BY KELLY CHAIB DE MARES
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
While carpet weaving is the traditional art of Azerbaijan, perfumery is the current artistic creation, refreshing and internationalizing the nation’s heritage.
Bulbul (nightingale) Avenue in Baku city centre is named after the famous Azerbaijani folk music performer, opera tenor. His real name was Murtuza Mammadov, and he was one of the founders of vocal arts and national musical theatre in the XIX century. Therefore, it is no coincidence that in the 18th building of that street, a national perfumery boutique is located aiming to interpret the scents of this Azerbaijani Heritage.
Once in the store, you receive a friendly welcome in a sophisticated environment decorated with natural materials and applied artwork. Each piece is marked with two gold letter M’s superimposed on each other, representing the name: Maison Mugham; a high quality Perfume House in a country with a budding perfume culture.
During the Soviet Union and the first decade of independent Azerbaijan, having a fragrance was something rare, even though everyone was obsessed with French fragrances – as was the case of Eliza Akhundova. Her interest in perfumery started in childhood; later, she became a collector of unusual perfumes. Finally, influenced by prominent perfume houses from all over the world, she founded the only global perfume brand of Azerbaijani origin.
Mugham House is a fusion of perfumery art, developed with the highest technology and the Azerbaijani heritage. “Everything in our work represents Azerbaijani DNA; in each detail, you can find a reference to our culture,” Eliza states. The logo for example, includes the dots of Arabic calligraphy, evoking the five centuries when the Azerbaijani language was written with Arabic scripts before the Soviet Union introduced the Cyrillic alphabet.
Additionally, the name of the Perfume House pays tribute to the Azerbaijani centuries-old musical tradition. Mugham is a highly complex art form that draws on oral histories passed down from generation to generation. Unlike Western-style, mainly created with scales, this folk music is a modal system that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation. The choice of a particular mugham mode fits a specific event, be it a wedding or a funeral; the dramatic unfolding in performance is typically associated with increasing intensity.
And of course, the Azerbaijani legacy is also found in the fragrances. After five years of searching for exclusive formulas, right before the pandemic outbreak started, in Grasse, the perfume capital of France, Eliza created the first collection of fragrances. It is an olfactory interpretation of the seven modes of Mugham: Humayun, Segah, Chahargah, Shur, Bayati-Shiraz, Shushtar, and Rast. As for the music, each mode has its special vivid emotional meaning.
Although the primary value is the scent, the Perfume House cultured every detail. For the limited edition first bouquet, they chose the minimalist packaging to ensure it will match with any wedding set and any particular taste. Each bottle is unique, made by hand from Italian glass; the introductory text under its lid was written in Beverly Hills, and the box decoration was printed in England with the antique letterpress method.
Yet, the House’s signature perfume is “1752”, created to celebrate the liberation of Shusha, the temple of Azerbaijani art, from nearly thirty years of enemy occupation. The aroma reproduces the smells of the rare endemic flowers to the Karabakh region: Caucasian snowdrop, Fischer’s cornflower, Alekseenko’s onion, and the main note are the scents of Harybulbul, the Caucasian ophris, which has become a symbol of the native lands return to Azerbaijan. The result: a unique fragrance that cannot be compared with any other in the market, as attested by independent fragrance experts in London and Paris.
The creation of “1752 Extrait” fully reflects the national sentiment. The Perfume’s name refers to the foundation year of the city, when the government of Azerbaijan declared 2022 the “Year of Shusha” to celebrate the city’s 270-year anniversary. Also, the bottle’s shape and patterns are inspired by the minarets of the ancient Govkhar Agha mosques, a set of two mosques, one in the upper and the second one in the lower section of Shusha. They are both considered national symbols and masterpieces of Eastern architecture.
The Mugham House of Perfume has taken the celebration of Shusha to an international level while making its global premiere. For the first time in the country’s history, an Azerbaijani brand will participate in Esxence, the Art Perfumery Event held in Milan, at the largest convention centre in Europe. The most influential brands, buyers, worldwide experts and an enthusiastic audience make the fair a unique experience awaited by the entire fragrance community.
On June 15 – 18, at the Esxence 12th edition, held with the support of the Italian Trade Agency, the Mugham’s initial fragrance bouquet and “1752” extrait will be presented to the niche community. The Azerbaijani House will have the opportunity to receive visibility and a leading role during this event dedicated to the artistic perfumery industry and to the excellence of beauty, where history and tradition are combined with innovation and research.
Besides the artistic creations and the international positioning of Azerbaijani culture, the House strengthens the national perfumery culture and adds to its global potential. As their CEO Mahmud Aliyev, explains, “our number one priority is protecting our consumers from low-quality products and raising awareness on perfume usage and perfumes in general”. To obtain support for this goal, Mahmud plans on establishing an association of perfumers of Azerbaijan.
The House’s green policy protects its customers and the environment. As proof, Mugham has created scents that can last up to three days without harming human skin and without testing on animals. Moreover, each component has corresponding eco-certificates, from cellophane to bottles, which the brand encourages to return for recycling. Following the highest existing standards in the perfume industry, Mugham Maison is the only national perfume brand authorized to sell in Europe, and worldwide.
Undoubtedly, any of the scents created by Mugham Maison de Parfum is an excellent option when choosing a unique fragrance to express yourself. Likewise, their perfumes are the ideal purchase of sentimental value to remember your time in Azerbaijan. Whether as a gift for oneself or to share, it is the perfect fusion of the Azerbaijani heritage with French perfumery in one bottle. Just for the pleasure of having a multisensory experience, you are invited to visit the boutique at 18 Bulbul Avenue in Baku, or at the fashion quarter in Istanbul.