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Ani - No boundaries on beauty

I have an older friend who has travelled all over the world, every continent, except maybe Antarctica. She’s given me great advice about how to plan and enjoy a big in-depth trip, and during a lunch date last October, I asked her: “What was your most favourite, which country would you go back and visit again?” Without missing a beat she said “Turkey! I’d go tonight if you gave me a ticket! The landscape, the culture, the people, food, music, art - and the incredible history. I fell in love with Turkey.” 

History is my friend’s passion. Wherever she travels she makes a point of visiting the actual places where “real sh** happened”, as she puts it. Pulling out her phone, she showed me pictures of her visit to Ani, the ancient walled city “of 1001 churches” that was one of the world’s largest cities a thousand years ago, the capital of the Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. A renowned centre for trade between east and west, Ani was home to an estimated one-hundred thousand Armenians, filled with churches, mosques, palaces and protected by fortressed walls.

Over ten centuries, Ani was invaded and destroyed by armies, Byzantine, Ottoman, Mongol, and natural events like a massive earthquake, and in 1921 was claimed by the Republic of Turkey, which ignored the need to preserve the site and its antiquities until 2016, when Ani was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and suddenly became a tourist destination under the global spotlight.

Shortly after our lunch, I read that Nishane, the Turkish niche brand built over the last five years by Murat Kutran and Mert Guzel, had released a new perfume collection, No Boundaries, which expresses their belief that perfume, like all art, has a universal message that crosses and breaks down all boundaries.  One of the fragrances was named Ani. Ping! I know all about that name…Armenia, Turkey, wars, borders, ruins. Reading further, I learned that the perfumer they hired to compose it was Cécile Zarokian, one of my favourite noses, who is of Armenian descent and also knows something about pushing creative boundaries with stunning results. I bought it right away, unsniffed.

According to Murat Kutran and Mert Guzel Murat, their Ani perfume was created for its story which tells the true tale of a city torn by war…with the hope to use scent as a way to heal Armenian and Turkish people…ANI also means “memory” in Turkish.”According to Cecile Zarokian’s website, Ani “…was created under the romantic inspiration of a popular Anatolian folk song called “Sarı Gelin” (in Turkish) or “Sari Gyalin” in Armenian. Ani is an oriental fragrance, warm and spicy, with fruity, musky and woody notes.”

Right off the top, I can tell Ani is special. Bright crisp limey bergamot wrapped in watery green notes burst out of the bottle. Where am I…the South Seas, Madagascar? I’m not in Turkey! As I try to get my bearings a gust of fabulous spicy ginger and pink pepper takes it up a notch, forming a vibrant accord that floats through the green humidity, opening the path for dewy vegetal notes of vanilla to waft up, the exact scent of the pale yellow-green buds of vanilla orchid opening on the vine. 

As Ani begins its slide into the heart the vanilla accord slowly appears, and the peppery ginger makes room for cardamom and the delicious aroma of Turkish rose, slightly herbal and aromatic with a fruity earthy sweetness from blackcurrent. Vanilla owns the heart of Ani, but it’s such a unique and unusual vanilla when mixed with these other notes, not sweet and boozy, rather a subdued yet powerful vegetal vanilla, humming with energy from simmering spice and floral underneath. 

The vanilla accord sings in full voice in the base when matched with resinous and aromatic wood notes, like sandalwood, cedarwood and benzoin, which immediately give it depth and strength and warmth. The green notes fade, replaced by the sensual warmth of patchouli and the animalics, ambergris and musks. As Ani dries down, the vanilla becomes darker, richer and velvety, but still whispers its beautiful green-ness. The waft is deceptively soft and very powerful…a single spritz lasts on skin or clothing for more than twelve hours, so apply sparingly. Best of all, Ani is non-gendered perfection, not too sweet, not too floral, not too spicy or woody, just mellow, and hauntingly beautiful.

Ani, whose name translates as "memory" in Armenian, was created with a mission: create a scent that honours a place, its people, and shared traditions so that boundaries between two cultures, both real and imagined, disappear. Cécile Zarokian has created a beautiful fragrance through an inspired out-of-the-box interpretation of vanilla as the conductor of an olfactory symphony. Alternately fresh, spicy and vibrant, drifting into floral, then woody, warm and deeply comforting, Ani exudes an olfactory power that goes far beyond words, connecting memories and inspiring feelings of shared humanity, calm and peace.

Our world could use a lot more of that right now.

Ani is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.

Image: Wikipedia, Church of St. Gregory of Tigran Honants, Ani, Turkey, by S. Kaya, Oct. 24, 2009

Ani background info: wikipedia