In the Realm of Senses & Art Event : June 16

I’m collaborating with the multi-sensory art project called In the Realm of Senses. The idea behind it is to explore the sensory dimensions of various art forms, discover how stimulating one sense enhances the experience of our other senses, and to create a platform where artists and participants can meet and experiment together. As you can see, it’s an extended version of what I do with Bois de Jasmin, so I’m happy to support this initiative. It has long been my belief that olfaction, the overlooked sense, can make our sensory experiences richer and that paying more attention to it gives more facets and colors to our surroundings.


In The Realm of Senses was conceived by Jeff Yang, a Chicago-based violinist, with a fascinating background in classical music and engineering. We’re in the early stages of taking the project off the ground, but among the perfumers involved are Ralf Schwieger and Christophe Laudamiel. If you’re in Chicago on June 16, 2018, please don’t miss our fundraising event.

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The Promise Of a Blossom

Out of my window I can see a rose bush. This is my Ukrainian window, of course, because out of my Belgian window I see the Mondrian-like grid of buildings, the pale ribbon of the skies, and in the distance, the red tiled roofs that reveal the Nordic roots of Brussels, a town with a Gallic accent. If I peer hard enough, I can see my neighbor’s roses across the street, but having one’s own rose bush is infinitely better, and for a part of the year, I have that pleasure.

The rose bush is awakening slowly, and as I take a break from writing and look out of the open window, I see that each day the buds look fuller. At first, they are hard and green, like unripe cherries. Then, they swell, and I can catch a glimpse of a dark pink petal. Observing the flower opening is like watching a butterfly break out of a cocoon and spread its wings. For this reason, the French word éclore that means both to open and to hatch is so appropriate for describing the opening of the buds. The promise of a new bud is a promise of changes, beauty and even magic. The kind of everyday magic that nature offers generously.

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Spring Folding Into Summer : Haiku of the Day

Changing the dresses
Spring has vanished
Into a long coffer

—Ihara Saikaku

The image that this poem plays on is a wooden chest for storing clothes. The change of seasons in traditional Japan used to be associated with the heavier spring kimono being exchanged for the light summer one. As the cherry petals fall and vanish into the earth, so does spring itself. Summer is waiting in the wings.

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The Color of Life, The Scent of Spring : Green

My wedding outfit wasn’t white. It was green, because in the western part of India where my husband’s family originally comes from, and where we were married, it means the color of life, spring and rejuvenation. Since then I have been paying more attention to this shade, and the scents associated with it. In perfumery, for instance, green can be suggested by a variety of materials, from naturals like violet leaf and galbanum to synthetics such as leaf alcohols that smell of freshly cut grass.

The rich palette of green notes finds its expression in a diversity of green nuances in perfumery. This is the topic of my FT column, Seven Green Perfumes. I select these seven fragrances to paint a full spectrum of green, from the dark emerald to pale pistachio.

Green notes, however, can be difficult to wear, which is why, though this perfume family has many loyal fans, it remains small. We prefer our scents of freshly cut grass and new leaves in the air, rather than in the bottle. Nevertheless, certain green fragrances have become classics. One is L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier. It creates its signature fig accord with the clever combination of ivy, leaves and galbanum. The latter is a fennel-like plant that produces a pungent-smelling essential oil. When carefully dosed, however, galbanum conjures up the vivid colours of spring — young buds, new leaves, damp earth. To continue reading, please click here.

As always, I would love to know your favorite green scents?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Late May : Scent Diary

The musky warmth of peonies heated by the sun. The spicy bite of a walnut leaf. The milky greenness of a raw walnut that leaves brown stains on my fingers and a scent of aged wine. The caramel sweetness of first strawberries. A green apricot sprinkled with a bit of salt–a childhood pleasure and a taste of fresh almonds and grass. The ripeness of sprouted onions found in the cellar, the ripeness, dust and sulfur. The pharmacy cabinet smell of yarrow. The pungent blanket of mulch. The vertigo-giving freshness of a sudden storm. The bitter honey and lemon peel of elder blossoms. A late May afternoon.

You can write about anything you wish in this thread, including your favorite poetry. For those who would like to use the Scent Diary to sharpen their sense of smell, I will give a short explanation. As I wrote in How to Improve Your Sense of Smell, the best way to do so is to smell and to pay attention to what you’re smelling. It doesn’t matter what you smell. The most important thing is to notice scents around you. It’s even better if you write it down. So please share your scents and perfumes with us.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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