Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Citrus Week (May 4-8)

There are four more spaces remaining for Citrus Week (May 4-8).
This is a week long course at my Vancouver studio, suitable for all levels. It focuses on the basic lab skills (tincturing, dilutions, measuring, weighing, recording) through studying the earliest form of European/Western perfumes: Aqua Mirabillis AKA Eaux de Colognes. You'll really enjoy discovering historic formulae, as well as learning about the unique properties of the citrus oils in body care and cleaning products (functional perfumery), learn a bit about organic chemistry, and - the biggest challenge of all: learn to discern between the sutble nuances that differentiate the many varieties of citrus oils, i.e. red mandarin vs. yellow mandarin; grapefruit vs. bergamot; lemon vs. lime; sweet orange vs. bitter orange.

Featured Lecture: The Role of Citrus in Functional Fragrances

Featured (Practical) Workshop: Tincturing citrus zest and citrus leaves

Dates and Structure:
The course runs May 4-8, which is a full week - Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 4pm and takes place at Ayala Moriel's private home studio.
The mornings (9:30am-12pm) are dedicated to theory and studying olfaction (discerning between notes). The afternoons (1pm-4pm) are a lab session which is dedicated to the practical implementations of what was studied in the morning, i.e. weighing, measuring, recording, formulation, composition and compounding.

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Monday, March 30, 2015


Mint is almost as widespread as mankind itself - with representative species in all continents except Antartica. There are citrus scented mints (Bergamot mint), apple or pineapple scented mint,  and even a chocolate mint (a type of peppermint, really). In her book Fragrant - The Secret Life of Scent, author Mandy Aftel praises mint's homely qualities, and how it can be not only grown everywhere but also used in family recipes books called "Books of Secrets". I have many recipes in my own "Book of Secrets" that incorporate mint in this form or another: my first tea blend, for example, which was inspired by the Charisma perfume and the beautiful herbs that grew on the footsteps of my cottage in the Galil (lemon verbena, spearmint and lemongrass) combined with jasmine green tea are the brew to inspire dreams and happiness. Likewise, a more earthy and rustic brew of cinnamon sticks and wild, medicinal white mint can always be found in my mother's spice shelf, and if you're lucky she'll also have some of her own home-made pickles, which she beautifully serves on a tray with crackers and aged cheese, blanched almonds and whichever other dried fruits or nuts from her pantry. Each home has its own secrets, after all...

What gives mint its refreshing aroma and cooling sensation is a molecule called menthol. In its pure form, menthol has the consistency of white crystals in room temperature. When mixed with all the other elements of peppermint oil the appearance would be liquid. But this winter, temperatures in my studio plummeted, and my peppermint oil (and several others, including ginger lily CO2 and rose otto) have radically crystallized. It certainly is amusing, but makes working with the oils a bit cumbersome in the winter months.

It is interesting to note that menthol from natural origin (that which is found in countless mint varieties), as well as the leaves of pelargonium (AKA geranium) is different than that which is synthetically produced and in used profusely in the flavour industry - in anything from soft beverages, liquors, candy, bubble gum, toothpaste and other medicinal preparations. It is a very subtle difference, but nevertheless noticeable. Natural menthol is the isomer d-menthol, while the synthetic one is l-menthol. There is also a subtle difference that can be detected by discerning noses - it has a more metallic, cold quality than the (natural) d-menthol.

Most mint oils for the flavour industry are rectified in order to remove some of the grassy components, as well as the bitter-tasting component menthone. They are also more stable this way, resulting in a water-free, and colourless liquid (the water content can spoil the oil). Different mints have different molecular contents.
For example: peppermint has mostly menthol (29-48% or even more in some teroir), mention (20-31%), menthyl acetate, menthofuran, limonene, pulegone and cineol.
Spearmint has a significantly different chemical makeup, containing as much as 50-70% L-carvone, which gives it its characteristically warm mint-like character, as well as dihydrocarvone, phellandrene, limonene, mention, menthol, pulegone, cineol, linalool and pinene - which add a sweeter, more refreshing and complex aroma to spearmint. 
Lastly, Japanese mint (AKA Cornmint) has an even higher menthol content (70-95%), menthone (10-20%), pinene, methyl acetate, isomenthone, thujone, phellandrene, piperitone and menthofuran. The menthol is usually removed, because that would make it solid at room temperature!

Peppermint oil is the most versatile and useful of all three for aromatherapy, medicinal and flavour purposes. The oil can be mixed with a fixed oil and then rubbed on the belly to relieve stomach ache, can be added to smelling salts or to lavender and rosemary oils to relieve headache, and also added to cough drops and syrups to soothe sore throat. Spearmint is less potent medicinally, and is used as a milder, gentler substitute for young children. It also has more versatile use in soaps, colognes, sweets and soft drinks etc.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita), one of the most popular of all mints, is in fact a cross between
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and Watermint (Mentha aquatica), the mint that grows wild on the banks of brooks and creeks in Europe and the Middle East. There are countless hybrids of mint, as the species spontaneously cross-fertilize (something to keep in mind when growing them in your garden - if you are interested in keeping a particular type of mint and maintaining its qualities), creating many new varieties with subtle flavour and aroma differences. 

As far as its limited perfume use goes - I've enjoyed working with peppermint in an eau de cologne formulation to add a distinctively cooling effect; and with spearmint in Charisma - one of my favourite perfumes, where the refreshing coolness of spearmint is contrasted by sensuous jasmine and precious woods. I also used spearmint in a OOAK perfume that was inspired by the quiet afternoon teas with my Moroccan grandmother - alongside rose, anise and almond notes.

When visiting in Israel this month, we spent a blessed day in the wild hiking with my brother, sister in law, her parents and my two nieces. To call it hiking is an overstatement - because we followed the pace of my 3 year old niece, and the trail was a very easy, relaxing one. Which allowed us to fully appreciate the beautiful scenery. Snailing along between the old growth oaks and the flowery meadows was a most relaxing way to spend a Friday afternoon and pay attention to the versatility of flowers in bloom in all colours of the rainbow. 

Towards the end of the day, we stopped at Tzippori creek for a little impromptu outdoors tea party. We picked wild mint that grew along the banks - probably Silver mint (Mentha sylvestris), AKA Horse mint (Mentha longifolia). We brewed a simple tisane, and enjoyed it with fruit and nuts, plus chocolate bars that a generous Bedouin woman who picnicked with her family under the eucalyptus down the stream offered us - perhaps as a prize for the girls for being able to so bravely cross the step-stone bridge. If you've been following SmellyBlog for long enough, you'll know by now that this is not the first time I experience an outdoors tea party with my brother. It's never too much of an ordeal for him to carry in his backpack a small propane burner and a kettle, and brew on the spot wild herbs we find on the way - white mint (Micromeria fructose), sage, or whatnot. Worse case scenario, there is always some black coffee in his backpack to cook a strong cup of Turkish coffee.  

White mint (in Hebrew we call it Zuta Levana, in Arabic it is called Isbat Il Shai - meaning tea herb) can be found in the east Mediterranean countries: Israel, Lebnon, Turkey and the Balkans) is a precious wild herb most valued for its fine aroma as well as its medicinal properties. In folk medicine and herbalism it is used to reduce stomach pain, and also is considered helpful in reducing blood pressure, as well as colds, flu and coughing. It is especially fantastic when combined with cinnamon, for a warming and sweet-tasting tea in the cold winter months. It dries very well, maintaining its delicate flavour very well. It is reminiscent of both spearmint and hyssop in flavour - fresh yet a little warm and spicy as well. The fresh leaves are fantastic when paired with citrusy herbs such as lemongrass and lemon verbena, as well as pelargonium.

Are there any wild mint varieties growing in your area? Or any other wild herbs you an brew as tea on your next hiking trip? 

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Almond Blossoms

It’s time for my annual visit in the holy land,  and luckily for me, there are still some almond trees in bloom. Their delicate appearance is very nostalgic and precious. They are not unlike cherry blossoms, but are far more delicate, fragrant and sweet. They have less petals too than most ornamental cherry varieties. 

The scent of almond blossoms is wonderful and comparable to sweet pea and honey, with surprising hints . It is not as powdery and heavy as plum blossoms yet not as subtle and floral as sakura (cherry blossoms).  

The kernels of almond, cherry, apricot, plum and peach and also apple seeds contain significant amounts of amygdalin, a glycoside that breaks up under enzyme catalysis into two glucose molecules, and one of benzaldehyde and the toxic hydrogen cyanide. Benzaldehyde is the main contributor to the “almond” or “cherry” type of scent, as can be found in so-called bitter almond oil (the oil is not typically produced from bitter almonds, but rather from a combination of the other kernels mentioned earlier). Of course, much care is taken as to remove the prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) from bitter almond oils. 

Curiously, benzaldehyde also naturally occurs in oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). But as an aroma, it is more familiar to us from pastry ingredients such as almond paste, marzipan and bitter almond oil, which was first extracted in 1803 by the French pharmacists Martrès, and synthesized less than 30 years later by German chemists Friedrich Wöhler and Justus von Liebig. Most “bitter almond oils” on the market are synthetically produced and only few are true almond oils. This is a very popular flavour and aroma ingredient, which the world consumes about 18 million kilos of, and it is much easier to . Therefore, one must make thorough inquiries before purchasing if wishing to avoid synthetics. 

But I digress. I’ve written plenty on the subject of bitter almond oils for Tu BiShvat. Before they fade completely and become green almonds - I’d like to focus on the almond blossoms in all their delicate glory. Smelling them fresh or the first time in a long while - it’s interesting to smell the connections between bitter almond notes and orange blossoms, for instance. As well as between almond flowers and benzaldehyde. Pressing my nose to the fresh flowers, I’m noticing that sweetness that one finds in orange flowers (also in season now), and the sweet-peas that are also in bloom. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Preparing for Event with Smadar

I met with Smadar yesterday morning to plan our event together for next week. Her space is the old family house, a transplanted Swedish wood cabin, where they lived for many years when they just arrived to the village. Her husband, Yossi, was my 1st grade teacher, and for many years the couple ran a successful business of artisanal goat cheese and yoghurt and I babysat their kids. Once the family built a new home, they transformed their old house, with its 70 years old wood and all the memories it has soaked over the years, into a restaurant where my sister in law worked as a waitress for a while. So doing an event in this space is nostalgic and heartwarming also on a personal level.

Now the space holds many seats, some arranged indoors surrounding rustic wooden tables. There are more on the patio outside, under the grapevines (Smadar means grapevine flowers, by the way). Outside you'll also find Smadar's other creative outlet: mosaic tables that she makes herself from fragments of pretty plates and broken ceramic tiles. We started the morning with smelling some of the liquid treasures I brought with me - oils of wild orange, orange blossom, lavender absolute and more; and I let Smadar smell the simple yet irresistibly wonderful spice essences of cardamom and ginger CO2 and nutmeg absolute which not surprisingly have sparked Smadar's imagination.

And I got to taste her wonderful Earl Grey-infused créme brûlée, which is velvety and caramel-like, and also her wonderful homemade jams: kumquats from her orchard - sliced to perfection and candied with cloves, and a classic strawberry jam with whole strawberries scattered inside a clear red jelly. But what we will serve in the evening we have planned for Thursday, March 19th (5-8pm) is going to be a surprise. All I will say for now is that it will offer a generous flight of homemade desserts paired with wonderful beverages such as organic wines from Lotem Winery, artisan teas (including a freshly made version of my Charisma tea - jasmine tea with herbs from Smadar's garden), and the guests will also experience matching perfumes and learn about the ingredients that all of these extravagant treats have in common - both in the raw form (spices, as well as herbs and flowers from the garden), and their essences (CO2, essential oils and absolutes).

To make reservations, call Smadar 054-8184345.

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Smadar be'Clil

We’re pleased to announce that next Thursday, Ayala Moriel Parfums will be co-hosting a magical evening of perfumes and desserts at Smadar be'Clil restaurant.

This is Ayala’s first event in Israel, and it is particularly exciting because it will take place in her home village in the scenic Western Galilee.

Ayala is visiting from Vancouver, Canada, where she has established a world-renown perfumery that specializes in natural fragrances, and also offers courses and workshops. Ayala collaborated with chocolatiers and tea masters to create a unique collection of scented chocolates and teas.

Guests will enjoy an evening of Smadar’s seasonal desserts with matching perfumes, all inspired by the same ingredients, some in Smadar’s own garden and orchard - such as orange blossom, rosewater, ginger and lavender. They will be further paired with organic wine from Lotem Winery.

When: Thursday, March 19th, 5-8pm

Where: Smadar be'Clil

How much: 80 NIS

Reservations: Call 054-8184345

מסעדת סמדר בכליל שמחה ונרגשת לארח את אילה לערב מתוק של קינוחים ובשמים.
נחווה ונלמד על הקשר הקסום בין טעם לריח. נזהה בבשמים ארומות מוכרות.
אילה מוריאל גדלה בכליל ומגיעה אלינו מוונקובר קנדה. היא מחלוצות הבשמנות הטבעית בעולם. הבשמים שעיצבה זכו בפרסים והוקרה עולמית. אילה מלמדת סדנאות וקורסים לבישום טבעי וקטורת, רקיחת מוצרי טיפוח, ובישול ואפייה ריחניים.
בערב המתוק נהנה ממגוון קינוחים יצירתיים המשלבים ריחות פרחים ופירות משכרים מעולם הבושם , ויינות תואמים מיקב לוטם אורגני
נריח בשמים מקוריים - כולם עם מאפיינים או רכיבים משותפים
המחיר למשתתף 80 ש"ח
להרשמה סמדר 054-8184345

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Tarnished Silver

Naming has the power of brining our attention to the subtle qualities of a scent. In Tarnished Silver, botanical extract expert Dabney Rose brings forth the metallic qualities of violet. I've been fortunate to experience several of Dabney Rose's innovative botanical enfleurage of hyacinth, which she added to my order of hydrosols, and have also traded a copy of my book for her gorgeous pommades of tuberose breathtaking butterfly ginger which I have recently reviewed here. Tarnished Silver is the first perfume blend I'm experiencing from this talented lady. This time it arrived in my mailbox completely unannounced (though most welcome!) alongside a beautifully assembled collection of handicapped Kyphi incense. They all arrived right before I left for my trip, and I left them behind, knowing I will not have the appropriate conditions for incense burning on my travels.

Tarnished Silver, however, was tucked in my carry-on and I'm enjoying it immensely. I am now riding the train to the north part of Israel - the Western Galilee. Stretches of fields, meadows, orchards, and factories pass by the window, and glimpses of the Mediterranean sea delight the spirit as the train gently rocks and hums its way to our destination. There is wi-fi here (which I won't easily come by when I reach my home village, and off-the-grid hippie haven). So here I am again with a dab of Tarnished Silver on each wrist, enjoying the scenery.

It opens with a melancholy tinge of violets: at once sweet yet also bitter. Sharply green yet soft and diffused, almost powdery. It's amazing that fresh violets can be captured so beautifully with this vegan enfleurage - truly a labour of love. To the sweet ionone facets are added some other notes though subtle: honey, perhaps a tad of hay or flouve as well or something else that gives it a bitter sweet coumarin undertone. A touch of rose and oaks give it a very vintage feel, like Chypre from the turn of the 20th Century.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

EauMG Reviews Sandal Ale

"Sandal Ale smells like a sandalwood Indian Pale Ale (...) it’s effervescent and fizzy like an apricot pale ale with a shot of spicy ginger beer (...) this perfume completely surprises me. It’s this warm, spicy sandalwood that is woodsy but somehow delicious with a cool, refreshing elderflower liquor. And there’s a sheerness to it that makes it refreshing, like a cold pale ale on a hot day. It’s like a “splash of sandalwood”."

Visit EauMG to read the rest of Victoria Jent's review of Sandal Ale, my newish release from 2014 that melds together and celebrates sandalwood and craft beer.