Dr. Ellen Covey composed Olympic Orchids Gujarat while in India (photo via Ellen Covey)
There are few, if any, tracts of lands that remain undiscovered. Socialmedia t is bursting with photographs and videos of people’s travels. Recipes from the world over are readily available online, with spice stores prepared to ship exotic ingredients to many a mailbox. If it is possible to explore a place’s architecture and landscapes through photographs and travelogues, and recreate its cuisine for a dinner party, is it still necessary to book a Nile River tour or sleep in a Scandinavian ice hotel?
Maybe not. But, a photograph can’t capture the smell of a place. A recipe might have been faithfully recorded, but without having tasted an authentic version, it’s unclear whether a home-cooked dish was executed correctly. An audio recording might carry the sounds, and a video might show the hustle and bustle, but it won’t let you taste the food or have a conversation with someone new.
Girl from Gujarat, photo by BANITAtour via Pixaby
I have never traveled to India. By looking at a map, I found that Gujarat is the westernmost state in India and has one of the longest coastlines, sharing access to the Arabian Sea with Oman, Yemen, and Somalia. According to my research, its artisans weave, embroider, and dye some of the finest textiles in India. Predominantly Hindu and primarily vegetarian, Gujarat is one of four Indian states that prohibit the sale of alcohol. It is also the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
Adalaj Step Well, photo by BANITAtour via Pixaby
In the north of Gujarat it is hot and dry in the summer, cold and dry in the winter. In the south, heavy monsoon rains start in June, filling streams with water and bringing a freshness to the air. In the late 15th century, stepwells were built to collect the downpour from seasonal monsoons, surviving centuries due to builders’ understanding of soil conditions and seismology. Photographs of Gujarat show Jain-style temples made of sandstone and women wearing brightly colored fabrics. Culinary websites refer to Gujarati cuisine as one of the oldest of India, describing it as a mix of sweet and sour that uses mild spices for its salads, curries, and chutneys.
Spices of India, photo by Clothilde de la Motte via Pixaby
2x Art and Olfaction Winning Perfumer Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids visited Gujarat, and years later she created as an exuberant fragrance as its namesake. Olympic Orchids Gujarat ignites with an almost camphorous, densely layered block of spice notes that seem to rush out, tumbling over each other as though escaping a sealed inlaid box. A waxy, citrus-peel brightness breaks through like a sunbeam and Gujarat becomes slightly fizzy. Briefly, it smells of vinyl shower liner, but this offers a visceral sense of finding a cheerful plastic toy among unfamiliar grasses and flowers. In a short space of time, the inlaid box of spices has emptied. As the notes unfurl, the dryness of pith contrasts with tart and juicy lime. Something dark and dusty jumps out, only to be pushed aside by bitter fenugreek and fiery ginger. In this fractal of fragrance, frankincense notes form an increasingly steady framework. Light muskiness gracefully surfaces alongside cumin and sandalwood. There’s a familiarity to the drydown—for a moment, it is faintly reminiscent of Rainforest by Olympic Orchids. Then dusty, spicy Gujarat becomes a cohesive, lightly fruity, spiced musk that lingers lightly on skin. Gujarat smells like a festival that’s being set up—it’s about to begin and there’s a thrill in the air. Something about it also suggests an ancient place that is unfazed by new history. Perhaps the experience of visiting new environs can’t be bottled, its hot days and balmy nights compressed like a genie in a bottle. But though Gujarat itself remains a mystery, in this fragrance it smells like a happy sort of place to be. Here’s to travels of the past and future.
Olympic Orchids Gujarat was released in 2011.
Disclosure: A bottle of Olympic Orchids Gujarat was provided for this review at my request. My opinions are my own.
Dalya Azaria, Contributor
Olympic Orchids Gujarat, photo by The Perfumed Dahlia
Thanks to the generosity of Olympic Orchids, ÇaFleureBon has a 30ml bottle of Gujarat for one registered reader residing in the USA, and a 5ml for anywhere else in the world. To be eligible for the draw, please leave a comment about what aspect of Dalya’s review inspired your interest in this fragrance, and let us know where you live. We have featured Olympic Orchids many times over the years; do you have a favorite Draw closes 1/10/2020
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