Everything has a first… a first kiss, a first step, a first word. For perfume, this is our first. The G.O.A.T. of perfumes was known as Kyphi to the Ancient Egyptians and this is where the story all began. Started from the bottom, now we're here.
While not part of your riveting history classes in school (sadly), fragrances have been greatly endeared by mankind for millennia! For 5,000 years! Now, that’s old. I don’t mean iPhone 2G old, which you’d swear came out 800 years ago and always call someone a “dinosaur” for using something so “pre-historic”. Kyphi is the real deal. It’s an awful shame Indiana Jones never set out on a quest for this one…
It all started in Ancient Egypt. You know, the land of mummies and all things mystical that Shaggy and Scooby-Doo were frightened silly by. Hieroglyphics that have been discovered in tombs depict Ancient Egyptians crafting perfume for their important figures and gods. Hmm, a bit of a change compared to how we do things today… Back then, they weren’t casually dousing themselves in perfume to smell good as they built the Great Pyramid of Giza! Unlucky for them, I can only dread how hot and smelly it must’ve been out there. I doubt “The Rock” would like the smell of what they were cooking!
Just imagine Cleopatra keeping it fresh! The elegance of it all, a smell that was fit for only the finest beings around. The Ancient Egyptians believed that burning incense pleased the gods, and brought mankind closer to higher powers. Rumour has it, Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) wears this on set when filming Marvel's The Avengers. Seems legit enough? After all those beers he had in Endgame he could sure use a nice fresh smell from the Egyptians.
As well, even Egyptian priests and their Pharaohs were entombed with fragrances – these were the nice smelling mummies! Of course, this was just the best for the best... not everyone was afforded such pleasantries. Hence, Kyphi was a very exclusive, and quite literally, a god-like scent for a long time. Ready to feel, or perhaps I should say smell, like a god?
Let's wind back the clock to the Bronze Age... As a cultural habit, Ancient Egyptians burned incense in large quantities every day, as they didn't have the choice of picking between Febreze or Glade in 2000 BC. Shocking. It was thought to be integral to the health and fortunes of both the living and the dead – might be a bit of a stretch on this one, but bear with me.
What does it smell like to be out of this world?
As well, the million dollar question: if you burn Kyphi can you visit the Underworld? Well, you can certainly try. Though, I can’t personally recommend it for legal reasons… But, it could be worth a shot? Now, we're not sure exactly what Kyphi smelled like. Duh! This was thousands of years ago, after all. Give us a break! However, we do know what was used to make it. Here are the core 16 ingredients: myrrh, sweet rush, cypress grass, wine, honey, raisins, resin and juniper, which were pounded together to create an intoxicating scent fit for a God or Goddess. Gordon Ramsay wouldn't dare mess with this one. Pure perfection.
Did curiosity kill the cat? Probably not. It surely didn't kill the curious men and women who went in search of what the world's first (yes, the OG, real slim shady, first ever, like never before) perfume smelled like. Researchers and scientists recovering recipes from The Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt, were the ones to crack the case. Armed with a skeleton of the recipe, Sandrine Videault, an independent perfumer, set out to recreate Kyphi in a laboratory.
Seems easy enough? Think again. This isn’t some quick bake mix that you can buy at the local supermarket. There’s no “just add water” trick here. The Egyptians weren't like Dr Oetker or Betty Crocker. You see, I'm sure they all knew what they meant back then when writing down these recipes. But, it would be the equivalent of me simply writing "fruit" as an ingredient today and not specifying which one of the bazillion different types I meant. Awkward... So, which one did they mean? The needle in the haystack remained to be found. I reckon Gordon Ramsay would've been dropping a few expletives in the kitchen with this lot after all!
Fear not, as Videault enlisted the help of Egyptologists, historians, anthropologists, and even chemists from the laboratories of The Louvre. Et voilà, there it was! With top notes of citronella and peppermint followed by juniper berry and cinnamon.
Will I become so healthy that I'll turn immortal?
Remember what I said about how it was burned for your health? Psych. So they thought... Ironically, the recreated Kyphi fragrance was never released on the market because toxicology reports deemed the incense dangerous for your overall health and your skin!
All makes sense in the end, there's a reason they're now "ancient"! No wonder the Roman Empire walked straight in... Oh well, looks like that might actually be for the best!