spice family

the-spice-familyI’m a native of British Guyana (now just Guyana), South America and grew up with spices. Curry, black pepper, hot peppers, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, we used it all and more. Spices were an integral part of our food, our drinks and our moments of celebration. Spices even permeated our clothing both from cooking and in our sweat and as new immigrants it created what seemed like an ocean between “us” and “Canadians” that had been living there for generations .  In the beginning, even more than our skin colour, smell separated “us” from “them” until we started eating more of the same food and smelling more or less the same.

Hmmm, I think I need to write more about this so I’ll save it for another time.  My own experiences with this phenomenon is a topic definitely worth exploring.

For me spice means home, celebration, closeness, fun!  So of course it was a joy to explore this family of odours in greater detail and from a different perspective other than the culinary.

Black Pepper:  this opens with a punch, windy, sharp and cool. It’s also clear, exciting, it gives me the impression of a splash of cold water on the face in the morning, take a plunge on a hot day, mom’s cooking, dry, quickening, speed, gives me a sense of height. Whoa! That’s a mouthful!.  The dry down is fleeting, it’s almost gone after 6 hours, very dry now, something in common with tobacco?  Volatility: high.

Cinnamon Leaf: candies, piercing, happy, light, red, playful.  It’s a colourful note with lots of joy and warmth but at the same time it’s light, there’s a quickness to this one too, like a fast flowing river, active, dancing.  The dry down is beautiful, still warm, sweet, shares things in common with clove, I can pick out the Eugenol, spice, with woody edge to it, the character is still integral even after 6 hours.  Volatility: mid-low.

Clove Bud: sweet, soft, familiar, uplifting. Bursting, exciting and enchanting.  It’s warm like a winter blanket, a soft rain in the fall, it’s surrender.  The dry down is still sweet, warm, woody, spicy of course, like a familiar room in the home, the kitchen, it’s like coming home, family, belonging, acceptance.  Volatility: mid-low.

Nutmeg: similar to black pepper but more, more something, just can’t narrow it down.  It’s like my mind is having a hard time making connections with this one.  I get baking cakes, images of a forest. It’s a very persuasive note, bold, but soft at the same time, with a golden glow, the colour of liquid gold comes to mind.  After 6 hours it dries down to a woody, coconutty(?) smell.  It is almost gone at this point, but still more present than black pepper and drier.  Volatility: mid-high.

Wow.  Who knew the spice family had all that wrapped up in it and more!  More and more I’m discovering that you can’t say, “yeah, yeah, I know that smell”, and dismiss it as commonplace.  No matter how many times you’ve approached it consciously in the past.  Each time must be, will be, new. There will always be new facets revealed based on the level of awareness of the perceiver.

I love this craft.

Have a great weekend!


sweet smell of success?

Sweet smell of success?
Sweet smell of success?

…or just beginner’s luck?

The first exercise from the course was to build a cologne to get feel for the power that modifiers have to change the mood and feel of a composition.

So using a ratio of 7/5/3 I completely followed my intuition  in choosing the following notes from Top to Heart to Base:

Top: corriander, lemon, petitgrain

Heart: black pepper, clove, clary sage

Base: Jasmine absolute, labdanum, vanilla

The original was quite nice. That was it. Nice.  Nothing too special.  Not a great flop but nothing to shout about either.  I let it sit for a day to contemplate it and give it time to marry and completely forgot about the modifier.

The next day I noticed the modifier box was empty and after choosing the modifier, what I call the “wild card” I added one drop in 10ml of perfume and the effect was immediate.  The composition went from sort of flat to POW! with just one drop.

24 hours later it was more noticeable on the strip compared to the first attempt.  Now for the skin test.  I tried it and loved it!  I then had LV try it as it did indeed have a masculine edge to it, something I love, and he really liked it because it was soft.  Then I had Dalma try it and she loved it, “mom, you could sell this!”  I love her!  Then Fabio tried it and he said he liked it, it smelled nice but on him it’s not his type, it was too gourmand, but he found it to be very well balanced he said. Their feedback was very useful in moving forward.  I’m a lover of spices so I can imagine why I was drawn to structure it the way I did.

Modifiers are very powerful and must be used with restraint and discretion.

I am quite aware that many, many a perfume flop are right around the corner and I’m not exactly rubbing my hands together in anticipation but I know they are instructive so I’m going to bask in my first success.

More tinctures and an interesting experiment coming this week, stay tuned!