Opulent Saffron Making A Comeback

With the growth of the beauty industry in the Middle East there have been a slew of spicy, oriental and woody fragrance directions emerging, some of which are specially developed for this market. Estee Lauder’s Aramis Perfume Calligraphy and Estee Lauder Wood Mystique are two current examples.

Perfumers and marketers continually look for inspiration and new ingredients. Following the trend to spicy and woody scents, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is making a comeback, particularly in fine fragrance.  There have been quite a few new launches that highlight the luxury ingredient such as Byredo Black Saffron, which I mentioned in my Black is Still Black post, and Byredo Bullion.

Rose an already popular flower in fragrance, seems to be the trendy combination of choice. The Fragrance Kitchen introduced fifteen exclusive fragrances, two of which feature saffron – War of the Roses and Scent In A Bottle. Grossmith London recently launched the Black Label Collection and Saffron Rose is one of four scents, which is described as a “wonderfully rich and opulent scent.”

Although not in the fragrance name, saffron is also appearing as notes in fragrance creations such as Bond No. 9 Manhattan, which uses “worldly saffron” and  Viktor & Rolf Spice Bomb is made with “incandescent spices.”

In flavors, saffron has long been used in cooking and gives food the golden yellow-orange hue.  Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite Biscuits & Spices uses saffron in six of his forty-one different blends – N.19 Salvador, N.20 Dali, N.21 Moruno, N.25 EscabecheN.30 Mousa and N.33 Mishmish.  Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea is a new line of five Greek, saffron-based herbal teas.  The flavors are Greek Herbal Tea with thyme, rosemary and saffron; Greek Green Tea with ginger, licorice and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with honey, orange and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with mint, lemongrass and saffron; and Greek Herbal Tea with cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Saffron has even trickled into vodka. Saffron Vodka by Sub Rosa Spirits is distilled with eight spices – “toasted cumin, lemony coriander, a hint of ginger, and just a touch of heat and the aromatics of saffron.”

Keep your eyes peeled as saffron emerges in new flavor and fragrance products.  Have you noticed any new products with saffron? Tried any new dishes from chefs using saffron in unexpected places?

The Scent of a Memory

L-R: Amy and Gaby

I orginally submitted this article for Vol iii: The Social Olfactory, The State, but it didn’t make the cut.  I thought this would be an appropriate place to post it.

I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for twenty years, the last seven years as the founder of Trendincite LLC, and I’ve yet to write about my own personal experiences with scent and scent memories. Whether I write for Tidbits, Trendincite’s bimonthly newsletter, or for Forward Thinking, my column in Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, the material focuses on the parallel relationship between fragrances and flavors. Like several colleagues, I fell into the industry and once here, I stayed. I have a keen sense of smell, which was always there from childhood, but was refined by working in the industry with experts.

When I think back to childhood, there are several familiar scents that take me to a certain place and time.  In elementary school, I distinctly remember the scent of vomit. I had a visceral reaction…when a kid in school vomited, the smell alone created a knee jerk reaction and often caused me to gag and then puke. I have a seven year old daughter and four year old son and to this day if they throw up, I gag and it takes every ounce of me to hold back my smell instincts. I feel similarly about the smell of garbage, particularly on a hot summer’s day in New York City – I flash back to the foul smell of rotting fish and spoiled food in Chinatown or urine soaked New York City subways.  In East Hampton when the wind blows in the wrong direction, the smell of dank, wet salty and dirty seaweed wafts into my nostrils. As you drive along a country road, the quick, passing whiff of a skunk is unforgettable.  And I’d be remiss if I left out the smell of mulch – manure combined with a sweaty, salty body odor note, most unpleasant.

In contrast, I absolutely love the scent of fresh baked bread – a little sweet, salty and yeasty. I’ve been trying, as I’m sure others have been, to have a perfumer create a fresh baked bread fragrance that accurately captures the yeast accord. I can’t wait until a perfumer nails this scent. Mark my words – it will be an instant success.  There’s also nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass even if there is cis-3-Hexen-1-ol. Or the smell of potato fields – dry, starchy and a bit earthy. And the sweet, honey hay-like scent that I smell while passing open fields.

These are just a few examples of my scent recollections. My personal scent memories and specific scent associations help me recognize certain fragrances or ingredients based solely on what they remind me of.  When I smell a grapey note like the one used in Giorgio perfume, it takes me back to Dimetapp, the cough medicine I took as a child, and I recognize Methyl anthranilate.  I disliked Dimetapp as a child and therefore I do not like the cloying scent of Giorgio now. Anything with orange flower strikes a chord and brings me back to Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee sun tanning lotion; some feel this way about Coppertone. It’s the signature smell of summer, which I loved as a child and am still fond of today.  In the 80’s when I was a teenager, my peers wore Tea Rose perfume, an aldehydic rose floral, which I thought smelled like old ladies. Today when I analyze fragrance market research data, respondents frequently describe aldehydic floral notes as “old lady” and “grandma like.” This reaffirms my teenage evaluation of Tea Rose perfume before I even had “aldehydic” in my vocabulary.

In hindsight, who knew that my childhood scent experiences would be the stepping stones that launched my career in fragrance?  Unbeknownst to me, all of these childhood scent memories have directly impacted my sensibilities. I now recognize that creating signature scents and worthy scent memoires for consumers is a tall order to fill. I appreciate a scent that is polarizing and recognizable, often a blockbuster signature like Angel, because whether you love it or hate it, you remember it. I applaud perfumers who are able to create these signature scents that stand out from the crowd. Knowing that fragrances can create such an emotive response intrigues me and makes the fragrance and flavor industry exciting and ever changing.

From my twenty years of industry experience, I am hypersensitive to smell – both good and bad.  I’m grateful for this ability and find myself at any given time instinctively and habitually smelling products, foods or beverages prior to buying, ingesting or using.  Today my children mimic me and smell everything from fresh flowers to public restroom soap. They’re so scent aware that they can both recognize cherry almond because more than half of New York public restrooms, particularly restaurants use it.  And when they don’t recognize the smell of the soap, in surprise they ask, “Mommy what does this smell like?”  By this process, they are creating their own scent memories.

Smell is such an integral aspect of our being, but we often take it for granted.  The odd thing is that I have an identical twin sister who is anosmic and lost her sense of smell due to a childhood accident. We are similar in so many ways, but one defining difference is that I have an acute sense of smell and she has none.  I can’t imagine life without smell nor working in any other industry.

Black is still black

When you ask my kids, “What’s mommy’s favorite color?” without hesitation they will answer “black.” Perhaps growing up in NYC is where I learned to love black.  My entire wardrobe is black. However, when I was growing up as a child, they didn’t make black clothes for babies or children.  It was considered taboo. Today my daugther’s wardrobe consists of a variety of fashionable black clothes from head to toe.  Sadly but fittingly, when my father passed away a year and a half ago, my daughter wore a silky black blouse, black skirt, black tights and black patent leather shoes to the funeral. When asked by a guest, did I buy this outfit specifically for the occasion, I replied “no, fortunately we had it.”

While on the subject of fashion…the LBD never goes out of style and is constantly being reinvented through new materials and designs. Tonight I had dinner with my family in Ridge Hill (new shopping center in Yonkers) and I happened to pass a White House / Black Market shop. I hate shopping, but was familiar with the store (my close friend raves about it), so I went in. I have to admit the “black” attracted me to the store.  To my surprise, they had some very nice clothes.  The materials, textures, and designs were classic yet contemporary and well tailored.  The concept was simple, the clothes were merchandised well and the staff was friendly. The store offers black and white clothes and each season they focus on an accent color such as red, wine, and now metallic gold / silver for the holidays. I walked away with a new black and white patterned dress and the store gained a new customer.  I think I’ll be back.

Moving to packaging…when I was in art school at Washington University in St. Louis (many years ago) we had an advertising project to design a new dog food package for Purina.  Purina invited us to present our concepts.  At the time, I designed a sleek black package. This was unheard of – food wasn’t ever packaged in black, not even dog food. Flash forward.  Here are just a few examples of current black dog food packages …Walmart Pure Balance, Merrick Grain Free and ProBiotic Live.

Black is now a standard packaging color in beauty care products.  About seven years ago I remember when black was the “it” package color and naming convention in men’s fine fragrance with the likes of Polo Black and Double Black, Kenneth Cole Black and Vintage Black, and Kiton Black.

Black continues to be a popular naming convention used in fine fragrance, but now the emphasis is on an ingredient.  Recent introductions include Byredo Black Saffron, Demeter Black Bamboo and Black Ginger, and Comme de Garcons Black Play. However, the most exciting new black product out is Lady Gaga’s Fame fragrance. It’s touted as the first of its kind because the juice is black and once airborne it applies transparent on skin.

The English word black isn’t good enough and the newest buzzword is “Noir” (black in French).  A few new honorable mentions are Chanel Coco Noir, which the company describes as “nocturnal Baroque – a celebration of Gabrielle Chanel’s use of black and Venice’s influence on her designs and her life,” Tom Ford Noir and Agent Provocateur Pétale Noir.

We are even seeing black packaging in household products such as Downy Unstopables “an in wash scent booster” and Method Home Dish+Hand soap in a new eco-friendly package made from ocean plastic.

I look forward to seeing the continued use of the color black in design across industries and finding new places it hasn’t been used yet. Have you seen black used in new markets or new ways?

P.S.  My idea of mixing my wardrobe up is wearing black and white patterns (new for me), venturing into grey and if I’m feeling really crazy, adding a dash of red.

My closet ( it’s all black with a sprinkle of white and grey) 

Moving into the 21st Century

I’ve had Trendincite LLC for 7 years and I’ve just now decided to move into the 21st century by having a blog.  Who knows what’s next? I could have a twitter account, an IPhone, IPad, or an e-mail address that isn’t aol. My underlying belief is “if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it.”

As some of you know I pay attention to details and I’m a perfectionist or at least I try to be, particularly when I write. There were a few reasons I didn’t want a blog… 1) it adds more things to do to my never ending list, 2)  it requires me to write in 1st person with no editors to review my work, 3) it’s not scripted or researched compared to my business writing and last but not least, 4) it might be boring.  Anyhow, here it is.

For a person who professionally follows trends and enjoys new products and experiences, I’m afraid of technology.  No matter what industry you’re in, technology is what propels products and services to move forward.  I do appreciate this. However, I have no interest in having the latest or the greatest new gadget. I still have my Blackberry Bold 9930 and I’m not embarrassed to use it.

Two years ago my husband gave me an IPhone for my birthday.  Knowing me so well, he paid in full so that he didn’t have to change my plan just in case I didn’t want to make the change.  I’m in trends, so naturally I should have excitedly opened the phone right away and never looked back. What did I do?  I stared at the apple logo on the wrapped package for quite some time and then apologetically said thank you, but no thank you.  You know why? I was afraid to make the change when I didn’t need to. I have too many distractions in life already and I can’t keep up with what I do have. I didn’t want all of the great bells and whistles. I want simplicity and efficiency.  I like typing on my Blackberry instead of a touch screen and it meets all of my basic professional and personal needs for now – calendar, address book, e-mail, text, camera etc. Technology requires embracing change.  It’s constantly being updated and unless my needs aren’t being met, I don’t see a reason to embrace change.

My final thought…although brand loyalty is hard to come by these days (because there are way too many choices), I can understand why consumers stay with a product or service because it meets their needs at the time.