Incarnations of Carnation: Exploring the Layers of a Flower

Flamenco Dancer, originally uploaded by CameraOne.

Carnation: A flower of fiery passion and at the same time there is something very common and unspecial about it. The scent of full-bodied carnatnion flowers always reminds me of summer, where all the plants are dead but there are a few graceful wild carnations weaving their way through the dead straw… And also of finely milled Maja soap, packaged in beautiful dark box decorated with red and shimmering-gold ornamental designs and one passionate flamenco dancer with detailed dress standing in the middle proudly waving her fan…

My grandfather brought this soap for my mother several times, and although it was mostly saved aside, tucked in among our clothes, I could swear my mom opened at least one bar of this fine soap in our outdoors shower, when we just arrived at that little village in the galilee… The shower was built outside of the little hut we resided on, until it will turn into a house… It was made of the cheapest lumber wood you could imagine (the one used to built crates – well, it was basically made of crates I guess). And with the water and soap this wood has become rather smooth and also fragrant… A sensory experience that concluded with drying up in the warm sun and wind… What can I tell you, I’ll give anything to have the opportunity to bathe outdoors again…

The flower-shop hybrid, with its many layered petals is resembles those of the majestic, graceful rose. However, they are rather scentless and take pride in their long shelf-life and their economic appeal more than anything else. Where I came from, carnations are almost always the flower of choice in flower arrangements decorating large wedding halls for a massive gathering of guests. Therefore it’s hard for me not to associate the fresh, slightly spicy and more green than sweet scent of flower-shop carnations with weddings…

The carnations that are used for perfumery, however, much like the wild carnations, are far more modest looking with only one tier of 5 petals. They are either pink or white in colour, and their edges are, as in all carnations, pinked – which is the true reason for their name “pinks” (in this case, the name has no connection to the colour). These small flowers are very fragrant, with the main constituent responsible for their sweet and spicy aroma being eugenol. The same spice present in high doses in clove buds, as well as in allspice berry.

The idea for a carnation soliflore was cooking in my head for a long time. In 2001, I have created a perfume called Altamira, the name chosen because of utter fondness of Steely Dan’s song and the concept was built on what I associated with these prehistoric caves in Spain where the first fresco were discovered. In a connotation that now seems to be everything but original, I have paired notes of carnation (chosen for the association of Spain, Flamenco and carnations) with sweet animalic base notes dominated by costus, which turned out fantastic even though a bit quirky and peculiar (costus will add peculiarity to any perfume with its animalic sensuality). Once I have discovered that costus should not be used on the skin, I had to neglect the idea of letting anyone but myself use my Altamira perfume. I have used carnation in several perfumes – a feminine version for l’Herbe Rouge (which was never really added to the collection; it was very similar to the l’Herbe Rouge you know, but with more carnation at the heart); and of course my first perfume, Ayala, which has a dominant clove and carnation note at the heart in addition to the other floral notes.

Once the Altamira perfume had to be neglected, I came up with the idea of the name InCarnatnion, for a soliflore perfume. It wasn’t until 2006 though that I have seriously started to flesh out the concept and think about it in the context of my soliflore collection – The Language of Flowers. This collection is a study of individual floral notes, some of which classic themes for soliflores (i.e.: rose, violet, lavender, and of course, carnation), and others are a bit more unusual (i.e.: osmanthus, magnolia, linden blossom…).

While the concept for The Language of Flowers is that of simplicity and minimalism, it is not to say that all of the perfumes are all that simple… Some notes require a complex backdrop for them to truly shine. And InCarnation is one of those scents, where the formula is complex and hides in it more than would be apparent to the unsuspecting nose… And when I have found a carnation absolute that I liked, it was time to start working… This carnation absolute from Egypt performed like a carnation blossom upon dilution – as if the alcohol opened its mysteriously spicy and green buds and allowed them to bloom fully.

For the first time, I’ve used the animal material called “Africa Stone Tincture”. The name is deceiving and confusing – while it does come from Africa, this is not really a stone. Rather, it is a nice perfumey name for the dropping of the rock hyrax, a relative of the elephant that releases large doses of pheromones into its droppings in order to communicate with other hyraxes. The scent is leathery and animalic (think both indolic and uric at once, and with that dry leathery undertone – hence it is most commonly described as a cross between civet and castoreum, which is a pretty good description if you ask me). Unlike the latter, hyraceum (AKA Africa stone tincture) was obtained by neither killing the animal nor torturing it – but rather by a meticulous and careful, albeit innocently odd and obsessive – collection of the animal droppings from nature without disturbing it from its peaceful life. While I can’t say I like hyraceum nearly as much as costus, it does add to InCarnation that animalic undertone I was hoping for – while fixing the floral notes quite nicely.

Other notes were chosen for their resemblance of aspects of the fresh carnation flower. Clove buds, allspice and tolu balsam for their eugenol content, of course; Carrot seed for its woody, green yet somewhat starchy and nutty presence; black pepper and nutmeg for an initial dry sharpness; tuberose, rose and ylang ylang to enhance the floralcy of carnation and its richness… And voila! I have created yet another InCarnation of this flower in my private olfactory memory…
I can’t say that I have replicated the fresh flower’s aroma; nor can I pretend that it reached any near previous carnation masterpieces (Bellodgia and Poivre by Caron being the most significant of all in my opinion)… But I’m happy with it and I have enjoyed tremendously the paths that lead me to create it.

can be made in both parfum extrait $110 and crème parfum. The crème parfum is contained in Ayala Moriel’s signature pendant $150, collectible poison rings (price ranges) $55-$100), or the vintage pillbox with carnation print $130 (pictured below).


Coral Tree, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I’m proud to introduce to you Coralle – my newest addition to “The Language of Flowers” soliflore collection.

Coralle is centred around Ylang Ylang, the tropical creamy-yellow coloured tree flowers with a heady aroma that is like no other – heady-floral, sweet-fruity and creamy-smooth. I chose only the softest, sweetest and creamiest ylang ylang there is, including ylang ylang concrete and ylang ylang absolute from Comores Island, and paired it with the sparkling aldehydic juiciness of Clementine and grapefruit. The heart includes the fruity, full-bodied wine-like aromas of Geranium bourbon and Davana. Sweet vanilla adds a tropical charm and is tampered by a hint of vetiver, creating the olfactory illusion of sun-bleached driftwood.

takes me to a soft sandy beach and a skin-caressing sun. I lean on a trunk of driftwood and let all the worries of the world dissolve in the salty ocean breeze and sink into the sand. I dive into the turquoise water to explore myriads of coral colours. I sundry my skin and wear nothing but bright lays of tropical flowers – orange, pink, red and pure white… They scent the air around me, connecting me to the things that make me the most happy – beauty, nature and scent.

Top Notes: Ylang Ylang Oil, Grapefruit, Clementine
Heart Notes: Ylang Ylang Cream, Geranium Bourbon, Davana

Base Notes: Amber, Vanilla, Bourbon, Vetiver

P.s. The coral necklace in the image above does not come with the perfume. It is a family heirloom passed on to me by my ocean-loving grandmother. Her two daughters always wanted it, so to avoid hard feelings between them, she gave it to her one and only grand daughter - me :)

Drifting in Yellow Clouds of Happiness

Acacia baileyana, originally uploaded by jam343.

Drifting in yellow clouds of happiness. My new mimosa perfume. A soliflore.
Mimosa – such a fleeting scent. The absolute smells like cucumber and water and wood more than a flower. A bare dusting of pollen shaken from a broken branch. Les Nuages de Joie Jaune.

Who would have imagined that such an innocent scent would be so difficult to crack? Mimosa is a fleeting mystery…

Mimosa opens along with the watery-wood of caberuve and the pale greenness of frangipani. A heart of violet and jasmine is like a leaf between airy blue sky and fuzzy yellow blossoms. A base of cassie flowers and vanilla creates a delicate and lasting impression of this ethereal desert flower.

Les Nuages de Joie Jaune launches today and is a salute to all mimosa lovers to whom the scent of mimosa brings happiness and joy!

Yasmin: A Midsummer’s Night Dream


In heat of summer days
With sunshine all ablaze,
Here, here are cool green bowers,
Starry with Jasmine flowers;
Sweet-scented, like a dream
Of Fairyland they seem.

And when the long hot day
At length has worn away,
And twilight deepens, till
The darkness comes--then, still,
The glimmering Jasmine white
Gives fragrance to the night.

If there was a jasmine flower for every magic hour I spent with my friend Yasmin, I would have a whole garden, with jasmine in full bloom. Yasmin always listened, and despite the fact that she did not like her handwriting, both her spoken and written words always seemed magically poetic and could paint a picture that could be only seen on the hidden canvas of the mind.

With her words she has created a whole kingdom of fairies, and they all lived on a tiny machine (which really was like a piece of earth, with little flowers on it). It all started with a magic rabbit. A white rabbit, just like Alice’s – white with red eyes but no watch. He lived on the little machine, which was the size of an adult’s palm. He grew tiny carrots and tiny flowers in his garden (on the machine). Later, many good fairies appeared

When we were little girls, Yasmin’s miniature stories provided an escape from the cruel world that threatened the perfection of childhood, just as my little matchbox sized match-dolls and miniatures created a portal to a small world where everything can be controlled and can only be good. We spent hours playing with Yasmin’s miniature dolls from England (they had little tea sets, kettles and all), drawing castles in the clouds, diving into the fairy illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker, and getting lost in Mirkwood with the hobbits and elves. When we were teenagers, we spent the afternoons doing yoga on the grass until the mosquitoes chased us to the screened indoors, where we spent the rest of the evening figuring out who we are what we will become when we finally grow up, and inventing words for things that did not exist in our language’s dictionary. Now that we can call ourselves grown-ups, Yasmin moved on to bringing happiness by listening and reflecting, while I kept on creating miniature (this time odorous) universes, packed in tiny pebble-like flacons and embedded with fairies...

I could have probably dedicate a whole line of perfumes just based on jasmine notes. And in the case of developing a scent for my friend Yasmin, it seemed as if each scent that I made showed one aspect of both my friend and the flowers that bear her name.

The first perfume I made smelled exactly like her house. Her family is well known for their travels to India, and there are many Indian smells in the house: from Indian dull and curries, to incense and fragrant oils, patchouli-scented shawls, and the endless bloom of jasmine which I mentioned earlier. The first scent – a heavy concoction of amber, patchouli, frankincense, champaca, kewda and jasmine - was instantly embraced by no other than Yasmin’s mother, who adopted it immediately as her signature perfume. In an essence, this perfume smelled like her house, so it was no surprise to neither of us.

The second perfume I made for Yasmin was the one she actually adopted for herself: it was equally floral and citrus, and not as heavy. Tart citrus top notes of lemon and bergamot, soft floral heart of jasmine, orange blossom, ylang ylang and tuberose over a light base of sandalwood, benzoin and frankincense, and just the bare tinge of vanilla.

Last year, before Yasmin’s wedding, I made her a new perfume, which I thought would be even better suited for her, and equally balancing tart elements (she loves sour fruit, and hates candy!), jasmine heart and a sophisticated base. This time it was a contrast between lime, jasmine and tonka, and I thought that this time I nailed down Yasmin’s signature perfume.

But I still wanted to tell the world my little fairy story, and share my love to my friend and the flowers she is named after. To do so I wanted to create a jasmine soliflore. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Yasmin means jasmine in both Hebrew and Arabic. And as corny as this may sound, I cannot help but think of my friend whenever I smell these white, intoxicating blossoms – particularly jasmine grandiflorum. Although it was relatively easy to come up with a Signature Perfume for my friend Yasmin – partly because I know her so well and partly because she is so easy going and loves everything that I do; it took a long time before I achieved the results I was aiming for the jasmine soliflore. It took a while before I managed to capture the scent surrounding my friend’s house – the scent of jasmine bushes, always lush, always blooming… The house is still there, the jasmines are still there. My friend’s adventurous parents are still there when they are not traveling. But now we both have grown up and we don’t live in our parents’ houses anymore. Now, instead of telling fairy stories to her friends and practice figure skating, Yasmin listens to the life stories of her clients she councils in London, and continues to study psychology and practice Kiteido around the world.

Yasmin perfume
is now complete. When I smell it, I am flashbacked into my parents home’s front stone patio, picking the scarce flowers at dawn, experimenting in turning them into a tongue-numbing tea… Or planting jasmine sambac flowers in my own dew-laden garden on an early summer morning, with my baby daughter carried on my back… Gradually, the jasmines become less green and more voluptuous, the narcotic queen of the night impregnates the nights spent on the hammock under the stars, filled with endless conversations. I am gradually lulled into sleep by voluptous jasmine, sandalwood incense, and amber. A Midsummer’s Night Dream euphoria.


All through the Summer my leaves were green,
But never a flower of mine was seen;
Now Summer is gone, that was so gay,
And my little green leaves are shed away.
In the grey of the year
What cheer, what cheer?

The Winter is come, the cold winds blow;
I shall feel the frost and the drifting snow;
But the sun can shine in December too,
And this is the time of my gift to you.
See here, see here,
My flowers appear!

The swallows have flown beyond the sea,
But friendly Robin, he stays with me;
And little Tom-Tit, so busy and small,
Hops where the jasmine is thick on the wall;
And we say: "Good cheer!
We're here! We're here!"

* Ilustrations and poems by Cicely Mary Barker
Photos and poems found on this site


Solitaire, originally uploaded by Michael J Metts.

Now that I have sufficient quantities of a few more rare floral absolute – broom, cassie, linden blossom and osmanthus – I went straight away to work on my corresponding soliflores.

Creating soliflores is one of the most challenging tasks for the natural perfumer. But to top it all off, I have my own personal challenge when I create my soliflores. I am not a keen soliflore wearer. Being drawn to complex perfumes, I believe I make a good judge for which soliflore will be interesting enough to wear…

The technical challenges of creating a soliflore are many, and I believe I can sum this up in three main categories that are of concern to me when I go up for the task of designing them:

Natural building blocks are extremely complex. One needs to remember that each and every single oil contains myriads of single chemical components, all interacting with each other in a magical way to create a “note”.

Blend too many of those to create an all-natural perfume, and you are in danger of producing a cacophony of scents: a muddy, indecisive concoction that doesn’t know what she is thinking or saying. That is not something I would want to wear.

So you can imagine how difficult it is to make a soliflore that will smell distinctively of a specific flower or plant.

Evolution, Lasing Power and Consistency
I love complex and evolving scents. With a passion. I dislike and stay away from linear scents that do not evolve and simply hammer the same note or accord over and over and over into my olfactory existence.

To create a soliflore that smells distinctively of a certain flower or plant, I need to create an evolution that is consistently related to the specific note, in one hand; and does have an interesting life and a story to tell while on the skin.

A perfumer that uses synthetics hase less technical limitations and is more often able to use the same note over and over in the different layers (i.e.: jasmine top note, jasmine heart note and jasmine base note). A natural perfumer is prone to have substantially more limitations here. Jasmine can be found only as a heart note. Therefore, there is no particularly jasminey note to keep the composition alive for long enough.

To overcome this obstacle, I incorporate other notes, that are not the same, but are similar or close to the theme of the soliflore, in order to prolong the perfume’s life on the skin. For instance: in Yasmin, my jasmine perfume, I have included cassie in the base, a floral note from the family of mimosa, along with subtle, delicate amber and sandalwood, in order to extend the jasmine notes to the roots of the perfume. The result is perhaps a bit more complex than other jasmine soliflores I smelled before, but it is, nevertheless, a jasmine dominated perfume, made only of natural essences.

The challenges are to do so without losing the “soliflore” on the way, without overloading the base with long lasting but muddying notes, without losing track of what we are here for – singing praise for a certain beautiful note that nature conceived and bringing it from the garden to our own skin-covered temple.

This may seem marginal and unimportant. Naming a soliflore can be quite a challenge. Most frequently, soliflores bear the name of the flower or plant they mimic. If you want to be particularly imaginative, use a foreign language, such as French or Italian. I try to stay away from that, simply because it’s confusing: there are so many “Fleur d’Oranger” and “Osmanthus” now that one cannot distinguish a soliflore of one house from the other. I also prefer names that are more imaginative and alluring, perhaps a tad mysterious, and that have more meaning – beyond the simply name of the flower.

My rose soliflore is called Rosebud (inspired by Citizen Kane) and is a symbol of purity through roses.

My lavender soliflore pairs lavender with vanilla and orris to create a modern-day love potion, and is thus name Lovender.

Viola, my violet soliflore, is also a woman’s name and a string instrument.

The jasmine soliflore I created is called Yasmin, the Hebrew word for jasmine, and also the name of my best friend.

My ornage blossom soliflore is named Zohar, also after my (other) best friend, and “Zohar Water” is the common name in the Middle East for orange flower water.

My new version of my Linden Blossom soliflore is going to be called Tirzah, which is the name of the lindern tree in Hebrew, and also a beautiful women’s name.

I am having a challenge naming the two other new upcoming soliflores I am working on at the moment: Osmanthus and Mimosa. I seem to have been running out of inspiration.
Cute names on their own, but are they ever overly-used?!

I am considering calling the mimosa perfume Acacia. That reminds me of desert. I kind of like that. But it’s not desert-y enough. And it’s not different enough either. Also, I already have plenty of perfumes that begin with “A”. But I digress. The bottom line is, as much as I love different permutations of the name of the plant – Mimosaique, Mimosa pour Moi, Acacioza, Farensiana… - The have already been used! Why can’t I come with something new?!

As for Osmanthus – that’s such a long name. Did I also mention it’s over-used? Probably another 4 houses that I think of at this moment have a perfume called “Osmanthus” with very slight differences. How about osmanthus in Chinese? 丹桂 dān guì. No, it may look good in Chinese, but it doesn’t sound very appealing… Maybe Japanese? Kinmokusei. Turns out it’s also the same pronounciation of a name of a planet in an Anime classic. I like that! But who is going to remember this name? Or know how to pronounce it? Maybe it’s not such a great idea…

So I will just concentrate on making these two soliflores last on the skin and be interesting and alluring for now, showcase the natural beauty of the flowers they are representing. I will worry about the names later. But if you have a good idea for a name, you are more than welcome to share it. If I pick the name you offered, I will give you a bottle of the soliflore you helped naming!

Back to the top