Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Anya's Garden Kaffir and Temple

We have dabbled in Anya's Garden, an artisan natural perfumery stationed in Miami Shores, Florida USA before, here at the Shrine. We were really taken with her wild-hearted Fairchild and consider Pan to be one of the most unique things to ever grace the market. {click on the names to read reviews} Tincturing goat's hair itself is indeed a great way of rendering an animalistic note. So when she announced she has issued two new perfumes, Kaffir and Temple, we simply had to sniff!

The perfumes feature new-to-the-market citruses, paired in unexpected ways.
Kaffir lime peel - which is also known as Thai Lime Leaf, or Makrud lime (ghost lime or funny lime) - sparkles in the topnotes of the eponymous scent. Kaffir lime made a rather more subdued appearence in Armani's Sensi, but it wasn't allowed to steal the show. Here it is taking center stage.
On another note, Kaffir might sound like an ethnic slur, but the intention is far from such. Inspired by an ingredient that is actually starring in South East Asian cuisine, whose leaves have a natural aldehydic character, the term is sparkling some controversy.

But none is necessary. The word kaffir or kahfir derives from Arabic for "non-Muslim". Therefore it is used in some Muslim countries as a totally non-offensive, descriptive term for people of other faiths. Much like the ancient Greeks used the term "barbarians" for people who didn't speek Greek but with no intention of demeaning them; the term was not derogatory then. In many cases, such as those mentioned in Herodotus Historiae (where there are great examples of respect and admiration for the Persian empire), the contrary is true!
However long after the Arabs who came to South Africa applied it to the natives, it was picked up by the South Africans of European descent for black South Africans as an ethnic slur. {it has been brought to my attention -initially by our reader Samira, but I looked it up myself as well- that although this sounds like the arabic word, in fact it might not be the same; spelled "kaffer", it is derived from "cafard", meaning cockroach in French. The afrikaans people translated it to kaffer,because the french phonetic for cafard sound like kaffer (ka`fa:r)}.
It's high irony that Christians calling people "non-Muslims" became such a controversial term. But history is full of those...

Back to fragrant parlance, two different agarwoods were used to anchor the citruses. Anya explained that the agarwood for Kaffir is much lighter, golden and spicy with nuances of leather and freshy-sawn wood. While in Temple there is a blend of Laotian and Vietnamese dark, deep, hypnotic Ouds, a specialty grade of agarwood that is very expensive. That last part necessitated the lack of available samples for this scent due to limited amount of the perfume produced. If one is interested in good, real oud, they have to order it.

However in a generous gesture Temple samples will be gifted to those who need them and write up to Anya's Garden to claim them. Let's see what Anya Mc Coy has to say about it:

For the Survivors: Special offer for Temple Perfume

Blended along both Ayurvedic and Buddhist systems, Temple is a limited-edition perfume that is specially made for all of the survivors of the many physical disasters that have wrecked communities in the USA. It is hoped it will give courage in the face of post-traumatic stress - I know, because I am one of them. I have lived in Florida since 1985 and my first hurricane was Elena in Tampa, and the last - hopefully for some time - was Wilma.[...] Temple is also being offered to anyone who has been the victim of domestic abuse, poor health or other challenges that have caused trauma and ongoing stress.

The first 100 readers that write me at Anya's Garden will receive a sample for free. Fifty percent of the profits from Temple will be donated to various charities that assist people and animals via their rescue efforts. The offer will end when all of the samples have have been claimed.

And how do the scents smell, you ask.


Fragrance Family: Citrus-FloraLeather-Wood

Kaffir is really a drop of sunshine in the gloom of November. The juiciness of hesperidia, the lime nectar and the aroma of snapped leaves is almost tangible as you spray the fragrance on you and you instantly get happy thoughts. It's playful, with a verdancy that grabs you by the nose and gets your attention. The green touch of galbanum, that striking note in vintage Vent Vert of which Anya herself is a fan, makes for an arresting beginning.
Flowery with the indolic loveliness of jasmine and what seemed to me like orange blossom (but in fact is not)it take you places: you are in a mirage of summery pleasures that spin around you. Jasmime is a favourite note of mine of course and when one is using natural essences and absolutes, it is even more of an indulgence. It's a sensuous experience to be cherished.
As the scent of Kaffir dries down you realise just how good it is: there is a woody edge, some pungency that lingers seductively, a lived-in feeling. Leather is not usually combined with citrus and here it is a touch that sets it apart.
I think anyone would feel a little brighter for experiencing Kaffir. And that's a blessing in its own way.

Official notes:
Top: Kaffir Thai lime leaf, galbanum, French and Tropical tarragon accord
Middle: tinctures of eight jasmines, heritage oak extract, Grasse jasmine
Base: sustainable golden agarwood, musk seed, leather accord

Fragrance Family: Citrus-Incense-Spiced Wood

I have to admit that agarwood/oud is like a lumberjack of death to me and I usually cannot wear it on my skin. Some of the Montale ouds which receive so much accolades have proven to be simply unpalatable. And the irony is, they're not even that "real", since Perfume Shrine has indeed dabbled in smelling real oud thanks to the generosity of a friend who wanted to read my thoughts on some arabic essences from Yemen.
In Temple we have real, expensive, precious oud that would make lovers of this love-it-or-hate-it note jump with joy. The heart is truly like Zuko, the Japanese ritual powder, we found out. This exotic reference is further aiding in the centering and relaxation that oud would produce to those who love it. There is also warmth and roundness to the scent which is due to cassie and spices (some of which smell like star anise and cinnamon to me): it is as if it's tied to images of earth goddesses.

On Anya's coaxing, nevertheless, I tried putting a drop of Temple in a bowl of hot water to scent my home. And trully it subtly produced a serene mood and pleasant meditative ambience that was very welcome. This alternative use enthralled me and I plan on beginning to test more of my more "difficult" scents that way.
For the rest of you that find oud mannah from heaven, this is not to be missed.

Official notes:
Top : distilled orange juice, borneol crystals
Middle : aglaia flower, cassia, Ayurvedic herbs and spices
Base : sustainable Laotian and Vietnamese Oud agarwood, earth tincture

There is also a special voucher on Anya's Garden site for all perfumes and essences:

Through December 1st, type in the world natural in the voucher at checkout, and receive 10% off all purchases.
Sounds good!

Artwork by illustrator Rafal Olbinski courtesy of Pic with sitting woman from Anya's Garden site


  1. Hi Helg...

    Wanted to say I liked Anya's tip of putting a drop in bowl of hot water.


  2. Thanks for stopping by Dawn. :))

    yes, wonderful idea.

  3. Just back from Istanbul, I'm intrigued by the whole universe of essential oils, esp the ones key to classical and oriental perfumery. I'm curious to try the hot water bowl method with a drop of Turkish rose oil (Rosa Damascena) from Isparta.

  4. Hope you had a great trip, C (off to read!).
    Natural oils do present a great perspective into how trully complex nature is. There are so many nuances.

    The hot water bowl method is proving popular! I bet Damascena will be wonderful and much subtler that way.

  5. I can't wait to test my own samps of Anya's new creations, but I'm trying to hold off a bit, since I'm not in the best sniffing shape (some kind of tummy bug made friends with me in Scotland). Your review is making it mighty hard to resist these little vials! I'm a little wary of oud myself, but Anya taught me new ways to love patchouli with Pan, so I'm betting Temple will be a revelation.

  6. Dear Helg:
    Thank you so much for the lovely review, and thank you for "getting " naturals and being openminded about our new art. Your brilliant description of the etymology of Kaffir is something I would like to quote, if needed.

    I am actually going to play around with Pan and Fairchild and Kaffir and the gone-but-going-to-be-reformulated Riverside (yes, yes, the rose!) in the water bowl.

    Next year, I do have plans for room fragrancing products, and am currently reviewing methods of diffusion.

    BG, get your nose in shape soon, I cherish your feedback on the sniffs!

    One of the members of my group posted a link here, Helg, and so I'm thankful so many of them will now discover your blog.

    Till later


  7. Anonymous21:06

    I feel the need to clarify the meaning of word Kafir... the word used by South Africans of European descent to describe Africans is "cafard" which means "cockroach"... yes the two words sound similar but differ substantially in both meaning and intent. This ethnic slur used by European South Africans has no relation to the Arab word "Kafir".

  8. Dear M,

    get well soon and hope we can further discuss Anya's creations :-)

  9. Dear Anya,

    you're welcome. I did find unique creations in the universe of naturals and I had to say so.
    You are free to use my review of course, if you choose to.
    I am holding out on the reformulation of Riverside: the mterials were great quality. Perhpas toning down the roses? (LOL, you remeber I don't like rose, I know!)

    Thanks for the link and hope the members find this worthwhile.

  10. Thank you Samira and welcome to the Shrine.
    Very enlightening: I will edit and quote you on this; is that all right?


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