Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Rose of Arabie: Hammam Bouquet

Having been in the midst of moving and law school exams, I have not had much time to post, but I hope to get started again soon. I recently moved into a quaint Victorian boardinghouse in the historic downtown of Redlands, California and it really reminds me of the quality building modern society has all but forgotten: oak crown molding, door frames, gallery balconies, attics, cellars, leaded-crystal door knobs, lath and plaster walls, etc. Despite it being a terrible time in the year to wear heavy Victorian fragrances, I feel inspired to mention Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligons—vintage of course. How vintage? Perhaps 5-10 years old—and believe me, it makes a big difference. HB was reformulated within the last couple of years and is no longer a powdery, animalic rose; now it is just powdery.

Hammam Bouquet, in its proper form (vintage extract would be even better) is basically a seminar in Victorian tastes and all things that were admired, at least in fragrance, during this era in history. Tastes changed slowly before the commercialization of society starting in the 1920s. In fact, it took almost half a century for the older, lighter eau de cologne styles famed by Napoleon took lose footing to the newer, heavier, musky fragrances inspired by the Orient (not Orient as in Japan and China as we would think today, but as in Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Persia, etc.—the common meaning of the term at the time). Turkish, Moroccan, and the awe-inspiring Bulgarian Rose Otto, Grasse Jasmine, civet, musk, oppoponax, myrrh, incense gums, rich balsams, Venetian Orris, French lavender, and Mysore Sandalwood would have been just a few of the rich ingredients available to the perfumerer.

Alas, Penhaligons is now going the way of all the other traditional English houses—into the trash bin of history that is.

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