New Soap: Hulnejan

Hulnejan Roots

Inspired by the region's aromatic traditions, I'm pleased to present to you yet another wonderful soap I've recently developed: Hulnejan.
Hulnejan is a spicy, exfoliating soap bar with strongly brewed galangal, gingeroot and cinnamon. Properties: warming, cleansing, exfoliating.
Hulnejan Soap

Hulnejan tea is a decoction of spicy roots and barks prepared by the Druze in Northern Israel over the winter months. It has strong warming and anti-bacterial qualities, exactly what one needs to stay healthy during the chilly months of the Galilee and the Golan. It is typically drank very sweet as well (sweetened with either sugar or honey), and with some chopped pecans on top. The best way to make it is by brewing it on the stove for hours, allowing the scent to fill the home, clear it from microbes while making it smell warm and cozy. It also helps to homidify the air, which is much needed as the fire tends to make the environment very dry.
Brewing Hulnejan Tea

This limited edition soap bar is made from olive-oil and water infusions of Hulnejan tea. It creates a beautiful peeling soap bar that promotes circulation and rejuvenation of the skin. Like all of our soaps, it is also superfatted - which means it has wonderful moisturizing qualities due to high content of unsaponified oils within the formula. It is the same rich-lathering formula we've always had for our soaps, now handcrafted in our new studio in Clil by yours truly!

We're using olive oil that was cold-pressed from olive which were organically grown in a Druze village near Mt. Meron; Oganic virgin coconut oil (both are food grade), palm oil and castor oil for that extra emollient quality. The result is a hard, long-lasting bar with rich lather that is very moisturizing - a real treat for your skin, hair; and with a wonderfully spicy fragrance that brings to mind wintry teas by the fire place.

Hulnejan Soap
Ingredients: Saponified vegetable oils (coconut, olive, palm, castor), water infused with dried galangal, ginger and cinnamon, powdered dried cinnamon bark, powdered dried ginger root, natural fragrance (essential oils and absolutes of galangal, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom)

Hulnejan Soap


My apartment is poorly lit. And even more so after the living room light got killed. The problem intensified with my laptop crashing - thus taking away the moth-like lifestyle of gathering around the screen at night. Therefore it was no surprise that I particularly welcomed the candle lighting during the holiday of Chanukah. The ritual daily candle lighting have stuck with us in this dark cave. And now every night I light candles around that time - scented candles, tea lights - whatever I can get my hands on - and me and my daughter sit and play games together by the fireplace.

Yet if you think of it, darkness is a precious thing in this day and age. It is nearly impossible to find natural darkness nowadays. As civilization we've defied the natural cycle of night and day. Cities pride themselves for being "nonstop cities". And our brains never shut down - which opens a whole other can of worms, as this situation has a profound effect on our health.

Like quiet, or being unplugged, darkness has become a luxury people are willing to spend large sums of money on to experience, in the form of "darkness retreat".

The value of darkness is also a design concept, in mediums such as architecture, cinema and photography. What would be the equivalent of that in the world of scent? A scentless world? Such a thing does not exist. And too few people know it. While I don't mind at all the fact that most object, animate and inanimate, have a unique odour - our world is cluttered with artificial scents. And that clutter threatens to take away the pleasure of perfume, be it a luxury or a commodity or an art form. With sensory overload in all areas - sound, scent and light - it's surprising that we haven't left the room screaming so to speak. Or have we?

But what I really wanted to get at with this post, was in fact the heightened sensory awareness, both tactile, auditory, olfactory and kinaesthetic, when immersed in darkness. As I walked my daughter back from the "Bright Nights" miniature train in Stanley Park a couple of weeks ago, we made a detour home through a portion of the forest. It was the very end of the moon cycle. There was so little light that you could almost feel the darkness with your fingers. It took a few minutes getting used to and being able to see the paths (especially after the brightness of the festive lights). It was not the first time I walked in the forest in the dark, and I know the paths like the back of my hands (so no risk of getting lost). The feeling of walking in complete darkness, when you don't have any fear or paranoia of the situation, and especially in the well-organized paths of Stanley Park, where tripping is very unlikely - is nothing short of magic.

I remember the first time we did it (which was actually at the end of the summer, or sometime earlier in the fall, when it was still rather warm at night). The air was immersed with scent. My only awareness when walking was the smell and temperature in the air. You could recognize the trees as you walk under them - here is a Douglas fir... Now it's a cedar... now it's a bit cooler, and I smell wet wood and the mushroomy scent of the forest... and then there is that dry, warmish smell of tree bark and dry needless. The scent hit you like a familiar recognition of an old friend. You should try it sometime, if you can.

Mid-Winter Favourites

With all the whirlwind of the winter holiday stress, followed by end-of-year lists - it's often difficult to make a distinction between the winter holiday season (which tends to inspire very wintery themed scents), when winter technically takes place (December 21st - March 20th).

Technically speaking, we are now in mid-winter. So I've decided to dedicate a post to mid-winter's favourite fragrances and little comforts. That bleh season that's between the winter holidays and the romantic explosion that is Valentine's day is mostly characterized by post-holidays cashflow crunch (for many people in the parts of the world afflicted by consumerism), mundane day-to-day chopping of firewood and working hard to bring food to the table and stay warm. If the fall is the season of sorting, harvesting and gathering (nicer word for hoarding) for the colder months; the dead of winter is the season for using up what we've collected, and for portioning it wisely so we don't starve before the earth re-awakens again in the spring...

How does this translate into perfume? Well, for starters - if you are in a cash crunch, there are many ways to indulge your perfume-cravings (or hobby), that would not cost an arm or a leg. Enjoying what we have is a not just a force of reality, but also a virtue. This is the time to bring out the big guns - all those furry orientals, big white florals, animalic chypres that will be overbearing most other times of the year. Youth Dew, Obsession, Poison, Opium, Tabu, Aromatics Elixir - this is your time to shine! All of the wonderful treasures you are keeping for a special occasion - enjoy them now! They last for a long time, but they might turn one day. So wear them now, and enjoy them in good health. You deserve a special perfume even more so on a non-special day...

This is a great time to re-visit what you have in your collection that's been collecting dust or have been pushed into a dark forgotten corner of your sample drawer.

Keeping a perfume journal is another great idea. You don't need to have a blog to do it. And you don't need Moleskine to come up with a template either... I can provide one for you (in a separate post), and you can start a hand-written, illustrated or typed version of your own perfume journey, to record your impressions and re-invent your interest in perfumes. Sooner or later you'll discover that there is always another layer to what you have in your collection and think that you know inside-out and backwards...
And as to the list? It is the most obvious cliche, but as one of my friends like to say "it all happens for a reason". Thankfully, the reason here is that when its colder, stronger and heavier scents don't come across nearly as intimidating as in the heat of summer; and also, because the lighter, fresher scents tend to have a weaker (and often under-satisfying) presence.

When winter is at its peak, and the nights are still long and cold - there is nothing quite more special than going to bed wrapped with an extra layer of luxury - vintage perfume or one of the most cherished extraits. And other times, it's just wonderful to spritz a bit of sweet citrus deliciousness into the air and walking through it before going on a brisk walk in the fog or a boring treadmill session when the weather is not cooperating with my desire to job on the beach... While all of the selections below are glorious, there is something more mundane and approachable about them, not quite as festive as Nuit de Noel or Parfum Sacre; and not as romantic as what you'd be reaching for when February 14th rolls in (whether or not you have a date).

Miss Dior extrait was my first Chypre love. I first smelled it in a mini coffret I got a trans-atlantic flight. I was in mid-air yet smelling it made me feel very grounded. I was surprised how much I liked it - I was very young then and someone told me that Miss Dior was a more "mature" fragrance, while Diorissimo (my favourite then) was for youngner ladies. Even though it had a very natural warmth about it, all the ingredients were so magically blended that I could not pick out any one from the others. Only later I discovered what Chypre is - and this love affair never ceased. Miss Dior is one of the very few perfumes I stockpile* - from before the oakmoss free days. I have 3 bottles of extrait (one of them vintage) and 2 more of the eau de toilette. Does that make me a hoarder?

Aromatics Elixir a refreshing discovery for me this winter is that I can actually wear Aromatics Elixir without fainting. It comes in small and affordable 10ml spray size (don't you wish all perfumes were bottled that way?) and I've been wearing it daily, more or less, ever since (that's full 2 weeks, very impressive for me - I usually change my fragrances on a daily basis, or even more).

Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer is a toned-down yet very respectful version of the original. It's greener and muskier, and I love the dabbing application (and, shamefully admit to also liking the non-greasy emollient texture of the liquid it is suspended in, even though it's mostly made of silicones). I've been so smitten with both of the elixirs, that I also ordered online the limited edition from 2011 titled "Perfumer's Reserve".  

Youth Dew extrait and bath oil are a sure way to reinforce that sedate state of mind. Languid, haunting, deep and overbearing if not carefully applied - Youth Dew is unique and although it seems very dated, there is no denying its almost-medicinal concoction of patchouli, cloves, narcissus and a myriad of other intense notes. Something you could only get away with in the wintertime.

Obsession Extrait has the smooth charm of amber and is almost overly sweet. If it wasn't for the hint of oakmoss, sandalwood and cyclamen at its base, it would have been really quite too much even for me. But when applied discreetly, it's so enjoyable and mysterious, with depth and lots of subtleties to discover beyond just sweet amber and tangerine. And - there is no mistaking why it has become the success that it was. It's distinct, and it works.

Champagne de Bois, a modern interpretation of the woody-aldehydic-floral dream. Champagne de Bois highlights woody notes of sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver and brings the smooth, precious-wood sweetness out of them with frankincense and amber.

Shiso Aftelier brings to mind the camphoreous comfort and relief of Asian apothecary as well as the enigmatic allure of the Geisha world - whose use of incense materials usually used for religious rituals in their elaborate grooming rituals, applying charred aromatic woods to their perfectly coiffed hair, and smoulder their silk kimonos with incense smoke, and rub their body with spicy incense powder.

No. 19 Warm Carrot is another great-granddaughter of Bois des Îles and a unique reinterpretation of woodsy aldehydic floral, putting the underrated carrot seed at the spotlight. No. 19 brings out the woody and floral qualities of this modest yet precious ingredient (it is quite costly, and mostly been put into use in anti-aging creams and cosmetics) and brings out its creamy qualities while juxtaposed with ylang ylang, lavender, vetiver, labdanum, amber, benzoin and vanilla. It's also amazing as a body butter.

Prada Ambre Pour Homme Intense (or is the name the other way around?). While the name is long, the perfume is rather simple. Pathouli, benzoin, amber and an overdose of bergamot that makes it almost soapy. And plenty of musks, of course. I have to admit that I like the dry down much, much better than the opening. It's not as popular in my rotation as Patchouli Magique, but it makes an interesting variation on the patchouli theme without being too redundant.

Velvet Gardenia. Gardenia typically has very tropical associations. But this floriental is anchored in a deep labdanum base and beeswax, bringing to mind candle-lit interior of a stone castle.

Eau de Mandarine Ambrée. I admit I'm not crazy for the new Hermese eau de colognes as much as I love their original Eau d'Orange Verte. But Eau Mandarine Ambree has a nice balance between cozy ambery sweetness and mandarine's juicy and zesty charm.

Ormonde for Her by Ormonde Jayne blends a few unlikely worlds - the prude, the witch and the modern seductress. Violet's demure quality bring to mind the first. The foresty, woodsy notes of black hemlock spruce and cardamom honour the witch in the forest over her medicinal brew. But it is the modern synthetic musks that quickly take over and make it so appealing to the modern woman, who wants to connect to her inner animal but can only do this by scrubbing off her natural smells.

What are your winter favourites?

* The others being Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Parfum Sacre, Le Parfum de Therese and Opium Fleur de Shanghai. 

Early Winter Plights and Delights

Someone have suddenly lifted the security blanket of clouds and rainfall off the city of Vancouver so that it joins the rest of Canada with its below-zero winter temperatures. And this is before winter has even officially arrived. Even in the coldest winters, (-)9 would be rare, and would certainly not hit us before late December.

I went for a little stroll this morning (40 minutes was more than enough to convince me to stay indoors as much as possible and immerse myself with sedate activities such as storytelling - aka blogging, arts and crafts - aka perfumery).

The plants, as you can see from my stroll in Nelson Park's community gardens, have froze over all the vegetation. Everything looks so miserable - like lettuce that was left unprotected in an refrigerator for far too long. They may look dark green, but there is no life in them whatsoever. The photos above are of two victims - Swiss chard and lavender. But they are not the only ones! Nearly all the evergreen bushes (rhododendrons included) look shrinking, lifeless and frost-bitten. I'm quite relieved that in a sudden moment of sanity before crawling into bed last night I rescued my gardenia bush and let us join the family in the living room.

And I was a little shocked to find that large potted plants were even brought in for a warm cup of spiced apple cider and chai at the local coffee shop!

It is so unusually cold that I think most of us in Vancouver don't even have the proper clothes for the weather. The fireplace at my home is blazing, and I even turned on the electric heat in all the rooms in the house, yet it still does not feel quite as cozy... Even after leaving the fireplace on all night (which I never do), the place is not its usual cozy self, but I'm sure the heat will accumulate after a few more days and nights...

So, in such cold days, in addition to a good cashmere sweater we need something to keep us warm and happy besides recycled cashmere sweaters and and borrowed ugg boots (I usually stay away from this, well, rather ugly indeed footwear, but it's practical in this dry and cold weather) - a little bit of nuts, butter and sugar seems quite appropriate. Especially when it's in a well-made almond croissant (I usually judge bakeries by how well they make their almond croissant - and so far the only descent croissant in town actually happens to be sold at Blenz Coffee).

And a newer discovery of mine are these rosemary caramels from up and coming Nektar Confections & Artisanal Pastries. The sweetness of the burnt sugar and butter is beautifully blanaced by the rosemary that they actually feel rather wholesome... They are yet to have their own website or store front, but you can find them at the Baker's Market, or in special events. I met them at my friend's Mindan home art sale last weekend and fell in love instantly with her simple and elegant shortbreads and with these rosemary caramels.

And last but not least - I intend to spend the remaining of the day at my studio, refilling vats with new batches of perfume that ran out because of all the intense bottling I've been doing in preparations to all my shows. For some strange reason, whatever formulation is out of stock seems to be the one that people end up ordering.

I was up late in the lab last night, making new batches of Fête d'Hiver , Yasmin and Zohar. It was time to refill the little rose otto vial with more otto from the big vat from the supplier... Although my studio upstairs is not freezing cold, it was too cold for this pretty lady (I mean: the rose otto). As I was pouring - always carefully, slowly and gently - a large clear crystal of rose otto (this happens to this delicate essence below room temperature) - blocked the way and caused a minor spillage... Nothing too dramatic, but I am starting to run out of this essence, so every drop is precious. I was able to save some of the otto and collect it into the Fête d'Hiver vat. But for the remaining of the night my desk, hands, face and brain smelled like pure organic rose otto from Bulgaria... A pretty inspiring way to drift off to sleep.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Haro St,Vancouver,Canada


Dr. Zhivago trees, originally uploaded by Studiobaker.

Not here yet, but certainly getting there. The above title is actually the name of a perfume I discovered when digging through ancient stashed-away disasters of 2001 (the year when I began to compose fragrances).

I've been struggling with spicy orientals for as long as that. That genre is not easy to tackle, not only because I found no reliable reference formulas in any of my perfumery books; but also because these are such complex perfumes, and using only natural raw materials in a complex formula often leads to disasters.

The perfume in question here was intended as a Youth-Dew type of oriental. this perfume belongs to a type of spicy oriental that has very many facets, and is at once spicy, floral, ambery and deeply drenched in patchouli and animalic notes.

What I created back in 2001 smelled terrible at the time. It smelled muddy and earthy and dirty and just overall nothing was really appealing about it, except for the bottle I put it in. And that's where it was left, forgotten, for about 9 years.

And 9 years later, when I was researching spicy orientals for my students and was trying in vein to find a perfume that is the "classical" spicy-patchouli-oriental, I came across this and discovered that it is, after all, not all that bad.

Winter is made of patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, rose, ylang ylang, chamomile and geranium and bergamot. Way back when, it smelled like a puddle of mud. Now it smells like a very old-fashioned perfume, like what you'd expect to find on your Grandma's vanity. It's a fermented rose scent and is strangely lovable.

With all the other research I've done about the "mellis" perfumes (that's how professionals call the spicy orientals of the likes of Tabu, Youth Dew and Opium), I think I've finally figured out the formula for how to make them smell good and true to the genre, hopefully without waiting another 9 years before they become wearable.

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