Saturday, November 22, 2014

The winner of the draw....

....for the Fragrant book is Phyllis Iervello. Congratulations! Please email me using Contact with your shipping data so I can have this out to you soon.

Thanks everyone for the enthusiastic participation and till the next one! I'm going to go put on a pair of jeans and some lipstick and get out of the door, so please continue entering comments on the other draw, I will check them out later on.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur: fragrance review & samples giveaway

How can a strictly indoors smell, that of burning incense, so tied to wooden pegs and tight clusters of people, gain an outdoorsy veneer? The French perfume school has long thrived on the exploration of indoor scents; from the culinary scents of hot butter, peachy and plummy compotes and pain d'épices fused into classic chypres and orientals, to the introspective scents of the church and the literary salon, full of incense, beeswax and the scent of the paper-knife between paper leaves, the ink that dots the pages... These reflect the traditions that have built France's reputation as the seat of good food and decent banter. But the great outdoors, a less Parisian perhaps, yet not entirely distant destination, was left uncharted right till the bucolic greeneries introduced with Vent Vert and the athletic agility of the 1990s marines. And then the outdoors came sweeping one day, sailing on.

Copal Azur by Aedes de Venustas & Bertrand Duchaufour isn't strictly a ....but.click to read my full review on Fragrantica grabbing a nice fluffy mohair blanket and a chocolate bar.
And enter a comment to be eligible for one of the 5 samples I'm giving away. Draw is open internationally till Sunday 23rd noon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fragrant by Mandy Aftel: perfume book giveaway

More of a biographical mapping out of the discovery of a new career path and the richness with which it has gifted its author than a mainstream guide, Fragrant: The secret life of scent by Mandy Aftel is a fascinating journey into four key materials (cinnamon, incense, mint, jasmine and ambergris), their mystical significance, their aura, their historical pathway and with it the trajectory of natural perfumery. The book takes the form of a meditation on the sensuality and pleasure that natural materials offer, divided into 5 parts corresponding to each material) and a plea for the embracing of their sensuous capabilities in our increasingly sterilized world.

Aftel's Essence and Alchemy is already a perfume book classic, aimed at the fragrance enthusiast with the desire to learn (it includes a hands down approach to learning to build fragrant chords with natural essences and a classic fragrance pyramid structure tutorial a la Jean Carles), while Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent is less of a traditional guide. Instead Aftel muses on several points on scent while adding tidbits that are always interesting and a handful of recipes for edible stuff that would make you see things in a new light. For that reason it would appeal to the novice, as it does not require special knowledge in order to follow its beautiful prose, but also to the more accomplished fragrance collector as a tome to stand proudly in their library.

You can order the book on Amazon at a special price.

I have a new hardback copy to share with a lucky reader. Please enter a comment below to be eligible. Draw is open internationally till Friday midnight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting: Adventures in the Kitchen

Yes, you are looking at five dozen boxes of the carrot cupcakes I've made. Though truth to be told I haven't had this exact recipe written down until six weeks ago, when my friend Caroline asked me out of the blue to share, simply because people in my office love them so much. ("The best thing I've put in my mouth" was the generous review from a co-worker.)

~by guest writer AlbertCAN

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting by AlbertCAN, all rights reserved, use granted for PerfumeShrine by the owner

Am I this expert at baking? Not at all. In fact I only know how because I used to be terrible at baking cupcakes. Ghastly terrible. But I tested recipes and learned from my mistakes. The recipe is simply a starting point for any baker, although for best results anybody starting out should stick reasonably close to a recipe. (A friend tried making this recipe last weekend without adding carrots. No carrots. He ended up eating hockey pucks unfortunately.) I have, however, noted some reasonable changes to this recipe.

The cupcake itself is essentially uses just one bowl, although anyone trying this out for the first time probably should use 2 (one for the wet and one for dry ingredients). The secret to the cream cheese frosting here is actually buttermilk powder, which is available in fine food stores. (Do not substitute buttermilk for buttermilk powder.) I have tried making this recipe with zucchini or chestnut: I'm sticking with the carrot version though.

The recipe takes about 90 minutes to complete, although I usually make the cake and the frosting separately the day before an event, and just frost the cupcakes the morning of.

NOTE: Normally a carrot cupcake recipe calls for regular baking soda, but I've tested double-acting baking powder, and found it to be much better here. The former will lend a slightly wet texture, whereas double-acting will give the cupcakes the necessary extra lift during baking.

(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Makes about 18 large cupcakes

Carrot Cupcake

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon double-acting baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
¾ cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract"
2 ⅔ cups shredded carrots (about 4 large carrots)
zest of 1 fresh large sweet orange (optional)


16 tablespoons butter, softened*
3 cups confectioners' sugar
⅓ cup buttermilk powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract"
¼ teaspoon salt
12 ounces cream cheese, chilled and cut into 12 equal pieces


1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large cupcake tray with cupcake liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves together in large bowl.

2. In a separate bowl whisk sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest (if using) together until mixture is smooth. Using a large box grater shred the carrots on a large kitchen towel. Pat the carrots dry before stirring in. Add flour mixture and fold with rubber spatula until mixture is just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until center of cake is firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool cake in pan before removing them out of the pan for frosting, at least 30 minutes. Bake the remaining cupcake batter until all finished.

4. FOR THE FROSTING: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, sugar, buttermilk powder, vanilla, and salt on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low; add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time; and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Do not overmix.

Use a butter knife, apply the cream cheese onto the cupcake. Lift the knife straight up after each application to create even small peaks. Decorate each cupcake with one almond, if desired.

“ I substitute 1 large Tahitian vanilla bean for every teaspoon of vanilla extract in this recipe.
* The original recipe calls for unsalted butter but I actually use regular cultured butter, and just omit the salt altogether. Very unusual, but it works great for me. Perhaps it’s the subtle tang in cultured butter that adds another dimension to the frosting.

Photo by AlbertCAN. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hermes Le Parfum de la Maison Reveries collection: Hermes forays into Home Scent

An ice vault tunneling below the ground, covered with a glass panel. Illuminated objects below the glass shining with an unearthly beauty. A 18th century private home in the not-as-hip 13th arrondissement in Paris, on a side street. Touring through 5 rooms, each propped to reflect a different scentscape. This is the somptuous setting for the presentation of the latest collection by Hermès. And last Tuesday a presentation in a Manhattan mansion built in 1905 by society architect C.P.H.Gilbert, again split into 5 different rooms, decorated to a fault to reflect something which is by nature abstract.

via Mitchell Owens

No, it didn't involve either accessories, nor saddlery (on which la maison built its reputation), not even perfume, though the link with the head perfumer is hard to miss. The charming and no-nonsense Céline Ellena, 3rd generation perfumer and daughter of in-house master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena and an accomplished artist in her own right, has composed a range of home scents for the super chic French brand: Rêveries, Dreams.

Céline is said to have been inspired by Cabris, the olfactive references in her father's home there, giving the rationale behind creating a home scent line: "A home breathes and whispers, it makes noises and murmurs that cause your mind to wander" And none of the scents created are specific. "I wanted to create stories that could be olfactory murmurs". Care was taken to distinguish this home scent collection from any perfumes in the Hermès catalogue.

The 5 different Hermès home scents come in 3 formats: Limoges porcelain white faceted jars holding scented candles with a different color glaze inside for each scent designed by Guillaume Bardet, ceramic "stones" (which can be rescented) and paper origami horses that can fold flat for transport. The porcelain bowls start from $185 (they come in varying sizes), the stones start from $245 and the originami horses cost $79 for a package of 4.

  • À cheval!  (Saddle Up!) is of course the one most tied to the heritage of the house, presented via a lifesize horse model amidst books and smelling of smoky leather and beeswax. 
  • Temps de pluie (Rainy Day) evokes the favorite past-time of many a perfume lover, reading in the bedroom, and Celine herself, spending time with her kids on the sofa, watching movies: the misty atmosphere and the freshness of geosmin. 
  • Champ libre (Open Field) is a green composition that was conveyed via a wall covered in reeds. Fenêtre ouverte (Open Window) is as literal as it is evocative of a bedroom with its window open into the fresh air. 
  • Des pas sur la neige (A Walk in the Snow) smells of hay, soft and fluffy like snow, like the the artificial snow that overflowed from a Parisian bathtub. 
The collection will be available in select Hermès boutiques starting from December.

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