x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE in a bottle: scent catches essence of history

'Rich and warm' fragrance being given away free in malls honours 38th National Day.

Mohammed Hilal, 34, says his December 2 perfume was inspired by the unity of the seven Emirates.
Mohammed Hilal, 34, says his December 2 perfume was inspired by the unity of the seven Emirates.

How do you capture 38 years of history in a bottle? That was the question running through Mohammed Hilal's mind when he decided to concoct his latest fragrance. "The brain has the ability to store time and memory and be triggered by smell and I wanted to build on that," said Mr Hilal, an Emirati perfumer who devoted much of the past year to creating a fragrance to capture the "feeling" of National Day.

"I want to describe it as a time, place and memory that would make people remember December 2, our National Day," he said. Some 100,000 bottles of his December Second perfume are currently being handed out free in malls across Dubai during the holidays as part of a promotion by the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, formerly known as the Dubai Shopping Festival Office. Mr Hilal, a former pilot who turned to the perfume trade after years of combining fragrances at home to create his own special scents, said the robust fragrance contained ingredients he described as "rich and warm", though he declined to name specific ones.

"I was inspired by the unity of the seven Emirates to create a fragrance that whenever you smell it, it will bring back the memory of the depth and warmth of this country," he said, adding that the scent was not geared only towards Emiratis, but also expatriates and visitors. The perfume, which is also being sold in stores, will be promoted as far away as the Maldives. Mr Hilal, who changed career paths after spending eight years flying for a major UAE airline, said one of the challenges he faced in creating this special fragrance was finding one that would stand the test of time.

"People become moody and trendy with fashion. Trends are always changing and we want to change with them. The challenge was the actual lasting of the smell," said the perfumer, whose fragrances became household names in the UAE after he opened several branches of his Hind al Oud shops. "Our National Day is not something trendy. It's history. I wanted to develop a fragrance that surpasses fashion. Fashion and trends come and go, but style remains," he added.

To come up with December Second, he said, he "tested the market" by getting feedback on various combinations of scents. "We didn't want to just put something on the market and next year it would be off the shelves. We couldn't be unsuccessful. So we tried and tried until we reached what we wanted," Mr Hilal said. "We wanted to get it out before the National Day for people to start linking the day with the fragrance," said Mr Hilal, who also recently created a special scent representing Dubai and was commissioned to create an exclusive one-bottle product for last year's Peony edition of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

"Smell is a very important part of our culture. Smell can shape and even change our memories, our perception of people and our story," he said. myoussef@thenational.ae