Blog post by Gwen
Image - wikipedia.com - Steamy hammam in Divan Asia Hotel, Istanbul, by Nevit Dilman, July 1, 2012
It all started with a Groupon for a spa package a few years ago. Well, a deal on a spa package? Yes, please. Turns out it was for a ḥammām. I’ve seen ḥammām spas around the city, and had an idea of what they were, but if pressed, I would have to admit I didn’t really know much about them. Wikipedia does though: A Turkish bath (Turkish: hamam, Arabic: حمّام, translit. ḥammām) is a place of public bathing associated with the culture of the Ottoman Empire and more widely the Islamic world. A variation on it as a method of cleansing and relaxation became popular during the Victorian era, and then spread through the British Empire and Western Europe.
Well, that’s a start, but what was I to expect from my spa treatment? Trawling around the web, I found this from a ḥammām spa website (not the one my Groupon was for) that said their spa is “built on the ancient philosophy of the traditional Turkish baths still found throughout Europe and the Middle East. Turkish baths traditionally functioned as steam-filled grottos for segregated social gatherings of the upper classes. Men and women would lounge among themselves, enjoying fragrant steam and luxurious body treatments while discussing politics, gossip or even marriage arrangements.” Hmmm. Fragrant steam.
I’m happy to report that my ḥammām spa experience was terrific and I’ve since become a bit of a ḥammām habitué.
As wonderful as these spa experiences are, there is one element that I often find disappointing: the fragrant steam part. Don’t get me wrong, the air is scented, beautifully scented, with spa scents, but it’s not the scent I think a Turkish bath should have. I have it in my mind that the scented air in a Turkish bath should smell like the air in Turkey, maybe Turkey as it smelled in the Ottoman Empire. But I’ve never been to Turkey, let alone during the 16th and 17th centuries, so I don’t even know what the air there smells like. You see the problem, right?
Then, as I was rooting through perfume websites, I found Halfeti, which Penhaligon’s describes as: ‘A potion so delightfully intoxicating one falls immediately in love. Warm, strong and reassuring all at once. All respectability forgotten, we have travelled far, as far as Turkey!’ and in that moment I found what I had been missing.
Created by nose Christian de Provenzano for Penhaligon’s Trade Routes Collection, Halfeti was inspired by the lavish goods traded with Turkey by the Levant Company; exotic florals, spices, soft leathers and precious fabrics, says Penhaligon’s website, and is named for the black roses that grow in the Turkish village of Halfeti.
It opens with a nose-tingling notes of tart bitter bergamot and tangy grapefruit. There is no harsh bitter citrus blast – the fruits here are bright, fresh and elegant. Herbal Artemisia and camphouros cypress provide a green undertone. As it blooms, Halfeti gets warm from a blend of market spices: cumin, nutmeg and saffron, making it exotic and dark. The spices are joined by flowers: violet, jasmine and lily-of-the-valley, supporting the star ingredient: a deep and dark rose. It’s the way the the spices and the flowers play off each other that make Halfeti so irresistible to me. At the base, the florals have softened, sweetened by amber, vanilla and vanilla-tinged Tonka bean. But it’s the combination of soft leather, oud, resins and woods that make it exciting.
The drydown is rich, warm and luxurious. Halfeti really likes cold temperatures, which seem to give it a certain tenacity. It sparks my senses and takes me to a time and place I could never know but secretly longed for.
And, really isn’t that what perfumes, good perfumes like Halfeti, do so well?
Check out Halfeti listed in our Shop.