Ajmal Dahn Al Oudh Al Shams
A mouthful, to say the least, I acquired a small decant of this fragrance about a week ago and stared it down every evening. What lurks inside, I wondered to myself. It had been quite expensive and touted itself as an eau de parfum expression of aged Indian oud. Spraying timidly the tiniest, most pitiful, downright sclerotic, little amount imaginable, my nose was immediately struck––the metaphor most apt––by the incredible, unbridgeable gap between Indian oud and Southeast Asian oud, particularly those from Cambodia and Laos. All of the dark, earthy sweetness had been replaced by something which an untrained nose might deep acrid and skanky.
Indian oud, most of which harks from Assam, is feral to begin with––age only makes it more so. In Ajmal’s Al Shams, the only eau de parfum offering in its Dahn Al Oud collection, something akin to castoreum links arms with barnyard (read: fecal) notes. The layman would characterize this as “musky” but, in this case, his musky would point more to smell of unbathed skin than the powdery animalic that most of us know from synthetic musks. Adding to the challenge is the absence of any bolstering by modern perfumery’s usual chemical bedfellows nor the addition of amber, patchouli or aromatic floral oils.
Al Shams is a fragrance that points to itself and then points backwards in time. I imagine a sheikh’s tent, the incense impregnating the various rugs and fabric panels, and then the sheikh himself under his robes. And then, suddenly, the tent gives way to an old paneled Airstream trailer and an old couple sitting down to breakfast on an overcast day. The link is the wood––how it has been marvelously transmuted over the decades into something strange and new. Al Shams, which in Arabic means “sunbeam,” commands attention but never in a run-of-the-mill way. Not so strangely, as I write this, I entertain a scent memory of the first time I smelled the very rare Guerlain perfume, Djedi and its superb accord of grass and animal. I would place this in the same category of first reactions. Perhaps, I think, this is not something for everyday wear but, oh, does it make a statement when liberated from the category of mere olfactory curiosities. It arrests the nose, striking in us a pleasant sort of awe ... alas, all too rare in white-picket Gardenia Land.
Ajmal perfumes are manufactured in Dubai and are currently available in the United States through IslamicStore.