Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas curiosities

Perfumes have been around for as long as humans and it's thought that smell is the oldest sense in living organisms. According to the American Society of Perfumers, the word ‘perfume’ derives from the Latin ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’, alluding to the early practice of releasing pleasant odours from fragrant materials such as the wood of trees through heat or burning. Ancients believed that, as the smoke rose skywards, they were making a path for the gods. In ancient Egypt scents were used by everyone, even on their horses, saddles, and in food and drink. In those days perfumes were handled by priests, sorcerers and alchemists.

Today, most perfumes are mass produced from an eclectic mix of synthetic chemicals and additives. That's why many of us recoil in shock when blasted with an unsolicited spray of the latest designer duty free offering. Of course, there are beautiful smells too - many of which are the keys to memories of cherished relatives, lovers or poignant experiences. I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner where Professeur de Parfums, Roja Dove, was speaking. He brought along some of a rare perfume called kypi - known as the scent of antiquity, which it is also said was the scent of the Pharaohs. To me, this had an indescribable sugary sweet spicy fragrance of time immemorial - not a smell I remember, just one I somehow know... I also rubbed some raw white frankincense into my hands - that reminded me of the woody smell of the resin I used on my violin bow as a child.

Did you know that we smell not with our noses, but via our olfactory nerve, which is acutally a part of the brain? If you have style with brains and absolutely adore naturally beautiful smells, as well as sophisticated and stylish perfumes, you'll love the heavenly scented curiosity candles, available from ShopCurious.

Made by Mad et Len, these beautifully presented luxury coffrets, each containing two bougies de curiosite, are made in rural France exclusively for ShopCurious. Mad et Len produce everything by hand so that each piece is unique - even the packaging is made and folded by hand. The blends of soy wax, jojoba oil and beeswax, together with perfume essences are left to mature, providing for a rich and unforgettable aroma.

When the curiosity candles are burned together, they create a divinely unique scent, marrying contrasting and complementary tones of original distilled perfume from flore, wood or aromate. The six exquisite and unusual combinations on offer at ShopCurious include vibrant, primitive black pepper with sensual, deep fruity ylang-ylang; exotic and mysterious oriental patchouli with aromatic floral gardenia and hot spicy nutmeg (muscade) with fresh citrus based verveine. The cotton toile lined boxes are individually made and really pretty too - the curiosity candle coffret would make an original and very special Christmas gift.

Mad et Len's workshop (above) is located in the Haute-Provence village of Saint Julien du Verdon, where Alexandre and Sandra, a husband and wife team, create personalised and limited edition perfumes for the bath, body and home in the tradition of old style apothecaries. The name Mad et Len is based on a quirky reference to Proust's remembrance of things past (madeleine). Quoting from Du Cote de Chez Swann: "The smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection".

Do you?

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