Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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 All of the dark, earthy sweetness had been replaced by something which an untrained nose might deep acrid and skanky.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.


Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

Very interesting post and evocative of the arabic ambience it must conjure. It is also intriguing you parallel with Djedi.
Oud is a lumberjack of death to me, however its properties are trully impressive.

Thanks for the exotic journey into time and place.

January 24, 2008 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

I marvel at how truly strange and yet (even more strangely) how familiar the aged Indian oud note is. As tenacious as it is on the skin, at no time does it "assault" the nose the way aldehydics do in some of the bigger Western perfumes. As for lumberjacks, personally I prefer them on the younger side. Thanks, E.

January 24, 2008 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Divina said...

This bottle is ...Exquisite.
Would you layer this? Your description makes me want to have this and do layering experiments day after day.

January 25, 2008 at 4:01 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

I think you could absolutely layer this, but first I'd let your nose explore the dahn al oudh itself. It is so unlike anything... I got some on the sleeve of sweatshirt, and twenty-four hours later it was still there in all its stun-gun complexity.

January 25, 2008 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Divina said...

Fabulous - I'll try to find this!


January 26, 2008 at 5:50 AM  
Blogger Kirk said...

Beautiful series, V. Thanks for this rich surrogate experience of fragrances one wd probably never get to encounter. The series thing works really well, encourages a sort of walking-around-the-interesting-object reflectiveness. And gives us something to look forward to.

January 26, 2008 at 8:01 AM  

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