Showing posts with label autumn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label autumn. Show all posts

Nov 11, 2016

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile...

Fall, glorious Fall!!!! Well, it's actually more like a second Spring here in Nepal. Blue skies, sunshine, mild temperatures, and no humidity. YAY! Above you see a photo of our daily view of the Annapurnas. These stunning mountain vistas are only on display October through March. All trails are open and mud free. That's why tourist season is Fall through Winter in Nepal. 

In other news, the president of India came to visit our little town last Friday! A public holiday was declared and all roads were blocked for security. Pres. Pranab Mukherjee arrived by Buddha Air at 1 PM. He then proceeded through town by motorcade stopping at the 5 star hotel across the road from our house for a snooze. After that he motorcaded on over to address retired Nepali Gurkha soldiers at the Indian Army Pension Camp and observed cultural performances during the specially scheduled programme. Before night fell he returned to Kathmandu via plane again. (The lady in the beautiful saffron colored sari is the Nepali president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari.) I seriously doubt when the president of Nepal visits Delhi a public holiday is declared. Bibi abstained from all the hullabaloo locked within in her compound.

We received a CARE package from relatives in Kashmir. Seeds! I am sooo happy they sent me seeds for Winter veggies. I planted my veggie seeds in September and they rotted. The Monsoon rains usually stop at the end of August but continued through September this year. This has ruined just about everybody's vegetable starts, wheat, and potatoes. They sent seeds for haak (collards), kohlrabi, and radishes that look like turnips. I hope they are turnips and are simply mislabeled. Kashmir has the nicest seeds.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.......
Ok, so they're just roasting in a pan on my stove. Our relatives in Kashmir sent a big bag of chestnuts too! I'm having all sorts of fun figuring out how to roast these things properly. Being a California girl I've never roasted chestnuts. I've tasted them as pastry filling and in Nesselrode pie but that's about it. Whew! Chestnuts are a hassle to deal with.

Our neighbors have a mildew and wooly aphid infested tree that has been dropping these tennis ball sized fruits in our yard. They're hard as a rock but my maid insisted that they're edible so we hacked one open with a machete. It's a very bland and gravelly textured guava. Not like any guava I've tasted before. No sweet pulpy flesh just grit like an unripe pear and tiny seeds that are as hard as gravel. A brief foray on the internet and I found that these are a Thai variety of guava. So I asked one of my Thai friends,  "How in the world do you use these things?" She said the Thai grate them onto fresh salads. I asked her if the fruits ever softened or sweetened up and she said no. I've noticed a lot of Thai and Chinese fruits have interesting textures but very little flavor. I don't think you'll be seeing these in Western markets any time soon. 

And last but not least......the prettiest sight I've seen all week. Our beautiful neighbor girl buying apples. Isn't she gorgeous? All different sorts of apples are coming down from the higher elevations here. Those are from Shimla I believe. Potatoes are coming from way up high at Mustang while asparagus and oranges are just coming to market locally.

That's about it around here this week. India's banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes which is causing absolute chaos and America's turned into a reality TV show. Unreal, huh?

Oct 18, 2016

Perfume Review: Ajmal's Ragheeb

Perfume Review Ajmal's Ragheeb attar perfume oil fragrance ajmal

With a slight nip in the air and the steamy rains of the Monsoon finally gone, Autumn has finally arrived. Now's the season to break out those warm, woodsy orientals and delectable gourmands from your fragrance wardrobe. Ajmal's 'Ragheeb' is one of my favorite oriental floral fragrances for the Fall.

The late Mr Ajmal Ali, founder of Ajmal perfumes. 
For those of you unfamiliar with Ajmal it is a luxury perfume house started in the 1950's in India by Mr Ajmal Ali. Mr Ali was a native of Assam where some of the best agarwood or oudh is sourced. Moving to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) he began by selling Assamese oudh to Arab countries. Eventually he began mixing perfume oils into brilliant compositions and became a premier supplier of perfumes to the Middle East. In 1976 the House of Ajmal moved it's headquarters to Dubai. In 1987 Ajmal was the first company to introduce the classic Dahn-Al-Oudh (literally fat of the wood) in an eau de parfum form bringing to a to wider, global audience. (Yes, Ajmal's Dahn-Al-Oudh eau de parfum started the Western world's craze for oudh that's still raging on presently.) The fine tradition Mr Ajmal Ali started in India in the 1950's has been carried on now for 3 generations of his family. Today Ajmal is represented by over 100 boutiques and showrooms across the Gulf countries and is quite popular in Russia too.

So, in and amongst the myriad traditional Arabic oudh and rose attars on offer at a posh boutique in the Bahrain airport in 2006 I found 'Ragheeb.' Instantly, this scent brought memories I couldn't quite place. Late Summer and early Fall mornings in northern California in a traditional Arab attar? That's what it reminded me of. The 'Ragheeb' means willing or desirous in Arabic. Ajmal's description of the fragrance and notes:
"This exotic bouquet opens with the floral essence of bergamot and rose creatively infused with spicy hints of saffron, nutmeg and clove, interspersed with geranium. The fragrance highlights aromatic, warm and contemporary base woody yet sweet notes, for that long lasting trail.
Fragrance Description
Top: Floral Citrus
Heart: Spicy
Base: Woody Ambery"

Ragheeb opens with a bittersweet blast of saffron after which the nutmeg, bergamot, rose, geranium, and cloves seamlessly appear. You might look at the note pyramid and wonder where the woods and amber are. Saffron this intense takes on a woodsy, ambery effect with an almost masculine tobacco-like tone. The spiciness of the cloves bolsters the warmth of the saffron. Bergamot and nutmeg brighten the composition with their citrusy notes and keep the saffron from going completely leathery, metallic, or dark. The rose is the classic deep and intense Taif rose so prized in Arab culture. Real Taif rose oil isn't very long-lasting on the skin so typically geranium is added to prolong it's presence. The famed Taif rose has tea-like notes but can have peppery or even sharply tannic edges. To Western noses the Taif rose can often be perceived as harsh and soapy. You might think the intensity of the saffron and the harshness of the rose would make the composition come off as acrid or astringent. It doesn't. Ragheeb perfectly emulates the uniquely warm, spicy, myrrh-like fragrance of certain old rose varieties. The bergamot, nutmeg, and rose are unfortunately first to go in this scent after about two hours. The drydown is gorgeously Autumnal as the saffron mellows to an almost honeyed amber and rich aromatic cloves remain for hours.

Photo from the Taif Rose festival in Saudi Arabia
That was it! When I lived in California in the 90's I began collecting David Austin's English roses in my garden. Not only for their gorgeous forms and color but I particularly loved the strength and complexity of their warm old rose fragrance with varying touches of myrrh, clove, musk, fruit, and tea. Somehow the saffron, bergamot, cloves, rose, geranium, and nutmeg in this attar captured that old rose scent perfectly. Mr Austin's pink and apricot colored rose cultivars were particularly known for their spicy, myrrh-like notes similar to the fragrance of Ragheeb.

'Constance Spry'
This was the grande dame that started it all. David Austin's first commercially available rose, 'Constance Spry.' Mr Austin's emphasis is on breeding roses with the character and fragrance of old roses such as gallicas, damasks and alba roses but with the repeat-flowering ability, disease resistance, and wide color range of modern roses such as hybrid teas. 'Constance Spry' was the incredible twelve foot climbing rose that graced the arched trellis over my front door in California. Richly myrrh scented she was supposed to only bloom once in Spring. I found that through rigorous deadheading she would keep blooming for about 3 months. Her spicy, warm, almost resinous old rose scent would grace my doorway along with her heavily cupped blooms. I had a collection of about 20 different David Austin roses interspersed with various lavenders, lavandins, yarrow, and a few Italian cypresses in that garden.

As you can see in the above photos Ragheeb comes in an opulent glass bottle with gold ornamentation and a scattering of sparkling white stones. (This is rather modest as Ajmal bottles go, some are like miniature fairy palaces or daring pieces of modern sculpture.) The bottle has some considerable heft as well as a delicate glass applicator. To use attars or fragrance oils like this you simply dab a few drops to the inside of each wrist. Then dab a little behind each ear with the inside of your wrists before it absorbs. You may also apply to the back of the knees so the fragrance envelops you. Attars and fragrance oils take a bit longer to develop on the skin than alcohol based perfumes. Wait at least an hour for the fragrance to develop before reapplying if necessary. I find Ragheeb lasts about six to eight hours with moderate sillage. Although I bought this bottle about ten years ago I believe this fragrance is still available for purchase as I've seen it on Russian websites. These Arab attars last for years and are not nearly as prone to degradation due to heat or light as alcohol based perfumes. As you can see in the above photo I probably have another ten years of use out of this bottle even though I wear it at least once weekly in the Fall and Winter. A little dab will definitely do with this type of fragrance.

I think I need a pink burqa like that.
And a hammam. Definitely a hammam.

Ragheeb makes me desirous of the late Summer days in northern California. The leaves were starting to fall, the grapes in the vineyards being harvested, the roses and other scented plants in my garden were at their most fragrant. I don't really miss California except for the gorgeous weather. The foggy days of Autumn would soon start and the holiday season would begin with all the festivals, food, and fun. Ragheeb is the last bloom of my old rose collection in the Fall before being tidied up and tucked in with a blanket of mulch for the coming Winter.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that remind you of certain times of the year?
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