Last year’s sugaring-off season was cut short when we had an unseasonably warm spring. This year is another story. If anyone is happy about the lingering cold temperatures into April this year, I imagine it’s our maple syrup producers.
The funny thing is, the longer I live in Ottawa, the more I feel intimately connected to the rhythms of maple syrup season. It’s as if I can smell it in the air when the sap starts to flow.
I have already made my annual pilgrimage to my favourite sugar shack in the area, something that has become a family ritual — booking a table for 20 or more and then inviting an assortment of friends and family from Toronto and Montreal to join our Ottawa caravan to Rigaud, Quebec, to the Sucerie de la Montagne.
This was my fourth visit to Sucerie (I blogged about it last year), and I am happy to say that it is still a thrill. I love the fact that trees are tapped with a spout (instead of tubes) into a pail and the sap is boiled over a wood fired evaporator.
In fact, everything at this Quebec Heritage Site is done in the service of tradition.
A visit to this sugar shack begins with a couple of hours of feasting followed by foot-stomping and dancing. Then, to aid digestion, we take a stroll in the woods, visit the bread bakery and the sugar shack itself where the collected sap is transformed into syrup over a wood fire. Finally, we warm up in front of the outdoor fireplace while attempting to manoeuver shiny globs of maple toffee off a popsicle stick without getting most of it on your coat and mittens.
Getting back into the car, you’ll notice the mingling scents of the day seems to linger on your clothing and skin. There’s the sweetness of the syrup mixed with fresh mountain air, maple trees, wood-burning ovens, evaporating sap — it’s a whiff of everything that’s great about Canada.
And it is precisely this sensory experience that inspired Chantal Roux, the director of the famed French perfumery Galimard in Grasse to collaborate with Pierre Faucher, the owner of the sugar shack, to make maple perfume. Mme. Roux visited the Sucerie as a tourist and was seduced by the age-old Québécois traditions and the intoxicating natural aromas of the place.
The result of that visit, two years later, is Attire-Moi, a unisex scent created at the French perfumery. I can personally attest to the likeness between the perfume and the experience it attempts to capture. It has sweet notes of caramel and warm spices and vanilla, but is complex and sophisticated with a peppery and smoky finish.
Back in Ottawa, a spray on each wrist transports me into the heart of the Canadian maple forest.
And so begins the “fairy tale” true story of how Faucher, a lumberjack with undeniable Santa Claus likeness, finds himself now in the unknown world of fine perfume — a French cultural tradition that stretches back as far as his own.
He says, “I want the perfume to evolve like the sugar shack evolved.”
Attire-moi is $79.99 per 100-mL bottle and is available for purchase at the Sucrerie de la Montagne and online at attire-moi.com.