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Carnal Flower

Pink orchid 011

Carnal Flower opens with a slightly fresh fruity note and hints of green (melon and eucalyptus). Than it’s mostly tuberose with a full-bodied, sweetened orange blossom, much in the same vein as that note in Lys Mediteranee. Even the base is the same to my nose – supposed to be musk, but I smell a balsamic-woody sweetness similar to peru balsam essential oil (which smells very different than the crude balsam). There isn’t much coconut in it, but it does help improve the initial impression and add creaminess to the tuberose.

I like this a lot and it’s easy to wear (I worn it on a very warm day and it was never cloying at all). However, this is not my favourite tuberose, and in the light of Lys Mediteranee being so similar, I do feel a tad disappointed from this installation in the Editions de Parfums

Top notes: Melon, Eucaliptus, Ylang Ylang, Salycilates
Heart notes: Tuberose, Orange Blossom, Jasmine
Base notes: Coconut, Musks

Tuberose Pommade and a Flower Meditation



The other enfleurage pommade I ordered from Dabney Rose was a tuberose one. If you've smelled fresh-cut tuberose before, you'll be appreciate the glorious beauty of the living flower that has been captured in the vegetable oil base of this pommade. You can read more about the process and what pommade means in my post about the equally stunning Butterfly Ginger pommade.

Capturing a living flower's true scent is an enormously challenging feat. Dabney Rose does an incredible labour of love growing her own plants in a glass hothouse and her own little garden, and she must be tending to each blossom and petal with much care while growing them, and of course handpicking and placing them in the coconut-base vegetable alternative to enfleurage.

The Tuberose Pommade brings to mind spring eternal when the entire room is intoxicated from a single cut stem. It transports you to a hot summer night on the beach, adorned with a lei of tuberoses and gardenias. I am yet to experience this in real life, but my imagination is quite satisfying and a dab of real tuberose is enough to make it feel real. All is needed is to close one's eyes and surrender your senses to this beauty, for it is fleeting.

The pommade is not a solid perfume, but a pure, single note extraction - a rather antique method, like the one invented in the city of Grasse. It does not last long, which demands you do pay attention to it while it lasts. With such rare beauty, a floral meditation is in order, once you apply this white unguent to pulse points or even finger tips. Take a few moments off your stressful day to appreciate this beauty. Or better yet - start your day that way. Dedicating the beginning of your day to gratitude and appreciation is the best way to start the day. Invite life's blessings and pause to fully appreciate it, and more will come your way.

Happy Summer Solstice!



Happy Summer Solstice!

Scents that mean summer to me: Splitting watermelons and slicing fresh rhubarb; tomato plants and heirloom tomatoes carrying that tomato-leaf scent in their still-green parts; suntan lotion mingled with poolside chlorine, vanilla and banana flavoured ice cream bars (the cheaper the better), night blooming flowers (Cestrum nocturnum, honeysuckle and jasmine), cut flowers with intoxicating aroma filling the house - white and pink peonies, peppery white and yellow freesias, but tuberose after dark being the queen of them all.  Dewy gardenias and frangipannis, reminiscent of happy days by the beach - and of course, endless amounts of salty sea breeze.


When summer start hinting about getting serious at all, I bring out some of the bottles that are waiting patiently 10 months out of the year, making their debut with much needed TLC:

Cooling off with hydrating fruits: 
Citrus are famous for their cooling, refreshing qualities in the summertime. But they are not the only fruit-based scents that I reach for in the summer. Figs, cantaloupes and mango seem to be making an appearance in my olfactory fruit-bowl.

Philosykos
There is nothing like green figs, and when you can't have them - the longing for them makes the heart even fonder. Philosykos makes me feel as if I'm sitting under a fig tree by a cool brook in the Galilee, and picking ripe green figs, their milky sap dripping off their stems (and that's the part you want to avoid, but is represented by a green coconutty note).

Un Jardin Apres la Mousson
This singular perfume is simultaneously cool and refreshing yet at the same time juicey and sweet. I love the contrast between cantaloupe and the cool vetiver, fresh ginger and coriander.

Eau d'Orange Verte
To a classic eau de cologne frehsness, there is a hint of green mango added (in the new formulation, which isn't as bad as I feared). I still stick to my

Orcas
There is no scent that screams "West Coast" more than Orcas. I dreamed it while vacationing in Tofino and fine tuned it when spending an entire summer at SunsetBeach. Its main citrus component is lime - a surprisingly coconutty citrus note. Paired with seaweed and rosemary and smoothed out by violets

Tropical Island Vacation: 
Unless you count my dreams (and daydreaming) - I never did go on a tropical island vacation. But this fantasy is an inevitable part of my summer enjoyment, which includes spending as much time at the beach as possible. 
 Terra Cotta Eau de Sous le Vent
Supposedly a tan enhancer, I wear this for the scent alone. It's like a beach vacation in a bottle. And even if mine usually happen 10 minutes away at the beach down the hill, and go for only a few hours at a time - it creates an illusion that I actually went away somewhere exotic.

Azuree de Soleil Body Oil 
Who said you can't be sophisticated at the beach? This European suntan lotion inspired scent is much more than that. It's very light yet has depth. The white florals are toned down, and unusual resinous notes and subtle musk are what make it so charming.

Vanille Banane 
Just like the banana ice cream bars we'd have at the beach as kids. The flavour is fake, but oh so charming. Banana esters rule! 

Tamya
Plumeria tucked behind the ear, yellow sarong, flip flops and a spritz of this subtle beach scent - frangipanni, ylang ylang, cedar and soft musk and hint of vanilla make it a feel like an authentic tropical getaway. Cassis and yuzu add a fruity lift, reminiscent of ripe mango.

Midsummer Night: It is not surprising that on summer evenings I tend to reach to white florals. Tuberose, gardenia and jasmine perfumes are at forefront of my evening summer wardrobe.

Opium Fleur de Shanghai is a more subdued, easy to wear spicy-oriental with magnolia as an added twist to the original rich formula. There is still plenty of spice and resinous goodness (myrrh especially), but it can be worn with dignity even in heat and humidity.

Songes
Ylang ylang, frangipani and jasmine over a soft ambery base. Songes is the roundest, most pampering of all the Annick Goutal perfumes, with no sharp edges or heady floralcy which prevents me to be able to fully connect to the rest.

Moon Breath
Soft, smooth yet meditative, I love wearing this incensey white-floral in an evening while enjoying the potted star jasmine and burning a good incense on my balcony on those rare balmy summer nights we get here maybe twice a year if we're lucky...

GiGi
Luscious gardenia soliflore, that makes me feel like I have the real flower pinned to my hair. It's heady and rounded, distinctively gardenia and makes me feel happy.

What about you? What scents do you crack open when the summer arrives?

Read my previous years Summer Lists: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

And now - off to the beach! 

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!



Happy 5th of May to those of you celebrating Mexican culture and heritage today!
There are such distinctive aromatics associated with Mexico's vibrant culture, that I've decided to put together a few notes about key ingredients, scents and flavours and combinations that are unique to Mexico.



Cumin - or Cumino in Spanish (Cuminum cyminum) is a seed from a plant from the Umbelliferae or else known as Apiaceae family (related to anise, fennel, carrot - among others) with a unique scent of cuminaldehyde that gives its distinct oily-sweaty personality. It's taste is a little bitter and pungent when unroasted, and nutty and more delicate when roasted, pan-fried or toasted before cooking with it. It's an inseparable part of many Mexican stews such as chilli, re-fried beans, salsa and more. Now, cumin is not exactly unique to Mexican cuisine - but how it is used is: combined with substantial, hearty falvours such as chocolate and vanilla in bean dishes, or sprinkled together with raw onion and freshly chopped peppers, tomatoes and tomatillas - this is a very distinctive way of experiencing this musky seed.

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) - isn't it interesting that both vanilla and chocolate originate in Mexico? This magical orchid produces a fruit only if pollinated by a tiny bee that is native to North America. Therefore, at first the plantations in other tropical islands (such as Madagascar, now the largest producer of vanilla) were grown. Vanilla anywhere else but in Mexico requires hand-pollination, which is meticulous, and is one of the main reasons why vanilla is so expensive. Mexican vanilla is different from other crops, having a very rich, full-bodied flavour that is more fruity and smooth than its almost woody Madagascar specimens. And vanilla from Tahiti is a different orchid altogether (Vanilla tahitensis), and also grows in Papua New Guinea - resulting in an even sweeter, more powdery profile (due to the presence of heliotropine). What's unusual about vanilla in Mexican cuisine is that it's used in savoury dishes, (see below), not just sweet ones. It may sound a bit weird at first as we're so used to vanilla being equal to dessert. But it has a very deep flavour, and if blended with the right elements will enhance most flavours, really. Try using it in bean stew or soup, and taste for yourself!

No wonder Cacao (Theobrema cacao) had its own god in the Aztec mythology. It's got such a powerful unique flavour, aroma and texture - at once earthy, buttery, smooth, bitter... The Aztecs made an elixir of cacao cooked with vanilla and spiced with chilli as a ritual energy drink that was used ritually (and mostly by royalty). Cacao adds vigour, passion and depth. In Mexican cuisine, it's added to bean dishes. Inspired by Mexican cuisine, I make a "Chocolate Soup" which is basically a black bean soup with cumin, chilli, vanilla, raw sugar and sun dried tomatos. Sometimes I add a bay leaf or two for extra spice, or a small piece of cinnamon bark. This balancing act between savoury and sweet, salty and bitter was captured perfectly in the wonderfully addictive perfume Anima Dulcis, where cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon,





Lime (Citrus limetta) is an unusual citrus, with both woody accents (from pinene) and milky, almost coconutty notes (from the coumarin). Again, it's that particular type of citrus - as opposed to the usual lemon, that sets off the other flavours and gives them a unique character. I've tasted plenty of cumin before - say, in a beet salad, with plenty of lemon juice; but that lime (and raw onion...) take it to a different world. The New World, perhaps?

And then there's Tequila: I'm certainly not a fan, but there is something to be said about the peculiar clash between salty and citrusy-fresh that's present in Jo Malone's weird Blue Agave & Cacao. Is a bit of an oddball - mingling the illusion of saltiness with a dusting of cocoa, and a full squeeze of lime.

Cilantro is usually what we refer to as coriander leaf (Coriandrum sativum) but in fact is the Spanish word for coriander. It is yet another flavourful Umbelliferae, with many versatile uses in cuisines around the world. The seeds don't seem to be used in Mexican food as much as the leaves - those are chopped up and added to fresh or cooked salsas, and complements the oiliness of avocados in guacamole. It's also goes extremely well with fish, setting off the fishy aspects with more vibrant and fragrant counterpoint. The aroma of cilantro leaf is a little green and at the same time soapy. Some swear by it, others can't get any near it. In perfume it has a rare use though the essential oil has the vibrant green qualities of the fresh leaf and are very appealing from a perfumer's point of view - it's hard to bypass the polarizing reaction and strong culinary association that it tends to elicit. 

Flor de Jamaica is the popular name in Mexico for the flowers of hibiscus commonly called Roselle that is native to West Africa (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Both warm and chilled tisanes are made from it, and are very popular year around. In the winter, they provide protective vitamin C against colds, and in the summertime they are a cooling, tart beverage like lemonade. It also reduces blood pressure. If you want to enjoy hibiscus flowers in a unique way, pay a visit to O5 Tea Bar, where they will serve you candied hibiscus buds to go with your tea; and Terra Breads bakery or cafe for a memorable bite at their tart and vibrantly red hibiscus macaron!



Choisya (Choisya ternata) aka "Aztec Pearl", Mock Orange or Mexican Orange is an evergreen shrub from the rue family, that blooms copiously between April and June.The flowers contain a simple anthranilate which gives it a scent not unlike orange blossom - though also with underscores of vanilla or heliotropine. There was a wonderful candle by Diptyque with a Choisya scent.

Tagetes, aka Aztec Marigold (Tagetes erecta) is called in Mexico "flor de muertos" (Flower of the Dead) and is planted in cemeteries and used in rituals and ceremonies on November 2nd, which is Day of the Dead (Dias de los muertos). Interestingly, it is associated with death in several other cultures such as Honduras. The flower's intensely yellow-orange colour is due to the presence of sulfur in some of its compounds. The sulfur also gives it interesting medicinal qualities against several types of airborne germs, making it particularly effective for various skin infections (dermatitis, acne, rashes and more). In sustainable and traditional agriculture, planting marigolds next to certain plants (for example - tomatoes) will protect them from nematode pests as well as aphids. Marigold flowers also taste delicious in salads, along with tomatoes, lemon, olive oil and green onions. Marigold rarely find its way into perfume composition - at least not as a major player (except for in Liz Zorn's now defunct Chrysalis). There is a hint of it in Obsession, though. It's a peculiar note with opening note of green apples and pheromones, and that fades later into dried hay and herbs scent. It mostly finds use in flavouring to add a natural fruity nuance.

Tuberose is also native to Mexico, and the Aztecs called it Omixochitl (Bone Flower). This relative of the narcissus flower has tuberous bulby roots (the name has no connection to rose, and neither does the scent), and like the Choisya, it also owes much of its unique scent profile to methyl anthranilate, as well as salicylates (which give it a medicinal character) and paracresyl methyl ether which gives it an animalic, almost leathery quality. 

Capsicum is the chemical that gives peppers their heat. And in Mexico there isn't just one type of "hot pepper" - there are myriads of them, from the milder poblano peppers which lose most of their heat in cooking but leave a wonderfully deep pepper flavour behind; jalapenos, and smoked-dried jalapenos (aka chipotle) to the lava-heat of serrano peppers - enough to burn a hole in your tongue! Peppers also have a unique aroma, not as sharp as it's other nightshady sister the tomato, but still recognizable. Paprika Brasil did not do it justice; but I've been always intrigued by how it was presented in l'Artisan Parfumer's Poivre Piquant.


My own interpretation of the rich flavours and textures of Mexico's cuisine seems to only scrap the surface of this rich culture full of intriguing aromatics. In Lime & Cacao limited edition OOAK perfume: Contrasting colours of lime green against deep brown are the centre of this playful fresh gourmand. Inspired by the Mexican way of treating chocolate, Lime & Cacao is more piquant than sweet and balances the richness of South American balsams with zesty lime and mineral and melancholic Blue Cypress from Australia.

I'm now inspired to create something with unusual note combination such as marigold, orange blossom, tuberose, vanilla and hibiscus. Hmm...

New OOAK Perfume: Tubereuse et Violette

Awaken, spring. by alexstoddard
Awaken, spring., a photo by alexstoddard on Flickr.
This morning I've completed a new OOAK perfume today - Tubereuse et Violettes that has been aging since 2004...

Tubereuse et Violette is a Green and tender variation on tuberose, reminiscent of green fig and milky iris. Its inspiration was the majestic and extravagant perfumes of the Royal French courts at the time of Marie Antoinette when European perfumery became more sophisticated and extravagant, with the addition of flowers extracted by enfleurage.

Top notes: Black pepper, Mimosa, Rosewood, Ginger Lily
Heart notes: Tuberose, Violet Leaf, Orris Root (butter and tincture), Jasmine, Rose de Mai
Base notes: Opoponax (oil and tincture), Vanilla tincture, Tonka Bean, Vegetale Musk
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