With a strong culture in perfume, Arabic traditions have played an important role in the development of the European perfumery.
Spices, resins, exotic woods, herbs or even animal essentials oils as ambergris or musk are some of the raw materials that Arabic perfumery has traditionally used to create enchanting scents. Furthermore, flowers and plants like rose, jasmine or orange blossoms are and have been commonly included in Arabic perfumes.
The Arabian culture has been using perfumery deeply linked to religion. First uses of perfumery are recorded back in the VI century. Many Arabian families prepare what is called bakhoor, kind of incense that is used to purify their homes. Every family has usually got their own bakhoor`s scent as they can mix amber, musk, sugar, etc. to get a “paste” that is dried at the sun getting as a result a block. The block is divided in smaller pieces and then burned, producing a fume which perfumes the whole room.
What about fine fragrances? The most common oriental perfume is made of Mukhalat, a mix that contains as main ingredients: oudh, roses, saffron and sandalwood.
It is the resinous heartwood from Agar tree. Healthy trees have an odourless wood. However, some older trees become infected with fungi thereafter an oleoresin is produced inside the wood. As the infection grows, it results in a very rich dark resin within the heartwood. The resin is distilled, getting the pure oil of oudh.
It is not only a beautiful flower but also an essential ingredient in Mukhalat. Rose Damascena is a hybrid rose, native of Persia, carried to Syria and then brought by a crusader from Damascus to Europe. Damascus Roses only bloom for thirty days each year and the blossoms are still picked individually. The picking is always a race against the sun because as the temperature rises, the blossoms lose their essential oils. Five tons of blossoms are needed to produce one kilogram of oil!
This flower has got three stigmas, which are dried and used in cooking and in perfumery. Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight. Nowadays is produced in iran, Spain, India, Greece, Azerbaijan, Morocco and Italy. This spice is used extensively in Indian perfumery and also in the Middle East and now beginning to be used in Western perfumery.
It is the wood from the Santalum tree. The sandalwood from Mysore, region of Karnataka, Southern India, is considered to be of the highest quality available. Despite 4000 years of existence, the sandalwood essence only appeared in modern perfumery in the last century. Sandalwood has also played an important role in Hindu and Buddhist religious rites and it is also used in Chinese medicine because of its healing properties.
The main feature in Arabic perfumes is its sensuality, exoticism and intense scent. Arabic fragrances are usually more intense and stronger, due to the culture and also due to the heat. Currently, trends in Eastern market include some new ingredients like honey, chocolate or vanilla.
But also Europe is now pursuing Arabic perfumes as they are symbol of quality, intensity and sensuality.