Sri Lanka – a beautiful, small island filled with the most wonderful sights and smells.
Famous for it’s tea plantations, beaches, food and friendly people, one of our team was lucky enough to experience these delights this year.
At Experimental Perfume Club we want you to create your scent story. Visitors often come to the lab to create a fragrance that reminds them of a particular holiday or a specific place. We find these scent stories evoke the strongest memories in our visitors and always produce something very special. Because smell is fully part of the travel experience, we’ve highlighted some of the key flavours and smells that Naomi experienced during her visit of Sri Lanka!
This post is using pictures from the fragrance travel magazine Scent Corner.
As you move away from the coastal towns and busy cities, you head inland towards the centre of Sri Lanka. Here amongst the smaller districs of Nuwara Elliya, Badulla and Kandy, tea plantations dominate the landscape. Perfect rows of tea bushes line the hills from top to bottom, with tea pickers scattered around collecting the leaves. If your sense of smell is strong enough, you can detect the faint scent of tea leaves in the air.
The history of tea in Sri Lanka
Tea plants were smuggled onto the island during 1824 – 1839 and planted in a royal botanical garden to see how they would grow. In a race to keep up with Chinese tea production, a British planter created the first tea plantation in 1867. Sri Lanka is now the fourth largest producer of tea, surpassing their previously popular production of coffee. The high lands, rain fall and humidity make for the perfect tea growing environment. Higher altitudes of tea produce more delicately flavoured / scented tea and is therefore more highly valued.
Tea notes in fragrances
The most popular type of tea to originate from Sri Lanka is black Ceylon tea (Sri Lanka formaly being called Ceylon). The most commonly known are english breakfast and earl grey. Earl grey has it’s own distinctive scent thanks to the wonderful citrus ingredient of bergamot oil!
Typical fresh tea notes such as green and jasmine are recreated in fragrances thanks to a balanced blend of citrus, aromatic and floral notes. To create black tea smells, stronger notes such as spices will be welcome to bring smoky and woody tones.
Mate absolute, which comes as a green paste liquid has a very strong green hue and smells closer to dried grass hay and tobacco than a fresh zesty green tea fragrance.
Spices for the pleasure of your taste buds and your nose!
One of the first things you notice in Sri Lanka is the smell of spice in the air. This is thanks to the combination of warm air with the gorgeous smell of home cooked food, road side food stalls and food markets. Turmeric (from the ginger family) is the most commonly used spice, however bears very little scent. Cinnamon, black pepper, curry leaves and nutmeg however are the most identifiable with their distinctive strong spicy smells and so dominate the Sri Lankan air.
Warm spices in fragrances
Cinnamon was Sri Lanka’s main export alongside coffee until tea surpassed it’s production! Warm spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, pepper or nutmeg give a wonderful smell to a composition. Spices have an impact from top to bottom in a composition from their vibrant and fresh facets to their longer lasting warmth, woody, sometimes leathery accents.
Coconut and its creamy smell
In Sri Lanka, coconut is present in almost every curry and is your go-to option if you need a refreshing drink! If you attend a cooking class you’ll prepare multiple curry’s, all containing coconut. When it comes to preparing the coconut, a large knife is used to break the shell (this takes a few goes if you’re not feeling very strong!) and a grinder to extract the white flesh. Using your hands, the flesh is then squashed and drained through a sieve to separate the milk from the coconut shavings. The smell of coconut during this process is divine! Creamy, nutty and warm. Reminding you of relaxed, sunny sun kissed days by the beach!
If you want to give your fragrance a summer twist, Aldehyde C18 gives the scent of coconut. It has a creamy, fruity and milky smell like suncream and pina colada. It can be associated with floral notes to give any fragrance a sweet frangipani effect. Lactones will also help bring a coconut undertone in a fragrance. Coumarin is another ingredient that has a slight dried coconut accent.
You can read about more summer scents in our previous blog post here.
Ah the smokey, warm, spicy scent of incense sticks… Sri Lankans love incense! It varies from being strong and spicy to subtle and floral. Incense is always burning on the island in hotels, restaurants, temples and even inside Tuk-Tuks! It brings a sense of calm and peace to the locals and travellers alike.
The history of incense
Incense has been popular for centuries associated mainly with religion, ancient medicine and meditation. The first recordings of incense originated from the burning of tree leaves, resin, roots, flowers, berries and herbs. Incense comes in many forms such as wood, oils, powder and pastes. It is a combination of aromatic elements and heat. It’s latin translation is ‘burn’ and most natural incense ingredients have no scent until burned. When burned, incense stimulates the olfactory nerve which, depending on the ingredients used, is known to reduce stress and anxiety,
The many ingredients of Incense
In perfumery, there are multiple ingredients that can recreate the smell of incense sticks. Flowers, leaves, roots, resins, seeds and wood. All combined or a mixture of a few elements to form your incense blend.
Olibanum resinoid and incense oils are however the true frankincense, a resin which when distilled produces a delicious extract with warm, resinous, woody, spicy undertones that works wonder in deep oriental compositions.