There is a very particular smell to the Seychelles and it gently teases your nose as soon as you get out of the plane! It is a mixture of smoky, mossy and earthy odour that gives a feeling it exhales from the granite rocks, characteristic from these Paradise islands…
But it’s only when I went to visit the one and only distiller on the island that I could figure out what this gorgeous smell was! And it’s all to do with cinnamon, a widely grown spice on this Indian Ocean island…
Globarom is the one and only distiller in the Seychelles… Mustafa, its owner, welcomed me with a smile even though, like many of his counterparts worldwide, he only manages to scrape a living out of his passion, mainly due to lack of finance and lack of technical support. He explained to me that he has stuck to traditional steam distillation because he believes it is the most natural way to extract the kilos of cinnamon bark in a way that keeps the authenticity of this oil. As a natural perfumer, I would agree with him… However, the Seychelles, in the global scheme of the botanical world is not placing a lot of focus on the abundance of fine perfumery plants the islands showcase. They have one of the best patchouli in the world which grows widely but it is currently not distilled.
Mustafa also shared with me his difficulty in selling his essential oil of cinnamon bark because the Seychelles type has a high content of cinnamic aldehyde, which to us perfumers is a blessing but to all the rich buying companies being in the West, a full GC/MS certificate is a must and this is costly… Mustafa would like to standardise his production but he is yet to find the $350,000 investment needed to fully develop the 7000 square meters parcel of land he has been allocated by the Government… When he does so, he is planning to develop patchouli and vetiver plantations to extract their essential oils. His crusade is to revive coconut oil extraction and to place the Seychelles patchouli oil back onto the international scene…
…Back to the particular smell of the Seychelles…
I would love to capture this relaxing odour in a bottle because it definitely makes you travel through scents! Once the cinnamon bark has been removed, the trunk is burnt and transformed into charcoal used for smoking fish and for barbecue. This smell is present all around the island and blends with the algae smell of the sea, the granite rocks which are part of the geological pattern of the Seychelles, the rainforest mossy and earthy odours covering those rocks, the mandarin bigarade trees and the mystical takamaka tree (Calophyllum inophyllum), also present all over the Seychelles. All these natural botanicals constitute a genuine perfume in itself! Indeed, the cinnamon tree (Cinnamon Zeylanicum) is grown in small clearings located in the middle of the forest. Once cropped, its trunks are rid off the bark. The inner lining and outer part of the bark is the part that curls up and is rolled to make the cinnamon sticks. The rest of the bark is transported to the distiller who dries it in order to remove its moisture content before proceeding to the steam distillation. 250 kg of bark can yield 7 to 8 liters of essential oil.
During my visit of the distillery, I was served a cup of tea perfumed with cinnamon. I am not a tea drinker but I must confess that this beverage has hooked me… It also made me feel revived and relaxed soon after and despite the 90% humidity rate of the moment! I left with my nose full of the smell of the Seychelles, a smell that has never left my memory ever since my first visit back in 2001.
My perfumer notes for my next creation ‘Weekend in Aldabra‘:
– Takamaka tincture
– Cinnamon bark
– Seychelles vanilla
– Seychelles cinnamon bark
– Sweet fennel – Patchouli
– Ylang ylang
– Petitgrain bigarade