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  1. #1

    Default French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Both have a long history of producing some of the world's finest fragrances and dates back hundreds of years. Which style of perfumery do you prefer from these two? Based on note preference maybe, style, richness etc.. and what are some genres/ notes developed from these regions. Never saw a thread on this so just wanted to see which do most of you basenoters prefer and why.

    Side note, is Rose typically a French or Arabic note?

  2. #2

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    To give them their due, Arabian perfumery goes back millennia, they've been selling perfumes (frankincense, myrrh, and more) since before the Roman empire. French perfumery is much more recent, three or four hundred years, and real french perfumery started in the late XIX century (before that, it was simple essences of no consequence).

    For the little I've smelled of Arabian perfumery, it seems to me they excel at simple accords with superb materials, in oil: oud rose being the most famous, but also jasmine, dark musk, sandalwood, saffron, and ambergris. They also excel at perfuming via smoke (again, wonderful ouds and resins). Hedonist will be able to say more here.
    I do not think that, overall, they have mastered the alcohol form yet, nor have they shown huge interest in developing complex synthetic-natural mixes.

    French perfumery, as I see it (and following Luca Turin's analysis), is based on natural synthetic mixes, where an abstract structure (chypre, fougere, etc.) is overlaid with naturals that give body and richness. Of course, IFRA has attempted, among the utter disinterest of the French, to destroy French perfumery by forbidding most natural substances (oakmoss, jasmine, eugenol, heliotropin, etc etc).

    Hard to choose for me. Some oud-roses or jasmines I have smelled from Arabian perfumes are heavenly. But so are many Chanels, vintage Guerlains, Piguets, etc. etc.

    Rose is typical of both traditions (the famous Taifi rose for Arabs), by the way.

    cacio

  3. #3
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    There is a more noticeable perfume pyramid in alcohol based "French" perfumes. The Arabic perfume oil oud blends seem more linear and fade out softly instead of getting heavy in the final base notes.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  4. #4

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    I prefer french perfumery because from an early age to me that's what perfume is "supposed to smell like". Also, being of asian descent, ouds and cardamom etc smells like my mom's kitchen more than what I want to smell as perfume. That's why I'm not big on ouds, saffron, cardamom, sandalwood, incense based scents. But that's just me. Of course we all know french perfume houses use these same ingredients and everyone has an oud nowadays so it's not a black and white comparison IMO. Also I don't find rose to specifically french or arabic. I do find powder based fragrances to seem more french to me.

    But as a comparison, I find a scent like Dior Homme to be very "french" for what it's worth. part of why I love Dior Homme is because "it's what a fragrance is supposed to smell like" to me.

  5. #5

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    I agree with Cacio on the history of perfumery.

    Rose has long been an Arabic scent note. Think of rich attar of roses.

    European/French/Frankish perfumery owes a lot to Middle Eastern perfumery after the Crusades of the Middle Ages lasting from the 12th century to the 14th century.

    When I think of French perfume, I think of Guerlain. When I think of Arabic perfumes, I think of those fabulous oils you can buy in a perfume souk in the Middle East.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  6. #6

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    For the little I've smelled of Arabian perfumery, it seems to me they excel at simple accords with superb materials, in oil: oud rose being the most famous, but also jasmine, dark musk, sandalwood, saffron, and ambergris. They also excel at perfuming via smoke (again, wonderful ouds and resins). Hedonist will be able to say more here.
    I do not think that, overall, they have mastered the alcohol form yet, nor have they shown huge interest in developing complex synthetic-natural mixes.

    cacio
    Agree with the above.
    For thousands of years blends were made using only natural notes and ingredients. There were not lifters and fillers like ISO E Super that bond two notes nicely, nor were the ingredients designed in a manner to allow for better blending.

    Distilled or extracted notes were used along with each other.

    And I think because of a mass shift in interests, modern perfumery has not been perfected in the Arab world. And by modern I mean the dependency on synthetic notes along with natural notes. Thats why I have never been to fond of Ajmal, Rasasi and Abdul Samad AlQurashi's blends. But I adore their simpler accords because of the applied expertise in this particular field and the absolute use of natural ingredients.

    Use of rose originates from the Arab world.

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  7. #7

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Within the spoke of a very specific kind of perfumery, namely one-note ouds, roses, and musks, Arabic perfumery is ahead of the game; for everything else, the French.

    I find it very hard to compare, however. Arabic perfumery is still the best at oils ( I really haven't smelled a compelling oil from a western house ), but the alcohol based ones are fairly weak in structure.

    I find Amouage's approach of a western line and an eastern one intriguing, and suspect we'll see more of this as the Gulf continues to rise in prominence as a big consumer of luxuries.

  8. #8

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by Sugandaraja View Post
    Within the spoke of a very specific kind of perfumery, namely one-note ouds, roses, and musks, Arabic perfumery is ahead of the game; for everything else, the French.

    I find it very hard to compare, however. Arabic perfumery is still the best at oils ( I really haven't smelled a compelling oil from a western house ), but the alcohol based ones are fairly weak in structure.

    I find Amouage's approach of a western line and an eastern one intriguing, and suspect we'll see more of this as the Gulf continues to rise in prominence as a big consumer of luxuries.
    Suga, I am so happy you chimed in. I know you have experience in this to share.

    Hedonist, I am glad you also confirmed the use of rose.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  9. #9

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by hedonist222 View Post
    Agree with the above.
    For thousands of years blends were made using only natural notes and ingredients. There were not lifters and fillers like ISO E Super that bond two notes nicely, nor were the ingredients designed in a manner to allow for better blending.

    Distilled or extracted notes were used along with each other.

    And I think because of a mass shift in interests, modern perfumery has not been perfected in the Arab world. And by modern I mean the dependency on synthetic notes along with natural notes. Thats why I have never been to fond of Ajmal, Rasasi and Abdul Samad AlQurashi's blends. But I adore their simpler accords because of the applied expertise in this particular field and the absolute use of natural ingredients.

    Use of rose originates from the Arab world.


    Putting aside perfumery in the most distant antiquity (where perfumes including rose were produced and used by a huge variety of non-Arab and/or non-Semitic peoples) and focusing on perfumery as we might recognise it today, is your last claim really accurate Hedonist?


    Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā or Avicenna ,the inventor of steam distillation of roses to produce an oil we would recognise (though he admittedly was enlarging upon the broader principles of Al Kindi, an Arab of Kufa in modern day Iraq), was a Tajik Persian born in Bhukhara in modern day Uzbekistan who worked at various royal courts in Iran/Persia/Greater Khorasan during the tenth and eleventh centuries AD. Effectively his work can be seen as an extension of Al Kindi's work with distillation and Persian work with rose as a perfume material which probably goes back all the way to the first civilisations on the Iranian plateau. Avicenna was of course an Arabic speaking Muslim, but he was undoubtedly not an Arab and nor did he work at the royal courts of anywhere within "the Arab world" then or now.

    Commercial production of rose oil in Taif is, I think, only a about 300 years old, and though I by no means discount the much older and widespread production and use of rose oil and other rose perfume materials in various parts of the world one might describe as Arab including areas of the Arabian peninsular and Syria/Palestine, Iraq etc. I have to point out that it's most likely that rose as a perfume ingredient did not "originate in the Arab world". Unless you mean to say parts of the world which are now predominantly Arab or Islamic...?
    Last edited by Hilaire; 23rd July 2012 at 01:35 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by hedonist222 View Post
    Agree with the above.
    For thousands of years blends were made using only natural notes and ingredients. There were not lifters and fillers like ISO E Super that bond two notes nicely, nor were the ingredients designed in a manner to allow for better blending.

    Distilled or extracted notes were used along with each other.

    And I think because of a mass shift in interests, modern perfumery has not been perfected in the Arab world. And by modern I mean the dependency on synthetic notes along with natural notes. Thats why I have never been to fond of Ajmal, Rasasi and Abdul Samad AlQurashi's blends. But I adore their simpler accords because of the applied expertise in this particular field and the absolute use of natural ingredients.

    Use of rose originates from the Arab world.
    Hedonist, do you have a feeling or opinion re. the Western perfume houses who are now trying to get a foothold in the Arab market? I'm thinking of the trio of Guerlains recently launched and some of the ultra-exlusives from By Kilian. Are they mixing the two traditions well, or does it read as bad faux-Arabian style?

  11. #11

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    The responses so far are quite interesting, keep them coming!

    As stated above, I've noticed a trend with many prefume houses mimicking or trying to replicate Arabic style fragrances, especially french perfume houses such as Guerlain, Dior etc. Apart from a few scents, there hasn't been many 'typical French' scents produced over the years. What gives?

  12. #12

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Canuck:

    I think you are sadly right that big houses have essentially given up on classical French perfumes, preferring household cleaners for the boys and syrups for the girls. Niche houses, for the most part, haven't picked up, and attempts at doing so have been preemptively quashed by IFRA.

    As for the replication of Arabian perfumes, it seems to me more about the current oud craze, which finally reached Guerlain (Chanel's resisted, but for how long?). Hedonist will comment, the results are often good, and it certainly a worthy endeavor to bring oud into alcohol perfumery and devise synthetics to replicate its gorgeous smell. Still, good as the results may be, these perfumes feel a little redundant, as we already have a developed oud tradition.

    cacio

  13. #13

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    French Perfumery for me died when they banned oakmoss, which was like the "oud" for many wonderful French fragrances, the IFRA bans have laid waste to soooo many fragrances which were fragrant, powerful and complex. Fragrances coming out now , are weak, watered down and incredibly synthetic. It does not bother the big fashion houses and corporate fragrance houses , because they make a killing in profits using synthetics only.

  14. #14

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by vinramani09 View Post
    French Perfumery for me died when they banned oakmoss,
    RIP, indeed. The remaining % still allowed is more of a cruel taunt than a concession.

    Re: the two styles 'vive la difference' and 'it's wonderful when cultures collide harmoniously' - proof that it is possible to hold two ideas in the mind at the same time. I can take them each on their own or happily conjoined if done well (many are not - on both sides of the fence).

  15. #15

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by furrypine View Post
    Hedonist, do you have a feeling or opinion re. the Western perfume houses who are now trying to get a foothold in the Arab market? I'm thinking of the trio of Guerlains recently launched and some of the ultra-exlusives from By Kilian. Are they mixing the two traditions well, or does it read as bad faux-Arabian style?
    I agree that Guerlain is stepping up international marketing, although they have been marketing outside of Europe for some time.

    The Guerlain market in the Middle East is not new at all. For many years, the boxes and bottles on my Shalimar products had/have Arabic writing. I agree that they are focusing on non-European markets, as they made a a 2009 Fleur de Lotus for the Asian market alone, which was a flanker of Mitsouko; this was never released in Europe or North America. They now have the Asian actress Michele Yeoh as the company spokesperson.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  16. #16

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by Primrose View Post
    I agree that Guerlain is stepping up international marketing, although they have been marketing outside of Europe for some time.

    The Guerlain market in the Middle East is not new at all. For many years, the boxes and bottles on my Shalimar products had/have Arabic writing. I agree that they are focusing on non-European markets, as they made a a 2009 Fleur de Lotus for the Asian market alone, which was a flanker of Mitsouko; this was never released in Europe or North America. They now have the Asian actress Michele Yeoh as the company spokesperson.
    I remember reading a few reviews of the "abominable" Fleur de Lotus, and the conclusion seemed to be, it wasn't bad at all!

    Poor international companies, the Middle East wants it heavy, Asia wants light and unobtrusive, Europe sulks and wants more oak moss, the US wants everything to be fresh, and South America wants more fruit. I wouldn't be surprised if a Brazilian version of Mitsouko is in the works, with a little guava mixed in

  17. #17
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by canuck21 View Post
    Which style of perfumery do you prefer from these two?
    French

  18. #18
    alicia_leblanc
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Bonjour!
    This is my first post to Basenotes...hello
    This thread is a really interesting read, as I live in Paris and am pretty obsessed with French perfumery. I just moved into a new neighborhood with a fairly traditional Muslim population, and there are a lot of shops that sell a combo of books, clothing and perfumes...they nearly all sell perfumes. I have not smelled a lot of perfumes from the Middle East, neither from high-end creators nor more common scents, so I am looking forward to exploring.
    Alicia

  19. #19

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Welcome Alicia!

    Usually, neighborhood stores would sell cheaper, mainstream perfumes. Some of which are very good, of course, but you won't get the very best naturals. Although if I remember correctly there is an Arabian Oud store on the Champs Elysees, which sells all the line of the brand, including the high end ones. I doubt though that they'll let one put the very expensive oils on skin just to try.

    cacio

  20. #20
    alicia_leblanc
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    I believe you are correct about the Arabian Oud shop...I generally avoid the CE but every once in a while can be convinced to go to that area - unsurprisingly, it's usually perfume related

  21. #21
    Ursula's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    The French perfume houses seem to have a "leitmotiv" - the Guerlinade, the Caronade ...

    I am not informed whether the Great Arabic perfume houses have a particular "leitmotiv" also. Member Hedonist222 - can you enlighten us about that?
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  22. #22
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Pardon the ignorance of a relative noob, but can some Arabian houses be listed for the sake of those of who are unfamiliar? I've been interested in exploring but have no idea where to start.

    Also, for clarifications sake, am I reading correctly that Arabian houses stick to perfume oils exclusively?

    And where would someone in the US best purchase a sampler of these types of scents?
    Last edited by danieq; 5th November 2013 at 07:25 PM.

  23. #23

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by danieq View Post
    Pardon the ignorance of a relative noob, but can some Arabian houses be listed for the sake of those of who are unfamiliar? I've been interested in exploring but have not idea where to start.

    Also, for clarifications sake, am I reading correctly that Arabian houses stick to perfume oils exclusively?
    I've got three names to get you started - there's plenty of others :

    1. Al Rehab
    2. Swiss Arabian
    3. Rasasi

    Arabian fragrances can be both pure perfume oils and alcohol based. There is an opinion held by some that the Arabian houses don't do alcohol based fragrances so well. I can't really say whether this is justified or not.

  24. #24
    Ursula's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Sources -

    www.Zahras.com
    You have to write to her, ask what you want and she will give you a quote. Then you pay. Use credit card. Then it takes 4-6 weeks.

    www.islamicitems.net
    Piece of cake. Just order the 3 ml samples and it takes 10 days. Use credit card.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  25. #25

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    In my limited experience, oils have been better than alcohol based perfumes in general. I suspect Arabian houses are more interested in oils and have not developed the expertise for alcohol. (Amouage is an exception, but then it uses western perfumers).

    As for western perfumes, the quality varies dramatically. Also within a given house, you could have wonderful things and horrid drecks.

    cacio

  26. #26
    Dependent danieq's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Thanks namesake!
    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    Sources -

    www.Zahras.com
    You have to write to her, ask what you want and she will give you a quote. Then you pay. Use credit card. Then it takes 4-6 weeks.

    www.islamicitems.net
    Piece of cake. Just order the 3 ml samples and it takes 10 days. Use credit card.

  27. #27

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    The French perfume houses seem to have a "leitmotiv" - the Guerlinade, the Caronade ...

    I am not informed whether the Great Arabic perfume houses have a particular "leitmotiv" also. Member Hedonist222 - can you enlighten us about that?
    Most perfume houses will have oud oil that cost $100 per tola and all the way up to $5,000 per tola.


    for swap/sale:





  28. #28
    Ursula's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Just thinking ... perfume oils as such - have a different way of performing on the skin. They seem warm and cozy. I have a few ALKEMIA oils, just regular "flavors" without oud, and they cling nicely to the skin. The aroma unfolds slowly.

    AL HARAMAIN - Attar Al Kaaba and Haneen are my favorites of the Arabic oud combinations. Any newcomer will not be disappointed to try those out.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  29. #29
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by hedonist222 View Post
    Most perfume houses will have oud oil that cost $100 per tola and all the way up to $5,000 per tola.

    What is a tola? I'd like to know how to convert that to oz. or ml.

  30. #30

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by Curly11 View Post
    What is a tola? I'd like to know how to convert that to oz. or ml.
    12ml

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  31. #31
    Basenotes Junkie Curly11's Avatar
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    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    Quote Originally Posted by hedonist222 View Post
    12ml
    Thanks for the clarification, hedonist.

  32. #32

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    The closest I've come to Arabic perfumery still has its "feet" in Europe:

    Madini: Some fascinating, eye-opening fragrances (dark, non-sweet, woody, resinous, smoky, green) but many that appeared to be affordable versions of European style perfume. Also, I fault them for trying to cash in on all-natural claims by deceptive marketing.

    Amouage: Modern and expensive, heavy on frankincense, rose, and resin. Darker, more somber and sultry than French.

    Montale: At first, amazing, with its bold rose and oud scents. Then became overdone with iterations. Still, they helped make rose a masculine scent for Westerners.

    Souk market perfumes: Cheap and one-dimensional, like American head-shop fragrances. Most are not worth the money, even though they're cheap.

    Serge Lutens, enabled Chris Sheldrake to feature Arabic ingredients in French perfumery in a way that brought the aromas of labdanum, benzoin, and dried fruits to the attention of the Western public.

    My vote? French with Middle-Eastern influence. They've learned a lot since YSL Opium...
    Last edited by purplebird7; 11th November 2013 at 07:31 PM.

  33. #33

    Default Re: French Perfumery vs Arabic Perfumery

    What a great and informative thread.

    It reminds me of perfumes I smelt as a child that were brought back from the middle east. Wonder if I will ever smell these again. This thread also reminds me of the message of Arabic perfumes Cavafy wrote about (among other messages).

    Ithaca

    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope the voyage is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
    you’ll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind—
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities

    to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you are destined for.
    But do not hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you are old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you would not have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
    When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask *what have you done for us*.......I will say * I did not forget you*. Simon Wiesenthal

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