Women & Oils; Discover The Proven History of Eastern Perfume.

By Jo Phillips

It’s quite an intriguing little snippet we all may not be aware of, it also may be apocryphal, but even so it is said, the 1st Queen Elizabeth Ist (1558–1603) could not tolerate bad smells so all public places were scented during her reign.  Pliny the Elder, a Roman author also had a somewhat extreme view on the beauty of scent seeming to dislike it, he wrote that ‘Perfumes are the most pointless of luxuries, for pearls and jewels are at least passed on to one’s heirs, and clothes last for a time, but perfumes lose their fragrance and perish as soon as they are used.’ In his book, Naturalis Historia (CE 77) he does however, give a summary of their ingredients, such as a delicious Attar of Roses, which we would be described now as a perfume oil. These scented pomades travelled into Europe in the same distinct format but it wasn’t until another member of royalty Queen Elizabeth of Hungary first introduced what we consider modern perfumery with the addition of alcohol blended with the oils. Ultimately it was the development of modern sciences that laid these new solutions as alchemy gave way to chemistry. So before thee was alcohol there was oil, find out more about the women involved here in Women, Oils Discover the Proven History of Eastern Perfume.

Women, it seems, have played an important role in perfumery since it was first used. The actual word per-fume translates to through smoke as this was an initial way of enjoying natural plant scents, by burning and releasing the perfumed smoke. Next came preserving them in oils.

The world’s first recorded chemist was in fact a woman named Tapputi 1200 BCE, her name coming from a female overseer of a palace. As well as being an alchemist as it would have been then she also was a perfume maker.

It was she who first developed methods for techniques in scent extraction ultimately laying the basis for all forms of modern fragrance making. Although incense methods go as far back as the Old Testament perfumes were for thousands of years preserved and utilised in oils that help their scent with longevity and ease of use to lay on the skin. Liquid perfume oils were mixtures of oil and crushed herbs, or petals which made for a strong scented blend.

The first modern perfume, made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution, was made in 1370 at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and was known throughout Europe as Hungary Water.

Queen Elizabeth of Hungary 

But scented oils held their own for thousands of years and most came from the middle east. With the rise of Islam, Muslims improved perfume production and continued to use perfumes in daily life and in religious practice. Arabian perfume arrived in the European courts in the 11th and 12th centuries through Spain, with traders of silks and spices.

Another important woman in the world of fragrance was Catharina de Medici who initiated the perfume industry in Europe, she even has her own personal perfumer, Rene le Florentin when she left Italy in the 16th century to marry the French crown prince. She had extensive, if at times in France.

Grasse by Lyambda

And it was France, especially Grasse, that in the end took over the world of perfumery from the Middle East and is still considered the home of modern fragrance.

The East is still hugely important in the world of fragrance and in Oman, women still run the Bakhoor trade in the Al Haffah Souq (market) where perfumes and Dhofari Frankincense can easily be purchased, alongside perfumed hair oils and skin unguents.

Think twisted streets with tiny open-air shops teemed with spices, mounds of myrrh and piles of dates, alongside piles of pebble-sized frankincense. As it is referred to frankincense by Egyptians as the ‘Sweat of the Gods’.

Boswellia Sacra known as Frankincense

Oman is known for growing some of the best Frankincense in the world and also houses the Wadi Dawkah Frankincense Reserve, a forest of five thousand trees that’s twenty-five miles north of Salalah and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The frankincense trees vividly illustrate the trade in frankincense that flourished in this region for many centuries, as one of the most important trading activities of the ancient and medieval world and it is still to this day producing resins from these very roots.

Copyright: © UNESCO Francesco Bandarin

As well as it producing premium resin it is also respected for its homegrown Roses and locally produced Honey

Every spring, in the mountain ranges of Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, see the spectacular rose season transforming the surrounding slopes of the fabled green mountain into a riot of colour with an abundance of indigenous pink Damask roses.

This perfumed heady flower is known for its perfumed qualities as well as the rose water recipe that is recognised by the Oman Heritage Foundation.

Then travel to the Al-Hajar mountain chain of northern Oman, to see a pile of logs and realise it is actually an apiary. A centuries-old method of beekeeping is passed down from generation to generation, but the trade is dying out.

The bees form a hive in a hollowed-out palm tree with the thickness of the trunk protecting them in both hot and cold temperatures, from winter to summer. Bee hunters climb up cliffs to extract honey, with the wood scent from the palm trunk permeating creating a unique flavour.

We think Rose and Franiksence in perfumery but not often Honey but these three initial Omani ingredients are the cornerstone for a fragrance brand from the country that celebrates these three ancient ingredients.

Meet Ojar, a scent brand celebrating these three core native items within a collection of unisex fine fragrances. Here we also find another woman leading the way in perfumery. She has taken the heritage of Oman, the Rose of Jebel Akdhar, the Honey from Rustaq and the Frankincense from the Dhofar region, alongside, Sandalwood, Oud and Musk, as other explorations; a biding of Eastern and Western notes blended together.

Partnering with renowned perfumers, OJAR fine fragrances are created using traditional perfumery methods and the highest quality materials to ensure excellence.

Founded by Sheikha Hind Bahwan, a widely respected Omani personality and entrepreneur, she explored her passion for perfumery and her desire to pay tribute to the rich heritage and culture of Oman.

There are 13 hero products known as The Absolutes are 20 ml perfume oils, that are encased in glass flacons with an innovative double usage design cap to enhance the perfume gesture & ritual.

Take for example HALWA KISS and exploration in perfume oil of honey saffron, dates, rose and dry fruits. Taken from the confectionery spread throughout the Middle East.

Unsurprisingly then, it opens with soft, sweet spices of Cardamom, Saffron, and nutty green Pistachio which collide in the centre with sweet Date, Roasted Nuts, floral rich Rose, and Honey here as a synthetic take on the naturally harvested Omani style elixir. The scent finalises with warming Amber, creamy Vanilla, and locally known Sesame Seeds.

What about Rose? So meet Red Redemption that praises the wild and spicy Rose, which here is pushed forward with Vetyver and deep Amber. The scent announces itself brightly at the top with Pink Pepper, Blood Orange that deepens with the richness of floral Rose, soft warm White Amber, rooty grasses Vetyver, and earthy deep Patchouli, Oakmoss, comes to the finale along with warmth wrapped by Vanilla and White Musk.

So that leaves Frankincense oil? Eagle-eyed Stranger explores this exotic ingredient through woods and smoke. It opens with Bay, Muguet,  (lily of the valley) and smokey earthy Incense that joins up with woods and grasses in its heart via Woods Oakmoss and Vetyver. All of this ends in a crescendo of warming White Amber, soft spice of Pimento, and the smoky, tar-like wood of Birch.

Also within the collection, nine of the oils are available in an EDP perfume, including Eagle Eyed Stranger, Halwa Kiss and Red Redemption. Other scents include another Rose exploration called Epine du Desert with notes of Saffron, Pimento, Rose, Jasmine and finally  Sandalwood, with Wood Whisper including notes of Suede, Dry Woods. Routes Nomad is the other exploration of Frankincense with Cypress, Ginger, Cardamom, Ylang, Vetyver, and Cinnamon Leaf with a finale of Patchouli, Incense, and Leather.

The other scents include, Kashmir Print an ode Musk and three Oud scents, Stallion Soul, Ciel D’Orage and Infusion Velours

And for a different take on delicate scenting of the skin find the body oils mists, with the moisture of prickly pear oil with refreshing cactus water. 13 softly scented oils are available in the collection, to layer after a shower or as a treat before bedtime.

The name OJAR comes from the word HOJARI, which is considered the finest frankincense in the world, harvested from the tops of the youngest Frankincense trees grown in the deserts and mountains of southern Oman. now this golden elixir is harvested and contained in a perfumed oil for all outside of Oman to get to enjoy.

To fully explore the scented world of Oman please visit Ojarofficcial.uk

If you enjoyed reading then, Women & Oils; Discover The Proven History of Eastern Perfume why not read A Building A Cover Here

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