Peony, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I’ve been wondering about the scent of peonies for a while. You see them mentioned so often as a note in mainstream perfumes. Yet, I couldn’t say I’ve smelled enough of them to recall the scent from memory. This summer, as if on demand, Vancouver’s gardens and nurseries seduce with me with peonies wherever I go. I even spotted them on reception desks by day and hair salons by night. I had encountered so many that I even managed to find a few adjective to describe them. To me, they smell like a combination of a subtly luscious rose, fresh carnation, and a hint of green. There is also a bit of a marigold element but it’s very subtle. There is nothing particularly original about peonies, they just smell like a lovely bouquet of these flowers. I guess it’s their voluptuous appearance, reminiscent of both of rose and an oversized carnation, sparks the imagination. It is hard not to notice it’s resemblance to many patterns in Chinese art, and perhaps this is what makes them seem so mysterious and vaguely oriental.

Thinking about it, it might just be possible to recreate it from naturals alone...

Phantom Peony, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

New Summer Collage

This summer, I am re-discovering Vancouver. Scent-wise. More often than never, you’ll find me complaining about the lack of olfactory phenomenon in the city. About how it is so scentless, being constantly washed out by the rain.

Well, global warming seems to have a positive effect on the most-of-the-year-it’s-raining city of Vancouver. That is not to say that I am not concerned about the negative side effects. But I am going to allow my hedonistic self enjoy it while it can.

I am discovering new scents. I am pinching myself as I am saying it. “you must be dreaming, you’re in Vancouver, after all!”. But no, it’s true, and I even have proof in photos. I will just show you the proof, and add my little olfactory comments as we go. I am going to leave the rhododendrons out, but you know I have a big, soft, warm spot for them.

I hope I will find many more surprises here before the flood comes…

Tree of Mystery

Tree of Mystery, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
The first time I encountered this tree was in east Vancouver, near Grandview elementary school. I was amazed at how closely it resembled orange blossom, though it has nothing to do with orange. It looks as if it belongs to the fabacea (or legumes) family, just like Spanish Broom, mimosa and Sweet Pea.
And indeed, it shares quite a bit of similarity to sweet pea as well – which I haven’t noticed before. Overall, it smells like a mélange of orange blossom, sweet pea, and a very indolic jasmine, to the point that you’d think there is some civet thrown in… only that this isn’t perfume! It’s a flower and there couldn’t possibly be any civet in there even if you tried hard to find it. Maybe in coffee, but not here…

Mysterious White Blossoms 01, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
P.s. Thanks to my reader, Veronica, I now know the identity of the mystery tree: Robinia pseuodoacacia, aka Black Locust or Witte Acacia. Veronica, please email me so I can thank you properly with a mini of my mimosa perfume, Les Nuages de Joie Jaune.

According to W.A. Poucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps (Vol. 1, p. 296): "Source: Natural. Flowers of Robinio pseudo-acacia, L. Leguminosae. The absolute is obtained by extraction with volatile solvents. Possesses an intense odour of the blossoms. Chemical: Contains indole, methyl antrhanilate, linalool, benzyl alcohol, heliotropin, and trepineol, with traces of aldehydes and ketones of peach odour". 

THE Rose Bush

Luscious Rose, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I have passed by this rose bush a million times, but perhaps it is only now, after 9 summers in the city, that I am starting to associate it with itself and with here and now – as opposed to the roses of my childhood (a rare and precious encounter, but nevertheless, it belonged only there for the longest time and seemed to have hard time moving on). These roses are just… perfect. Rosier than any other rose, with honeyed, full-bodied, wine-like presence. I’ve stopped by this rose bush so many times, ignoring the embarrassingly pitiful glances from by passers. Ignoring the laughter of those observing how difficult it is for me to move on, as my nose pulls me back into the deep velvety petals, my arms heavy with grocery bags and begging me to just move on and go straight home, but I can’t… In case you didn’t get it the first time – these roses smell perfect. Sigh…

Voluptious Rose, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts 03, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

These strangely shaped flowers haven’t got a particularly special scent to them, at all. But their shape and their appearance every summer is something I am starting to look forward to. The wild ones are not as shapely, and they have a far more prominent spear than the heart itself (which is not as round as the cultivated variety). But they can be found deep in the forest, and there is something just downright romantic about their existence. I want to make a perfume named after them for a long time. In fact I did, at certain point. But it’s not the right one. Yet.

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