Tag Archives: perfume

My Bint el Sudan story in Brownbook

My story about Bint el Sudan’s factory in Kano, Nigeria, with great pix by photographer Khalil Halilu, is in the January-February 2015 issue of Brownbook magazine. Brownbookbintcover290Brownbook is an urban guide to the Middle East, based in Dubai, U.A.E. (2019 update: The magazine has since closed)

For more information about Bint el Sudan, see the following:

* Surprise in the Souk

* Memories of Bint el Sudan

* 36 bottles of Bint el Sudan

* The history of Bint el Sudan (on Perfume Projects’ website)

The ancient history of Sudanese perfumes

South African-based Sophia Shuttleworth has written a well-researched and fascinating article about Sudanese perfumes on her African Aromatics website.

Sophia, who describes herself as a artisan perfumer, starts out this way: “On Sunday 9 July 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan and became the world’s youngest country. The conflict in Sudan has been well documented, but little attention has been paid to the crafts and arts of Sudan.

Few people realize what a rich reservoir to the aromatic past Sudan is, and that Sudan once played a vital role in history of Perfumery and the trade of aromatics. . .” See Sudan’s Aromatic Culture for the rest of the article, which also discusses Bint el Sudan.

Surprise in Omdurman Souk

Pix Bint el Sudan

Three bottles of Bint el Sudan

By Alison Bate

It was my last day in Khartoum, the dusty desert capital of Sudan. I lay spread-eagled on my bed, trying to keep as cool as possible, and planning the day ahead.

I’ll visit Omdurman Souk, I decided, follow on my grandfather’s trail. After all, it was thanks to Grampy and his “expert nose” that I was in Africa at all.

Pix perfume bottle

The original Bint oil perfume (non-alcoholic)

Omdurman is Khartoum’s sister city, and I first heard the name from my globetrotting grandfather. It was on one of his trips that the perfume Bint El Sudan was born, after a meeting with Omdurman merchants. It quickly became the best-selling non-alcoholic perfume in the world.

Eric Burgess, known in the style of the times as E.E. Burgess Esq., was a traveling perfume salesman for W.J. Bush & Co. of Hackney, East London.

His mission? To sniff out new markets for exotic perfumes. Like his father before him, Eric Burgess started at the company as a youngster and stayed with Bush for 50 years. It was a family tradition: his grandfather and great-grandfather also traded in chemicals of some kind. And as an export manager and buyer, he travelled all over Africa, the Middle East and Europe, often in very remote areas.

“He lived at a time when you could have real adventures,” his younger daughter Elizabeth – my Mum – recalled.

As a young child, she remembers him flying in a small plane over their garden in Kent, waving a large white hankie out the window as he headed across the English Channel on yet another long trip. Continue reading

Where to buy Bint el Sudan in North America

I’ve had various emails from folks asking where they can buy Bint el Sudan in Canada or the U.S.

As far as I know, it’s not produced here, but I’ve met a very nice Sudanese lady, Lubna Ali, who sells Sudanese products, including Bint el Sudan, here in Vancouver, Canada.

I have no commercial stake in her company, but she can be reached through her website, Bitmakaly Enterprises.

36 bottles of Bint el Sudan

By Alison Bate

A well-worn package arrived today from northern Nigeria.

The Fedex package looked lumpy, heavily inspected, with yellow and blue stickers and tape splashed with orange type declaring “Inspected by Canada Customs”.

The sender: W.J. Bush & Co. of Kano, Nigeria. The original company of W.J.Bush & Co. may no longer exist in East London, but perfume production is still going strong in Kano, northern Nigeria.

Several readers of my article “The Bint Factor”, published in Reader’s Digest Canada, had asked if they could buy Bint el Sudan in Canada.

The short answer is no, as it’s not made in North America, but an email to IFF’s Nick Evans worked wonders. Nick is International Flavors and Fragrances’s sales manager for Africa, and he arranged for 36 little bottles of the non-alcoholic perfume to be sent to me in Canada.

When I opened the package, three cardboard boxes appeared, surrounded by crunched-up transparent plastic. Looking for all the world like boxes at the hardware store holding screws or nails.

Each box bore the company label based on a photo taken by my grandfather E.E. Burgess in 1919. And inside the boxes are little bottles steeped in history.

I’ve just pulled out one of the little bottles, green in color, and can smell the distinctive scent on my fingers: strong, lingering and surprisingly pleasant. My grandfather always said the fragrance was too strong for European noses, but it seems pretty neat to me.

Now I just have to figure the best way to get some of the bottles to Nelson, Kamloops and Toronto…

* Surprise in the Souk
* Memories of Bint el Sudan
* Brownbook article on Bint el Sudan

Memories of Bint el Sudan

Pix Sudanese perfumes

Sudanese perfumes sold in the souk.

By Alison Bate

Screenshot Readers' Digest article

My Bint el Sudan article in Readers’ Digest Canada

My feature about my grandfather’s role in creating the perfume Bint el Sudan was published in Reader’s Digest Canada a while ago.

However, there wasn’t room to include all the info I collected during research and interviews.

Here then are more details from users of the perfume, family members, former perfumers at Bush Boake Allen, original makers of Bint El Sudan, and several others.

The view from Khartoum

Alawiyya Jamal, a Khartoum-based humanitarian officer, told me that no Sudanese wedding perfume is complete without Bint.

She adds: “While preparing for my nephew’s wedding, I found it also comes as an atomizer for everyday use. Personally it is one of my favorite smells, not only as in the perfume mix but also a daily freshener.

“The other use is that it is sprayed on broken down sandalwood for the bride and married women. It is also used on the pieces of the acacia seyal wood with white powered musk as scent. The wood makes the perfume last longer and improves its smell.

“When used with the Acacia wood, it is used to scent the house, bed covers, and for those who can not afford the sandalwood, they use it as an alternative to perfume the tobes (the brightly-colored sari-like clothes worn by many Sudanese women), dresses and cloth.”

Continue reading

Bint el Sudan, my grandfather. . .and me

My grandfather E.E.Burgess, left, and another W.J. Bush agent in Africa

On a trip that took me to Africa, I found my grandfather’s lasting legacy—the continent’s signature scent—in a market in Sudan.

This story “The Bint Formula” was published in the December 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest Canada magazine.

For more information about Bint el Sudan, see the following:

* Surprise in the Souk

* Memories of Bint el Sudan

* 36 bottles of Bint el Sudan

* The history of Bint el Sudan (on Perfume Projects’ website)

* Where to buy Bint el Sudan in North America