Perfumery and aromatherapy

islamic doctor hakim

Preparation of medicines for the treatment of a patient suffering from smallpox, miniature from the Canon of medicine, by Avicenna (980-1037), Ottoman manuscript, Turkey, 17th century; ( Istanbul, Istanbul Universitesi Kutuphanesi (University Library)); De Agostini Picture Library / G. Dagli Orti; out of copyright

Honoring the guest is much more than a part of the tradition of Islam, it is part of its fundamentals.

During my years of traveling in the Muslim world, I have been a guest all the time. This is how I have learned the art of receiving guests.

When you are guest of a perfumer, you will hope to be invited to smell some very special perfumes, to try them or even to be offered something.

Certainly, I do not disappoint my guests in their expectations, but I stupefy them when I serve them tea or coffee flavored with the essences of exotic species. Cardamom, Ginger, Mint, Lemon …

Or when I add to the drinking water a drop of rose or peppermint, when I spray over the cookies essential oil of grapefruit or lemon, aromatic water of bay laurel and rosemary over the salad or the food.

If they come to me with some cold or other illness, I prepare for them some honey with a few drops of anise or incense…

Then I say to them my favorite phrase: “Never trust a perfumer who does not drink and eat his perfumes.”

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Selling perfumes

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Amman, 1990

We were looking at the yachts and sailing boats from the high, it was near Palermo in Sicily.

My small daughter told me: “Papi, I want to buy a boat when I am grown up”.

“It is easy” I replied, “you just have to sell perfumes to the people, and do you know why it is easy? Because everybody likes good smells”.

Baba Farid, one of the greatest saints of the subcontinent, ended up his life in a small village of Punjab, Pakpattan.

That was his mission. Other saints were in Dehli or Lahore, two great cities of all times, seats of power and civilization, they had thousands of disciples, and they advised kings and viziers.

He taught, Fed and cured backward village folks all his life.

I spent a year or so in Pakpattan, stuck there by destiny as had been Baba Farid, and I had a lot of time for reading and studying the life of the saint.

His were simple teachings for simple people. I remember very well one of his sayings: “Do not try to sell to the people what they do not want to buy”.

Our marketing geniuses have turned the problem around for their clients: “Make people desire what they don’t want to buy”, but for us perfumers the point to realize is that everybody wants to smell good and to live in a nice smelling environment.

Our job of selling perfumes is much easier than the one of other producers.
There is an Arab proverb that goes like that: “A pious person is like the Perfumer, if he does not give you some perfume, at least you will enjoy his nice fumes.

The corrupt person is like the blacksmith: if he does nut burn you with his fire, at least he will suffocate you with his smoke”.

Perfumer’s perversion

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I just received from South Africa a new essence that is not yet available on the international market of raw material for perfumers.

The bottle had leaked a bit and the wrapping of the parcel was perfumed.

The power of this essential oil is incredible.

Since 2 days my work place and the next room have been invaded by the fragrance of this strange mix of bubble gum and cat’s pee, although I have cleaned everything and thrown out far away the empty package and the inside wrapping.

Do you have present when you enter a room and say: I can smell a mouse?

This is the smell of the pheromone that these animals leave with their urine. It is very close to the smell of cats urine as well.

The only essence of the perfumer’s palette which has a similar note is a good and real Black current absolute, although much more fruity in body.

This olfactory pollution of my working place has had the good result of allowing me to understand better the smell because from the bottle it is so powerful that it stuns the nose.

It has a definite undertone of Clary sage, which is as well a hormonal essence whose structure is similar to a pheromone.
It also has a slight tobacco note and understanding all this gave me an idea about how to start working (playing) with it.
Although I know that this will not please my wife and co workers who always criticize my “perverted attraction” for all animal scents and for some of the “strange stinking” botanical raw materials.
Every profession has its perversion, said yesterday my right hand man, yours is about these stinking stuff.
My wife said also: “Do you really like them or is it just for joking? Your eyes start shining and you look always so exited when you discover one of these stinking things”.
Who will understand the nose of a perfumer? It smells much more than odors. A perfumer in some ways thinks with his nose, he can conceptualize smells and build with them coherent constructions that appeal to the emotional memories and imagination of others.
It is just a question of training and education, not a great deal in fact, but it is mysterious and with the aura of sacredness to all but him (or her, of course, seeing that most of the new generation are women).
Well, this Betuline essence is really something, I could smell that not only with my perfumer training but also with my Aromatherapist nose.
It is difficult to believe it for most people, but a person used to cure with essential oils is able to understand many properties of an essence he never knew before just by smelling it.
Before asking to the producer information about the traditional use of the plant in South Africa I googled it and, not at all surprisingly I discovered that Betuline cats pee smell is used traditionally to increase urine production, to cure kidneys and bladder, and to heal the urinary track.
I shall now research about the hormonal effect, probably for women problems.
Next news about Betuline when I start making a perfume out of it.