In February 2019 brave nose Ernesto Collado from Bravanariz visited the Perfume Lounge for a truly sensorial workshop and the presentation of his first three creations: Muga, Cala and Bosc.
Arriving with bags packed with herbs, berries and branches and leafs, Ernesto had covered a table full with freshly picked ingredients from his homeland. He invited the perfume loving visitors to touch and rub the plants and mix their juices in order to create a unique natural fragrance on their very own skin. In his perfumes, which he rightfully calls Landscape Scents, Ernesto captures the souls of the landscapes that he has crossed through on many occasions.
I loved how playful this experience was, but more so - it challenged my own perception of perfume as a concept in general. Fragrance is all around us, in flowers, trees, fruits, soil, and it's there for everyone to enjoy!
Excited by the Bravanariz' workshop but also by the contagiously entertaining personality that is Ernesto - I told my friend Xavi in Barcelona about the Bravanariz nature walks that Ernesto and his team organise and we decided to go on an olfactive walking experience with Ernesto.
Fast-forward exactly one month!
We got up early as we had a few hours drive from Barcelona to the Els Vilars wine area. Once we had left the big and bustling city that is Barcelona, a sense of excitement came over me. I had not seen much of Catalunya’s rich nature before - let alone immerse in smelling it actively! The scenery became more rural as we approached our destination. At one point I had to get out the car to ask for directions, and funnily most people we asked knew about Bravanariz and Ernesto. When Xavi and I arrived at our meeting spot Cellar d’en Carriel, we were greeted by the very enthusiastic Ernesto and his team. Behind the main building and the kitchen al the things necessary equipment for our walk were laid out on the grass. The breathtaking view over the mountainous region was stunning! Inhaling all the smells, the sun was caressing my skin, a new adventure could now begin! From the kitchens the scent of herbs and onions gave away what we were going to have for lunch; a delicious ‘mar y muntanya’ (sea & mountain) dish!
But first there was some wild smelling and walking to do!
Each of us was handed scissors, a pair of gloves, and a sombrero to protect us from the bright Catalonian sun.
Before we headed out into the nature, Ernesto gave us a short explanation on how to pick the wild ingredients, and on when we shouldn’t pick them. The younger plants were to be left untouched but also plants that did not have many leafs or branches on them should be spared.
Our group was a nice and varied bunch of people:f riends, families, young and old.
The Albera Natural Park is a place of unsuspected natural beauty. I have visited Catalunya many times, but this was the first time that I felt really emerged in the unsuspected natural beauty and stunning scenery.
The walk was a magically meditative experience. The final result of our gathered branches and leaves would result in an olfactive portrait of this beautiful hiking trail. During the hike through the Albera mountains my senses were pushed to the very limit.
During our picking of all the ingredients Ernesto encouraged us to smell them, touch them and to be fully immersed in the breathtaking scenery. I had done many walks before but never had I focussed as much on wild smelling as we did during our wonderful Bravanariz walk with Ernesto. Ernesto’s knowledge of the nature park and its plants is amazing, and even more so is the enthusiasm and humor with which he shares his passion!
After a few hours we took a break at Les Morelles dolmen. Located at an altitude of 350m the dolmen offers splendid views over the area. After our rest we started on our way back, collecting new additions as we returned. Both Xavi’s bag and mine by now were stuffed with fragrant pickings! When we got back at Cellar d’en Cariel, the smells in the kitchen had now developed in to a grand finale of culinairy music.
Outside a table fitting over 12 persons was set up and decorated with flowers and branches. Dishes of local delicacies, delicious wine, and a mouthwatering paella was served to us. While we enjoyed our meal some of us took turns helping Ernesto with the distillation of all the branches and herbs we had gathered.
In a truck, Ernesto had setup a kettle for distilling and as we enjoyed the rich and lavish meal together the scents of all our pickings blended into a beautiful aromatic olfactive landscape scent.
The final result was a quantity of scented perfume water which Ernesto bottled for us. It was so refreshing to use this landscape splash to invigorate myself, just by spraying a few spritzers on my face. Little pure scented oil was separated from the water during the distillation process, and I was one of the lucky ones that received a vial of this rich aromatic oil.
We refilled our glasses of wine, toasted to a beautiful sunny and scented day in the Albera mountains; Bravanariz’ walks are truly a sensory magical adventure to never forget!
Tired but content, our bellies stuffed with delicious food, Xavi and I embarked on our journey back to Barcelona. Another place, with different smells.
I often think back of that beautiful day when I smell my Bravanariz perfume. It makes me understand how important scent is in our daily lives and how easy it is to take for granted the smells that nature creates for us. And when I think of my trip I always smile and ~ I am happy to have been a ‘brave nose’!