domingo, 17 de janeiro de 2016

Talking Dirty: Goût de Terroir

by: Roxana Villa

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Roxana Villa - artist, teacher and perfumer - as a new contributor to Fragrantica. I first met Roxana in 2007 at a fragrance event in Beverly Hills and was impressed with the knowledge, creativity and originality she brought to her fragrant, botanical creations forIlluminated Perfume. Since that time I have fallen in love with her exquisite solid and traditional perfumes, lovingly made from ethical sources; her Chaparral, "An incense themed fragrance devoted to the California Native American Indians and the Cowboy spirit,"  has been a special favorite of mine. We kick off her "Talking Dirty" column with an exploration of the land that produces aroma. Enjoy!
- Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison, Executive Editor

Goût de Terroir means Taste of the Earth, it is a French phrase referring to wine and the flavors imparted by the earth in which the vines grow. The term originated in the 1700's and was used extensively for marketing later in the 1800's. Although specifically related to the taste of the dirt absorbed by the roots of the vine, it is more of a reference to the flavors of the terrain imparted on the plant. For example, if you grow the same exact plant in two different parts of the world the wine from the two vines will pick up different flavors depending of whether there are fruit trees or a river nearby. Another way to view this is how the elements surrounding a plant will factor into the flavor, not only the dirt (earth) but also fire (sun), air (wind) and water (rain).
I came to the knowledge of Goût de Terroir, not through wine but through the study of essential oils while studying aromatherapy. A lavender essential oil of the same species and variety grown in France will have a different aromatic profile than a cutting grown along the coast of Southern California. The 100 or more chemical constituents that make up the oil shift according to conditions where it is grown, thus impacting the aroma.
For years I had been using an oud from Cambodia for my perfumes and accords that came my way from a friend in the industry at the start of my aromatic adventure from aromatherapy into perfume. The little Cambodia gem eventually was used up thus I switched to an agarwood obtained by way of Laos. Oud and agarwood are interchangeable names for an oil that comes from a species of trees in Asia known as Aquilaria. This precious wood has multiple names; besides oud and agarwood I’ve seen it called ud or aloeswood. The first time I learned about this essence was in an article written by Jan Kusmirek which appeared in the Aromatherapy Quarterly back in the mid 1990's.
Since the aromas of essences from different species and types of extractions are so varied and can change depending on environmental conditions (Goût de Terroir), blending botanical perfumes to be consistent can be challenging. In fact, it is one of the reasons the large perfume houses turned to synthetics during the industrial revolution. Along with a consistent, stable aroma these lab created molecules were substantially less expensive and offered extreme longevity. The result of these qualities in aromatic compounds launched perfume as a worldwide industry as we know it today.
A new challenge that has appeared on the horizon over the last few years for those working with rare and authentic essential oils is that the growing interest in aromatherapy, mainly as a result of Multilevel marketing, has created a demand for specific “grades” with analytics instead of country of origin. 
So, instead of seeking a true, fine lavender grown at high altitude likeLavender angustfolia from France, the chemical components within the lavender becomes of more interest. Thus what becomes of interest to the large companies and their consumers is a lavender essential oil that might be a blend of lavenders grown in various areas but with a consistent aroma and chemical printout. This reductionist attitude results in a homogenization of essential oils.*
As humans, we tend to seek consistency and permanence, both qualities of elemental earth, the task for us is to also incorporate fire, air and water into our values so that we preserve variety in our landscape. Just as we can appreciate a 2007 glass of riesling grown on a steep slope near the Mosel river in Germany, we are aware that next year the vintage will vary due to the rain.
Meanwhile, as a response to globalization, corporatization and the homogenizing of art we have a groundswell of makers specializing in handspun yarn, artisanal cheeses, bitters, micro brews and perfume.
Nature is not consistent and although I work toward consistency as a perfumer, sometimes mother nature has an altered plan. Cheers to our aromatic adventure and all those twists and turns that keeps us on our toes while we are still planted here on Earth.