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honey

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about honey, you will find it here.  In the post you will find some historical facts about bees and honey history as well as examples of perfumes that use honey as a note. Today I got some really nice news from Lush about the honey they use so I want to re-adress this sweet theme to add some information.

A team from Lush went to Zambia to visit some beekeepers that work with traditional methods making fair trade honey that is used in the honey shampoo from Lush. The honey is made in the forest around Kabompo River and provides an important source of income for the communities in the area. The honey made here is free from pesticides and herbicides.

Photo from Lush.

Kabompo is in the northwest of Zambia and at the centre of Zambia’s remaining teak forests. Beekeeping has been a tradition in the area for a long time and skills as well as hives of grass, bark and hollow tree trunks are handed down from one generation to the other. Beekeeping has turned into a thriving industry with about 3,000 traditional bark hive beekeepers in Zambia.

I like the way Lush communicate about the products, especially raw materials. Here is a film from the team’s trip to Zambia. Would be very nice to see more companies highlight their raw material sources more like this, I think.

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Insects have the most acute sense of smell in all nature and used it for all sorts of physical courtship. A queen bee attracts drone males with an indisputably welcoming scent from a gland in her mouth. In an experiment scientists harvested this scent and put it on a flying balloon. Drones clung to the balloon in layers desperate to mate. No wonder the queen bees are not exactly humble… The same gland produces another pheromone that worker bees take from the queen and distribute to female workers bees. The effect it has on these is that their reproduction ability is killed. This means that there will never be another queen bee competing for the spotlight until the first one has died and stopped distributing her pheromones.

pinterest.com/pin/62980094758592720/

There are more than twenty thousand species of bees but only a couple of them can make honey. They make it by using nectar from flowers. Honey is actually partially digested food that bees store in the hive during winter when no nectar is available. It takes about ten worker honey bees to make one tea spoon of honey and each bee’s contribution to that tea spoon corresponds to the amount of honey it will produce during its lifetime. In 2006, honey bees suddenly started to disappear in the US. When this was discovered a more careful monitoring of the honeybees was conducted and soon it was clear that this was a global phenomenon. This phenomenon was named Colony Collapsed Disorder. It affected the honey supply of course, but also all crops globally that are pollinated by bees. It is still not entirely clear how this started but research indicates that is has to do with pesticides severely affecting the nervous and immune systems of the bees.

Cave paintings in Valencia, Spain, seem to reveal that humans have been harvesting honey for at least 15,000 years. Bees have been producing honey for about 150 million years.

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Mesolithic rock painting of a honey hunter harvesting honey and wax
from a bees nest in a tree. At Cuevas de la
Araña en Bicorp
.


Honey almost sounds too obviously “nice” to be perceived as something interesting enough to analyze and be seduced by. It is enormously attractive visually of course, like liquid jewellery. But still, it is also something we associate with tea and honey and home made facial masks, right? Honey does play an interesting role in perfume though and can be found in an impressively wide range of fragrances. And the history of honey is mesmerizing and impressive. Yet we tend to not really speak about it that much in perfume contexts. Why is that? Honey seems to be like the pretty smiling well-composed sister that gets forgotten at the family dinner because the little magnates, monsters, delinquents, clowns, professors and divas demand all the attention. But we should not forget about honey. Honey is sweetness with attitude and patina.

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Honey is versatile and interesting. In daily life it is a wonderful sweetener but also has health benefits. Honey builds up our immune system, soothes sore throats, fights with bacteria, viruses and fungi and helps with hangovers. Phytonutrients found in honey seem to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties, and may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.

When used in perfume the honey note is sweet in a soft and balsamic way, soothing. The scent can vary from woodsy to floral, herbal or tobacco-scented. It is often used as a prelude to the gourmand character of a fragrance. The honey used in perfumery is typically created from beeswax and molecular ingredients found in organic honey.

Melting beeswax. pinterest.com/pin/1407443603097640/
You’ll find honey in an epic olfactory diva like Dior’s Poison but also in Jo Malone’s youthful Nectarine Blossom & Honey and in Chanel’s Beige. And in a very unfrightening cosy Honey I washed the kids. In Acqua di Cuba by Santa Maria Novella honey is combined with herbs, tobacco and citrus. It is a warm fragrance, slightly spicy with a vanilla base. If you are into Serge Lutens look for Miel de Bois and A La Nuit. There’s an interesting discussion on Miel de Bois here. One of my personal favorites, Ambre Narguilé by Jean-Claude Ellena, also has a honey in a sultry olfactory performance that is nothing for a shy day. Another gourmand honey fragrance is Thierry Mugler’s Angel, brilliantly exposed by The Perfumed Dandy. To get to know TPD’s world – and honey analysis – better, just click anywhere on the eloquent area below. (And for a female Dandy, do check out the review from Olfactoria’s Travel of La Dandy).

Other honey fragrances and thoughts of them can be found here: Hedonist by Viktoria Minya, Perfum de Luxe from enchanting DSH reviewed by the lovely Sigrun and the exquisite dark unusual M/Mink from Byredo. 
Honey can be kept for thousands of years without losing its qualities. An extra-ordinary example of this is the honey found in Tutankhamen’s tomb which was still edible after more than 2,000 years. Honey is mentioned as a symbol of good things in many sacred writings. In Hinduism it is considered as one of the five elixirs of immortality in Hinduism. The Promised Land, Canaan, is “a land flowing with milk and honey.” The word “honey” itself reveals a powerful, sacral significance. This word originates from the ancient Hebrew word for “enchant.” Honey is considered kosher, even though it is produced by non-kosher beings. The explanation for this can be found in the fact that bees during Biblical times were wild bees who carried nectar from flowers to hives for storage in the shape of sweet liquid gold. Beekeeping was developed long after this. And honey, the liquid sacred sweet gold, will be around long after this…

“A tobacco aroma with sweet undertones of honey. A pure aphrodisiac”. This is how today’s fragrance is described by Kilian. And Kilian’s perfumers know their stuff so I am sure this potion has caused more than one baby in its lifetime. For me…no. Unfortunately. I would love to love tobacco and honey. I want to love every Kilian fragrance because the ones that I do love I am completely enchanted by. And I know enough to know that every black bottle with this name has been created with great passion and dedication. Also I am interested in all sorts of connections between the olfactorial world and the emotional world. So I am sorry to say, “Back to Black: aphrodisiac.…our paths will never cross again”.

The first two hours I was intrigued by this perfume. I felt like I smelled like a male rock star. Crude, restless, eager, fierce. I did however not feel like that rock star, but like I had borrowed Mick Jaggers perfume. A bit weird but interesting! However the fierceness disappeared and turned into something more like heavy incense at Midnight Mass. Bit too much of it for me, I couldn’t carry it off, but still… interesting. But then by the end of this day suddenly something entirely different emerged. To me, it resembled heavy roses and soap. I know a lot of people think that sounds beautiful but it is just not my thing. I felt like when you have not rinsed the soap away from your hands and that experience to me is really uncomfortable, just the thought of it makes my head itch. But this is personal, the people in my company did not react like this at all or even sense that sort of thing.

My reflections do not mean anything else than this, a bad match simply and I would love to hear someone else describe a contrary experience of this fragrance to me. In fact, when you google “kilian aphrodisiac review” you will find exclamations of great joy. And this, is one of the things that makes perfume so interesting.

So, please look at the notes below and if you like the sound of them look up reviews on blogs, Fragrantica etc. This could be a sensational discovery for you. And now I am going to look up the notes – which I have in fact not done before this very moment because I wanted to give you a sincere reflection without having “the right answer”.

It sounds almost to obviously ”nice” to be interesting, but honey really does play its role well in a high-quality perfume. If you make a note-search on Fragrantica for example you will see that honey is a very very popular ingredient that is part of an impressively wide range of fragrances. Yet we tend to not really speak about it so much. Why is that? It seems to be like the pretty smiling well-composed sister that gets forgotten at the family dinner because the little magnates, animals, delinquents, clowns, professors  and divas demand all the attention. But lets not forget honey… It takes all kinds to make a world. And sweet like honey is so much more interesting than sweet like sugar. Honey has attitude.


Honey is versatile and interesting. You can add it to a light breezy citrus caressy fragrance and to an extravagant oriental. (You will often find it in gourmands of course). It works in pour homme, pour femme and pour both. You’ll find it in a diva like Dior’s Poison but also in Jo Malone’s youthful Nectarine Blossom & Honey and Chanel’s Beige.
Another example, an interesting one, is Acqua du Cuba by Santa Maria Novella which is a unisex fragrance where honey is combined with herbs, tobacco and citrus. It is a warm fragrance, slightly spicy with a vanilla base.


If you are into Serge Lutens look for Miel de Bois and A La Nuit. There’s an interesting discussion on Miel de Bois here. One of my personal favorites, Ambre Narguilé, also has a honey in the composition that must be described as quite bold and nothing for a shy day. Honey is sweetness with integrity.