(This is a cross-blog event, see the bottom of the post for the link to Elise Pearlstine’s post)
According to the Old Testament, David,was a young and vibrant man (boy actually) who defeated Goliath with his slingshot and was crowned King for his effort. However, the Old Testament will also remark upon King David’s in his old age, when, as a frail elder, he found it hard to sleep because he was always cold.
The solution? Hire a hot-blooded (literally, not in the sexual sense) young woman to be his “bedwarmer”, to cuddle in and bring his body temperature up so he could sleep. Many interpretations of the relationships between David, Batsheba and Solomon, Batsheba and Abishag sharing what was called “half wife” duties in the Bible, but this blog is only going to focus on the modern-day perfume, not the backstory.
Abishag was that girl chosen for the bedwarmer role and immortalized in a perfume in the late 20th century. I’ve seen many posts over the years bemoaning the disappearance of the perfume from the shelves of Israeli Museum and other worldwide outlets that carried it. In 1990, as part of their exhibit Cosmetics in Ancient Times, the Israeli Museum commissioned a couture line* of perfumes honoring Abishag. It was discontinued a few years later.
I was lucky enough to win a bottle of Abishag eau de parfum on eBay, a tiny vial, beautifully packaged and in pristine condition. I have a collection of Israeli perfumes, most by Judith Muller, so I was happy to add this to the display case.
Many hours were spent searching for information on the perfumer and the notes attributed to Abishag perfume. First I wrote to the Israeli Museum two times and got no answer. I also contacted an Israeli perfume scientist whom I knew was in the business in 1990, but he had no more information on it.
Information on the Internet indicates that Teva Cosmetics in Israel contracted with a perfumer at the Dutch IFF (International Fragrance and Flavors). I ran into dead ends trying to track those sources down also. So the mystery remains about what Abishag smells like. I will share some very interesting information about all the Abishag products and then my impressions.
I did luck upon an archived, by-subscription-only site that had the original press release and realized that my tiny bottle was one of a number of products in the Abishag couture line.
*For those unfamiliar with the term “couture line” of perfume it means that the perfume is supported by a line of accessory fragranced materials.
The fragrance is bottled in a flask similar in design to a biblical phial and comes as a potion, a sachet of herbs, scented soaps and miniatures, as well as regular size bottles.
The 50mi parfum contained in a replica of an antique design sells for $70;
the pomade packaged in a small ivory-like ceramic box retails at $45 for 17ml;
the 150g soap engraved with an ancient stamp retails at $7.00;
the sachet for $10
and a small 2.5ml bottle for $3.00. (what I won)
Distribution currently stands at specialty boutiques including the gift shop at the Israel Museum but will be widely distributed abroad and in duty free outlets.
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
“New fragrance launch in Israel.” Cosmetics International 25 Jan. 1990: 7. General OneFile. Web.
My general impressions of the eau de parfum will be muted by the fact that I can’t share with you what I believe some of the notes are because I’m not familiar with synthetic aromachemicals that are used in perfumery. It is a very soft, powdery, orris-laden scent. I detect the strong synth musk that is often used in modern perfumes and laundry detergents, the “white musk” type. There is a slight Chanel No. 5-type aldehydic opening that quicky gives way to the fake orris and musk. It is definitely a “little girl” or “young lady” innocent scent. I can imagine this wafting from some baby products, in a toned-down variation.
I wonder if the perfume was bolder? I’ll wager that the soaps, sachets and pomades are tamer, like the eau de parfum.
I shared a little of the eau de parfum with Elise Pearlstine of Bellyflowers Perfumes, and she is blogging about her impressions at http://bellyflowers.blogspot.com/2013/02/abishag-story-of-perfume.html Please visit her blog to read what she feels about this legendary perfume.
There is a giveaway for a tiny (1/2ml) decant of my bottle if you leave a comment and anything (if at all) you know about Abishag. Perhaps this is your first time reading about this legendary, elusive, discontinued, or perhaps you’re one of those haunted by a bottle you had a few decades ago and wish to experience it again. Leave your comment before 11:59PM Thursday Feb. 6, 2013. The randomly-chosen winner will be announced here and via private email on Friday.