To celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Natural Perfumer’s Guild on June 1st we are sharing the story of our first love in natural aromatics.
During our lives, we fall in love at least a few times, but the first love always holds a special place in our hearts. First love awakens us from the dream-like twilight zone between childhood and young adult. Like the whisper of Spring awakens the bud of a flower to unfurl.
I leap across the mountaintops,
the song of all songs
I float through the ether,
I think only of you – Rumi
My mother had a magnificent rose garden with at least 50 cultivars of roses. As a child, it was my private haven, a place where I could delight in the many fragrances that roses breathe. I still remember with clarity burying my nose into the cool smoothness of its delicate petals and inhaling that glorious fragrance. When I was feeling low, I would often find a single rose next to my bed. My mother knew how one sniff always lifted my spirits. It was also the place that was the source of my first natural fragrant experiments; rose water, moist pot pourri, rose petal beads, rose syrup and of course petals for a romantic baths by candle light. When first love graced my youth, this rose garden became my secret “Post Office.” My first love and I secretly exchanged love letters under a rock in a hidden corner of the rose garden.
With such beautiful memories of roses, it is not surprising that my first love in natural aromatics was rose, or more specifically, Bulgarian rose oil. Each drop of that Bulgarian rose contained for me the collective treasures of my rose garden memories. I paid what seemed to me at the time, a fortune for it, but it was worth every cent of it. Just like with the first mad rush of love, I could not get enough of it and just like with first love, I never thought it would come to end. Sadly, it did and then was gone. It was in the time when South Africa was under sanctions and there was still no internet and supplies were intermittant. None of the rose oils available came even near it in beauty. I kept that bottle for many years just to sniff what was really not much more than a scent memory. The fragrance still lingers in my scent memories.
Romantic Persian Bath
250ml fragrant rose petals
125ml rose leaves
2 ml cloves
625 boiling water
Steep the ingedients in boiling water for 30 min, strain an add to warm bath water.
My next great love was Ylang Ylang. For our Honeymoon my husband and I went to the Islands of the Moon – the Comoros. It was everything and more than I could have imagined a romantic destination should be like. Not only is the natural beauty of the Comoros breath taking and exotic, with its azure sea, white sands, and baobabs inhabited by fruit bats set against an active volcano, but it is also a scent paradise, with its Ylang Ylang plantations and heady spice markets. At night, the volcano glows against the night sky and there is a subtle fragrance of sulphar in the air, which is strangely exotic blended with the pervading scent of Ylang Ylang and Frangipani. Along all the narrow roads there are gnarled Ylang Ylang trees. The scent epitomises the Comoros for me; deeply sensual, with exotic beauty. I was given Ylang Ylang oil in a little Captian Morgan’s bottle. It was gorgeous, thick and treacle like. I still have the bottle with just a sniff in the bottom. The Ylang Ylang from the Comoros remains my personal favourite.
Then there was Labdanum. It was love at first sniff, like finding my soulmate in aromatics. I knew its scent instantly. It was a scent I have often smelled on the breeze, and in my dreams. It’s scent evokes ancient sanctuaries and stir what feels like primordial memories in me. This is a love that I know is forever, and which has perhaps have followed me through many life times. I never get tired of smelling Labdanum. Of all the aromatics I have come across, Labdanum is for me the most magical ingredient. Its fragrance contains so many scent layers; hints of crushed leaf, honey, amber, resinous, incense, earthy, exotic and so very, very sensual.
When you fall in love, your heart doen’t just open for one person, it opens your heart eyes to the beauty in all things. Just so, my first loves in natural aromatics opened my heart to the unequeled beauty to be found in all natural aromatics. There have been many loves since then …
What was your first love?
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