In the Booker prize winner “The God of small things”, Arundhati Roy walks the reader through the lives of Estha, Rahel, Ammu, and Mammachi who abode the Ayemenem house. Mammachi, the grandmother of Estha and Rahel is described as someone with her skull permanently scarred from her dead husband’s beatings and her bottle of Dior perfume carefully locked up in the safe. It is interesting to note how this grandmother who is well advanced in age, bearing scars that made her what she is, still clinging on to one of her favourite possessions – a bottle of perfume by Dior. Likewise, in the much famed autobiography “My story”, Kamala Das can be seen narrating vividly the Nalapat house. Within the walls of the Nalapat house, resides the author’s great grandmother’s sister Ammalu who was also a poetess like her. Although she was pretty, Ammalu remained unmarried till her death. In a visit to the Nalapat house after Ammalu’s death, the author finds herself engrossed in various musings of Ammalu and later stumbles upon a secret drawer of Ammalu’s writing box, in which she finds a brown bottle shaped like a pumpkin that smells faintly of Ambergris. Though both these books were written in different decades in the twentieth century, one can’t help but notice the striking similarities between Mammachi and Ammalu, for one, both had a penchant towards perfumes and secondly both cared for their perfumes unfalteringly.
Both Ayemenem house where Mammachi lived and Nalapat house where Ammalu lived, is set in picturesque state of Kerala embracing the southwest shoreline along the Indian side of the Arabian sea. Kerala was once called by early historians and travellers as Malabar. Barbosa, the Portuguese writer in his “Book of Duarte Barbosa”, written around 1518 AD, mentions Malabar as a place beginning from cumbola (present day Kumbala in Kasargod district) ending at Cape of Comorin, though in present times Malabar is more referred to region towards northern side of Kerala. Malabar has been known for its spice trade especially pepper, to the east and west, and was known to have presented pepper to the world, dating back to the times of Egyptian Pharoah’s. The women in Malabar took great interest in perfuming and several historical records including travels of Ibn Batuta 1325-1354 AD mentions the role perfumes played in the medieval Malabar society. This must be the reason for several international perfumers and perfume houses to name their perfumes after Malabar. Below list gives a peek into the various perfumes named after Malabar.
Princesses de Malabar by Lubin
Perfumer Delphine Thierry got inspired by the Malabar coast of India and its historical matriarchal society run by women known as the Nair Princesses. Crafted around 2018, the perfume top notes are Cotton Flower and Bergamot; middle notes are Peach, White Magnolia, Ylang-Ylang and Jasmine; base notes are iris, Tonka Bean, White Musk, Sandalwood and Amber.
Malabar 2017 by House of Hautt
Malabar 2017 was launched in 2017. The nose behind this fragrance is Edison Fujita. Top notes are Sage, Mandarin Orange and Bergamot; middle notes are iris, Coriander, Tonka Bean and Cardamom; base notes are Leather, Cedar, Amber, Oakmoss and Vanilla.
Jasmin Du Malabar Perfume by Rance Perfume
As its name suggests, Jasmine from India’s Malabar region is the signature floral ingredient in Jasmin Du Malabar. Released in 2011, the fragrance is the creation of French perfumer Jeanne Sandra Rance, heir to the iconic Rance family, known to be the official supplier of the French Imperial Court and Napoleon’s favourite perfumer, François Rancé who revolutionized the Art of Perfumery by creating fragrances of a timeless excellence. Jeanne Sandra Rance continues her family’s legacy by creating fragrances for men and women.
Crown Malabar Perfume by The Crown Perfumery Perfume
Malabar by Crown is an Oriental scent for women evoking an exotic journey to India. It has an Amber Floral fragrance and was crafted in 1919. The Original Perfumer to Queen Victoria, Crown Perfumery has an esteemed and rich heritage, but currently is not in existence.
Pic courtesy: Unsplash, Pratiksha Mohanty