The Smell of Freedom - 2014 Edition of "Smells Like Canada"

MRS. LANDINGHAM: Consumer Reports rates it very high. It's very safe. And when you get inside, there's this... (Mrs. Landingham gestures, trying to find the right word).
BARTLET: Smell? MRS. LANDINGHAM: How did you know?
BARTLET: It's the smell of freedom...and the chemicals they treat the dashboard with.

(Aaron Sorkin, "The West Wing", S2 E21 "18th and Potomac")

I've covered almost any scent that I consider Canadian in the last 2 years since I've started "Smells Like Canada". Douglas fir, maple syrup, rhubarb, tobacco, mildew, snow, artemisia (known in this parts of the world as "sage" even though it's not), elderflowers, Canadian gin, cherry red cedar, and castoreum from the Canadian beaver. To that list I can only add two more scents that somehow got ignored in previous years:
1) Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) aka False Acacia - a native to the Eastern parts of the continent; and which smells like a sweet blend between heliotrope and orange blossom.

2) Linden blossoms (Tilia vulgaris) which although are not native to here, are in full bloom at this very moment, and line many of the streets and boulevards of Vancouver, painting the city's olfactory landscape with the colour of clear, blue sky.

3) Sweet Grass (Hierochloe odorata), aka Holy Grass or Vanilla Grass -
neatly braided and ceremonially burnt by the prairie First Nation people for its coumarin-sweet character to invite positive energy into the circle (after it's been cleansed with sage).

This year I want to focus on what freedoms smells like. To the fictional American President Bartlett it's the smell of new car. What is it to you?

To me it's the smell of chlorine as you approach the pool in the summer. The smell of hay stacks on which you can jump and free-fall with complete oblivion to any risk of injury. The scent of saltwater and marine life at low tide - complete with fermented seaweed, muscles and barnacles and jet fuel and boat fuel. And the knowledge that for the next few hours the world's worries will come to a halt because you're at the beach. The smell of coconutty tanning oil and tropical sunscreen won't hurt either. But now I'm really getting carried away...

No matter what smell association freedom, summertime or Canada has to you - freedom itself is priceless. And the commitment to this value is what makes this country so special. Of course it doesn't hurt that we're not really at war with anyone, at least not at our borders. Which of course makes for a lot less conflict of interest between "freedom" and "safety". Something that a lot of Canadians are either not aware of - or just haven't ever needed to experience that kind of conflict.
To be a Canadian means to live in peace, in a country where everyone is indeed considered equal, and where the mandate in public schools is to educate our young children to accept the other without prejudice. As long as public schools are open (which is a whole other issue...). Additionally we get to drink clean water and breathe pure air. Or at least cleaner and purer than many other countries - both industrial and third world ones. Yes, we can be better, but that does not mean we should not appreciate what we do have going for us. Not to mention we don't need to worry about our kids getting kidnapped, or murdered, by terrorists, and that pretty much tops it all, doesn't it? 
We are truly blessed.

And now, to this year's contest: What does freedom smell to you? Add your thoughts in the comment section, or add any Canadian smells that I might have missed.
Winner gets a mini of my Gaucho perfume, which is the closest thing to the smell of sweetgrass; and incense cones that are inspired by the First Nations ceremonial smudging. It has tobacco leaf and sage (true sage from the Mediterranean, not the white sage grown locally). It smells amazing, and I only share this with very few people.

Smells Like Canada, 2013 Edition...

Maple & Asphalt

Happy Canada Day!

Last year I did a little post and giveaway for Canada Day, which was spontaneous and completely improvised... Today I'm preoccupied with teaching my Floriental week-long intensive course, so I'll keep it short.

 I'd like to add a few more smells to the growing list of Canadian odours I'm fond of and sentimental about:

Artemisia is the true (Latin) name of what most refer to as "sage". This sacred plant is burnt by the First Nations of Canada at the beginning of rituals to clear space of all negative energy. I begin with this unique plant as a gesture to the original people of this country and as a gesture for healing for the many wounds that the Europeans have inflicted on them ever since landing in the "New World". The local "Sage" has an overwhelmingly intoxicating aroma (wormwood is the only comparison I can make - and technically it IS wormwood). Tannin, acrid, full of ketones and strongly herbaceous and medicinal-bitter. That should make all the negative stuff go away, for sure. 

Elderflowers have became an annual obsession last year, when I made cordial for the first time from flowers I bought at the farmers' market; followed by a few more batches of cordial and tinctures from wild-foraged flowers. Their scent has a unique character, simultaneously fruity-berry-like (cassis comes to mind) as well as honeyed-floral and slightly green. If you missed the foraging season, try buying dry flowers and mixing them with osmanthus. Also, Shaktea's Elderlower Cantaloupe Tea is spectacular (green darjeeling with elderflowers, cantaloupe, rhubarb and other botanicals). It makes a fantastic iced tea as well.

Juniper and Canadian Gin:
Juniper are a quintessential foresty scent that is unique as it is not just a straighforward coniferous scent; but also woodsy and spicy at the same time, with a clean and elegant appeal. 
A few years ago, the most exotic gin you can get was Tanquary Ten and Hedricks' Gin. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to find the shelves at the liquor store brimming with local offerings, including oak-aged gin from Vancouver Island, and this particularly strange number, Ungava gin, featuring arctic botanicals such as Nordic juniper berries, rose hips, Labrador tea, cloudberry, crowberry and an "arctic blend" of secret botanicals. It has a beautiful bright yellow colour, and goes well with elderflower liquor, bitters or cordial to make a very refreshing and Canadian-forest like cocktail!

Red Cedarwood:
Nothing says "Pacific Northwest" better than red cedar (also known as cherry cedar). The oil is hard to come by, and is a little harsh and intensely smoky, but also got some interesting fruity-berry nuances that are not unlike cherries. It also strangely reminds me of the Canadian whiskey, Crown Royal: Burning yet sweet.

Castoreum is probably one of Canada's most important contribution to the world of perfumery. It goes oh so well with birch, another Canadian tree reminiscent of wintergreen, and that can be produced into "birch tar" by destructive distillation.
 Douglas Fir:
Douglas fir is a uniquely fragrant tree, also special for the Pacific Northwest. Its needles are deliciously packed with vitamin C and can be added to your drinking water for an added tangerine-like flavour, and - vitamin C. In the springtime, pick the new buds that are as soft as silk tassels. Dry them and prepare a sweet and sour citrusy wild tea. It's also wonderful blended with jasmine tea, which reminds me of my perfume Fetish (the perfume features the deliciously jam-like balsam fir absolute).

Sliced rhubarb reminds me of the ocean and ozone and it is ever so refreshing with its sour crunch. Also a recent discovery of mine (and I'm sure the plant is not unique to Canada but also is ever so popular all across North America); but to me it's as distinctively Canadian as cranberry and maple.

Also a sacred plant to the First Nations, Tobacco was used for healing and for the famous "Peace Pipe". It's use in perfumery is limited, but it makes its mark in the Chypre-Tobacco category and in Leathery perfumes. Also will go well with the abovementioned birch.

Leave a comment with more ideas for what smells like Canada (and Native American botanicals of significance), and enter to win a mini of Immortelle l'Amour - which is about as Canadian as it can get, reminiscent of maple syrup poured over hot cinnamon waffles!

Monkey Monday Winner (Smells Like Canada)

Happy fragrance summer to all Canadian perfume lovers!
Congratulations to Il Graham, winner of our Smells Like Canada contest of last week. My apologies for taking forever to make the draw. I've been on the road so to speak and immersed completely with the Artisan Fragrance Salon and all the events around it, not to mention visiting our neighbours to the south ;-)
Please email me your mailing address so I can ship your prize to you - a mini of the deliciously Canadian and maple-syrupy Immortelle l'Amour!

We will return on Monday with another Monkey Monday contest + giveaway.

Monkey Monday: Smells Like Canada

Fallen Maple Leaves

There was a CBC morning show called "Sounds Like Canada" which is no more, but along these lines, I'd like to dedicate Monkey Monday's post to what Canada smells like, to me. Well, the little bit of it that I had a chance to sniff.
Maple syrup of course comes to mind at first, and it's especially fragrant when incorporated into baking, or fudge, or better yet - tire sur le neiges (taffy on the snow), which is prepared in the dead of winter when the maple syrup harvest begins. They also sell it at farmers markets in Vancouver year around (although we're nowhere near maple-land). The scent is divine. It's amazing how much aroma there is this, with nothing else added. Not even vanilla.
And then there are forests. Endless coniferous forests of citrusy Douglas firs, crisp spruces, red cedars. Oh, and elderflowers, with their sweet berry-like aroma; and balsam poplar buds - honeyed and ever so slightly medicinal. Oh, and cotton trees, so thickly sweet you think someone is making cotton candy around the corner.
Other scents are sentimental and bizzare but only remind me of Canada, as nowhere else have I experienced them before visiting my dad's home in Quebec - musty basement, plus the Tide dryer sheets that are what America considers to smell "clean"; and the fungus-infested cylo, as well as nearly any wooden house in British Columbia, where the rain never stops. Wet woods and fungus was the first thing that greeted me arriving in Vancouver at the end of October 1998. You get used to it after a while, but it's not my favourite.

For those who missed it - our weekly giveaway is of Immortelle l'Amour mini; to qualify for the draw, please leave a comment either her or on the previous day's post about Canada Day. I will do the draw on Friday as usual. You may comment about what Canada smells like to you; or if you happened to experience perfumes by a Canadian perfumer (there are not too many of us, admittedly), than please share with us too and let's celebrate Canada Day for one more day (the banks are closed, so we might as well...).
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