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I haven’t written any post here for a while because of travelling and an over-whelmed mind. I spent most of March in Kenya with a malaria elimination project. (As some of you now my other professional path is communication, mainly PR and strategy but also some fundraising.) An extra-ordinary experience that allowed me to discover many different places and contexts, from embassies to small island communities on Lake Victoria. These weeks and the complex context can be summarized and shared from many perspectives of course and my main focus on the experience is indeed from a malaria elimination project point of view. (If someone is interested in more information on that please feel free to contact me, especially if you are interested in supporting.) But for now, I do want to share with you some reflections and impressions from an olfactive and sensory perspective given the context of this blog and part of my life.

Coffee beans in the garden of Karen Blixen's house

Coffee beans in the garden of Karen Blixen’s house

This was my first trip ever to Kenya and when I left Sweden spring had just begun to discretely announce its ambition to arrive… at some point. Many layers of clothes, gentle silent shy spring smells. Preparing for intense days by the equator I expected a mild shock, that it would be hot, that the Nairobi air would be compact, stubborn, urban, dusty and the Lake Victoria air sticky, lush and sweet. I was not prepared to instantly fall in love with Kenyan air but that’s exactly what happened and I spent many days talking about it to whoever would listen. The Kenyan air is amazing. It’s a fragrance in itself. Fresh, breezy, sweet, soft and always with a hint of something floral. It’s so likeable, so tender. Such a contrast sometimes to the visual impressions, for example in Nairobi where there is a lot of traffic, construction and… people. (I live in Sweden… it’s not so densely populated, downtown Nairobi is a physical and visual sensation for me.) Every day I felt aware of this particular air and felt like inhaling endlessly. The Kenyan air was really a remarkable part of my impressions and it feels like the perfect reflection of other impressions such as for example the soft slow voice that many Kenyans speak with.

Streets of Nairobi

Streets of Nairobi

Nairobi bloom

Nairobi bloom

Something else that I thought about a lot was the directness and purity of flavors. It was really quite relaxing and restoring for the senses, and I noticed how I quickly started to avoid cosmetics that smelled to much (the one particular product that felt the most right was a serum from Swedish brand Emma S, that actually smells a little bit like the Kenyan air). Even having returned home I notice when cooking that I am much more attracted to simple gentle pure things, I keep trying to recreate ugali and sukuma. When you are raised and based in a climate that allows for things to grow in your garden only a few months per year, it is a true luxury to eat fresh food and only fresh food every single day. Fresh fish and fresh lime is really really fresh in Kenya.

Porcupine lime

I don’t know how many times I ate kachumbari, a delicious salad made with tomatoes and onions and cilantro, and never grew tired of it because the flavours were so rich and intense. A little bit more onion or cilantro or not made it feel like a different dish. And the mango… I think for the rest of my life when I think of mango my brain will start creating the sweetness of fresh ripe mango in my mind. Surprisingly enough the closest I get to the intensity of fresh Kenyan mango is the dried mango from Swedish-Colombian Nathalie. I quickly found a favorite routine for the early evenings when we returned from field trips in the islands on Lake Victoria. There was a place, a lawn right in front of the lake with soft chairs and a beautiful view and they made Masala tea with milk, served in a nice pot. The soft grass, the soft chair, the over-whelmed mind… watching the lake make its daily transition turning into a an unruly water more resembling a sea than a lake… warm dusty skin and the taste of the spices embraced by soothing milk. I will remember this forever.

Masala place.

Masala & contemplation place.

There was an abundance of sensory impressions in this environment but somehow they came isolated and so there was a balance between variety and purity that felt energizing. It reminded me of the first week at perfumery school in Grasse where we smelled so many raw materials every day but somehow I never felt tired or sedated (the first week with naturals that is, the second week with synthetics was an entirely different story…). There were so many new sounds and smells and flavours… all senses were on an endless daily safari. And such odd combinations that form new associations of the mind… For example every night I applied mosquito repellent before going to sleep and every night in Mbita there was music somewhere in the distance. Very often the same song reappeared with a certain background drum loop repeating. Two slow, three fast. That kind of beat smells like mosquito repellent to me now. A more pleasant association is dusty clay road and fresh sugar cane. That one I love. And this is where I tell you that going on a road trip in Nyanza with a good jeep and an excellent driver and some fresh sugar cane should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is epic.

Sugar cane, dusty road

Sugar cane, dusty road

Someone asked me the other day, if I would create a fragrance that symbolizes Kenya, what would it smell like. An enchanting challenge of course but I am not ready at all to even attempt. My first encounters with Kenya revolve around being struck by the many faces and characteristics of Kenya, from one extreme to the other. So dynamic and unruly in one second, so peaceful and intimate the next. Dusty roads and lush opulent rural hills. Fast lanes with matatu madness and zebras that just don’t care. Flowers and fish. Masala and sugar cane. Mandazi and mango. Nyama choma in the making in the night air. Drumbeat and breeze. Endless contrasts. I admire the pride that every Kenyan I met seems to have in the spine, and the soft silent voices. The big smiles that light up not a room but an entire street. The reserved poise. I have no idea how to convey all that. But I know I would want to capture it in a way that also includes those incredible magic infinities…

Kenyan infinity

Kenyan infinity

I could write a book about everything that Kenya did to my mind, heart and senses. Maybe someday when I have had the privilege to spend more time there I will. For now I leave you with these impressions, some Kenyan seduction from Dela for your ears and some amazing photos by Kenyan photographer Kevin Ouma.

Asante sana Kenya. Infinite place.

Maasai Photo by Kevin Ouma

Maasai Women. Photo by Kevin Ouma

Boats in Mfangano. Photo by Kevin Ouma.

Boats in Mfangano. Photo by Kevin Ouma.

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Second day with this diabolic caress.


I am infatuated. I keep smelling my own skin and every time I do it smells differently. It feels like I keep chasing it, the scent. Trying to capture it. Eight hours after application only a soft basenote veil is left and you have to be very close to feel it. So I put my wrist right under my friend Fredrik’s nose. He is a photograper with a divine eye and he has been wearing Noir Epices by Michel Roudnitska so you understand… he understands. He tells me I smell like I am wearing a man’s perfume, but he says it with a smile that can only mean that it is in a really good way. Before he has finished describing his reaction the fragrance has changed again. Which gives me a reason to start all over and reapply. I have it in my pocket. I have been carrying the sample with me for two days, every now and then I have to reach for it. Love is an understatement. Fredrik leaves with arms covered in styrax and castoreum.

For some reason, for me it is really about basenotes. I am obsessed with basenotes. But then I also prefer afternoons, Sundays and autumn. The dance between the resinoids, woods and glands in this fragrance intoxicate me. I don’t feel the violet at all. I feel an almond that is not there. I feel so many things and this fragrance just keeps changing. But there is a constant balance between soft and coarse. Between close and escape.

This is what perfumery as an art is about. The creation of adventure. Artistry and mathematical precision in magic union.

Agarwood. gaharunusantara.indonetwork.co.id

CREED, or House of CREED to be correct, was founded in London by perfumer James Henry Creed in 1760. Throughout it’s long history this house of perfume has had many royal clients. The first royal commission came already in 1781 from King George III, for whom CREED made the scent Royal English Leather. When it was time for CREED’s 100th anniversary the company moved to Paris at the request of client Empress Eugénie for whom CREED created Jasmine Impératice, a fragrance that the company to this day continues to make and sell. (Top notes: bergamot, middle notes: Bulgarian rose, ambergris and Italian jasmine, base notes: vanilla and sandalwood). Eugénies husband, a certain Napoleon III, was also one of CREED’s clients.

In 1885, Queen Victoria appointed CREED “official supplier” to the British royal court. For her majesty, CREED created the scent Fleurs de Bulgarie by commission. This engaging scent, rich with roses, is available today. (Top note: bergamot, middle note: Bulgarian rose, base notes: ambergris infusion and musk).
The list of famous persons who have not left their home without their favorite CREED on their skin is as endless as diverse. Queen Maria Cristina of Spain was a client, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor wore CREED, for some time Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite perfume was Tabarome. In 1933 CREED created Angelique Encens,  for the Bishop of Paris. And in 1956, CREED created Grace Kelly’s wedding scent, Fleurissimo, by order of her fiancé Prince Rainier.

The brand had a powerful revival in the 1980’s with the fougère Green Irish Tweed, created by Olivier Creed and Pierre Bourdon. I cannot really go in without mentioning something more about fougère… A fougère is a classification. These perfumes belongs to a family with a top note of lavender and base note of oak moss and coumarin and are more common in fragrances pour les hommes. There are also aromatic fougères which then also have spices and wood in them. You often find vetiver and bergamot in a fougère. The name comes from the paradigmatic perfume Fougère Royale for Houbigant created by Paul Parquet in 1882. It was relaunched in an updated version in the late 1980’s, then production was not produced anymore but I heard that it has just been relaunched again? Epic however regardless.

Back to CREED. CREED is a rare fragrance company, not only for it’s respect for the traditions of perfume making but also because it is the world’s only privately held fragrance dynasty. It was founded by a CREED and it is still 250 years later passionately developed by the same family. This also makes it one of the world’s oldest family businesses in general. Today, the company is based in Paris and led by Olivier Creed. His son Erwin works with him and is likely to be the seventh generation of CREED perfume makers. I find this aspect of the company immensely admirable and fascinating. 
Olivier Creed
CREED perfumes are created using the techniques of maceration and filtration. The house is famous for being a strong proponent for natural ingredients.

As you can imagine there is quite a range of CREED fragrances to choose between. I have yet to find a favorite but wouldn’t mind owning a selection of bottles with magic from this house. Especially Sublime Vanille from 2009. You can find a complete list of CREED fragrances and information about them here.

Another great feature of CREEDs homepage is their scent finder form which is sent to their staff who will help you find the right fragrance, you find it here. (Penhaligons also has this kind of service and it is actually a good exercise in itself to think about the questions in the form as this will help you define your fragrance preferences for yourself regardless of where you then go looking for them).

For US citizens, I am happy to tell you that you can order samples from this admirable brand. There is also the store at 794 Madison Avenue in Manhattan which was opened when CREED celebrated its 250th year in 2010.