Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A language of scent

magickalrealism's Textures photosetmagickalrealism's Textures photoset

I'm rethinking smell. Perhaps not rethinking, exactly - smell is smell, technically one of the five senses but also somehow more involuntary. We can take steps to block out sights and sounds, even block out physical sensations by wearing gloves and thick clothing - but with smell, well, even nose plugs have an odor.

While we mainly associate smell with taste - because the next closest similarity we have in the layers of information we get from smell is by inserting something in our mouths - I'm starting to reconsider smell as an extension of touch. First of all, the comparison of smell to taste belies a few assumptions: coffee in no way tastes how it smells, for instance. While I haven't run around tasting my essential oils (an experiment bound to end with a hospital visit at the very least) I'm reasonably certain there's no way they taste like they smell, either.

I've also found that certain scents and their quality might possibly vary based on cultural experience and geographical location. There is no one scent that smells good to everyone. There's a filter going on. Also, if you create a perfume that to the knowledge of your scent-memory isn't comparable to anything else you've smelled, what then?

This is why I'm experimenting a bit with my perfume listings on Etsy. I'm completely reconsidering not just smell, but how I describe it. Right now I'm experimenting with the language of texture: rough or smooth? thickness: does it feel light, or heavy? Does your mind conjure an image of a clogged pipe? Speed: this isn't just sillage and evaporation rate, this is how fast it hits your olfactory nerve and whether it makes you go cross-eyed (some people like that.)

Is it a perfect system? Probably not. But it seems like, especially amidst the challenges of online sellers, it's the way to go.

Friday, September 25, 2009

If I were a perfume . . .

If I were a perfume, I would be like blood
Necessary for life, unaware of self

Monday, September 21, 2009

Magickal Realism's garden adventures

Rose Garden August 2009 - image by Diana Rajchel of Magickal Realism Perfume Arts.

I'm a very DIY kind of girl. This is partly because my own perfumery is a bootstrap effort - no debts, no loans, no credit cards used ever. And this means that fancy things like tuberose and ottos come by way of gifts, and are sparse. Nope, my perfumes have a garden feel to them because often, major components of them come from someone's garden.

So, even as I advance my art form from the familiar safety of oil based mixtures to complex things like tinctures, I have to resort to a sort of guerilla harvesting from time to time and I am a girl who relies on the kindness of trusted friends.

This year's treats have been generous indeed: scores of lilac flowers, moving me into year three of the seven year tincture I'm working on. Tomato leaves, thanks to a dear friend's garden going completely bonkers. And, to my delight...roses.

Unfortunately, I had no idea roses were so uncooperative in tincture. I'm sure someone could have told me if I'd asked, but I do like to learn things the hard way. That said their stems and leaves behave very nicely, and I've got some lovely herbal greens to play with this winter as a result. As for the petals...well, the alcohol is very strangely pink/brown now. I might be able to do something with that...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

the slowest infused etoh in history

Imagine my surprise when I scored a Jasminum sambac at Home Despot earlier this summer. I mean, we have a conducive climate in CA and all that, but this flower is the stuff of fantasy and is an atlas missile in any perfumer's arsenal, given its qualities as a crack-filler-inner, a crappy-blend-corrector, and certain something that works wonders in 'masculine' blends. It was like winning the lottery and it was also Christmas morning, at the same time :)

The plant is slowly growing and thriving, being a plucky little guy. I repotted him into a much larger vessel, into some hand-blended planting mix comprised of clay from the side yard where I excavated something like 50 square feet of clay (and then filled in with a measly 20 square feet of purchased planting mix, gah), wood shavings and shredded straw from the chicken coop/run, and then fresh-ish compost. He's throwing lots of blooms at a time now.

And of course, those blooms are getting plopped into etoh, and ending their days of freshness happily inebriated, soaking until they get crunchy, and I replace them with fresh blooms. It looked futile at first. 100ml of etoh, and two blooms. Three blooms a few days later. But, one keeps at this sort of thing, and over three months one gets a reward, or at least the preview to a reward.

(Still kicking myself for not bugging the Despoteers to order more plants for me in June.)

No clue what I'll be using this precioussssss for, when it's 'done', or when the plant decides he has given me enough flowers. It was a reflex getting into the habit in the first place, and I figured at the time that I'd better just do it or regret not having done it when I finally have time to start blending again.

Sometimes life feels like a marathon of stages of prep work, eh.

Friday, September 11, 2009

it wasn't supposed to be that long of a break from perfume

Everything changed in March of this year, starting with putting Ye Olde Mandrake on hiatus, and culminating in a move to a house where I'd set up a garden and build a chicken coop before the summer.

As is true with so many things that nurture and inspire and sustain, however, it was impossible to forget aromatics entirely.

I remember patchouli whenever I dig into a row for planting. Even the most lackluster dirt in a backyard that time forgot has hints of this dusty golden ripeness, after a good rain, or after a watering in the late afternoon sun.

And I fell in love with the smell of wheat straw. The first bale from the feed store changed some things entirely, and I learned that I like hay-type smells after all. Happy surprise? It wasn't like Foin coupe, the traditional hay absolute (which I like in moderation, on occasion, like when the stars are in harmonic convergence, and the sun and moon change places and my cat spontaneously starts to talk). It smells of dried golden things, sunshine, sweet earth, and warmth.

The chickens have their decidedly poultry smell, but it is not bad at all. I replaced the straw with pine wood shavings last month, which added a beautiful foresty tone to the yard. If anything, the chickens enhance their environment. When I feed them melon rinds and seeds, the run smells of those white wonder watermelons I grew on a whim but never did get very sweet. When I feed them the noir des carmes melons which are fabulously aromatic but insipid in taste, the yard smells of sweet melons.

Then there are the 18 tomato plants, with that green, astringent, and rather acrid odor all their own. The first Wapsipinicon peach tomatoes actually tasted of that smell, and it was otherwordly, and faintly wicked. Then... they came back to earth and were merely peachy-toned tomatoes with faintly soft skins.

My favorite yard smell? That would be freshly-husked corn. It matters not how long I waited to pull the ear off of the plant, or if the husks are drying, or if the kernels are not all developed; the silk, inner husks and cob are sweet. And I'd forgotten that smell completely, in the 25 years since I'd last harvested corn for my nana. Sweet, green, powdery, confectionary almost, and very faintly herbaceous. I pulled up half of the rainbow Inca last night, in preparation for letting the chickens go wild in that patch to prepare it for next spring, and found myself just sniffing the papery dry husks as I stood over the compost pile.

Perfume is everywhere.

I finally unpacked half of my essences on Tuesday. It was a second home-coming, after the garden beckoning and welcoming me and my nose every day when I go out there to water.

So, as I water, I consider Jasminum sambac, with a base of wheat straw, and a touch of melon rind in the top. I consider Lavandula abrialis with a hit of flowering sage, pine shavings from the coop, and some crushed lemon leaves. Perfume is why I get up in the morning, go about my chores, and then come inside to remember what the essences all smell like. It is remembrance, and the present.

And, as it turns out, I never did actually take a break from it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If I were a perfume...

This is a fanciful - if I were a perfume:
If I were a perfume, I would have hints of savory at my base,
be warm with an herbal center
and honeysuckle florals would make me seem gentle.
I am not one to float away,
so don't count on me to evaporate -
though perhaps I come and go,
cleaving, cleaving to the skin
taking from deep within beneath the blood and sweat and dreams
something more real than how real seems.

Badger's Bill Whyte Speaks on Perfume

In the Opinion/Editorial section of Le Parfumeur Rebelle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Purple Dress Press Release

The Purple Dress: Limited Edition Perfume by Ayala Moriel

09.09.2009: Vancouver, BC. Ayala Moriel release The Purple Dress, a chromatic perfume that blurs the lines between soliflore and oriental.

A salute to Alexander Argov famous song, The Purple Dress is just as romantic in a chromatic, nocturnal, off-beat way. Champaca flowers from India are the main theme of this spicy, floral tea-like composition, supported only by hints of white magnolia and star anise, and a foundation of black tea and smoky woods.

Top Notes: Star Anise, Nutmeg, Mace Heart Notes: Red Champaca, Golden Champaca, White Magnolia Base Notes: Sandalwood, Guiacwood, Black Tea, Angelica Absolute
Fragrance Family: Soliflore (Champaca), Floral-Spicy

Official launch date & party:12.12.2009

*Offered in Parfum Extrait 9ml flacon ($160) and Crème Parfum in Ayala Moriel’s Signature Peprfumed Pendant ($150). Only 12 bottles and 4 pendants are available.
** Available at Ayala Moriel’s studio, or via our website

Ayala Sender, the Nose behind Ayala Moriel Parfums creates perfumes that are inspired by her deepest emotions and memories from her childhood landscapes of the Mediterranean. “My art stems from my love and longing for the Mediterranean natural and cultural landscape”, Ayala says, “It is strongly rooted in those ancient and colourful aromatic traditions”.

Born in Montreal and raised in Israel, Ms. Sender’s work is influenced by her eclectic background in fine art, music, philosophy, psychology and education. “Perfumery is my means for self expression, and where all my interest integrate into a beautiful whole” says Ayala. “My perfumes tell a story. They capture a moment in time, an emotion, a memory, and entice you into their world”. Combined with an intuitive understanding of each individual’s need for self expression through personalized fragrance, Ayala creates customized Signature Perfumes as well as ready-to-wear perfumes. “My perfumes have their own personality and evolve with time almost like real living people” tells Ayala. “When I make a perfume for a person, I help them to translate who they are into a beautiful perfume that is as complex and multi-faceted as they are”.

For all media inquiries, please contact:
Tel. (778) 863-0806
Invitation to The Purple Dress Launch Party (December 12, 2009) as well as additional images and samples are available upon request.

Home Distillation

For some of us more adventurous types, distillation becomes part of a natural progression through perfumery. A few years back I received a small copper distillation unit from a company in Portugual, Iberian Coppers S.A. For the first six to eight months, the still was just a pretty ornament and point of curiosity sitting all shiny and bright on a shelf. And I got a lot of ribbing about making my own "hooch". In the past year, however, the little two-liter al-embic has been an invaluable tool in my perfumery education. Thanks to diligence, determination and a strong sense of experimentation, my copper al-embic has provided me with nearly a gallon of beautiful frankincense b. carterii hydrosol, a few liters of cucumber "hydrosol", a liter of whole fruit distilled lemon hydrosol, peppermint hydrosol, ambrette seed hydrosol, and a few milliliters of lemon essential oil.

Distilling your own perfumery products offers another benefit -- peace of mind. How many times have you wondered if an essence you purchased from a dealer is real?

So if you're into tincturing and infusing and macerating and old-time enfleurage, why not jump into distillation? Make your set-up with copper tubing and a pressure cooker (for which blueprints can be found online), or find a glass distillation unit on ebay, or hit up Iberian Coppers.

Iberian Coppers S. A.

Post by: J

Photo: Iberian Coppers S.A., Essential Oils' page pic

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We're Baaack!

There has been a huge gap in blogging here in the last -- um -- year? I hope this is the beginning of the end of that business!

With that being said (written), let me just say thank you to all our supporters. Our sponsors, the folks we review, the giveaway contributors, the blog contributors -- all of you are a huge part of what Le Parfumeur Rebelle is all about.

Now, go read LPR! There are a lot of great reviews, another great giveaway, and in the very near future, some really cool articles written by some really cool people.