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Oriental Accord Newsletter

In the past we have explored several different types of bases like chypre, fougere, amber etc. This has been followed by a series of newsletters on various accords including citrus, earth, spice etc. In thisThe Persians newsletter we will explore the Oriental Base which is considered a classic base in perfumery. The Oriental themed perfume family arose in Europe during the 1800's and was created to capture the sense of the exotic world of mystery and magic conjured up in the minds of the Western cultures as the people of those countries increased their contact with the East. The East had for centuries evolved a very sophisticated world of natural aromatic essences but many of the scents captured by their traditional perfumers were totally new to the Western world and it was natural that these odours became associated with a world that was much different than known in the European countries.

As commercial trade increased between the East and West, distiller sin Europe were able to procure spices, resins, precious woods and dried herbs that could withstand the long ship journeys and have their aromatic qualities intact. Frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, cardamon, cinnamon and numerous others were the first materials to receive their attention and these materials were used to create Oriental bases and perfumes. With the passage of time, the famous perfumery houses of France began to establish distilleries and extracting units in India, Madagascar, Reunion Islands, Egypt etc and this increased the range of materials for exotic Oriental creations as many of the flowers found in the East needed to be distilled or extracted in the countries of origin as they needed to be distilled fresh. Thus such essences as Ylang, Frangipani, Jasmin sambac, Golden Champa, and Lotus slowly made their way into the palette of Oriental bouquets.

The perfume markets of the East as described by European travelers

The Turks are exceedingly charitable, and not only give alms to the sick and poor, but even to travellers and strangers; and some of them have exercised their benevolence so far that they have left a sum of money for digging wells, and for the support of several cats and dogs. A very great trade is carried on from many parts of the world with them, as their country is famous for its rich brocades, thick soft carpets, mattings, baskets, curiously-wrought gold and silver embroidery, and balsams. It is also remarkable for its attar of roses, spices, figs, and coffee; all very good things, I dare say, you will think.
The World's Fair, by Anonymous

From the bazaar where cotton handkerchiefs and shawls, English and German, are sold, we passed to the shop of Mustapha, the scent dealer, where we established ourselves for a luncheon, consisting of pipes, coffee, and lemonade, while the various bottles of perfume,—viz. attar of roses and jasmine, musk, musk rat-tails, lemon essence, sandal wood, pastilles, dyes, all the sweet odours that form part and parcel of a sultana's toilet, were temptingly exposed to our view. From time to time, portions of these delicacies were rubbed on our whiskers, hands, and lips, to induce us to purchase; so that when we left the shop to return to56 Pera, we were a walking bouquet of millefleurs, and might have been scented a mile off.
Journal of a Visit to Constantinople and Some of the Greek Islands in the Spring and Summer of 1833, by John Auldjo

The nightingalerugs is the favourite pet singing-bird of the Persians. I had good information regarding the manner of obtaining them for cage purposes from some small boys who were engaged picking roses in a rose-garden at Ujjatabod, near Yezd. There are two large rose-gardens in that oasis in the Yezd Desert, where the manufacture of rose-water and the attar essence is carried on. The gardens are appropriately favourite haunts of the nightingales on their return with the season of gladness from their winter resorts in the woods of the Caspian coast. The Persian poets tell of the passionate love of the nightingale for the scented rose, and in fanciful figure of speech make the full-blossomed flower complain of too much kissing from its bird-lover, so that its sweetness goes, and its beauty fades far too sadly soon. The boys told me of the number of family pairs, their nests and eggs, and said that they took the young male birds when fully fledged and about to leave the nest, and brought them up by hand at first, till able to feed themselves. There is a great demand in the towns for the young nightingales, which in Persia sing well in captivity, so rarely the case with the bird in Europe. The shopkeepers like to have their pet birds by them, and in the nesting season they may be heard all over the bazaars, singing sweetly and longingly for the partners they know of by instinct, but never meet.

--from Persia Revisited
by Thomas Edward Gordon

The most aristocratic form of commerce in Tunis is to keep one of the shops in the Suk Attarin (perfume bazaar). These are generally the property of wealthy Arabs of ancient lineage, who consider it good form to have something to do and accordingly spend a few hours there every day gossiping with their friends, and looking upon customers as a bore. There is a tradition that they are in many cases descended from the Moors of Spain, and that each of them still cherishes among his most valued possessions the key of the house which his ancestors once owned at Granada. The specialities in the way of perfumes are essences of violet and geranium, which cannot be procured elsewhere in such excellence. These and the usual essences of roses, orange blossom, jasmin, etc., are distilled as a home industry in primitive alembics all over the country, but more particularly at Sfax and Nabeul, which are surrounded by wonderful gardens.

--from Tunisia and the modern Barbary pirates
by Herbert Vivian

But the perfume-bazaar is the glory of Tunis. It is an arcade four hundred feet in length, communicating with the general bazaar. All the odors of the slumberous East are gathered here. At Constantinople you held it a religious duty to buy attar of roses, of old Tomasso the white bearded perfume-merchant; you entered his inner shop--for he saw you were a Frank, and possessed of fabulous riches; and while you tucked yourself up most unorientally upon his cushion, imbibed his coffee, and slowly inhaled the smoke from the bubbling nargileh, and watched his as he decanted your purchased into its little gilded vessel, as regretfully and mysteriously as though it were the soul of the last rose that should ever bloom, and henceforth the harem of the Padishah himself must remain unperfumed, you fancied you were in possession of those odors of which Hafiz had sung to you--in a French tradition. You opened your treasure in your far Western home, and pronounced Hafiz a humbug, an attar of roses a cheat. No man ever thus misjudged who has read Hafiz in Perisan or bought attar of roses in Tunis. But we must not waste superlatives even on the superlative Tunisian attar of roses; otherwise with what words, shall we celebrate the rarer, more precious, and fourfold more costly perfume of perfumes, the attar of jasmin, which never finds its way into any bazaar saving that of Tunis? It is produced in perfection only in flower embossed Sfax, where the jasmin sucks up transcendental sweetness from a soil which appears to be only dry with white sand, as the olive trees of Sicily, pump up fatness from the bare rock. A fondness for perfumes is a noticeable feature at Tunis: all sweetmeats and fanciful dishes are fragrant with delicate odors, redolent of something other than the gross scents of the kitchen; rather like the ambrosial cakes our first mothers placed before the father of the race, while Paradise perfume bottlewas not a remembrance of the regretful past...
Harper's magazine By Making of America Project

To some persons the far penetrating mystic sweetness from the perfume bazaar adds an element also. Here sit the Persian merchants in their delicate silken robes; they weigh incense on their tiny scales; they sort the gold-embossed vials of attar of roses; their taper fingers move about amid whimsically small cabinets and chest of drawers filled with ambrosial mysteries. Their is magic in their names; these merchants are double interested because they come from Ispahan! Scanderoun-there is another; how it rolls off the tongue! We do not wish for exact geographical descriptions of these places; that would spoil all...

--from Mentone, Cairo and Corfu
by Constance Fenimore Woolson

The shop of this Arab was redolent with perfume-the air we breathed was heavy with all the rich scents of Arabia, and the sill more enervating ones of India and China--sandalwood and aloes, essences from Mecca and Delhi, and musk from Tonquin, combined to form an atmosphere so oppressive as to cause an irresistible feeling of drowsiness; and here I saw for the first time, the Malay camphor, known by the name of capour barous: this precious substance is found on the island of Sumatra, beneath the bark of a large tree, which is called by naturalists dryabalanos camphora; the Chinese attribute most astonishing qualities to this article, and will exchange and immense quantity of their own camphor for a pound of the Malays. I left the Hadgi merchants' shop with a violent headache, for its atmosphere was so highly scented with perfumes and odiferous substances of all kinds, that it was fit for the gods alone.

--from Six months among the Malays, and a year in China
by Melchior Yvan

"What perfume does Madame desire?" he said in French.
Domini gazed at him as at a deep mystery, but with the searching directness characteristic of her, a fearlessness so absolute that it embarrassed many people.
"Please give me something that is of the East--not violets, not lilac."
"Amber," said Batouch.
The merchant, still smiling, reached up to a shelf, showing an arm like a brown twig, and took down a glass bottle covered with red and green lines. He removed the stopper, made Domini take off her glove, touched her bare hand with the stopper, then with his forefinger gently rubbed the drop of perfume which had settled on her skin till it was slightly red.
"Now, smell it," he commanded.
Domini obeyed. The perfume was faintly medicinal, but it filled her brain with exotic visions. She shut her eyes. Yes, that was a voice of Africa too. Oh! how far away she was from her old life and hollow days. The magic carpet had been spread indeed, and she had been wafted into a strange land where she had all to learn.
"Please give me some of that," she said.
The merchant poured the amber into a phial, where it lay like a thread in the glass, weighed it in a scales and demanded a price. Batouch began at once to argue with vehemence, but Domini stopped him.
"Pay him," she said, giving Batouch her purse.
The perfume-seller took the money with dignity, turned away, squatted upon his haunches against the blackened wall, and picked up the broad- leaved volume which lay upon the floor. He swayed gently and rhythmically to and fro. Then once more the voice of the drowsy bee hummed in the shadows. The worshipper and the Prophet stood before the feet of Allah.

--from The Garden Of Allah
by Robert Hichens

Oriental Scent. Fragrance, Perfume in Literature

Chinatown is not far off from the heart of the city. And Chinatown pervades San Francisco. It is as though it distilled some faint oriental perfume with which constantly it suffuses the air.
The Californiacs, by Inez Haynes Irwin

traditional lampsDuring that seeking for lions which he never found, the dreadful Tartarin roamed from douar to douar on the immense plain of the Shelliff, through the odd but formidable French Algeria, where the old Oriental perfumes are complicated by a strong blend of absinthe and the barracks, Abraham and "the Zouzou" mingled, something fairy-tale-like and simply burlesque, like a page of the Old Testament related by Tommy Atkins.

--from Tartarin of Tarascon
by Alphonse Daudet

The shops on either side of him displayed in their low windows a wealth of tempting things. Rugs with a sheen like the bloom of a peach—alabaster in curved and carved bowls and vases, old prints in dull gilt frames—furniture following the lines of Florentine elaborateness—his eyes took in all the color and glow, though he rarely stopped for a closer view.
In front of one broad window, however, he hesitated. The opening of the door had spilled into the frosty air of this alien city the scent of the Orient—the fragrance of incense—of spicy perfumed woods.
In the window a jade god sat high on a teakwood pedestal. A string of scarlet beads lighted a shadowy corner. On an ancient and priceless lacquered cabinet were enthroned two other gods of gold and ivory. A crystal ball reflected a length of blue brocade. A clump of Chinese bulbs bloomed in an old Ming bowl.

--from Mistress Anne
by Temple Bailey

He added an artistic line of burners, Buddhas and candlesticks finished in decorative enamels and colored bronzes, which add their measure of enjoyment to the burning of incense. It is fitting their appearance be oriental, for the fragrance that wafts from them suggests the mysticism of the Far East: and element that ever has an interesting note for almost everyone.

--from Illustrated world

He came from the king of Tremezan, and brought presents similar to those of Boabdil, consisting of Arabian coursers, with bits, stirrups, and other furniture of gold, together with costly Moorish mantles: for the queen there were sumptuous shawls, robes, and silken stuffs, ornaments of gold, and exquisite Oriental perfumes.

--from Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada
by Washington Irving

An oriental scent lingered on those habits of dress; a scent which I have seen Sanderson compound from bark and minerals bought at the druggist's and of which he would never give me the names. When he held a spread or a meeting of any sort, Sanderson's room would be thick with fumes of joss which he kept burning from a blue Chinese bowl. If any one complained, Sanderson would have no scruples in telling the complaintant that perhaps the smoke would be even denser and more sulphurous in a later destination.

--from Through the School
by Frederic Kenyon Brown

A peculiar odor of burning incense greeted them; and Lilian at once bought a package, with instructions that she should never inhale to much of it in a closed room, for they burned the incense only a few seconds at a time, just to get the sweet Oriental odor, without the sleepy effect...

--from Overland monthly and the Out West magazine

The scent of Oriental spices was in his broadened nostrils as he scampered out of the Nickelorion, without a look at the ticket-taker, and headed for “home”—for his third-floor-front on West Sixteenth Street. He wanted to prowl through his collection of steamship brochures for a description of Java. But, of course, when one’s landlady has both the sciatica and a case of Patient Suffering one stops in the basement dining-room to inquire how she is.

--from Our Mr. Wrenn
by Sinclair Lewis

Oriental Accord Recipe
The recipe for the Oriental base shared here is centered around frankincense, sandalwood and cinnamon bark-these three being considered the "heart" of oriental creations and to this is added a number of other exotic flowers, spices, resins and attars. This base can be further "tweaked" in specific directions to by adding specific aromatics of particular categories to create Oriental/Floral, Oriental/Resinous, Oriental/Spice, Oriental/Precious Woods perfumes.

1 oz Sandalwood Abs
1 oz Frankincense Abs
1/16th oz Cinnamon Bark eo
1 oz Ylang complete eo
1/4 oz Ginger Co2 select
1/4 oz Cardamon CO2 select
1/8 oz Orange Blossom Abs
1 oz Patchouli eo
1/2 oz Frankincense eo
1/2 oz Jasmin sambac abs
1/16th oz Cumin co2
1/4 oz Ambari Attar
1/16th Galbanum Abs
1/4 oz Myrrh eo
1/8 oz Opoponax eo
1/16th ounce Choya Loban