Thursday, 16 September 2010

TURKISH BATHS AND THE PERFUME OF 'HAMMAM BOUQUET'...


When writing her novel, The Somnambulist, the VV wanted to introduce a perfume that would have been in production during the mid nineteenth century; a fragrance that might have been suitable for men and women alike - and the heady and glamorous Hammam Bouquet fitted that need to perfection.

First created by William Penhaligon in 1872 this lovely fragrance, which is still being manufactured today, is described by Penhaligon's as being -
 ‘...animalic and golden... warm and mature, redolent of old books, powdered resins and ancient rooms. At its heart is the dusky Turkish rose, with jasmine, woods, musk and powdery orris.  

Hammam Bouquet, which soon became a great favourite with respectable Victorian gentleman actually owed its provenance to the  smells of the Jermyn Street Turkish Baths which William Pengalion hoped to replicate. The VV finds it amusing that, considering the sexual repression of the age, this seductive and musky fragrance intoxicated the senses with fantasies built on the romance of Empire, of naked sultans in steamy baths, of harems and boudoirs which reeked of sex.
The Turkish bath became very popular during the latter part of the Victorian era, the concept first introduced to England by one David Urquhart, a diplomat and sometime Member of Parliament who had travelled through Spain and Morocco.
A Turkish Bath, which actually had more in common with the ancient Roman custom, consisted of first sitting in a ‘warm room’ which was heated by dry air to encourage a free perspiration. A second, even hotter room was followed by being splashed in cold water, then a full body wash, then a massage, and finally a period of calm relaxation. 

 An advertisement for the Southampton Turkish Bath
No doubt there were various methods of relaxation on offer, and one that may be less than expected was the fact that, from 1888,  the Jermyn Street Baths employed a resident tattooist who excelled in an artistic dragon design. And, if the rumours can be believed several of Queen Victoria’s sons were so decorated
when visiting the establishment.
What would their mother have thought about that?
Perhaps she might have encouraged her boys to install a 'Quaker Cabinet', after which no rough and disagreeable attendants would have to be endured - and no risk of catching a cold when heading back home through the cool damp air.


With thanks to Malcolm Shifrin and information gleaned from his website: Victorian Turkish Baths: Their Origin, Development, And Gradual Decline.

6 comments:

  1. Very interesting post.
    "Hamman Bouquet" sounds wonderful, will try to track some down.
    KNIZE cologne is also lovely, with bergamot, lemon, orange, rosemary added to middle notes of geranium, cedarwood, rose, orris, carnation, cinnamon and sandalwood descended with base notes of leather, moss, amber, castoreum and vanilla.

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  2. It sounds very similar, Nora...must look out for that. Hammam Bouquet takes a few minutes to settle but then develops into something quite lovely.

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  3. VV, what a delight!

    The whole idea of Turkish baths, including the full body wash, massage and period of calm relaxation, must have seemed like heaven on earth. Even in our era, when people are largely clean, visiting a hammam in places like Istanbul or Amman has been the highlight of our travels. How much more so for Victorians.

    But a perfume redolent of old books, powdered resins and ancient rooms? I don't think so! I think you are much closer to the truth with steamy baths, sex and spices.

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  4. Thank you, Hels - always love your comments.

    Essie

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  5. Perfume redolent of old books sounds good to me -- though it is somewhat moldy for a "bouquet."

    At the risk of too much self-promotion, I'd like to link to a blog post I wrote on another aspect of the Victorian "Turk".

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  6. Thanks, Liam - the mouldly books scent made me smile. And of course you may link to your 'Turkish' post.

    I haven't the read The Lustful Turk, but it was referred to in graphic detail in a contemporary novel I recently read - so I had to go and look it up! The final outcome with the specimen in the jar is, as you say, most ironic.

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