Monday, October 26, 2015

Sandal Ale for Oktoberfest

Visit EauMG's section to discover quirky and unusual scents for fall, handpicked by Victoria Jent, including Sandal Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest! 
"This such an unusual fragrance but it’s so nifty. It’s like an Indian Pale Ale with sandalwood. It’s really interesting."
Sandal Ale was previously reviewed on EauMG.  If you wish to purchase it, visit my new online boutique!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Signs of Springs

"Having a collection, taking it out, looking at it, reordering it, and putting it away is creative in itself. It doesn't yield a product, like the results of an art, but is stops time, as making art does.”
― Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72

The notion of artists as collectors is not new to me. It isn't lost on me either. Just like making art, collecting involves seeking and searching, contemplating, arranging, rearranging and editing. And both are driven by an obsession with a particular subject (or few). There are many aspects of collecting that are meditative and contemplative, such as gathering, sorting, organizing.

noun col·lec·tion \kə-ˈlek-shən\
: the act or process of getting things from different places and bringing them together

: a group of interesting or beautiful objects brought together in order to show or study them or as a hobby

: a request for money in order to help people or to pay for something important; also : the money collected in this way

Children like to collect things - rocks, shells, leaves, flowers, bottle caps... Stamps, cards, puppets, dolls, toy cars, stickers and stationary. They'd seek them feverishly, willing to give away a disproportionate chunk of their wealth to acquire the "missing piece"; or gather them sporadically, with mixed levels of interest. They'll keep them somewhere safe and share them with no one, or they'll show them off, trade them, or even give them away (to someone who would really, truly appreciate it as much as they do).

If the little versions of ourselves with uncompromised-yet creativity and innate sense of playfulness are often collectors - there must be a deep reason and a need for it. Perhaps practice for our future survival, as hunters-gatherers. Collecting berries, medicine herbs, sticks, rocks and other resources for crafting aids for our survival such as weapons and tools. Additionally, the continuous seeking out and sorting makes sense of the world around us and cultivates the cognition, teaching skills such as counting, categorizing, laying out the collection and taking stock are skills we now take for granted only because most of us are so well practiced in them, unintentionally. Seeing what's missing in it or what we have too much of and can give away, share, or save for later...

Perfume Collection

The existence of the collection itself creates a sense of identity, connection to the world around us, point of reference, something to notice, or just pass the time (could that be our mission on this planet, anyway?). Many of my customers are perfume collectors, and I understand their desires because I am one of them - with a collection of 70 or so full sized bottles of vintage, classics and modern concoctions, a dozens of miniatures and decants, and an countless samples that in order to be able to actually make sense of I created two storing systems for - index cards; and a curated collection of samples sorted by categories - such as fragrance families (Chypre, Floriental, etc.) or  a dominant note (patchouli, vetiver, musk, etc.).

Tea Perfumes Collection
1:  the act or process of collecting
2 a :  something collected; especially :  an accumulation of objects gathered for study, comparison, or exhibition or as a hobby
b :  group, aggregate
c :  a set of apparel designed for sale usually in a particular season

Add to that my own perfume line, which is grouped into 5 different "collections" - i.e. "Liquid Poetry",  "Agent Moriel" and "Language of Flowers" and the notion of creating collections as means for organizing, categorizing, branding or communicating a concept is one of the main benefits of creating collections. These are similar to the third meaning of "collection" in the above definition, but also signify a thread that connects these creations to one another - a more abstract concept, if you will.

Which brings me to the next inquisitive part regarding collections: is there meaning for each part of the collection on and of itself; of do they only have an aggregate meaning, when positioned together as a group? Would a rock with a hole in the middle be more special on its own; or does it become more meaningful if one starts collecting other rocks with hole in the middle, or thread them on a shoelace to keep them together? Would a fresh bud or a fiddlehead or a new leaf have a significance on their own - or is it only together that they become the embodiment of spring? I will not pretend to have the answers, but this is one of the things that the process of collecting initiates.

Sample Collection

Being a perfumer also means that my odoriferous collection contains not only an astounding amount of vintage classics and modern olfactive works of art, but also raw materials in various amounts and sizes of bottles, vats and sample vials (which I also organize in an indexed card system). Perfumers are ever on a mission to find new, exotic raw materials. They're the forerunners of the concept of travel as luxury. I, for one, prefer to be an armchair traveller - or more so - a bench traveller, seated by my perfumer's organ, and take a trip down memory lane, which may take me thousands if not millions of years back to the beginning of time when our ancestors first lit fire and experienced the phenomenon of pyrolysis; or ancient rituals utilizing the most ancient incense (frankincense and myrrh).

Over the years, I learned that both the perfumes and raw materials are like vats of frozen memories. Like the magical glass orbs in the Hall of Prophecy, if they are uncorked, or unintentionally spilled - the sensations, emotions and deep meaning of a situation or an entire period in your life can be re-experience. All one needs to do is open a vial and be reminded of random life events that were marked with a fragrance: The scent of the deodorant you wore in highschool, the smell of your first boyfriend's aftershave, grandma's home (and her dresser in particular), and so on and so forth. And if the fragrant collection is actually used - the feelings, sensations, memories and meanings will deepend and create new layers as we live with a perfume in a new situation; or create a different connection to a raw material, noticing a new nuance that our trained nose can now detect (after smelling something else).

Portable "Organ"

This is what I've been busying over in the past couple of weeks: I've been going over my collection of raw materials, and making organized notes of all the mental notes, sensations and memories that I've had in response to them over the years. As I smell champaca CO2, for example, I don't only recall the first time I've smelled this raw material; but also the delicious, ambery-incense-like dryout on the scent strip, reminiscent of the Nag Champa incense I'd burn in my 20s when I wanted to make my little apartment feel relaxed and luxurious (unfortunately, now that I discovered better quality incense sticks, I eschew these cheap joss sticks altogether and need to order most of my incense online or wait for a friend to go to Japan for a visit and bring me more). And, wait! I suddenly detect a surprising note of grape-scented markers (an aspect in champaca that is more obvious to me now that I've smelled methyl methyl anthranilate as an isolated molecule).

And then, just like creativity, a collection has its own cycles within its existence: The feverish spark that ignites a new obsession (or re-activates an old one), followed by a disturbed mental state where one feels continuously discontent: searching, researching, seeking out new specimens to populate the collection, feeling restlessness until the desired object is found. Once it was acquired, though, there will be a sad sense of emptiness, of feeling lost now that the need to find something is no longer there. Just like the artist, the collector will ask herself: "What is my purpose now?". A period of dormancy will ensue, in which either there will be no interest in the collection whatsoever, or, a not any less obsessive arranging, rearranging, in a process not unlike soul-searching, purging of unnecessary elements, editing, so to speak, and then perhaps also regretting that we've let go of something beautiful; yet it's all part of the process in which we figure out what is now missing from it. And then the cycle will repeat itself.   

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Monday, October 19, 2015


Practicing for the recital

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”- Stephen McCranie 

Glancing at the dictionary definitions of the word "Practice" is quite insightful. Practice isn't merely a preparation, rehearsal for the "real thing". Practice IS the real thing. You've got to "practice what you preach" and only by repetition of your skill (practicing it, over and over again), will you be able to actively pursue a profession, and "practice" it or open your "practice".

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés talks about practice in her book "The Creative Fire: Myths and Stories on the Cycles of Creativity". She reveals to the readers the dirty secret of many creative people: she has written thousands  upon thousands of pages of stories, poems, thoughts, etc. Out of those, many should never be read by a living person. They are that horrible. But it is through those pages, that an artist practices her skills - sharpens her pencil, so to speak - and every so often, is able to create a gem - a story that will be told and retold a hundred times, published and read many more.

These reflections on creativity brought me to think about my own craft. It is one of the hardest thing to teach, yet twice a year students from all over the place gather at my studio for a week, and try their hands at the art of perfumery. I have witnessed countless blending sessions in which students got easily frustrated, or were even angry at themselves for producing something "disgusting" (although I have a  strict rule about not using such strong words in those sessions, they sometimes just come out of their mouths) or making a tiny mistake that they worried will never be fixed. As I accompany them on those little expeditions of perfume making, I can't help but remember my moments of frustration at the bench. Too much of this, or too little of that. Being hang-up on a concept or a vision, and not following what I smell. So what if the starting point was ingredient X, and now you're inclined to abandon it altogether for another exciting combination that popped along the way? This is all part of practice, part of learning - which eventually will create something beautiful that you'd like to dab on any other person on the street.

In the past couple of years, I've been immersed more deeply in the practice of movement - namely Pilates and Middle Eastern dance - both requiring hours of practice. Exercising the muscles and learning the choreography or the movements is only a small part of it. Feeling, sensing, experiencing the moves, the dance and the breath - that's the core of "practice" and of the art itself. I recalled the hours spent at the piano, going over and over a single bar in a  particular movement in a Beethoven sonata. Re-connecting with the emotions that this particular part brings; re-experieincing the sensations of the tips of my fingers on the keyboard. This takes time, which of course we eventually run out of; but it's also part of the art - whether of not there is an audience to it. The practice it not just the concert or the dance performance. It's the actual dancing, playing or singing, wherever and whenever it takes place. And thankfully int these art forms - you don't run out of materials, just grow old with them...

Which brings me to another quote by a famous cartoonist: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep"(Scott Adams).  For creativity to happen, one needs time, practice and a nurturing, non-judgemental environment. To produce art, all of this needs to happen as well; but then also have the editor's eye that will select which of those bursts of creativity will have a lasting meaning in the context of that particular piece of art. Which ones are relevant, which ones flow and tell a story - and which ones are best left out, either because they reveal more than needed to the story; or perhaps they belong to another.

It's a very similar process with perfume-creation, and like any creative process - it takes time, energy, work, and also will eat up materials of varying costs. You'll have to produce dozens of unacceptable stench, mediocre concoctions, and some that are perhaps great as an expression of your emotions but not really fit to expose other noses to. And there is a certain amount of cultivation that needs to take place - preparing the soil so to speak, for the creation to emerge. This can sometime take a few years, or even a lifetime (as is evident in the life story of Mrs. Mary Delaney, who created a new art form (mixed-media collages) and a massive body of work at the ripe age of 72, which is beautifully interpreted in Molly Peacock's book "The Paper Garden".

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Cured: The Science & Art of Decay

Orris Root

The challenge of some raw materials is that they might be rather unpleasant in their original state. At best, they lack any aroma and depth whatsoever. The cure for that lies in a process called curing (pun intended). Curing takes many shapes and forms. Sometimes the process is long and at times it's rather short. Either way, the results are nothing short of magic that tantalizes the palate and the olfactory bulbs!

We've all heard of curing meats and tobacco leaves, and it's common knowledge that wine gets better with age. But the culinary world is not the only one that benefits from time and fermentation. For some fragrant crops, growing and harvesting them is only a tiny portion of the process to make them edible, smellable or worth any mention at all. The starting material may be extremely stinky, bitter, astringent, or just plain flavourless at best. The processes by which the desired result is achieved is usually referred to as "curing" or "aging". It ranges from a few days, weeks or months and up to several years. The extra time and care that is invested in those crops makes all the difference in the world. And this will be evident and felt in the raw material itself as well as the finished product where it will be used - in our case, perfume.

Several aromatic botanicals used in perfumery require a fair amount of processing before being used (or extracted). For example: vanilla beans must be left in the sun to cure to bring out the vanillin; patchouli leaves must be dried and matured for quite some time to improve their scent; and iris rhizomes must be peeled, dried and stored for 3 years before they are extracted to produce orris butter.  Let's explore some of these unusual raw materials in more detail, as they specifically relate to the world of perfume and aromatics:


Oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) actually is a lichen native to former Yugoslavia, and which also grows in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. You may know it under the name Antlered Perfum; however, it is practically odourless when found fallen on the forest floor. Once placed in hot alcohol, and undergoes a process of extraction - a fragrance that personifies the aroma of the forest floor's dark and mysterious hidden life emerges - fungi, decay, moss and undergrowth. No wonder Chypre, the most beloved fragrance family that relies on oakmoss, is strongly associated with fall.
Perfumes that give oakmoss its proper due are far and few - so reach out for vintage of Miss Dior,  Vol de Nuit or Chamade; or check out some of my Chypre (and Fougère) fragrances, namely Ayalitta, Megumi, Rainforest and Autumn.

Chawan with Matcha

Tea is so unusually diverse - there are white, yellow, green, blue (AKA oolong), red and black teas - that it's hard to believe it comes from only one plant: Camellia sinensis. It is the process of  curing - namely, oxidation, fermentation, roasting, and sometimes even smoking, that creates the unique effects of texture, aroma and nuanced flavours in tea. Some teas are even left to age for decades and up to a hundred years!
Tea leaves come in all sizes, shapes and forms, at times they are twisted to break the cells and release the enzymes that will start the oxidation process (as in oolong teas), other times they are rolled into little balls (dragon pearls or jasmine pearls), hand-tied to look like a flower that will open its "petals" once steeped in water, to reveal a colourful real flower in the heart, and many other ancient traditions involving teas. In perfume, we use tea notes rarely, because they are so subtle. The first "tea" perfume was Bulgari's Au Parfumeé au Thé Vert (which utilized ionone in conjunction with hedione to create the effect of freshly steeped green tea) and the series continued to even include a "red tea" scent based on rooibos (not from the tea plant).  But my favourite is, not surprisingly, the Bulgari Black, which is based on Lapsang Suchong (pine-smoked tea), and even more so - l'Artisan Parfumeur's Tea for Two, which is a more refined play on the same tea leaf. If you're a tea love, taste a sip of Kinmokusei, our osmanthus-scented tea with hints of tobacco, Gaucho (with the tannin South American Maté) or The Purple Dress (black tea).

Tobacco Flowers

Few other ingredients stir the imagination as much as tobacco. The raw leaves have a bitter taste and not a particularly pleasant smell either. After all, nicotine, the substance that gives tobacco most of its medicinal (and addictive) properties, is meant to protects it from insects. Although the raw leaves have medicinal uses, it is hardly the sophisticated aromatic that we have learned to recognize as tobacco. This is achieved via a careful drying process that takes several days to a week, and usually followed by an additional fermentation period of about 8 weeks. This will develop the characteristic tannin,  full-bodied chocolate-vanilla undertones and hints of coumarin, violet and tea notes in tobacco products that some of us are so fond of (or hooked on). Additionally, tobacco leaves are treated with various perfume and flavour materials to enhance and accentuate this character. If you like your tobacco leaf clean and dry - try Sabotage  The tobacco in or Rebellius is exotic and spicy-sweet, not unlike shisha,  To experience pipe tobacco or Cuban cigar in all their glory, dab some Espionage.

Patchouli Leaves

Patchouli leaves, an odd member of the mint family, do not smell like much when they're green and fresh. The sun-dried leaves are ideally stacked and occasionally turned in a process of interrupted fermentation. This way they will yield 2.5-3 times more oil than the green leaves. This process helps to rupture the cell walls and release the oil. However, that is not sufficient to develop their charactesritic aroma of patchouli. Exceptional patchouli oils undergo an additional step of aging, in which all the off notes (grassy, oily, tar-like) dissipate and make room for rounded, warm precious-wood aroma that you'll find in fine quality patchoulis - which can take another 1-4 years. Patchouli really does get better with age, and when this desired effect is achieve - the scent will remind one of both dark red wine, oak barrels and the cellar where it is kept. Patchouli is earthy, woody, musky, a tad funky, spicy and dark-chocolate-like. Examples of this can be found in  Patchouli Magique and Patchouli AntiqueFilm NoirRazala, and Palas Atena (Ayala Moriel).


Ambergris is a rare secretion that occurs in about 1% of sperm whales to heal their stomach from the scratches of the cuttlefish they swallow. This sticky mass floats on the ocean, and by exposure to the sun and the salty water it changes its originally foul smell into one of the most delicate and sought after fragrances: Ambergris. Ambergris is sweet, soft and slightly powdery. We use ambergris only occasionally – when we can find ethically harvested ambergris that was beach harvested. It is than tinctured and used as a base note in oriental and floral compositions. Best scents to experience this though are LesNez' mystical l'Antimatiere  by Isabelle Doyen; and my own Orcas, Etrog and Razala.


Orris Root: Orris root essential oil (AKA Orris Butter) is one of the most precious perfume materials. The roots need to be peeled and aged for three years before extraction or distillation. During this time, the glucosides in the rhizome gradually metabolize into irone - the violet-like molecule that gives orris root its desired violet-blossom aroma. It is invaluable in perfumery for its delicate powdery delicate aroma and ability to fix lighter scents. Orris is a welcome addition to any perfume whenever a delicate softness is required. Orris butter is both powdery, milky and smooth - reminiscent of a baby’s head and soft skin. Experience the highest quality of orris, with 15% irone (the unique orris molecule) in Sahleb parfum. For a lighter, paper-thin iris, try Hiris, and for a more sophisticated, abstract, modern yet old-fashioned you must experience Après l'Ondée!

Iris (Iris pallida)

Coumarin has may sources, and in all of them, it is not felt all that much in the original product but only appears after a process of drying or curing takes place. Tonka is soaked in rum and then dried, to coax the coumarin crystals out of the "beans". Liatrix (deer's tongue) smells like nothing when it's fresh, and like hay - needs to be dried and even slightly fermented to bring out the coumarin potential locked within them, which smells like "new mown hay". Classic coumarin examples are YerbamateBiche Dans l'Absinthe. and Brut. To experience natural coumarin try l'Herbe Rouge, Sabotage or White Potion.

Climbing Vanilla Orchids, Patchouli and Vetiver

Vanilla Beans are left to cure in the sun so that they turn from green to black and develop their vanillin content. But vanillin is only one component that makes vanilla so special. In reality, this is one of the most compelling and complex natural aroma, inimitable by any manmade compounds.  Some 100 molecules were identified in vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), in addition to vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde), including: Guaicol, creosol, acetovanillone, vanillyl alcohol and methyl salicylate and vitispiranes.
Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis) has a much lower content of vanillin, and has a scent reminiscent of heliotropin - but contrary to some literature, this is not a compound that naturally occurs in it. Rather, it's the anisyl compounds that are responsible for its soft, floral, almond-like, sweet heliotrope-like nuances, including anisyl alcohol, anisaldehyde, dianisyl ether and anisyl ethyl ether. (Bo Jensen). To experience true vanilla absolute in perfume, try Shalimar (the extrait has handcrafted vanilla tincture), My Vanilla (Anna Zworykina),  Vanille Galante (Hermessences), Espionage and Immortelle l'Amour (the latter has 5 types of vanilla, including absolute, CO2 and handmade tinctures by yours truly).

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Perfume Naming Contest + Informal Poll

Forest Floor

Thank you for all of you who've taken the time and shared your thoughts with me on the perfume name. It smells like the magic that occurs in a sunny spot in the rainforest on a warm day late in the summer and early in the fall, which is unique to the Pacific Northwest. Everyone who sent their suggestions will be sent a sample of the perfume shortly (please email me with your mailing address so that I can accomplish my part of the deal). I'm still deciding between a few options that were shortlisted: The four names that most resonated with me are Komorebi (thanks, Avraham Yehoshua!), Cathedral Grove (Thank you, Joanna Garfinkel!), Dappled Gold, and Pacific Spirit. Please take a moment to vote in this poll (or respond in the comment sections to the informal poll below) and enable me to share this creation with you  in the most appropriate season for it - now!

Informal poll: Ayala Moriel Parfums is about to release a new perfume that captures the wonderful scent that can be experienced this time of year in the Pacific northwest rainforests: It emanates from the sun-dappeled fragrant forest floor on those warm days when the sun brings out the sweet smells of redcedar, moss & Douglas fir…
What would be the best name for this perfume, among the following:

1. Komorebi *
2. Cathedral Grove **
3. Dappled Gold ***
4. Pacific Spirit ****

*The Japanese word for "Sun filtering through foliage"
** Ancient growth forest with giant redcedars and hemlock spruces on Vancouver Island
*** Alluding to the golden interplay of light on the forest floor (which is also part of the Komorebi phenomenon)
**** Forest in Vancouver's Westside, near UBC