Rivers of honey, dark and raw, flow like molten lava from an exploding honey volcano, running along side river banks made from beefy, spicy, damask red roses that lie at the base of cedar trees. Swirling together like a force of nature, they eventually flow out to a calm, serene ocean of soft amber where there are waves of woodiness and undercurrents of toffee and cocoa.
This is not the tale of Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat, but of Kalemat Amber, its concentrated oil version that takes many of the same strands of the original but highlights different parts in different ways, all in a mix that is as rich and brightly golden as a supernova. It’s so intensely saturated and rich in feel that it blows the slightly similar Amber Oud extrait from Roja Dove out of the water. Kalemat Amber is utterly glorious, a fragrance was a real joy to wear, and one that any lover of the original Kalemat must try.
I’d first heard about Kalemat Amber from some readers of the blog who had raved about it in the comments sections of my other reviews. Alas, there was no way for me to easily obtain it, since it was never one of the handful of Arabian Oud products sold on American Amazon and that was before the company had its strange back-and-forth vanishing act on that site. I didn’t live in one of the locations where Arabian Oud had stores (London, Paris, the Middle East), and none of those shipped out to America, though the Paris manager told me when I was visiting the shop that he could take phone orders and send worldwide. Once in a blue moon, I saw Kalemat Amber on eBay, but I avoid full-bottle blind buys whenever and wherever possible.
Two months ago, a London friend and reader of the blog, Sultan Pasha, told me that oil-based products seemed to bypass the Royal Mail’s draconian mail prohibitions and that he’d had never once had a problem in mailing out international packages of attar oils. No confiscation at all. He had been the one to originally put me in contact with Arabian Oud in London in the first place and, after this latest news, I heard again from the very kind gentleman who is a manager at the London store, Mr. Ahmed Chowdhury. He sent me a box of various Arabian Oud products — Kalemat Musk, Kalemat Floral, Kalemat Amber, the new Sahrul Kalemat eau de parfum spray flanker, the Shoyoukh blend attar, and Desert Falcon Luxury Edition (that some people have compared to Creed‘s Silver Mountain Water) — but, more importantly, he has kindly agreed to a special shipping deal for readers of the blog who want to buy any of the oils. (More details below). I’m going to try to review as many of the fragrances as I can over the next few weeks, starting with the Kalemat trio. Today, Kalemat Amber. Next, Kalemat Floral and Kalemat Musk which surprised me by starting out almost like a chypre-like scent before turning into a rose-woody-incense musk with synthetics.
Mr. Chowdhury provided me with Kalemat Amber’s notes, but I personally think it’s a bit abbreviated, since I certainly smelt more than what is presented (like roses). Nevertheless, the perfume pyramid is officially:
Top notes: Saffron
Heart notes: Plant Amber, Myrrh
Base notes: Cedar Wood, Vetiver.
Kalemat Amber opens on my skin with a tidal wave of pure honey that is raw, deep, thick, and almost a dark brown in its unrefined, intense richness. It just barely resists being a little animalic and sharp, and somehow seems intensely fragrant, as if the honey had been scraped off honeycombs in nature.
The powerful wave is quickly followed by other elements. First, there is a dark, beefy, concentrated, red damascena rose. Kalemat Amber’s perfume list may not mention any flowers, but Kalemat Amber absolutely has roses, and it’s a far stronger chord here than it was in the original Kalemat. At the same time, there is a distinct, noticeable whiff of something that smells as though drops of orange blossom concentrate had been used as well. The floral-honey bouquet is covered by the thinnest veil of spiciness which adds a subtle fiery redness to the roses but only occasionally smells like saffron. It’s more like the idea of saffron at times, but perhaps that’s because everything is so overshadowed by the honey. Finishing things off is a suggestion of cedar that lurks in the background. The whole bouquet is then nestled within a cocoon of goldenness and sweetness. It doesn’t initially translate as either dark labdanum or real ambergris but, rather, as just a heavy, thick blanket of musky, almost chewy goldenness.
For the most part, Kalemat Amber’s opening smells primarily of raw honey that has been laced with roses, lightly flecked by abstract spiciness and cedar, then splashed with a few drops of sticky, sweet orange blossom syrup. All of it is intensely sweet like a Middle Eastern honeyed pastry and, yet, it somehow works together in such a beautiful way that I’m not overwhelmed at all. Kalemat Amber far exceeds my personal sweetness threshold — by a mile — but I don’t mind it at all here. One reason why is that Kalemat Amber never feels sugary, which is one of my biggest issues with sweetness. For another, the dark, raw, almost animalic honey is utterly captivating in its intensity. It works particularly well with the beefy, spicy, saffron rose.
The depth and full-bodied richness of the scent is astonishing. It feels like a non-oud, honey cousin to Roja Dove‘s Amber Oud, only magnified by a hundred and with absolutely nuclear intensity in its first few moments. Kalemat Amber has such heft in terms of both sillage and density of feel that it schools the Roja extrait as if it were a toddler in kindergarten. Yet, Kalemat Amber’s forcefulness and concentration are also unexpectedly airy at times, especially as the scent progresses. It’s as if the sheer force of the honey note bludgeons you into thinking that you’re wearing a tank of a scent, but I’m not always sure the perfume actually is that dense.
There is a difference in my mind between viscous density, the strength of a note, a perfume’s projection, and its sillage. Like the original Kalemat, the Amber oil bears a paradoxical sense of airiness mixed with heft. The best way perhaps to describe it is to compare the fragrance to a thunderstorm. There is a lot of sound and fury as the clouds surround you fully, feeling dark and intense, but, ultimately, it’s still just a cloud of air. Granted, it’s one that swirls around you in such a way that — when I applied a lot of Kalemat Amber — had the scent precede me almost like an advance guard. At a lower quantity, though, the scent was simultaneously strong and dense, but airier and softer, if that makes any sense. For the review, I applied 3 smears of the oil wand, approximately equal to one-quarter of a 1 ml vial, and Kalemat opened with 3 inches of projection that grew to 5 inches after 20 minutes. The sillage was about 2 feet. However, the first time I wore Kalemat Amber for myself, I used 3 smears on each arm as well as some dabs on the neck, and Kalemat Amber’s scent trail initially felt as though it was about 6 feet in length, maybe more.
Yet, regardless of quantity, Kalemat Amber feels like a force of nature in its opening moments. It’s such a delicious scent that I could positively lick my arm. Actually, in all honesty, I did precisely that in one test. (What can I say? I’m simultaneously curious by nature, and obsessive-compulsive.) Kalemat Amber tasted of dark, ambered roses with cedar. The odd thing is that the cedar is much weaker in Kalemat Amber’s first few hours than it was in the original scent. That changes later.
Kalemat Amber essentially has three stages on my skin. The first is dominated by the honey, then the rose, as I’ve described here. The second stage is a transitional phase that begins roughly at the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd. The perfume feels darker, woodier, less sweet. The honey’s stickiness is drying up, the cedar is slowly (very slowly) starting to replace the rose as the main secondary note, and a quiet smokiness weaves its way through the background. In the base, a glimmer of something toffee’d and almost cocoa-like stirs. It’s a dark, occasionally dusty, musky nuance, though it doesn’t resemble that which is emitted by labdanum. Finally, the amber is starting to seep up to the top to become a much more pronounced element in the scent, adding a caramel-like streak to counter the honey. The perfume feels airier, lighter, and is starting to cling to the skin with only 2 inches of projection and moderate sillage.
The changes are, in essence, a bridge to Kalemat Amber’s heart which is centered fully on amber laced with woodiness. At the top of the 5th hour, the honey has completely disappeared, and the rose is merely the faintest ghostly suggestion of floracy in the far background. The amber has taken on a caramel quality, as well as a subtle muskiness. The scent now feels like a mix of dry warmth and slightly dry sweetness, accompanied by faint smoky and chocolate-y nuances. It basically mimics the drydown of the original fragrance where caramel-flecked amber and woods dominated above all else.
With the disappearance of the honey, Kalemat Amber has lost much of its heft and density. Like most extraits or oil-based attars, the projection is very soft now, and the fragrance coats the skin like quiet velvet. Up close, the notes are still too rich for Kalemat Amber to be a skin scent, but it is getting there. The projection may be 0.5 inches at best. At the start of the 6th hour, the perfume is a skin scent, though it’s easy to detect up close without much effort.
From this point forth, Kalemat Amber basically follows the path of Kalemat. It is an ambered, woody fragrance, lightly tinged with smokiness and nuanced by some caramel, toffee, and, on occasion, chocolate-like undertones. All the notes overlap, and start to lose their clarity. In its final hours, Kalemat Amber is merely a wisp of slightly golden, slightly woody muskiness. All in all, Kalemat Amber consistently lasts over 11 hours on me, depending on how much I apply. With the 3 smears outlined here, I get just under 12 hours. When I applied more the first time (and I’m an over-applier for my personal use), Kalemat Amber lasted just under 14 hours. I was actually surprised that the fragrance did not last longer, given the strength of the first two hours and the fact that it is so much more concentrated than the eau de parfum. Still, those numbers are hardly something to scoff at, and Kalemat Amber was a joy to wear throughout.
If you’ve never tried the original Kalemat and have no point of comparison for all this discussion, imagine a deeply narcotic, heavily honeyed, rich amber fragrance with roses and woodiness, laced with slightly smoky and musky streaks. It is a scent in the vein of Roja Dove‘s Amber Oud, Tola‘s Anbar, or a rose-streaked, honeyed, wooded version of Tom Ford‘s Amber Absolute mixed with Hermès‘ Ambre Narguilé. Now imagine all that concentrated tenfold for Kalemat Amber, resulting in a chewy, dense, attar-like oil with powerhouse intensity.
I haven’t found any reviews for Kalemat Amber. There is nothing on the oil’s Fragrantica page, though there is one vote for “very long lasting” longevity and two votes for “enormous” sillage. However, two readers briefly talked about the fragrance in the comment section of my reviews for the original Kalemat and for Ghroob, Woody, and Misty Wood. In the latter, Sultan Pasha wrote:
By the way they have released four 18ml oil formats of Kalemat: Floral, Amber, oudh and musk. I’ve tried all of them and I’ve fallen in love with Kalemat Floral and Amber. To me Kalemat Amber is the very best of what the original Kalemat spray had to offer, and [the] floral to my nose is a rather deep rose/pandanus rendition of kalemat….. by the way avoid kalemat musk and oudh if you can…..too Cynthia(synthetic) for my liking. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
In the Kalemat post, Bernd wrote several separate comments which I’ve combined here for easy reading:
I bought the amber version, which is supposed to be the base oil for Kalemat EdP.
I got this information from the sales manager in the shop. [¶] I tried the oil in the shop, went around London streets for several hours, and then returned to buy the oil. It was still very present on my skin. [¶] The oil is more sweet in the beginning, almost candylike.
But what i realy like is to layer the Kalemat amber oil and the EdP on each other, first the oil, on top of it the Edp. It will bring a deeper Kalemat scent, hard for me to explain with words.
If you have the chance to get the Kalemat Amber oil, first use the oil, then put a spray, or two of the original Kalemat on top. It will give Kalemat another turn, take you even deeper into the amber, but also giving rise to some other colors. It is thicker, softer, more enwrapping.
In the shop in London, they seem to consider the Kalemat Amber oil as the original Kalemat oil, since this oil is used as the base for the EdP. [¶] The Kalemat Oud and Musk seem to be expanded versions. [¶] The sales manager even gave the Kalemat Amber oil to me, calling it just “Kalemat oil”.
Unfortunalelly, this is only what i understood from the conversation. It could be, i am mistaken, due to my limited English. [¶] But i guess, my information is correct, since in my memory, the scent of Kalemat Oud and Kalemat Musk differs from the Kalemat EdP, while the Amber oil is quite close. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
I agree with Sultan Pasha and Bernd that Kalemat Musk is not close. And, like Sultan Pasha, I think Kalemat Amber and Kalemat Floral are the best of the 3 that I’ve tried. I also agree with Bernd that the sweetness is quite profound at first, though I didn’t think of candy so much as a Middle Eastern honey-laden dessert. Still, I don’t think that is the core essence of the scent. Kalemat Amber absolutely feels as though it were the base oil for the original eau de parfum, only with a significantly heightened wave of honey in the opening and a much deeper, more visible rose. It is a beautiful scent that any lover of the original really must try, and it’s very reasonably priced, too. The 20 ml metal-engraved bottle costs £90 (the Floral costs £80), and a few drops go a long (long) way. [UPDATE 3/25: Arabian Oud currently has a 30% off sale until April 6th, making the Amber only £63.]
Unfortunately, none of the Kalemat oils are easy to obtain if you don’t live in London, Paris, or parts of the Middle East (especially Dubai and Saudi Arabia) where Arabian Oud has its stores. It’s not available on the company’s Amazon US site and, in fact, the entire Arabian Oud situation there has been indescribably weird over the last 8 months with constant changes. While Amazon does currently sell 3 Arabian Oud fragrances, it is only Kalemat eau de parfum and the two Woody scents, all via third-party vendors. Bottom line, the oils are not available there, period. One option is eBay, since Kalemat Wood pops up often there, but I’ve only seen Kalemat Amber once. While the reputable Kuwaiti retailer, Universal Fragrances, carries a number of Arabian Oud products and ships worldwide for a low price, they don’t have any of the Kalemat oils at this time. If you’re in mainland Europe, perhaps you can call the Paris store to order. I’ve provided the number in the Details section if you want to give that a try.
For everyone else, especially those of you in America, your best bet may be a deal that I’ve worked out for my readers with the manager of Arabian Oud’s London boutique, Mr. Ahmed Chowdhury. He’s willing to ship any of the company’s oil-based products worldwide, but it’s a complicated situation with a few key caveats. It’s all outlined in the Details section below. Those of you who love rich floral-orientals may want to wait for my review of Kalemat Floral before writing to him, but I can tell you that it’s as good as the Amber with a more floral-centric version of the honeyed opening before eventually leading to the same finish and drydown. I think it may be even stronger than the amber oil actually, especially in terms of sillage. Both are excellent, but fit different moods. I think the Amber is cozier, but the Floral may be headier. [UPDATE: I’ve just been informed that Zahras sells all the Kalemat oils for $99. See the Details section.]
The bottom line is that I found Kalemat Amber to be gloriously intoxicating in its molten depths, and it made me almost giddy with joy. It is one of the best things that I’ve tried this year, no question. It is also more opulent in both feel and quality than many a famous niche scent priced for hundreds more. I think it’s worth every penny, and then some. If you loved the eau de parfum, this one will make your head spin in such a way, you have no idea. It’s outstanding.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Arabian Oud in London. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.