My Sensory Journey To Baltimore, MD

Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)
Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)

When I was planning my family weekend trip to Baltimore from New York City to attend the Digital Family Summit (an interactive conference for young digital media creators and their parents) in early October, I was asked if I’d like to test drive a Chevrolet Equinox.  I’m a big fan of experiences and trying something new.  I would not describe myself as a car person, but thought, sure why not?

My business’ tagline is “Inspiration For Creation” and the core values are to capture inspiration from unexpected places and enjoy the creative process.  To facilitate creativity, I often tell my clients that you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. My most acute sense is smell, which is fueled by my work in the fragrance and flavor industry for the last 20 years. Fragrance is such an integral part of my daily experiences, but I think for many its overlooked or an afterthought.  Everything I do is a sensory journey, whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or weekend getaway.  I approached my Baltimore visit as a fragrant sensory experience, while I assume many of techies and professional bloggers who attended the conference had an analytical and logical perspective.

I was excited and curious to explore the Chevrolet Equinox car that was dropped off on Friday morning before we headed to Baltimore.  The first thing I did was open the car door and was delighted to get a whiff of the “new car” smell, which had a masculine, leather like scent. I expected it and would have been disappointed had the smell not been there.  For those marketers and brands out there, don’t underestimate the power of scent. After I futzed with the navigation system and pressed some buttons, I was done exploring. The car would meet my immediate needs for the weekend.

Sporty Equinox Car
Sporty Equinox Car

In our typical fashion we hit the road an hour and a half later than planned and spent five hours in traffic driving to Baltimore.  The weather was chilly, foggy, humid and misty that evening – it rained on and off.  While driving with the windows rolled down after it had rained, the air smelled a bit dirty, it was wet with damp, earthy nuances.  My daughter liked the scent and thought it was reminiscent of East Hampton after it rains, where we spend our summers.

Being a native New Yorker, without fail whenever I drive on the New Jersey turnpike by exit 13, this industrial, putrid metallic smell of factory waste permeates the car.  Visually the landscape of the factories spewing dark clouds of waste looks like a page right out of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax book best described by my late father as “robot vomit.”  The rest of the ride was scentless except for a quick stop for gas (I happen to like the smell of gasoline).

We finally arrived at the Hilton Baltimore at 10:30pm.  My kids were particularly fascinated with the large and wide revolving door, which they circled multiple times.  Besides, observing a few guests clumsily bump into the glass revolving door because it was awkwardly designed and not intuitive, I was intrigued by the scent of the lobby.  At first, it smelled citrusy and reminded me of bug spray, which lead me to think it was a hotel guest wearing Jessica McClintock perfume.  However, it was an ambient scent that lingered.  There’s a trend for public spaces such as hotels, casinos and retailers to scent the air to create positive experiences for their guests.  In hindsight, I realized that the Hilton is known for its “olfactive branding” program and I’m guessing the fragrance I smelled, which was fresh, citrus and green tea-like was the “Eau de Hilton.”

Knowing we had a busy day ahead we went to bed.  Although exhausted on Saturday morning, I felt compelled to wake up motivated by the loud and cheerful applause I heard outside.  Blurry eyed and a bit confused, I looked down from 16 floors.  To my delight I saw a sea of brightly colored fluorescent shirts, which belonged to the marathon runners gearing up for the Baltimore marathon. Go runners!  I wondered if the air smelled like sweat yet and giggled to myself remembering the scene in The Lonely Guy movie when Steve Martin jogs into a dinner party wearing fake spray-on sweat to pretend he had just worked out.

Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13
Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, my senses were enlivened by the diffusive scent of Peter Thomas Roth’s Mega-Rich Shampoo (exclusive to Hilton Hotels) that my daughter was lathering in her hair.  The aroma was also fresh, citrusy and green.  Keeping up with the citrus theme, I showered and then spritzed myself with my new favorite fragrance Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which is a bright and juicy scent. It smells just like a fresh-squeezed orange – pithy and rindy.

We made our way to the 2nd floor to attend the Digital Family Summit.  I joined my eight year old daughter for a Food Blogging, Styling & Photography workshop with Laura (Lolli) Franklin of Better in Bulk and Robin Zachary of Prop Closet.  This class was as aesthetically appealing as it was sensorially stimulating.

Fresh-baked unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were the foundation for our hands-on session. I expected the room to smell like the cupcakes had just come out of the oven, like the vanilla-like baking scent that is pumped into NYC’s Crumbs bakeries, but because we were in a hotel conference room and not a kitchen, they had been prepared earlier and the room was missing the aroma.  However, the brown and yellow cupcakes were neatly placed on a tray in rows by flavor waiting to be iced, decorated, photographed and eaten. Single colored sprinkles of red, pink, orange, green, blue, yellow and white were individually cupped and lined up monochromatically next to the unfrosted cupcakes. After a brief lesson about the do’s and don’ts of food blogging, styling and photography we broke up into small groups.  Using a simple recipe, each group got to craft their own colored frosting using food dye.  My daughter’s group created a muted lavender colored icing while other groups created slate blue, Kelly green, turquoise and hot pink colors.  The smell of the freshly whipped icing was palpable. It tasted even sweeter than it smelled – sugary sweet, cavity inducing sweet. The kids unleashed their inner designers and decorated their cupcakes with sprinkles, flags, confetti, and polka dotted candles.  Using props such as solid-colored napkins, cupcake stands, baking utensils and backdrops cleverly made of patterned wrapping paper glued to foam core boards, they styled their cupcake creations for a fabulous, fashionable and flavorful photo shoot.  Practically salivating, the kids could finally reap the rewards of their hard work and taste the long anticipated, tantalizing and tempting results of their masterpieces.  Proud, ecstatic and sugar-buzzed, the creative kids and parents left the session on a super, satisfying sugar high.

Masterpiece from my daughter's group
Masterpiece from my daughter’s group

On Sunday we had a little downtime and opted for a little R&R by visiting the hotel pool. The minute I stepped off of the elevator my nostrils tingled from the pool smell.  As I approached the entrance to the pool area, the smell intensified and my nose was assaulted by the overpowering Chlorine odor.  I wonder if a fragrance house can create an odor neutralizer to combat Chlorine or fragrance it to create a better scent. My acute reaction to the scent didn’t stop me or my family from enjoying splashing and playing in the pool.

I typically like to visit off the beaten path restaurants and sites when traveling in another city. But when attending a conference, it doesn’t matter where you visit; you rarely get to experience anything but the inside of the hotel.  I knew that my family would spend most of our time at the Hilton Baltimore.  However, before we left I wanted at least one meal that was representative of Baltimore.  Baltimore is known for crabs, which I enjoy eating, but rarely order because they require too much work and the payoff isn’t worth it. Mo’s Crab & Pasta Factory in Little Italy was close by and recommended. As a grand finale to our trip ten of us went there for dinner.  We feasted on Crab Cakes, Crab Imperial and Crab Dip in addition to other local dishes.  The two things that struck me when we entered the restaurant were the old fashioned cigarette machine with the pull handles and the alluring and distinct aroma of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.  Since savory scents are kitsch and on trend such as Pizza Hut’s “Eau de Pizza,” White Castle’s Original Slider scented candle and most recently Yankee Candle’s Turkey and Stuffing candle, Old Bay Seasoning should consider creating a signature scent.

We had a great, educational and interactive experience in Baltimore during the Digital Family Summit.  Luckily our drive home was smooth and only took three hours with no rain and no traffic.  Our visit to Baltimore was brief, but intense.  I definitely would like to go back to explore the local flavor and discover unique restaurants and shops adding new scented, colorful and flavorful memories to my sensory journey.

Flash In A Bottle

Fragrance Flash
Fragrance Flash

In May 2013 I presented Olfactive Trends Quick Peek at Sniffapalooza’s Spring Fling and mentioned “Flash” as the newest naming convention in fine fragrance.  September is quickly approaching and you can now get your hands on many of the recent launches inspired by the word.

Olfactive Studio’s Flash Back scent is described as “a memory in motion and in action” while Cacharel’s Amor Amor In A Flash is “the feeling of love at first sight: magnetic, addictive, electric… a moment of never-ending intensity.” Jimmy Choo’s second scent Flash, is the newest player and is a “solar” floral that is “about the thrill of the red carpet, the fun of the nightclub, the glamour of dressing up.”

In flavors, the closest interpretation is Oddka Vodka’s Electricity flavor, which Pernod Ricard states is “a tongue-tickling blend that tastes of fire bolt.”  Inspired by the Flash scent, Belvedere Vodka and Jimmy Choo partnered to create a Kuala Lumpur cocktail-fragrance crawl with fun cocktail names such as “Parading on a catwalk” and “Jimmy’s shoe.” The most far fetched recent introduction is Cornetto’s fluorescent ice cream across the pond.

Keep your eyes peeled for more “flash” inspired consumer packaged goods launches. I wonder what will ignite the next catalyst for inspiration.  Any thoughts?

Summer Bearing Fruit – Trend Alert

Fresh fruit is popular during the spring and summer months and is inspiring new fragrance and flavor introductions. Cherry and watermelon are the in vogue fruits of the season.

Cherries
Summer Cherries (photo by Paolo Neo)

In fine fragrance, as a spring limited edition, Escada launched Cherry in the Air and is described as “an initial burst of cherry and raspberry is tempered by hints of marshmallow, coconut orchid, and sandalwood — moving from fruity to sweet to warm.”  British perfume house Floris released Cherry Blossom made with bergamot, orange, pink pepper, cherry blossom, osmanthus, rose, peony, juicy cherry, sandalwood and musk.

The flavored vodka craze continues. Grey Goose introduced Cherry Noir, which is crafted with “100% natural essence of the finest ripe black cherries” and Absolut launched Craft Bitter Cherry, which is described as “a subtle hint of sweetness and bright, authentic cherry flavor [that] is countered by notes of bitter, dark chocolate.” It is one of three flavors, which are sold exclusively to bartenders in limited quantities. Cherry has even tapped beer. Old Dominion released Cherry Blossom Lager as its spring seasonal brew available in March and according to the company “is conditioned on a bed of 300 pounds of Michigan cherries for 48 hours.”

Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)
Summer Watermelon (photo by Renee Comet)

Watermelon is popping up in men’s fine fragrances. Lacoste’s latest addition Eau de Lacoste L.12.12 Noir highlights a “living watermelon” accord while Tommy Bahama for Him opens with “a revitalizing burst of juicy watermelon.” Limited edition Annayake Love for Him uses bergamot, grapefruit, bitter orange and watermelon top notes while Calvin Klein’s CK One Summer 2013 limited edition features citrus, waterfall, watermelon, cucumber, water lily, musk and moss accords.

Pucker Vodka unveiled Watermelon Wow as the newest flavor and “combines the luscious flavor of watermelon with the invigorating aroma of candied fruit and melon for a unique sensory experience” while Salty Watermelon joins the UV Vodka range. Watermelon is even trickling down into non-alcoholic beverages, specifically water.  Fruitwater offers Watermelon Punch and Fruit2O offers Natural Watermelon.

Watch as these juicy fruits continue to inspire new summer products and emerge in consumer packaged goods.

 

Eau De Trendincite – A Scent of My Own

Eau De TrendIncite
Eau De Trendincite

I was so inspired by our last hands-on TrendIncite Xchange meeting that I decided to continue the “creativity and inspirational me” theme and reached out to Sue Phillips of Scenterprises. Sue lead our group on a creative fragrance journey, where each of us created our own custom scent. I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for 20 years and until now I’ve never created my own signature scent.

Eight of us gathered at Sue’s apartment where she explained the seven major olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Fruity, Oriental, Chypre, Woody and Fougere. Sue compared fragrances to food and music and explained that each had a beginning, a middle and an end.  In fragrance terms that translates to top notes, middle notes and base notes. We were then given a lifestyle questionnaire with 11 questions about our preferences that ranged from fabrics to seasons to vacation spots to film icons.  We individually tallied our responses, which corresponded to four olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Oriental and Woody. Then Sue shared 14 fragrance accords with us such as Balsamic, Citrus, Green, Mossy, Ozonic, and Rose Floral.  After evaluating the accords on blotters we were encouraged to choose up to four of our favorite fragrance directions, which would be used to create our custom, signature scents. I choose the Citrus, Gentle Floral, Balsamic and Woody accords and voilà Eau de Trendincite was born.  It is rather sweet and smells differently than I expected. It does have a sweet figgy and plum accord, which I like. The verdict is not out yet as I’m still getting accustomed to the fragrance and evaluating it. However, my mother and daughter love it!

Working for three leading fragrance houses, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Fragrance is a very personal experience and much more complex than one may think. I thought I would be formulating my own scent with my favorite accords – Bergamot, Orange flower and Vetiver with a hint of Musk and Vanilla. This was not the case. Sue uses a predetermined set of finished accords.  I enjoyed my experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to create my own scent. Sue’s fragrance exercise is perfect for fragrance novices who are looking to creatively express themselves with a custom signature scent.

 

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?