true generosity and is kind to all as much as he can when given the opportunity.

If I could assign any character to this perfume, it would be Alec Leamas, the hero in The Spy who Came in From The Cold. If he ever bothered to put on any perfume before spending hours waiting for his agents to pass the walls separating between Eastern and Western Europe, and smoking packs of cigarettes in the long and cold yearsof post World War II – I am sure it would have smelled like Habanita.

Whether if you are a man or a woman, Habanita possesses all the warmth and protection you need, and can make you feel extremely confident in a most dangerous way.
It’s daring combination of notes makes it extremely masculine and appealing to women at the same time. It is bold and softly enveloping, professional and shamelessly sensual, cool and calculated while warm and sizzling with passion all at once.

Though it was designed for women, I find it to be an ideal scent for men (I should revert to my efforts of convincing my boyfriend to wear it next time I do). For both men and women to wear Habanita would mean being seductive in a dangerous way (and by that I mean an interesting combination of passion and aloofness that perhaps most of us find oddly attractive), sensual and adventurous, mysterious and assertive.

Sniffing it from the bottle, the Habanita top notes are fresh and subtle – a rush of masculine woody notes of mastic (a gum from a Mediterranean bush), juniper berry and cedarwood are accompanied by a generous amount of bergamot, which is citrusy but not in the fruity or eau de cologne sense of citrus – a more refined, green and slightly floral note derived from the bergamot bitter non-edible oranges. This is accentuated by a hint of lavender, which is very subtle and soft, and radiates a certain warmth that is typical to Fougere compositions. Here it is just hinting an adventurous attitude…There is also some leathery, almost smoky note that instantly reminds you of pipe smoke…

The heart note is not quite the main theme in Habanita, but rather assists in bridging between the lighter and somewhat sharper top notes and the dark leather-tobacco base.
The heart has mainly jasmine and rose, which do not make the composition floral in any way. Again, they are there only for harmonizing the blend. There is quite a bit of heliotrope, which has a rich and somewhat powdery vanilla-like aroma, and a bit later you may notice some fruitiness that is quite reminiscent of peach.

The base for Habanita in this case is actually the core and the true heart of the perfume.
A rich tobacco accord, very much like fine Cuban cigar – enriched with full bodied layers of tonka bean and vanilla is the absolute essence of Habanita. It is deepened by a lovely amber, and just hints of oakmoss, musk and perhaps a very tiny amount of vetiver.
The drydown, though still quite the sweet cigar and amber scent, has some chypre and woody qualities to it.

The dry down impression of Habanita is that of a subtle, skin-reminiscent scent. The kind of fragrance that if worn properly may be soon identified by your surrounding as your own natural scent… In that sense it works similarly to Shalimar on my skin, only it is a bit more balanced as the ambery-vanilla sweetness is there only to counterpoint the bitterness of the leather and tobacco notes (and is no the main theme that some find is overly done in Shalimar).

Top notes: Mastic, Cedarwood, Lavender, Bergamot, a hint of Juniper berry, Leather notes Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Peach, Heliotrope Base notes: Vanilla, Tobacco, Tonka Bean, Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Opoponax, Vetiver.

P.s. As you could tell, I did not manage to scan the image I wanted to share with you. In fact, I couldn't even find the photo! One can always blame it on the starts - Mercury in retrograde, blah blah blah. I will have to add the photo later, because it absolutely belongs to THIS post!
P.s.s. Updated October 30th to add the scanned image.

Hiris and Harissa

HIRIS may seem aloof at first, cool and with a paper-like texture. It pairs two of the most dangerously anosmiac notes – orris and musk – and therefore it may not be as satisfying as it could be to some individuals. The first thing I noticed about Hiris is that it’s a really bad idea to try it on paper – even more than other perfumes. It smells like paper, and the scent becomes completely camouflaged on the scent stripe. The second thing I noticed was that when applied to my skin, it smelled surprisingly of cedar (and slightly green at that), and at the same time also very gourmand – like flour, or more accurately, certain Morrocan semolina cookie that my step-grandmother used to make (she called them “sweet patties” but I don’t know the real name and can’t find anything about it at the moment; I will need to find a good Moroccan recipe book next time I am in Israel). These cookies are only slightly sweetened with honey, and flavoured with coriander and a tinge of fennel. The spices strangely complement the interesting, sand-like gritty texture of the cookie, as the semolina crumbs don’t-quite-dissolve in your mouth while the butter and honey melt on your tongue… I love perfumes that smell gourmand but are not really sweet. I only wish this gourmand phase could have lasted longer in Hiris…

The initial introduction of flour and rice paper moves to the background faster than I would have liked it to be, and reveals a delicate scent of tiny blossoms – a delicate, almost fragile lily of the valley, in which the scent of the flower’s stems and leaves provide an underlining cool greenness such as of dew-laden flowers in early morning, when the scent is not at its peak yet. The result is so remote from lily of the valley that it is easily interpreted as the scent of white iris petals unfolding after the rain and releasing their scent surrounded by damp branches and dried stems which are found near a pond, where the iris rhizome develop their strange, watery-coolness and aloof powdery-earthiness.

The dry down (which arrives faster than expected), is musky with a hint of opoponax and slightly vanillic, which makes it warm and a lot more approachable than it may be expected. The only downside of this perfume for me is it’s unsatisfactory lasting power. I need to reapply almost every hour to be able to notice it’s there. But also let’s not forget that I want to remember biting into those cookies again, and again, and again…

Top notes: bergamot, mandarin, coriander, rosewood
Heart notes: orris, lily of the valley, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose
Base notes: cedar, musk, vanilla

The pastries in the photo above are nothing like the "sweet patties" (which I could find no image of recipe of yet) in their barely-there sweetness and the interesting spices, but nevertheless are another favourite Middle Eastern semolina pastry which I love its flavour as well as texture - and happen to know how to make. It is called Harissa, of all things. Like many other Middle Easter pastires (i.e.: baklava), this pastry is baked without sugar, and is sweetened only after baking (and while still hot), by soaking it in Honey Syrup.
So here comes the recipe:

Sweet Semulina and Honey cake from the Middle East

For the Honey Syrup:

1 ½ cups Sugar
½ cup Water
1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
1 ½ Tbs. Rosewater (or Orange Flower Water)
75gr. Butter

- Boil the wataer, sugar and lemon juice until it thickens and covers a spoon. Remove from heat and melt in the butter. Add the rosewater. Set aside and cool down to room temprature.s

For the Dough:
2 ½ cups Semulina (aka Cream of Wheat – yes, the same one used as a breakfast cereal in the West, but be sure to not get the “healthy” variety, with the bran… It should be as white as sand in Hawaii)
1 cup finally shredded coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup all-purpose unbleached white flour
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs. baking powder
75 gr. Butter
1 ½ cup Buttermilk
Blanched almonds for decoration

- Preheat oven to 180 Celsius
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, semolina, coconut, and baking powder)
- Cut the (cold) butter into small pieces and add to the dry mixture
- Rub with your fingers until the little crumbs form
- Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla extract, and mix well until a dough forms
- Line a 9” round spring-pan with parchment paper, and press the dough evenly in the pan
- Cut the unbaked cake (before baking) into diagonal lines, to create diamond shapes
- Press one blanched almond onto each diamond
- Bake in the oven for 40 minutes (or until the edges of the cake turns gold)
- When the cake is still HOT, pour the cool syrup onto the cake, gradually – to allow all the syrup to soak in evenly and thoroughly

Decoding Obscure Notes Part IV: Violets - Purple or Green?

Violets have been long regarded for their delicate and sublime aroma. Although for the most part they are considered a shy, lady-like scent and are associated with Victorian times, when violets were most popular in history. Violets are also considered aphrodisiacs – though usually a “proper” and “well mannered” aphrodisiac. There is a hidden darkness and duskiness about violets that does not come through in all violet fragrances.

A quick visit to the most infamous violet scents will lead to the conclusion that there are no two violets that are the same. There are some green ones – such as Verte Violette, Ormonde and Viola; There are powdery ethereal ones such as Apres l’Ondee, and there are others that are sweet and floral with no question about their violetness, such as Violetta and Meteorites (a Guerlain limited edition).

The differences lays with the fact that the part of the plant that is used commercially is the leaves. However, the nostalgic scent that was so prized in Victorian times was the flowers themselves. These are sweet and powdery at once and quite unusual; Their unmistakable scent is very delicate – in fact, almost invisible in the fresh flowers themselves. Since violet flowers are for the most part man made compounds, the interpretations are limitless, ranging from powdery to green, floral and even gourmand-like, inspired by candied violets.

Violet Flower Absolute
Although violet flowers can be distilled into an absolute, the process is labour intense and non-cost-effective. When I use violet flower note in my perfumes, it is a compound made if various oils that are rich in ionone - such as orris root, violet leaf absolute, boronia along with other floral oils or absolutes to round off the accord and give it a soft flowery impression.

Violet Leaf Absolute
This dark green liquid from the violet leaves smells cool and green, just like cucumber. When diluted, it exposes its powdery and floral characteristics, rather than leafy green.

Boronia Absolute
Boronia comes from the shores of Tasmania, and is one of the most precious absolutes. It contains a lot of ionone – a key component in violet and orris. It has undertones reminiscent of sandalwood and hay, a yellow freesia and violet like body and a slightly fruity, almost like cassis and apricot top notes. More than anything else – it is reminiscent of fresh yellow freesias - fruity, green and spicy all at once.

Orris Butter
Orris has an important role in the creation of violet flower compounds. As much as orris root butter is expensive – it is far more cost effective than harvesting violet flower absolute. Along with chemicals from the ionone family, it helps to duplicate the delicate scent of violet flowers.

Besides its innumerable roles in perfumery and aromatherapy alike, lavender has affiliation with violets. It is floral, herbaceous, powdery and sweet all at once and also, well, purple. The softness and warmth of lavender promotes the powderiness of violet compounds.

I have already mentioned before, in the article about musks, the unique characteristics of costus. However, it’s dusky, dark and slightly oily quality is not only valuable for creating vegetale musk accords, but also as a deep and delicately sweet and rich foundation for violet accords – especially when seeking a dark, more mysterious (rather than purely innocent) violet.

l'Heure Bleue

L’Heure Bleue is one of the true masterpiece by Jacques Guerlain. I see it as standing hand-in-hand with its sisters Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit. There is certain quality that underlines those three masterpieces and makes them even more than an amazingly beautiful-smelling perfume to wear - but truly a work of art.

L’Heure Bleue is sophisticated and anigmatic, and yet has a unique melodramatic peacefulness that definitely does not lack reflective, philosophical melancholy…
When you realize, once the last dusky lights are giving themselves away to the first stars, how beautiful the day was, and how wonderful the deep blue night is, and the world is so vast and immeasurable and so full of beauty that it may even make you want to cry…
This moment of beauty is so eternal that it makes you feel your mortality in a painful way. Still, you are content with yourself and your life that you know if it will be taken from you that moment, you will feel complete and in perfect harmony with the universe…

You breathe in the silent fresh air of your warm summer garden… The night blooming jasmine is beautiful and intoxicating… The grass that has been just watered, full of murmurs and insects’ summer-songs… The orange blossom flowers are just folding themselves for a long, peaceful night sleep. You pick a late blooming rose, a deep, velvety-purple-crimson rose, her petals already soft after warming up in the sun for the past three days. You hold the rose and fondle the petals and hold them against your cheeks to sense the warm scent of a mature rose releasing the peak of her last fragrance into the night air... And it is all part of you now, there is no need to hold on to it.

Those beautiful, magical notes interweave with each other so gently that it is hard to tell one from the other. Together they create one impression that in my mind I visualize as a very earthy brown colour, though somewhat rich and copper like. I simply cannot see a deep blue when smelling l’Heure Bleue, though the different notes on their own make sense and tell the story of this time of the day:
There are the subtle citrus and anise top notes that are there to accentuate the soft florals, including violet flowers, and link them to the deeper base notes.
The root of the composition, apparent from first application, is a soft and bittersweet heliotrope, combined with tonka bean that accentuates the softness, yet also possesses the bitter-almond-like undertones. Vanilla and orris root are also present, to support the overall powderiness and soft, mature and philosophical nature of l'Heure Bleue.

The drydown is somewhat more smooth and ambery (though it is hard to see l’Heure Bleue as an oriental per se –it has such a unique individuality and perhaps deserves not to be categorized at all…Just like Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko, I am afraid it does not quite fit into categories…)– The drydown is a bit less powdery, with a vanillic accord. It also has some woody notes in the drydown – I suspect vetiver, but cannot quite pin point it. I will not be surprised to find some oakmoss in it either, though not in a chypre context but an oriental context, and perhaps some underlining spices that are subtle and are not meant to be recognized but rather create a warm undernote to support the rest of the scene.

There is something in it that totally reminds me, surprisingly, of Mitsouko – the fruitiness that is quite dry, bittersweet (dry peach like notes in Mitsouko, and the cherry-like notes in l’Heure Bleue); and a certain dark woodiness at the base that is interesting, mysterious, hard to grasp – but once you get it you are totally captivated!
The fruitiness of l’Heure Bleue lasts much longer though – as it originates in the heliotrope base notes, rather than the peach top notes in Mitsouko (that most people find they fade just a bit too quickly after been exposed…).

Top notes: Bergamot, aniseed
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Rose, Violet, Carnation, Orris root
Base notes: Heliotrope, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Woods, Spices

L’Heure Bleue is probably the most incredible inspiration one could have ever found for a perfume – the name is beautiful, captivating, alluring, enchanting...
Initially, the fragrance itself did not do the same thing to me - It seemed to be extremely sweet, with a dominant, bittersweet heliotrope note in it, and dries down to a rather interesting and comfortable ambery-powdery vanilla. It wasn’t until I tried l’Heure Bleue in pure parfum that I got to enjoy, understand and appreciate it more – although I believe I only touched the surface of this aromatic mystery. It smelled intensley of jasmine when I smelled it directly from the bottle, and from there the images started flowing...

When I first heard about l’Heure Bleue I was so fascinated with the inspiration for it that I decided to create my own interpretation for such a magical hour. It immediately made me think about my mother – an enigmatic lady (I am still trying to figure her out…), she is an aquired anosmic who always loved anise and velvet. I created for her the perfume Indigo, an enigmatic concoction of anise, caraway, bergamot, boronia, orange blossom, jasmine, violet, spices, incense and amber. To be honest, there is hardly anything in common between the two fragrances, left for a few notes and the insipration. Indigo is soft and cool as satiny-velvet, and smells like a nightfal in the Wadi – the dried riverbed, full of luscious greenery and vegetation, and the sounds of frogs and crickets.

I only learned about l’Heure Bleue’s sweetness after creating Indigo (I didn't find l'Heure Bleue until after I created my own interpretation for that inspirational and magical hour). So, once I actually smelled the original creation I must admit I was somewhat confused and initially, perhaps a bit disappointed: it was not what I expected, it did not make me think about the blue hour – until after I worn it several times in the parfum form, which unfortunately is becoming harder to find by the minute…Like Mitsouko, I think it takes rare personality to carry it through easily and without tapping into it first…

Now that I have given l’Heure Bleue a chance, and tried it several times, I must confess that I understand why this classic has survived two world wars as well as the currently overwhelming age of perfumery.

p.s. Although the other concentrations are nice too, the pure parfum is for sure the best one. The Eau de Parfum is quite true to the parfum, while the Eau de Toilette is more similar to Apres l'Ondee. The other concentrations will be reviewed later.

Artwork: Frank Holmes - Blue Twilight
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