Monday, November 28, 2011

Mona di Orio Parfums - PART II

The Best was saved for last!
Continuing to explore Les Nombres D'Or.
Mona's classy fragrances.

Photo credit: Mona di Orio

Les Nombres D'Or Vanille - You will find 100s of Vanilla perfumes in the market, with all sorts of combination. From heavy orientals such as Shalimar, to pastries, tart-y gourmet vanillas. Combined with chocolate, with coffee, with milk, caramels, leather, tonka, benzoin, patchoulis, ambers, etc etc etc... If there are so many, why Mona's? Because it is not a sweet vanilla. Enhanced with rum, vetiver Bourbon and guaiac wood, it starts with a dry mineral/earthy/boozy dark vanilla, to blossom into a beautiful ylang ylang. The fragrance will last for hours and you will enjoy every phase. I loved this vanilla because it does not feel like spending an afternoon baking with Martha Stewart.
Notes provided in the internet are: Brazilian Orange, Indonesian cloves, petit grain, run extract, vetiver Bourbon, ylang ylang, Indian Sandalwood, guaiac wood, vanilla Absolute from Madagascar, amber and tonka. 

Les Nombres D'Or Musc - Musk was never my thing till I tried this one - I think the combination of neroli, angelica and rose is a very delicate and very tranquilizing. It has a rather acid citrusy opening. A beautiful neroli indeed. Once this acidity soothes, the angelica and rose bring a springy bloom to this perfume. From all the perfumes of this collection (so far), Musc is the most gentle and softer one. It contains sprinkles of powdery prettiness, a touch of furriness. The perfume caresses the skin, like a fury cat  passing through our legs.
It also brings the same warm sensation you get from a cashmere glove in a snowy freezing day... 

In my opinion, for the last two years Mona di Orio has been creating beautiful fragrances, and it is fair to say that she must be also blooming as a woman. I have seen many pictures of her in many occasions...and one thing catches my attention (besides the fact that she looks like a Modigliani painting), she has this special glow on her face... While many are lacking of creativity and are repeating themselves, or even disappointing us badly, Mona is  improving bottle by bottle.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mona di Orio Parfums - PART I

The best was saved for last!
Mona di Orio - Les Nombres D'Or collection
The perfect  choice for classy gifts!

Photo credit: Mona di Orio

In 2010, Mona di Orio and Jeroen Oude Sogtoen revamped their brand "Mona di Orio Parfums" with an exquisite collection called Les Nombres D'Or, inspired by the GOLDEN RATIO, a divine proportion used in architecture and maths by masters such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, known very well by Mona, as having herself, a background in Architecture. 
As she explains "Golden Ratio ... might be the key to understand beauty. Intrigued and attracted by this aesthetic theory, it let me imagine how to revisit some influential classics of the perfumery. Searching for the perfect proportions to reach a melodious harmony. Using the best raw materials, beautiful ingredients, precious gifts blessed with divine proportions. Close your eyes, open your nose and follow their mysterious and sensual sillages."

Photo credit: Mona di Orio

In her collection today you will find 07 beautiful fragrances -  Ambre, Cuir, Musc, Vanille, Tubéreuse, Oud and Vetyvér, all EDP concentrations (except for Musc which is EDT, and OUD which is Parfum Intense), presented in a beautiful classic bottle and a very luxurious package.
Mona succeed to achieve what seemed to be impossible - to make my dad accept the idea of wearing a new perfume. You see, my dad wears Eau Sauvage by Dior since the 60's, and whatever perfume I brought for him to try, he just made a face and said "I want to see the day you will bring me something that can be compared to the beauty of Eau Sauvage" and then he pushed the bottle/samples away. The day Mona's Vetyver arrived I ran to check what my dad would say . Expecting the same reaction as always, to my surprise he opened the bottle, and with a smile he declared "This is absolutely marvelous! - Who made this perfume?" OMG, he wanted to know who created the fragrance (FYI this is the attitude of a classic perfume consumer) - So I showed him Mona's website (now under construction - being revamped too) and when he found out that she had been trained by his beloved Roudnistska, he shouts "I knew it!", like he is some kind of Luca Turin...LOL. When I told Mona about my father, she just answered me with the most humble polite attitude I have ever seen in a perfumer: "I am honored". Isn't she amazing?

But back to Les Nombres D'Or. I have already reviewed her Cuir and her Ambre fragrances. I have also posted a beautiful review on Vetyvér, but unfortunately blogger made some changes in the website and I lost this review. But she is totally worth my effort to rewrite the article.

Les Nombres D'Or OUD - against all odds, Mona crafted the best Oud perfume recently launched in the niche market. Why against all odds? Because she didn't want to develop one. Only after many requests she finally gave in, and after studing many types of raw materials she found the beauty in oil form Laos. The notes of the fragrance are: elemi from Philippines, Calabrian green mandarine, petitgrain Paraguay, Indonesian patchouli, Chinese osmanthus absolue, opoponax, jasmine,  Indian nargamotha, Atlas cedarwood, essential oil of Oudh Laos, musc, ambergris and oak moss. 
In most Oud fragrances you will find compositions inspired in Middle Eastern scents, with cardamom, saffron, roses others you will find a heavier combination of oud with vetiver, sandalwood, leather. They are all nice fragrances, but IMO Mona's stand out for her creative way of combining oud with osmanthus, opoponax and a rubbery note of cedarwood. I have mentioned many times that I love the flowery powdery rubbery woodsy effect of Black Bulgari, and now I have a different perfume, with different raw materials, from a different perfumer, and an amazing flowery powdery rubbery woodsy combo. I even dare to said that I love Oud more than Black Bulgari (OMG! I thought that day would never come!). Mona said she wanted to create a very spiritual fragrance and many consider it so. But not me. To me this is a very modern perfume classically crafted. It is very urban, very hip, and most of all very very chic. I don't feel like meditating or relaxing, although it is a very smooth delicate yet powerful scent. I want to buy a ticket to Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Shanghai...walk among the feel the city beat!

Les Nombres D'Or TUBÉREUSE - tuberoses are tricky. Somedays I love them, somedays I just can't bare there carnal lascivious sweetness connotation of this scent. Sometimes they feel like you have bathed in laundry products -  clean to bones; sometimes it feels just dirty, sexual filth. This clean-dirty duality is somehow either interesting or really confusing to my senses. Mona's composition brings notes of pink pepper, Calabrian bergamot, green leaves, Indian Tuberose absolute, Siamese benzoin, heliotrope, amber, coconut milk and musk. The trio pepper-tuberose-coconut milk is rather opulent and beautifully contrasted with the citrusy-green sparkling notes. It is fresher and greener, complexed, less buttery, less carnal and much less opulent than the tuberose fragrances I have seen, but absolutely not less beautiful. If I can compare to all the rest, Mona's Tubéreuse whispers love words in your ears at night. It does not shout, it does not demand. It simply conquers you with her joyful tranquility of those who does not have to make effort to please others. 

To be continued...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Royal Rose Aoud EDP by M. Micallef - a pretty pink fragrance review

Photo credit: M.Micallef

As I am facing challenges in the end of my blogging year, Oud had to be approached. I have been giving my back to it for quite a while now, pretending Oud fragrances were not there. I guess it is the rebel in me or my quest for uniqueness, making me turn away and walk to the other side. So many launches with many reviews...
But than I found a huge challenge - A Rose & Oud perfume...rose, a note that I love in chypre combinations. A note that I long to have in many bouquets...but if you ask me if I love a rose won't be getting a nod. Yeap, although I have written about them, I find it very hard to love a real ROSE-THEMED perfume.

Photo credit: M.Micallef

So, here I have a ROSE and OUD oriental perfume in my hands. 
Royal Rose Aoud EDp by M. Micallef has a very sweet start. A rose crystalized in a sugar crust that melted slowly with the heat of my skin. 
If you look at the pretty pyramid designed by the brand, one might think this is a heavy fragrance with Gaïc, patchoulis, sandalwood, vanillas, musks and most of all, a superlative flower bouquet of rose and jasmines. Sounds pretty hypnotic, huh? Well...not at all. It is in fact a very pretty pink perfume, with a sheering luxurious aura, and a white chocolate note that makes you almost wish it was edible. Makes you think of pink macaroons... and trips to Paris. Nothing Middle Eastern or woody. Just a cloud of pink gourmandise.

Photo credit: 6Bittersweets

In times of restlessness, of global financial crises and political instability, isn't it nice to be able to fly away in a cloud of pinkish Oud? To a place where you can lie on a blanket of rose petals and jasmine flowers... Where rosy macaroons are served in a silver plate with flutes of champagne... bewitched or beclouded...

Photo credit: Bella Pilar

Notes from the Editor: + Q Perfume Blog has been posting articles about Pretty in Pink perfumes since 2009.
To read the previous articles, click on their names: Love by Kilian, Miss Charming, John Varvatos, Moulin Rouge 1889, Nuda by Nasomatto, Chance Eau TendrePooPoo Pidoo, La Chasse Aux Papillons.

As per uniqueness...well...hard to find these days...some people just like to copy others!

Bewitched or BECLOUDED by OUD fragrances

Photo credit:

Agarwood, Agar, Aloeswood, Aoud, Oudh or just OUD oil are all words to define the same thing - a precious oil that although used by cultures of the Middle and far East for centuries, that seems to be the newest fever among perfumers. 
In nature, sometimes an irritation process caused in animals and plants can result into beautiful things for us humans. As shelled mollusks create beautiful iridescent beads (called pearls) in order to defend their systems agains a grain of sand, the Aquilaria trees infected with fungus create a resinous fragrant substance to protect its wood. As the infection process progresses, the tree produces more and more resin and becomes darker and more fragrant. This resin later extracted, can be used in perfumery.

ASSAM BLACK WOOD from Tripura/2008
Photo credit:

There are many species of Aquilaria trees but the most beautiful Oud oils come from Assam, Borneo, Cambodia and Papua. The Indian Oud (Assam) has an earthy, musky, animal characteristics and it is extracted from the Aquilaria Tree. Borneo Oud has more fruity and honeyed notes, with flowery accents, and it is known for its light and airy appeal. Borneo Kinam is said to be the best Oud there is in the market today. Cambodiam Oud is very potent, very sharp with fecal and caramel characteristics, and Papua Oud is very exotic and rare, with leafy green notes, more floral and more tropical than the others.

Many perfumers are incorporating oud notes (natural or synthetic) in their niche fragrance developments, and many brands are even launching Oud themed perfumes.
But how to detect if it is a natural Oud note? Synthetic or diluted Oud has a leathery scent. It is simple, uncomplicated and rather boring. Genuine Ouds can present a combination of notes, such the ones mentioned above. One of the tests to check for quality is the sinking method. Due to the fact that oud oil is really expensive, it is fair to say that you will only find natural oud oils in niche perfumes.

Fact is that Oud is a bewitching scent, and many of us love to be beclouded in a huge dark cloud of oud fragrance, so I made here a list of the latest launches available:

1.Royal Oud EDP by Creed.
2. OUD EDP by Mona di Orio. 
3. Dark Oud and Moon Oud, both EDP by Montale. 
4. Bond Nº9 - New York Oud.
5. Precious Oud EDP by Van Cleef & Arpels.
5. Oud Immortel and Oud Mysterious, both EDP by Byredo.
6. Royal Oud by Armani EDP.
7. Secret Oud EDp by Caron.
8. Scarlet Oud and Rose Oud , both EDp by Illuminum.
9. By Kilian: Pure Oud, Rose Oud and Incense Oud, all EDP.

I found an amazing website from a fellow facebook friend - Ensar Oud. There you will find many Oud oils (organic, vintage or samples) for sale and many interesting info on this precious perfumery raw material. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seven Veils EDP by BYREDO - Fragrance Review

The newest feminine fragrance by Swedish niche brand Byredo brings the scent of the biblical femme fatale - Shlomit (or Salomé). Liquid seduction comes with notes of vanilla, unveiling the sensuality on an orchid, and the danger poison of an oleander. 


According to the brand: It is based on the biblical tale of Salome’s dance of the Seven Veils, a story of many layers. Tainted and bejeweled, Salome turns to the art of shameless seduction. Barefooted, sanguine and black eyed, she demands a man’s head on a plate in exchange for one single dance…“On that first morning the moon sinks late and you feel the pull, as if it were night, magnetic in a way the sun could never be. Three memories pervade the air. The way you hold it; the way through fingers you let it slip; and the way the woven silk floats across winds. So now floats a perfect fifth, in a minor chord, from an ancient bow, resonating in our ears louder and louder. And louder still until it grows stronger than even our beating hearts. You rise up, upon your feet, and even higher. With seven veils you dance, swirling, swirling, swirling.” (Ben Gorham)

Salome Dancing for Herod
by Gustave Moreau 1876

Seven Veils EDP was surprisingly good news for me because I always had the feeling that Byredo fragrance developments are more successfully designed for their masculine lines. That, in my opinion, does not mean they don't understand the feminine mind, on the contrary, they know how to seduce us and help our men become irresistible TO US.
The idea of an oriental based on large doses of vanilla and sandalwood is not new, but they did a pretty interesting job.

The opening has a distinguished element: carrots. Here it is spiced with pimento berries resulting in a fantastic combination. Ravishingly feminine, it brought a smile to my face for quite a while. Veil by veil, the fragrance reveals a creamier vanilla, drifting apart from the dark luxurious interesting note of the bean, pitching into creamier tart y treats, becoming unfortunately... predictable. BUT, I don't find this necessarily a bad thing. If you enjoy creamy vanillas with a touch of spices and flowers, why not? So Byredo will not win the Creativity Prize with Seven Veils, but it is still a nice perfume. 
Let's just say that one cannot expect a year round of groundbreaking fragrances. Even niche brands have to play safe to guarantee their financial year. I rather see a nice familiar combination than something said to be creative such as Secretions Magnifiques by ELO, or Womanity by Thierry Mugler. And what about flankers? How many J'Adore fragrances were launched? How many Poisons versions were launched? 
SO, as I always say "being the first does not necessary make you the best", and if I have to choose among many creamy sandalwoods with lilies - probably this one would not let me down. 

The olfactive notes are: carrot, pimento berries, Tahitian vanilla flower, laurier rose, glycine, tiger orchid, sandalwood and vanilla.

Rita Hayworth - The Hollywoodian fatal woman

Friday, November 18, 2011

PUREDISTANCE - The best niche perfumery brand according to + Q Perfume Blog

As I have already started my annually count down to the grand finale of one more blogging year, I think that it is about time that to publish the articles that bring the best of this year for you. I would like to give a special attention to a niche brand that I fell in love with recently. In my opinion it is not only what we can call a real NICHE PERFUMERY BRAND, but THE BEST NICHE BRAND there is in the market today.

Puredistance is a high end perfume brand founded by Jan Ewoud Wos, who had the concept idea in his mind since 2002. Finally, in 2008 he launched his first fragrance Puredistance I. At that time Mr. Jan E. Wos took a serious risk by opening an exclusive luxury business, when Europe was hit with a serious financial crisis. In 2010 he added 02 more fragrances to his master collection, Antonia and M. Since the beginning he has been successfully acquiring many clients and fans worldwide due to one simple reason: he offers genuine niche perfumes, with timeless and impeccable elegance, and distinguished quality.

Their perfumes were created by two master perfumers - Annie Buzantian* (in NYC) and Roja Dove** (in London) and they are available in the concentrations of Perfume Extract, with 25 - 32% of perfume oil. The collection today offers 03 different fragrances - two feminines and one masculine, but in my opinion Puredistance M is a unissex fragrance, and it smells lovely on me!. All 03 vials contain 17,5ml of the fragrance and they cost USD198, not including the accessories.
They all have something in common: they are very discreet and perfectly crafted. By unfurling petals; peeling citrusy fruits; unveiling magnificent ambers, musks and patchoulis; and by bringing earthy roots and mossy notes to the sunlight, you will find beauty in a way never presented before. 
I will publish the fragrance reviews in articles soon to come, therefore you found only a tiny drop of them here :-).

It is not a secret that when it comes to the notion of what is chic and hip, this blogger has exhaustedly repeated that "less is more". Although I love Art Nouveau and many other aesthetic styles, I tend to feel more connect to the minimalistic ones. The sharp clean lines of Puredistance flacons reveal what is the most important concept of the scents kept inside of them: understated elegance and beauty.
Once interviewing Della Chuang, a designer who has created one of the perfume bottles that I love the most (White Patchouli EDP by Tom Ford) said something that I will never forget: Simplicity seems natural, almost obvious in its final form, but getting there takes experience, talent, and patience. Design for simplicity cannot be successful unless it is supported by perfect execution. Simplicity isn’t simple.”
I couldn't agree more to her, and that is exactly what I have found in Mr. Jan E. Wos' brand. It took him years to transform an idea into reality, and patience led him to perfection.

Puredistance presents their fragrances in 03 different perfume sprays.

Puredistance I is presented in a classic white box and a white satin bed. The juice comes in a transparent flacon and it has a beautiful caramelized brown color, that looks simply  glorious in the white background. Puredistance Antonia comes in a classic white box and a green satin bed. The juice is also presented in a transparent flacon and it has a soft brighter color. Finally, Puredistance M comes with a gray box and black satin bed. The flacon is made of polished metal. All 03 caps are metallic, changing from gold coating to a silvery one depending on the fragrance.
The idea of a perfume spray that can be placed into different fragrance columns is absolutely fantastic. Puredistance perfumes can be purchased to be sheltered and presented by many  accessories.  

Columns? Yes, they are beautifully crafted acessories to keep the fragrance sprays inside. The perfume spray fits perfectly into the crystalline accessory, highly polished and exclusively produced by Swarosvski. Two objects that once brought together, result into a gorgeous piece of art complexly exectuted. The perfume vessel just stands there. A capsule of liquid beauty surrounded by transparency. 
Since this crystal column is handmade in limited editions, it is also numbered and engraved.

Inspired by Japanese minimalistic design, it comes with two versions - A black crystal, highly polished and also exclusively crafted by Swarosvski, with warm golden detail or modern steel. This is also a limited accessory, therefore it is also numbered and engraved. No need to mention that it has captured my heart - you all know I am crazy about Japanese design!

For those who like to carry the perfume spray with them or even to take the perfume during a trip,  Puredistance offers  03 different stylish cases in cognac, olive green and black leathers.

They also have 2 types of holders - a single holder for just one fragrance, and one for the entire collection, which is also very nicely crafted, with a black solid base and golden coated metal holder. Fragrances acquire the looks of vials of a chemistry lab. Practical, interesting, modern.

Once you begin this fantastic journey into the world of Puredistance, you will find out that everything was perfectly executed, from product to services provided.
The headquarters is in the Netherlands (a building mixing modern Dutch design with an Art Deco influence), but the brand also holds a showroom in Austria. It is called Puredistance Perfume Lounge in Vienna. Needless to say that it is designed with the finest taste for furniture.
Their website provides a PDF with all the information one needs to learn about the brand and the perfumes. There is also a blog with 1000s of pictures and where you can also follow the brand's path through these years. It is very interesting to read.
I have been being in touch with many brands over these years. They are all nice and very professional, but Puredistance took the relationship with customers and fragrance writers to an entire new level. Polished as their crystal columns are. Elegant, with simplicity. 

The brand offers a miniature collection of the fragrances in a black gift set, containing 03 mini boxes and 1ml of each perfume.

So my dear readers, I think I have presented you many reasons why I chose Puredistance as the best niche brand there is in the market today.
I have been saying over these years that in my opinion, perfume is not only a product. It is art in liquid form, executed by more than one hand, with 03 elements: the fragrance, the bottle and the package. Puredistance has brought to me perfumes that not only smell divine, but are presented in objects of art, beautifully designed and well packed. The owner of the brand, the brains behind this project is a man with a refined impeccable taste and sensibility. (Did I mention that he is good looking too? No? Of course he is! When I mean perfect in every detail, I really meant it!).

About the perfumers:
*Quick BIO - Puredistance I and Puredistance Antonia - Although Romanian, Annie has been living in the USA since the 70's. In 2003 she was granted from The American Society of Perfumers a Life Achievement Award for the body of her work. Her mentor was Mr. Elie Roger (who has passed away in Nov, 2010). Her portfolio is long, including names such as Estee Lauder, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and many others. 
** Quick Bio - Puredistance M - Born in England, has worked for 20 yrs with Maison Guerlain and then moved to found his own company called Rojan Parfums. Specialized in luxury brands, Roja has also worked with Clive Christian and Houbigant. Rojan is also engaged in many off - the - bottle projects.

Photo credits: all images belong to Puredistance brand and were authorized to be uploaded in this blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Incense and the Chinese Lunar New Year

The incense Journey - previous articles, click HERE, HERE

Burning Incense of New Years' Eve
Photo credits: REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

The Chinese new year, also called the Chinese Lunar new year or Spring festival, is one of the longest and most important festivities of their lunisolar calendar. 2011 is the year of the rabbit, and it started on february 3rd (which it will be repeated only in January 23 of 2023).
According to tales and Chinese legends, the Chinese New year started with the fight against a mythical beast called Nian. This voracious beast would come to the Chinese villages to eat livestock, crops and even villagers, including children. In order to protect themselves from this horrible fate, people placed food outside their doors believing that Nian would be satisfied and go away. They also believed that by dressing their children in red would scare the beast away. They believed that Nian was actually afraid of the red color, therefore they hanged red lanterns and spring scrolls on their doors and windows. Firecrackers were also used to scare it as they made a lot of noise. After so much effort to scare it, the villagers successfully put Nian away. It was later capture by a monk, transforming itself in the Hongjun Laozu's mount

Spooking Nian
Photo credits: REUTERS/Aly Song

The period of the Chinese new year's festivities is also know for the largest human migration, due to the fact that Chinese living in urban areas travel to visit their families. also Chinese abroad return to China to spend the holidays with family.
Preceding the New years' Eve Chinese people devote themselves to cleaning their houses in order to "wash away" all the bad luck. Some people give a new coat of red paint to the house just to assure the bad luck will not come in. Having a new haircut and buying new clothes brings is also very common and it brings the notion of a fresh start.

The first day of the New year
Many Chinese don't eat meat in this day, and the family dinner is the most important event. Also visiting the oldest members of the family is a common tradition. In most villages you will see firecrackers on the sky and a lot of dancing on the streets. After dinner, families usually go to the temple to pray. It is a common practice to run to the temple to try to be the first one to place the joss stick for good luck and prosperity. Mobs  run on the streets in the hope to place their incenses before midnight. Sometimes police is required to put some order in this crazy run to the temples.

Photo credits: Reuters/Nick Lou

The last day of the Chinese Lunar New year is the 15th day, when the first full moon can be seen, and it is celebrated with the Lantern Festival. In this day people usually carry lighted lanterns on the streets.

Photo credits:

Photo credit:

Incense in Chinese means "fragrance" and it is traditionally used in a variety of situations, from religious and medical purposes and even in their daily lives.
Incense use by Chinese people comes from the Neolithic times and it became extremely popular during the Song Dynasty - a period when incense appreciation became a cultural past time, to the extent that special rooms were built for this purpose.
Censing in China was also common among intellectuals who believed that censing their clothes was a way to show courtesy. 

Photo credit:

Chinese incense burners are usually made to resemble a metal or stone plate, standing on small legs.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

KTORETH - The incense of the Hebrews

After our journey to Japanese Incense, we will explore the origin of the Holy Incense - a recipe that you will find in the Bible.

The Hebrew word for incense is KTORETH - K (or kuf in Hebrew) alludes to Kdusha, or Holiness; T (or tet) is Tehara, or purity; R (or reich) alludes to rachamim, or mercy; and TH (or chet) alludes to Tkvah or hope. The incense to the Jewish people is a way to remind them to unite body and soul, in the service of God, to imbue their lives with holiness, purity, compassion and hope.

Exodus, verses 30:34-38
"And Jehovah said unto Moses, Take to thee fragrant spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, things fragrant, and pure frankincense, so much in so much shall it be. And thou shalt make it incense, an ointment the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, holy. And thou shalt bruise of it small, and shalt put it before the Testimony in the Tent of meeting, whither I will come to meet thee; a holy of holies shall it be to you. And the incense which thou makest in its quality, ye shall not make for yourselves: holy to Jehovah shall it be to thee. The man who shall make like unto it, to make an odor with it, shall be cut off from his peoples".

There are a lot of controversy in the matter of incense and religious practices by the ancient Israelites. There is no proof that incense was burned as a practice of banning demons, as the Egyptians believed. It is know that the Israelites have been acquainted to fragrant gums since the early ages. That spices were carried by caravans from Syria to Egypt through Israel, and that spices from southern Arabia were brought to Jerusalem by King Solomon. Nevertheless there is no trace in the Hebrew literature that incense was used  during the period of the early kingdom. Some say that incense or Ktoreh were meant as any burning sacrifice or sacrifice odor. Others believe that the altar of sacrifice was made of wood, covered with copper or gold, where the candlestick was placed (Menorah), together with a plate for incense burning. On the altar drink and meat offerings were placed, usually wine and the meat of animals preserved in salt.

Composition of the Holy Incense according to the book of Exodus

Nataf or storax gum; Shehelet or onycha, a fragrant operculum of a shell found in the Red Sea; Helbenah or galbanum; and Lebonah or frankincense.
Later several spices were added to the mixture such as Mor or myrrh;  Kezi'ah or cassia; Shibollet nerd or nard; Kurkum or saffron; Kosht or kkostus; Kinammon or cinnamon; Kinasha or cinnamon bark; Kippat haYarden or Jordan amber; Melach Sedomite or salt of Sodom.

Exodus 37.29
The LORD said to Moses:
"When you ordain Aaron and his sons as my priests, sprinkle them with some of this oil, and say to the people of Israel: " This oil must always be used in the ordination service of a priest. It is holy because it is dedicated to the LORD. So treat it as holy! Don't ever use it for everyday purposes or mix any for yourselves. If you do, you will no longer belong to the LORD's people.Mix a gallon of olive oil with the following costly spices: twelve pounds of myrrh, six pounds of cinnamon, six pounds of cane, and twelve pounds of cassia. Measure these according to the official standards. Then use this sacred mixture for dedicating the tent and chest, the table with its equipment, the lampstand with its equipment, the incense altar with all its utensils, the altar for sacrifices, and the large bowl with its stand. By dedicating them in this way, you will make them so holy that anyone who even touches them will become holy".
The Sweet-Smelling Incense

"Mix equal amounts of the costly spices stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, then add salt to make the mixture pure and holy. Pound some of it into powder and sprinkle it in front of the sacred chest, where I meet with you. Be sure to treat this incense as something very holy. It is truly holy because it is dedicated to me, so don't ever make any for yourselves. If you ever make any of it to use as perfume, you will no longer belong to my people".

Some ingredients had to be prepared in advance such as onycha, that was soak in Cyprus wine to loose its tartness.
The incense was pounded in the mortar twice a year. On damp days it was pilled up, and on hot dry days it was spread out for drying.


The significance of the Incense

According to some scholar Rabbis, the incense was made from ingredients coming form the sea, the desert, and the fertile lands meant to signify all things that He gave to us, and that we should dignify. Others mention that the four original ingredients represent water, earth, air and  fire, which all combined, represent the universe. There is a third school believing that the incense brings transcendence and meaning to the banalities of everyday life, reminding us to lighten your souls.

To read more about Incense Altar, click HERE


The Holiday Season is around the corner!

Despite all the macroeconomic pressure of the global economy recession, not only Christmas shopping started earlier this year, but according to a survey from Citigroup, shoppers in the USA will actually spend 2 to 4% more than they did last year.
Although combat shopping (LOL) hasn't started yet, at least not here in Brazil, the malls are already full. The bells are already jiggling, the X-mas carols are already everywhere, and people are already counting days to leave for the summer holidays. Where are you going this year? Do you have plans for new years Eve? We are still in the first half of November, but Brazilians are already packing their bags.
What is the big rush? Shops are pushing consumers to start to buy early to guarantee that they will succeed to sell all their stock, exactly because we are in a recession. The earlier you start, the longest the opportunity to sell what you have.
I also decided to start posting my Holidays specials earlier this year. I think there will be some need to strategizing x-mas shopping in order not to avoid this crazy X-mas frenzy and compulsiveness for shopping that seems to spreads like some epidemic disease as the holidays are approaching.

So here it is my dear readers, let the fun begin when the Jingle bell starts to rock!

Friday, November 11, 2011

KODO - The art of Japanese incense

Photo credit: Ikeda Koson

Since I have already discussed by most beloved fragrance notes (iris, patchouli, amber and leather), I am now inclined to overcome my limitations and to expand my horizons, by unfolding the secrets of notes that I have been neglecting for years due to one particular reason - I am not fond of them. Incense fragrances were never my choice of purchase, but I confess that some perfumes that I love do have incense in their accords, and sometimes they are the small touch that makes all the difference; but buying a perfume where incense is the main inspiration, added in large doses is just something I could never bare.
I think the best way to overcome my dislikes is to learn more about them. I feel that once I plunge into something that is not familiar, with an opened mind, things might take another direction. I also believe that life is less stressful, more vibrant and far more positive when we give things a second chance. When we try to learn the origin of things and we look at the world with less critical lens.
With this philosophy in mind, I will start a journey into KODO - the ancient Japanese incense ceremony. 
The history of KODO goes back to the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573) even prior to the Tea Ceremony. Before it became a ceremony, KODO was a social activity, a game by which players learn to "listen" to the fragrances. They are also contests to try to identify varieties of aromas of aloeswood, or RIKKOKU.
KODO is also one of the 03 major classical arts along with sado ( Tea Ceremony) and kado (Ikebana - flower arrangement).


Soradaki is the Japanese word for "burning for pleasure" when incense was burned over charcoal buried in ash. Kneaded incense, called Awaseko, or resinous woods such as sandalwood or aloeswood were heated instead. KODO is a variation of Soradaki, where a plate with mica is placed on top of the ash above a buried charcoal, releasing no smoke because the woods are heat at a low temperature, but giving off their fragrance in a very subtle way.
I found a list of the varieties of Rikkoku (agarwood) for KODO games. They consist in passing the incense around. Players need to "listen" to the fragrance, to appreciate its beauty and than try to guess the materials of the incense, describing the fragrances and classifying their qualities.
It may seem to be all about the sense of smell, but the secret of kodo is in "listening." The participants don't "smell" (the Japanese verb 'kagu') the incense or fragrant wood, but rather "listen" (kiku) to it, opening up not so much their nasal passages as their heart and spirit. 
Rikkoku means "The six countries of agarwood"  and since it is pretty much in fashion these days, I think it is interesting to list them:

Kyara - a gentle smell with a touch of bitterness. The fragrance is described as an aristocrat with elegance and gracefulness.
Rakoku - sharp and pungent smell like sandalwood, reminding an warrior.
Manaka - light, enticing and it changes like the mood of a woman.
Manaban - sweet and peasant.
Sumotara - it is sour but it can be mistaken by Kyara - it is a servant dressed like an aristocrat.
Sasora - cold and sour, can also be mistaken by Kyara and it reminds of a monk.

The qualities to classify the agarwood are:
Sweet (resembles the smell of honey or concentrated sugar), sour (resembles the smell of plums or acid fruits), hot (resembles the smell of hot pepper when heated), salty (lingering smell of the water from the ocean or seaweed being dried on the fire), and bitter (resembles the smell of bitter herbal medicines when heated).

Incense trail with gunpowder
photo credit:

Today in Japan there are only two school (Oiye ryu and Shino -ryu) teaching the art of KODO, which used to be mastered in 30 years  - yes darlings, being a Japanese master of anything takes always ages! Japanese are obsessed with perfectionism!
I found a 12 minutes documentary by Janus Avivison where you will be able to watch an entire ceremony of KODO. It also provides interesting historical backgrounds.

So let's watch it to continue this journey:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...