Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 83 ~ One Year, One Nose

Two more treasures from the box of aromatic wonders -- oakmoss brown, and oakmoss green.

I've saved the best for last from the goodies' box. Well, at least I think I have -- they are my favorites.

The scent of oakmoss has been present in my life since childhood. Living near and growing up in the central Sierra Nevadas, one cannot help but explore the woods, especially if 'one' is a child with a huge imagination and few creative outlets. Gathering moss was a game for us as kids; we'd use moss to 'carpet' the floors of our lean-to 'cabins' made of cedar branches and pine boughs. We'd huddle in our little cabins and pretend we were all alone in the forest with the critters -- crows cawing ominously overhead, woodpeckers pounding furiously on the trees up high, and the occasional snap and crackle of squirrels and chipmunks having a game of softball. And ever present was the scent of the woods, from the scent of pine resin, sweet and bitter at once streaking down the trunks of the trees, pine needles with their distinctive breath-catching astringency, and moss -- oakmoss in particular, earthy and airy and a harbinger of seasonal change.

Though oakmoss is usually harvested (around here) in the spring and early summer, it is a scent that always brings to mind the autumn. Why? Because autumn is when the wood stoves would be put back into use in the old cabins in the sawmills near Dinkey Creek, where I grew up. The wood used was usually pine, but every so often a nice piece of oak would be tossed into the morning fire and the oakmoss, the hairy gray bristles clinging to the smaller branches of oak, would sizzle and vaporize into a puff of aromatic smoke. Dizzyingly delicious.

Oakmoss brown ~ absolute alcohol extraction from concrete, France, sourced from Sunrose Aromatics, date unknown ~ divinity in a bottle. This is a smooth, exquisitely elegant oakmoss, not nearly so bucolic as the moss itself -- really, not even close. This oakmoss absolute is sweet, like a fine vanilla flavored tobacco or a stick of sweet agar. It is full and lusty and embodies all the elements of rustico with a bit of elegance and allargando, typifying the great wide forest yet viewed through the sparkling clean window of a genteel country cottage.

Oakmoss green ~ absolute alcohol extraction from concrete, France, sourced from Sunrose Aromatics, date unknown ~ brown's less sophisticated younger brother. Oakmoss green lacks the smooth sweetness of brown. Green is the forest near water, the air less dense, clearer, the empty spaces filled with bitter greenness. Green also possesses the tobacco and agar notes, but in a much more rustic manner -- it is much less elegant and refined, with only touches of sweetness.

Brown is a big, warm, well-mannered sitting-near-the-fireplace-on-a-fluffy-rug dog, while green is a sweet-tempered though wild-at-heart country cat.

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