Friday, 4 July 2008

Middle Eastern Perfumery

It is said that the trade routes in the Middle East for fragrant goods are believed to have existed as long as 4000 years ago. In the millennia since, with access to different herbs, spices and woods, Islamic cultures have contributed enormously to modern perfumery in perfecting extraction and distillation techniques. Perfume eventually made it to Europe around the 14th century, in part due to Arabic influences and expertise.
Today, perfumery in the Middle East is a colossal industry. Countless distilleries and distributors exist whom have perfected the art of raw material cultivation and oil extraction. In the arid desert sands, and across parts of South-East Asia, these companies dominate the global market with their production of rare concentrates and priceless oudhs.
Palatial retail outlets house exquisite flacons of cut crystal, semi-precious stones and rare metals that are designed and crafted with meticulous care so that they might hold a precious extract that is deemed fit for a king.

And we, in the West are more or less oblivious!

So you can imagine my excitement when today, my much anticipated oudh samples arrived in the post. The typically blonde Danish postman looked at me queerly when he handed me the envelope that contained these few precious drops of oil. We were both conscious of the heavy aroma that had engulfed his bicycle. He looked displeased. (Considering the number of times my mail had been misplaced or posted in my neighbour's box in error, I actually thought it was kack-funny).

I swiftly returned to my home office to smell the oils from each of the vials in turn. Bold, heavy, fecal, animalic. I had expected as much. The plastic pocket that housed the five vials emitted a collective odour that was thick and ripe... a collision of smells. But then, I discovered that each individual oudh presented something phenomenally different than the last. Amber, incense, musk, wood, green. Each vial hummed with a profoundly rich and distinctive aroma. I put the tubes back in the bag and tucked them away in a drawer.

I will delight in the occasion where I choose to anoint myself with a tiny pinprick of one of these precious oils. Hm, perhaps I'll just wait until the postman comes past...


andy said...

ha! your blond danish postman should be happy and grateful to get the chance to sniff these delights!

Dimitri:THE REDOLENT ONE said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Andy!