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 concoction of Penhaligan's Hammam Bouquet fitted that need to perfection.

First created by William Penhaligon in 1872, this lovely fragrance, still manufactured today, is described 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 soon became a great favourite with respectable Victorian gentlemen, even though  it owed its provenance to the odours that were found in the Jermyn Street BathsThe VV finds it amusing that, considering the era's sexual repression, this seductive and musky fragrance intoxicated the senses with fantasies built on exotic romance, of naked sultans in steamy baths in Turkish harems and boudoirs.
The Turkish bath became very popular in later nineteenth century England, with the concept introduced by a man called David Urquhart; a foreign diplomat and sometime Member of Parliament who had travelled extensively throughout Spain and Morocco.
In fact, a Turkish Bath had more in common with ancient Roman custom. It consisted of first sitting for some time inside  a ‘warm room’, heated by dry air to encourage perspiration. A spell in a second hotter room and the bather would be splashed and cooled in baths of colder water. After this he would enjoy an entire body wash, a massage, then relaxation. 

 An advertisement for the Southampton Turkish Bath

The Jermyn Street Baths also employed a resident tattooist who was known for his skill in producing artistic dragon designs, and ~ if the rumours can be believed ~ some of Queen Victoria’s sons were decorated in this manner after visiting the establishment.
What would their mother have thought of that? Perhaps she would have encouraged them to keep away from the Turkish baths and install a 'Quaker Cabinet' for their private use instead. 

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


  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.

  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.

  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.

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


  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".

  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.

  7. My second favourite fragrance, thank-you.

    1. I'd love to know what your favourite is. Essie

  8. Are you back? Reincarnated? Welcome home :)

    1. Now and then Hels. Thank you! :) I'm mainly reviving older posts, but hopefully new articles to come soon.