Of Beginnings and Imaginary Bellinis: A Welcome

When I began drafting this post, we were still in the early, barely warm days of summer in Austin and the first peaches of the season had just arrived—tiny, with a pale, delicate flavor. Another series of deadlines went by, the heat arrived, and the peaches got sweeter. Much sweeter. The ones up above were part of a crop so fragrant that I did a double-take when I walked by the produce section and looped back to find the source of that maddening, tangy, mouthwatering scent.

 

They were truly ripe white peaches, rich and floral on the tongue,  and they made me dream of Jasmine Bellinis: white peach purée, Prosecco and a tiny drop of jasmine absolute, the concentrated essence of the heady flower. My bottle was sourced by natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. It is unbelievably smooth, with an undertone of bitter chocolate, but it is also very dark and a little wild—half animal and half flower. Adding a tiny drop of it to the puréed peaches not only amplifies their fragrance, it gives them a kiss of humid summer heat—a touch of the decay that is so often necessary to make something truly luscious. The bubbles in the wine lift all that into something celebratory, and tickle your nose with the scent before you even take a sip.

 

At least, I hope that’s how it will be. Because the truth is, though the Prosecco is chilling in the fridge, the jasmine absolute is on my desk, and a half dozen white peaches are waiting on the counter, my Jasmine Bellinis are still imaginary.

 

I first got the idea for Jasmine Bellinis months ago, when I found this beautiful recipe pairing jasmine and peaches while collecting examples of fragrant cuisine for Chef Dana Tommasino my co-host for a Scent Dinner at Woodward’s Garden in San Francisco this March.  And I’ve been imagining them—dreaming of them even—ever since. I’ve been matching the flavors in my mind, comparing them to paired accords in perfumes I know, like the way the beautiful peach in the heart of Guerlain’s Mitsouko perfume, especially in my vintage version, marries with the warm earth, herbs and hay of the oakmoss in its base, or the way the touch of overripe melon in Frederic Malle’s Parfum de Therese is doubled by the scent of soft, sumptuous, floral leather and lifted up by the aldehydes in the topnotes.

 

Those of you who have followed my adventures on Now Smell This  know I don’t shy away from experimenting in the kitchen until I get something right. What I’ve been missing is the proper motivation and occasion. What I’ve been missing is all of you.

I’m confessing this to explain the way I feel about starting this blog. I’ve had the idea for nearly a year now—its title became the title of my book [link]. I’ve gotten a lot of good advice on how it should start and how it should grow, tips on keeping my posts short and finding a well-defined niche, posting regularly and gaming the all-powerful Google.

 

I’ve been fussing over this website and then neglecting it for weeks at a time, swamped by other projects and paralyzed by the number of decisions it requires (and I’m already planning a re-design). I’ve been reflecting on the blogs I love, and following discussions in my perfume-blogging community about whether or not there are already too many blogs and reading the occasional social media article about how blogs are over and it’s all about Twitter now.

 

If that’s all I’d been doing there would be nothing here for you to read. But on the days when I can ignore good advice,  I’ve been thinking of the things I want to tell you. I’ve been making lists of writers I’m dying for you to read, and art I hope we can discuss and things I want to taste just so I can tell you about them. And of course I’ve been thinking about all the wondrous things I want you to smell. The more I imagined the conversations we might have, the more real this space became to me and the more possible it seemed to begin.

 

Things may be a little erratic while I find my footing, especially since the coming weeks will be busy ones. There will be adjustments and filling in. Variations on the recipe. Subscribing might be useful if you don’t want to miss posts.  But very soon there will be Jasmine Bellinis. And right now, there are peaches.

 

 

This one  is for you.

 

 

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Categories: More, Scent, Taste

39 Comments

  • Missie Sue says:

    What a beautiful idea for a summer drink. And I look forward to reading more here in the future; it seems like you are off to a wonderful start with this post.

    • Alyssa says:

      Thanks, Missie Sue. Saw your comment on Twitter, too. I look forward to meeting you in San Francisco!

    • Alyssa says:

      And thanks for being the first person to comment over here! Didn’t even realize my gravatar was still a ghost. Let’s see if this one shows up with my pic. Ah, yay! That’s better.

  • Alexis says:

    Hi Alyssa,
    A jasmine bellini is absolutely dreamy right now, especially on this cold, gray SF day. I will be attending the SF Sniff on Saturday, 7/7 and I am excited to meet you. I am just hoping for a bit of sun on Saturday but if we’ll be indoors sniffing around town then I guess sunshine would just be an added bonus!

  • Ellen says:

    I just read the first few pages of your book, and it made me remember leaving a wonderful perfume shop , with a handful of sample cards. They let you smell everything, so you could determine your scent preferences. Who knew I was grass ? I know I am going to love this book. Good luck on your tour.

    • Alyssa says:

      Thanks so much, Ellen! And yes, who knew? When I was at the beginning of my trip down the rabbit hole I wrote a fan letter to Robin, the editor of the blog Now Smell This, in which I described myself has having “a mild case of scent addiction.” She wrote back: “Mild cases of scent addiction are very rare.” I’m sure she was laughing when she sent that email…

  • Marie says:

    Thanks to your gracious gifts, my fingers and toes are a dreamy shade of purple and blue. I do hope you enjoyed the Stellar Organics and I look forward to getting to know your book (and your bellini recipe) this weekend.

    • Alyssa says:

      Whee! Love that you took the polishes home, and it’s so much fun to see you over here, Marie. Have fun and I hope you enjoy the book.

  • Stacy says:

    Alyssa,

    “Coming to My Senses” arrived from Amazon last evening. What a JOYOUS read, I’m finding a small treasure on each page and can’t put this book down!!! You’ve articulated beautifully how so many of us feel about scent and I can’t wait for my husband to read it; maybe YOU can make him understand!
    I look forward to seeing you again in Brooklyn. You may remember we first met during Sniffa weekend in the bar at the Plaza where my friends and I held you hostage! ;) Congratulations on your first book!

    • Alyssa says:

      Yay! Thanks so much for coming by the blog to tell me this, Stacy. I’m so glad you’ll be coming to the Brooklyn event. I hope I get to see some of the other Sniffa crew, too! It was a most pleasant way to be held hostage and I was a willing victim. :-)

  • Missie Sue says:

    It was wonderful to meet you this weekend; thank you for taking the time to sit and chat with a wide-eyed fan girl. I’ve been diving into your book with enthusiasm and delight. There’s so much there to love, and you’ve captured so many aspects of perfume and life that resonate with me.

  • Mals86 says:

    Oh, Alyssa! Here you are.

    My copy of Coming to My Senses just arrived this morning (along with the new suitcase I bought The CEO, to replace an ancient one with wonky zippers… half an hour after he left on a business trip, of course), and I’ve skimmed the whole thing already.

    I. Am. Delighted.

    I’m charmed by it. I’ve laughed and sniffed back some tears and smiled in recognition, and I already know that I’ll go back and read again more carefully, and reread again. Thanks so much.

    I am looking forward to the revelations of which perfumes to which you’ve referred in the book. Some of them, of course, I think I can decipher. Some hover tantalizingly just out of my reach but some of them I’m shaking my head over, thinking, “What on earth could that one be?” I assume those little bits of info will be scattered around here at some point?

    Local peaches are not quite in here in Southwest Virginia. In another week, though…

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi Mals! Great to see you over here! I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the book. Thank you for all the kind words. And yes, All Shall Be Revealed, both here in a series of posts and by gossip long before, I’m sure, since I’ll be bringing out That Honey Perfume for the event here in Austin.

  • Alyssa says:

    It was delightful to meet you *and* your very nice boyfriend, and I loved talking with you.

  • Rebecca says:

    What a delight to discover your enticing blog. My husband calls me a scent junkie, but as yet I have not understood perfume other than that of herbs, flowers, the earth and food. I can’t wait to hear more tonight and let you educate me! I have a LOT to learn Your words are inspiring. Thanks for your beautiful blog!

    • Alyssa says:

      Welcome, Rebecca! I hope you were in the crowd last night and enjoyed the evening. Thanks so much for your great comment. Do come back and report on your new scent adventures.

  • Lillian says:

    Enjoyed the presentation at Bookpeople immensely. Went with my daughter after reading the excerpt on Kindle app. Did not intend to buy the book, but your presentation left me wanting to know more, and I enthusiastically picked up one for myself (bought one for my daughter as well, and she stayed for the signing). I intend to buy more as gifts. Really. Your book should be sold in baskets with high end perfumes at Neimans, Macys, and Bergdorfs. Would make a charming gift.

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi Lillian, thanks so much for coming to the reading and buying books! I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself and I love that you and your daughter are reading the book together. That’s a terrific idea about the gift baskets, too. *Looks around hopefully for a Neiman’s executive.*

  • Stacy says:

    Finished the book days ago, once I started I couldn’t put it down. Wonderful read!!! Alyssa, you are WAY talented! Julie and look forward to seeing you on Thursday! We’re driving in a little early so we can visit the CB I Hate Perfume Gallery. We’ll bring samples!

    • Alyssa says:

      Fantastic! I’m so looking forward to seeing you all at the reading. Can’t wait to see what you bring!

  • Alyssa says:

    P.S. I’m not really leaving comments here at 4:30 in the morning. The clock on the website seems to set to Rocky Mountain Time and I’m currently in New York where it is a perfectly reasonable 6:30 a.m.

  • anne groben says:

    It was a joy to read your book!Could you tell me if essential moils are the same AS PERFUME ? What are the differences ?Best to you,Anne

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi Anne, so glad you enjoyed the book. Essential oils are to perfume what oil paints are to a painting. They are the raw materials, the ingredients and inspiration for the perfume.

  • Roxana says:

    How wonderful to discover you have activated this site, yay! I am curious, what is the botanical name of the Jasmine absolute you mention, perhaps Jasminum auriculatum? That one to me is the most wild, with a dark animalic quality, I love it.

    • Alyssa says:

      I wish I knew for sure! I’ve looked it up on Mandy’s site, where it’s listed as Grandiflorum, but my particular bottle is from awhile ago and doesn’t say anything but “Jasmine Absolute” on it.

  • Margie says:

    What exactly is Jasmine absolute and where can I buy it?

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi, jasmine absolute is an extraction of jasmine flowers. You can read more about it and order some by following the link in the post to Mandy Aftel’s site.

  • susan says:

    Coming to my Senses was an absolute joy to read. II cannot believe that there is another person out there who likes to bury her nose in life!! I do not feel so odd now when I am the one at work with a cutting of flowering thyme by my computer or open the window the first time I am someplace new and breathe in deeply to know where I am

    • Alyssa says:

      Thank you so much for these kind words, Susan. And welcome aboard! I’ll be starting to rev up the blog this week so there will be more to read and talk about here and I hope you’ll explore some of the other sites listed in the book, too. I do love the scent of thyme. Do you know the book HEAT by Bill Buford? He’s a journalist who signed up to cook in Mario Batali’s kitchen for awhile. He writes about getting caught leaning over the hot pan to smell the thyme as it pops in the oil…

  • Olga (Warum) says:

    Dear Alyssa,
    I am now half way into your book and it is such a joy to read that I cannot help but come to your blog to write you a public fan letter. Your book is such a great read for a perfumista, for a budding perfumista, for a little jaded perfumista, for a blogger who is still coming to terms with what blogging means as a genre, for a perfume loving feminist (I bet you got a lot of letters from folks like us!).

    Of course, your post sent me to Aftelier website to check out the jasmine absolute, and I barely restrained from ordering samples on the spot. I have to dip back into the book (I know that it won’t be much safer), but this book of your story is burning a hole in my shelf.

    I will come back here when I am done once again to submit another fan letter :) Thanks for a great read!

    • Alyssa says:

      Hi Warum! Thanks so much for this lovely note. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. I’ve been traveling but am back now and revving up the site. In fact, I just worked out the exact recipe for those jasmine bellinis last night and the post will be up this week. I’s m so pleased the book is striking a chord with you. I look forward to hearing more about what you think after you’ve finished!

      • Olga (Warum) says:

        I have finished and I told my family that someone had written a book about my life :)
        It really did strike a chord!

        Looking forward for jasmine bellinis recipe.

  • kev says:

    Hi Alyssa,

    I am presently reading your book rite now I love it. I am a perfumer and work in New York. You really have me thinking simply about perfume again. Instead of the crazy deadline heavy world of creating scents for a living. It is truly a joy to read the way you express yourself through your senses. I look forward to reading more. Perhaps I could send you perfumes occasionally that I am working on just for fun.

    Thanks for brining back some inspiration into my life.

    • Alyssa says:

      Oh my, Perfumekev. Your comment is very moving to me. (And I certainly identify with what you say about crazy deadlines.) I think pursuing one’s passion for a living is always a challenge. The world is not really set up to encourage risk and creativity and dreaming–that’s why we have to cheer each other on. So this is me, cheering. Go! Go!

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