Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Leather & Tobacco Week (May 11-15)

Once in about four years, I run my Leather & Tobacco Week. This is an advanced course, and therefore only select few students are eligible to apply for it. This course covers studying the raw materials, the history of the Leather and Tobacco perfume genre, as well as concepts such as perfume structure, how to blend an alcohol based perfume, how to write a formula, building leathery and tobacco accords, as well two representative formulas of each Leathery and Tobacco perfumes, both in an alcohol base. Feature workshop: Scenting leather The fee includes book, materials and supplies as well as tea and refreshments.
Dates: May 11-15, 2015.

Designed for students who want to excel in their studies of natural perfumery, this week-long intensive course runs Mon-Thu from 9:30am-4pm, and Friday from 9am-1:30pm and offers theoretical and practical guidance alongside hands-on lab exercises and experiments. Friday is dedicated for feedback, summary and one-on-one sessions with Ayala for each participant.

Please note: This course is suitable only for advanced students who have completed 3 courses or more with Ayala Moriel Parfums. Prerequisites: must have completed successfully the Chypre, Fougere and Oriental week-long courses. Working perfumers may also apply to this course by sending a CV, cover letter and a sample of one perfume which they consider to be the best representative of their skill and style.

Labels: , , , ,

The Girl Who Smells Music

This Monday, on the very same day, I had two special people enter my home. One is an Iranian santur-maker, who also will install new carpets in my place after many years of begging my landlords to do something about it. I was so pleasantly surprised by his interest in the various random musical instruments scattered around the house, and his noble manners (unlike any other handyman that ever crossed my path) that I'm almost convinced that I should begin learning to play this elusive instrument. If only because they are handmade by him and can be carried around rather than be wheeled out by two bodybuilders whenever you need to move (or get your carpets changed).

The other was Dana El Masri, who you might have heard first about through her blog The Scentinel, through which she shared her adventures studying at GIP (Grasse Institute of Perfumery) and have just a little over a year ago launched her own indie brand, Jazmin Saraï, which is based out of Montreal.

What do perfumers do when they get together? Mostly smell each other's creations and more often than never also share the woes of the industry (packaging agonies, ingredients restrictions and prohibitive costs is what we tend to whine about). It was refreshing to have a lot less of the latter, and a lot more of smelling and marvelling at what came out of each of our ateliers. The whining was more about how people can NEVER pronounce our name properly (FYI: Dana's name is simply pronounced Da-na, now "Dayna" or any other Englishized distortion of these two straightforward syllables, just as we would call her in Israel). It was a fun sniffathon and I finally got to experience not only all four of Dana's creations, but also the fifth one that she's working on. They were all gorgeous, well-composed and original and I must admit that even though when I looked at the website a year ago I was a bit skeptic of the music and perfume connection, once I smelled the perfumes all my doubts have disappeared.

Otis & Me:
Smoky yet light and green. The most subtle, and the most natural-smelling of the bunch (by the way, all of Jazmin Saraï perfumes have a high proportion of naturals, which is very apparent). Unfortunately it did not fare well on my skin and with all the strong personalities next to it I was barely able to experience its evolution on the skin. This one deserves a proper sampling. But suffice is to say that it is based on coffee - a note that I feel is underappreciated in the perfume world. It is actually a lot more diverse and capable than just making appearances in gourmands.

Neon Grafitti:
Fruity yet green, floral and with an underlining musk (FYI: Dana only uses macrocyclic musks, and these are the ones that not only smell better but are also the kind that is naturally occurring in various plants and are more friendly to the environment). It smells cool and a bit metallic, but also very vibrant and colourful. It reminded me of a scentsthat I admire but can't get near anymore, unfortunately (due to negative conditioning) - l'Ombre Dans l'Eau. It also smelled like a more fleshed-out rendition of what I would have imagined Jardin Sur Le Nil should be like before actually smelling it. It has the mango - not quite ripe and overly sweet mango, but still little green, and there is a lot more body and an interesting evolution to it the Sur Le Nil (which I experience to be only an empty aura - sillage with no personality).

How You Love:
Begins very sweet with a well-rounded sweet honey note. Nothing funky there (which is always a challenge with honey). It envelopes you like a hug. It's how I would imagine the honey perfume that Alyssa Harad talks about in her book Coming To My Senses (I know she reveals eventually what it is - but I never smelled it, so I can keep imagining it as something else all I want). There is a nutty element that reveals itself as some point, a little like hazelnut, and the dry down, while still maligning a lot of the honey, also has a warm, slightly dirty musk beneath it all. Dana has graciously left a sample of this behind, so I will wear this again and write a proper "review" of this soon.

Led IV:
Olfactory portrayals of Rock n' Roll often involve patchouli. So this "translation" is not what makes Led IV original. What does is how the patchouli is played: the fermented, wine-like quality of this controversial note are amped up by boozy davana. An herb from the Artemisia family that walks a fine line between smelling like strawberry jam, to someone who puked their strawberry daiquiri... It might sound gross, but it's what makes this note both challenging and satisfying to work with. The more I let Led IV sit on the skin, the more it grew on me: the warm, spicy muskiness of patchouli mingled with this oddball of an accessory note, complementing it but also making it very clear that it's not a patchouli like all the other niche patchoulies that have saturated the market as of late.

No. 5 was the lovelies of them all. It does not have name yet, but it's based in castoereum, and both the leathery and amber qualities really stand out right from the start. These are beautifully complemented by the leathery floral notes of osmanthus absolute. It's dripping honeyed labdanum. It has a luscious, incense with smokey-honey character underlined with a subtle, slightly nutty musk. The drydown reminds me of Laurie Erickson's beautiful Incense Pure. I am pre-ordering a full bottle of this. I have forgotten to ask her what song was the inspiration for this scent. So we will all have wait patiently until its name is revealed...

While the connection between the Santur-making careptman and a synesthetic Egyptian princess may seem only apparent to me - the connection between music and perfume is more than random. Emotions, frequencies and the same area of the brain processing both is what make these two mediums so profoundly deep and ineffable. We remember our loved ones not only by their scent, but also the sound of their voice and the music we listen to while with them. That's why we'll often find ourselves hugging an unwashed sweater while listening to old records when our baby is gone for a little trip (and of course both will trigger the waterworks if we end up breaking up).

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Citrus & Cologne Week + Lab 101 (May 4-8)

There are 2 available spots at the Citrus & Cologne Week-long Course.

Designed for students who want to excel in their studies of natural perfumery. This week-long intensive course runs Mon-Thu from 9:30am-4pm, and Friday from 9am-1:30pm and offers theoretical and practical guidance alongside hands-on lab exercises and experiments. Friday is dedicated for feedback, summary and one-on-one sessions with Ayala for each participant. 

This course is mandatory introductory course to all new students, and 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.

The main objectives and topics that will be covered this week: olfaction (studying the raw materials), how to follow an existing formula, scale-up, how to write a formula, building cologne-type accords and creating simple solid perfumes, as well as cologne and citrus formulation in an alcohol base.

Featured Lecture: The Role of Citrus Oils in Functional Fragrances

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

Course Schedule and Structure:
The course runs May 4-8, which is a full week - Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 4pm; and Friday from 9am-1:30pm 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.

The fee includes book*, materials and supplies.

Dates: May 4-8, 2015

* For new students only. Returning students will be using the same textbook they received in the first week, which accompanies the entire program.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Springtime in the Forest

On this beautiful Earth Day, I'd like to share with you the wonders of my part of the planet. Subtle scents permeates the air in the Pacific Northwest at this time of the year: Soft tassels of new growth fir and spruce trees - their scent reminiscent of citrus and fresh-cut grass. Fiddleheads emerge from the damp forest floor. They spiral towards the light and their shoots are tender and delicious. Miniature galaxies of elderflowers, with their blackcurrant-like aroma dot the forest like little fragrant stars. And last but not least: the balsamic sweetness of the budding black cottonwood trees, which envelop the forest trails with a promise of sweet, warm sunny days. 

All of these are nature's reminder to steer away from the floral cliches and celebrate spring with other plant-parts. If you are like me, spring is the time of year to rediscover the classic Fougeres in your wardrobe, and discover new plants that are coming to life, as well as discover new wild plants to forage and bring nature home, literally, after our long hibernation.

1. Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the budding, coiled “leaves” of ostrich ferns  (Matteuccia struthiopteris). The fiddleheads are present in early spring, and are considered a delicacy. They have a very similar to asparagus in both flavour and texture - but a lot more tart. 

Perhaps it's the fiddleheads - spring to me is the best season to enjoy fragrances from the Fougère (fern in French) family. Namely, l'Herbe Rouge. You might also want to try my idea for an Edible Fougère Recipe: Fiddleheads in Lavender Butter

2. Fir Buds & Violet Leaves

A wonderful way to enjoy the scents of the forest all day long is place a few of these conifer buds in your water bottle. Douglas Fir is the most delicious of all - and the needles can be used that way year-around. You'll stay hydrated and also benefit from the vitamin C that is naturally occurring in these leaves (the only local source of those until the summer berries ripen). They smell like a Christmas tree and have delicious, slightly tart lemon-tangerine aroma.   

Rainforest perfume captures the scent of the temperate Pacific Northwest forests - the largest of the temperate forests in the world, and with the most productive biomass. It combines the fragile, crisp cucumber notes of violet leaf with damp forest floor with sprucejuniper and pine
Rainforest also makes use of my very own wild-harvested elderflowers essence - which is our next topic! 

3. Elderflowers

If you've ever visit my studio in April and May, you'll be served the fragrant and refreshing elderflower"champagne" - effervescent soda infused with wild-foraged elderflowers that I make at home. You can create your own by following my recipe on SmellyBlog. Also, you may enjoy a subtle nuance of elderflowers in Sandal Ale - where it adds a fruity aroma to balance the sweet apricot and funky hops notes.

4. Cottonwood & Balsam Poplar Buds

I'm yet to try this Cottonwood Bud Oil Recipe, an infusion that has healing properties for muscle aches and damaged skin; but I've been inspired to capture this scent in a perfume by tincturing it. 
Etrog Oy de Cologne, however, uses a different part of a tree from the same family: balsam poplar buds absolute. It gives it a unique, honeyed aroma that echoes the sweetness of the rare citron fruit. And speaking of citrus - have you heard about the Citrus & Cologne Week-long Course (May 4-8)? It's perfect for beginner students of perfumery, and there are 2 spots available. 

For more ideas on how to celebrate the beauty and diversity of this planet with local, handcrafted perfumes made with wild-harvested botanicals, visit

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Defence of Scent

Canadians have a knack for taking the fun out of things. For example: the constant push for scent-free policies. So far, these have only been gracing individualized spots, such as workplaces (I've encountered them in countless office buildings), recreational facilities (I've seen them, to my horror, in the community and recreational centres around town, and of course in gyms, Pilates and yoga studios) and naturally, in municipal and governmental offices (where people are, understandably, rather grouchy and touchy about their personal spaces). No signs have been spotted in public transit yet, thank goodness. Although it would have been nice if there were gentle reminders about the benefits of maintaining personal hygiene and abstaining for dousing oneself in more than one or two alcoholic beverages in each 24 hour cycle. Because in some bus lines (especially those going towards the direction of the rising sun), the stench of untoward humanoids whose diet comprises of fermented yeas beverages is abound.

So when I heard this mini radio essay about the woes of a scent-sensitive journalist, I was simultaneously compassionate towards her experience (breathing shards of glass is more often than never a very accurate description of the wafts of scent I get from department-store fragrances); and also very dismayed at the idea of regulating yet another area of our lives.

It's interesting to read the comments to this broadcast online and discover that I'm not alone in that view. Phew.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vitriol d'œillet

Vitriol d'œillet is not so much about angry carnations, and more about toxic violets. Chemically speaking, vitriol is the archaic name for sulphate (also spelled sulfate), referring to its colourful, glassy-looking crystals, and brings to mind alchemy, magic and medicine (The name originates in Latin (vitrum means glass) and Old French); And œillet simply means carnation in French. Vitriol is also defined as "cruel and bitter criticism" - also an interesting note because this perfume has received such lukewarm reviews at the time (it was launched in 2011) that I didn't even bother procuring a sample.

A few days ago, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wide selection of Serge Lutens at Sephora on Robson Strasse. I immediately fell for Vitriol d'œillet's mysterious opening that is at the same time floral, warm, powdery, spicy and mysterious. Pink pepper, mace and a gentle dose of helioitropine, anisaldehyde and a hint of jasmine combined with ionones give both mystery and familiarity that is comforting and intimate. There is hardly any of the characteristic molecules of carnation (iso-eugenol), nor cloves (eugenol); but rather, pink pepper reigns supreme above all the spices here, giving it a bit of a cool edge, rather than the expected spicy heat.

Rather than conjuring up the jagged petals of the clove pinks, Vitriol d'œillet's juxtaposition of heliotrope, jasmine and anise brings to mind angel's trumpet (or datura) and combined with violets it creates a very interesting fragrance.

As Vitriol d'œillet progresses on the skin, it becomes less complex, and more about cedar wood and violets, accentuated by musk, and vaguely references the Lutens-Sheldrake original collaboration on Feminite du Bois, sans the honey, much more toned-down spices, and an additional pencil-shavings note of Virginia cedar wood. It also brings to mind two other favourites of mine - Si Lolita and Ineke's Sweet William, yet is a lot less spicy and vibrant than these two. Another scent it greatly reminds me of is Kisu by Tann Rokka. While these are all lovely perfumes, neither has the same audacity as Tubereuse Criminelle, the other flower for the Lutens collection that Vitriol was meant to emulate.

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Anise
Heart notes: Carnation, Iris, Cloves, Jasmine 
Base notes: Atlas Cedar, Virginia Cedarwood, Musk, Heliotropine

More reviews of this perfume can be found on the following perfume fora and blogs:
Bois de Jasmin
Grains de Musc
Now Smell This
Perfume Shrine
The Non Blonde

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Daffodil Dew

Back to the drawing board with my Coal Harbour perfume. It seems like the timing could not be more important now with the terrible oil spill. So I return to a perfume that is inspired by the smell of jet-fuel mingled with sundries barnacles and seaweed at low tied. That and some fresh-cut grass. And elderflowers (which are in season again - a whole month earlier than they should).

Another scent that is typical of spring, and unique to these northern parts of the world are more sweet-balsamic notes, some of which I can attribute to the cotton trees, some to a mysterious tree whose flowers I've never seen, but smells almost of vanilla and labdanum combined and always stops me on my tracks overtime I pass by it. Perhaps I shall add some sappy balsam poplar buds absolute to this perfume... Narcissus absolute does not seem like a bad idea either, although I should really keep it for special occasions! It is such a rare essence, and oh so precious. However, with its hay-like, warm-spicy and slightly balsamic attitude, I might just have to dip into that cookie jar once again for the Coal Harbour perfume. And I might as well grab some crystallized-sugar-like liatrix absolute while I'm at it!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 10, 2015

Splitting of the Sea

Today is the 7th day of Passover, which commemorates the Splitting of the Sea. The Red Sea, that is. A sea that has probably already lost so much of its wildlife thanks to human greed (too much fishing, too much boat traffic, too much garbage in the oceans, and too many tourists stepping on the coral reefs and taking souvenirs that don't belong to them). 
This is supposed to be a happy day; but instead, I've gotten the news about the oil tanker spill in English Bay.

There is no way to sugar-coat it. There is no silver lining. My heart goes to all the seals (whom I consider my swimming buddies), the whales, the fish, cormorants, seagulls, geese, mallards and other migrating marine birds; the starfish, jellyfish, crabs, seaweed, muscles and even the scratchy barnacles. 

Not to mention - I feel more than a little sorry for myself for needing to abstain from outdoors swimming this summer just because we have an irresponsible government that cares more about money and sucking up to the rich rather than truly investing in sustainable and harmless energy resources (which Canada is blessed with an abundance of).
This post is not intended to make you feel sad, but to make you so angry that me and my fellow Canadians will take to the streets and protest, send Harper and the other criminals in his government massive numbers of emails and letters; and do everything in our power to change the leadership of this country to one that cares about the future of the land, sea, air, wildlife and wellbeing of its citizens. 

"1) The federal government took more than 12 hours to notify the city of Vancouver about the spill. 
2) A special pollution response boat formerly stationed at the now closed Kitsilano Coast Guard base is sitting empty with no crew at Sea Island base in Richmond. It is designed to deal with this type of spill and could have been at the site in 6 minutes had they not closed the station last year.
3) They have recovered close to one tonne of oil, which is likely less than 10% of the total spill.
4) In the best of circumstances, a successful clean up recovers 10-15% of the oil. So, when the government talks about "world class oil spill response" that's what they're aiming for.
5) Bunker fuel is a viscous liquid that is considered toxic and both an acute and chronic health hazard.
6) Bunker fuel is similar in nature to diluted bitumen, which would be transported by the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and into more than 400 oil super tankers a year through English Bay.
(quote from Jodi Stark)"

Sorry, this is not related to perfume. Oh, I wish I was able to sell a lot more of my products to have the buying power to save the seas and oceans and keep our blue planet's water clean...  

Update on Sunday, April 12th: It's "only" 2.7 tonne of toxic fuel. And there is now only 6 litres that are not recovered. But nevertheless, very discouraging to see the inefficiency of response and lack of coordination from the authorities. Not to mention - without the forced closure of Kitsilano Coast Guard Station (by the Federal Government, lead by Steven Harper) - this could have been avoided if not dealt with much quicker (AKA within 6 minutes rather than 6 hours!). 

Labels: , , , , ,


T'filat Tal (Blessing/Prayer for Dew) is a beautiful Jewish prayer that is said only once a year, on the first day of Passover (the morning after Leyl HaSeder). From this point on, the daily prayer for rain is replaced with prayer for dew.

I first heard this poetic prayer last Saturday and was truly moved by its beauty. It is one of those rare Jewish prayers that actually rhymes, and therefore has inspired a number of musical interpretations by various Hazanim (cantors). One of which is the classical historic recording you can listen to in the YouTube clip below (Cantor Yosef "Yossele" Rosenblatt). Both the Tal and Geshem (rain) prayers were written by Rabbi Eleazar Ha-Kallir in the 7th Century. 

I was thinking about this prayer all week. Not only because it is beautiful and timely, but also because it made me think of perfume. Perhaps because of Youth Dew. But also because somehow the prayer made me think of the little droplets of dew on leaves, and that alone is scent-evoking. Then there are dew drops on flowers, collecting in the little demitasse of wild flowers and between the folds of roses and lilies. 

In John Ruskin's "The King of the Golden River", the youngest brother is the one that was able to turn the river into gold because of the kindness of his heart: even though he was shared all his water with the thirsty creatures along his path - there was one dew drop in a lily that grew by the river. And that single drop was so pure, reflecting the boy's selflessness and generosity of spirit - that he was spared the destiny of turning into a rock like his crass older brothers. 

I searched in Basenotes to find out if there are more perfumes with the word "Dew" in them and found them to be surprisingly abundant. From the obvious Youth Dew and its flanker Youth Dew Amber Nude to silly novelties such a the fruity variations on Honeydew Melon (there's also a Honeydew from Dragonfly Blue) and The Body Shop's Dewberry to Demeter's Fragrance Library's Mildew (oops!); and onwards to more romantic names such as Dew Blossom (Love & Toast), Almond Blossom Dew (L'Occitane), seasonal references (The Body Shop's Winter Dew and Oscar de la Renta's Summer Dew) and cliche names such as Meadow Dew and Morning Dew (both by Alyssa Ashley and Annie Oakley). Out of all these names perhaps the only one I am intrigued to try is Montale's Dew Musk

So I was trying to think about three things: Why is dew important? How is it different from rain? And lastly - what perfumes remind me of dew?

First of all, keep in mind that the seasonality of rain versus dew is entirely based on the agricultural needs in the Holy Land - where the rainfall is crucial for livelihood of both people and livestock. Also, in the Omer season (the wheat harvest season - from Passover to Shavuot), it would be a curse to have rain falling as it would spoil the wheat harvest, which needs to dry completely in order to be harvested and stored properly. So any precipitation from Passover till Shmini Atzeret (the last day of Sukkot) needs to be gentle and mild.

According to this article about the Tfilat Tal, dew is the water that the heaven provides as a blessing of abundance to the plant life. Therefore absence of dew is considered drought, and a curse. This is demonstrated by the fact that the valley of Harod (near the Gilboa in Israel) has little dew.  This is the mountain upon which King Saul and his son Yehonata have lost their lives. In his mourning, King David has cursed this mountain to not receive neither rain nor dew (Samuel II, 1:21).

As for the scent of dew - in my mind I associate it with nectar, tiny flowers, green tender leaves and all delicate things. Dew is what gives a garden in the morning its enticing, fresh and crisp yet delicate scent. In all my years collecting answers from readers and customers to what their favourite scents are, this "garden in the morning" is one of the most high ranking answers.

Living in a climate where there is rain in the summer takes away from the surprising effect of experiencing dew. Growing up in Israel, dew was shocking to find time and again when waking up after a hot summer night and attending to the family's vegetable garden. The dew drops will disappear as soon as the sun hits a certain angle in the sky - not that long after rising. Even as early as 7:30 or 8am, you'll find none of it left. I will get wet up to my ankles and knees from the grass and like see it collecting on the unfolding cones of the morning glory vines. But for those early to rise, knowing that there is some precipitation to give the grass, vegetable and flowers - and especially the wild plants and the local fruit trees that don't require watering. All the typically Israeli trees: almond, olive, date, fig, pomegranate, carob - rely entirely on the gifts from heaven.

Dew takes its scent primarily from the plants it lands on. Tomato leaves will give it a funky odour, while sweet scented flowers will give it the taste of nectar. So it's really as versatile as all water: what it touches will transform it.

From my own existing creations, Bon Zai to me is a fragrance that captures the pure, tranquil feeling of early morning dew on pine needles and blades of grass. Likewise, many aquatic scents bring to mind dew, for example: l'Eau d'Issey. But neither are exactly dedicated to the concept of dew. In my early days in perfumery, I created a perfume called Coeli, which was first inspired by the dew on the herb garden in summer, which at this season was abundant with lush lemon verbena, melissa and lemongrass. It was obviously very citrusy at first. I later changed the scent into something entirely different, but still rather dewy. It did not fair very well, because I suppose it was not the bold, retro type of fragrance that my customers seem to be most fond of. It was far more modern woody-aquatic-floral type of scent. In the least few years I've worked on a scent inspired by Harbour Green Park (in Coal Harbour) - the scent of the dew-covered grass in the morning mingled with jet fuel and salty low-tide. Another scent that was also inspired by he same lemony herb garden was titled Clil (the name of my home village) but also had hay in it, which gave it a more bold presence. Perhaps it's time to go back to the drawing board with this scent and re-create my herbal tea garden once more.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 09, 2015


Misia, the new bird in Chanel's flock of exclusive scents has pleasantly surprised me with its soft, down-like softness, warmth and retro sweetness. It immediately brings to mind candied violet petals, with its overdose of alpha ionones, which dominate the opening, giving it the characteristic cedar wood effect. This balances the sweetness of the composition, addinga woody, dry yet powdery and soft air to it. This is quickly taken over by juicy, fruity notes of a plush, dark-red rose. Raspberry and plum notes rule supreme with every stroke of this bold bluish-red lipstick. The iconic Lipstick Rose comes to mind, as well as the scent that pervades most of the current Guerlain cosmetics. But more on points of references later. While there is more than a gourmand hint to Misia, it does not in the least smell too obviously dessert-like, nor trashy. It does, however, give it a most addictive character. As the fruit and rose soften and become rounder, the sweet supporting base note begin to emerge, and they are the perfume-world equivalent of caramel: tonka bean, with its slightly bitter, powdery qualities of almond rocca; and benzoin, which is like liquified brown sugar, with a depth to its sweetness that stops it from being cloying. There is something about the dry down that is not how I'd expect this to end. It's thankfully not too powdery, nor too musky; and sweetness is played just right, balanced with an earthy nuttiness. If there is any leather in there I can't smell it, unfortunately.

If I didn't know the perfumer behind Misia is Olivier Pole (Jaqcues Polge's son and successor as Chanel's house perfumer) I would have guessed it's Sophia Grojsman (Lancome's Tresor and YSL's Paris smell like close relatives). But there is more violet than rose in Misia, which if I were to blind test this would make me think of it is a Guerlain. Not so much the old fashioned violet-laden Apres l'Ondee or l'Heure Bleue, but rather, Meteorites (a scent that was phased out and instead was used to scent their makeup line of the same name); or perhaps a more agreeable version of their recent violet-dominated La Petite Robe Noire (which although I like its idea, I find it to be more than a tad too brash to my taste). But again I will contradict that notion because Misia's character is a more nuanced and less invasive.

With all these references to existing non-Chanel fragrances, you can probably already guess that there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. However, in the context of it being part of the Chanel family, and comparing it to the rest of the collection, it is admittedly quite refreshing to be offered the choice of a perfume that it is not nearly as austere, angular or aloof as the temperament of this house tends to lean on. Misia seems even more "out of place" than Coromandel was at its time - a patchouli fragrance in a collection of iris and aldehydic florals. But even Coromandel has a coolness to it, a bit of a sharp edge that surrounds a very clean, albeit sweetened patchouli. Misha wants to crawl right next to my Bois des Iles bottle and cuddle, while still wearing its silk stockings and with a fully powdered and made-up face.

Top notes: Ionones alpha (Violet notes), Raspberry, Plum
Heart notes: Rose, Orris, Damascones
Base notes: Tonka bean, Benzoin

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Allure of Charoset

Charoset (or Haroset) is one of those obscure Jewish foods, prepared and eaten only once a year in Passover (mostly just during the Seder), and unlike the beloved Matzoh ball, it is hardly known to non-Jews. 

When I first saw it as a child I was neither particularly enticed by its appearance, nor seduced by the sounds of its name (which sounds like a disease). To make matters worse, it is eaten during the Seder wrapped in an odd looking "sandwich" along with horseradish (Hazeret in Hebrew) - which is also the name for mumps, not to mention a true tear-jerker and a traumatic experience for a child of any age *. 

The most common knowledge for the reason behind eating Charoset is it is representative of the mortar that our enslaved ancestors had to mix by the tonnes in Egypt. Other sages say that the Charoset is a remnant of the Paschal lamb - the sacrifice that commemorates the lamb that was slaughtered in each Jewish household in Egypt on the night of the tenth plague: the killing of the first-born. A bundle of hyssop was dipped in this poor lamb’s blood, and smeared on the door frames, as a sign for the Angel of Death to skip the Hebrew homes and spare the lives of our first-born. Hillel’s Sandwich (which I mentioned earlier) alludes to that symbolism of Charoset, as it represents eating the Paschal Lamb with the Matzoh and the Maror (bitter herbs), as directed in the Torah (Exodus 12:8).

Other sages and rabbis say that Cahroset needs to include all the fruit mentioned in Song of Songs (AKA Song of Solomon or Canticles). This poetic book signifies the unique relationship between God and his chosen people, which is read during Passover, the holiday that signifies the point in history as the birth of the Israelites as a nation. Among the fruit mentioned are apples, pomegranates, dates, figs and nuts. The spices added to the mixture (typically speaking: cinnamon and ginger) represent the pieces of straw that were added to strengthen the mortar. 

Now, Charoset greatly varies between different Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. Generally speaking, Ashkenazi Charoset is apple based (occasionally with pears added) and has a consistency of a dip or a spread; while Sephardi Charoset is more date-dominant, and often is formed into balls. And even within these two major ethnic groups, there are many different traditions and recipes vary greatly, for instance: Babylonian Charoset is made from Silan (date molasses) thickened with ground almonds, and I even came across a Moroccan recipe that is a paste of chestnuts, almonds and walnuts spiced with cinnamon and cloves; and some Ashkenazi recipes include raisins, while others use sugar as a sweetener; some call for pears in addition to the apples, and may use additional spices besides the cinnamon (i.e.: nutmeg, cloves, etc.). The Jews of Rome (and Italy) seem to have a balanced mixture of both, as you will soon see in the recipe I’ve received from my Italian sister in law, which was passed on to her from her great-great-grandmother, Nona Silvia Bassano from Livorno, Italy; yet surprisingly does not include any wine - an ingredient that so far has been consistently appeared in all the Charoset recipes I've researched. 

Some say that the use of fruit that brown overtime is the key for making a proper, mortar-looking Charoset. Hence using apples and pears without any lemon juice to avoid oxidation. The Jews of California have taken this one step further by making Charoset with bananas and avocados as well. I cringe to the idea of how this would look like the next day - kinda like leftovers of a smoothie, which I am sure is not a rare sight in raw-food-loving SoCal. 

I have to make a little confession: as much as I love my grandmother’s Ashkenazi Charoset, I was never able to replicate it satisfactorily in my own kitchen and have given up many years ago on trying it again. But someone asked me about Charoset and I got intrigued and looked it up in my library of cookbooks. Once I read about the Song of Songs reference to Charoset (in Phyllis and Miriyam Glazer’s “The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking”), my imagination was immediately ignited, and I had to try both recipes in their book: a Yemeni Charoset and an Ashkenazi Charoset, that was very similar to my grandmother’s, except that it called for chopping the apples rather than grating them.

Ashkenazi Charoset
2 Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Gala Apples, peeled
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in wine for 4-6hrs, or in boiled water for 15min, to soften
1 tsp raw sugar, brown sugar or palm sugar (or none if you are using sweet apples)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1-2 Tbs sweet wine

Chop the apples into tiny cubes (almost minced), or use the coarse side of a grater if you prefer a more watery consistency. Chop the soaked raisins. 
Finely mince the walnuts and add to the apples. Add the cinnamon and sugar. Keep refrigerated and use within 3-4 days. 
Can be enjoyed out of the Seder ceremony throughout the Passover week. I love it with Matzoh brei or on a potato kugel.  

Yemeni Charoset 
15 Dates, dried
15 Figs, dried
2-3 tsp Sesame Seeds, toasted **
1 tsp Cinnamon powder
1 Cardamom, freshly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 Tbs fresh ginger root, grated
1oz dry red wine 
(adapted from Phyllis and Miriyam Glazer’s “The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking”)

Nona Silvia Bassano of Livorno’s Italian Charoset 
1.5 kg Apples, finely grated
1 kg Dates, pitted and mashed
750 gr (3 cups) sugar 
300 gr Almond meal (from blanched almonds)
1 cup water
2-3 tsp Cinnamon powder ***

Boil the water and sugar to make a syrup. 
Add the almonds and continue cooking. 
Add the grated apples, and continue cooking, stirring constantly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. If too watery - continue cooking for more reduction; if too dry, add a little more water. 
Add the cinnamon, and cook until the mixture starts bubbling and puffing. 

* If your parents are of the merciful type, they'll make this very sandwich with lettuce, which is a peculiarly delicious affair, and one of the significant flavours that makes this holiday forever memorable on every person's palate. 

** Optional - if you eat Kitniyot on Passover). I personally found their texture in this context to be annoying, as well as the fig seeds. Next time I am trying this with less figs, more dates and with tahini (sesame paste) instead! 

*** For a more Yemeni-style Charoset, you may add some ground cloves and cardamom, to taste.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Perfumes from the Orchard (Besamim me'ha'Bustan) + April Giveaway

Smadar picked this beautiful bouquet from her garden and orchard - an arrangement of seasonal fragrant flowers from trees, bushes and shrubs which were the inspiration for the evening titled Besamim me'ha'Bustan (Perfumes from the Orchard) and which took place on March 19th at the restaurant Smadar be'Clil in my home village in Israel's scenic Western Galilee.

It was both a pleasure and honour to co-host a night of perfume, desert and wine pairing with Smadar Yardeni of Smadar be'Clil and Yaniv from Lotem Winery. And the response form the guests and audience at the event has so much exceeded my hopes and expectations I am still feeling warm and fuzzy inside reminiscing about that beautiful night. The reason it took me so long to post about how it went can be attributed to traveller's wi-fi woes, as well as prolonged case of jet lag. But neither has diminished my memory from a most fine night spent with very lovely people, both on the hosting and the guest side.

Here's Smadar on the morning of the event, with the lavender & Earl Grey creme brûlée she's prepared in taste-size portions inside Turkish coffee cups. These were creamy and delicious, the caramelization process she did in the process of cooking the custard gives these brûlée a hint of honey.

Once I set the table with my mini-display (nothing too fancy, as it was all carried in my suitcase along everything else I needed for three weeks abroad) - it was time to taste the beautiful wines Yaniv brought with him from Lotem Winery. We selected three wines from Lotem for the pairing, plus one white wine from Kishor Winery: a lovely, citrusy-floral Savant Viognier, to go with the vegan malabi (based on coconut cream and flavoured with orange flower water). Note to self: an evening that starts with a glass of organic wine  can only be a happy one.

The event was structured as an olfactory and culinary symphony with 6 acts around 5 desserts that was inspired by seasonal ingredients, and was complemented by 6 perfumes, 4 wines and 2 teas. In each "section"  the guests experienced raw materials in their essential oil (or absolute) form, then smell them within a perfume, taste them in a dessert, and enjoy a complementary beverage (either tea or wine, or both).

We opened the evening with rose-tinged marzipans, handmade by Smadar, paired with fresh Charisma tea (loose leaf jasmine plus fresh herbs from Smadar's garden) and Vivace - Lotem's fine rose wine, which is extremely light and unusually on the dry side. I then spoke about two familiar yet fascinating ingredients: mint and almond, and let the guests smell essential oils of both, and also perfumes that are related to the subject: Charisma (which includes spearmint) and Hanami (inspired by cherry blossoms - which are not unlike the almond blossoms that were in bloom still last month).

Next came the fantastic creme brûlée I told you about earlier. Everything was beautifully served among sprigs of blooming lavender, and the individual Turkish coffee cups were a perfect size to serve such a decadent treat. I then let the guests smell essential oils of both lavender and bergamot and spoke about the connections these have via chemistry and their presence in the ever so popular Earl Grey tea. We smelled Lovender perfume at the end of this section.

The third part was spicy and warm, with vegan ginger mini muffins, studded with crystallized ginger inside, and served alongside dainty little teacups of piping hot soy milk chai. We smelled spice oils, with primary focus on ginger and cardamom (which are botanical relatives) and spoke about spices that are "warm" versus spices that are "cool". We also smelled Zangvil perfume, of course.

Now we took a little intermission from the desserts, and experienced Sonore - Lotem's bold Shiraz wine, accompanied our "tasting" of anything rosy: we experienced rose otto and absolute, as well as Cabaret perfume - a demonstration of rose and musk.  Yaniv explained about the origin of this grape, from Shiraz in Persia, which tied in beautifully to the origins of rose (Rosa centifolia or May Rose is native to Persia as well). I also tied it with the fondness of Muslims to musk and roses, and the symbolism of roses in Sufi poetry.

The highlight of the evening was one of the most beloved ingredients of all: orange blossom. We first experienced it in the vegan malabi (based in coconut cream) alongside the beautiful Savant Voigner from Kishor - which highlighted the citrusy notes, and even the petitgrain-like character of the orange flower water (something that my brother Yotam, who was among the guests in the event, pointed out).  We smelled different types of orange blossoms - orange flower water, orange flower absolute and neroli.

The grand finale was the chocolate mousse that was flavoured with orange blossom absolute and wild orange oil, topped with candied kumquat slices (from Smadar's orchard, of course). We paired this with the stunning Nebiolo, an aromatic yet light Italian varietal with floral characteristics and definite cassis flavours. And we concluded with smelling Zohar perfume - which went beautifully with all this luscious gorgeousness and the good mood that was already in the room went up even a few more notches.

I truly hope to create more events in the future with Smadar - it feels like this is just the beginning of a great friendship!

Last but not least, because this is the first day of April, it's time to announce this monthly giveaway: Leave a comment on this post, with your guess as to which flowers were in Smadar's beautiful bouquet - and enter to win a mini of Cabaret!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,