Post by Ainslie Walker
The first time I pondered smells of Latvia, I was in my kitchen in Sydney circa 1995 toasting a slice of “Latvian Sweet and Sour Bread.” The smell was divine – spicy, slightly sweet and tart. The bread was a dark rye/sourdough containing aromatic seeds. On further investigation I established the seeds were caraway, a new and delicious flavor to me. The bread, with new and improved politically correct name, is still available from Coles supermarkets in Australia. Particularly delicious toasted with butter- spread thick and vegemite- spread sparsely.
Was it just an odd Australian-ism naming this bread Latvian or was it traditional to the country? Thanks recently to Google (which was not really around back then) and some further international travels, I learnt caraway is used in a lot of Latvian cooking, including in their traditional cheese. I still always ask about the bread to any Latvians I come across and it usually starts an interesting conversation…or a really odd stare!!
Recently my wonderful Latvian friend was speaking to her mother about Latvian scents when her mum wandered off, coming back with a small collection of old bottles and boxes she called me straight away. The bottles were treasures she had collected and brought over from Latvia when immigrating and also gifts she had received from travelling friends and relatives over the years. In the package was plenty of vintage bottles of Joy by Jean Patou, but the one that caught my attention the most was something I had never seen before. They requested I do some research for them, so here goes:
My Motherland by Dzintars
From Latvia with love
From the site (Thank you Undina)
Top: Lily-of-the-valley, geranium, bergamot
Heart: Rose, jasmine, neroli, iris, hyacinth, ylang-ylang
Base: Musk, amber, black pepper, cinnamon
Dzintars by Dzintars – a product house based in Riga dating back to 1849. With 188 fragrances in their back catalogue, they are deemed the largest manufacturer of cosmetics and perfumery in the Baltics.
You can see in the photos, the beautiful cut glass bottle, silk covered and lined box – complete with hand embroidered ribbon and medallion pinned to it. Just gorgeous! Opening the bottle, which is now empty I can smell traces of patchouli, civet, musky oakmoss and balsamic sweet, sticky notes. Research says the fragrance from 1981 is a chypre containing bergamot, lily-of-the-valley, cyclamen, iris, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, patchouli, cloves, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss and civet.
The word Dzintars is Latvian for amber and more than 4000 men in Latvia share the name – it is often also a surname! On eBay I found a CD called Dzintars: Songs of Amber by the Latvian Women’s Choir! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love amber, so this is hugely impressive to me!! Perhaps I have found my calling in the Baltics? Ha ha.
My own mother was a “10 pound Pom” back in the 50’s, emigrating from the UK to Australia with her parents via boat with 1 suitcase between them. Have you ever considered what fragrant treasures people bring from country to country and what their stories are? It is interesting to ponder the trails fragrances take before landing in our possession. It’s fascinating to get people talking about the fragrance bottles they have stashed away when empty, yet not thrown out – there is always a sentimental tale to discover.
What’s your favorite and sentimental fragrance story? Have you any Dzintars fragrances? What can you tell me about them?
Until next time! X
Ed: There are some changes to the original post because Undina has found extra information and can read the language. Thanks Undina. XXX)