After thousands of years, Middle Eastern perfumery continues to fascinate.
Ancient trade routes of silk and spices. A gentle desert wind echoing with the trails of a rose taif from billowing robes. Love letters exchanged behind gated walls made all the more tempting with kisses of jasmine and myrrh. The allure of Oriental perfumery has conjured enough fantasy and fairytale to fill a second edition of The 1001 Nights. The truth is, Arabian perfumery is not only not born of a fictional world of earthly desires, but is indeed a well-documented practice of complex chemistry and skill that predates the Western world by millennia. It has set the foundation of modern perfume making, with recipes that are still in use.
In the Beginning
A Cuneiform tablet found in Mesopotamia dating to 1200 BCE depicts the life of Tapputi and her female colleague. Holding a high status in the Babylonian royal palace, the world’s first recorded chemist and perfume-maker was a woman. Used primarily in religious ceremonies, her role and stature were of high significance. She devised procedures and techniques for scent extraction and distillation that lay the basis for all who would proceed her.
Two Arab chemists of the early middle ages can be attributed to the first incarnation of a perfume industry. Jābir ibn Hayyān and Al-Kindi founded many modern techniques which facilitated the collection of botanical aromas into a vapor that could be collected in the form of water or oil. Al-Kindi was especially influential with an extensive cache of research on ingredient combinations and recipes used for perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Liquid perfumes were still a mixture of oil and crushed herbs before a Persian doctor and chemist known as Avicenna began to experiment with roses. His tenacious progression by trial resulted in the craft of extracting oils from flowers by distillation, which is the most frequently used process today.
From the courts of Al-Andalus in the west to the Crusaders returning from the east, Arabian perfumery made its way into Europe. While importing and exporting between continents continued, it took a prominent 18th century Italian woman marrying a French prince to give birth to a European perfume industry, most notably in France.
Oriental influences have always been present in European fragrances, with sensibilities and trends shifting through the decades. But thanks in no small part to the tremendous buying power of the GCC, luxury market Oriental fragrances now amass a large segment of the commercial fragrance marketplace, with many European and American manufactures creating fragrances for the Middle Eastern market.
With so many new fragrance releases each year, we’ve selected a few that superlatively marry the ethos of both Middle Eastern and European perfumery into exceptional olfactory impressions.
AMOUAGE GOLD WOMAN
Founded in Oman in 1983, perhaps no other brand so perfectly captures the voluptuous earthiness of the Middle East and the creativity and expertise of French tradition. Amouage Gold is the apex of what a woman can be –ardent and enigmatic. Aware of her power while beaming rays of golden light. The testament to an enduring brilliance of creation.
DOLCE & GABANA VELVET ORIENTAL MUSK
An aromatic homage to the ancient city of Palermo’s Arabian past. A place where east and west collide in sun-drenched harmony tempered by a Mediterranean breeze. Oriental perfumery meets modern Italian flair in this latest edition to the D&G Velvet Collection.
MAISON LANCȎME OUD BOUQUET
Lancome dives deep into the realm of Oriental delights with Maison Lancôme Grand Cru Collection. An intricately bottled assemblage of scent couture, Lancôme seeks to capture the hearts and senses of those captivated by the exotic and the finest materials.
GUERLAIN ABSOLUS D’ORIENT COLLECTION
The house of Guerlain is responsible for some of the most iconic fragrances of all time. Curating premium raw ingredients, Absolus d’Orient Collection is a passage to a precious journey into the delightful and the forbidden.
Part of their Trade Routes collection, Halfeti is where the British Levantine Company traded in lavish treasures with the Ottoman Empire. Unassailable and unapologetic in its sensuality, Halfeti is a caravan ride to a vibrant and forbidden place of awakening.
ROJA ROYAL HAUTE LUXE
Capped with a royal crown of amethyst, Roja Royal Haute Luxe is a limited edition masterpiece of soft spices and powdery notes, enveloping the wearer in a veil of majestic intrigue and glamour.
THIERRY MUGLIER ALIEN OUD MAJESTUEUX
An oud for the modern woman of contrasts. Spicy notes are diffused with hints of freshness while jasmine replaces rose to adorn the oud in a striking, addictive embrace. A desert heat that is both unyielding and comforting. A ballet of oud, incense, and luminous white florals that is more celestial than mortal.
CREED PRINCESS ROYAL OUD
Fit for a princess at heart, the legendary house of Creed conjures a spirited oud surrounded by iris, violet, and jasmine before tantalizing her admirers with deeper notes of saffron and sandalwood.
FREDERIC MALLE THE MOON
The newest in a collection of Malle fragrances that are liquid interpretations of what cannot be said – of places awash in aural and visceral sensations that are felt rather than spoken. A life that revolves around the lunar calendar, the moon in Arabic is often a euphemism for a beautiful woman. An invocation of love and adoration. Warm and opulent with surprising notes of juicy red berries, this is as sweet and seductive as love itself.
MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN PARIS OUD SILK MOOD
A seamless and masterful balance of Orient and Occident, the legendary perfumer expresses an incomparable dexterity and delicacy conveying the sensation of purest silk on naked skin.
BYREDO REINE DE NUIT
Part of Byredo’s Night Veils Collection, the sherry-red elixir transports roses and oud to a serene dwelling in the night. Rich and luxurious with a smoky haze, Reine de Nuit embodies a beguiling place before the night lifts its veil to sunlight.
BY TERRY TERRYFIC OUD EXTREME EXTRAIT
A commemorative bottle of swirling golden arabesques encases the tapestry of paradise within. A connoisseur of an unquenchable love and appreciation of Oriental art, this rare extract reverberates with strength and artistry, leading you on a spiritual journey from earth to nirvana.