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sábado, 28 de novembro de 2015

Christmas Scents: Part II, Cinnamon

by: Juliett Ptoyan

We're continuing the discussion about scents of Christmas and New Year! The first article from this series was about spruce (how about other conifers? Let's talk about them in the near future...), and today I'd like to examine maybe the most wintery of all ingredients.
Read Juliett's previous article about spruce HERE.
What do you think about when hearing the word "cinnamon"? I suppose, the first assotiations are heavenly-scented, brown, woody sticks; or devilish buns from Cinnabon (oh, 1,200 kcal per bun? What a pity!); or homemade mulled wine and Xmas cookies? Cinnabar by Estee Lauder? Theorema by Fendi? Alambar by Laboratorio Olfattivo?
Preparing cinnamon for sale is a very long process: after 2 years from planting, farmers have to cut off the stalk (which gives birth to new stems). A year after that, (and then regularly) young branches are cut, peeled of their leaves, and producers clean them from the top layer of the cortex. The inner layer is usually divided into strips and left to dry - after this, cinnamon sticks can be bought at any market in just about any country.
Left: cassia sticks (Cinnamómum aromáticum), growing in China and Indonesia.
Right: Ceylon cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum verum) from the island of Sri Lanka.
By the way, it is easy to be deceived in the stores and to buy cassia sticks, which is also called Chinese (or Indonesian) cinnamon. It has a similarly pleasant scent (slightly more pungent and less intense), looks great, but may not be twisted at the sides - but there's almost nothing in common between cassia and cinnamon. The easiest way to identify a product is by appearance: true (Ceylon) cinnamon has a light color, fine (up to 1 mm) bark and may not look as good as cassia (but we aren't going to photograph it, are we?). On the market you can also meet Malabar cinnamon (less fragrant and with thick bark, about 3 mm). At home, you can easily grind only the Ceylon sort; the rest are too hard.
The essential oil of cinnamon is usually distilled with steam or by CO2 extraction, and the process is not so simple: after contact with the air, cinnamal (cinnamon's principal odorant, in 50 up to 75%) may oxidize and convert into cinnamic acid. Quality oil smells soft, spicy, sweet and not too loud; 1 kg of cinnamon bark turns out 5-10 ml of oil.
The smell of cinnamon is noticeable in many modern and vintage fragrances, and its scent varies depending on the arrangements; this spice is rarely served as a "main course."
Thus, in Eau Lente by Diptyque it's burning, peppered and very rapid - sillage melts instantly and leaves the smell close to the skin; in Dolce Vita - soft, almost transparent and warm, as the air in the last days of summer; in Opium and Youth Dewit seems mature, surprisingly juicy, as if soaked in a liqueur. A hint of cinnamon - a beautiful, confectionery, caramel cinnamon - we can find in Lann-Ael by Lostmarch and Morphine by X-Ray (here it merges with honey).
This note is highly appreciated in home scents and body care products: check it in festive collections from Yankee Candles, L'Occitane (warm Cannelle Epices could be found in the boutiques of the brand), Bath & Body Works, Ikea; wonderful gourmand fragrances you may find at Lampe Berger's counters.
However, cinnamon is not as simple as it seems: cinnamal came under restrictions of IFRA and perfumers cannot use it more than 0.05% on compound; this is due to this ability to increase the skin's sensitivity to light. The use of cinnamon oil at home is also the quest: it must be diluted in a large (really large) amount of the base oil, otherwise you may get burned - nothing terrible, of course, but nothing pleasant too.
What do you think about the smell of cinnamon? What do you associate it with? DO you have favourite fragrances with this note?
Wishing you a fragrant weekend!

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