January 26, 2007

Cultural Scent Preferences

In different cultures and at different times, it has been seen that people like what they know, as far as what they smell is concerned. Or what they wish for, such as in certain African regions, the smell of rain is considered the most beautiful scent of all. Culturally, and historically, it would appear from the research I have seen that the most subtle and various and developed sense of what fragrance is and does is the Arabian. Perhaps now, in the modern world, we are approaching what they have always done, with our access to different products and use of different fragrances for different purposes. Both sexes were very attuned to the sense of smell, using different fragrances on different parts of the body, and a greeting by putting the face close to the head so as to inhale the other's scent was considered to the most courteous and warm greeting, and reluctance to do so was seen as a rejection or impoliteness. As usual, the wealthy had more access to the luxury of gardens for scent near the house, and the use of the most precious substances to perfume the body, and special visits to friends or relatives called forth the wardrobe of scents to make a special impression. That seems like a good custom to emulate in the present time. On planning to visit or meet each other, especially as perfumistas who can really appreciate what we have been exposed to, we know which scents are best on ourselves, and so we can present an image by fragrance impression, with sillage or with the closely held perfume of the natural fragrances.
A wonderful article on smell culture from SIRC at Oxford University here.
Arabian perfumes made with fine ingredients can be linked to here.
Above poster from The Art of Perfume - India, 1912


chaya ruchama said...

What a wonderful website !
[I don't think I can be trusted with such information, L!]

A nice, warm thought, about sensing the breath, and odors of others as a greeting.

Love that poster...

Be well.

Louis London said...

I've just taken myself on a quick your of your blog and the words that immediately come to mind all sound like the verbal "ingredients" for a calligraphic scent: elegant, sincere and earthy.

By the way, I also love "Perfume" (the book, that is - the film doesn't open here until later this week), as well as most of the things you list as favourite music, writing, cinema, etc.

Needless to say, I'll be back when I have more mental (and olfactory) stamina.

Lucy said...

Thanks for the kind words. I am currently reading a book about the development of the French sensibility about perfume, and will post on it soon. It seems that everything is a reaction to what came immediately before, as often is the case in fasion and other tastes...
Chaya, I appreciate your comments, and I wonder if you will ever start a site yourself, it would be fascinating...

Louis -- your sites are very interesting, I intend to peruse them more in depth over the next few days -- thank you for your encouraging words...

Zz said...

Yes, scent based on culture, and native plants is so very interesting. Makes you wonder about the American scentual palette. I remember reading somewhere about men being aroused by the scent of pumpkin pie.
Americans do love their food, perhaps why foodie perfumes are so popular. Fruity florals, etc.
I based my artisan perfume Calcutta on the smells of India. Not knowing first hand, since I have never visited Calcutta, I let my imigination, as well as my knowledge of the native plant oils, work together to create the perfume.
One of my favorite creations, and I wear it often. I am so pleased to be a part of the new scent culture, of artisan perfumery, and am encouraged by wonderfully
insightful folks on an almost daily basis.
Continuing to enjoy your posts, Lucy. Such care and forethought going into all that you do.
Best, Zz........

Sariah said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for the link to the article - you do find some great stuff. The Arab "perfume-box" ritual sounds very appealing, I love sharing fragrance with others.

Jeanne M. Auclair-Regan said...

Thank you for a wonderful site to come to when I want to relax and read your thoughts on life, art, and perfume. It's nice to be able to learn a bit about the world, its history, etc. Your blog makes this possible.

Keep on writing, Lucy!

Lucy said...

Hi Sariah - thank you so much for your generosity in showing me your favorites -- we seem to share much in our tastes in perfume and you've shown me some really wonderful ones. I look forward to next time.

ZZ- Thank you so much for your kind words -- from someone of your high standards, they mean a great deal. I hope to do more and better as time goes on and I learn more about the complex world of natuare and scents...

Jeanne - Thank you too for your encouragement -- it's great to share beauty and inspirations with such a knowledgable and appreciative audience. I look forward to doing more, and I know I certainly enjoy the wonderful writing on many of the other perfumista sites. If you have not seen them please try the links I have listed on the right hand column, the first ones are perfume focused...

Anonymous said...

dear chaya ruchama,
My name is Machi and I came across your name as I was doing some research on perfumers and the creation of perfumes. I was interested in contacting you in person. Can you email me at machiblau@aol.com

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