Scents of Comfort: A Joint Blogging Project

Today is the last day of winter, and as we pass from one season to the next we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums has gathered a handful of bloggers to reflect on the remarkable scents that gave us comfort this past winter. Here is my selection of perfumes that provided warmth in the cold months and will continue to nest a sanctuary for me anytime of year.

Bancha is the first fragrance that came to mind when I received Ayala’s invitation. I wore it throughout the winter, and it felt nurturing and hopeful. Dawn Spencer Hurwtiz has named this fragrance after a type of green tea, but it is so much more than a “tea” perfume. It’s lemony and minty to be sure, but is entrenched in rich dark soil that provides sustenance to roots and bulbs, a reminder of emerging life. Bancha is equally as gorgeous and appropriate on a man, my husband specifically, which makes my affection for Bancha even stronger.

Royal Couple by Gabriel’s Aunt, is an overtly floral fragrance that is wearable and cozy. It starts with an intoxicating dose of jasmine, develops into a subtly spicy floral in the heart, and dries down to a gorgeous vanilla base. Royal Couple’s blend of jasmine and rose is impeccable and fortunately comes in a candle to help light the way when it’s chilly, be it from the weather or internal storminess.

A perfume can be a salve not so much because of its notes, but because of the association you have with its aroma. When I wore Ayala’s Hanami for the first time last spring, it was a near magical day at the Japanese Gardens with my young boys. The sun was bursting with much longed for radiant heat and the cherry blossoms were glowing with an otherworldly pinkness. Hanami was on my skin, and its floral notes of magnolia and mimosa made the day even sweeter. Despite its petal softness, Hanami is very grounded with woods, tonka, vetiver and subtle vanilla. So for me, Hanami is a complex fragrance that recalls a tender memory.

Buying a perfume after you’ve gone through turmoil is another way to experience well-being, at least in my scent obsessed world. I did just that after my recent unexpected surgery, as I deserved and needed a new scent to appease my situation, right? One read of March’s review of Strange Invisible Perfume’s limited edition Dimanche was all it took for me to decide what perfume I would indulge in. Thankfully, I concur with her glowing review. In fact, I’m having a hard time using any other perfume these days as I am in full-blown Dimanche infatuation. I agree with March that Dimanche is sharp in the beginning due to iris that isn’t tempered with something soft to round its edges. Instead, bittersweet cocoa and powdery rose heighten its intensity throughout the top and especially in the heart of the fragrance. Dimanche doesn’t settle until the drydown when hay and honey emerge, making for one interesting affair. It gets even more fascinating when the soapy quality of iris surfaces. This might sound like a motley crew of notes, but it works. It’s compelling, rich, and to use an overused word, a little bit fierce.

Chêne by Roxana Villa is a perfume I wished I’d had this past winter. Although it is a chocolate based fragrance, it suggests a similar ambience to DSH’s Bancha. Chêne is dark and rich with oud, woods and resins yet has a piquant vitality that keeps it from becoming too heavy. The base of this solid perfume is composed of cocoa butter, beeswax, and jojoba seed oil which is dreamy to apply, and perfect for the rainy days of spring around the corner.

These perfumes, and the Royal Couple candle, are all natural and contain no synthetics, petrochemicals, or phthalates. Many of them also use organic ingredients.

Please visit the other blogs who are participating in this comforting event:

SmellyBlog

Roxana’s Illuminated Journal

BitterGrace Notes

Perfume Shrine

Notes from the Ledge

The Non Blonde

Perfume in Progress

Katie Puckrick Smells

A Rose Beyond the Thames

I Smell Therefore I Am

Olfactarama

All I Am A Redhead

Savvy Thinker

Posted by ~Trish

“Bird in the Magnolia Nest” by Hadley Hutton available at etsy.

“This article’s title is an homage to Michelyn Camen‘s original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which interviewed several perfumers to comment on what botanical elements make their perfumes comforting.

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Scents & Serendipity; Ayala & Persephenie Part II

BACK TO BLUNDA AboutB_Natural_Perfumes

If you live in Los Angeles or are planning a trip anytime soon, you must call and make an appointment to visit Blunda Aromatics or just stop by on a Saturday. The studio is magical, as is the creator Persephenie Schnyder. She offers private lessons in natural botanical perfumery, bath and body care, aromatherapy, candle making and more. Blunda also specializes in a wide range of natural botancial perfumes, essential oil pharmacopeia, exotic herbs, roots, and resins from around the world, educational showcasesand lessons, and last but not least, collectible treasures.

Just a brief wend through the space during Ayala Sender’s Hanami’s showcase, and one small area caught my attention — a group of narrow shelves featuring five vastly different types of Frankincense from Ethiopia, India and Somalia, along with Myrrh, Costus Root, Agarwood, Labdanum, and a small nugget of Ambergris.

Because I am new to this, I had to Wiki and Google many of these substances. And it was a strange and whimsical gift to look them up, I have to confess. Now I know Agarwood (also known in the West as “oud” or “oude”) is a highly aromatic resin that is produced from several types of Aguilera trees — large evergreens — once they become infected with a type of mold or fungis. The trees immune response creates a rich dark resin in its heartwood which in turn impedes the spread of the fungus, and the result is a very prized and rare fragrance.

And I’ve learned the hilarious traditional harvesting process of Labdanum, an essential component of chypre perfumes. Labdanum is a sticky dark resin originating from two types of rockrose shrubs. Perfumeshrine has an excellent entry on this healing miracle substancehere. Although the modern method is far less imaginative, the old school harvest of Labdanum involves running herds of he-goats through groves of rockrose shrubs so that the beautiful, rich fragrant resin collects on the goat’s beards and is then combed out and saved. That’s right! According to some legends, ancient pharaohs would cut the goat beards and wear them because of the resin’s rich odor.

And lastly, there on that shelf was a small nugget of rare Ambergris. With its sweet, earthy, animal and marine odor, Ambergris is created by waxy, solid grey whale spit-up that turns black and crusty after years of floating on top of the ocean. Amidst all the gentle chaos of the Hanami showcase, Persephenie took the time to explain the origins of Ambergris to me and to invite me to smell it — and anything else in her studio of wonders. This world of rarities and exotic substances sounds sublime, doesn’t it? You can be sure I’ll visit again.

~Please visit the Blunda website to discover Persephenie’s offerings.

~Also see Part I of this article here.

~Written by guest contributer, duVergne Robert Gaines: a neophyte to the odor order, is a professional feminist and occasional poet. She lives in Los Angeles near the La Brea tar pits with her partner David Riley Shackelford and their two cat children, Trotsky and MadX.

Posted by ~Trish

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Scents & Serendipity; Ayala & Persephenie Part I

blunda
 FLOWER PARTY

BlundaAromatics in Los Angeles is an exquisite olefactorium/ artisan enclave/ scent school/ alchemical collaboration run by Persephenie Schnyder. Blunda’s website describes its store hours as Saturday: 11-5, Monday – Friday: By Appointment or Chance. It truly was a magnificent accord of chance, serendipity, a dash of divine intervention, and a dear college friend that dispatched me to Blunda a couple of Saturdays ago to experience natural perfumery in the flesh and to hear Ayala Sender describe her Ezra Pound haiku-inspired scent Hanami.

As I slipped out of the blazing SoCal sun and into Blunda(a Swedish word meaning “to close one’s eyes”), I was greeted warmly by Persephenie herself and an ethereal enclave packed with natural perfume devotees.  The walls were replete with sculptures, art, and shelves — shelves teeming with delicate glass vials of essential oils and jars of all sizes containing exotic substances; Ayala refers to this as a perfume organ.

The desserts Ayala and Persephenie prepared for our motley crew were other word-ly. Neatly stacked rows of sakura mochi (Japanese rice pastries filled with Azuki bean paste and wrapped in pickled cherry leaves) greeted us along withAyala’sperfumed teas, fresh and tiny tea sandwiches with cucumber, watercress, minted radishes, carrots, ginger and cream cheese, and wickedly delicious marble-sized handmade perfumed White Potion and Guilt chocolate truffles. As I tried to control my primal instinct to hoard and/or devour, I wondered how have I missed this genius; this cool lounge-like sliver of smell-hounds in LA? This brilliant speak-easy of taste, intelligentsia, and performance scent-art?  Thank chance and the prodding of Trish for this revelation!

GENUFLECTIONS BY A NEW NOSE

Ayala’s presentation was a wonderful introduction to natural and organic fragrance for the botanically naïve. After describing her personal inspiration for Hanami and reciting the rich Ezra Pound lyrics that inspired the perfume and Heather Ettlinger’s  poetic perfume project:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ayala began by passing around scent strips dipped in her base notes of Vetiver, Tonka Bean, Cassie, Siamwood, Vanilla CO2, Copaiba Balsam and Bakul Attar. (For photos, check out her own SmellyBlog post here). As we passed and considered each note through the group, it felt surprisingly beautiful, holy and communal. There with Persephenie’s perfume organ as a back drop, we exchanged musical nose notes in quiet revelry.

Breaking Hanami down note by note seemed especially appropriate given the deconstructive nature of the tradition up-ending haiku written by Pound. With its unpredictable metrics (the musical notes/cadence of a poem), the poem shifts between hard clip urban consonants and noun images, and the gorgeous seductive nature of soft dark s’es and sh’s, p‘s and b‘s. Ayala’s base ensemble captures this brilliantly.

Cassie, as she explained, is a type of mimosa used in tanning leather and appropriately, it speaks with a musty earthen, even industrial and honeyed depth. Vetiver, a simple grass root with an incredibly rich and complicated wet woods and marshland scent, bowled me over. Vanilla CO2, she used because it is shearer than Vanilla and has a half milky half watery sense. Ayala identified these choices as a desire to pull a deep metallic, dark and dusty –even gloomy — smell.  The final woodsy, metallurgical accord is spectacular.

Then Ayala moved to the heart notes allowing us to appreciate the individual notes of Pink Lotus, Magnolia, Tuberose, Violet Leaf, and Oleander, before providing the scent strip fan of the Sakura Accord in its entirety. Again this process, especially for a novice like me, was extraordinary. There is something truly mystical and transformative to sit (or stand) in a jam-packed room and reverently pass these deep, dark woodsy and floral scents among one another. And finally, for Hanami’s top notes, she purposefully steered away from citrus and turned instead towards earthy-wooden florals — Cabreuva, Frangipani, Mimosa and Rosewood.

There is a hard softness in the core underpinnings of this perfume that beautifully echoes the elegiac quality of the poem itself.  This heavy metal base creates the perfect enduring and quixotic caesura (pause) in one’s mind, a kind of olfactoric undertow. The floral tip opens up a deep and resonant space for that urban anonymity, the alienation and intimacy of modern living, to transpire in all its crushed complexity.  It is a lot like that final image Ezra Pound leaves us with – Ayala’s final fragrance looms like the enduring apparition of our lives, of our faces, anonymous, mysterious, individual, as petals on that wet, black bough. Ayala’s composition is not just a perfume, Hanami (and Ettlinger’s entire poetry project) should be installed in MOCA or MOMA, as an art experience. It is a stunning and sublime fragrance.

Much to our collective joy, Ayala brought several of her other signature perfumes with her as well as small samples of her entire collection.  I was immediately taken with Bon Zai, another Japanese-derived scent. It is minimalist, woodsy, and the Juniper is fabulous. Juniper! Juniper! Fete D’Hiver I found bewitching as well, although totally different from Bon Zai. It is described as “Spicy roses with incense and amber dries down to a powdery snow on fluffy fur” on the website, and this really says it all.  Now to start saving up so that I may purchase all THREE.


Please come back to Scent Hive on Tuesday for Part II of Scents & Serendipity, Ayala & Persephenie

Hanami is available at Blunda Aromatics.

Written by guest contributer ~duVergne Robert Gaines: a neophyte to the odor order, is a professional feminist and occasional poet.  She lives in Los Angeles near the La Brea tar pits with her partner David Riley Shackelford and their two cat children, Trotsky and MadX.

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Ayala Moriel Parfums: Hanami

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The sun rarely shines in April as brightly in the Northwest as it did the day Hanami arrived. It was also the day I planned to take my boys to the Japanese Gardens, so the sample’s arrival felt inspired. After gingerly opening the padded envelope, Hanami immediately went on my wrists and neck. And then stepping outside, I could feel my bones finally being warmed by the sun’s rays on my skin. I grabbed my boys from school, and off we went to stroll the gardens. The cherry blossoms were radiant in the sunlight, twinkling against the impossibly clear sky. Rows of pink gauzey blooms were dreamlike, and it was all I could do to keep from smelling my wrists.

 

 

Hanami, the Ayala Moriel Parfums fragrance, twinkles like a light and floats like gauze upon the opening. It’s sparkly with mildly peppery topnotes, and weightless like gossamer with its minimalist rendering of mimosa and frangipani. The fragrance also possesses unexpected buttery and dewy qualities, and the woods are immediately palpable which carry you right to Hanami’s heart which is a beautifully blended woody floral. Hanami then shifts back and forth in the drydown, evolving with your motion, the breeze, and warmth of your skin; from the sweetness of vanilla, back to woods and florals. Sometimes the woods are more pronounced, then honeyed mimosa peeks in again, powdery citrusy magnolia breezes by…  
 
Hanami was created by Ayala Sender after she was invited by Heather Ettlinger to be a part of the Perfume in a Poem project. Ms. Ettlinger is the founder of the blog Memory and Desire, who over a year ago asked several perfumers to create a fragrance inspired by the following two-lined poem:

In a Station of the Metro
 
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
                                        

Ezra Pound

Ayala discusses her experience and inspiration for creating Hanami here.  I recommend stopping by the link as she is a poetic writer in addition to being a fabulously talented perfumer.

 

Clearly Ezra Pound’s poem is not evocative of sunny, pastoral days like I had in the park. Dark, overcast days on an anonymous city street is the tone the poem elicits. But not to be mistaken for another part of the country, rainy days came quickly, and Hanami’s temperament fit them as well. The woods took on more of a damp, moody quality in the wet weather. And the vetiver, while more subdued in the warmth, opened its grassy earthiness more readily. Subsequent wearings also heightened my awareness to a subtle hint of sandalwood within the drydown, and interestingly bakul attar is in the base notes. I came across a fascinating piece about bakul trees on Floracopeia, which I highly recommend reading. Bakul attar is made from the essential oil of the bakul flower and sandalwood oil. And while I am not familiar with the scent of the bakul flower, the sandalwood provides a warm woody base for the florals of Hanami.

 

As mentioned above though, the base provides a foundation for morphing to occur, and it transpired again in the cooler, rainy weather when the earthier, mustier notes became more apparent. I love this aspect of Hanami, and find it incredibly appealing that it seems to be a fragrance for all seasons. Spring and Fall at least. I’ll have to see how it wears in extreme heat and cold temperatures. But I have been wearing Hanami all week and I give it high praise indeed.

 

Hanami means “to enjoy the cherry blossom season” in Japanese. It can also mean “flower party.” Well, for those of you in the Los Angeles area, there’s a flower party going on at Blunda Aromatics on Saturday April 18th and Ayala Sender will be there to exhibit her gorgeous Hanami. So if you are in the area, stop over there for tea and chocolates that Ayala crafts herself, and meet this incredibly talented perfumer who is dedicated to the use of 100% all natural ingredients in her perfumes. See the Blunda Aromatics link for full details.

 

Hanami is available at Ayala Moriel Parfums.


Posted by ~Trish

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