christmas: 4 posts

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Gold, frankincense and myrrh have been venerated since antiquity and their importance often exceeded their monetary value. Many know the Biblical story of the adoration of the Magi, but you can find mentions of these materials interspersed in Hindu, Islamic and Judaic texts. Since perfumery reflects trends in art, fashion, and society at large, I have always wanted to explore the three gifts of the Magi in the context of fragrance. I thought that it would be a fascinating exercise.

While the value of gold may be self-evident, its ability to hypnotize and dazzle is even more prized. The pursuit of such an irresistible sensation has deeply influenced perfumery, despite the fact that gold does not have an obvious olfactory profile. After all, just as gold is an exquisite adornment, so too is perfume.  Although every perfumer might interpret the gilded idea differently, many gold fantasy accords fall in the realm of rich oriental notes—spice, amber, balsam, tobacco, vanilla.

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Recommend Me a Perfume : Christmas 2017 Edition

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is now open. Since Christmas is coming up soon, you can this space to solicit holiday appropriate fragrance recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors.

Meanwhile, as you looking for the idea to lift up your holiday baking, I would like to turn your attention to this article on gingerbread spices: Dry Perfume for Gingerbread. It includes several spice blends for honeycakes and gingerbreads, from delicate and bright to peppery and fiery.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Ukrainian Wheat Berry and Poppyseed Pudding Recipe (Kutya, Kutia)

Wheat and poppyseeds

It is a quiet afternoon on Christmas Eve. I check on the last minute dinner preparations, light up the Christmas tree and take out my old mortar and pestle. Although I know that the food processor will be much faster and easier, there is something special about doing things the old way. As I pound the poppyseeds, the rhythmic movement of the pestle transforms the tiny grey-blue grains into a violet hued mousse. The aroma is nutty at first, then milky and sweet, like fresh marzipan. I want to dip my finger into the creamy paste; it must taste as delicious as it smells.

It takes all of my willpower to resist because on Orthodox Christmas Eve, the Advent fast can only be broken when the first star rises. Instead I continue to work, my body is here in this messy apartment—I still need to clean up before the evening feast—but my mind is with my grandmother on the other side of the ocean who has probably done the same thing earlier today. Kutya—or kutia, kolivo, colivă, koliva, sochivo, as this wheatberry pudding with poppyseeds is known in different parts of Eastern Europe—brings us closer together than any modern means of communication.

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Caron Nuit de Noel : Perfume Review

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Nuit de Noël was my introduction to the house of Caron, and what a wonderful exploration it has charted out for me. Caron creations seem unusual to me; they are carefully balanced, possessing a dark languid undercurrent that immediately conjures visions of classical French couture. I do not want to use the term old-fashioned since it is liable to negative connotations, but Caron’s creations have a classical aspect that I do find appealing, if slightly nostalgic.

Nuit de noel

Nuit de Noël was created in 1922 by Ernest Daltroff for his lover, Félicie Vanpouille, who loved Christmas Eve and the scents associated with it. Indeed, it is a quiet, whispering fragrance, conjuring perfectly the silence and the serenity of the night before Christmas. “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” (by Clement Clarke Moore). Nuit de Noël is one of my favorite Caron scents because of its interesting composition and exquisite dry down. Overall, Nuit de Noël is a soft wood-based scent with a floral heart. The top notes are very classical rose, jasmine and ylang ylang–dry floral notes rather than a creamy modern composition. The most interesting changes take place after the fragrance dries down slightly. Suddenly the floral blend is dissipated by the wetness of oakmoss. Then the spicy notes become apparent, albeit remaining very soft and intertwining with sandalwood and vetiver. The fragrance does not lose its dry quality which is wonderful and comforting. I imagine walking around in the city as the snow is falling softly.

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