Creating my signature scent, naturally

Seeking a custom, natural perfume? Step into the boudoir of Ayala Sender.

Credit: Krista Eide/Ayala Moriel Parfums

Krista Eide/Ayala Moriel Parfums

Vancouver perfumer creates custom and ready-to-wear scents from all-natural essences.

I’ve never been a big perfume wearer. Sure, I’ve received fragrances as gifts, but I never felt comfortable wearing them. It could be I’m anxious for the summer blooms, or maybe I’m nostalgic for my travels to fragrant lands, but lately I’ve been thinking about scent. Or rather, craving scent.

See, I want to smell good for myself. I want a rich, natural fragrance that doesn’t just combine all my favourite scents, but also provides a sensuous experience. But if other people like how I smell, that’s good too.

So I contacted Ayala Sender, founder and nose of the Vancouver-based Ayala Moriel Parfums, to help me develop my own signature scent. A far cry from the mass-produced department store offerings, Ayala uses all-natural, fair-trade and cruelty-free (as far as animal extracts are concered) essences to create artisenal custom and ready-to-wear fragrances.

Canada-born and Israel-raised, Ayala was inspired by her scent memories of the wild herbs and flowers of her Mediterranean childhood. She began crafting perfumes about nine years ago, first making custom fragrances for family and friends.

Ayala Moriel Parfums at Portobello West Market this weekend

March 27 & 28, 12–6 p.m.

Rocky Mountaineer Station,

1755 Cottrell St, Vancouver

Purchase Frangipanni Gloves to support the Bloedel Conservatory

“It’s for people who are fed up with cookie cutter products,” Ayala says of her work. “For those want a personal connection.”


The sniff test

Ayala welcomed me to her studio with the perfumed Charisma tea blended for her by Inner Alchemy Tea Co., and treats including her own delicious white chocolate truffles scented with matcha powder, spearmint and jasmine.

I thought maybe I’d have to undergo some sort of psychological test, but Ayala simply pulled out her large collection of tiny vials of essence, and asked me what I liked. I told her what I’ve been drawn to in the last few years: fresh lavender, rosemary, mint, sage, citrus. (Yes, stuff that doubles as food. What of it?)

She held the daubers under my nose, and asked me to take short, fast sniffs (in between, I cleared my passages with whiffs of coffee beans). Ayala uses essences sourced from different parts of the globe, and extracted by different methods–there is a distinct difference between French roses and Turkish roses.


Three notes, many songs

We first selected my perfume’s top notes, the crisp scents that first hit your nose, and then evaporate quickly. Ayala daubed lavender, rosemary, spearmint, lime and orange onto five separate paper sticks, and then fanned them. The combination was lovely, except I thought the rosemary was overpowering, so we scrapped it.

For the heart notes, the sweet, often floral scents which emerge after the top notes, I knew I wanted the intoxicating orange blossom. To that, we added tuberose, ylang ylang, clary sage, neroli, and mint absolute (a sludgy, dark green extraction).

Finally, we determined the base notes, which are the perfume’s rich, earthy anchor. I tested both frankincense and myrrh (both smelled how I imagine antiquity did), but went for the frankincense, along with rich Haitian vetiver (which I’m now minorally obsessed with), earthy oak moss, and antique patchouli, a subtler and less spicy fragrance than the health-food-store mainstay. Then, Ayala waved all 15 sticks (photo left) under my nose, and it was intense and heady, but lovely. It could be my scent.

She reminded me that the proportions weren’t exact, and that I’d have to combine the actual mixed product with my body’s chemistry to know for sure that it was “the one.” For her custom projects, Ayala creates an initial batch, which clients take home to test. She then adjusts the ingredients and proportions as required.

Now that I have the first-draft blueprint for my custom scent, I just have to save up to purchase a bottle. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the next best thing: samples of Ayala’s ready-to-wear fragrances, including the orange-blossom-dominated Zohar and the lavender-vanilla Lovender.

Ayala Moriel Parfums

Ayala Moriel Parfums’ ready-to-wear perfumes are unique and varied enough that you won’t encounter others wearing “your” scent. Try the top-selling Bon Zai, a clean Japanese-inspired fragrance made of juniper berry, lemon verbena, and shiso, or Hanami, a dusky and faintly sugary scent inspired by Vancouver’s cherry blossoms.

Proceeds from the sale of Frangipanni Gloves, which combines tropical flowers with a spicy, leather-smelling undertones, will benefit the Bloedel Conservatory.

You can purchase those, plus dozens of other scents (in various sizes and forms), candles, teas and more through the website, and regularly in Vancouver at Portobello West Fashion and Art Market, where you get the chance to test the fragrances. The next market is Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28.