Incense trail letter from Japan
Spring in Kyoto is as poetic as spring in Paris. If you are lucky enough to catch the cherry blossoms it is truly a floating world of pink puffs. If not, never fear. The gloriously opulent wisteria come into their full glory shortly after, which was my timing and the theme of the Geisha Dance performance I saw in Kyoto. The whirlwind trip through Japan I took with my darling chef hubby was mostly spontaneous. So when I saw the poster for the spring Geisha Wisteria Dance in the Kyoto station, I knew that our timing was perfect. I must quickly interject, for those of you who have visited the aroma M Atelier, you will know I have quite a collection of Kyoto Geisha Dance posters. Chef hubby made a gift of this one to me, and they now hang on the Atelier wall and is a daily inspiration for me.
The Geisha Dance performance was everything and more than I had imagined. I always love the last dance, which usually involves all of the Maiko's and Geisha on a very colorful stage representing the theme of the performance. As the live musicians of Geisha's began playing their traditional instruments, the curtain rose up onto a kaleidoscope of cascading wisteria. The dancers were adorned in stunning kimonos with wisteria hairs pins and carried baskets full of flowers and other treasures. The tradition during this last dance is for the Maiko's to toss signed scarves into the audience, a very coveted keepsake. Of all the performances I have seen I have never been so lucky as to catch one, until this time. My hero chef hubby, being taller than everyone, extended his arm in true baseball fashion as the Maiko near us delicately reached into her basket and tossed the scarf. I was ecstatic when I saw him catch it! This for sure was a big highlight of the trip for me.
My favorite new find in Kyoto, tucked away in a cluster of tiny streets in Gion, the Geisha district, is an authentic Geisha Beauty Shop. I was spinning while looking at all the colorful pots full of powders and bottles of golden Camellia Oil. The elegant and very beautiful older women in the shop must have been a Geisha in days gone by. She sweetly indulged me in all my questions and explained the uses of all the magical potions. It was a trip back in time. On one of the walls she showed me a collage of stickers, which are calling cards of the Maiko's and Geisha's. Surely this was proof that this shop was the real deal. There was also a small alter perched above the counter that I gave thanks for bringing me to this dream of a shop. I am enjoying using my lacquer brush and Geisha red lip cake that I purchased, of course it is the perfect red.
We spent a serene and tranquil day at the legendary Zen temple complex Daitokuji. There is a cluster of 22 temples, many have rock gardens dating back to 1500's. The spirit of Zen is expressed through the nature of rocks and sand in these infamous gardens. We happened to visit on a quiet day, and were able to experience the gardens mostly alone, with just the scent of wafting incense joining us. Rinzai Zen has a long association with the Tea Ceremony which was at its height during the late 1500's. There are many tearooms within Daitokuji. It was especially poignant for me to see these exquisite rooms, as I am whisking bowls of Matcha at the aroma M Atelier these days. I had the honor of meeting the 82 year old abbot of Daisen-In, who is also a master calligrapher. He was in true Zen fashion, very funny and full of light. It was a thrill to be in his presence and receive his blessings. When I light the incense I received from this temple I find myself transported back to the subdued and quite beauty of this magical place.
As always we try to stay at as many "Onsen" hot spring resorts as we can. Being a bath lover, the Japanese baths for me are unsurpassed. One that stands out this trip was an outdoor, very fragrant "Hinoki" bath. Surrounded by spring green mountains, crisp air and blooming azaleas while listing to nightingales sing, was pure heaven.
Inspiration abounds after such a fabulous trip. Stay tuned for some new aroma M products to launch in a few months!
Perfumed Letter from the South of France
Leaving NYC on a very cold evening in December, I boarded my Air France flight to Paris. Being that I don’t enjoy flying, I surprisingly had a lovely flight and was excited to start my trip to the south of France on arrival at Charles de Galle airport.
The sunny morning train ride from Paris through the bucolic South of France countryside passed through Lyon and onto my stop at Nimes, where I was met by my brother. We then drove to my final destination to the medieval stone town of Uzes.
Uzes located in the Languedoc region, is an authentic, absolutely stunning antique medieval town. The shops and streets were decorated for the holidays with vintage Christmas lights and red bows, and classic holiday music was heard throughout the town. It was quite a setting to start my holiday.
My first night I was treated to the almost four hour dance performance, “1980” by Pina Bausch. The stage entirely covered in real grass and sporting a stuffed deer and adorned with a row of powerful stage lights on each side, is a vision created by the designer Peter Pabst. This entwined relationship between the natural and the theatrical is a kind of playground in which the 20-member ensemble gathers to sunbathe, dance, celebrate, mourn and dream. “1980” is about death and grief, and the strange bits and pieces of memory, social ritual and private madness that make up life. It left me breathless.
Most days started with a trip to the famous Uzes farmers market. Wednesday was my favorite day to stroll through the stalls spilling over with vegetables, cheese, fish, and wine; basically anything you can dream to eat and drink! The purveyors, always with big smiles, are the essence of the market. Their friendly and warm personalities are infectious. My timing was perfect as it was Truffle season. Eating Foie Gras with truffle, pasta with truffle, cheese with truffle, I was in heaven. Oh and how can I forget the gluten free macaroon stall, colorful and delectable, set up right outside my brother’s gorgeous wood and stone door?
I took a trip to a three generation Truffle farm not from the center of Uzes. The country drives in this region are glorious. Elegant white trees line the narrow roads and the pink and purple light reflecting on the rolling vineyards made me see why Van Gogh became inspired in southern France and began the most productive period of his painting career. As we drove through the gate to the Truffle farm I was immediately struck by the extraordinary landscape. Truffles are a mystery, and let's hope they stay that way along time. Truffles do not fit in this age of genetically engineered corn and soy. Really, truffles cannot be "grown" at all. A truffle farmer does not plant truffles, he plants oak trees, and truffles grow only near the roots of certain trees. Adorable little pigs, which love their scent, are used to find the round, dark-brown, warty, subterranean, and absurdly expensive fungus. Walking through the fields of thyme, blooming rosemary and bamboo to groves of scrubby oak trees made for a magical landscape. It was truffle season, and the air was heavy with the heady smell of them. I was able to hand pick one of these treasures, don’t tell, but I smuggled it back to NY to give to chef hubby!
One of my favorite towns is Avignon. Situated on the left bank of the Rhone River, Avignon is a town that embraces art and artists. Being that I am a cinema lover, visiting the Utopia cinema was a must. The theater is filled with wonderful paintings and the theater chairs and walls are lined with midnight blue velvet, just perfection. The 10 museums in the city provide an incredible variety of collections from ancient times to Middle Age paintings and the Beaux-Arts. The high point for me was La Mirande Hotel, an eighteenth-century mansion steps from the Popes’ Palace. The fact it was once home to a cardinal is reflected in the guest room tapestries, oak floors, and Carrara-marble bathrooms. Curtains with silk linings drop to the floors. The glass-covered patio lit by candlelight and salon with silk wallpaper and an enormous fireplace offers a buffet of homemade pastries and teas every afternoon. I could spend hours there enveloped, daydreaming of the luxuries of the past and present.
I would be remiss to not mention the shops in Uzes, Much like Venice where each shop feels like an artisan workshop, Uzes is brimming with creative and inspiring, boutiques and cafes. As I have recently opened the aroma M Atelier, I really felt a kindred spirit with these shops and their owners who obviously have a great passion for their businesses. I must mention my favorite cafe in Uzes, Chez Cerise. Madam Cerise holds court to her patrons in her perfectly situated café. Cerise is the essence of French chic and has the personality to go with it. Her fabulous fireplace is always warm and welcoming and any coffee tastes better sipped from a gorgeous antique cup. I loved letting the time pass unnoticed, breezing through the French Vogue; I felt I could stay forever.
I am planning another trip for the spring…
Morocco the ultimate fragrance adventure for a perfumer
In Tangier fresh orange juice stands dot the streets filling the air with their aroma and mingling with legendary Moroccan Roses - so colorful in the markets - create a sweet and syrupy mélange. Heavy Jasmine floats through the hot night air mixing with the salty sea breeze creating a heady perfume.
The day I went to visit the 400 year old Madini Perfume shop deep in the Kasba it was very hot. We wound our way through the narrow streets, where shops sell everything imaginable from Kohl for your eyes to snakes. I felt I might never find my way out again. The Madini store is very small with all the wall space filled with shelves covered with heavy glass bottles. I slowly drank my Moroccan Mint Tea with Suleiman head of the Madini family of perfumers and tried not to get overwhelmed with excitement. Most of the oils I had never heard of and many of the labels were written in beautiful Arabic script. Dark sultry oils of Dehn and Maderas de Oriente, floral aroma's that made me swoon smelled of Orange Blossom, Jasmine and Roses, many others I had never smelled before. My favorite, Lina (a seductive floral from the date tree), will surely be included in the next aroma M perfume. I took my time and selected my treasures.
Back on the street colors of the azure sea, pinks and oranges of the desert were dazzling in the textiles swirling on the women’s Kaftans. Exotic sounds of wedding caravans circling the city at night with Cicadas and Arabic music in the background made for a potent evening serenade. The pensive beautiful call to prayer throughout the day made me pause and reflect on this alluring culture.
The city takes on a different face at night as waves of people pour into the streets catching the cool breeze, filling the cafes and shopping as the temperature falls. The winding ally ways of the Kasbah glimmer with light, shadows glow mysteriously as children play and cats carouse, I felt the raw electricity of life within those medieval walls encircled by the sea.
Tangier was everything and much more than I had dreamed… now I will try to bottle it!
In the news:
Lake Como Lifestyle
The scented sides of a woman reviews wonderfully Geisha Noire and Geish Blanche perfumes.
I am excited to announce that I have collaborated with fellow independent perfumer Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis to launch a new perfume line Cherry Bomb Killer Perfume! Sweet and sassy with a Rock and Roll edge check it out! Looking forward to hearing what you think.
Exciting award from Fashiontribes Fragrance for our cult favorite Geisha Noire EDP, congratulations!
Fashion Tribes best flanker: Aroma-M Geisha Black Eau de Parfum
Lucy Raubertas at INDIEPERFUMES Reviews Aroma M Geisha Perfumes
Follow me at aroma_M Twitter for instant news and observations!
Become a fan on aroma M's facebook page!
Autumn in Japan
Autumn in Kyoto could not be more beautiful or picturesque. My trip to Japan this month was not only one of glorious red maple landscapes but also fabulous food, sweeping tea fields and hidden hot springs. One of the highlights for me was the annual "Gion Ordori" known as the Geisha and Maiko Maple dance, performed in the historical Geisha district in Kyoto. Since the first performance in 1894 it has been much anticipated as one of autumn's most splendid events in Kyoto. When we entered the colorfully decorated theater we were ushered to a side room where a Maiko was making traditional tea in full Kimono and makeup. Accompanied by sweet bean cakes we drank our Matcha in the front row mesmerized by the theatrics, like watching a historical drama. The dance performance was a dizzying display of costumes and music I was in heaven.
Back in New York unpacking my bags full of green tea, incense and of course more fabulous Yuzen paper for our aroma M perfumes I am feeling refreshed and inspired, ready to kick off the holidays!
Summer in the City 2009
We are in the hottest month of summer and traditionally in Japan August is the month of Fireworks festivals. I absolutely love the magic of fireworks and in Japan the shows last continuously from two locations for two hours! Really a celebration of summer and a time to cool off with friends on the riverbank drinking cold beer and soaking in the massive and colorful explosions in the night sky. I will miss the festivals in Japan this summer but I will try to imagine what it would be like to have such a festival in NY on the banks of the east river….
Spring Fling 2009
One of the most famous Japanese traditions is the, Hanami, cherry blossom parties symbolizing my favorite season spring! Trees slowly turning green again and fragrant flowers blooming adding their brilliant colors to the warming sky and sweet breeze.
In Japan the blooming of cherry blossom are awaited with anticipation and I also always look forward to picnicking with friends and family under the beautiful blossoming "sakura" trees.
Aroma M Newsletter - New Years 2009
Oshougatsu, or the Japanese New Year, is by far the most important festival of the year and holds the most cherished memories for me from my seven-year journey living in Japan. Celebrating the arrival of the New Year includes a mesmerizing and joyous offering made at a temple or shrine, special New Year's delicacies known as Osechi Ryori that are presented in beautifully layered lacquer boxes and brings "layers of luck", and, of course, drinking sake.
At the stroke of midnight all the temple bells throughout Japan are rung 108 times to bring in the New Year with blessings. To this day, I still uphold the old tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year's Eve. This tradition comes from many centuries ago and the long noodles symbolize good health and longevity.
There is an electric festive energy around the temples and shrines where all the kimono clad celebrators go to offer thanks and hopes for a joyous and healthy year. Dotting the streets surrounding the temples, food and drink stalls full of families until the auspicious first year sunrise appears.
Not too long ago everyone had holiday the first week of January off. Everything was closed—including the supermarkets—so you really had to stock up beforehand. In my case, I would always hope to be invited for Osechi Ryori, which is such a treat. I always looked forward to the New Year's day soup, ozoni, which consists of vegetables and mochi. Depending on the region, the soup may be made from a base of either soy sauce or miso. Families enjoying each other's company while eating and drinking were one of my favorite ways to pass those days… Amongst my other beloved traditions were taking a soak in a Japanese sunken tub with fragrant fresh yuzu (a Japanese citrus) and watching samurai dramas play all day long. What wonderful memories.
My life now in New York is far from that time, but I always remember those treasured celebrations at every turning of a new year. I keep in mind how blessed I am to have such wonderful memories and to be creating more.
Akemashite Omedetou… Happiness to you in the New Year!
From all of us at Aroma M, here is to a fabulously fragrant 2009.
Fall / Winter 2008
Aroma M Perfumes 2008 has been filled with many adventures and exciting new projects.
Traveling to Greece and experiencing the rich and joyous culture was an inspiring opportunity. My Greek heritage set the stage for an evocative journey through this rich and joyous culture.
Athens is a fantastic city filled with bustling crowds and aromatic markets. There is always an outdoor café beckoning with fabulous coffee and wonderful people watching; a city with Parisian attitude married with a Mediterranean sensibility.
An overnight ferry revealed Patmos, a medieval island lost in time with winding, stone, whitewashed walls overlooking the deep azure sea. I was greeting with irresistible Greek hospitality; the women of the Hora welcomed me with handmade rose and orange blossom water and incomparable Greek sponges. With all of the beauty and fragrances floating in the marine breeze I was inspired to create a new perfume.
Jasmine and orange flowers, lemon balm, basil and wild flowers fill the Patmian kitchen gardens. These floral and green notes join with incense from the many churches on the island to create a heady combination.
My drink of choice was Ouzo, liquor with an anis taste and fragrance. In addition, I discovered the magical Greek Mastica, an herb that has a fascinating honey-juniper quality. I will swirl all these together for Aroma M’s next perfume. Now I just need a name…any suggestions?