Gearing Up to Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Beads, originally uploaded by jciv.

I'm planning my Mardi Gras party for Tuesday, March 8th.
This is when I will be launching my New Orleans perfume. Those of you who've been following its development on the blog here might remember - the process started in 2007 and it took a while to brew in my head, my lab, and with the assistance of my perfume friends in New Orleans - Paula and Michelle - I'm able to bring it to you this Mardi Gras, even though I'm yet to visit New Orleans in person. I'm planning to go there for Jazz Festival this year though!

The menu for what I hope will be a happily laid back cocktail party is mostly derived from the perfume itself. I'll be serving aromatic nibbles and desserts that are inspired by New Orleans botanicals such as sweet olive (aka tea olive) - in the form of osmanthus shortbread.
Herbaceous rosemary will add a twist to a Southern cornbread recipe, and of course the menu will not be complete without some seafood and cajun appies.

As far as drinks go - there will be also a Meyer lemon hard lemonade, Southern Comfort cocktails, and for the tea lovers among us (me included) - fragrant Magnolia oolong tea.

The Mardi Gras Party is on Tuesday, March 8th from 7-11pm.
We will be serving some Southern finger food, as well as desserts and pastries inspired by the Cajun cuisine and the botanicals used in New Orleans perfume.

9:00pm - the Grand reveal of New Orleans perfume, as well as breakdown of the unusual notes that make it such a unique fragrance.

Tickets are by donation - you can order them online for our suggested donation of $12 at the door. 100% of ticket sales will be sent to charity in New Orleans, and additional donations are encouraged!
In addition, 10% of all sales that night will benefit these two important organizations:
1) America's Wetland non-profit organization that works towards saving coastal Louisiana, who is losing land at a rate of 25 square miles per year (!).

2) The Tipitina's Foundation which is dedicated to helping artists recover from Hurricane Katrina and preserving the cultural traditions of New Orleans. Can you imagine a Mardi Gras parade without a marching band?!

You can support New Orleans' unique culture by attending the event, buying New Orleans perfume online and off-line, and

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at ayalamoriel.com.

To RSVP or for more information about the Mardi Gras Party, please contact: ayala (at) ayalamoriel.com or call (778) 863-0806. Or via Facebook.

Sun, where art thou?

Building has sundeck., originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

This signage looks just as ridiculous now as it has in early July, when it was still cloudy and rainy in Vancouver...
August was barely over, and it already started raining again. My beach days are far and few in between cold wet days, and today was the last day of work for Vancouver's lifeguards... I'm going to miss them almost as much as I will miss the swimming itself - because we both share this strange passion for the beach and the ocean.

Saturday was my last day of swimming, and I was clever enough to bring them all samples of some manly scents to sniff, and most importantly - my 5th mod of Orcas. I'm not the kind of gal that pushes her business everywhere she goes. But when it comes up, it does. We were started to bid our farewells on Friday, and strangely, the question of what I do when I don't swim laps between the shore and the red floaty markers only came up when summer was just about to be gone... The lifeguards seemed to be quite fascinated by my strange profession, and one of them seemed to be unusually interested in fragrance actually. He was even telling me how much he likes the scent of rosemary, and pulled a few needles off the bush behind him, telling me he even likes to make tea out of it.

So it was inevitable that I would tell him about Orcas - a seaweed and rosemary scent that was greatly inspired by my immersion in the Pacific Ocean at Sunset Beach. And I just had to bring my vat of the Orcas test batch the next day. I wasn't planning on giving them samples to take home because I don't usually do that with test batches unless the mod is for sure complete and I have no intentions of adding anything else... The rosemary-loving lifeguards was so smitten with it, he liked it even more than ArbitRary and l'Herbe Rouge (the samples I brought them to take home to impress their wives...). He also noticed that it has a way of intensifying with time - it's as if the scent grows on the skin! This is, I believe, due to the presence of ambergris, which creates that kind of alchemy with the way the notes are playing - first bursting in freshness, than pretending to disappear, only to emerge with a big blow like the whale!

I felt compelled to bring them samples the following day, but it was windy yesterday and not that this would stop me from swimming - but I had to go to the Night Market (it's a summer must and I haven't been there yet this year!) with my friends that evening, and the day just slipped away without me ever making it to Sunset Beach.

And than came today: the lifeguards last day. And I didn't make it there. I admire the Triathletes that swam 5 kilometers in the rainy ocean today. I guess it is just not meant to be... So I'm saving all the Orcas V jus for myself and I will see them next summer!

I still believe I have work to do with this Orcas cologne. It won't be until I actually get a hold of some fair amount of seaweed absolute that I can continue my work. And I'm still waiting to hear back from the suppliers, who's definitely taking their time...!

Rosemary & Sea

Rosemary & Sea, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Before I went on to another bottle, I made some adjustments to what I told you about earlier. I sharpened and accentuated a few ideas – i.e.: increasing the seaweed a bit, as well as the spruce absolute and added some cypress to flesh out the woody element and in hopes of making it more “masculine” so to speak. I also increased the violety presence by adding a smidgeon of cassie absolute. I also added some citrus notes – bergamot and lemon – to brighten things up a bit and give the whole thing a lift. Egyptian geranium was necessary for added body at the heart notes, and to accompany it - a bit of a very high quality palmarosa, which added a clean yet floral freshness, expansive airiness to the composition. This still remained true to the original concept but just a little more developed.

I was also hoping to increase the salty levels in the composition by adding some atranol-free oakmoss, which I find to be more sheer and marine-like than the nearly ambery-musky full-profile oakmoss absolute (all oakmoss absolute sold these days have the atranol removed. It’s part of EU regulations, and since all oakmoss is produced in Europe – usually harvested in former Yugoslavia and extracted in Grasse) that’s all we’ve got, unless we stashed some oakmoss away.

At the same time, I felt that the rosemary was still quite strong, and the seaweed was not enough present. Which is quite strange given how potent it always seems on its own and how light the rest of the notes were.

Olfactory Souvenir from Long Beach

Butterfly, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

My visit to Tofino last summer left a lasting impression on me, and I was determined to turn it into perfume one day. The scents of the ocean never cease to amaze me, and fortunately, there are some raw materials in my palette that are authentic in both their origin and their manifestation. Take seaweed, for instance (which comes in oil, absolute and more recently - molecular distillation). It is so true to the scent of seashore and ocean breeze that it makes my heart skip a beat every single time, just like when the sea line approaches on the horizon on a Beach Day and you can see the lifeguard’s red flag saying swimming is not forbidden but a still a little dangerous…

Tofino, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a little town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which faces the great Pacific Ocean. Unlike the beaches within the Georgia Straight – the waves there are high and forceful. There is a high risk of tsunami there, because it is not too far from the “junction” of no less than three tectonic plates!

There are many magical spots in that area, which is almost continuously draped in mist regardless of season. The iconic big rock at Long Beach, which looks like a giant altar for sacrifice for the gods of the sea; The rainforest there are so clear, that moss grows on the trees in abundance, moss that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Every place you turn is like pure magic, even the hundreds of dead squids that were washed to shore and made some of the beaches reek of rotting marine carcasses. But certainly, the most memorable thing was the Wild Pacific Trail, where we spotted whales blowing and gasping for fresh misty air above sunken ships from centuries past.

In my very early days of perfumery, I created Orcas. It was a strange oceanic that smells a lot like Coca Cola – because besides the seaweed and the rosemary, which provided the core of the “ocean breeze” theme, I also put some lime, rose geranium, litsea cubeba, cinnamon and cloves. I liked Orcas, but it never really made it. I phased it out when I did the name switch (from Quinta Essentia to Ayala Moriel). I felt it’s time to update this perfume and give it a new spin, and that’s what I’ve been working on in the past month. I Love the name and wanted to keep it that way. I want the new Orcas to be more on the masculine side, very expansive and light, and distinctively oceanic.

Oceanic, Aquatic and Ozone notes have probably began with Dune by Maurice Roger (created in 1991 for Christian Dior). Although rather complex with its array of notes (Broom, Wallflower, Bergamot, Mandarin, Lily, Peony, Jasmine, Rose, Amber, Lichen, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla) - it was more about creating the impression of sand, seashore and ocean air rather than an evolution of notes. It is also the first in the genre of oceanic perfumes, later on expanded into the ozonic/oceanic and aquatic-floral fragrance family, with the introduction of the man-made molecule calone.

Creating a marine or oceanic natural scent poses a challenge because the palette of oceanic notes is limited and narrow – primarily the seaweed essences I’ve mentioned. What can be built on top of that relies heavily on the perfumer’s imagination, creativity and their own association with seashore and ocean.

For some reason, I find rosemary to fit in perfectly with that theme. And so I’m quite set on focusing my attention on the seaweed and rosemary accord, which is quite lovely. My first version (or my second, counting the original Orcas) is very simple and minimalist, with blue spruce absolute, seaweed, Haitian vetiver (which has a certain ‘saltiness’ to it), angelica, violet leaves, clary sage, rosemary and fresh ginger. These notes to fit in together quite nicely into a Pacific mist meets rainforest kind of accord, and the rosemary (usually a top note) gets a surprisingly long appearance. But it’s not a perfume quite yet. There is a lot missing – a heart, for example.

To be continued…

Tier 3: Rosemary Cheese Scones

Scones, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

These are basically my dad's classic scones (no sugar!), with some of the buttermilk substituted with plain cottage cheese, about 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, some chilli pepper, fresh rosemary leaves and ground pepper and salt.
I served it with clotted cream, and caramelized onion marmalade which is warm and deeply flavoured with a tad of cinnamon (this was a gift from a friend and I can't think of a better pairing for it!).

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