The First Few Sips are the Hardest


"The first few sips are the hardest", I tell my daughter, who's in her favourite coffee shop in Vancouver, sipping on her favourite beverage ever, which she always drinks. Except, she hasn't had it for almost two years. We simply weren't around.

First comes the ecstatic response when seeing the cup, filled over the brim with this crushed ice and mocha. Then comes a sip, and her facial expression changes. There is nothing wrong with the taste. It's exactly as she remembered it. Perhaps it's even too much the same as she remembers it. I can see how with every sip she's turning sadder, getting deeper into another place and another time then this very moment in the coffee shop where we're at. And the tears start welling up.

The first few sips are the hardest. The first one is a big wave of happiness, familiarity, comfort. Like the first time she had it (probably with her dad). Then she remembers sitting next to him in the coffee shop on Robson street , watching attentively over his shoulders as he's writing code on his laptop, for hours on end. It's a happy memory alright. Except that they don't do this anymore. And the wave of happiness is washed over by a tsunami of sadness, with rushing memories of all the good things that were and ain't no more. And also all the not so great memories like that time when mamma ordered the wrong drink and... oops, Mom, my coffee spilled on the floor. And before you even know it, she misses everything - elementary school, and summer camp, and this babysitter, and another. And every each person that ever got her that drink in that very same coffee shop.

The first few sips are the hardest. And if you're experiencing this flavour nostalgia for the first time, after many years of not tasting (or smelling!) something that has been deeply engrained in your life for ever so long, and don't have the words to express it, or the emotional tools to cope with it, it might become a natural disaster of personal magnitude. Maybe you'll never even drink coffee again after this. It's just too much like an emotional rollercoaster, with the ups so high and the lows so devastating that this aroma has now registered as a dangerous thing in your mind.

New Perfume: Lost Lagoon

 Inspired by a hidden garden of azaleas

Lost Lagoon

Happy May Day!
I'm excited to share with you my new perfume for spring and summer: Lost Lagoon.

Every spring, the rhododendrons awaken - first slowly, building anticipation. By early May, they simply burst with colour and aroma, some of the bushes so dense with flowers that you can't even see their leaves and branches...

These fragrant azaleas paint the edges of Lost Lagoon with myriads of flowers of tropical colours and exotic scents as versatile as the number of hybrids planted there: some are reminiscent of lily, others are like ylang ylang and some smell like cool suntan lotion. Bluebells, violets and other bulb flowers and annuals are planted among them; and magnolia, lilac and syringa contribute their luscious perfume to the already fragrant air. Freshly cut grass from the Pitch & Putt is the only reminder you're still in the Northern Hemisphere and not in the tropics...

Lost Lagoon

In case you can't experience this extravagant botanical explosion in person - don't be sad: I've bottled that scent especially for you!

Lost Lagoon is the third installation in "Perfume For A Place" series, which is inspired by my favourite places in Vancouver. This perfume will transport you to a secret lagoon surrounded by tropical flowers. Lost Lagoon is a refreshing Chypre with exotic floral notes of magnolia and ylang ylang and loaded with bergamot and green notes of rhododendron buds, violet leaf and galbanum.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Galbanum, Violet
Heart Notes: Rhododendron, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Iris

Fresh Nose

A huge part of my work is educational, either spontaneously via interactions with customers and random encounters at social events; or intentionally through workshops and classes I offer. 
This past winter holiday season, I had a blast interacting with children at a Christmas show last year. Unlike their parents, they're not spoiled yet with misconceptions against fragrance (like so many folks in Vancouver - everyone claims to be "allergic", where in fact they are more like just ignorant and close-minded). These children's curiousity and sheer delight at smelling something new was so refreshing that it stuck with me for months after the fact! 

Time and again, I meet adults that are so jaded about perfume (and probably life in general). They act like they've seen it all, even though it is more likely that they are too scared to step out of their comfort zone and experience anything new. How many times have you met someone who just jumps at the opportunity to rather than just claim that they "live life to the fullest" (a cliché I hear so many times that I want to scream and run for the hills), where in fact, they just want to do the same thing over and over again because they identify with the notion of being "au naturele" or whatever their rational or made up ideology is behind not wearing fragrance is.

Back to those sweet kids: their enthusiasm was heartwarming and their natural curiousity was inspiring, to say the least. I had two main encounters with them that stuck with me. One was with two friends who were about seven or eight years old. They smelled and tried different perfumes and when one of the girls inquired about price, she wasn't discouraged because she could not afford it (the point when most adults glide their gaze elsewhere and remove themselves as swiftly as possible from my booth) - but was excited that she can try it on. I also mentioned to her the price of the samples, in case her allowance might be closer to that. The other girl, who was by then exploring the tucked-away Zodiac line, came back after a few minutes, and asked me if Taurus had a sample... So sweet! Of course I sent them off smelling heavenly and gave them pretty postcards and scent-cards with some of the scents they liked.

The other pair were a brother and a sister, probably about ten and eight, respectively. The girl was smelling and enjoying the display of testers, while the boy went on and on with questions about how perfumes are made, how oils are extracted, whether or not I grow the plants and distill them myself, all dotted with clever attention to detail and more interesting questions than many interviewers in professional magazines ever bother asking. I was hoping they will never leave my booth because the rest of the show was mind-dumbing boring, thanks to the uninterested crowds.

And then there was a woman older than my mother, who visited the booth and was probably more excited about the notion of having a perfumer in the city than any other person I've ever met. She sat there for hours, sniffing, sharing stories, swooning in pleasure and near-ecstasy elicited by the scents I've created (what an honour!) and inviting anyone who as much as peeked at my room to come in and marvel at the rarity of the opportunity of meeting the perfumer who created them.

While I'm more than just a tad tired and bitter about the current state of affairs in my city during craft and holiday shows, and in particular what seems to be like a pathetic downhill tumbling of the city's culture thanks to the sense of entitlement so many people seem to have whenever they interact with one another -- I am most thankful for these three occurrences of graceful interaction with future generations and with the lady who truly appreciates perfume. Don't ever underestimate what a kind word to an artisan or a small business owner can do. They might just decide to not quit thanks to you!

Dream Display

Dream Display by Ayala Moriel
Dream Display, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Happy to brag with my newly designed packaging, now on display at Dream Apparel (356 Water Street @ Cordova in Vancouver's Gastwon) and Adhesif Clothing (2202 Main Street @ 6th Avenue), which is the first store to carry Lovender perfume!

Dream also has some of the old selection (in smaller sizes), which is at 20% off while quantities last.

Adhesif Display

Fragrant Faces of Vancouver

Rhododendron Meeting

Happy Anniversary to the city of Vancouver, who turns 125 year old today!!!

When I arrived at this city nearly 13 years ago, on a dreadfully rainy October day (a rain that continued tirelessly, day and night, through November), the only smells that caught my nose were the musty, fungi-infested wooden homes. It made for very gloomy apartment-hunting. Besides the homelessness and drug problems, that smell is probably the most depressing, uncozy and unpleasant thing about Vancouver (you'd think it's counter productive to build wooden homes in a city that is 90% water, but that's what they are made of). I was quite convinced that the building I live in now does not have that smell; Alas, coming back from 3 weeks of family visits in Israel and arriving at my current abode got my nose to notice the exact alienating scent as I entered the hallway to my apartment...

Blue Heart @ Sunset Beach
As you can probably gather, my first impression of V town was less than positive. And not only because of the unfortunate circumstances that forced me to part ways with my immediate family and friends I grew up with and become practically an immigrant (even if not legally, because I was born in this country, the experience is just about as cruel to move to a different country if you were not exposed to it during your childhood). And since most of the people in this city are newcomers to the country or emigrated from other parts of Canada, there was a strong sense of alienation in the city, something that remains underlining everything here to this day for me - from business transactions to social interactions. Vancouver is a city where at the community centre they offer a course about "how to build your own community". Because, if you don't - you won't have one. It's just not something that comes naturally in a social structure that is so strongly influenced by immigration (incoming and outgoing...).

Considering the fact that the city have grown out of the lumber industry and the gold rushes of the 1800's - it makes sense why, to this day, even with population of over 2 million (in Greater Vancouver), it still very much has a small-town mentality. The mild weather (comparing to the rest of Canada) attracts internal immigration, partly in search for seasonal work, partly in search for easier life in a province and a city known so well for their beauty. So there is always a sense that people here are only here for a little while... And might be moving away any moment. Which is why making friends here is so difficult: Vancouverites are always a bit suspicious of newcomers, wondering between themselves "how long will this person will last in the endless rain here?". So they wait and see if you stick around for 2, 3 or more likely 4 years, and only than you will finally have made some friends in the city (that based on my own personal experience, as well as all Vancouverites I met that didn't grow up here - and that's a long time to live in a city and not have friends!).

Autumnal Reflections

Vancouverites are also known as nature lovers, workout junkies, health conscious, notorious flakes (showing up 15 minutes late to social engagements is less common than canceling last minute, or simply not showing up), and often refer to themselves as hermits (a cute name for "anti-social"). Even going out for coffee may be too demanding! When I arrived in the city, I was completely unaware that the seemingly friendly "we should go for coffee together sometime" meant "let's not meet ever again". In general, we in Vancouver do not like to partake in any social interaction that requires too much effort - which is why pot luck gatherings are far more popular than dinner parties. And preferably, they'd rather not invite people into their own home at all. Which is probably why there are so many restaurants in the city at the moment. People, in general, don't entertain in their homes much, but go out a lot. At least the restaurants have improved over the years - when I came here 13 years ago, there was not a single Middle Easter eatery that had decent food. At least now there is Nuba (fine Lebanese cuisine - and a must try if you visit the city), and even a couple of decent falafel joints. But that's enough about the strife of moving into this city, because once you have warmed up to it, it will warm up to you as well (and like wine, this city actually does improve with time culturally). But once you've found your true friends here, they will be as loyal and reliable as anywhere else in the world. That is, if you were able to endure the 3-4 years of isolation.

And just as it took quite some time for Vancouver and I to warm up to each other (thanks, in part, to global warming, and the summers finally being warm enough to chase me into the chilly waters of the Pacific ocean), it took about 10 years for me to really enjoy the few subtle and rare scents that permeates the air shyly before being washed out completely by the next rain.

Falling in love with Vancouver at first sight is easy (especially if you are lucky to arrive on a sunny day). But for me, it was a very slow love affair, and took me many years to come to terms with it being my home. The beautiful, yet intimidating mountains, ocean inlets and rainforest surrounding the city make it a huge challenge to create a feeling of coziness. It's more about freedom here. And with freedom comes... great responsibility. It's a great place to explore one's boundaries, both mental and physical, and push your limits.

Fall in Coal Harbour

So what does Vancouver smell like? It is not nearly as evocative or fragrant as New Orleans, but if you listen carefully with your nose, you will notice that each season has its own scent:

The plum blossoms in very early spring (the cherry blossoms have very little scent, at least here...) are certainly the most inspiring both visually and aromatically. Daffodils in April have more of a visual presence than an olfactory one in my opinion, as other cultivated wonders such as tulips. Hyacinths though, popular in both flower shops and gardens, and lily of the valley seem to be planted in gardens more than they have been before, so there is some scent here, though not all that wild... In late spring, the rhododendrons bring a wide spectrum of colours and fragrances, ranging from green and clean, through fruity to full-blown heady lily. And even later in the spring, the poplar trees give off a sweet, balsamic scent.

Summer brings roses, including the wild roses native to the area. And, of course - if it only gets warm enough - the salty scent of the ocean. And another fragrant plant that I love is in bloom - lilacs!

Come autumn, and wetness begins to take over - and there is less scent of plants. Except for one very special smell: that of the cedar needles and chips and other autumn leaves decaying in the forest - a scent that is very much like Chypre or Garrigue. Enter Stanley Park on a warm autumn day and notice when you get a whiff of that!

Winter is even wetter, colder and less scented, except that snow (on the rare occasion when it arrives) has its own strange crisp smell, and the chimneys of the fireplaces (never been to a place that has real fireplace with burning wood, but it must be somewhere because I can smell it every winter). Walks by the ocean bring forth a crabby, slightly salty smell of the sea and ocean dwellers combined with jet fuel form the aqua planes in Coal Harbour.

In very late winter, the whole West End has mysteriously filled with an overpowering flowery scent, with no flowers in sight. It took me years (literally!) to solve the mystery, and realize that it's from the tiny (almost invisible!) white blossoms of privet. They are almost too much, especially in comparison to the lack of smell that generally is what's happening here - as if someone has sprayed the whole neighborhood with a bathroom freshener...
Later yet, a more subtle scent of snowdrops, that is mysteriously in the air but hardly noticeable when you put your nose up close to them. And last but not least - chestnuts in blossom, smelling very much like carob blossoms (FYI: both smell very much like semen).

Snow in Southlands
Wishing Vancouver a very happy birthday and many happy returns, and may it become a better city (as I have seen it grow in the past 13 years that I've lived here).

If you visited Vancouver, or live here, please share with us what scents remind you of Vancouver!

Parallel Horizons and Vanishing Points, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
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