عسل (Honey)

عسل Honeyعسل Honeyعسل Honey
Group: Animal Sources
Odor profile: sweet, edible, golden autumnal note which illuminates a composition relying on citruses and oriental notes and gives profusion to floral notes


The sweet golden liquid known as honey is one of the nature’s most miraculous products. Honey, the nature’s sweetener, is a syrupy delicacy made by bees. There are more than twenty thousand different species of bees, but just a couple of them are skillful enough to make honey.

Honey bees are making this sweet food using nectar from flowers, and a single pound of honey stands as a lifetime work of about three hundred bees. It is estimated that the bee colony needs to visit about two million flowers before it collects enough nectar to make a single pound of honey, and this is why honey bees never sleep! Instead, a standard crowd of a single beehive makes up to 400 pounds of honey each season!

Honey is partially digested food that bees store in the hive during the long months of winter, when plants and flowers aren't blooming and no nectar is available. Each worker honey bee can make only a 1/12th teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, and only two tablespoons of honey could provide enough energy for a honey bee to fly once around the world.
    Of the more than 20,000 bee species in the world, about 2,000 are native to Mexico. However, the true honey bee (with its seven recognized species and a total of 44 subspecies) was brought to the New World by the Spanish conquistadors, in the early 16th century. The Native American tribes have named them "white man's flies," because flying swarms often indicated the proximity of the European settlers. But even long before Europeans, Mayan people harvested honey from nests of stingless bees native to tropical forests and used it as a sweetener, as an antibiotic and for production of honey wine.

The production of honey and its use have a very long history. It is believed that the practice of honey harvesting dates as far back to at least 15,000 years in past, as demonstrated by cave paintings in Valencia, Spain. However, honey was not always used only as food. Even the nature of its name suggests more powerful, sacral significance - “honey” originates from the ancient Hebrew word for “enchant.” In Hebrew tradition, honey is considered kosher, even though it is produced by non-kosher beings – flying insects. The rabbis of the Talmud discuss this question in detail and for us to understand it we have to remember that, in ancient Israel, beekeeping was developed much after Biblical times- some 3,000 years ago. The classic Biblical teachings mention wild bees for which it was not believed to produce honey but to simply carry the pure nectar of flowers to their hives, and store it as a sweet liquid gold. Today we know that honey bees actually do produce honey thanks to the special enzymes synthesized by the body of the insect. In this process, saccharides from plant nectar are transformed into honey through numerous cycles of regurgitation (expulsion of undigested material from the mouth) until it is partially digested.

In almost all sacred documents of both East and West, honey stands as a metaphor for all good things. The Promised Land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River – Canaan – is “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In many other cultures it represents the same symbol of sweet life and prosperity like in Jewish tradition, where it still keeps a special place as one of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. In Celtic mythology, a river of honey wine – mead – runs through paradise and the bees are the very messengers of gods. Mead plays a large part in countless Celtic traditions – as the conferrer of immortality, artistic inspiration and knowledge, it is used in the sacral rites, the grand ceremonies, as well as in everyday life. Mead is the gift of gods and the drink of kings, a magic brew that makes sovereigns immortal and levels them with deities if only they drink the “blood red wine” bestowed by the Fairy Queen.

This natural nutritive sweetener offers many substantial health benefits. Not only that it represents nature’s energy booster, but it also builds up our immune system and acts as a remedy for numerous ailments. Honey is great therapy for sore throat; it fights against bacteria, viruses and fungi, promotes good night sleep and helps with heavy hangovers caused by drinking too much alcohol. Phytonutrients found in honey are shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties, while experimental evidence indicates that it may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. In Islam, honey is recommended directly by Prophet Muhammad for healing purposes and because of its numerous medical favors. It is, in the same manner, considered as one of the five elixirs of immortality in Hinduism.

But, did you know that the honey itself is pretty much immortal? You could place honey anywhere and keep it for thousands of years and it will not spoil! In fact, honey that was found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb was still edible after more than 2,000 years it spent underneath the sands in the Valley of the Kings. Until now, the oldest remains of honey have been found in Eurasian country of Georgia, dating back to about 4,700 - 5,500 years ago, but bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years.

Unfortunately, these are the hard times for honey bees. Back in 2006, the sudden and mysterious disappearance of honey bees was first recorded in the United States. Since then, the bees are continuing to disappear without trace, at an accelerating rate and all over the world. This frightening and unusual phenomenon is named Colony collapse disorder (CCD), and it doesn’t only affect our honey supplies but also endangers the agricultural crops worldwide, which are pollinated by bees. The exact cause of the syndrome is not yet understood, but scientific evidence from Europe suggests that modern use of pesticides somehow affects the nervous and immune system of the bees, causing them to vanish from the face of Earth. If the problem doesn’t get solved urgently we may be facing a large crisis in food production. I’m sure that you know that what we eat changes our health, our environment and our communities. So, if you want to help in this issue, remember that each time you eat you vote with your fork. Choose organically grown food and help shape a better, honeybee-friendly world. You could also grow a small organic garden in your backyard or plant some flowers around your house to provide beautiful, fragrant and natural habitat for many animal species.

In perfumery, the honey note is distinguished by its soft and balsamic sweet chords, ideal to underline and emphasize floral notes. The scent, as well as the taste of honey, depends on its sort: it can be predominantly woodsy, floral, herbal, or even tobacco-scented. This note used to introduce gourmand nuance in the composition, and it is typically created from beeswax combined with various other molecular ingredients that are usually found in organic honey.

For example, a perfumer may combine the scent of Black Locust flower for floral types, or use Pine Tree extract to achieve a honeydew honey note. The bee’s wax absolute is obtained from the honeycombs of European bee - Apis mellifera – and extracted with ethanol and the ethanol evaporated. In this process, the bee’s wax absolute retains some of the aromatic molecules of the waxy substance. Honey can also be solvent extracted to produce an absolute which is highly fragrant and typically used in perfumery to render golden-ambery notes.

The honey note is soothing and comforting; it beautifully equilibrates the composition and adds rich and warm backdrop for other ingredients. If you wish to explore the honey note, try to find it in the sweetness of Thierry Mugler’s Angel, which is a perfect example of the gourmand fragrance category. The Serge Lutens’s Miel de Bois opens with a sweet and radiant honey note, while Red Door by Elizabeth Arden, uses honey for the base to convey a message of opulence and luxury. You can enjoy the aroma of honey in Miel d`Oranger by Yves Rocher - a fragrance for women and its accompanying collection of body care products. Something similar can also be found in Miel & Vanille (Honey & Vanilla) line by L`Occitane en Provence. If you seek modern commercial editions with honey note, the Lollipop Bling Honey Perfume By Mariah Carey could be just what you need.

You could also use our search by notes to embark on your own quest for more great fragrances with honey.


Author: Marina Milojević (Mary)
Fragrantica Writer, Translator & Editor

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