The book of Canticles (aka Song of Solomon or Song of Songs) is traditionally read on the morning of the Sabbath during Passover. Hence, my perfume bearing that name is particularly appropriate for this time of year and I thought it would be a great start for talking about how to use oud in perfumery, revealing the different facets of its complex beauty.
I created Song of Songs perfume using the ancient perfumes mentioned in this book, including agarwood, spikenard root, oils of myrrh and frankincense oils, and labdanum absolute, which together form a resinous and woody base; a bouquet of roses (from Morocco, Turkey and Bulgaria) for the heart, and saffron absolute at the top, which makes it very exotic and unusual. At some point I had some hyacinth absolute in my organ, which I used for the heart as well, but this is long gone. The hyacinths stand for the lilies mentioned in the poem, and which according to my research were what the Song of Songs refers to as "Lily of the Valley" (convillarias do not grow in Israel or anywhere in the Middle East). Hyacinth absolute is very sweet (almost candy sweet) and with some green-herbaceous aspect. But like I said - it rarely turns out in the market. I also had an idea of having cedar in it at certain point in the design process, but that was more of a story-telling idea, rather than perfumed idea (the book mentions cedar of Lebanon, which was used to build the temple of Solomon; however I don't know that cedar was necessarily a biblical perfume material so I abandoned that idea early on).
Song of Songs is honeyed, resinous and exotic and has a very profound impact on my mind when I wear it. It makes me feel connected to the ancient civilizations where my ancestors came from. There. the Orient and the Occident unite through veins of caravans transporting spices, medicine and wisdom. Like the poem it was inspired by, the perfume sits comfortably between the sacred and the profane (despite the fact that the poetry in the book of Canticles is very erotic and more than just suggestive, it is considered by the Jews to be the holiest one in the bible).
Although I created it before knowing anything about Arabian perfumery or smelling any Arabian or Indian attars (Song of Songs was created in 2002, just about a year after I started my journey in the art of perfumery) - it is a very "Middle Eastern" perfume, similar in some ways to the Arabian attars I smelled at the perfume bazzar at the souk years later, but far more pure and intense with its true attar of rose, spikenard and agarwood and all the rest. The spikenard really brings out the mustiness and earthy animalic aspect of agarwood, and the saffron brings it up another notch with its almost leathery dryness. Along with the ambery labdanum and the precious woodsy notes of olibanum and myrrh, these elements really make the roses sing and stand out during the heart phase. It becomes woodier and dryer as it dries on the skin.
Interestingly, Song of Songs is really popular with my local clientele - those who pick it by smelling it rather than reading the history and notes on the website. But those who do pick it from the virtual boutique end up being long time devotees. I can see why: there is something really soothing about it. I worn it yesterday and I will be wearing it for the rest of the Passover week.
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