Friday, July 31, 2015

Jasmine: A Summary

Grasse jasmine

"Everybody has some sense of what good food is. 
What many of us actually eat may not taste specifically good, may not be particularly good for us, and probably comes from a farm or factory we don't want to even imagine. But that's not because we don't know what we want. It's just that we always seem to end up eating something else."
(Jeff Crump - From Earth to Table, p. 1)

I could say the very same about perfume. How many times we know what a good perfume should smell like, but buy into the marketing schemes, or make a purchase because of the bottle alone? How many times it's the persona selling the perfume (a model, celebrity, or a brand-owner we find inspiring) that convinces us it's what we should wear? The power of suggestion is even more pronounced in the fragrance industry. Tell someone there is jasmine in their perfume, and they'll find something - anything - to remind them of what the gestalt of jasmine is in their minds.

While jasmine fits in beautifully into pretty much any composition, illuminating it with its aura and creative more space where before dense matter lay flat and barely breathing - adding anything TO jasmine in order to make it beautiful is almost as ridiculous and frustrating as putting makeup on a beautiful 4 year old girl.

The essence of Jasmine is a perfect thing. To add anything to it, or to take anything away, requires both vision and manipulative skill. How can you make it less indolic but not silence the animalic purr that is so prevalent in a good jasmine? How can you make it fruity and juicy, without being too sweet, cloying and cheap-smelling? How can you take something that is essentially perfect the way it is, and create a new fragrance from it, a jasmine statement unique to you as a composer?

I've spend the best part of July testing jasmine perfumes from all walks of life: the mainstream department store types, artisan and/or natural, niche, and even the synthetic cheapie varieties. It prove to be a far greater challenge to find a satisfying, convincing jasmine that truly brings forth the beauty of this raw material while respecting it. The ones that I've shortlisted boil down to a very short list, actually, and appear in alphabetical order below. It would be interesting to note, that the most intriguing of them are those which do not possess the ambition of being overtly jasmine, but at the same time do not shy away from using impressive dosage of this note.

A La Nuit (Serge Lutens) - Straight up jasmine, and quite believable at that. 

Diorissimo (Dior) - Breathtaking Lily of the Valley masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska. Look for the vintage or better yet - the extract, where the jasmine absolute is quite evident, as are the green notes and boronia.

Donna Karan Essence: Jasmine (Donna Karan) - realistic jasmine, even if simple. For similar effect, seek out jasmine absolute diluted at 5% or 10% or so at Intelligent Nutrients (Aveda used to have a "Jasmine Absolute Oil" but it seems to have disappeared) or at various aromatherapy suppliers. 

Drama Nuii (Parfumerie Generale) - fruity-lemony jasmine with musk 

Eau d'Hermes (Hermes) - jasmine with lemon and cumin 

Emotionnelle (Parfums DelRae) - Jasmine, violet and cantaloupe

Eau Sauvage (Christian Dior) - Hedione galore (a staggering 40%) in the heart of the father of all masculines. Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska, which means you must try it (look for vintage)

Jasmin de Nuit (The Different Company) - jasmine popsicle, with lemon and vanilla 

Jasmine AKA Clair-Obscur (Keiko Mecheri) - Soapy lily of the valley and jasmine 

Jasmine Tea (Artemisia Perfumes) - bejewelled jasmine green tea, with fir, osmanthus and green tea

Jasmine Rouge (Tom Ford) - realistically luxurious jasmine

Joy (Patou) - jasmine and rose

Le Parfum de Thérèse - jasmine, plum and basil sorbetto. Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska 

Opium (YSL) - jasmine, orange, patchouli and spices

Samsara (Guerlain) - jasmine and sandalwood

Songes (Annick Goutal) - jasmine ylang ylang heaven

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Alba Botanica's Hawaiian Moisture Cream with Soothing Jasmine & Vitamin E

Alba Botanica's Hawaiian Moisture Cream with Soothing Jasmine & Vitamin E  used to be my favourite face cream before Persephenie came up with much more wholesome formulations, and even better perfumed, such as her Rose Paka. I got to admit though: I've abandoned all face creams in favour of my own Elixir - a hand-blended face oil, that is made of nourishing noncomedogenic oils and smell wonderfully rosy and fruity. For this jasmine fest I've also experimented with formulating a jasmine-scented face oil, using avocado oil as the base, in hopes of a greater synergistic effect for sensitive skin. I'm yet to find the right balance of jasmine to the base oil, because there is a tendency of jasmine to get completely hidden in a fatty base. When making perfumes it's not a problem, because high concentration is fine. But in body and skincare products, no more than 1-2% at the very most is recommended, and even less is advisable for the face.

So this is where Jasmine & Vitamin E cream still holds its place as the go-to jasmine-scented moisturizer. It is beautifully scented, with just enough jasmine to give it that character, and a light, heady ylang ylang to support this tropical, intoxicating aroma while keeping its costs down. The texture is very light weight, so I would use it during the day mostly. I'm not too keen on the least of ingredients, though, which seems to have its main constituent as water, seconded by sunflower oil (which is nice enough, but not as rich as I'd like my face cream to be), and glycerin as the third ingredient. Glycerin is not the most moisturizing ingredient, actually. It's humectant, which means that it draws moisture out of the air and into your skin if humidity level is 65% or over. But in a dryer weather, under 65% humidity, what it would do is actually suck out the moisture out of your skin. So I would be careful about using glycerin-based products, depending on where you plan to use the product.

Other than that, it does have some list of beneficial extracts and oil, including both jasmine and chamomile, which are both good for sensitive skin, and various nourishing oils such as borage, sweet almond, jojoba, and of course vitamin E. It's hard to tell how much impact these ingredients would have, it really depends on their exact quantity and quality. But overall, this is a fun product to use, with a lightweight, fast-absorbing texture, and a lovely scent. And you all know that I'm a sucker for the latter.

Ingredients (as appears on the packaging and on Alba Botanica's website):
Aqua (Water), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil (1), Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Octyl Palmitate , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (1), Cetyl Alcohol , Glyceryl Laurate , Tocopheryl Acetate , Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil (1), Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil , Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil (1), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (1), Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract , Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Extract , Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract , Allantoin , Dimethicone , Panthenol , Stearic Acid, Tocopherol , Tromethamine , Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Amyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellal, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool , Fragrance (Parfum)

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Carol Priest's Jasmine Flower Toner

In celebration of jasmine this month, I'd like to mention Carol Priest's Jasmine Flower Toner. I can no longer find it in town, but when I did I truly enjoyed a more light handed experience of jasmine on my face.

Jasmine offers some wonderful properties for the skin. It is particularly recommended for sensitive skin, so enjoying it in this light and safe quantity (this is not a true hydrofoil, but rather jasmine absolute emulsified into distilled water, with the aid of alcohol and carprylyl/capryl glucoside). This ingredient is vegetable-derived and has surfactant, solubalizing and cleansing properties.

Ingredients: Distilled Water (Aqua), Alcohol, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Oil. 

P.s. I have no idea why images of orange blossoms were used to illustrate this product on the company's website; but not it's a common mistake. I've even seen citrus blossoms (probably pomelo, actually) labeled as jasmine flowers in a rather famous tea-related coffee table/resource book. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Salty Jasmine Candies

Salty Jasmine Candies

Persephenie's Salty Jasmine Candies  indeed induce passion, as their subtitle promises. This is done by taking you by surprise with an explosion of jasmine absolute in your mouth These are little, unevenly sized and shaped flat sugar candies that are dusted with powdered sugar, which gives them the appearance of a dangerous substance. They are generously flavoured with jasmine oil. The result is a very bold, uncompromising experience, not unlike licking one's nose after it has accidentally touched the bottle of jasmine absolute you've just sniffed... Its saving grace from being too perfume and soapy is the balancing effect achieved by salt and a hint of vanilla. Both these elements enhance the flavour of the candy, its sugariness transforming into a more luxurious and caramel-like sensation in the mouth (even though in reality these are hard candies*). That mineral note is really quite fantastic and like what I've experienced in saline floral perfumes such as Vanille Galante (which is more of a lily-based concoction), and Emotionelle. For extra boost, eat those while you're wearing Emotionelle, for the salty-yet-sweet effect it creates by pairing jasmine with cantaloupe and violet.

* Interestingly, in the heat of the summer, they have become more soft and taffy-like.

Salty Jasmine Candies

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pairing Jasmine

Apricot Jasmine Tea Cake

Most of us are familiar with jasmine teas, but what other culinary uses are there to jasmine?
Because jasmine absolute is so costly and hard to come by for most, and also difficult to work with at the right concentration for food preparation, it is not easy to find recipes that are jasmine-flavoured. The few that are, typically call for infusion of jasmine tea to achieve the desired aroma. 

As far as gourmet cuisine goes, jasmine as a flavour can be mostly found in desserts. Renown pastry chef Pierre Hermé created remarkable macarons that are flavoured with jasmine, and inspired macaron-makers the world over to follow suit. Mango-jasmine macarons are one of my favourites. Jasmine's complex yet light floralcy blends magically with the juicy muskiness of mango. I recommend you try this pairing with simpler mango recipes you may have, i.e. in homemade mango gelato or ice cream. 

Jasmine pairs beautifully with fruit, as it has its own fruity facet due to the presence of some esters and fruity aldehydes. The few jasminey recipes in my cookbook collection include a tropical fruit salad with jasmine tea and chile syrup - a beautiful, simple to make yet innovative flavour combination from Tonia George inspiring little book "Tea Cookbook - sweet and savoury recipes for tea lovers". In his book Aroma, Daniel Patterson (the renown chef of Coi, one of the world's top-notch restaurant), offers a recipe for a jasmine syrup that can be used creatively, either as an addition to fruit salads, or as a base for a fruit sorbetto (he's providing a recipe for White Peach and Jasmine Sorbet in p. 111), using a syrup from boiling together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups of water, and 2 Tbs of jasmine pearls. He's recommending 10min of steeping, but I would be cautious with this timing, as long steeping create a very bitter taste, and not necessarily in a good way. To maximize the flavour of any tea, use the same steeping time you would use for that type of tea; only increase the amount of tea used (that's when you really do not want to be cheap!), and make absolutely sure the tea is very fresh and vibrant with flavour (no older than a year, that's for sure, and for some teas 6 months is all you need to lose their remarkable aroma).

For jasmine tea, I'd say no more than 3-4 minutes steeping time; but use larger amount than this recipe: you normally want about a pearl or two per teacup (which is 5oz), or if you're using green jasmine tea   that is not rolled into pearls - you want to use a teaspoon for each cup; so for a stronger flavour, double that at least. That would come up to 5 teacups for the amount of water Daniel Patterson specified in his recipe (750 mL). For that I would use at least 10tsp of jasmine tea, in other words: 3 Tbs and 1 tsp.

Another step in the syrup technique that I would do differently: I would steep the tea leaves in 2 of the cups (brought to the tea's optimal brewing temperature, for jasmine green tea that would be 175 F), and would create a simple syrup from the remaining one cup of water and the entire cup of sugar. Only once both are ready and cooled off a little, I would blend the strong tea infusion with the simple syrup.

Jasmine has a strong affinity with desserts, and the only savoury pairing that I've seen where to chicken or chicken broth, and while served with dim-sum or Vietnamese pho noodle soup (which is what inspired my verdant Jasmine Pho - a limited edition perfume that is gladly back in stock as of yesterday!). In the same book, Chef Daniel Patterson also offers one savoury recipe, for Jasmine-Steamed Chicken Breast (p. 112). I cannot comment on this recipe because I neither cook nor consume poultry; but I would gladly experiment with jasmine tea within a refreshing, cool version of a noodle salad, or in a creative vegetarian version of the wonderful pho noodle soup. The jasmine tea works well as an accompaniment, so I can't see why it won't work in a simple cilantro broth, being topped with fragrant Thai basil, jalapeño and lime.


Jasmine tea is recommended for pairing with coconut desserts, and in general all mildly sweetened Asian desserts go fantastically well with it, which is possibly why you'll be served a pot of jasmine tea as soon as you sit down for dim-sum. It is also served to accompany the pho - the deliciously light and fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup, where the jasmine's aroma beautifully complements the fresh cilantro and basil leaves. Jasmine Tea Mooncakes (pictured above) are a traditional food of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam and among Chinese communities the world over. It's a pastry that is filled a paste or a cream made of taro root or lotus-seed or a variety of other modern interpretations, to which other flavours (such as tea, fruits, nuts, and more recently also coffee and chocolate) can be added.

I've used jasmine absolutes countless of times in my infamous chocolate truffles: Charisma truffles (white chocolate with matcha, jasmine sambac and spearmint), Espionage (both the truffles and the chocolate bar), where it lends a complex, musky depth and helps to smooth out the smoked salt and peppery juniper notes, and countless other experiments. But using absolutes requires: a) access to high-quality, unadulterated jasmine absolute; b) expert hand at blending and knowing the challenges of using such a mind-bogglingly concentrated material: a single drop of jasmine sambac absolute carries the potency of 66 flowers!

The much safer and accessible way in which to incorporate jasmine's flavour creatively in your cooking and baking is with jasmine tea. Here are a few ideas and examples you can play with:
1) Loose-leaf jasmine tea can be easily incorporated into shortbreads and even biscotti, as you've known if you were to attend any of my fragrant afternoon tea parties.
2) Infuse chocolate ganache, pastry creams, custards, gelato/ice cream, sorbetto or créme brûlée with jasmine tea leaves to add a special nuance.
3) Use a simple jasmine syrup as a substitute for the rosewater or orange flower water used to sweeten Middle Eastern pastries (such as harissa, basboosa or baklava). Substitute a strong jasmine tea for the floral water, and only at the very end of the cooking process, once the syrup has cooled down!
4) Find other creative ways to include jasmine flavour in your desserts, for example: chopped up infused leaves inside cakes (as in the Apricot Jasmine Tea Cake recipe I shared with you over the weekend).

Last but not least: Jasmine tea is a wonderful addition to a mixologist's repertoire, as its light colour and crisp aroma works well with many chilled cocktails: it's beautiful with spearmint, so it goes without saying it will be fantastic in a mojito with muddled spearmint and freshly squeezed lime. It will also work beautiful with gin, i.e. in a Jasmine Gin Fizz; other floral liquors such as St. Germain (an elderflower liquor) in Jasmine & Elderflower Martini, with absinthe in Jasmine Tail, with tequila and lime in Jasmine Tea Margerita, or just as a standalone, chilled iced tea with or without a shot of vodka.

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Jasmine & Cantaloupe


When visiting Grasse in spring 2009, I was intrigued by Salade de melon et jambon de Parme
 (AKA Prosciutto e Melone - a simple carpaccio dish that seemed rather alluring even to my eternal vegetarian-born-and-raised palate. Thin slices of cured ham were layered flat on a plate, and wedges of cantaloupe arranged on top. It seemed so odd to me to pair something so meaty and brown with something so vividly orange and juicy. But, living vicariously through the carnivore boyfriend I had at the time, I gathered that the magic lay in the contrast between the saltiness of the prosciutto and the fragrant sweetness of cantaloupe - not unlike the Balkan signature pairing of crispy sweet watermelon with creamy and heavily brined feta cheese.

Later research into the matter also informed me that pork has a coconut, peach and apricot-like notes to it from lactones, which makes it so suitable for pairing with fruit as well as certain fruity white wines or lightly oaked reds. Vegetarians may enjoy a somewhat similar experience by savouring tiny cubes of well-aged Pecorino Romano with abovementioned cantaloupe; or if you want to go overboard, find yourself a coconut-gouda and watch out for exploding tastebuds. And since we are on the topic of coconut, vegans can also enjoy the coconut and cantaloupe contrast by sprinkling fine coconut flakes on their melon; or toasted coconut curls for an even more decadent experience.

Prosciutto e melone

While in Grasse, I had the pleasure and honour to meet with Michel Roudnistka - a multi sensory and visual artist (photographer, perfumer and filmmaker who combined his videos into a film that is accompanied by five difference ambient fragrances, each for a different indigenous culture around the world), and that is when I firs experienced his magnificent perfume Emotionelle, which he created for Parfums DelRae in San Francisco. How does Emotionelle smell?

Picture this in ripe, juicy, room-temperatured cantaloupe in your mouth, with a full-bodied flavour filling your entire palate:

Crisp Cantaloupe
Suddenlly and immediately, you are interrupted by more than a whiff of this indolic jasmine:
Grasse jasmine
That is the basis for Emotiomelle, the main structure upon a complete, original and unusual perfume is built. One could argue the source for this pairing is in Le Parfum de Thérèse (which the perfumer's father created for his mother), or Diorella. However, the other two had melon, not cantaloupe. And that is a huge difference. As far as influence goes, I would suspect that a new cantaloupe molecule or base was invented that year in one of the Grasse houses, because both Emotionelle and Un Jardin Après la Mousson (which pairs this very cantaloupe note with more bracing, chilled spice notes and cooling vetiver) were released the year prior (2008).

Emotionelle opens with a big, ripe, juicy cantaloupe note and is paired with sultry jasmine and sweet violets. It’s hard to believe these will get along, but they sure do. The key is in the balancing of the animalic indole in the jasmine with softly-blended, oily violet, musk and cedar notes, almost like pastel crayons smeared with a persistent finger to create a bold picture with loud colours yet with very soft texture.

The result is magical, even if a little disturbing, like striking the right chord in the right time. After all, we are talking about pairing something very edible, with something very floral and animalic. To me Emotionelle is very sexy, sensual. I like the fact that it's a distinctive tricolour - with cantaloupe, jasmine and violet being in the centre at all times. There is a complexity and tension that all three bring to the composition, but there are also other subtle layers underneath that keep it from being too simplistic and ordinary. Those who yell "cantaloupe" and dismiss it (most of the reviews I read, actually) miss the entire point. There are many composition styles, and Michel Roudnitska's is one that takes a theme and goes all the way with it. It's also what I smell in Noir Epices: it's very bold combination of geranium, cloves, orange and cinnamon. But it's brining a new, modern meaning to the ages-old pomander scent (the root of all Oriental-Spicy scents, if you ask me) - by not trying to play it quieter, but rather amplifying the seeming dissonance between those notes. Those who pay attention will find it actually humorous, playful and at the same time sophisticated. In the case of Emotionelle this is achieved with low dosage of musk to offset the animalic indole; cedar wood to substantiate the ionones; and warm, sweet notes of honey, amber and labdanum to deepen the sweetness of the cantaloup, with tiny sparkling of spices (cloves, cinnamon) for a bit of warmth and dimension.


To me this perfume will forever remind of Southern France and in particular Grasse, and the visit to Michel's studio and home in Cabris where I first smelled Emotionelle. There was an osmo-art (multi sensory film) projected in one of the room of the MIP (Musée International de la Parfumerie, AKA International Perfume Museum) of which an image of a ladybug crawling along a split cantaloupe was the olfactory if not visual highlight. And lastly, the cantaloupe in the above photo is one I bought and ate there, in its entirety, one afternoon. I didn't have a big enough refrigerator in my hotel room there, so I had to eat most of it room-temperature (which is actually delicious, by the way: it makes the fragrance more apparent than when chilled). It is the perfume of a hot spring day up on the mountainous Alpes-Maritimes-Cote d'Azur, where the sun shines generously, people are warm and hospitable, life is slowly savoured with the people you love, lunch breaks span over two hours minimum, and an afternoon siesta to follow is not a bad idea at all, especially when the room is permeated with a fragrant cantaloupe.

Top notes: Cantalupe, Tangerine, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Prune
Heart notes: Jasmine, Violet Flower, Violet Leaf, Rose, Cinnamon, Honey
Base notes: Vanilla, Cedarwood, Cloves, Patchouli, Musk, Amber, Labdanum

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Madini's Jasmine

Madini is a provider of various fragrance oils * in the like that is sold in many Middle Eastern souks' perfume booths. Some of their oils are single notes compounds; some are replicas of commercial designer fragrances (i.e.: Angel, No. 5 and other best-sellers), and some remain true to the Arabian style of perfumery, even if made with cheaper raw materials. Traditionally, a perfume business runs in the family, and the father passes the art and wisdom (selecting oils, etc.) to his sons (it is primarily a patriarchal system, though it is changing), and I gather Madini have been around for 400 years.

The vendor (who nowadays rarely is the perfumer) will either bottle it as it is in an ornamental-looking bottle with a dauber, or in a simple roll-on - or if you wish, will blend it for you in some alcohol so that you can spray it. DPG can be mixed in both oil and alcohol, and that's the advantage of this material, besides it being very cheap (unlike jojoba oil).

"The sweet and most celebrated flower of North Africa. Considered by many to be the most precious of floral ingredients, certainly one of the costliest". Given that it is sold for $25 for a 6 mL bottle (which brings it to roughly $125 per oz), I can see how someone may be inclined to think they are purchasing pure jasmine. This is not the case. This is simply a jasmine-like concoction of mainly (if not solely) synthetic molecules that is designed to replicate jasmine. It is not far off the jasmine base that I've described in my earlier article on jasmine, and is very potent. Certainly not something that I'd recommend wearing neat on the skin. It's just way too potent and harsh that way, and goes up your nostrils with a bit of a stinging sensation.

Okay, now I've diluted it to a normal eau de parfum concentration (in alcohol). Much better... But still, it's very cheap-smelling, and not convincing enough as a jasmine. I'm pretty sure that if it were to be blended with other notes, it would be okay, for example: if it were to be blended with fresh, citrusy or herbaceous essential oils, or with a true patchouli essential oil base - it will give it some more soul. Overall, it still smells flat, chemical (a combination of acetone and something else that still maintain a green sharp ice-needles in my nose, even after dilution). There is a hint of indole in the base that makes it feel a tad more real than other cheap jasmines I've smelled lately, but I would not wear it on its own as a soliflore, because it is just too harsh and sharp this way. But either way, I'm sorry to say that this goes down as a scrubber. I couldn't even do that too well - so I layered it with Brin de Réglisse and now I can breathe a little better... At least for a little while - the jasmine creeps up again after an hour or so, making both a scrubber once more!

For that price, or a little bit higher, you can get yourself a sample of pure jasmine absolute from a reputable supplier such as White Lotus Aromatics or Eden Botanicals, and dilute it in an oil of your choice (or get the jojoba-oil 10% dilution). I guarantee you will enjoy it much more. If you are interested in authentic, modern-day Arabian perfumes that are all-natural and beautifully crafted, I recommend you visit Amal Al-Kuwait's website. They are the real deal, and their Fatima perfume has loads of natural jasmine grandiflorum absolute, along with oud.

* “A compound of various raw materials (synthetic and/or natural) that are usually suspended in a base of DGP (dipropylene glycol).” 
- Excerpt From: Ayala Moriel. “Foundation of Natural Perfumery: A Practical Hands-on Guide for Creating Your Own Fragrances.” iBooks

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Ikat Jasmine

BD011 (detail)

The most interesting thing about Ikat Jasmine is its name. Ikat is an elaborate resist-dyeing and weaving technique in which rather than dyeing the finished, woven fabric - the individual threads or bundles of yarn are tightly tied or resistance-treated before being dipped in the dye, and only then woven into elaborate patterns that (unlike printing a pattern) are visible on both sides of the fabrics. This is an ancient technique that is labour-intensive and requires both skill and artistry. It is extremely difficult to create accurate patterns with the pre-dyed yarn, especially when trying to create elaborate designs with multiple colours. Therefore there is always a blurry quality to it - which adds to its charm and character. Ikat fabrics made with finer threads (such as silk) and several colours require an expert weaver, and usually are more accurate and costly. In many of the cultures where Ikat is produced, the fabric is considered to possess magical powers, endow its wearer with good luck, or at least be a symbol of status.
Ikat Looms

The technique can be found among specific weaving traditions, all over the world: Central Asia, Southeast Asia, India, Japan, Africa and the Andes indigenous people of South America. Most of these cultures use either a warp or weft ikat; while only very specific locations produce the even more elaborate double ikat, in which both the warp AND the weft are resist-dyed, for example: India (Pochampally Saree from the Bhoodan Pochampally village in Telengana State; and Puttakapa Saree from the Puttakapa village in Andhra Pradesh). The Balinese village Tengan (Indonesia) produces the beautiful geringsing; and in Okinawa, Japan (where it is called tate-yoko gasuri). In Okinawa there is an additional uniquely Japanese ikat technique called Oshima, which is used for stiff fabric and is so labour intense it is reserved for royalty).
Reading up about it was probably the best thing that came out of this short-lived perfume experience. I now have an even greater appreciation for the art of weaving. But also am more disappointed of this perfume, whose only connection to its name is its blurry, nondescript quality. However, while the blurriness of an ikat fabric shows its handmade origin and gives it a one-of-a-kind value - Ikat Jasmine perfume smells impersonal, industrial, synthetic and showcases neither jasmine nor ikat-like craftsmanship in its design and execution. To begin with, its only resemblance to jasmine is to star jasmine, which is not a true jasmine at all. In other words - there is no indole and no other dirty secrets to discover. In addition, there are absolutely no fun surprises of twists-of-plot for this number. From a nondescript floral frolic it smoothly and stretches into a yawn-inducing musky-ambery vagueness. To be fair, it is a pretty and wearable whitish floral ambery-musky thing, and all in all not bad if you place it next to, say, Halle Berry Exotic Jasmine. But compare it to what true jasmine absolute smells like or one of the more successful renditions of the theme (Jasmin de Nuit, Jasmine Rouge and A La Nuit), not to mention something a tad more imaginative such as Alien - it hardly demands mentioning.

Another point of reference is the price: for $125 CAD plus tax, you can do better than that: Either save yourself $26 and get Pure Poison, which is basically the same thing (minus pretending it's a high quality jasmine fragrance) add $25 more and get A La Nuit by Serge Lutens, both available at Sephora on Robson Street (for some reason they don't have the Serge Lutens on their website). To be fair, though, it is so much better than California Star Jasmine by Pacifica. Like, 100 times better. But that says more about Pacifica's disappointing launch rather than the topic of this blog post.

The notes are supposedly Tuberose Fleur, Jasmine Sambac, Jasmine Egypt Infusion, Honeysuckle, Tuberose Infusion. What my nose is smelling is Star jasmine, orange blossom, white musk and a hint of powdery, sheer amber. 

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

A La Nuit

Under the moonlight

A La Nuit is moonlit jasmine in all its glory. Jasmine is both radiant and forceful, delicate and at the same time larger-than-life.

This jasmine night opens with the intoxicating perfume of the flowers as they intensify in the dimming sunlight of summer sunset. As the light turns from burnt orange and hot pink into deep indigo, silvery streaks of moonbeams shine light on the little flowers on a climbing vine.

I've already expressed the difficulty to describe jasmine as a standalone. How can one explain its scent, dissect its facets and do it justice? I feel the same about A La Nuit, because it is a true jasmine perfume. It shows jasmine's complexity and beauty without sugar-coating it, prettyfing it with a bunch of musk and/or vanilla, nor exaggerating its already outspoken character.

The first time I smelled A La Nuit I thought to myself "It smells like jasmine, what's the big deal?".  If it wasn't for all the jasmine garbage that's out there (and which much of which I've been testing in the past three weeks), I would have dismissed this remarkable achievement. A La Nuit is a rare case that smells like the living and breathing flower, or the freshly picked blossoms before they undergo any extraction - by solvent, enfleurage or any other method. It's the pure scent of the tender flowers as you tickle your nostrils with their cool petals and just dive into this otherworldly, yet at the same time very earthly indulgence. The description on LuckyScent is quite neat and accurate, also just as a writeup on jasmine. Smelling A La Nuit also reminds me of Mandy Aftel's words:
"Its small, white, waxy blossoms exhale a perfume so peculiar as to be incomparable. TO walk past the flowering shrub in the evening is to be enveloped in the most glorious door, which turns an ordinary street corner into a boudoir." (Fragrant, p. 205)

My only reservation about this perfume is not exactly its longevity, but its evolution. On me the sensational stage of jasmine lasts a very brief, even if euphoric time. But perhaps this is a blessing in disguise - as I find too many floral fragrances to be cloying and headache inducing. It does, however, paint a jasmine-y picture without boiling down to the redundant musky-vanilla boredom that I've been mostly smelling in the last few weeks. Of all the jasmine-themed perfumes I've tested, this is by far the best, rivalled only by Jasmin Rouge. But given that my buying priorities usually favour purchasing raw materials over fragrances - I'd take the nearly $400 that both bottles cost, and spend it on an ounce each of the best ever jasmine grandiflorum and jasmine samba absolutes!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Apricot & Jasmine Tea Cake

Apricot Jasmine Tea Cake

Jasmine has a hint of a fruity, almost apricot-like aspect. So I felt inspired to try this combination, using infused jasmine tea leaves as a fragrant variation for my classic Apricot & Almond Torte, in which jasmine tea has been infused into the cake and also added to the top of the cake in the form of a drizzled icing.

10 Tbs. salted butter, room temperature
2/3 Cup sugar
1/4 tsp. Haitian vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup almond meal (100gr)
2 tsp. double acting baking powder, or 1 package German Backpulver
1/2 cup STRONG jasmine tea, at room temperature (see more on that below)
1 Tbs finely chopped, infused (wet) jasmine tea leaves
About a dozen fresh apricots – or enough of them to cover the cake’s surface

For the icing:
3 Tbs icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbs strong jasmine tea at room temperature
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice


• To prepare the jasmine tea, infuse 1 cup of water at 175F with 1Tbs of fine and fragrant green jasmine tea or dragon pearls. Infuse for no more than 2-3min to avoid it becoming too bitter, and reserve the brewed tea leaves to add to the cake later, and also for serving more with the cake once its baked!
• Use an 11 inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper.
• Cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla extract.
• Beat in eggs, one at a time.
• Sift the flour with the baking powder Beat into the egg mixture. Add the buttermilk and mix well.
• Add the chopped-up, infused jasmine tea leaves
• Spread the batter into the baking pan.
• Place the apricots on top, slightly overlapping, with the cut side facing UP.
• Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out pretty clean (as long as you don’t insert it through the fruit!)
• Prepare the icing by stirring all the ingredients with a fork or a mini wire whisk
• Once the cake cooled down, drizzle with the jasmine tea icing, and scatter a some whole, infused jasmine tea leaves for decoration on the top.
• Keeps well for a 2-3 days (if it lasts!). If you refrigerate, bring to room temperature before serving.

Apricot & Jasmine Tea Cake #Jasmine #Apricot

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Jasmin Rouge

Jasmine in bloom

As much as I love to hate Tom Ford and his excessiveness (especially with anything noir and/or oud-related) - when it comes to floral his artistic direction is just right. Velvet Gardenia is haunting, beautiful and with an intriguing candle-wax and labdanum base notes; and Shanghai Lily unusual yet strangely pretty. While I was a bit disappointed with Champaca Absolute's intensely fruity-fresh and shampoo-like quality, I still find it oddly interesting, and many of the other seasonal floral releases were intriguing even if not enough to warrant a full bottle purchase (that only happened with Velvet Gardenia), and the entire floral Jardin Noir collection (with purple label) smelled promising, namely Café Rose and Ombre de Hyacinth - even I did not get around to try them on yet.

I didn't make much of Jasmin Rouge when I tested it on scent strip at Holt Renfrew, where I was also given a sample of it just because they had one in stock. It just did not smell like jasmine on paper, so I didn't bother trying it on my skin. Admittedly, it was not until this jasmine series and noticing it was mentioned favourably in a few jasmine features by other blogs. They were right. Jasmin Rouge turned out to be one of if not the best jasmine perfume I've sampled in the last three weeks. It was created by nose Rodrigo Flores-Roux, a most prolific and productive perfumer who knows both how to create expressive florals, rich orientals and effervescent fresh and citrusy fragrances: He is the nose behind the magnificent Anima Dulcis (Arquiste), and many other fragrances for that line including L'Etrog; Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, Essence Wenge and Essence Labdanum, and too many others to count. He has already worked with Tom Ford on Neroli Portofino (in 2011, the same year as Jasmin Rouge was launched in conjunction with a make up collection - hence the names such as "Santal Blush" and "Jasmin Rouge"), and more recently (2013) Fleur de Chine.

Jasmine Rouge & Santal Blush by Tom Ford_1
Jasmin Rouge is a realistically convincing yet imaginative jasmine. It begins with a strong, unmistakable jasmine cloud, as if you've just passed a bush full of flowers while blindfolded, and taken by a pleasant surprise. Next you might notice an emphasis on fruity notes - plum, apricot and peach, but these are very grown-up fruits, nothing like the fruit punches you get in the teeny bopper lip-glosses, but that is not to say the fruit notes are dry or overripe either... They are subtle accents  that give the perfume an  deliciously juicy, almost edible presence to the otherwise too serious or toxically beautiful white flowers who are the true stars of this fragrance.

Next you'll notice a tuberose/gardenia/orange-blossom quality of methyl anthranilate, which also adds to the juiciness but in a darker, more sinister way (methyl anthranilate also developed in the more advanced stages of the decomposition of corpses). With all that being said, the jasmine maintains its character throughout, but there are some darker notes in there giving it more depth - hints of spices, resins and balsams. The jasmine itself possesses both the qualities of tea and of milky stone fruit, which makes me think of jasmine sambac variety - but I am also smelling jasmine grandiflorum, with its more pronounced indole. If compared to Serge Lutens A La Nuit though, the sambacness of this perfume is a little more pronounced. But on its own, I wouldn't think of it as any particular variety of jasmine.

There is also a hint of a fatty, modern-day lipstick-like quality as the perfume dries down, to prove that this perfume goes to the extreme to promote upscale makeup. And while there are myriads of spices, flowers and even leather and herbs (Clary Sage) listed in the notes, they only perform as accents to the jasmine, which is for a change truly the main focus of the perfume.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Black Pepper, White Pepper
Heart Notes: Jasmine (Sambac and Grandiflorum) Broom, Neroli, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage
Base: Mexican Vanilla, Labdanum, Leather, Woodsy and Ambery Notes

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Brewing Jasmine

Jasmine Tea

We had jasmine bushes growing in abundance in my village - almost in every household's garden. Even my frugal family - which had a strict policy about growing only useful things such as vegetables, medicinal herbs and and fruit trees - had one growing at our courtyard in front of the house. The poor little bush would release its intoxicating aroma even when it looked rather miserable. It never seems to give up on flowering, at any given season,  And at one point I was tempted to make a cup of homemade jasmine tea, simply by letting a single flower float on top of my cup of boiled water. It smelled like heaven, tasted as bitter as death, and left my tongue numb!

The technique of perfuming tea with flowers is an ancient art that was invented in China. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), J. sambac from Persia arrived in China. By the 5th Centruy, teas were already perfumed with jasmine flowers. But it wasn't until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that jasmine tea because popular the world over due to its introduction to the West.

By nature's own divine wisdom, tea gardens fortunately grow in close proximity to where some fragrant flowers can also thrive. All shades of tea can be perfumed with jasmine, including silver needle, red tea and oolong - but the most popular of them is jasmine green tea.

The technique of perfuming tea was originally developed to enhance the aroma of lower quality leaf, but because of demand and growing appreciation for this particular flavour, there are now many different grades, forms and qualities available, especially for jasmine tea.

Jasmine Pearls

Green jasmine tea is mostly produced in Fujian province in China, and is harvested in September - the prime time for jasmine sambac flowers in the region. The tea leaves and flowers are harvested at dawn. The tea goes a partial process, up to the stage of "fixing" by heat. While the tea leaves are still humid they are layered alternately to form an inch-thick carpet with fresh jasmine flowers. These flowers are left there for about 24 hours so that the tea leaves can absorb their perfume. The tea leaves are then heated for an hour to set the fragrance in, and the flowers are then removed before they begin to decompose so that the scent does not deteriorate. This same process will be repeated with a new batch of flowers, between 2-6 times. Between 30-50 kg of flowers are required to perfume 100 kg of undried tea leaves.

The flowers themselves have a bitter taste when brewed, which is why they are removed. You'll rarely find a jasmine blossom in a high quality jasmine tea. Poor quality and aromatized teas will have plenty of those, as if to convince the naive buyer that they are the real deal. Originally, the process of perfuming teas was created to improve the taste and aroma of medium quality teas. It was only later on that mediocre or worse quality teas were aromatized - in other words, sprayed with a manmade flavouring to enhance their taste and mask their poor quality. Sometimes these are easy to recognize because they have some dried jasmine flowers added later on for decoration and marketing purposes.


Jasmine tea is recommended for pairing with coconut desserts, and in general all mildly sweetened Asian desserts go fantastically well with it, which is possibly why you'll be served a pot of jasmine tea as soon as you sit down for dim-sum. It is also served to accompany the pho - the deliciously light Vietnamese noodle soups, where the jasmine's aroma beautifully complements the fresh cilantro and basil leaves. Jasmine Tea Mooncakes (pictured above) are a traditional food of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam and among Chinese communities the world over. It's a pastry that is filled a paste or a cream made of taro root or lotus-seed or a variety of other modern interpretations, to which other flavours (such as tea, fruits, nuts, and more recently also coffee and chocolate) can be added.

black dragon pearl tea

For Jade Jasmine Pearls, the choicest tea leaf is selected: a tiny twig with the entire bud and two leaves (similar to Bai Mu Dan, AKA White Peony), which are impregnated with jasmine's perfume and rolled into a pearl-sized ball.

Jasmine Silver Needle is a fine white tea in which the tender leaves are picked when they are still closed. They look like a needle, and their silvery fuzz in clear sight, which explains their name. In the brewing process, these tiny silver hairs separate form the leaves and float to the top of the cup, creating a beautiful light-reflecting shimmer that adds to the visual enjoyment of the tea. Some flowers may be found in these teas, but this is from a different variety that is not as bitter.

Jasmine Green Tea is the most popular, and the one that you will most likely find in an adulterated form. Watch out for tea blends that have many blossoms in them - these usually serve only a decorative purpose (most jasmine flowers do not retain their aroma after drying), and are a visual clue that the tea is, in fact, aromatized.

Black Dragon Pearls

Jasmine Black Tea is rare, and usually scented with a unique, fragrant variety of yellow jasmine, Jasminum odoratissimum is a Madeira (Portugal) variety but due to its quality of retaining its fragrance after drying, it is also grown in Formosa (Taiwan) where it is used to perfume tea. I've only encountered black jasmine tea in the form of hand-tied teas.

jasmine tea ball

Hand-Tied Teas come in a variety of flavours, colours and designs that open up only after the "tea bud" is steeped in water for a while. The flower unfolds like a slow-motion time-lapse of a blooming bud. For best visual effect, use a clear glass teapot to brew this tea. They can be re-steeped many times, provided they are fresh.

Jasmine Beer: I've had the pleasure to experience a Jasmine IPA (Indian Pale Ale) from Steamworks, a local craft brewery located near the Waterfront Station in Gastown. It is hoppy in the most refreshing, fruity-bitter manner, which only accentuates the subtle jasmine tea notes that are hidden within. I see that there are many other jasmine IPAs produced by craft breweries. But if you can't get your paws on one, you can brew your own Jasmine Kombucha (see recipe below).

Jasmine Kombucha: When I learned that you could, in fact, used flavoured teas for kombucha brewing, I thought that my mind was going to explode from happiness (and ideas). Sometimes the best things are the simplest ones. Taking a fine ingredient, and making it even finer by a traditional, tried-and-true process. The key here is to have a good, healthy kombucha, and use the finest jasmine tea you can get. Another important component of a successful flavoured kombucha-making is that if you are using flavours, only to make them occasionally. The oils in flavoured teas do not add to the health of the culture. So you must alternate between making flavoured ones to plain ones. Follow the recipe for kombucha provided on this blog, using high quality jasmine-scented tea. You may also use flowering (hand-tied) teas, though this may be a bit of a waste of a beautiful thing (visually speaking).

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Kombucha Recipe

Kombucha in Japanese means "Mushroom Tea". It is a fermented tea beverage that is considered healthful and nutritious in the macrobiotic diet, combining the benefits of tea (antioxidants) and the symbiotic culture of fungi and bacteria that's in the kombucha starter, AKA SCOBY - a weird, jellyfish looking disk that takes the shape of the surface of jar it was last brewed on, and which feeds on sugar and theine (the caffeine which is present in tea). It also has become a lifestyle trademark of Hipsters the world over. Thankfully, it is also delicious and you do not need to be a Hipster to enjoy it. It is also an excellent substitute to more damaging alcoholic drinks, although I should worn you that when fermented for a very long time, kombucha may develop a small amount of alcohol. If you're very sensitive to alcohol, you may be advised against drinking kombucha while driving. How can you tell if your kombucha has alcohol content? You'll start feeling a tiny bit lightheaded, and probably feel like you should get off the road. In other words: your judgement would never be impaired to the point of thinking you're an excellent driver while under the kombucha influence. We're talking about 0.5% alcohol at the most... Although I hear black teas can turn kombucha into a little higher. In which case, you might not want to serve it in a baby-bottle to your toddler. So if your little one gets drowsy after their afternoon kombucha infusion, this may be a sign that the alcohol content have exceeded the caffein levels in your brew. Wait, are babies even allowed caffein?!

But I digress with my ridiculous (and often misunderstood) jokes. You probably want me to tell you already how to make kombucha and custom-flavour it. So before we start, I want to refer you to an excellent video by CutlruesForHealth. It really is a great way to learn about how to make kombucha. They also have an excellent FAQ section.

Important Tip: ALWAYS sterilize ALL your dishes, tools and containers before preparing and bottling your kombucha! This is the number one reason for kombucha fail. Otherwise, it should be as simple as making an iced tea (and then forgetting about it for a week...). 

2 liters of spring water or filtered water, boiled to the temperature required (i.e.: boiling water for black teas,  190 F for Oolongs, 185 F for white teas and 175 F for green teas).
Tip: Boil a little extra water for sterilizing all your tools and containers!
2 heaping tsp loose leaf tea
1/2 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar - don't use any brown sugar or honey - these will change the acidity level and may spoil your kombucha and SCOBY)
1/4 cup kombucha from previous batch (or, if this is your first time making kombucha: use 1/4 cup of unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar - preferably organic)
1 SCOBY (kombucha mother culture) - which you will have to get from a friend, or purchase dried online (follow instructions on the package on how to make this come to life!)

Tools and Equipment:
A 2 liter glass or ceramic pot large enough for your desired quantity
Kettle for warming and boiling the water for sterilization
Measuring cups and teaspoons
Tea strainer and/or medium sized fine mesh sieve
Coffee filter or clean cotton cloth for covering your kombucha container, and an elastic band to secure it to the jar
Funnel (optional: I use the spout of the measuring cup to bottle my kombucha)
Bottles or jars for bottling your kombucha

Step 1: Sterilize with boiling water all your tools, dishes, jars and containers used to handle the SCOBY and ferment the kombucha

Step 2: Prepare your water and steep the tea

Step 3: Add the sugar to the tea, and wait until it is completely dissolved and the tea have cooled down to room temperature

Step 4: Add the pre-made (unlfavoured) kombucha from previous batch (or apple cider vinegar if this is your first time brewing kombucha)

Step 5: Add the SCOBY - I handle mine with a pair of sterilized tongs

Step 6: Cover the jar with the coffee filter or a cotton cloth that is breathable but still prevents dust and fruit flies from diving in.

Step 7: Place in a warm place for at least 7 days (I use the top of the fridge).

Step 8: Taste the kombucha after a week, and see if you like the taste of it. The more mature it is, the more sugars it will digest and transform - and therefore it will develop more of its fermented, acidic taste.

Step 9: Bottle the Kombucha into sterlized glass containers. Reused wine bottles and sling-top beer bottles are a good Hipstery-looking option, though a bit hard to fill (you'll need a funnel), not to mention clean. To make matters worse - if you throw the sling-top bottles in a dishwasher, their aluminum parts will oxidize - yikes!. I reuse tomato-juice bottles or any other glass juice bottles, and am also happy that I don't need to use a funnel to fill them (the spout of a measuring cup is perfect for this task). 

Step 10: Additional flavouring. At this point, if you haven't been using a flavoured tea and want your kombucha to taste like something else besides tea, you may add a little bit of fruit juice, sprigs of herbs, spices and whatnot. Added sugar from fruit juice or honey will continue the fermentation process and will also help to boost up the fizz in the next step! 

Step 11: To achieve the bubbly, soda or champagne-like fizz effect, you will need to continue with one more step: age the kombuch, with tightly closed lids, for 24-48hrs. 

Note about flavouring kombucha:
The key here is to have a good, healthy kombucha, and use the finest tea you can get. Another important component of a successful flavoured kombucha-making is that if you are using flavours, only to make them occasionally. The oils in flavoured teas do not add to the health of the culture. So you must alternate between making flavoured ones to plain ones.
Ideas for flavouring: Follow the recipe for kombucha provided on this blog, using high quality jasmine-scented tea. You may also use flowering (hand-tied) teas, though this may be a bit of a waste of a beautiful thing (visually speaking), and either white, green or black jasmine teas. They will take on the character of the tea leaf and the flavouring. To the jasmine tea you may want to add a tropical fruit juice, such as mango or guava.
I've also enjoyed immensely a Lavender Early Gray flavoured kombucha. 

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California Star Jasmine

I wasted my afternoon skin glow on trying California Star Jasmine by Pacifica. A perfume so bland and synthetic-smelling that I don't even know why anyone would bother to create something like that. The rest of the line is rather fun and well-done, with some gems (Spanish Amber and French Lilac), and we all know it's possible to create a great scent for under $25 (Old Spice, anyone?), but I wouldn't even waste a dollar on a roll-on of this (and this runs for $11.99). It can't even pass as a decent fake jasmine... And any resemblance to driftwood in the dry down makes one question the copywriter's state of mind.
Too bad.
In any case, my search for jasmine continues.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Keiko Mecheri's Jasmine

Humble Beauty

What's in a name? Plenty. Expectation, mood, and as a result how we perceive a scent has everything to do with what is on the label. And Keiko Mecheri's Jasmine is case in point. Not so much because it was recently renamed Clair-Obscur, but more so because when something is called "Jasmine", "Jasmin", "Gelsomino" or any other variation on the name, once expects it to smell like a Jasminum of this variety or another. Like many other jasmine-named fragrances, this sample was left unattended for many moons until I finally got all obsessed with this note for the July Jasmine summer theme. The reason it was neglected, among the rest, is because it did not really smell like jasmine to me (Did I mention yet that I'm spoiled with all the pure jasmine absolutes I have on hand?).

Jasmine (or Clair-Obscur, if you will), begins as a green, fresh jasmine with a fruity, soapy, shampoo-like personality. It seems to focus on the tea aspects of jasmine, but that does not make it in the least tea-like. Rather, the result is a triple-milled bar of jasmine-gardenia soap. While I can enjoy this type of soap - I would like a jasmine perfume to have more depth and complexity. It took me a few more wears to realize the soapiness comes more from a lily of the valley note than from gardenia, actually. Lily of the valley is a note widely used in functional perfumery, soaps in particular. The notes listed are Sicilian night blooming jasmine and Absolute jasmine. And thankfully, once the soapy-tea-greens dry out, there is more of the absolute coming through.

bubble and squeaky clean

It's overall pleasant and agreeable, but smells more fake than authentic (which seems to be a repeated problem with all but a couple of the jasmine perfumes I've sampled so far), and does stand out as particularly original or true to the flower either. But thankfully, this is rectified about an hour or two into wearing it, at which point I felt quite ridiculous for not recognizing the Lily of the Valley sooner. It has something in its evolution reminiscent of non other than Diorissimo! Once the soapy green notes and lily of the valley (not quite realistic as Diorissimo) dissipate, I'm left with a true jasmine absolute on my skin. A development that I've only experienced with Diorissimo. So far - most of the jasmine fragrances I've sampled, if they smelled compelling at all, had a rather brief jasmine phase, and were quickly replaced by a repeated theme of musk and vanilla. Kudos for Keiko Mecheri for creating something that smells like true jasmine in the dryout, and remain that way for a while so we can enjoy it.

So what's in a name, you ask? If the name had alluded to lily of the valley in some manner, I would have enjoyed my first wear better, instead of being disappointed that it smells like soap. Anticipation plays an important role in how we experience the world - and fragrance in particular. Now that I told you what you're up for, go and try it out and enjoy a well-made lily of the valley and jasmine perfume.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Drama Nuii

Bunch of Jasmine
Drama Nuii is a rather jasmine-y concoction from Parfumerie Generale. Not my favourite among their offering, but worth mentioning in our jasmine-context this month. It is not all dark as the name suggests, but rather a fun, fruity rendition of the flower, with a rather convincing, semi-realistic jasmine opening counterbalanced with a surprisingly melony note. It's not as watery-powdery and obvious as this may read - but rather a juicy and surprisingly balanced; almost like candied zucca - with a hint of salt.

It dries down into a musky-lemony thing. Not bad, but quite disappointing after the rather interesting opening, that was both original and far more jasmine-like than half of the perfumes I've been testing since this jasmine marathon began... It's neither particularly dramatic, nor night like (I think Nuii is a play on a Thai word that would translate this into "über-drama" or something along these lines; but also sounds like "Nuit", night in French). More like the morning after, perhaps.

Notes include: petitgrain, absinthe, jasmine, spices, guaiac wood, sandalwood, musk (but what I'm smelling is jasmine, peach/apricot, cantaloupe, vanilla, lemon and musk). 

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peach-Scented Jasmin

Peach Scented Jasmine

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's Jasmin is from Les Fleurs Divines collection - which seems to be a dedicated to soliflore fragrances. This particular perfume was inspired by the jasmine plantations near Fez in Morocco.

Jasmin begins with a musky-woody jasmine accord, a tad rosy with a hint of tart citrus - almost lemony but note quite. There are particular aspects of jasmine that seem to dominate in this composition, namely the animalic/indolic part, and a fruity note that gives off a suade-like texture, like peach's fuzz (perhaps undecalactone, or so-called aldehyde C-14).

Jasmin is very pretty, delicate and ethereal but still with some substance. It reminds me a lot of Yvresse (formerly Champagne) by YSL, with its sparkling, fuzzy peach top notes - fruity but also slightly milky and skin-like. But it's more subtle and less obviously Chypre (the moss here is just a tiny hint). Another surprising similarity is to Petit Guerlain, of all things - a similarity that becomes more apparent in the dry down, which makes me wonder if there is any lavender as well hidden in its formula.

Jasmin also brings to mind of Narcotic Flower by 1000 Flowers, which also has similar fruity and indolic accents only it's more light and less of a beachy Floriental. It is more like a garden on a humid, rainy summer day. There is no big statement in Jasmin.  It's beautiful, and that is enough. In addition, there is more authenticity to it than most of the jasmine fragrances I've smelled so far. The photo above is of a Jasminum officinale that I've photographed in Jerusalem many years ago and titled "Peach-scented Jasmine". Jasmine truly can smell quite peachy!

Top notes: Lemon, Rose, Peach
Heart notes: Jasmine, Indole 
Base notes: Oakmoss, Musk

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Monday, July 20, 2015


Alien orchid

When Alien initially came out  in 2005, I was disappointed. It seemed so tame in comparison to its predecessor Angel, and even when placed against the more subdued flankers of that one (Angel Innocent), it stroke me as a cacophony of nondescript synthetic florals.

Ten years have gone by, maybe my sample has improved with time, or maybe I'm just more able to appreciate some of the thinking behind this strange perfume. Now it smells like an upscale version of the sweet florals that celebrities are overeager to endorse, but also - it smells like it has a bit of the Angel DNA in it, and not in the form of cotton candy, patchouli or berries - but rather with the spacious, watery-ozonic Helional that matches to a T the hideous, dangerous-looking bottle that looks like it comes from Lady Gaga's stash of torture gadgets.

alien by thierry mugler 2

The opening has a peculiar camphor off-note, that makes it smell almost genderless or even a tad masculine. It's not quite green but there is also a hint of menthol as well. These two consecutively confusing impressions disappear within a few seconds, and there is a hit of jasmine sambac's gardenia-like quality, a hint of its grassy, oily greeness, the type you'd get in a disastrous Jasmine auriculatum absolute - but thankfully, that also is very short lived. Next up is a vaguely fruity, lactonic, sweet-floral phase. There isn't a particular fruit involved, but just an overall juicy luscious aroma of methyl anthranilate and perhaps undecalactone and peach lactone, and then it bounces off to camphor/menthol territory again. With all of this movement upfront, at least I it's not boring for the first few minutes.

While I can't say I'm enamoured with Alien, I can see something in it beyond the generic and notice hints of odd, off-beat nuances. It's not as striking as you'd expect by the washed-out face of the Tilda Swinton-esque model, who seems startled by the headlight of a passing spaceship. If you look past the yawn-inducing aspects of it that bring to mind Chanel's Allure, you'll notice a tiny bit of Lolita Lempicka in there, something yummy yet not quite chocolate-y, not quite licorices-like, but a subdued spicy-vanilla of sorts that makes it quite enjoyable overall, actually. Another surprise for me was, though, that a few hours in, it morphs into a fragrance very similar to Tocade - a powdery, vanillin ambreine floral, though unlike Tocade, there is nothing rosy about it, even though the jasmine is mostly gone by then. Just a similar balance between powdery, clean yet sweet amber and musk.

Top notes: Camphor, Menthol, Bergamot 
Heart notes: Jasmine sambac, Jasmine auriculatum, Methyl anthranilate, Helional
Base notes: Vanillin, Musk, Amber, Anisaldehyde 

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jasmin Full

Sunset @ Sunset Beach

Montale's take on jasmine is a tropical night-time fantasy. Like most of the jasmine fragrances I've been reviewing for this July Jasmine feature - this is from a sample that was sent to me via a swap on one board or another. And like most of the jasmines - I felt underwhelmed when I initially smelled it. With this particular one, I even put it aside completely because I found it to be way too synthetic and chemically smelling.

Let a few years go by, and wait till summer - things are thankfully improving for this perfume. I find summer in general to be THE season for white florals. Something about the heat and humidity that simply brings out the best from such scents. Perhaps its no coincidence that this is their blooming season as well.

Worn on a warm summery Sunday afternoon, Jasmin Full is a creamy, full-bodied white floral that makes my mind wander to the beach-side resort around sunset. Sand lilies are in bloom and nearby jasmine and honeysuckle vines give off their best perfume, filling the night air with magic and anticipation. My skin smells like I've spend most of the afternoon swimming and sunbathing, and probably wearing one or another of those tropical-smelling sunscreens that I love to indulge in: a sunscreen lotion that reeks of juicy mango, papaya and pineapple, laced with tiaré and plumeria and underlined with sweet and creamy coconut. And then there is also Guerlain Terracotta Eau Sous la Vent - to which this perfume is almost identical to, but a bit darker and warmer, to make it bikini-tailored to a night time beach party.

Jasmin Full is not particularly jasmine-y, and if anything is more similar to turberose - so I'm not sure I would have called it Jasmin Full. It's also very similar to Songes, but more tropical smelling (a tad of coconut, perhaps?), and is also similar to the original formulation of Tiaré by Comptoir Sud Pacifique. But it does bring to mind a full moon, beach, summer, tropical white florals, and is an all-around fun and easy to wear on a summer night (or afternoon).

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Éclat de Jasmin

Backlit Jasmine

Armani Privé Éclat de Jasmin begins like a demure, soapy floral (reminiscent of AnaisAnais) and then develops into a slightly powdery jasmine accentuated by rose. As hints of osmanthus peer through this almost-genuinely jasmine-y bouquet, it seems a bit promising, actually. Underneath, a fruitchouli base begins to develop, bringing to mind hints of the raspy Notorious (Ralph Lauren) and Allure Sensuelle - though not as sickeningly cloying as the latter. This is only how it plays in the first hour or two, after which point it turns into the jasmine-y version of Narciso Rodriguez' eponymous eau de toilette, i.e.: instead of the fake orange blossom in the latter you get little bit of jasminesque accents over plenty of musk. Not my favourite jasmine by any stretch, but if you like confusing florals, give this one a try.

Top notes: Bergamot, Plum, Lemon
Heart notes: Jasmine, Osmanthus, Rose
Base notes: Patchouli, Amber, Vetiver

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea

Like an emerald jewel Jasmine Tea perfume is deep green and sweet.
Although Jasmine flowers and Green Tea are themed in this perfume, it is not quite as dry or floral as you would expect a Jasmine Tea to be – but indeed quite edible!
Instead, it is like an earthy-herbal candied celebration of greenery.
Blood orange opens the almost-culinary experience  with fruity freshness, along with beautifully balanced floral heart of rich and full bodied jasmine (both Sambac and Grandiflorum) tea-like Osmanthus, and the sweetness of Rose and Rosemary absolute.
The underlining base accord of Green Tea, Cedar Absolute and Fir Absolute along with the citrus and floral bouquet creates a sweet and earthy impression that is both warm and vibrant.

The talented Lisa Fong from Artemisia Perfumes have created this perfume solely from natural essences. Lisa Fong’s style is that of refined elegance, which brings to mind Jo Malone’s perfumery, which emphasizes the individual ingredients. However, I do find these perfumes to possess a far greater depth and originality.
Of all her creations, Jasmine Tea is the sweetest – though not in the least cloying. It is an original and uplifting Gourmand.
Artemisia's other fragrances can be found at

Top notes:  Blood orange, Rosewood
Heart notes: Jasmine Grandiflorum, Jasmine Sambac, Osmanthus, Rose, Rosemary Absolute
Base notes: Green Tea Absolute, Cedar Absolute, Fir Absolute

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jasmine: Fragrant Stars

Flowers-15 - 091-jasminum grandiflorum, Spanish or Catalonian Jasmine

Have you ever smelled jasmine? If you haven't, how could I communicate to you the sublime beauty that is engulfed in these tiny fragrant stars? To describe a scent that was never experienced is even more difficult than describing a complex dance choreography over the phone to a blind person. But I will try my best: 

Jasmine is as dewy as dawn itself, as sultry as a humid summer night. It's the first rays of sun through your bedroom window, and as dark as an insomniac's never-ending night. It's the sunny honeybee and at the same time a grey, dusty moth. Jasmine's elusive blossoms correspond to Luna, the moon, yet are able to create a solar energy within a dark, brooding perfume. Jasmine is associated with the sign of Cancer that is in rule most of July, and which is the only zodiac sign that is is ruled by the moon. And also, this is partly the time of the year when it is harvested for perfumery. 

Jasmine is the morning sunlight through a petal, freshly opened buds of tea-like heaven, a shining evening star, and at the same time the decaying dying blossoms with brownish indole edges, the haunting fragrance of an overindulged romance that can ran itself to the ground. Jasmine is as high-pitched as Mozart's Queen of the Night yet has Joan Sutherland's warm timbre, so that even the most volatile notes do not sound shrieking. Jasmine blossoms open both at dawn and dusk, has been cultivated for hundreds of years, and continues to inspire poets and perfumers.

The complexity and emotional impact of jasmine are both beautifully portrayed in the following two poems, by Yusef Komunyakaa and Giovanni Pascoli: 


by Yusef Komunyakaa

I sit beside two women, kitty-corner
to the stage, as Elvin's sticks blur
the club into a blue fantasia.
I thought my body had forgotten the Deep
South, how I'd cross the street
if a woman like these two walked
towards me, as if a cat traversed
my path beneath the evening star.
Which one is wearing jasmine?
If my grandmothers saw me now
they'd say, Boy, the devil never sleeps.
My mind is lost among November
cotton flowers, a soft rain on my face
as Richard Davis plucks the fat notes
of chance on his upright
leaning into the future.
The blonde, the brunette--
which one is scented with jasmine?
I can hear Duke in the right hand
& Basic in the left
as the young piano player
nudges us into the past.
The trumpet's almost kissed
by enough pain. Give him a few more years,
a few more ghosts to embrace--Clifford's
shadow on the edge of the stage.
The sign says, No Talking.
Elvin's guardian angel lingers
at the top of the stairs,
counting each drop of sweat
paid in tribute. The blonde
has her eyes closed, & the brunette
is looking at me. Our bodies
sway to each riff, the jasmine
rising from a valley somewhere
in Egypt, a white moon
opening countless false mouths
of laughter. The midnight
gatherers are boys & girls
with the headlights of trucks
aimed at their backs, because
their small hands refuse to wound
the knowing scent hidden in each bloom.
- Poem via 

Night Blooming Jasmine

by Giovanni Pascoli

 And in the hour when blooms unfurl
thoughts of my loved ones come to me.
           The moths of evening whirl
           around the snowball tree.

Nothing now shouts or sings;
one house only whispers, then hushes.
           Nestlings sleep beneath wings,
           like eyes beneath their lashes.

From open calyces there flows
a ripe strawberry scent, in waves.
           A lamp in the house glows.
           Grasses are born on graves.

A late bee sighs, back from its tours
and no cell vacant any more.
           The hen and her cheeping stars
           cross their threshing floor.

All through the night the flowers flare,
scent flowing and catching the wind.
           The lamp now climbs the stair,
           shines from above, is dimmed...

It’s dawn: the petals, slightly worn,
close up again—each bud to brood,
           in its soft, secret urn,
           on some yet-nameless good.

- Poem via

Botanical History

Jasmine is from the Oleaceae family and has originated either in either Persia, the Himalayan valley or India. Planting of jasmines (both official and sambac) were recorded as early as 3rd Century CE in China, and in the 9th Century, where it was indicated the plants came from Byzantium.But it was not until the 16th or 17th Century that it has found its way to Europe - with the Arab trade and Muslim concurs in the Middle Ages. It has been naturalized and cultivated in southern Europe as well as North Africa, and was adopted as an ornamental garden plant, where its scent can be enjoyed also in the evening after dark. Ecologically speaking, flowers like jasmine provide nectar and pollen for nocturnal insects such as moths. Their milky-white petals were also appreciated by other nocturnal creatures such as the Goth-inspirin ladies of Victorian times, who were eager to preserve their pale complexion and for them Moon Gardens were planted, with white night blooming flowers, among which was jasmine. 

Traditional and Modern Extraction Methods

The Indians employed a "Sesame enfleurage"of sorts to obtain the fine perfume of jasmine. This was achieved by scattering jasmine blossoms among sesame seeds, in several batches. Once the seeds have absorbed the jasmine's fragrance, they would be pressed to produce a fragrant oil. Hot oil infusion of jasmine flowers - either J. grandiflorum or J. sambac - which then may or may not be blended into a sandalwood oil to produce the prized Attars - traditional Indian perfumes. The one from sambac is called Attar Motia; and the grandiflorum produces an Attar Chameli or Chambeli. 
Image from page 419 of "Chambers's encyclopedia; a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people" (1871)
Enfleurage, one of the earlier modern methods (only about 250 years old) to obtain the scent of flowers that do not yield themselves to steam distillation such as jasmine, was developed in Grasse, France. With this extraction method, freshly picked flowers are arranged on trays onto which semi-solid fat is spread (usually of animal origin, with a mixture of tallow and lard achieving optimal results). This fat has to be as odourless and as insoluble in alcohol as possible. Flowers are left on these trays for extended periods of time to lend their fragrance to the fat; then, they are replaced with a new batch of flowers. It typically takes 36 batches of flowers for the desired result to be achieved before the pommade is ready for extraction. It is then washed by alcohol to produce an extrait, from which an absolute from pommade is the final result (used very much like other absolutes).
Most jasmines nowadays are produced by solvent extraction (using either hexane or previously, petroleum ether). That produces a concrete, which is treated with alcohol to separate the fragrant and precious absolute. Some of the jasmine odour stays behind within floral wax (a by-product of the solvent extraction), which is an interesting material to use in body products (body butters, soaps, etc.) and candles. I've seen references in literature to a "jasmine essential oil" that is produced from steam distillation of the absolute [4], but have never encountered it in real life, and have no idea what value such a product will hold - as many of the volatile materials in jasmine will be ruined in such high temperatures, making it a wasteful and costly raw material. I also can't see the value of this from a therapeutic standpoint - as the essence would have been already treated with synthetic solvents in the earlier stages of extraction. Traditional aromatherapists wouldn't be using either method because of their belief that trace amounts of the solvent are present in the finished product (which is highly unlikely).

191/365 - short-lived sweetness

Another interesting jasmine product is absolute from châssis: The exhausted flowers of enfleurage are called “châssis” (also the name of the trays in which the flowers and fat are arranged). These are further processed in hydrocarbon solvent to produce concrete from châssis, after they’ve been recovered from the solvent. Jasmine châssis is the most famous example of such a product that can still be obtained today. It provides an unusual scent, that is indole-free, and more reminiscent of orange blossom in its dark, fruity earthiness.

CO2 extraction of jasmine is also available, but only from the concrete. So again, we meet with a  similar problem - it really poses no real value as far as the trace amount concerns (or any other issues with having synthetic solvents involved in the process of extraction). I've also found the finished products both inferior to the absolute with alcohol; and also just as expensive as the jasmine absolutes on the market - if not more. It is likely to include some of the floral waxes though, so that will give a more complete representation of the flower. However, floral waxes don't dissolve in alcohol so they will be filtered out in the process of perfume-making anyway, and will only hold value in oil-based products or cosmetic formulations such as lotions, creams and butters.

Alternatives to solvent extractions are currently being tested on small-scale, for example: vegan enfleurage, and using benign solvents to produce truly organic products from start to finish. I have sampled some of these products, but have found their quality to be inconsistent so far and the price far from competitive. Considering the high cost of jasmine absolute, this makes it very difficult to consider for commercial production, even on a small scale in an artisan fragrance house. These products are mostly valuable for personal use and in aromatherapy or other holistic, natural healing models.


Arabic, Persian, Hebrew: Yasmin
Chinese: Yeh-hsi-ming
Urdu: Motia (usually found in the form of Attar Motia - Jasmine sambac distilled into sandalwood oil)
Italian: Gelsomino
French: Jasmin (silent "n")
In English, it is also referred to as Jasmine, Jasmin, Jessamine, Poet's Jasmine and Common Jasmine.

In India, jasmine is referred to as "Queen of the Night", because its perfume intensifies after dark. Also, Motia is the name for the essence of J. sambac, and that from J. grandiflorum is called Chembali or Chemali.

Faux Jasmines

Other so-called "jasmines" that should not be confused with the real thing:
1. Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), AKA Star Jasmine.
2. Poor Man's Jasmine (Ylang Ylang) neither looks nor smells remotely similar to jasmine, and deserves much more credit and admiration than just being a substitute for something it is not. If your nose has hard time discerning between the two - note that jasmine has significant amount of
3. Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis floribunda) is a tropical plant that despite its white flowers and heavenly scent, is not related to jasmine in any shape or form; but rather belongs  to the Asclepiadaceae family.
4. Jasmine nightshade (Solanum jasminoides) is a plant I'm unfamiliar with, but judging by its name, is also fragrant and reminiscent of jasmine. 
There are other species with the same "surname", i.e. Gardenia jasminoides, which is also called "Cape Jasmine". 
5. Gelsemium is also known as Carolina Jasmine 
6. Jasmine rice is a type of long-grain, flavourful rice from Thailand, that owes its pandal-leaf-like aroma to 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, the same molecule that gives basmati rice its distinctive fragrant quality. It has a more subtle aroma than basmati rice though.
7.  Brazillian Jasmine 
8. New Zealand Jasmine (Parsonsia capsularis)
9.  Red Jasmine is really a red frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
10. "Night Blooming Jasmine" really is Nyctanthes arbor-tristis and "Night-Flowering Jasmine" is the sweetly fragrance Cestrum nocturnum, which is also mis-named "Honeysuckle", at least in Hebrew (Ya'ara).

Cultural Significance of Jasmine 

Jasmine is held in high regard the world over, and particularly in Asia and the Middle East. Kama, the Indian god of love, pierces people's heart with arrows that are topped with jasmine flowers. Sufi poets  mention jasmine in their poems of longing for the divine and to express sensuality and love, for example: The Jasmine of the Fedeli d'Amore by Ruzbehan Baqli (a Persian sufi poet that lived from 1128–1209). [2]

Jasmine sambac is the national flower of the Philippines and Indonesia; Jasmine officinale is the national flower of Pakistan, and the symbol of Damascus, Syria, which is also called "The City of Jasmine". Jasmine is a symbol of motherhood in Thailand, and is used as leis or necklaces during weddings in India and several other Southeast Asian cultures. Jasmine buds are stored on moist clothes in flower markets in India and are sold while still closed - only to be opened later at night when already adorning a woman's hair both visually and fragrantly. Jasmine flowers were used in China to decorate boat houses and in hair ornaments and bouquets for the (lunar) New Year's Day. [2]

Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Jasmine

In aromatherapy, jasmine is considered both a sedative and a stimulant, depending on how it is used and for whom. It is used to relieve headaches, and is considered to be both intoxicating, uplifting, warming and a tonic (therefore helpful in nervous exhaustion and fatigue). Western traditions associate it with the moon and the womb. It is used to assist women in childbirth and other issues with the womb (as it is considered to bring warmth to that organ), as well as for coughs, breathing challenges, cold and catarrh.

In the emotional realm, jasmine's effect on the brain  is fascinating: it releases encephalon - a neurotransmitter which has a mild analgesic effect. Hence, the smell of jasmine alone can bring a sense of happiness and euphoria, and reduce inhibitions and act as an aphrodisiac. [2] 
The Muslim doctor Al-Khindi entails in his book "Medical Formulary" a "Drug to excite intercourse: Throw in a good oil of jasmine and asafoetida and leave it for some days. Then the male organ is oiled with that oil of jasmine at the time of intercourse. The woman is excited by its contact and she experiences a strong lust". [2]

The Chinese used the J. grandiflorum flowers to treat hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and dysentery. J. sambac was used to treat conjunctivitis, dysentery, skin ulcers and tumours. Jasmine's root was used against headaches, insomnia, and to reduce pain from rheumatism or dislocated joints [4].

Beauty and Cosmetics

Jasmine's beneficial effects on the skin makes it a popular additive to skincare products, particularly facial creams where it can be enjoyed in small proportions - despite its costs. It is helpful for both dry, greasy and sensitive/irritated skin. Aside from its hefty price - the only downside for its use in creams is that due the indole causes them to get a brown discolouration. This can be avoided if using jasmine from châssis.

Varieties of Jasmine

There are about 200 varieties of jasmine. The following summary focuses on those which are most fragrant and are in use in the fragrance and/or flavour industry. 
Jasmine Stars

Jasminum grandiflorum - a variety that is very similar to the J. officinale. Originates from East India, and the most commonly grown for perfumery uses. Unusually, their scent remains even after the flowers have dried - making them a good choice for tisanes and tea blends, as well as potpourri. Other names for it are Royal Jasmine, Catalonian Jasmine, Spanish Jasmine and Chambeli or Chameli (the Indian names for their attar, produced by hot oil infusion).

Jasminum officinale - with golden and silver-edged leaves, and the underneath of the flowers has a pink tint to it. It is used as the base for grafting J. grandiflorum in the South of France.

Jasminmum sambac (AKA Arabian Jasmine) - native to Arabia, and grows wild in India too. Some are single flowered, and some are double-flowered. Some varieties of J. Sambac also have multi-layered petals, similar to gardenia. Sambac jasmine is also called Sampaquita in the Philipines, Pikake in Hawaii, Tea Jasmine and Maid of Orleans.

Jasminum auriculatum, AKA Jasminum trifoliatum (AKA Tuscan Jasmine) - a variety of the Sambac jasmine that has three flowers.

Yellow varieties:
Jasminum nudiflorum (Winter jasmine) and Jasminum revolutum are fragrant yellow-flowered jasmines that original in China.

Jasminum odoratissimum is a Madeira (Portugal) variety but due to its quality of retaining its fragrance after drying, it is also grown in Formosa (Taiwan) where it is used to perfume tea. There have been successful attempts at extracting J. odoratissimum with solvent extraction, albeit with a low yield. The oil was analyzed and revealed to contain zero jasmone (the characteristic jasmine aroma), and the following constituents (compare to J. grandiflorum breakdown above):
6% Linalool
6% Linalyl acetate
1.6% Benzyl acetate
10% Indole and Methyl anthranilate
57% Diterpene or sesquiterpene alcohol

Quelques étoiles de lumière dans notre ciel plombé :)

History and Significance of Grasse Jasmine

In 2009 I've visited the rose and jasmine fields at Mul, in Le Petit Champ de Dieu valley near Grasse. This are one of the very last few growers that still grow jasmine in the region. They have 3 hectares of Jasminum grandiflorum which are the home to about 60,000 jasmine shrubs. These fields are owned by the company of Chanel and are used exclusively for No. 5 parfum extrait. These fields were originally planted by monks who were faced by a common problems: shortage of pickers. This is especially true for the jasmine, since the pickers are paid based on how much they pick - where as in rose harvest, they are paid by the hour. The other problem is finding the market for the finished product. In the olden days, most of the homes in Grasse had little jasmine fields next to them, and they only had to pick the flowers, which they then brought to a cooperative extraction plant in the city for extracting the concrete and absolute (and before that, for enfleurage process). The cooperative took care of the marketing and sales of the finished products. Now most of the jasmine fields are gone because of land development (and the issues mentioned above - which most like has caused the former jasmine growers to sell their land).

Jasmine Harvest

The Jasmine harvest happens in the heat of the summer between August and September between 6-8 weeks, and takes place between 6am-2pm, with two weighings during the day to ensure quality. The jasmine that grows in the microclimate of Grasse produces a very fine aroma - it is far lower in indole, which is higher in Indian Jasmine.

Jasmine Yield

As expected, the yield of jasmine oil varies depending on the the method used (i.e.: enfleurage or solvent extraction). You may be surprised to find out that the yield from enfleurage is much higher than from solvent extraction: 700 kg of flowers are required to produce 1 kg of absolute via solvent extraction; while only 250 kg were needed to make the same amount by enfleurage! 
Yet, in another strange turn of events - it is enfleurage that fell out of favour, while solvent extraction has taken over the majority of production of jasmine extracts. 

How could this be so? The answer lays not only in quantity, but also in quality. The economic reasons of labour-intensive enfleurage are an obvious reason to switch to solvent-extraction. In addition, the quality of the absolute from enfleurage that is produced form flowers that have been macerating in animal fats for 24-48 hours or so is significantly quite different from the absolute. While the yield of enfleurage vs. solvent extraction stands at a ratio of 5:2 - we should not overlook the fact that the dying flowers change their aroma within that wide of a timeframe, and create a finished product with different characteristics and spectrum of odours. 

What Does Jasmine Smell Like? 

Jasmine is an exotic, narcotic and heady white floral note with luscious, fruity, tea-like characteristics. Generally speaking, "White Florals" are very complex, have many aspects because of the may molecules in their chemical makeup (over 100 in jasmine).
Jasmine is particularly interesting because it is simultaneously intoxicating and fresh, heavy when smelled on its own yet shines light on a composition. This is true for  jasmines, although it goes without saying that different jasmine varieties have distcintive odor characteristics (see more below). Likewise, different jasmine extractions highlight different qualities of the flower:

Jasmine grandiflorum absolute: Rich, opulent, special floral animalic notes (such as indole, skatole and paracresol). Floral, animalic, a little orange-flower like. It has a lovely, full-bodied fruity aspect that smoothes it out, giving it a creamy, delicious texture. The fruity note is somewhat reminiscent of white peach, but creamy rather than juicy. I have absolute from India, which is more earthy and indolic; and an absolute from Egypt which is lighter and smells like it has less indole and more hedione. This is how I would imagine the Grasse jasmine to be (although I have yet to encounter the absolute from this region).

Jasmine grandiflorum floral wax: 
Less indolic and of course less strong and complex than the absolute or concrete; but nevertheless holds a true jasmine scent that is unmistakable. My only complaint about this material is that its fragrance fades quite rapidly - so use it up within a year of purchase to prevent disappointments.

Jasmine sambac absolute: Lighter and more fruity than the grandiflorum. Tea-like (because this is the variety used for scenting the famous Chinese green tea). Very close in odour to gardenia. To me it also smells more similar to orange blossom (the methyl anthranilate really comes through). It is not nearly as popular in the West as it is in India, which I think is a shame. I love working with this note to create light, modern and exotic compositions. 

Jasmine grandiflorum concrete:  An even richer form of jasmine, as it encompasses both the floral waxes and the absolute. It is rich, complex, sweet and tenacious with a creamy, smooth backdrop.
Less indolic and of course less strong and complex than the absolute or concrete; but nevertheless holds a true jasmine scent that is unmistakable. My only complaint about this material is that its fragrance fades quite rapidly - so use it up within a year of purchase to prevent disappointments.

Jasmine auriculatum absolute: The greenest of jasmine essences I've ever encountered. I am not at all fond of it, as I feel it is excessively grassy. There might be a problem with the particular specimen I have in my possession, but I can't comment as I haven't smelled others. I have used successfully in moderation to uplift green-floral compositions or to add to masculine fragrances, i.e. Gaucho.

Chemical makeup of jasmine: 

Jasmine contains around 100 constituents, not of all have been identified, and many are present only in minute amount. A general idea of what jasmine absolute (from j. grandiflorum) roughly looks like this:
65% Benzyl acetate
15.5% Linalool
7.5% Linalyl acetate
6% Benzyl alcohol
2.5% Indole (dirty, fecal, animalic, also present in civet – and feces)
3% Cis-Jasmone (the heart of a jasmine, unique to jasmine alone). Please note that there is also another isomeric form of jasmone - trans-jasmone, which is synthetic and usually will be present along synthetic cis-jasmone.
0.5% Methyl anthranilate (a Concord-grape-smelling component that gives jasmine its orange flower characteristic – also present in orange flower absolute, tuberose, ylang ylang and neroli)
Other components are present at trace amounts, of which the following were identified:
Paracresol (also an animalic component, almost leathery-smelling, present in narcissus)
Geraniol (hint of rosy/citrus)
Skatole (gives it a hint of earthy, dung-like smell)
Phenyl acetic acid
Methyl jasmonate
Methyl dihydrojasmonate (Hedione) - which smells floral yet light spacious, and is likely the main ingredient that gives jasmine its unique ability to make any composition feel lighter and more radiant.
Cinnamyl aldehyde (which lends jasmine its warmth and hint of spiciness)

Jasmine Compounding and Reconstitution

Jasmine can be reconstituted from synthetic materials, but the imitation leaves much to be desired.
Generally speaking, cheaper raw materials are used to substitute for the authentic molecules that naturally occur in the absolute or enfleurage.

Benzyl acetate and and amyl cinnamic aldehyde (the latter at no more than 10% of the composition) provide a convincing imitation [4], and to that other elements which may sound surprising may be added to create a more realistic, natural and interesting jasmine base: maté absolute or tea absolute to bring forth the tea-like elements of jasmine; honey absolute to give it more rounded sweetness, tobacco-like raw materials such as chamomile or other "tobacco-leaf-like notes from ester of nicotinic acid (methyl or propyl)" [1] to give it a more believable character that is less flat or harsh. And of course - undecalactone (the "peach aldehyde") can be added to accentuate the fruity/juicy nuances, as well as ethyl methyl phenyl glycidate. Paracresols further enhance the animalic component of a jasmine base (reminiscent of narcissus); while civet, indole or skatole to add the animalic effect; and other floral notes such as ylang ylang, orange blossom absolute, tuberose absolute to round off and complete the methyl anrhanilate theme. One should use caution when using high levels of indole and methyl anthranilate - as they tend to develop a sour aroma over time that is quite unpleasant.

I have a couple of jasmine bases in my possession, both quite well-done - at least enough to fool me in my early days as a perfumer. One is a either a "nature identical" or a fragrance oil that was sold in health food stores in Israel. It's hard to say based on the labeling, and it is quite convincing so I used it before I knew any better. It has a bit of the tea-like quality, as well as a very pleasant fruity aspects of jasmine. It's not too indolic, but just enough to make it believable. I used it primarily to scent the room back in the day, and then in my early attempts at making high-class, resinous loose incense. It's when you burn it that it really gives away the fact that there is something synthetic in there.

The other is a vintage jasmine base that probably originated in one of the reputable European fragrance houses. It came my way as it was used to be sold at an antique jewellery shop, where the naïve owners believed these were vintage extractions or essential oils of labour-intensive flowers that were no longer in production. They had some exceptionally good bases there (even if labeled as essential oils) that they smelled quite believable for the most part, including narcissus, violet flowers, carnation, sweet pea, heliotrope and more. Of course I learned after a while what these are - and stopped using them in my perfumes altogether (I only used a handful of them anyway - ones I could not find anywhere else but thought they were possible to produce naturally, like the narcissus, orange blossom absolute, violet and carnation). Smelling them now is quite fascinating, because I have smelled many more essences every since and I can actually detect particular molecules within them (i.e.: heliotropine, ionones, anisaldehyde, paracresyl, etc.) In any case, this particular jasmine base was more animals, dense and heavy. I think I can detect more paracresol in there. It smells more like decaying jasmine flowers on an enfleurage tray, then the fresh dewy flowers in the (cheaper) nature-identical compound I found at the health-food store in Tel Aviv.

Jasmine's Role in Perfume

"There is no perfume without jasmine", the saying goes. And it is no exaggeration. In many compositions, it is thanks to jasmine that harmony and the feeling that something greater than the sum of its part was achieved. 

Composing with jasmine is a most satisfying, magical experience. It creates space when there was no room to breathe, it shines light on the darkest corners of a composition. The only other material which has a similar importance is rose - both having the ability to round-off a composition, smooth out rough edges, in other words what is called "bouquetting". But while rose can easily dense-up and clutter a composition (especially if it's already heading this direction) - jasmine has the talent of making any accord seem lighter, more put-tother, more pleasant, even if it wasn't quite so before it entered the beaker.

Jasmine is employed in all genres of perfumes. While its appearance is crucial in floral bouquets of the White Floral type and in Ambery Florals, AKA Florientals, it is also important as part of the bouquet of other Floral perfumes where it may play a less central role, contributing to the overall "floral" feel.

Jasmine makes more subtle appearances in the floral bouquets of any genre, including masculine fragrances:

Oriental Ambery perfumes need jasmine like air to breathe. In the first perfume of that genre, Shalimar, the jasmine's fruity and sweet character helps to create a more smooth transition between the bergamot top notes and the syrupy sweet amber base (vanilla, labdanum, tonka bean, benzoin...) and creates not only a seamless ambreine accord but an entire symphony that plays fluidly from start to finish.

Oriental Spicy or Oriental Woody compositions require jasmine's lighthearted character to create a more spacious feel in what otherwise would have been a depressing pile of sawdust or heaps of medicinal-smelling spices. Even the tiniest amount of jasmine creates that feeling in such compositions, lifting up notes that could otherwise be overbearing, i.e. patchouli, cloves, etc. Opium is one excellent example, where the jasmine and mandarin oranges lighten up a dark melange of opoponax, myrrh, patchouli and eugenol-rich spices. Eau d'Hermes creates a similar juxtaposition with citrus and spice when it pairs jasmine with lemon and cumin to creates an original and timelessly off-beat masterpiece.

Chypre could never be the harmonious, cohesive, unified entity that we know from masterpieces such as Mitsouko, Femme, Miss Dior, No. 19, Crépe de Chine and countless others. Without jasmine, these masterpieces could have easily been a brown-mishmash of herbs and moss. It's jasmine, first and foremost that puts them in order and makes them smell like perfume.

Masculine fragrances such as the Fougère and Citrus Aromatic families benefit form jasmine's harmony-inducing qualities. Even the tiniest amount of pure jasmine absolutes adds its sunny presence, and brings out the best of otherwise contradicting elements. Case in point are Eau Sauvage, in which the methyl hydrojasmonate (Hedione) makes a staggering 40% of the composition, and making an otherwise dark and geriatric melange of moss, hay, basil and medicinal herbs smell happy and confident. Eau Sauvage's creative use of jasmine influenced countless other manly scents, including the iconic Azzaro. With its anisic and herbaceous character, it could have easily been a soapy, powdery Fougère like Canoe. However, the liberal use of citrus and the addition of a rather small amount of jasmine shines light on those elements and makes them look so much better than before.

Notable jasmine-y perfumes

The following list includes some fragrances in which jasmine plays a significant role, or at least is supposed to - but mostly perfumes that focus on jasmine as a theme (as a soliflore of sorts - some of which I don't necessary love or recommend). As it turns out, it is very difficult to find a remarkable soliflore jasmine, Companies are simply too cheap to use enough of the real thing to make it convincing, so sadly jasmine soliflores are in my opinion, leaving much more to be desired. Add to that the fact that I've grown up surrounded by the real flowers, and been fortunate to work with the best jasmine absolutes for the past 14 years - and you'll see why it's easy to disappoint me. I'd be curious to hear which jasmines are your favourites and continue my search for the perfect jasmine perfume!

A La Nuit (Serge Lutens)
Alien (Thierry Mugler) - Jasmine sambac blown up by Helional
Arpége (Lanvin) - a succession of floral notes, jasmine being one of them
California Star Jasmine (Pacifica) - not even a star jasmine, and only barely-wearable
Diorissimo (Dior) - Breathtaking Lily of the Valley masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska. Look for the vintage or better yet - the extract, where the jasmine absolute is quite evident, as are the green notes and boronia.
Donna Karan Essence: Jasmine (Donna Karan) - realistic jasmine
Drama Nuii (Parfumerie Generale) - fruity-lemony jasmine with musk 
Eau d'Hermes (Hermes) - jasmine with lemon and cumin 
Emotionnelle (Parfums DelRae) - Jasmine, violet and cantaloupe
Eau Sauvage (Christian Dior) - Hedione galore (a staggering 40%) in the heart of the father of all masculines. 
Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska, which means you must try it (look for vintage)
Éclat de Jasmin (Armani Privé) - soapy yet raspy jasmine-rose riding on a well-behaved fruitchouli and turning into Narciso Rodriguez  shortly after 
Fig (Aftelier) - jasmine and fir absolute
Honeysuckle & Jasmine (Jo Malone)
Ikat Jasmine (Aerin) 
Jasmal (Creed) - jasmine and rose 
Jasmin Full (Montale) - tropical jasmine candy
Jasmin de Nuit (The Different Company) - jasmine popsicle, with lemon and vanilla 
Jasmin (Maître Parfumeur et Gantier) - Peachy jasmine 
Jasmine AKA Clair-Obscur (Keiko Mecheri) - Soapy lily of the valley and jasmine 
Jasmine (Madini) - jasmine fragrance oil, that is priced high and smells cheap
Jasmine (Scent Systems) - grassy-fresh jasmine  
Jasmine Dawn & Dusk (Velvet & Sweetpea's Purrfumery) - herbaceous, indolic jasmine (botanical perfume)
Jasmine Phoclear and transparent jasmine tea against fresh cilantro, basil and lime as they steep in a freshly brewed Vietnamese Pho noodle soup (botanical perfume).
Jasmine Tea (Artemisia Perfumes) - bejewelled jasmine green tea, with fir, osmanthus and green tea
Jasmine Rouge (Tom Ford) - realistically luxurious jasmine
Joy (Patou) - jasmine and rose
Le Parfum de Thérèse - jasmine, plum and basil sorbetto. Masterpiece by Edmond Roudnitska 
Moon Breath - jasmine and incense (botanical perfume) 
Opium (YSL) - jasmine, orange, patchouli and spices
Pink Jasmine (Fresh)
Poet's Jasmine (Ineke) - jasmine and tea

Private Collection Jasmine White Moss (Estee Lauder) - hedione and evernyl, rebranded
Sarrasins (Serge Lutens) - scary jasmine, or more accurately: a bucketful of indolic buckwheat honey.
Samsara (Guerlain) - jasmine and sandalwood

Sampaguita Jasmine (40 Notes)
Sampaquita (Ormonde Jayne) - modern Chypre with grassy jasmine
Sira des Indes (Patou) - jasmine banana

Songes (Annick Goutal) - jasmine ylang ylang heaven
White Jasmine & Mint (Jo Malone) - refreshing play on jasmine, with the addition of spearmint

Yasmin - jasmine soliflore (botanical perfume) 

[1] Arctander, Steffen, “Perfume and Flavor materials of natural origin,” Allured Publishing, 1994
[2]Lawless, Julia "Aromatherapy and the Mind: The Psychological and Emotional Effects of Essential Oils", HarperCollins Canada/Thorsons, 1994
[3] Lawless, Julia "The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatics in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-Being" Element Book Limited, 1992
[4] Poucher, W.a., “Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps with Speical reference to Synthetics Vol. 2 Being a treatise on the Production, manufacture and application of Perfumes of all types,” d. Van nostrand Company inc., 1959 (7th edition)

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