you fill it with yourself or it dies
- Rumi” —
I have had a major crush on Jasmine for as long as I can remember. Everything about this flower intrigues me and I never get tired of her scent. What’s great about our sense of smell, is that it goes right to the roots. It is primal in it’s effect, warping you back into a memory, and Jasmine seems to be one of the scents that has been a part of many of mine.
In the Middle East, there is a greeting made in the morning that goes something along the lines of ‘a morning filled with ful and jasmines’ (ful as I have recently found out is Jasmin Sambac.) I’ve always loved that, it brought the sunshine out, and the people who said it were always people of the land who would say that with unforgettable sincerity.
The Jasmine flower holds great meaning for many cultures. It is the national flower of India, Pakistan, Tunisia, among others. It is talked about in songs, worn almost every day in some parts of the world, has healing properties and is the epitome of beauty.
In perfumery, this flower is undeniably treasured. It is not easy to cultivate Jasmine because it has a low yield, meaning you need a lot of it to make a small batch. The most common process of extraction is solvent extraction, mainly using hexane (an organic solvent) to create the concrete. Alcohol is then added to the concrete to separate it and make an absolute. An essential oil is made by steam-distilling the absolute. Both types are used in perfumery and both are damn good.
Also, enfleurage is another process, one which I prefer, because it lets the petals steep and get absorbed by the wax they are placed in. It does take some time though.
You can get Jasmine absolute and essential oils from India, Egypt, Morocco, Grasse (very rare, but if you get a chance to smell this stuff, you will be blown away) and sometimes China.
Indian Jasmine is the sweetest for me, it is slightly more fruity and has a beautiful earthy quality to it as it dries. Egyptian Jasmine is a little sharper, more indolic, (2.5% of Jasmine is made of Indol.) It has a natural green note in the beginning, it is very powerful and very very good. Moroccan Jasmine is more green in general, and has a great spunk to it which I enjoy. Jasmin de Grasse is expensive to cultivate, but is used by Chanel for example. It is rounder, more floral, and has a subtle, delicious honey note. It takes around 700 kgs for 1 kg of absolute, and 1,400 hours of loving, hard work to get it done.
Hedione is in the Jasmine family, an aroma chemical used to enhance floral accords and generally adds volume to a perfume. Many perfumers use it, and a lot of it. I don’t blame them because it does brighten up most accords (it’s also fun to work with because it’s so versatile) Check out the classic, first of its kind (but unfortunately a now-overused accord) Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior originally made by the master himself Edmond Roudnitska.
The Different Company has a beautiful Jasmine perfume called Jasmin de Nuit, which was created by Celine Ellena, the daughter of Jean-Claude Ellena. (Keep an eye on her, she has also created Côte d’Amour for L’Artisan Parfumeur)
Serge Lutens has A La Nuit which features Jasmine as its main diva. Bringing whole new meaning to ‘Queen of the Night’.
It is incredible how beautiful this flower is, girls all over the world have been named after her, lovers swoon at the very thought of her, and memories are made with her in mind because she makes life so much more colourful. If you were wondering why I keep capitalizing our darling Jasmine, it’s because that’s the respect she truly deserves.
p.s. There is an annual Fête du Jasmin in Grasse, usually held in August. It’s a wonderful feeling to be immersed in the culture, the whole town smells like it!
There have been countless reviews of Jean-Claude Ellena’s life and work. So this will not be another one of those! Just an encounter with one of the greats.
I had the great honour of meeting Monsieur Ellena while I was studying in Grasse. I can safely say it was probably one of, if not, the most important and gratifying moments of my life. Even though the encounter was brief, and we had a billion questions between the twelve of us, he made a lasting impression.
His advice was simple, concise and intelligent; all the attributes you can find in his creations. We visited his cabin/personal lab in Cabris, about twenty minutes away from Grasse.
He rounded us up around a table with lazy susan style ‘levels’ where he had all his ingredients in pure form. We went straight into smelling combinations of things we never thought would go together. The magic that comes with creating perfume is that aspect of telling a story, creating that illusion that will stay with you. He told us to focus on the juxtaposition of the materials as opposed to the percentage and/or proportion in a blend.
He told us to understand our materials, know how to describe them perfectly, by using tactile words, figuring out their ‘shape’, their texture, their overall feel. Learn what they give to you and what you can give to them.
Imagination is the most important, you can create the story afterwards, the more free you are with yourself and the use of your materials, the more you will get out of them, and the better the story! He mentioned that he had made Un Jardin en Méditerranée in one week, because he had an idea and went with it. Here he put imagination, innovation and discipline all in one, and did a fantastic job! (shocking? Not so much!)
He goes to the limit of where he can go with his creations. Many of us had a problem ‘finishing’ a perfume, because we were never satisfied with what we made, even if everyone else thought it was great. I think it’s because we just want to keep doing our best. So my friend Ashley asked him ‘how do you know when a perfume is finished?’ He told us that some perfumes are finished, but not entirely, but the way to work with that is to create a connection with each creation. ‘One begins where one ends’ he said, if there were questions left unanswered from the previous perfume, you answer them in the next. It never ends really, you keep going and going, because you never run out of things to ‘say’. His goal is to be light, and to be present, that’s the most important.
I asked him about L’Eau d’Hiver (which I LOVED, almost to the point of obsession) because he created something warm within something cold, which I thought was genius. I wanted to know how he did that, but a true magician never reveals his secrets, but what he did tell me is that he loves to play. A man after my own heart! That is how it feels, when making a perfume, there is such a light playfulness that I thoroughly enjoy, and when he said that I knew I was on the right track. He put emphasis on playing with paradoxes, and to avoid redundancy at all costs.
Finally, he discussed the importance of sharing. Sharing your love for the craft, what you know, what you want to know. We need to continue to talk and write about perfume, we need to continue to learn.
He was sincere and honest, telling us if we aren’t satisfied with something we’ve made, all we need to do is start over. Keep everything you’ve created, you never know what you will need it for next, could be a good starting point to work another formula; a good reference. Or it could be your timeline, you can look back on it and see where you were all those years ago.
Soleil by Fragonard.
Let me tell you a little story. About thirteen years ago, my parents decided to take my brother and I to France. My aunt had lived in Paris for many many years and it was time for a visit. We ended up going to the South shortly afterwards. We visited Nice, Biot (a little town not too far away, known for glass-making) and Grasse. The rest as they say, is history.
We visited the Fragonard factory where my mother bought me my first perfume. A teeny 10ml vial of Soleil. The sun has been an important symbol in my life; I have always loved being by the sea because the sunset had an undeniable power over me. I prefer heat to cold (Montreal in the summer is out of this world, totally worth sticking out the cold months for) and when I was much much younger, at kindergarten, each child had a locker with a symbol, and mine was the sun.
I have truly never forgotten the scent of Soleil. It stuck with me for years and felt like it was meant to be on my skin. I kept coming back to it as my go-to scent.
Around three years ago, I graduated from university and was not satisfied with what I had graduated with. So I read, and I read a lot. One of my best friends decided to share Jitterbug Perfume with me, and it changed my life. I then proceeded to read The Alchemist, which just further proved that there was something better out there for me. I ended up getting another bottle of Soleil in the mail, and everything just clicked!
How could I remember a moment like that so clearly, even though it happened so long ago? I remembered the Jasmine, the Wisteria, the beautiful Rose and the fresh Lily. I was brought back to Grasse instantly, and so, I decided to go back, find myself and pursue my new-found yet undying love for perfume.
It is a definitive floral, but it has such depth that it really does bring sunshine into my life. I feel instantly better when I wear it, so it’s a no-brainer to make it the perfume of the week, and personally; my signature scent.
It is hard to find Fragonard products across the pond, but there are ways to get them online. Out of all their perfumes (and maybe I’m totally biased) Soleil is the best one. It is an accurate depiction of the South of France; vibrant, colourful, beautifully golden and full of life. Many people believe it is a generic scent, made for the mass market, with no definite single note. I actually think that the unity within the ingredients makes it that much more special. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Soleil is an Eau de Parfum, with above average sillage and great tenacity. Who doesn’t love that left-over-on-your-clothes smell? This stuff lasts!
You can find it on www.fourseasonsproducts.com (that is where I prefer to buy it)
Or if you ever get a chance to visit Grasse, the Fragonard Museum and factory are a must see.
Thank you! You’ve made my day! Looking forward to sharing more, isn’t it wonderful to love something this much? x
Is this the coolest name for a material or what?
I have loved Iso E Super right from the get-go, and yes, the name totally sold me; I was curious (apparently it’s because its chemical name is so long.) It’s not the most fragrant aroma chemical out there, but when blended, it does wonders.
IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances), one of the top 5 perfume companies in the world, created this material for use in both fine and functional perfumery. It is considered to be a part of the Ambery family, and sometimes classified in the Woody family.
It smells fresh, fine, with a hint of amber. It is dusty, at times floral, and long lasting (it’s a base note), and it’s true, it does have a velvet-like quality that’s tough to describe. It can be similar to the scent of cedarwood and that is why it used to refine and freshen woody accords. It can be used for both masculine and feminine fragrances, and works best at 20% dilution (I quite like it at 10%)
It also works in waves, it reacts to the skin so well. At first it is light, but depending on the heat of the skin, it comes back, making it a very reliable and well known skin scent. It’s been said that this material acts a pheromone because most, if not all people, tend to be attracted to it.
What’s great about Iso E, is that it can be used in many different ways, making it that much more special. By that I mean, that most of us at school used it in our creations, because it is a great shape-shifter, it works with almost everything to make it better. Jean-Claude Ellena for example used it to its maximum effect with the charming Terre d’Hermès.
Perfumers such as Geza Schoen have taken the minimalist approach with Molecule 01, The concept is simple; take a material that isn’t usually the most obvious ingredient in a perfume, and play around it. Without adding too many other ingredients to distract, thus enhancing it enough to make it a main player. So in this case, Iso E Super is King.
There’s been talk that this beloved material could possibly be restricted in the future by IFRA, here’s hoping that it’s not true, since it’s almost used in everything, and I guarantee that its absence would be felt!
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
Kyoto - Comme des Garçons (Series 3 Collection: Incense)
During my studies in France, I had a love affair with incense, I used it in many of my creations, including my final perfume for the year. Maybe because I was in an environment where this particular material wasn’t used often. Or the fact that the scent of incense has been so powerful in my life, while most people instantly remember a church, I remember the Middle East. So I was deliriously happy to see an entire collection inspired by a love for incense.
If you’re not familiar with Comme des Garçons, they are a Japanese fashion label, who have boldly and successfully immersed themselves in the perfume world. They are so niche, that people who buy their perfumes have particular taste. That’s why I love them, because they create things you want to create in your head but are too worried about what everyone else will think. Their creations are avant garde and completely intriguing.
So here comes Kyoto. I myself do not have enough of an understanding of the Japanese culture. I am always interested but should learn more, especially after their recent turmoil. Kyoto is a whirlwind, it is my gateway into the culture I do not know. It twirls and changes just like smoke does. Imagine incense burning, the shapes formed in the air by the smoke, some parts are thin, some parts are thick. The lines created, the curves that move as a gust of wind goes by. That’s Kyoto. It’s changes but in such a way, that some parts go and come back.
At first I smell the cypress; so damn crisp. I smell a hint of sour which I always associate with vetiver. Then it moves, it gets slightly sweeter, almost more humid. The coffee and the teakwood work so well together, as if this is a moment where you have to wait and see what comes next. Standing still and appreciating the warmth. Then comes the freaking incense. Wow. Sharp, dull, moving, still, it’s everything you would want incense to be. There is an almost medicinal quality, probably because of the cypress coming back that gives you a healing feeling. The contrast between the damp patchouli which works very well below the other ingredients, and the incense which somehow layers above it all (almost like a veil of smoke) is perfect.
It comes as no surprise that the perfumer behind this is the great Bertrand Duchaufour. A mastermind. He created Avignon for the same incense collection and many perfumes for L’Artisan Parfumeur, where he is a resident perfumer. He is also behind creations such as Amaranthine for Penhaligon’s among many many others. (More about him later!)
Here are a few more Comme des Garçons perfumes that are worth mentioning:
The first perfume launched by them in 1994, Original Comme des Garçons.
Wonderwood (yes, this is all about wood and it is to die for)
Odeur 53: completely modern, out of the box, and damn cool. This is everything I have always wanted to create, just to see if I could.
2: INK! Entirely inspired by Sumi Ink. I’m in love.
You can find parts of their collection at Holt Renfrew in Montreal. You can also buy all their creations on LuckyScent. I actually have the bottle because a friend (with impeccable taste in perfume) was kind enough to lend it to me.
I want to bring about more awareness to the individual materials used in perfumery. It’s important to understand the level of skill it takes to create a perfume. Every ingredient is there for a reason, and things change once you drop something else in the mix (so.much.fun)
Cassis Base (345B) is my all-time favourite material. It cannot be found in nature in its entirety as it is a base (although you can find natural blackcurrant absolute in it.) This means that it was man-made, a specialty by Firmenich to be exact, there are a couple of others: 345F, 345L. It has medium tenacity and is usually a middle note when used at 10% dilution. It’s often paired up with Bourgeons de Cassis/Blackcurrant Bud Absolute (or as we like it call cat pee; this stuff is strong, but with one drop, the whole blend is different.) It is also used for tropical and/or fruity accords and blackcurrant reconstitutions.
To me, it smells like sunshine. I instantly perk up. There is a hint of guava; something tropical. It is strong, slightly green, and fresh.
I’ve found the perception of this particular ingredient funny because most people smell black currant right away. I don’t. I smell mangoes. Wonderful, fresh, slowly softening green mangoes. That scent takes me back to my grandparents’ garden in Egypt where my grandfather grows mangoes almost every year. It’s the scent of vivid parts of my childhood.
As soon as I discovered this, I started using it everywhere, and I mean everywhere! My fellow students at GIP would always know something was mine because they could smell the Cassis Base. I figured if I loved it so much, I could somehow do everything with it. ‘Maybe it could be my signature!’ I thought to myself.
It was even fun to play around with. I would get excited when I knew it was coming up next in my formula. You know that feeling when you’ve just heard a song, or you haven’t heard that particular one in a long time, and all you do is play it on repeat? Yeah, that’s it; Cassis Base was and probably still is a delicious addiction. But alas, the time came to learn that I needed to branch out, and so I now look fondly at my last vial, trying to savour its last drops, so I can use it for something that will knock everyone’s socks off!
I believe Jean-Claude Ellena used Cassis Base in YSL’s In Love Again, a fruity-floral. And it smells fantastic!! It’s fun, it’s bodacious, and it’s sunny! People loved it too, it did very well around the time it was launched in 1998, as a limited edition fragrance. Apparently the same juice has been brought back to the market as of 2004, but with a different bottle. Surely due to it’s gorgeous scent and its undying popularity. Baby doll was released afterwards to sail on its success, using the same top notes (pink grapefruit plays a big role here) but in my opinion, it paled in comparison.
Every time I smell this material and this perfume, I feel good. Perfect outlook for the upcoming spring/summer months if I do say so myself!
Let me tell you something about Yosh, she is a perfumer from California and she is one of a kind. She’s gentle, welcoming, and always polite. She’s also remarkably talented. Her creations are clean, honest and very fulfilling.
What’s great about Yosh and what she does, is that she makes every perfume personal. By making custom-made compositions she reads a person’s aura and feels one’s vibrations. She can also find something in her collection that fits the person seeking the experience. She feels her creations, and she feels the person who wants to wear it.
Her philosophy is so layered; she believes in simplicity (she mentioned how she prefers to have a smaller collection instead of giving us too many things to choose from.) She believes in the power of scent, and it’s ability to evoke memories and finally, finding a way to understanding the self through the psychological, physical and emotional process that scent entails. Each perfume has a numerical value matched by the fragrance family it fits in to.
I instantly felt better when I sat down with her in Florence, she was open and gracious and left me with a lasting impression. Her perfumes capture mood and have the ability to alter how you are feeling for the better.They take you somewhere else, somehow helping you understand your surroundings, and they enlighten you.
A perfumer who is invested in making her clients feel special, and makes excellent perfumes, in the smartest and most nurturing way. What more could you ask for?
My favourites include White Flowers 1.41 (I knew it was meant for me instantly, she did too.) U4EAHH! 2.43 (this is fun and breezy, aquatic too) and Omniscent 0.96 (heavy, opulent, dark and beautifully rich.) These are all part of the Evanescent Collection. Here she combines perfumery with aromachology, as well as Chakra and numerology.
Ooh ooh! One more; Trompeur. I love this. It feels like a dance. It has a primal character that I cannot explain, all I know is that it is strong (in its tenacity and its message). It has such wonderful layers that when I smell it, I react instantly. I feel like I need to move. There is a great fig note that seems to move around the sandalwood. The sweetness of the vanilla gives it a wonderful warmth, like a bonfire almost. There is a delicious bitterness to it that stays in place, almost giving all of these ingredients a base to move around on. On my skin, I smell a damp earthiness that I really enjoy because it reminds me of the skin of almost-aged figs.
Oh and p.s..She’s made a (No.1) for the Untitled Collection on Luckyscent!
Please read more about her here:
Rose 31 - Le Labo
I’d like to start by introducing you to Le Labo. Their concept is simple; make perfumes inspired around one natural essence. The numbers on each bottle represent the amount of ingredients in the perfume. The labels on the bottles show you that a lot of hard work has been put into the process and you’re invited to see how. Also, each order is blended upon request, so everything is fresh and made just for you. It is such a thoughtful, personalized idea, and it works every time.
There are three main types of Rose Absolutes used in perfumery. Rose from Bulgaria, Morocco and Turkey. Each are similar, but have different attributes that distinguish them. Bulgarian Rose is the sweetest for me, more honeyed. To tell the difference, I usually have to look for a metallic artichoke note in Turkish Rose and finally, the Moroccan Rose is a blend of both with a greener facet.
There is one more Rose Absolute, but it is used far less than the others as it is very expensive, Rose de Mai, from Grasse. This is the stuff used in Rose 31. There is nothing like it. I got a chance to visit the Chanel Rose Gardens not too far from Grasse, right in-season. There is such a difference, so the fact that Le Labo make sure to use such top-notch ingredients, just proves their quality and exclusivity.
(Annual Rose Festival in Grasse)
(Rose de Mai)
This is meant for men, it defies all expectations because the Rose is almost entirely transformed. I wore this for myself since Luckyscent suggested it could be unisex, and it works. It’s dark, it’s fun (the cumin pops at the strangest moment, and is warmly welcomed), it is spicy and daring. As soon as I put it on my skin, I could instantly smell the smokiness of the Guaiacwood and the sharpness of the Olibanum. The cumin warms my skin right up..you would think it was getting me ready for the base. I am transported back to the Arabian Gulf, the woods are remarkably masculine, aged and very well put together. This is not at all a typical Rose fragrance and I love it. It is really hard to make anything new out of Rose Absolute only because it is probably the most used flower in perfumery (Jasmine too), so the fact that this is a complete 180 from what we’re usually used to, is a great surprise.
It is wonderful to see collaborations between creative people like this. Classic ingredients are being used in a new and inspiring way. I’m really pleased there are more places like Le Labo, where there is a focus on pure artistry and on the wearer who buys the creations. A relationship is formed, and I’m hooked. I’m really looking forward to see what they come up with next!
p.s I got my sample from Luckyscent, here. I also have Patchouli 24 (incredible) and Jasmin 17 (if you love Neroli, this is totally for you.)