Smell like an Egyptian – Hokkabaz

Hokkabaz by Esscentual Alchemyhokkabaz


“One of the things I love most about the Perfume Community is the People”.

Yah.  Everybody hears that all the time and I’m sure there are more than a few who go ‘yah, suuurrre’ – you’re in it for the PERFUME’ – but let’s face it, after awhile perfume, in and of itself, gets boring.  It’s either gorgeous, or average or downright dogawful…but it’s still just perfume.  What makes it come to life, in my Musettish opinion, is when you get to yark about it with other people.  I remember bugging the toenails off a friend to send me a couple of baggies, each with a drop of her Mitsouko vintages on a cotton (and I would send her mine) so we could compare – it was the experience that heightened the pleasure of the perfume itself.

And I’ve been fortunate to have so many of those experiences, as I’ve gone through my perfume experiences.

But every now and then, there’s a story that starts out, Scheherazade-like, and weaves its tendrils around you, til you’re gasping  to hear the tale.  And sometimes…well, sometimes it can be something quite bizarre!

Posse, I give you a phrase:   “Embalming Spices Accord”

Well, alrighty then.  This is what happened.  I got a message from a young perfumer, Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy, wanting to know if I would like to sample her new scent Hokkabaz.  For those of you in the not-know, Amanda has been handcrafting natural perfumes since 2010 (you can read all about it here) – along the way she decided to do a homage, a ‘cover’,if you will, of Guerlain’s fabled Djedi.  Since I’ve spent the better part of 5 years sampling every iteration of Djedi I can find I was eager to try her rendition. And I’m glad I did.   It is lovely – very dry, hauntingly resinous..and smelling faintly of dessicated plum blossoms found in the back of a mummy’s tomb. hokkabaz

She gave me her evocative editorial brief on the perfume,  “Hokkabaz is a natural perfume of the desert. It means “conjurer,” one who creates something out of nothing. It is dry, dusty, bitter, and eerie. Not for the faint of heart. Will you open up the long resting path? Will you go down into the dark and see what lays undisturbed for so many years? There you will find attempts at creating Permanence out of Impermanence. Embalmed, locked frozen in time with herbs. A wedge in the time stream – a break in the chaos of the Universe…A lasting mark, when all else has fallen away, crumbled into dust. “  …and that’s cool and all but I wanted the notes – so we’re yarking back and forth and she gives me the notes and they are thus:

rose, vetiver, oakmoss, leather accord, civet, patchouli, antique mysore sandalwood, clove, vanilla, orris, calamus, embalming spices accord


and I’m all “cool, that ‘plum’ I’m smelling is the rose and clove… thanks…hey!!… uh..wait!…whuh….huh???  Wait. wth?  Embalming Spices Accord?  What the hell is THAT?   So I stop with the email and pick up the phone.  And it’s off to the races!  Because I’m from a family of Funeral Directors and I’m thinking ‘oh, HELL no!  She did NOT put Formalin in this perfume?’ – because it’s 2013, I am a Moron of the Modern World and where I come from, you embalm folks with Formalin.  Hey, nobody said I was connected the Djedi Dots yet, did they!  No.  So don’t be judgin’ a Musette here.  It’s post-holiday, the Service was bugging me (still) and I was a tad distracted.  Hey – I did mention I am a moron, right?

Once we started talking she sorted me out, winding me back in time to Jacques Guerlain’s  era when the world was desperate to recover from the shock of WWI….yet within that recovery lay a thin,  niggling, dreadful thought that it might’ve been the harbinger of our future.  With the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, Egyptology became all the rage – and it seemed to fit into that global zeitgeist of destruction and  death and a quest to cheat the impermanence of life with the permanence of the afterlife, corpus intacto.  And anybody who’s stumbled upon something dessicated in the desert knows there is nothing more ‘preserving’ than drying.  In her research for this perfume, Amanda created 3 different accords based on the spices used in Egyptian mummification rituals.  I love email but this  is where actual conversation is soooo much better – we chatted about cinnamon, myrrh and the question of cedar:  did they mean cedarwood or juniper? and the notion of dry, bitter, dusty green.. until my senses were reeling.

Amanda, captivated by the notion of a perfume that glorifies the notion of Life After Death, has created an homage to one of the most elusive perfumes in Guerlain’s pantheon.  Does it smell like Djedi?  No.  Djedi is very much a creature of its time.   Like all Guerlains it smells like ‘perfume’ and, dry and animalic and mineral-like as it may be – it’s also one of the least ‘natural’ perfumes I’ve ever smelled.  But I don’t think Amanda was trying to copy Djedi, exactly.  I think she wanted to create a perfume that embodied the idea of the idea behind the original Djedi.  That’s my take on it, anyway.  And it’s a gorgeous idea – a modern, natural perfume for our own shocking, unnatural times that are, nonetheless, intertwined with breathtaking joy and beauty.  Amanda said “there’s a lot of sorrow in this perfume’ and it’s obvious.  But there’s also a lovely thread of hope.  I like to think it’s hope that we will transcend our own sorrowful era, both on this plane..and the next.  And I think Jacques Guerlain would approve.


This is a beauty and I encourage you to sample – you can do so at Esscentual Alchemy’s website. 


You can sample Djedi through Surrender to Chance. It’s pricey – but it’s  a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s worth every penny!

  • Rina says:

    Dear Musette, once I got past that you meant yakking for yarking, it all made so much more sense, LOL! Sounds like something I need to experience, being the frustrated funeral director that I am.

    • Musette says:

      “Frustrated Funeral Director”? Now that, Rina, is something I never thought I’d read. Of course, prior to a few days ago I never thought I’d read ’embalming spices accord’ in perfume notes!

      Yeah, in Musetteland we yark/yarble/yowl/yakk – depends upon the day…


  • Joe says:

    Auntie, hunny… you da best smellin’ embalmed mummy on da block!

    And you said the word that’s “open sesame” to my wallet: PLUM. Even if it’s “faint dessicated plum blossoms,” I’m starting to develop a muscle twitch.


    • Musette says:

      My sweet baby! How you izzz? I’m so glad you stopped by!!!

      I think you would be intrigued by this. I’m not sure you’ll get plum (I did but I’m half crazy, as you know) but even without that, you’ll find it an intriguing scent.


  • Alityke says:

    Want. Fact.

  • tammy says:

    Oh lord, the lemmings are never going to end, are they?? 2013 was supposed to be The Year I Quit Buying Samples!

    This Scorpio has no problem with formalin and loved all her A&P labs, from fetal pigs to human cadavers. As long as I didn’t have to cut into skin, I was fine. I could never stomach the initial cuts, but once in, yea, I was fascinated and humbled. I also collect gravestone rubbings and Victorian funereal artifacts. I am more susceptible to packaging than backstories, but I bet I’d love this fragrance! Dry and resinous sounds fantastic. I cherish my Djedi sample!

    • Musette says:

      If you have a Djedi sample, tammy, then you should definitely get a sample of this and compare!

      I’m with you on the skin v. insides. I’m one of those ‘eww’ on the skin-slicing, as well. ewww!


  • Musette!!! You are a delicious creature, and anything BUT a moron! You uncovered my secrets and hit the nail on the head. I do think we all want to have hope, and be reminded that on this plane, there is sorrow, though there is also untold joy. You just have to remember that there is ALWAYS a silver lining, no matter how dark things might seem at the time.

    Thank you for the wonderful conversation! I could have talked to you all day 😉

    Thanks for the delightful review!!

    • Musette says:

      xoxoxoA and I could’ve talked with you as well. Good thing there was talkus interruptus, in the form of the canine or neither of us would’ve gotten another thing done the rest of the day!


  • Ramona Donoghue says:

    I love posts like this- the backstory makes the perfume more memorable and personal to me. This immediately reminded me of the poem OZYMANDIAS by Shelly!

    • Musette says:

      I thought of Shelley (I love that poem – if anybody captured the impermanence of life ’twas PBS). What I love about Amanda’s Hokkabaz is that it focuses on that attempt to fix our moment in time (that ‘wedge in the timestream’) rather than Death itself. It’s that quest, I think, that is so intriguing in our species. Unlike other creatures of this earth we really do not go gently into that dark night. We’re going really philosophical (before 9aCST, no less 😀 ) ? I’ve often wondered if that, right there, is the original ‘curse’ of the notion of banishment from Eden – that not only do we know in advance that our lives are finite and uncertain but that, even knowing thus, we still desperately cast about, looking for ways to stave off, if not Death, then at least the erasure of our existence from the collective memory. Perhaps all we really want is to have mattered.


      • Ramona says:

        I think it was Nietzsche who stated the he believed human beings of ALL cultures from the beginning of time contrived religion and God/gods into some form of a creation myth and afterlife because we are psycholgically unable to accept the ephemerality of the human existence. I also read a line in a poem by David Hernandez that has stuck with me:

        “I know flesh is temporary, and memory a tilting barn the elements dismantle nail by nail.”

        That is a line from his Poem entitled “At the Post Office”

        All the more reason to thoroughly immerse yourself in the moment and in good smelling perfumes =)

        • Musette says:

          Tell it! Life is Uncertain, indeed. And we can either throw ourselves into the cocoon of terror or embrace the uncertainty. Good smelling perfume, good chocolate, good champagne…all excellent ’embraceables’, imo!


  • Ann says:

    Very cool post, Musette.Just like Dina above, I’m now walking like an Egyptian (and before 8 a.m.? Now that IS something!). Thanks!

  • Martha says:

    Thank you, Musette. I love this post. Now I will have to investigate this fragrance and Djedi (if possible. Is it possible?). Hokkabaz sounds like everything I like eg. roses, sandalwood, embalming spices accord…

    • Musette says:

      Yes, it is possible! After the fact (read ‘d’oh!’ here) I realized that so many of you probably haven’t had the opportunity to try the fabled Djedi – so I put the link to Surrender to Chance up there. They have some. It’s worth every penny – even if you don’t love it, it’s one of those perfumes that every perfumista should experience.


  • Dina C. says:

    I hear the Bangles singing, “Walk Like an Egyptian.” 🙂 With that as my soundtrack, let me muse on ancient embalming spices…I was never a science geek girl, so I don’t have any experience with Formalin, though I do vaguely remember the formaldehyde-soaked frog in tenth grade biology. Thank goodness! I’m seriously creeped out by the above posts. The notes in Hokkabaz sound nice. (I’ve never sniffed Djedi, so I don’t have that as a scented reference.) I enjoy the Amelia Peabody mystery series by Elizabeth Peters set in the 1920s. This would be a great scent to wear while reading those books. I like dry, dusty scents, so this sounds neat. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Musette. 🙂

    • Musette says:

      I thought of those books as well! It is a gorgeous scent (as is Djedi – I put the Surrender to Chance link to Djedi up there). It was a lot of fun to try them side by side. I believe M. Guerlain would be pleased.

    • malsnano86 says:

      Oh, hey… Love Peabody and Emerson. And Ramses!

    • Ninara Poll says:

      I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to creep anyone out. Please, PLEASE accept my most humble apologies and a very off-key rendition of me attempting to sing “Walk Like an Egyptian”. *apology hugs*

  • LEMMING! Gone and shopped. $10 sample is awesome so I bought a set of 6 other samples only $30.
    Portia xx

  • dinazad says:

    Drat. Now I want this.

  • jilliecat says:

    Oh my goodness, Musette! Like Ninara, the mere mention of formalin brings back bad memories, and I think of the lab at school; even now (maaaaaany years later) that awful smell can haunt me or create nightmares which inevitably involve dead people chasing me. I once tried out a foot spray which had this as one of the ingredients – my shock and disgust on spraying it was probably amazing to behold. It’s really interesting to see that Ninara says that it can be hallucogenic.

    Hokkabaz sounds intriguing, but I wonder if I am too open to suggestion …. if I smell it, will I start dreaming of being pursued by mummies??????

    • Musette says:

      No. Not at all. It’s not about death or cadavers or mummies. It’s about despair giving way to hope, imo. I’m not a fan of formalin in anything but nail polish and I’m as susceptible to imagery as anybody (and I do NOT like the whole formaldehyde/formalin association – when I was 10 my cousin locked me in a room in the mortuary – nothing in there but empty caskets but I was freaking OUT! Since then have a decided aversion to things morturarial).

      You can rest assured that it has NO such associations. Not even for me. And I thought it up!


      • jilliecat says:

        Phew, thank you sweet Musette. What a frightening experience you had in the mortuary – now that truly is the stuff of nightmares. Despair giving away to hope ….. that’s lovely.

      • Ninara Poll says:

        Formalin only causes hallucinations in a tiny, tiny fraction of the population; I happen to be one of those unique people. I’m trying to remember the print source I used to confirm that effect, but I’ve also confirmed it over the years with several GPs, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, three neuroanatomists, and pretty much all the first year professors at the medical school I briefly attended. And here ends your TMI about a random person on the Internet for this week 😉

  • Ninara Poll says:

    *adds another name to her List of Lemmings*

    Formalin.. ugh. I’m actually allergic to it; asthma attacks + hallucinations. I discovered this the hard way, in an undergraduate course devoted to evolutionary anatomy (aka: Cutting Up Dead Animals), when a mounted and boxed bird skeleton I was studying started tapping its claws in an extremely bored manner and tilting its skull as though to say, “Aren’t you finished yet?” It was more funny than scary. Guess who had to wear a gas mask for filtering organic and other vapors in medical school? (I kid you not) The worst part it, there are some fake smoke and barbeque flavorings that actually smell and taste like formalin to me, so much so that I’ve pretty much given up eating bbq and smoked hams/sausages/some brands of bacon are a crapshoot. Nothing like biting into some beautifully barbecued chicken and having flashbacks to human cadavers. 😉

    • Musette says:

      Holy cats and crackers! Are you KIDDING me? I would’ve ……..I would’ve….Lord, I don’t know what I would’ve done, were a skeleton to start tapping its claws……..! Great gravy!

      I would kill myself stone dead if I had to give up bbq. I’m black/latina/asian. Honey…we LIVE on that stuff. Jam a pig in a hole in the ground and we are in heaven!

      You know I’m going to be seeing that bird skeleton image all day, right?


      • Ninara Poll says:

        I am so sorry for leaving you with that bird image! *apologetic hugs* As for BBQ… I’m half Latina, half Anglo, grew up in the southern U.S., and yes, BBQ is one of my ALL.TIME.FAVORITE.FOODS. Doesn’t matter if it’s Asian, American, Mexican, give me some meat that was roasted in a hole in the ground and I am transported to near-heavenly realms. I haven’t had Mexican-style barbacoa in ages, and Asian styles I can handle pretty well… it’s mainly American style bbq that makes me wonder if I’m holding cutlery or forceps and scalpel 😉 Hey, if it’s something I’ll have to deal with for potentially the rest of my life, why not make fun of it?