Friday, October 21, 2011

Perfumery's Future: IFRA Fall 2011 Presentation

Today I had the privilege of giving the keynote speech at the International Fragrance Association 2011 Fall Meeting and Luncheon. I chose to focus on the same platform I have promoted on the blog for nearly five years: education. Many of you have expressed a need for tools with which to develop your olfactory vocabulary and so today, I asked the regulatory industry to respond to this need while sharing my perspective on perfumery's future and social media.

I could not have done this without the help of Twitter, which allowed me to create a social media fragrance brief asking independent perfumers to create a perfume which could be sensed by those who have no sense of smell (anosmia). Kedra Hart of Opus Oils decided to take the creative challenge and created "Eau Pear Tingle". She accomplished this by using ingredients that stimulate trigeminal nerve V which transmits sensations of heat (cayenne), coolness (mint), tingling (Szechuan pepper) and texture when we taste food. The response from IFRA attendees was enthusiastically positive.

Ms. Hart's mother has anosmia which makes the story of "Eau Pear Tingle" quite poignant. A future post detailing the development of the fragrance will be presented on Glass Petal Smoke in December. If only there was smell-o-vision...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Evolution of Eau de Cologne

The language of fragrance, like flavor, is subject to interpretation based on culture and personal preference. When ingredients used in perfumery double as flavors found in food or drink, a quality of receptivity emerges. Attachments to likes and dislikes fade as a quality of openness emerges. The composition of Eau de Cologne illustrates this best as does the story of its creation. It's evolution in the Atelier Cologne line of fragrances marries modern perfumery to its roots, evoking a quality of reverential beauty one rarely sees in fragrance creation today.

Italian perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina was only 23 years old when he created Eau de Cologne in 1709. The fragrance revolved around a citrus bouquet that included lemon, orange, tangerine, bergamot, lime, grapefruit and neroli that was unique for its time. Lavender, rosemary, thyme, petitgrain (derived from orange leaf) and jasmine supported the citrus signature, but there was an element contained therein which could not be measured; Farina was homesick for Italy and his longing infused Eau de Cologne with memories of his roots.

In a letter to his brother, Jean Baptiste, he writes, "I have created a perfume which is reminiscent of an [Italian] spring morning following a soft shower where fragrances of wild narcissi combine with that of sweet orange flowers. This perfume refreshes me and stimulates both my senses and imagination..." The young fragrance maker, who learned the art of perfumery from his grandmother, was living in Cologne, Germany and worked for his uncle, who owned a luxury goods business. Giovanni Maria Farina accomplished two feats when he created Eau de Cologne; he reconciled his loneliness for the familiar scents of his birthplace while honoring his adopted hometown with a namesake fragrance. Farina made quite a career for himself and his customers included an impressive list of aristocrats as well as literati.

Europeans were attracted to the quality of lightness in Eau de Cologne which contrasted starkly with animalic ingredients like musk, civet, and ambergris which normally besieged their nostrils, (the heady materials were often mixed with spices to create a concentrated perfume). Eau de Cologne's application included use as a restorative by one Mrs. Duplessis from Nogent. Farina advised her to use Eau de Cologne on her husband's paralyzed limbs and prescribed a weekly tonic consisting of 50 drops of Eau de Cologne diluted in a glass of water. Today one would be ill advised to follow this folkloric prescription as modern perfumes are not edible.

In contemporary perfumery the term "cologne" refers to a finished fragrance with a low ratio of essential oils to alcohol. This range can vary anywhere from 2% to 8% and reflects Giovanni Maria Farina's Eau de Cologne formula. Citrus ingredients used in perfumery evaporate quickly due to their volatile nature. This is why one finds them dosed as top notes in perfumery; they make the first olfactory impression and provide a refreshing sensation that usually gives way to more complex synergistic ingredients.

Atelier Cologne founders Christopher Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter were in love with the history of Eau de Cologne and wanted to amplify its citrus bouquet while preserving its revitalizing quality. Advances in the art of perfumery combined with dosing of raw materials in the 12-20% range allowed them to actualize their olfactory dream and create a new category of fragrances called Colognes Absolues. Each fragrance in the Atelier Cologne collection is buoyed by the refreshing citrus quality of Eau de Cologne and possesses long-lasting sillage. There are six fragrances available, each with its own distinctive twist. The current anthology of scents includes: Orange Sanguine, Grand Néroli, Bois Blonds, Trèfle Pur, Oolang Infini and Vanille Insensée. A new addition to Atelier Cologne's offerings is in the works and will be released in the beginning of 2012.

Today the idea of an Eau de Cologne tonic is not impossible to achieve. One can look to modern bitters for  inspiration as many are citrus inspired and approved for imbibing. Bitters may be combined with carbonated water, simple syrup, flower waters, muddled herbs and a variety of alcoholic beverages to produce tempting tipples. Brands such as Angostura Bitters, Fee Brothers, and A.B. Smeby Bittering Company are a good place to start. Several A.B. Smeby formulas incorporate floral essences with enchanting descriptions that speak to the gustatory spirit of perfume. If Giovanni Maria Farina were alive today he would undoubtedly add "molecular mixologist" to his résumé; all of his influences live in the bitters world.

While editing this piece I discovered a formula for Eau de Cologne that belonged to my husband's grandmother, Jeanne Purdy. Grandma Purdy worked as a nurse and used the medical abbreviation "gtts" for measuring drops of essential oil to alcohol, (15 to 16 drops = 1cc = 1ml). The formula was hidden inside the top of one of her recipe boxes.

Giovanni Maria Farina was influenced by the history of perfumery when he created Eau de Cologne. Marie Anne de La Trémoille (Orsini), duchess of Bracciano and Princess of Nerola in 17th century Italy,  introduced the use of essence of Bitter Orange Flower (Neroli) as a perfume to be worn on skin. Farina embraced this ingredient in his Eau de Cologne formula which likely added to its acceptance.

The source for Giovanni Maria Farina's quote comes from: Markus Eckstein, Eau de Cologne, J.P. Bachem Verlag 2006, Cologne. 

William Dorman's "Perfumes-II" article in Volume 6 of Good Housekeeping is charming and worth a read. The feature, which appeared in 1888, focuses on citrus-based perfumes and can be found on pages 190 thru 191. "Perfumes and Perfumery: Cologne," the first part of this series, includes a formula that approximates Farina's Eau de Cologne on page 169.

The photograph of the fragrance ampoule containing Farina's Eau de Cologne and portrait of Giovanni Maria Farina (also referred to in the French style as Jean Marie Farina) is licensed under Creative Commons.

The picture of Atelier Cologne founders Christopher Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter is from the Atelier Cologne website. Rights revert back to the owners.

The photo of Jeanne Purdy's formula for Eau de Cologne taken by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Savor of Memory: Butter Tarts

Butter tart; the sound of the two words strung together are pure poetry. Say the name once and the alliterative “r”s wrapped at their ends make the lips purse slightly, revealing a mouth that looks like a child’s begging for a morsel. Say the name twice and the appetite instantly registers the delectable thought of taste buds taking a bath in sweet butter with a flourish of perfectly flaked crust.

I first encountered butter tarts on a trip to Parry Sound in Ontario, Canada. My husband and I were staying at a family cottage on Crane Lake when our hostess, Kathy Fenwick, pulled out a tray of 24 miniature butter tarts she purchased at a local Walmart. Her eyes twinkled with excitement as she broke the seal, “They don’t have these stateside. I can only get them when we’re in Canada because they're a local kind of thing. You really ought to try one.”

The petite butter tarts were arranged in six rows of four and resembled a collection of defective pecan tarts that didn’t get the proper smattering of crushed nuts somewhere along the Walmart conveyor belt line. A caramel-colored filling gave each pastry a generic and less than seemly appearance. Something in my mind could not reconcile the words “Walmart” and “local”, so I did not partake. That changed the next day and was prompted by a Crane Lake remembrance ceremony for Tom Horsman, a family friend who died in 2010.

The water was particularly placid on the day four boats gathered at Mr. Horsman’s favorite Crane Lake fishing spot. Many in attendance had recently lost loved ones (all fishing enthusiasts) and as a family friend eulogized, created an “overlap of souls” in our presence. Tom's daughter Cynthia cast her father's fishing rod with his favorite lure into the lake and drew it back as memories and tears were shared. We were in the boat with Aunt Kathy when she sent a miniature butter tart sailing on the surface of the lake adorned with a few yellow mums

Aunt Kathy’s thoughtful gesture was inspired by the fact that Tom Horsman loved butter tarts and couldn’t wait to eat them when he and his family arrived at their lakeside cottage. The poignancy stuck, as did a curiosity for butter tarts. I tried Walmart’s version when we got back to the cottage. It was good, but the thought of finding the real thing and uncovering its history was even better.

The next day my husband, Kathy and Sally Lake (the aforementioned eulogist and serious butter tart enthusiast) powered up the boat, arrived at the dock and made a beeline for the car. We drove into town and parked a few steps away from the Country Gourmet Deli, Bakery and Café on James Street. There was a giant wooden moose at the front door and from a distance it didn't seem like there was anything particularly compelling about their offerings. When you stepped inside and arrived at the dessert case everything changed.

Gone was the commercial precision of bakery chains where each category of pastry looks so perfect the notion of human hands being involved simply never crosses the mind. Each offering at the Gourmet Deli, Bakery and Café had a designated shape that was noticeably handmade. The tarts and cookies were marked by a familiar sandy hue that typifies all-purpose flour used by home bakers. The names of each pastry were handwritten in black script on white rectangles of paper; some were legible, some were a little hard to read because the black ink bled through the paper. This was no Walmart.

Gourmet Deli, Bakery and Café offers a variety butter tarts including regular, raisin, pecan and chocolate pecan. Each tart is hand-crimped and resembles a flower. The center has a slightly hardened glaze that conceals the mark of butter tart excellence; a buttery sweet syrup filling that rushes out to meet an eagerly held spoon (or mouth when there is a native Canadian on the other end; some children and adults have mastered the art of eating a butter tart this way despite the fact that the ambrosial goodness in the center has a tendency to run down one's chin). Canadian writer and etymologist Bill Casselman refers to Canadian butter tarts as the "northern nectar of the oven" which is the best description I've come across.

Butter tarts are unique to Canadian foodways, but one cannot discount the influence of immigrants to the country; particularly the Scottish and their Ecclefechan butter tart. According to Sheldon Posen, curator for Canadian Folklife, Ethnology, Cultural Studies at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, "No one else has a butter tart. There are several relatives (or some would say, ancestors) usually cited, such as treacle tart (England), pecan pie (Southern U.S.), black bottom pie (Mennonite), sugar pie (French Canada). But all of these use sweet syrupy bases (molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup) or rely for their identity on additions (pecans). Granted, most have butter in them, but that is not their defining feature. The classic Canadian butter tart uses creamed butter and sugar as its base."

The annual Brampton Fall Fair has run a butter tart competition for decades and competition is fierce. So are the politics regarding what a "true" butter tart is. (The one I ate from Gourmet Deli, Bakery and Café included a touch of maple syrup in the center that may be scoffed at by purists.) The Sweet Oven Inc. in Barrie, Ontario offers 20 varieties of butter tarts, and they reside in the area where the original recipe for butter tarts was published in The Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook in 1900.)  

Toronto Star food writer Marion Kane, writer Max Burns and artist Charles Pachter were interviewed in 1991 by CBC radio and shared their opinions regarding the pedigree and history of butter tarts. All agreed that the mark of a great butter tart is a slightly runny center. I side with all of them. My only regret is that it will be at least a year until I'm in cottage country again. I'll have to dream about butter tarts for now. Thanks Tom Horsman.


Tom Kydd (my father-in-law) and Tom Horsman were best buddies on Crane Lake and knew each other since childhood. Both passed away within months of each other in 2010. My father, Paul Krell, died a year before Tom Kydd did and was an avid fisherman himself. Tom Kydd and my father both served in the U.S. army during the Korean conflict. Dad was in the first division and was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany. Coincidentally, my father-in-law was in the tenth division which replaced the first division after they had left. Whether she knew it or not, Sally Lake's comment regarding the overlapping of souls was a part of the earthly spectrum of life for both.

The Country Gourmet Bakery Cafe is located at 65 James Street, Parry Sound ON P2A 1T6. Phone: (705) 746-5907.

The New York Times published a recipe for Butter Tarts a few years after this article was published. It's worth making. 

The photograph of Cynthia's hands with father Tom Horsman's favorite fishing lure taken by Ted Steeble. All rights reserved.

The photograph of  "The Two Toms" taken by A.J. Kydd. All rights reserved.

Additional photographs taken by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.