india: 23 posts

Fennel Cardamom Sherbet (Saunf ka Sharbat)

La canicule, the heatwave, has reached Brussels, with temperatures in the city these days exceeding those of Delhi. Unlike in India, life in Belgium is not designed for a hot climate. Air conditioners are a rare item in most households. The buildings trap heat. The large windows turn apartments into greenhouses. Last night I was dreaming that I was sleeping on the edge of an exploding volcano. It might as well have been our bedroom.

Trying to retain sanity in this heat, I turned to classical Delhi remedies. Since escaping to the cool mountain resorts in Darjeeling wasn’t in the cards, I made a refreshing fennel seed sherbet, saunf ka sharbat.

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Neela Vermeire Creations Niral : Fragrance Review

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My saris are my personal archaeological layers. The turquoise and saffron one was bought from a market in Pune on my very first trip to India. The magenta one with the border of gold thread woven into the peacock pattern came from a cavernous shop in Gujarat, where I sat in a hot daze surrounded by towering stacks of silks. The hot pink one with the silver embroidery was a nod to Mumbai fashions circa 2005 picked up on a whim, along with matching bangles. The sienna and orange one was given to me on my wedding day by my parents-in-law.

My saris live in a box and I wear them only when I’m in India. Here, in Belgium, they don’t feel right. A sari needs the context–the music, the movement, the heat, the chaos of an Indian wedding. So I spread them out on the furniture to enjoy their colors, but I drape myself in a sari-like perfume of layers and folds. Like Neela Vermeire’s Niral, for instance.

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Indian Vignettes : Henna

Hands painted with henna smell of leather, wilted jasmine and dried lemon peel. A strange but evocative scent. The moment I catch a whiff of it, I think of Indian weddings, including my own. I know only two perfumes with a henna note, The People of the Labyrinths A.Maze and Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers, in which henna plays up their soft leather accords.

Have you ever had your hands painted with henna? If you know of other perfumes with henna notes, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Sandalwood Scented Dreams

India and sandalwood. Long before I became interested in perfume as vocation, I knew of this connection. More than a stereotype, it reflects the significance of this wood in India’s traditions, from birth to death, from a wedding to a funeral. Sandalwood makes one’s skin more beautiful and gods more pleased. It smells divine. In my new FT column The Scent of Sandalwood, I explore how Indian and modern European perfumery were inspired by this precious material. Also, I touch upon an issue that rarely clouds the romantic accounts of Mysore sandalwood groves–their overharvesting and near complete devastation.

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“My mother-in-law rubbed a piece of pink-coloured wood on a rough stone until it turned to paste. My husband and I were about to travel back to Europe and in the Hindu custom my mother-in-law performed a puja, an act of worship, to ensure our safe journey. She lit joss sticks around the deities and dabbed some of the paste on the figurines of gods arranged on her small altar and then on our foreheads – the fragrance of sandalwood rose in the warm air. Many hours later as I sat in the plane, the creamy, floral perfume lingered around me, carrying with it the memory of a caring touch.” To continue, please click here.

One of my favorite sandalwood perfumes today–it uses a mixture of Australian and synthetic sandalwood–is 10 Corso Como. A niche classic. Do you enjoy sandalwood?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

Neela Vermeire Creations Pichola : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on a new perfume from Neela Vermeire Creations.

Neela Vermeire Creations, a small niche line launched in 2012, includes five fragrances so far, all inspired by India and composed by Bertrand Duchaufour. Pichola is the latest release, a white floral inspired by Lake Pichola in the Rajasthan state of India. I’m a white floral lover, and from the great early reviews to the description, the scent sounded enticing: warm, spicy, and complex. But that’s not quite what I experienced.

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Pichola opens with a surprising impression of lemongrass – that distinctive sour/herbal/floral note in Southeast Asian curries. There’s no lemongrass listed in the notes; this uncanny effect must arise from a combination of citrus (bergamot, clementine, and neroli) and spices (cardamom and saffron). At first, it’s intriguing; I’ve never smelled a note like this in perfume before.

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