Ormonde & Ormonde Man

Ormonde is quite a surprising scent. It starts off with a foresty black hemlock note (which is also apparent in the masculine version of the scent). However, this is no usual woody scent. In fact, it is a mysterious and subtle violet scent!
The violets here are very dark, as if hidden in the shades of the forest. The final drydown is quite sweet - almost like an oriental.
An interesting and versatile fragrance that can be very individual when it finds its match!

Top notes: Cardamom, Coriander, Grass Oil
Heart notes: Black Hemlock, Violet, Jasmine Absolute
Base notes: Vetiver, Cedar Wood, Amber, Sandalwood

Ormonde for Men hasn't impressed me quite as much, but admittedly I haven't quite given it that much chance. It starts off coniferous - with the black hemlock as in Ormonde, but then dries down to a tolu balsam base note, something vanillic and simplistic reminiscent of the drydown of Dior Addict and synthetic musks. I didn't find it particularly interesting - but as I mentioned already, I didn't give it enough chance. It sadly pales in comparison to the originality of Ormonde (which, by the way, I think will be stunning on a manly skin as well).

Top notes: Juniper Berry, Bergamot, Pink Pepper, Cardamom, Coriander Seeds
Middle Notes: Oudh, Black Hemlock
Base Notes: Vetiver, Cedar, Sandalwood, Musk

Red Cedarwood

Red Cedar, 400yrs old by Ayala Moriel
Red Cedar, 400yrs old, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
My immediate attraction when starting to work on the beard oil was to use red cedarwood. It's an oil that just recently showed up in suppliers' catalogues. It's a little sad, as it is a by-product of the logging industry. On one hand - a great thing that even the sawdust is being used; but on the other hand, old trees like these should not be logged.

This tree tag was photographed in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It is 120' tall, with a 9' circumference, and is approximately 400 years old! Not an unusual sight in this part of the world, but one hardly ever stops to think about it once you get used to the general height and magnitude of our rooted friends. The bottom of the tree tag reads:
"Western Red Cedars drink five bathtubs of water per day to survive. Their natural oils repel insects and act as a natural preservative for the wood, even after the tree dies".

Western Red Cedarwood is not truly a cedar. Thuja plicata also has synonyms of Pacific redcedar, giant arborvitae or western arborvitae (meaning: tree of life), or shinglewood (it is used to make shingles). It is actually a thuja, which is from the cypress family. True cedar would come from the genus Cedrus, such as the Lebanese cedars, and those of the Himalayan and Atlas mountains.

The scent is much stronger, potent and even harsher than that of the Virginian cedarwoods. In any case, they do all resemble pencil shavings. But the redcedar also has hints of cherry (if you have a wild imagination). It is not an easy raw material to work with because once you put a little bit, it is more noticeable than desired. Virginia cedarwood is so much more tame and well-behaved in comparison!

The challenge will be to bring out these characters but round them off with other notes. I'm drawn to other local trees such as black hemlock spruce absolute (which I also haven't found use for in any other of my perfumes, yet). And many of the other oils of choice will have to also have beneficial properties for the skin - juniper, cypress, rosemary...

It's also difficult to get away from the "moth repelent" association of cedar, as it is used in such way in sustainable housecare products. You can use cedar blocks or even cedar balls in place of the toxic and stinky moth balls!

The indigenous people of North America, from Oregon and all the way up north to Alaska, have used redcedars in many ways for building, transportation and clothing. Redcedar is very soft and easily carved into canoes. Ceremonial objects such as masks are also made of recedar, and so are most of the totem poles. Thanks to their decay-repelling oils, last many decades, preserving these people's culture, and even some archeological finds showed aboriginal tools and other ceremonial objects from thousands of years ago. Bark of redcedar is also used for making rings and even clothing, and the roots are woven into baskets.

The medicinal properties of redcedar are unknown to me at this point. The other so-called "cedars" in North America are in fact junipers: Virginia cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) and Texas cedarwood (Juniperus ashei). It might not be completely safe to guess that because of their similar smells they would have similar aromatherapeutic properties. If that is the case, I would stay away from this oil if you're pregnant (these are known abortifacients). Strong antiseptic qualities are highly probable, and also stimulate the circulation and help prevent dandruff, greasy hair, acne and oily skin. So all in all looks like an oil with the perfect specifications for beard-care.

The insect, fungi and bacteria repellent properties are self-evident with how well the wood is preserved even in the most moist environment as the rainforest of the West Coast. For its antiseptic qualities, I think it would be most appropriate for a beard oil, and also for creating a feeling of cleanliness even without shaving and applying aftershave etc. But clean in a foresty way, of course.

Another Forest Altogether...

From wandering in the forests of the Northwest to the jungles of tangled thoughts in my mind, I came up with a new idea. Something for an entirely different kind of forest: the one that some folks decide to grow on their faces.

Beards, I'm afraid to say, are one of my least favourite "things". Some men will even notice a drastic change in attitude if they decide to grow one around me. To my defense, this prejudice is from early conditioning that made me associate bearded men with all things evil. Some of us are just lucky this way...

In the meantime, 75% of the dearest men in my life (read: brothers) have decided to let go of their civilized look and let those wild whiskers grow all over their face, concealing their otherwise very handsome features. Thankfully their eyes are still there shining ever so brightly with religious zeal, and you can sorta make out their smiles too. Phew.

So, making peace with my demons (and with my brothers' rapidly growing beards), developing a beard oil seems like a healthy course of action. It's amazing that my therapist hasn't thought about it earlier. And maybe it will also catch on to the increasingly bearded culture that's prominent on the West Coast.

If you're growing a beard, you might as well keep it healthy and shiny and soft. Plus, now that you put all the manufacturers of razors, shaving creams and aftershaves out of business - you must contribute to the economy with a modified form of consumerism!

Beard oils are designed to take care of both the beard and the skin underneath it. Avoiding phenomenons such as bristly coarse hair, red blotches, flaky skin, and ingrown hairs. That's where beard oil can be useful: hair conditioner won't do the job for softening the hair, plus skin of the face is much more delicate and thin than the scalp. Beard oils are an easy, all-natural solution for conditioning and softening the hair while moisturizing the skin and keeping both healthy.

Fast absorbing oils that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants and have emollient properties are the best: avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, apricot kernel oil, sesame oil and the more expensive jojoba and argan oil.

Essential oils that are beneficial for beard care are those which promote healthy growth of hair, while keeping the skin clean and balanced (i.e.: not too greasy, not too dry) and also take care of potneital in grown hairs in the growing-out phase: rosemary, lavender, cypress, lemon, and thyme (ct. linalol), rose geranium and cedarwood.

With that list of beneficial oils, and with my recent obsession with the forest - is it at all surprising that my first attempt at a beard oil formulation is redolent of the woods? It is now already at the testing phases, with 10 samples shipped out to beard-growing test subjects representing equally the hipster persuation and the Jewish faith, with a couple of just plain old bear lovers thrown in for good measure. The first feedback just came in by means of a phone call from an excited lady whose partner has been wearing it over the weekend to much satisfaction of both parties. Both report that it doesn't only work well, but also smells good!

If you like (or grow) a beard, I'd love to hear your ideas of how you'd like it to smell. And if you don't like a beard, I'd still like to hear your opinions too. If you have a beard and would like to be my test bunny please send me a private message. The beard oil will be released sometime in June for Father's Day.

Life Is A Struggle

Life Is A Struggle by Ayala Moriel
Life Is A Struggle, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
"When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all".
- Herman Hesse, Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte [Trees: Reflections and Poems]

If your sense of belonging does not come easy, trailing alongside the trees gives a great lesson and a sense of proportion. A single tree in the rainforests provides oxygen supplies for a year for ten people - in only one season of its existence (Arbor Day Foundation).

"On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four" (Environment Canada). 

As I walk by these ancient creatures of wisdom who've breathed the planet's toxins, listened to the every bird's song, and exhaled serenity and purified air for hundreds if not thousands of years --
I'm awed not only by their stature, but also by what they have silently witnessed, and above all - to their dedication to light and life.

Tutored as the "green lungs" of our blue planet,  we owe 28% of the oxygen we breathe to the rainforests and the trees. It is no wonder that trees have been sacred not only to the native Indians but even in more deserted climates such as the Middle East. There are trees who are worshipped, to this day, with colorful ribbons tied to their branches by pilgrims of religions long gone. It seems increasingly logical to make all trees sacred. Planting trees should become a common practice from young age...

There are 3 main trees in our beautiful Pacific Northwest forests: Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga), Pacific Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) and Western Hemlock (Tsuga) and Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). I'm still learning how to differentiate between them: they are all so big and often times their needles are so far out of reach that there is no way of examining their needles and comparing their shapes. And then the trees are young it's the opposite problem: you can see the needles, but the trunks are still quite similar in appearance (at least to my untrained eye). These amazing trees can live several hundreds and even well over 1,000 years!

So, as I struggle to find courage, motivation or inspiration between my 4 walls - I step out to my "back yard", breathe deeply - and try to listen to the trees.

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