perfume recipes: 3 posts

Making Armenian Paper Incense and Revisiting Bois d’Armenie

As a graduate student I always loved the serendipity associated with research–when a random reference leads to an Aladdin’s cave of fascinating information. It’s been years since I left the halls of academia, but I’m still a student (read, a geek!) at heart. So when I spotted a mention of E.J. Parry’s Encyclopedia of Perfumery in Nigel Groom’s The New Perfume Handbook, I made it a point to check it out. My reward was a recipe for Armenian paper, which I would like to share with you and to add to Bois de Jasmin’s collection of antique perfume recipes. Armenian paper is a home scent created in the 19th century by entrepreneur Auguste Ponsot and pharmacist Henri Riviere and sold as a natural air sanitizer. With its exotic and mysterious cachet Armenia was a perfect marketing spin for the incense based on benzoin, a resin redolent of sweet vanilla and spices.

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18th Century Incense Recipe and Perfume To Burn

Ince
As the smoke of joss sticks paints fragrant curlicues in the air, I feel that I am participating in some ancient ritual. I love smoky scents in general and my favorite incense perfumes range from tender like Chanel No 22 to austere like Comme des Garçons Avignon. But the process of lighting incense, watching it smolder and then vanish into scented smoke and ashes is what I enjoy the most. The word “joss” came down to us via Portuguese from the Latin deus, god, and whenever I burn incense—even if only to enjoy its perfume, rather than to please a deity—it feels like a spiritual offering.

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Sweet Honey Water : Perfume Recipe from the 17th Century

Honey

Despite the name George Wilson gave to his book, The Complete Course of Chemistry, he was not a chemist by training. Instead, the volume first published in London in 1691 and subsequently reprinted contained an impressive collection of recipes for herbal preparations, elixirs and alchemy experiments. Glancing through this fascinating compilation, I came across a recipe for Sweet Honey Water that Wilson used on King James II. He describes it as having many wondrous effects on one’s well-being, but it was his remark that this water “gives one of the most agreeable scents that can be smelt” that finally caught my attention. Honey, vanilla, coriander, cloves, and musk certainly sound wonderful together, don’t you think?

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