Spices: 24 posts

Rubbish to Gems : A Tale of Javanese Tea Wedang Uwuh

While driving around the Indonesian countryside, especially in Sulawesi and Java, you see sheets of tarp spread along the side of the road with cloves or scrolls of cassia drying in the hot sun. The archipelago produces most of the world’s nutmeg and clove, spices over which wars were fought and nations colonized. Most of the produce drying on the plastic sheets is intended for export; the higher the quality the better the price farmers would fetch. Yet, no part of a spice tree is wasted, be it cassia, nutmeg or clove. Javanese tea, wedang uwuh, is an example of this philosophy.

Uwuh means rubbish in Javanese, and the tea uses all of the refuse from the spice production–nutmeg leaves, clove branches, cassia foliage and stems. (Another theory is that the tea is so called because the bits and ends floating in the liquid look like garbage.) Either way, garbage it is not, and one legend credits the Raja of Mataram with the discovery of wedang uwuh.

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Exercises to Sharpen Sense of Smell : Cloves and Roses

Starting one’s morning by smelling consciously is the best and the easiest way to sharpen your sense of smell. I’m sure that many of you who are reading this blog on a regular basis are already using your nose to its full potential, but if you would like to improve your olfactory vocabulary, distinguish scents better and learn to smell with more focus, I would like to share short videos with professional tips. The sense of smell becomes less acute with age, but by introducing such exercises into our routine, we’re ensuring that our noses remain as sensitive as can be possible given our genetic makeup and lifestyle. I’ve already posted a video on the basic principles of smelling in Bois de Jasmin’s YouTube channel, and the next installments will cover different techniques in more detail–smelling in images, looking for nuances in scents, etc.

Today’s video is a typical exercise I use in the morning. I pick anything scented–it can be a box of spices, a packet of coffee or a blotter dipped into an essential oil and think of images it evokes. It’s easier to do this exercise blindly (place spices in unmarked jars and smell with your eyes closed), but even if you know what you’re smelling, try to think only of the smell. What does it evoke? What does it smell of (other than the object you’re smelling)? It helps to write down your impressions, and if you like, you can share them in the comments here.

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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

Hermes Epice Marine : Perfume Review

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When it comes to telling compelling stories, Hermès takes the prize. The house’s perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, is the author of Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent and The Diary of a Nose, and he is a natural storyteller. Perfumes in the Hermessence collection are like pages from his personal journal, some inspired  by his travels, others by his native Provence. Epice Marine, introduced earlier this fall, was likewise inspired by Ellena’s adventures, but this time it’s also marked by a collaboration with another artisan.

epice marine

The fragrance came together as Ellena met and corresponded with chef Olivier Roellinger. Ellena travels the world in search of interesting scents, while Roellinger’s quest is for spices. Back in Brittany, a fog shrouded region along France’s northern shore, he composes spices into complex bouquets. If your idea of a spice blend is a Madras curry mix, then Roellinger’s delicate, harmonious blends will come as a surprise. When I sprinkle his Poudre Sérinissima over a tomato salad, I also want to dust my skin with this ginger and saffron accented powder. Who else could be a better collaborator and muse for a perfumer?

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Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Santal Noble : Perfume Review

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Santal Noble is my “reference” sandalwood fragrance, my baseline for other fragrances featuring this note.  It is part of MPG’s “Parfums du Levant” collection for men, the “Levant” broadly referring to a geographic area that is here stretched to include India and therefore the famous and now endangered Mysore sandalwood.

sunset

Although marketed to men, Santal Noble is, in true niche fashion, genderless.  Sandalwood connoisseurs might find the sandalwood note somewhat too mild, but Santal Noble gives me a rush of pleasure each time I wear it.  It is creamy, smooth, and I would go as far as to say, bewitching.

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