An unexpected surprise greeted me when I tried an attar and two eau de parfums from Al Haramain‘s Prestige and Premium Collections: a common theme of refreshing aromatic, herbal, and leafy greenness that tied the three fragrances together despite being in very different genres. It also made them more interesting than I had expected, particularly for an oriental blend from a Middle Eastern company, and even more so for an oud-based one. In my experience, Arab oud fragrances tend to follow certain stylistic conventions or formulas, but Ode of Oudh was a refreshing change and I mean that in the literal olfactive sense as well as metaphorically. Mystique Musk similarly felt more creative than its genre or note list had led me to expect. Both of fragrances are from the Prestige Collection which treads a lighter and quieter path than the Premium Collection attars which have the typically dense, forceful, or powerful aesthetic of their genre. The Prestige Collection follows a slightly more European aesthetic but without completely giving up its oriental roots, and the result is a nice mixing of styles.
I think it bears repeating what I wrote in my reviews for Al Haramain’s other Prestige fragrances, Obsessive Oudh and Arabian Treasure: they may not be the edgiest or most complicated of scents, but they’re not meant to be. What they’re meant to be are polished orientals that clarify the ingredients to remove their bite or rawness, then blend them seamlessly in a lighter, airier, softer bouquet to create an easy-to-wear, versatile, quality scent.
I think Al Haramain achieved that goal with all three fragrances. They may not suit my personal tastes, but I enjoyed testing them and each had parts were either intriguing or brought me back in repeatedly to sniff with appreciation. That happens far less often than you’d think these days. These three were more interesting than a number of “niche” fragrances that I’ve tried lately from well-funded, heavily marketed, popular, hip, or supposedly luxurious brands, both European and Arab. So let’s get to the fragrances in question.
ODE OF OUDH (PRESTIGE COLLECTION):
Ode of Oudh is a spray eau de parfum which Al Haramain Exclusive describes as a spicy floral woody scent with the following notes:
Top notes: Basil, Anethol [anise camphor], Artemisia [wormwood], Clove
Middle notes: Cedar wood, Freesia
Base notes: Patchouli, Vetiver, Vanilla, Agarwood
Ode of Oudh opens on my skin with a refreshing, bright, herbal, aromatic, and green opening centered on fresh basil, fresh mint, and anethol (also spelt as anethole). The latter smells like fresh fennel mixed with drops of tarragon, black licorice, and a eucalytpus-like, herbal camphor note. All of this is then strewn in lavish handfuls over Ode of Oudh’s spicy artemisia which is semi-woody and semi-herbal in aroma. Slivers of oud, patchouli, and woody vanilla are buried underneath the pile, imperceptibly adding nuance but never overwhelming the refreshing, aromatic, and very green main accords.
Ode of Oudh shifts after 20 minutes. A synthetically clean, slightly watery floralcy pops up on the sidelines, the ostensible “freesia.” Fronds of leafy vetiver greenness sprout up around it, while the artemisia and oud rapidly seep up from the base, joining the herbs on center stage. Cedar follows suit, smelling fragrantly fresh. The cumulative effect is an abundantly green, anisic, herbal, minty, leafy, and woody bouquet, lightly streaked by a few thin threads of dewy, clean floralcy. The musk is subsumed within and eventually becomes far more noticeable, but Ode of Oudh tends to follow an aromatic and rather naturalistic path to “freshness” instead of the typical shower-clean, laundry musk.
It’s the reason why I keep repeating the same adjectives, to underscore just how different this take on oud is as compared to the norm. There is none of the common spice, syrupy sweetness, floral heaviness, musky amber, or incense one normally finds but, more importantly, the oud itself is very different. There is nothing raw, cheesy, creamy, smoky, mushroomy, earthy, animalic, leathery, skanky, or barnyard-like about it. Not only has the oud been heavily cleansed of all its funk and grit, but it’s actually not the primary focus of the fragrance at all, at least not on my skin in either of the two times I tested Ode of Oudh. Initially, it’s the herbs; later, in the middle stage, it’s the artemisia/wormwood, followed by the vetiver.
The emphasis on aromatic, herbal, and fresh greenness is not the only surprise. Ode of Oudh is unexpectedly light in body for a Middle Eastern fragrance, not dense, chewy, or thick, though it is strong in aroma up close. The projection was a little below average as well, such that I applied a few smears beyond my standard 2-spray equivalent after a few moments. Let’s call it 2.5 in this case. That yielded about 2.5 inches of projection, at most, and about 5 inches of scent trail in the opening stage.
Ode of Oudh’s second stage begins after roughly 30 to 40 minutes. The artemisia, vetiver, and oud grow stronger, taking over the lead from the anise, tarragon, and basil, while the patchouli arrives to add touches of earthiness, damp soil, smokiness, and a different sort of camphorous greenness. Everything is extremely well-blended, and so many of the notes have olfactory characteristics in common that it’s difficult to know where one ends and another begins. It’s a seamless transition from aromatic, fresh herbal greenness to aromatic, herbal woodiness, leafy woodiness, spicy woodiness, smoky woodiness, and damp earth. Deep down under all this, there is the sense of something resinous, mossy, leathery, and rooty as well.
The third stage begins in the middle of the 3rd hour, and Ode of Oudh grows simpler in its facets. The focus continues to be the aromatic, herbal, fresh, and minty woods, but it’s fully fused with the vetiver now. There is no sense of any oud at all. If anything, the woodiness smells of cedar and, sometimes, of spicy, nicely bracing artemisia/wormwood more than anything else. The mint is mostly from the vetiver, I think, one of the odd quirks of my skin that frequently happens, rather than a true, separate, or actual mint note. There is a pinch of clove-ish spiciness wafting about the background, but all the herbs have fused into one, a haze of fresh, aromatic greenness. By the start of the 5th hour, the balance of notes tips in favour of the vetiver, and Ode of Oudh becomes an aromatic, herbal, spicy, and fresh woody-vetiver scent. The fragrance remains that way until its final hours when all that’s left is a blur of woody vetiver.
In total, Ode of Oudh lasted just a hair above 10 hours, and the projection and sillage were softer than one normally encounters with Middle Eastern fragrances. I’ve already given the opening numbers. At the end of the 3rd hour, the projection hovered just above my skin. The sillage was about 2-3 inches, or less, and the fragrance extended mostly when I moved my arms. Ode of Oudh became a skin scent after 5.5 hours.
Ode of Oudh is not the sort of thing I personally would wear, but I give it points for being a very original take on oud and rather a different take on woody fragrances in general. One doesn’t typically encounter fresh fennel and basil in such compositions, particularly not with artemisia and the anethol’s subtle licorice and eucalyptus-like nuances as well. At one point when I was testing the fragrance, I was out and about in the summer heat and Ode of Oudh felt surprisingly refreshing amidst the wall of almost tropical humidity that I encountered.
Ode of Oudh has no Fragrantica page and I haven’t found any other reviews for it, so you’re stuck with me for now. The nutshell synopsis is that Ode of Oudh is not purely, traditionally, and predominantly oud-centric, but that’s why I think it’s very easy to wear and versatile, more so than ouds with a conventional and/or barnyard-like character. If you want a more typical oud, you should opt for Al Haramain’s Obsessive Oudh; if you want something more green, fresh, and aromatic, choose this one. All of it is unisex, in my opinion, never masculine or like a cologne, and it has the sort of versatile character that would suit both an office scent and a general “out and about” fragrance. You can test both ouds quite easily via Al Haramain’s sample program which I’ll discuss at the end of this post. All in all, nice job.
TAJIBNI ATTAR (PREMIUM COLLECTION):
Tajibni is an attar or concentrated perfume oil (“CPO”) that is also embellished with aromatic, fresh, and green elements. In fact, the fragrance was so much greener than I had expected from the official description and note list that I think the latter is omitting a few things. For example, vetiver, possibly galbanum, and, once again, artemisia. The same thing happened with Mystique Musk, the third fragrance in today’s review; in both cases, the scent was different (and much better) than what I had been led to anticipate based on the official texts.
With regard to Tajibni, Al Haramain Exclusive describes the scent and its notes as follows:
A spicy, sharp and powdery attar. A passionate and impulsive fragrance with an European accent. The fragrance starts with nuances of aldehyde and the rich sweetness of tangerine. The heart notes demonstrate the richness of patchouli and immortelle that reminds you of the smell of earth and fallen leaves after a stormy rain. The quiet heat competes with the sparkling formation of amber, heliotrope, and a spicy-sweet aroma of vanilla. [….]
Top notes: Tangerine, Aldehyde
Middle notes: Patchouli, Immortelle
Base notes: Leather, Suede, Amber, Vanilla, Heliotrope
Tajibni opens on my skin with a soft, clean, aldehydic floral bouquet marked by tangerine, aldehydes, and lightly powdered flowers. The latter don’t smell like heliotrope on my skin, but something more abstract and amorphous that is closer to freesia, possibly mixed with something like muguet (lily of the valley) because it’s a very watery, green-white, clean, and crisp floral freshness. All of it lies atop a base that is unexpectedly green, earthy, damp, and almost mossy. It feels like far more than mere patchouli is going on; it’s as though galbanum had been used to recreate the sense of bitter sap oozing from the stalk, mixed with drops of a spicy, herbal greenness that reminds me of artemisia. Finishing things up is clean musk, an indeterminate sweetness, an unexpected drop of what I’d swear is fruity rose (undoubtedly from the patchouli), and a big slug of a suede-like note. The suede is oddly rooty, smelling every now and then like a woody-iris synthetic mixed with clean aldehydes.
What took me by surprise is how the opening bouquet smells nothing like what I’d expected from the note list. It’s a lot more interesting, mossy, and green than I had expected. For a few, brief minutes, Tajibni had a retro-vintage vibe, as though a cool, crisp, Chanel-style aldehydic green floral had been crossed with a Diorissimo-like dewy, green scent, and a drop of something slightly chyprish.
Then, 10 minutes in, everything shifts and the retro vibe is wiped away as a wave of fruity, syrupy, jammy patchouli and its rose-like facets sweep over the sleek, cool, sophisticated green floralcy, changing it in favour of a more traditional and oriental composition. Now, Tajibni is centered on a citrus-laced, almost tart, fruity rose nestled within immense greenness. Except for the latter’s bitter undertone, everything is so conventional that, to be honest, it’s a little disappointing. The typical vanilla is there in the base, accompanied by a dry, dusty, quietly smoky woodiness as well as a vaguely herbal, almost oud-ish note (artemisia?), and a woody-amber muskiness. Syrup seems to be slathered all around, but it comes purely from the fruitchouli as opposed to the immortelle listed in the notes.
Only that unexpected bitter greenness and the damp, wet earth of the patchouli add a bite of some sorts. The greenness is the part that interests me because it smells like galbanum, vetiver, artemisia, or some combination thereof, rather than mere patchouli alone. It adds some character, so even if the composition has quickly turned into a more typical oriental blend than the first few minutes had suggested, the overall result is still decent. Not great, not distinctive when taken as a whole, but pleasant and with a nice mix of contrasts: bitterness, damp earth, syrupy sweetness, greenness, fruity rose-like patchouli, dry woods, and a foresty wetness. It’s different from the way Al Haramain describes the scent in its top layer or debut stages, so much so that — if Tajibni did not later turn into something more in accordance with the official description and notes — I’d wonder if I’d been sent the wrong vial.
I’m not crazy about the opening bouquet, but I enjoy Tajibni more as it develops, thanks to the increasingly prominent whiffs of the other notes that appear all around the fruity patchouli and its rose-like facets. There is vetiver, leather, smoke, more mossiness, rootiness, and still more galbanum or artemisia-like bitterness, not to mention an artemisia-style woodiness that resembles dry oud. The notes vary in their individual prominence, waxing and waning in strength, but they’re definitely there in a distinct form. Once in a blue moon, Tajibni makes me think of an immensely fruity cousin to Lyric Man; most of the time, it strongly resembles the early stages of Unum‘s Rosa Nigra, only with amped-up, super-sized fruitiness, syrup, dampness, earthiness and attar-style heaviness.
Tajibni’s third stage begins at the end of the 5th hour and the start of the 6th, when the fragrance pivots in a new direction. The patchouli “rose” is now layered with thick streaks of smoky leather, woody-amber (or amber-woody) synthetics, and what smells like tobacco more than actual immortelle. The suede has returned with a vengeance, wafting an almost iris-like cleanness that hangs over the whole thing. It’s not like actual, real iris, but rather that sort of cool, semi-industrial aroma carried by brand new, suede fabric, and it reminds me of Etat Libre’s similarly iris-y, quasi-industrial suede cleanness in the later stages of its Rien. The note works well with the smoky leather, as well as the patchouli’s continued damp earthiness.
Other elements are perceptible as well. In the background, there are puffs of a woodier, aromatic, and almost leafy greenness that perplex me still. Al Haramain pointed to the patchouli and immortelle for “the smell of earth and fallen leaves after a stormy rain,” but that’s not what this smells like on my skin. At least, if this is immortelle, then it’s like no version that I’ve ever encountered before. To me, the note really smells like a vetiver, a nutty, softly rooty woodiness that is laced with slivers of something aromatic, herbal, and quietly spicy like artemisia.
Whatever the actual source for the note, it eventually takes over in Tajibni’s drydown which begins roughly 8 or 8.25 hours into the fragrance’s development. All that’s left now is nutty, spicy, vetiver-ish woodiness streaked with suede and a lingering touch of something aromatic. It’s interesting and rather cool, drawing me back again and again for additional sniffs. In its final hours, Tajibni is simple woody, aromatic, nutty, greenness.
Tajibni had very good longevity, average-to-low projection, and good sillage. Using one good swipe of oil, roughly akin to about 3 tiny drops, the fragrance opened with about 3 inches of projection and a scent trail that extended 7-8 inches. The numbers dropped after 2.5 hours to about 2 inches of projection, and 3-4 inches of sillage. Tajibni became a skin scent 7.25 hours into its development, but was easy to detect up close for an hour or two after. In total, the fragrance typically lasted between 12.5 and 13.5 hours.
Tajibni has a Fragrantica page, but there are no comments listed there at the time of this review. However, two people voted for a similarity to Tom Ford‘s Tuscan Leather. My experience didn’t remind me of Tuscan Leather at all. As noted earlier, on my skin, the fragrance is more like Unum‘s Rosa Nigra with a drop of Amouage’s Lyric Man. Tajibni is not identical to either, much earthier than both, and hardly incense-y, but that’s the overall analogy, vibe and feel on my skin. Given that all three fragrances are quite popular, I think their fans might enjoy giving Tajibni a test sniff.
MYSTIQUE MUSK (PRESTIGE COLLECTION):
Mystique Musk is a semi-gourmand, semi-herbal floral eau de parfum. For the sake of clarity, let me start by saying that Al Haramain has a number of fragrances with either the word “Mystique” (Homme or Femme versions) or “Musk” in its name, but those are not from the Prestige Collection. This is the one in the heavy crystal bottle and with a pink leather box, just so we know which scent I’m talking about.
Al Haramain Exclusive describes Mystique Musk and its notes as follows:
The fragrance is known for its sweetness, sexiness and refined passion. Starting with a romantic blend of chamomile and violet leaves, while joyful notes of mandarin add some playfulness to the opening. Mystique musk continues with a whiff of jasmine, freesia, iris and osmanthus in the heart, making this masterpiece a source of sensuality and sexuality. In the dry-down the base notes are harmoniously combined with notes of leather, vanilla and white musk, creating an aroma of tenderness.
Top notes: Chamomile, Violet leaves, Mandarin
Middle notes: Osmanthus, Jasmine, Iris, Freesia
Base notes: Leather, White musk, Vanilla
Mystique Musk was another surprise for me for two reasons. First, based on its name, I had dreaded an explosion of laundry cleanness the way so many Arab “musk” scents can be. This is not one of them. Second, the fragrance’s extremely difficult degree of sweetness in its first 90 minutes gradually turned into something rather delectable by the end. But, good Lord, that first stage is one best suited for gourmand lovers.
Mystique Musk’s very first moments can be essentially summarized as a powdery, herbal, girlie, floral fluff-ball. This is “musk” in the old-fashioned, powdery, make-up sense. Sweet and hyper-feminized, it’s infused with softly honeyed floral pollen, herbal aromatic chamomile, crisply fresh violet leaves, and, once again, an undertone of leafy, sappy, aromatic, and slightly bitter greenness as well. The chamomile and green accords really give the scent an unexpected distinctiveness, in my opinion. I can’t recall ever smelling a make-up like, powdered musk with chamomile herbs and such fresh greenness before.
Mystique Musk changes quite rapidly. Roughly 10 minutes in, vanilla stirs in the base and begins to seep upwards. Not long after, it begins to add creamy and sugary touches to the girlie, green-etched, chamomile powder puff. Towards the end of the first hour, the vanilla has fully risen to the top and becomes incredibly strong, wafting butter, heavy cream, and sugared sweetness. I find it not only cloying but sickly sweet as well, particularly in conjunction with the chamomile. It’s exactly like the gooey, heavily buttered, vanilla-herbal-chamomile accord that so dominated O’Driu‘s highly popular gourmand, Eva Kant. Here, something about the combination actually turns my stomach and makes me feel a bit nauseous, but then I have a very low threshold for this sort of buttered, candied vanilla mixed with herbs. (Plus, I’m not crazy about the smell of chamomile to begin with, whether in food, drink, or perfumery. It’s a difficult note for me, even more so when it’s as strong as it is here.)
This buttered vanilla-chamomile accord dominates Mystique Musk from start to finish on my skin. Initially, it bears the crispness of violet leaf’s green shoots but that weakens after an hour, replaced by an even stronger touch of honeyed and floral pollen. The powder is more vanillic than purely make-up in style, and there continues to be a surprising undertone of bitter, leafy greenness, but, by and large, Mystique Musk has turned into Eva Kant’s first cousin. This is fresher, lighter, less balsamic, more powdery, and with strong green and leafy elements in lieu of citrus or ginger, but they’re still very similar fragrances on my skin because both are heavily driven by quasi-aromatic, quasi-savory gourmand accords.
Roughly 90 minutes in, Mystique Musk pivots and changes direction, turning more balsamic and leathery. Basically, if Eva Kant and vintage Shalimar parfum had a love child, it would be this. The musk’s powder puff gives way to heavy amounts of sweet, syrupy jasmine and resinous leather up top, while spicy benzoin resin rushes through the base. The violet leaf becomes a mere smudge on the sidelines. More importantly, there is something that smells a lot like the spicy, nutty sweet myrrh and incense that runs through Eva Kant. When smelt from afar, Mystique Musk is still dominated by the same savory, gourmand and herbal mix of chamomile-vanilla as before but, up close, the balsamic, smoky, leather and resinous accord that so characterizes Shalimar parfum is almost just as evident. What I particularly appreciate about the leather is how it cuts through the cloying, sickly sweetness of the vanilla and ends its butteriness as well.
The Eva Kant-Shalimar stage only lasts a few hours. By the start of the 5th hour, we’re back to the vanilla-chamomile accord, but there isn’t much else to accompany it. Once in a blue moon, there is a streak of darkness that stirs in the base, more resinous than leathery or smoky. Even more rarely is an elusive hint of something suede-like, but it’s not like iris. There is a petal softness to the scent, but there is no real, clearly delineated floralcy at all on my skin. Instead, the main note seems to be creaminess, and it’s delectable. It’s like the very silkiest, smoothest, softest vanilla creaminess and plushness, infused with a nicely balanced pinch of herbal greenness that only occasionally smells like chamomile. That’s all there is; there is no powder, no makeup note, and no clean musk. It’s all very soft, both in terms of texture and scent, coating the skin discreetly but with just enough richness to feel cozy, inviting, and comforting. Mystique Musk remains that way until its final hours, eventually dying away as a wisp of creamy sweetness.
Mystique Musk had good longevity, initially strong sillage that soon turned moderate, and moderate-to-low projection. Using several good smears equal to 2 sprays from the bottle, the fragrance typically opened with about 2.5 to 3 inches of projection, and about 6-7 inches of sillage. The numbers dropped after 2 hours to about 1.5 inches and 4 inches, respectively. At the start of the 3rd hour, Mystique Musk was closer to the skin. It turned into a skin scent about 4.5 hours in, and surprised me by feeling as though it were about to die at the 8 hour mark. Still, it lingered on, lasting just under 10 hours in total.
There were two unexpected things for me in all this. First was the way Mystique Musk’s strong, intense waves of buttered vanilla-chamomile felt surprisingly light at the same time. I don’t want to say “sheer” or “translucent,” because they were heavier than those terms imply, but the notes were more weightless than I’d expected. The second surprise was how everything seemed to fizzle out a little around the 4th or 5th hour, in terms of note complexity, weight or body, and the fragrance’s overall strength. It was as though someone had suddenly stuck a pin into the balloon.
Mystique Musk has no Fragrantica or Basenotes entry, so you’re stuck with me again. I thoroughly enjoyed Mystique Musk’s pretty, cozy, and inviting drydown, but I think the earlier parts of the scent are best suited for someone who loves a lot of sweetness or gourmands in general. Ideally, you’d enjoy chamomile or a herbal aspect, too. In terms of gender, I think Mystique Musk skews overtly feminine in its opening minutes, if not flat-out “girlie,” before it turns more unisex. Eva Kant is a good point of comparison; if you thought that felt feminine, then you’d probably think the same about Mystique Musk. I’d recommend the scent primarily to people who love immensely vanillic compositions, whether powdery, herbal, floral, or a touch resinous.
CONCLUSIONS & SAMPLE SETS:
Even though none of the three fragrances are for me personally, each one had some very enjoyable parts. I think each of the three suits a very particular taste demographic, but the Ode of Oudh may have the widest appeal and overall versatility.
Tajibni is the one I feel most conflicted about. I thought its damp earth, bitter greenness, vetiver woodiness, mossiness, and artemisia-like notes were the nicest parts, but the syrupy fruitchouli, fruitiness, and rose-like facets felt too ubiquitous, mundane, and generic for my tastes. The Etat Libre-style, quasi-iris-y, clean suede was an interesting choice of additions that was sometimes appealing and intriguing, but sometimes just a bit… meh. Having said all that, I have the feeling that I would be more keen on Tajibni if I were a rose lover because on my skin, that is really what the patchouli smells like above all else.
Mystique Musk is the one that I’d wear if I could bottle merely its second half, but Ode of Oudh that has the most distinctive and original character when taken from start to finish. I would actually recommend it more to people who love artemisia, aromatic herbs, and vetiver than to hardcore oud lovers. The latter group would probably prefer the more purely oud-centric Obsessive Oudh.
One of the good things about Al Haramain is that its Netherlands “Exclusive” branch makes it easy for you to sample all its fragrances. For those of you who haven’t read my prior reviews for the brand, the basic situation is this: there are four affordable sample sets (up from the 3 there were originally) with free worldwide shipping included in the price. Each one costs €25 and you get either 4, 5, 7, or 8 perfumes, depending on the set you choose. Each vial is 1 ml. My samples were 2 ml manufacturer vials, but had perhaps 1 ml at most, with less for the attars (about 0.5 ml), so don’t be surprised if you get less than 1 ml for the attars. I think the sample sets are still a great deal given the price of a full bottle and the fact that a few drops of the attars go a long way. I think the custom set with your choice of 5 fragrances across the different collections is the best way to go.
All in all, Al Haramain did a nice job, and the fragrances have a much better quality than some Arab scents that I’ve tried lately. At some point, I’ll write about Ajmal and the slew of its low or lower-end scents that were given to me via Esxence, most of which were utterly abysmal and unbearable to wear. There are also two or three Arabian Ouds that I’ve given up on writing about entirely. I think Al Haramain’s Prestige eau de parfums are worth trying in particular, thanks to their polished smoothness and approachability.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Al Haramain Exclusive. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.