As we sat around the Nouroz (Persian new year) dastarkhwan (tablecloth/great spread) in the old Peshawar city, it started to drizzle. The sweet and intoxicating scent of the narenj (bitter orange) blossoms filled the courtyard as we sat enjoying haft mewa, a drink made from seven different types of dried fruits and nuts. Refreshing rain and soft cool breeze–a typical scene from any spring season. Yet the night was made memorable and unique by the heady scent that enveloped us.
The following morning was even more beautiful as the air had by then really chilled and was drenched in the fragrance from the narenj blossoms. Breathing the heavenly scented air after all these years was truly a blissful experience. It felt as though after the cold and gloomy months a ray of light was piercing through the soul. Reassuring, soothing and at the same time invigorating and rejuvenating.
The narenj tree, which is native to this part of the world, has been a staple in almost every house with a garden in Peshawar and that too for a good reason. It is a fairly compact tree that stays green throughout the year. In spring it presents stunningly fragrant blossoms in abundance. They scent the air throughout the day with the fragrance being strongest towards the evening. During this season the trees are abuzz with honey bees that have come to gather the heavenly nectar.
It then goes on to produce tarty narenj fruits which begin to ripen by September. The skin of the fruit is used for making murabah, a kind of marmalade, or sliced and dried for decorating and flavouring pulao (dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth). A little pressure to the skin of the ripe fruit will release a bitter, zesty scent which quickly spreads around the room. The juice is extensively used to make sherbet (syrup/drink) and flavour spicy street food or salads. My favourite way of enjoying the ripe fruit is by patting the flesh of the fruit in a salt and red chilli powder mixture and then squeezing the juice over a baked corn.
Bitter oranges are of great utility in the perfume industry as almost every part of it provides useful aromatic material. Depending on the method of extraction, both the orange blossom and neroli essential oils are produced from the flower of the narenj. Neroli has a sweet, green aromatic scent whereas orange blossom is more heady, intense and floral. The peel of the fruit is used to extract bitter orange oil which has a delicate, fresh citrusy aroma. Petitgrain with a sharp, green, slightly woody scent is extracted from the leaves. These oils are widely used as top and heart notes in perfumes and colognes.
The bitter orange trees are in such abundance in Peshawar that the scent of the blossoms lies ingrained in my memory as the scent of back home. A perfume that has beautifully managed to capture the fragrance of the narenj flower is Bottega Veneta’s Knot:
An intricate and airy floral that starts with a pop of citrus. It feels like taking a stroll through a citrus grove on a sunny spring day. Sweet clementine, waxy and green neroli, and sheer lime are layering the air. One would expect all these citrus scents to turn into a sickly sweet concoction but the air here remains refreshing and crisp. The citruses are the opening and heart of this fragrance with a subtle addition of musk and vanilla, just enough to keep things interesting.
If I had a shade card for this fragrance it would go from a soft cream to the slightest of yellows. A fairly simple fragrance easy enough to be worn during the day and elegant enough for the office. It has moderate sillage and longevity.
The official notes have been listed as: clementine, mandarin, lime, neroli, orange blossom, lavender, rose, peony, musk, and tonka bean. However the citruses, vanilla and musk are the only notes my nose can pick up.
Knot was created by perfumer Daniela Andrier and launched in 2014. It is available as 30, 50 and 75ml Eau de Parfum.
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
It’s nice to get away from the usual now and then. While packing for my long trip back home, to the city of Peshawar where I grew up, I had a hard time deciding what perfumes to take with me. It wasn’t an easy task as I have so many favourite ones. For me the perfume I wear is very personal and has to fit in with the mood and emotion of the day. Many made it to my final list but it was simply not practical to carry so many with me and so, after a bit of back and forth, I settled for the following:
LOLITA LEMPICKA (edp) by Lolita Lempicka, a unique and sophisticated gourmand with notes such as iris-violet, licorice, praline, Amarena cherry, tonka bean and vanilla that envelops you like a soft, powdery cloud and stays on all day. Something I can have on me the whole day and not tire of it and so it basically travels with me everywhere. A perfume you cannot go wrong with and will suit almost any occasion or time of the day.
TERRACOTTA LE PARFUM (edt) by Guerlain, a radiant and happy blend of white flowers, coconut, vanilla and musk. Makes me think of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and bright blue skies. An uplifting fragrance for days when the sun remains hidden behind the clouds.
TUBÈREUSES CASTANE (edp) by Mason Lancome, an addictive blend of tuberose absolute and tuberose distillate wrapped in roasted chestnut. This unusual combination of the magnificent tuberose with the warm and comforting roasted chestnut will leave you feeling elegant and edible at the same time. Perfect for the hazy, frosty months.
CABAN (edp) by Yves Saint Laurent, an elegant vanilla fragrance with just the right amount of hay, caramel and pink pepper notes. For occasions when sophistication and elegance are called for.
CARNAL FLOWER (edp) by Frederic Malle, the most modern, sexy and über chic tuberose that exists. Leave a bunch of tuberoses in the room and come back after a while. Apply some carnal flower…………you are now one of them.
AMARIGE (edt) by Givenchy, an absolute bomb of a fragrance. Opulent flowers and ripe fruits, among them ripe peaches and plums are the most prominent. For days when you couldn’t care less about what anyone thought of you. Simply unforgettable.
Tuberoses are my favourite flowers. Which explains why most of the perfumes I chose for my travels have tuberose in them either as a main or side note. I am also taking this trip as an opportunity to indulge in my love for fresh flowers, the magnificent tuberose, narcissus, marigolds and roses.
What perfumes do you like to take with you when you are travelling?