The Eight (plus 1) Perfumes Of Hanukah

Originally published on 24 December, 2016

The Eight (plus 1) Perfumes Of Hanukah

After the Roman Saturnalia or Solstice celebrations, the Jewish celebration of Hanukah is one of the oldest celebrations dedicated to “the return of the light”, or bringing light into the darkness of winter. Hanukah however, is one of the few instances where the celebratory occurrence is based on provable fact and not myth.

Yehuda Ha Makabi (modern translation Judah Maccabee) the third son of a Jewish priest from a small town 20 miles outside of Jerusalem was born in approximately 190 BCE. As a child of the Jewish faith, Judah was no stranger to anti-semitism, as Judaism was not allowed to be practiced in Galilee by order of the Seleucid (Hellenistic) empire, who went so far as to replace all the statuary in the great temple of Jerusalem with Hellenistic gods, goddesses, and rulers, an unthinkable act of desecration. The uprising to take back the temple, originally led by Judah’s father, was taken over by Judah upon his fathers death.

Backed by his fearless band of followers called the Maccabee’s, Judah managed to retake the temple and on December 14th 164 BCE re-sanctified the temple for the Jews. The temple was trashed, with almost nothing left of the original structure left, but Judah managed to dig an oil lamp out of the rubble to use in the sanctification ceremony. The problem was that after three years of battle, supplies were scarce and there was only a tiny bit of oil left to burn in the lamp for the service, about a day’s worth. Wonder of wonders, that small bit of oil miraculously burned for 8 days and 8 nights, and the holiday of Hanukkah is in celebration of both the Seleucid defeat by the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil!

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate light in the darkness, strength and success despite unsurmountable odds and of course family and food! Candles are lit every night for 8 nights (one the first night, two the second night etc… ) and a ninth candle called the Shamash is lit every night and used to light the other eight, as a nod to an early Semitic solar deity. The Hanukkah candles are held in a candelabra known as a Menorah who’s design is based on one used by Moses three hundred years earlier to create “sanctuary” while wandering through the desert.

Presents are given every night, and fried foods (to commemorate the oil) are served and consumed ravenously. Children love to play with a top known as as dreidel in a give-and-take kind of game, the prize is often Hanukkah gelt, chocolate wrapped in gold foil resembling gold coins.

Ok, enough history for now, and what you may ask, does any of this have to do with perfume? Well if you’re lucky (and your spouse just happens to have an empty credit card or two) you may just end up with 8 new bottles of fragrance by the last night of the holiday. More importantly however is that many of the ingredients used in 164 BCE as anointing oils (perfumes) for ceremonial purposes and also by citizens to help mask the overwhelming scent of day to day life, sweat, dirt, barnyard type odors and of course effluvia are still in use today. So to honor that momentous occasion thousands of years ago, I give you “The Eight (Plus One) Perfumes Of Hanukkah!”, perfumes that still use a predominant note from over 2000 years ago.

1.) Myrrh

Caron Parfum Sacre

One of my favorite Myrrh-bombs, Parfum Sacre is like Christmas Eve in a bottle, resinous and heavy with incense, and that Myrrh which is like being wrapped is a soft cashmere blanket. Gorgeous!

2.) Honey

4160Tuesdays Centrepiece Extrait

I recently realized that I owned more bottles of 4160Tuesdays perfume, second only to Guerlain! I just love Sarah McCartney’s work that much! Centrepiece Extrait is the star of my collection, a pure parfum that’s like being dipped in wild honey lashed with tea, vanilla, musk, and the beautiful floral scent of frangipani.

3.) Balm Of Gilead (Cottonwood)

Komorebi by Ayala Moriel

Ayala Moriel makes scents that capture the essence of place. Her perfumes based on Pacific Northwest themes are absolutely photorealistic, and Komorebi is no exception with its dominant cottonwood (Balm Of Gilead) note. You can just imagine what the trees of Galilee must’ve smelled like when you wear this beautiful concoction.

4.)Sweet Cane (Calamus)

Carthago Delenda Est by Villa of the Mysteries

Based upon a Roman perfume straight out of the annals of antiquity, Carthago Delenda Est (Carthage must be destroyed), is an olfactive time machine back to the BCE. Calamus, fig, and rose and BOOM! Grab your toga, ’cause you are THERE. Stunning.

5.) Frankincense (Olibanum)

Anubis by Papillon

Smoky, leather, and animalic, Anubis created by British perfumer Liz Moores might just be one of the sexiest scents around. Just when you think it can’t get anymore incense and leather heavy, beautiful indolic florals turn the perfume into a true slice of heaven.

6.) Cinnamon

Cinnamon Bark by Demeter

Demeter is well known for replicating single note perfumes that are wildly affordable and often spot on, scent-wise. Cinnamon Bark is no exception. Pure unsweetened cinnamon, like holding a piece of cinnamon twig to your nose and inhaling deeply. Perfect for layering with many other gourmand scents.

7.) Aloes

Mukhallat Bushi Sensei by Abdul Karim Al Faransi

Abdul Karim Al Faransi based in Birmingham, UK was one of my favorite discoveries of 2016! Anthony Karim the owner and nose has managed to take Arabian fragrance oils to a whole new level. Mukhallat Bushi Sensi is a fruity-green scent redolent of tropical fruits, aloe, and Oudh and is absolutely unforgettable. His 6 ml. Bottles will last you forever, at a cost that’s less than a fast food meal.

8.) Styrax (Benzoin)

La Via Del Profumo Gipsy Queen

Dominique Dubrana (a.k.a. AbdesSalaam Attar) is the genius and driving force of La Via Del Profumo, and is one of the the greatest perfumers many have never heard of. His work is perfect and transcendent. Gipsy Queen is a stunning melange of benzoin, patchouli, lavender and florals that will have you huffing your arm all day long.


Strawberry Sufgayot by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Sufgayot is a Hanukkah sweet treat, essentially a fried (oil, of course) jelly donut sprinkled with sugar. Strawberry Sufgayot by BPAL is exactly that! A deep fried strawberry jelly donut scent so perfect you’ll want to chew your arm off!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s