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oriental

Opoponax, also known as sweet myrrh, grows in particular in Iran, Italy, Greece, Turkey and in Somalia. The herb grows one-third meter to one meter in height. A resin is extracted from the stem by making an incision. The resin is drinkable in liquid but has a bitter taste, and the odor of the fresh resin is supposedly also quite unpleasant. The resin hardens when exposed to air and creates little dried pieces, which is how it is most commonly sold. And here is where the story starts getting more olfactory interesting and pleasant: the dried resin is inflammable and if burned as incense it gives a woody balsamic smell that has been a part of spiritual ceremonies for many, many, many years.  The name opoponax, sometimes spelled opopanax, has its origin in the Ancient Greek word for vegetable juice and healing. 
Photo: getreligion.org

The opoponax resin and oil also have an interesting role in medical history. The oil/resin are muscle relaxant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and stimulate circulation. They can be used for antiseptic and anti-parasitic purposes, and have been used throughout history as treatment for various medical conditions such as spasms, asthma, bronchitis, chronic visceral infections, painful menstruation, arthritis (mainly Chinese medicine), hysteria and hypochondria (!). In Somalia specifically, opoponax resin is used in folk medicine to treat stomach problems and for wound healing.

It is not difficult to find sweet myrrh essential oil for private medical use, a google search will lead you to several web stores that offer it. Its primary use is by topical application, for example mixed with coconut oil you can use it for sore muscles and joints. Only use it externally. Opoponax is often used as incense in spiritual, religious and other ceremonies. Therefore you can also find it in web shops such as St John’s Bookstore that belongs to the St John Monastery in California. They sell dried resin pieces that they import themselves from Somalia. In their product description the scent is described as a “complex scent reminiscent of brown sugar, butter, and lavender, with hints of rosemary”.

When used in perfume making opoponax is often combined with frankincense, vanilla, rose, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood, lavender and citrus oils. It has a spicy-sweet herbal scent that is also popular at spas. 

So now you might be thinking… what perfumes are there that smell of this liturgical remedy? 
Not too far-fetched an example is Opoponax from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, one of the world’s oldest pharmacies. 

A magic place that you should go to if have not yet. It was founded by Dominican friars shortly after their arrival in Florence in 1221. The pharmacy used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens to make medications, balms and pomades for the monks’ infirmary. In 1612 it opened to the public and still today we can go to Via della Scala to find elixirs, creams, waters, soaps, teas, fragrances and a million other things in beautiful bottles and boxes that all smell of ancient insight. I love the face tonics and hair products… If you are interested in reading more about Officinina Profumo-Farmaceutica di SMN, I suggest for example this article
Another overt tribute to opoponax is Imperial Opoponax from Les Néréides. A fragrance that combines opoponax with benzoin, sandalwood, amber and vanilla. I have seen this fragrance appear in many places in the online perfume world, and the reviews strike me as very heterogenous and puzzling. 
You will also find opoponax in the one and only Shalimar as well as in Opium from YSL, L’Eau Ambree from Prada and Pomegranate Noir from Jo Malone to give a few examples. Chanel perfumes often include opoponax, you will feel it in Coco Mademoiselle, Coco, Pour monsieur and Bois des Iles. In the case of Coco, an oriental spicy from 1984, Polge used opoponax with coriander, pomegranate blossom, mandarin orange, peach, jasmine and bulgarian rose as top notes, middle notes: mimose, cloves, orange blossom, clover and rose, and the opoponax comes as a base note with labdanum, amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, civet and vanilla.

In Opium from 1977 opoponax is bart of a woody base with among others (!) sandalwood, cedarwood, labdanum, benzoin, amber, musk, patchouli, vetiver and castoreum. Opium is a striking oriental-spicy  with quite a large number of ingredients… Top and middle include for example (!) mandarin, plum, clove, coriander, bay leaf, carnation, cinnamon, jasmines, roses and lily of the valley in the floral middle. Opium was quite controversial when it was launched as it was accused of glorifying drug use. In retrospect it seems that the controversy contributed to impressive sales numbers, the perfume was a huge success.

In 2000, Opium caused a new stir when ads with a quasi-naked Sophie Dahl in ectasy appeared. The photo taken by Steven Meisel was hugely admired in some countries and created massive protests in others (for example UK).  
The Opium provocations are far from over. Quite recently this film directed by Romain Gavras was banned, accused of glorifying drug addiction.
Opoponax has quite an interesting range of experiences don’t you think?

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

I know you have heard of amber. The word appears often in the perfume world when talking about oriental fragrances for example. Makes me envision nature caramel. Then you hear of ambergris. I am guessing many of you assume these two are, if not the same thing, that at least linked to each other. A very logic assumption and it seems even the perfume industry sometimes likes to blend the two (on purpose?). They are not the same… And the difference is significant, so my suggestion is that you keep an eye on which one it is that you are going for when looking for a new fragrance. I will definitely do a post on amber soon but tonight it is time for the nastier of the two.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised the first time I googled ambergris. This, for example, is the first sentence that you find if you look it up on Wikipedia:

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales.

If you follow this blog you might have gotten accustomed by now to the fact that perfume and animal secretions have a lot in common, and accepted that probably you have had both one and two of them on your skin. You have also probably noted that most of these secretions are replaced with synthetic options nowadays. But not always. Perfume houses are not always enthusiastic when it comes to defining whether they use synthetic or natural ingredients but I have heard that for example Creed use natural ambergris. Some people are put of by this but in my opinion, if the animal is not harmed and the synthetic option can be allergenic – then nature’s gifts are definitely my preference. 

So, ambergris. Fresh ambergris smells bad, like really bad sea smells, I think you know what I mean. But then it changes into a sweet, marine, musky and earthy scent. This process however takes a long time, often many years. You find it not only in the whales, but floating on the sea surface or in the sand. Geographical areas particularly rich in ambergris are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Bahamas is responsible for a large part of the ambergris on the market. Not far from there, you will find the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize which got its name from the large amounts of ambergris washing up on the island’s coast. 

Natural ambergris was been banned from use for a period of time as the sperm whale is an endangered species. Nowadays it is legal to use it however, though distributors are instructed to use only the amount that is naturally washed to shore, that is not taken directly from the animal. Every now and then a happy tourist will find ambergris on a beach. If that happens to you this site offers guidance in identification  and they will buy it from you as well. You are likely to be rewarded generously.

Ambergris gained its place in perfume history as a fixative. But it has been used in different ways for a long time. In ancient Egypt it was used as incense, and during the plague in Europe it was said that carrying ambergris in your pocket would protect you from the disease. During the Middle Ages it was used to treat headaches, colds and epilepsy. As with most slightly nasty things ambergris has also been considered to be an aphrodisiac.


But that’s not all. Ambergris has been used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes, even in recent times. In December 2009 it was added to a cucumber jelly in a British TV Show. And if you look at cooking discussions in online perfume communities you will find that it appears on dinner plates every now and then. Apparently it goes particularly well with chocolate and eggs.

It seems you can get some here btw.

Does it matter if you can classify what fragrance you’re wearing? If you know whether it is a floral, fougère or oriental? In theory, if you ask someone like me who is against superficial pointless namedropping – the answer is no. There is absolutely no point in keeping that sort of stuff in your head just for the sake of it or because you “should” know. In practice however, there are two reasons for you to think about perfume classification – the main one being that it’s a great tool for new discoveries as it will provide you with concrete links between what you like or dislike, and this will lead you to new fragrance pleasures. And pleasure is a great reason to care about things. The other reason is just simply curiosity. Some people just like maps. I do.

19th century perfumer Charles Piesse was one of the first to start classifying perfumes. He quickly turned to the world of music for symbols and so the language of perfumers became similar to that of musicians (which it still is today). The terms used in perfume language have the purpose to describe the different aroma layers in a fragrance, like chords. We also talk about top notes and different tones when distinguishing between ingredients and specific scents. We talk about the tonality of a fragrance just like we when analyzing a music piece.

There is also a more architectonical way of visualizing perfumes. William Poucher was one of the first to use the ‘fragrance pyramid’ to explain the top, middle and foundation as layers. He created the structure based on measurement of evaporation rate of perfume ingredients (fastest evaporation = top).

Image borrowed from davidreport.com/201103/scent-tokyo/



Here are some terms (from different eras, let’s not be so dogmatic) that are good to know when going on your perfume quest. The terms continuously develop and some perfumes contain traits of different families.


Floral: There are a few different types of floral fragrances. A Single Floral is a fragrance dominated by one particular flower (if you are fragrance shopping in France just channel Vanessa Paradis or madame Deneuve and say “soliflore”). Floral Bouquet is combination of fragrance of several flowers in the perfume. And Bright Floral is a modern fusion between Single Floral & Floral Bouquet.


Amber or Oriental: Fragrances with slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum, combined with vanilla, tonka bean, flowers and woods. Orientals are not fragrances from the Orient but rather evoke the European (or specifically Victorian) 19th century image of the Orient.

Wood: Fragrances dominated by woody scents, usually sandalwood and cedarwood.

Leather: Fragrances with a middle note with honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars.

Chypre: Bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum. “Green” is a modern more light version of this group.

Fougère: A base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss. (More info in post on Houbigant)

Aquatic/Oceanic: A modern category with clean often androgynous fragrances.

Citrus: Used to be a term used about eau de colognes now used for, well, citrus fragrances. (I know, a bit boring this description but some things are just not that complicated).

Fruity: Fragrances characterized by other fruits than citrus for example peach or passion fruit.

Gourmand: A term used for fragrances that often contain tonka bean, vanilla etc and create associations to desserts or flavors.

If these terms seem confusing or too many, The Fragrance Wheel might be your tool. It was developed in 1983 by Michael Edwards and based on four standard families: Floral, Oriental, Woody and Fresh. (Edwards divides these into three sub-groups which helps us see connections. The subgroups are Floral, Soft Floral, Floral Oriental, Oriental, Soft Oriental, Woody Oriental, Mossy Woods, Dry Woods, Citrus, Green and Water. But I think you might be ok just remembering the four main ones). 


Fougére gets a special position in the center as it combines elements of all four. If you know just these five terms you are safe, and it is likely that by studying the wheel and fragrances that you like you will be able to tell your preferred scent family/families. Also, if you ask someone in a perfume store for help and they give you a puzzled look – then I would suggest go to another store. Let’s encourage enlightenment, shall we?

I have found several “how to find your fragrance” articles that talk about how a certain type of person or age is recommended to go for one of the fragrance groups (eg fruity – young girl, fougére – man, green – sporty, oriental – in the evening). This is not my kind of fragrance approach. Be aware of the signals that your fragrance sends out, what it communicates about you. But find your thing. Go for what makes you feel good – and feel like you.

My plan is to have a few re-occuring topics in the blog, for example perfume searching tips and tricks, famous houses/brands and common – or just interesting – ingredients.

This time – tonka bean.

Dipteryx odorata (known as cumaru) is a flowering tree in from northern South America. Today, the main producers of the seeds are Venezuela and Nigeria. Kumarú is the word for tree in Tupi, in the region of French Guiana. The tonka bean is the seed from this tree. The beans are black, wrinkled and brown on the inside. They smell like vanilla similar to vanilla with a touch of almond, clove or cinnamon. The seed contains coumarin, which gives the seeds the great smell. The taste however, is bitter and eating coumarin can damage the liver.


Tonka beans are banned or subject to restrictions in several countries (for example use in food is forbidden in the US – probably because it affects coagulation). In others (like France), they are used in desserts as a vanilla substitute or to enhance the flavor in nuts or poppy, and in South America it seems it is used to create a specific aphrodisiac beverage. A google session will indicate that there seem to be a lot of chefs around the world who do like to experiment with this bean. And then they also appear in pipe tobacco and…in perfume.

The tonka bean has been considered to have both magical and medicinal powers. It has been used to cure depression, to boost the immune system, to cure snake bites and to treat coughs and rheumatism. The bean has been used for a long time for medicinal purposes among tribes in the Amazon. In occult traditions ceremonies that involve tonka beans are believed to help wishes come true. I also found recommendations to carry a bean in your pocket or bag for courage.

You will usually find tonka bean in an oriental fragrance, for example legendary Shalimar and Tonka Impériale (plus generally Guerlain), but also in fougères like previously mentioned Houbigant Fougère Royale. In Ellenas Hermessence series you cand find the fragrance Vetiver Tonka. If you are looking for more contemporary brands try Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford or A Taste of Heaven from By Kilian. 

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Min plan är att ha några återkommande teman i bloggen, till exempel parfymletartips, berömda märken och intressanta ingredienser.

Den här gången – tonkaböna.

Dipteryx odorata (kallas också cumaru) är en blommande träd från norra Sydamerika. De största producenterna/odlarna är idag Venezuela och Nigeria. Kumarú är ordet för träd på Tupi, i området Franska Guyana. Tonkaböna är fröet från cumaru. Bönorna är svarta, skrynkliga och bruna på insidan. De luktar vanilj med inslag av mandel, kryddnejlika eller kanel. Fröet innehåller kumarin, som ger fröna den fina doften. Smaken är dock bitter och om man äter kumarin kan man skada levern.

Tonkabönor är förbjudna i flera länder (till exempel är användning i livsmedel förbjuden i USA – förmodligen eftersom kumarin påverkar koagulation). I andra länder (t.ex. Frankrike), används tonka böna i desserter som ett substitut för vanilj eller för att förstärka smaken i nötter eller vallmo. Det verkar finnas en hel del kockar runt om i världen som tycker om att experimentera med denna böna. Och så finns den också i piptobak och … i parfym.

Tonkabönan har ansetts ha både magiska och medicinska krafter. Den har använts för att bota depression, för att stärka immunförsvaret, för att bota ormbett och för att behandla hosta och reumatism. I ockulta traditioner finns ceremonier som involverar tonkabönor som tros hjälpa önskningar att gå i uppfyllelse. Jag har också hittat rekommendationer att bära en böna i fickan eller i väskan för mod.

Tonkaböna finns i nästan alla orientaliska dofter, till exempel legendariska Shalimar och Tonka Impériale (plus Guerlain generellt), men också i fougères t ex tidigare nämnda Houbigant Fougère Royale. I Ellenas Hermessence serie finns doften Vetiver Tonka. Om du söker bland mer moderna märken så testa t ex Tobacco Vanille av Tom Ford eller A Taste of Heaven från By Kilian.