Branding 101. Doesn’t the value of a good name come from its mystique? “Aqhawan” is a variant spelling of the Arabic جامعة الأخوي, meaning “two brothers.” And it couldn’t be a more appropriate name for a fragrance which aligns two of the most unmistakable scents of the Middle East.
The main story here comes from Ta’if rose, the thirty-petal Rosa damascena that grows in the mountainous region near Mecca. For nearly 300 years, rose oil has been distilled here for purchase by the hajji on their way to the Holy City. It is considered one of the most precious gifts in the Arab world, and thus the oil is found in a great number of better Arab perfume oils.
Ajmal’s Aqhawan blends Ta’if rose with Istanbul rose and Cambodian oud. The rose accord initially lurks behind the unmistakable oud; then, after thirty or so minutes, it enacts a subtle victory. In fact, subtle is the key word here. Oud is a tough contender, and it is not won over by force; rather, it is handled, much as one would handle a beast in the jungle. When not––yikes, advertising-speak––“heroing” the oud, a competent perfumer can work with qualities of the oud itself. Arabian Oud does this in a traditional manner, Montale in a contemporary manner. Ajmal is hardly in the middle-ground, but its scents do seem to take cues from both generations of perfumery. (Again, so little has been written in English about modern Arabian perfumery, that it is hard to speak to a tradition or school. I hope that my series can make some headway in spurring this.)
Aqhawan is a unisex eau de parfum marketed to men. Having said that, I can assure you that the rose accord here is not flowery or flirtatious. It is quite masculine, owing to the wood and, again, the surprising complexity of rose petals distilled instead of extracted with hexane or CO2. In a word, beautiful.
Image credit: Ta’if rosewater and aspergelum, compliments of Saudi Aramco World.