Making Sense of Scents

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Holy Smoke!

The ancients believed that the only thing which could cross the physical barrier between Heaven and Earth was the smoke of incense. Indeed perfume takes its name from the Latin “per fumare” which means “through” or “by” smoke. If you prayed to your God, whatever his or her name, and you wanted your prayers to be answered favourably, it made sense to “sweeten” your request with the magical smokes of burning aromatics.
Here’s my take on that: (Oh! and by the way Onycha is crushed operculum (door) from a certain Mediterranean snail which helped “fix” the mix.  Still used in the Middle East.)


The censer burns with charcoal bright,

As on its aromatic flight,

Incense to the heavens winds,

And with sweet words a promise binds.

Dark, smoky tongue that breezes waft,

A fragrant wisp that mounts the draft,

This messenger with breath divine,

That calls the Gods and makes them mine.

I cannot fail in love or war

As Myrrh on heated coals I pour,

And Frankincense to charge the mix,

With Galbanum the scent to fix.

Onycha crushed will make complete

My Mercury on wingéd feet,

Who stirs the Gods above the cloud

And passes on my prayer endowed.

Hear Ye! A mortal stands below,

My plea is made; it’s time to show

Pray manifest and succour me

Repay my sacrifice to thee.

Fire, fire burning bright

I really do miss the aromas that come from a good wood fire- and indeed the differences depending on the type of wood used and the state its in. Here’s my poetic take on this:


In these days of pristine central heating

You can keep yourself as warm as toast

But there’s nothing to beat

A woodfire’s heat

And of fine smells they really can boast.

Juniper is the firewood of my choice

Mixed with apple and cherry tree too

A clean tang springs from birch

And for holly I’ll search

But old oak makes a shrine of the flue.

Sinbad’s other tale II

My lack of IT knowledge has to date meant that I can’t copy from my book and make images larger which in turn makes some of them hard to read. Equally I guess it’s a kind of safety net for copyright issues. But to respond to one question here’s the Sinbad tale again in readable form

Sinbad’s other tale


The Sperm it feeds on cuttlefish,

By all accounts a tasty dish

But not the bones that stomach cut

And form great scars upon the gut.

Which when the whale has had enough

And promptly sickens of the stuff

Ejects this morass on the sea,

Where “mermaid’s gold” awaits for me.

As Allah’s gift is worked upon,

By wind and waves, by rain and sun,

To give aromas of delight

Which sets the nose of man alight

And this I sell for princely sum

In Basra’s market, where all come.

Alas, I cannot tell this tale,

Of Ambergris which comes from whale.

I need protect my trade you see,

And thus a story tell to thee.

 Of abyss-edge, where fiery pits

Throw out the ambergris in bits,

So only bold will venture forth

And sail to East, West, South and North.

For with such dangers on the sea

Much safer ’tis to buy from me,

And rest assured they all come back

For nature’s aphrodisiac.

I praise my God for this bounty,

So wondrous made upon the sea.

The answer to Life,The Universe and Everything- Part 1

Well having passed the 42 post mark I should celebrate with something with just a slight connection to the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Universe…and that’s SPACE! What kind of aromas are up there awaiting our delectation? Here’s one thought:

Beware of alien plants

Beware of alien plants

Bastille Festival London July 14th

Just reveived the gen on this. If you’re in London on the day why not pop in, relax on a sofa chair and wallow in the “dark” world of scent!

Wine, food, absinthe ,cheese and perfume!

Scent of a Woman

One of my favourite movies.  The tango scene is the most remembered in general, but for me it’s the scene very near the end where Pacino as blind Lieutenant Colonel Slade uses his amazing sense of smell (he’s in the amazing business!) to detect Fleurs de Rocaille- “flowers from a Garden” a marvellous floral from Caron ,- on a woman he encounters. Through the movie Slade three times detects the scents different women wear.

As a blind man his sense of smell has been exalted. If only more of us could use our sense like this. But in this profoundly audio- visual world we live in nowadays we all seem to act like blind men. I guess it doesn’t help that many “so-called” celebrity fragrances are more hype than hip

A marvellous film about integrity- but also the prowess of a great sense of smell

Sherlock Holmes and perfume

“I was conscious of a faint smell of the scent known as white jessamine.
There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition.”
“Hound of the Baskervilles”         October 1889 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Lucky Sherlock- only seventy five perfume brands to consider. Now there are over 6000 fine fragrances and numerous other knock offs/mass market brands to work on.