Postcard from Bulgaria : Ice

It’s been a long time I’ve seen snow and ice covering the entire landscape and turning the world into a black and white Japanese painting. This morning wasn’t white, however. It was silvery-blue and scintillating.

“The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone…”
Percy Busshe Shelley

If I could only somehow capture how vivid and metallic the icy morning smells, as the cold obliterates all odors apart from those of frozen earth and burning wood.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, the village of Gorno Draglishte in Razlog Municipality, in Blagoevgrad Province, Bulgaria.

On the Spice Route

I spent much of last year traveling and researching the way spices and other aromatics are grown. My pursuit took me to the clove gardens in Indonesia, cumin fields in India, and the cassia cinnamon groves in Vietnam. The word ‘spice’ contains the same root as the word ’special,’ and I wanted to discover how these unique fragrant plants are transformed into essences and used in perfumery.

The journey was full of revelations. I learned, for instance, that processing clove essence involves not the buds of the tree, the familiar cloves of mulled wine and gingerbread, but rather the stems and leaves. All parts of the clove tree contain essential oil with varying scent profiles. The leaves release sweet-smelling essence, but the one derived from the stems has a smoky, woody accent.

Inspired by these travels, I sought up spice dominated perfumes and in my recent FT magazine article, Spice-Laced Scents, I share a few favorites.

In Hermès Epice Marine (£185 for 100ml EDT), toasted cumin adds a savoury twist to the earthy vetiver and citrus cologne. The lemony cardamom (another favourite Indian spice) adds a shimmering top note, while the mellow cedarwood serves as a polished backdrop. All the while, the dark note of cumin glows seductively. To continue reading, please click here.

What are your favorite spiced fragrances?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, nutmeg with mace

Niche Perfume Giveaway

On days like these nothing is more welcome than the kindness of other people. And here is one such example–Leslie, a Bois de Jasmin reader, wants to give away a part of her perfume collection.  Since there are quite a few bottles, there will be 4 winners. As she says, “I have not worn any of these for years. They just don’t work for me as my tastes have moved into different areas. They’ve been in the back of a drawer in my dresser, and really need to find homes where someone might appreciate them more than I have. It makes me happy to bring a little cheer to someone.” Leslie can send her package anywhere in the world, provided that customs restrictions don’t interfere. Of course, we are not responsible for customs duties, leaks or damage during transit or for lost packages.

Here’s what Leslie is offering:

Xerjoff 1861 Naxos 100 Ml EDP (nearly full)
Nobile 1942 La Danza Delle Libellule 75 ml EDP (2 bottles nearly full)
Noble 1942 La Danza Delle Libellule 75 ml Extrait (nearly full)
Hiram Green Slowdive 50 ml EDP (nearly full)
Hiram Green Dilettante 50 ml EDP (nearly full)
Maison Martin Margiela Tea Escape 100 ml EDP (nearly full)
Maison Martin Margiela Beach Walk 100 ml EDP (nearly full)

Continue reading →

Cooking by the Nose

This article appeared as Cooks, Follow Your Nose in Zester Daily in 2011. The great Marcella Hazan complimented me on it, noting that she also cooked using her nose. Unfortunately, the magazine has since been revamped and the article no longer appears online. In tribute to all of the cooks who follow their nose, I’m reprinting it here.

The best way to find a perfectly ripe tomato has little to do with its shape, color or size. It is the unmistakable scent of salty caramel that demonstrates a tomato is at its peak. While green tomatoes can be reddened with ethylene gas, furaneol, the compound that gives tomatoes their distinctive aroma, accumulates only when a fruit is allowed to fully mature on the vine. Strawberries and mangoes share the same compound and other fruits contain analogous aromatic molecules when fully ripe. But how often do cooking shows and magazines describe how produce should smell? Though we learn how to make colorful compositions on the dinner plate, when do we learn how to use our nose to explore food combinations? Understanding the role of aroma and the power of our nose is essential for eating well.

Our sense of smell comprises a comparatively large fraction of our genetic makeup. We use more than 1000 different sensory receptors to analyze a smell, each receptor with its own genetic code. The ability to distinguish subtleties among smells is enormous and was of great importance when our prehistoric ancestors relied on hunting and gathering to survive.

Though supermarkets have obviated the need for daily foraging, scent, closely linked to our sense of taste, is a cornerstone of our food enjoyment. The process of chewing food releases aromatic compounds that are detected by the olfactory receptors in the nasal passages. While we are likely to comment on how food tastes, we are making the judgment based on how it smells. Yet, our supermarkets are deodorized to the point of sterility, our produce is often hermetically sealed in plastic wrap, and our cookbooks read like IKEA design guides. Moving past visual appeal to explore other sensations associated with food opens up new horizons and leads to a richer culinary experience.

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Ukrainian Christmas Giveaway

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ukraine celebrates these holidays on January 7th and 14th respectively because the Orthodox Church follows the calendar proposed by Julius Caesar. Yes, we hold onto old traditions.

Nataliya of Experience Ukraine and I will lead a tour in Ukraine on June 2-9, 2020, and it will be a chance to discover more about Ukrainian culture, food, and of course, scents. I can’t be impartial, perhaps, but for the past few years I have been traveling extensively in Ukraine and every trip has been memorable. Nataliya feels the same way, which is why we’re so passionate in sharing these discoveries with you.

To give you a little preview, we’re hosting a #ukrainianscentandtasteadventure giveaway on Instagram: my prize will be an English translation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas, handmade Ukrainian church incense, and linden blossom hydrosol and Nataliya will contribute an antique hand-loomed rushnyk, hand towel. We will select two winners randomly.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Sylvia in On the Spice Route: Less sweet and mire subtle sounds good. Thank you Klaas! January 26, 2020 at 5:07pm

  • Sylvia in On the Spice Route: That sounds interesting Gelia. Thank you for your reply! January 26, 2020 at 5:04pm

  • Lily in On the Spice Route: I am so glad you still enjoy it!!! Of all my “fall/winter” scents it is the MOST cold-season, I just really cannot wear it without a nip in the air.… January 26, 2020 at 9:05am

  • Christine Funt in Postcard from Bulgaria : Ice: Thank you for sharing this beautiful image–one to meditate on. January 25, 2020 at 2:41pm

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