Ajmal: 13 Reviews En Bref (Eau de Parfums & Attars)

Ajmal Dahn Al Oudh Nayyir via ajmalperfume.com

Ajmal Dahn Al Oudh Nayyir via ajmalperfume.com

Ajmal is a Middle Eastern brand with a long history. Founded in 1951 in India and now apparently based in the United Arab Emirates or GCC (Gulf countries), Ajmal has over 300 fragrances in its portfolio. The quality seems to vary across the range which consists of low-end mall fragrances at one end, some Euro-Arab eau de parfums in the middle, and some “Dahn Al Oudh” attars that I’ve heard great praise for at the other end. Unfortunately, the latter were not what I was given for review. I seem to have gotten the low to middle end of the stick, alas.

There is a long story behind this post that I think you must understand in order to make sense of what is to follow. Ajmal was at Esxence Milan earlier this year to show off its wares. A friend stopped by and asked for samples for me to review. From his account, I have the sense that the Ajmal’s assistants were harried and also didn’t understand the whole blogging issue, either. They seemed confused, so they quickly handed over a big armful of samples, and that was that. No time was expended to provide the best of the best in a carefully curated selection, although my friend did try to ask for a few attars. They disgorged a heaping pile of 20 carded manufacturers samples, and moved on.

Ajmal Tempest parfum. Source: indiamart.com

Ajmal Tempest parfum. Source: indiamart.com

About 10 days later, I received a large yellow padded envelope with various Esxence samples from my friend’s friend who kindly shipped everything from Milan. The package was almost the size of two bread loaves, brimming to the top with those Ajmal samples that outnumbered everything else by a 10:1 margin. I was excited, and anticipated great things.

I took out two or three, then reeled. Powerful waves of Norlimbanol and Ambermax were wafting from one closed vial; goopy, cheap fruitchouli roses mixed with laundry musk from another; Montale-style faux oud synthetics from a third. The names on some of the cards didn’t inspire confidence, either. Contempo, Relentless, Stature, Tempest, UnveilBelieve for Her, Believe for Him, and Believe Forever were just a few of the highly Europeanized titles that greeted me. It was unexpected, but I kept an open mind and sniffed a few more, only to physically recoil, stuff everything back into the package, and put it aside for a day when I had more fortitude.

Ajmal Believe, for Him (left), for Her (right). Source: freelance.ru

Ajmal Believe, for Him (left), for Her (right). Source: freelance.ru

This set the pattern for the next 4 and a half months. I would tentatively try one or two of the vials, often scrubbing after several hours, and wondering all the while how I could possibly survive getting through the gigantic pile. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Or maybe next week….” became a constant refrain. That large, bread-box sized, yellow padded envelope seemed to mock me and my feebleness every time I entered my office, so I eventually moved it to a console in a corridor where it seemed to glare at me even more balefully every time I passed it. A sane person would have just scrapped the whole enterprise but, as regular readers have probably noticed by now, I have an obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic side to my personality and that side seemed to view the project as some sort of test of character, test of wills even. I felt determined to finish what I had started, determined that this blasted package would not defeat me.

In the end, it won. Towards the end of my months of testing and attempted re-testing, I had started to wonder why I was doing this to myself, whether the compulsion to get through the pile was actually worth the ordeal, and did I need to seek therapy for some heretofore unknown trait of masochism? I managed to get through 13 of the 20 vials before Ajmal finally broke me. I raised the white flag, and collapsed in a whimpering, beaten, foetal ball of misery.

Ajmal Santal Wood. Sourc: Fragrantica

Ajmal Santal Wood. Source: Fragrantica

But there is a stubbornness in me that lingers and that is partially the reason for today’s review. In all candour, it’s not about helping you, the reader, because, frankly, I doubt anything in here will benefit anyone except for a handful of men who love a particular sort of hyper-masculine, chest-thumping, super machismo, “beast” fragrances on steroids. For everyone else, there is not a gem or hidden treasure in sight. So, I admit, the ONLY reason I’m writing about these fragrances is a selfish one: it’s a way of clearing the decks so I can throw out that blasted yellow padded envelope that has been haunting, tormenting, and mocking me for months. Somehow, in my mind, writing these mini-reviews or brief impressions will be the final step in ending this Sisyphean ordeal and, more importantly, symbolizes that I didn’t give up without some small measure of a fight! I don’t expect that to make any sense to you, not unless you’re also obsessive-compulsive/OCD about finishing things.

So, to you, my readers, I apologise in advance for the litany of mediocrity (or worse) that I will be presenting, and I understand completely if you give up reading right here. In fact, go ahead, and save yourself while you still can. Outside of eBay, none of these fragrances are sold in America; most are only widely available in Russia, the Middle East, or any Ajmal store that may exist in the UK; and nothing here will benefit anyone except for the “bros” who love blind-buying Arab fragrances on the internet. So, unless you fall into one of those last categories or unless you enjoy reading about train wrecks, don’t waste your time and stop right here. You’ve been warned, nothing good lies ahead.


BELIEVE FOR HER (2011 EDP): An ultra fresh, light, clean girlie floral infused with generic, amorphous fruitiness then placed over slightly sour, plastic-y woods, all enveloped in a watery clean musk. It’s very much in the vein of one of Chanel’s lightest and cleanest Chance flankers, only significantly cheaper smelling and blander. I was astonished to find that this barely lasted. Maybe 5 hours at most with several good atomiser sprays.

Ajmal Believe For Him. Source: rivegauche.ru

Ajmal Believe For Him. Source: rivegauche.ru

BELIEVE FOR HIM (2011 EDP): Believe for Him opens with fresh, aromatic citrus water, and I really do mean something as thin, weak, and diluted as water. The bouquet is centered on lime, lemon, something genetically mossy and a drop of what may be nutmeg, all enveloped under a blanket of a shower-clean freshness. It seems to evaporate from my skin with astonishing rapidity, disintegrating within minutes to a citrus freshness with stale, dusty woods and intense fresh musk. The latter is the strongest and most distinct part of the scent. In total, it lasted maybe 6.5 hours, at best, with several hearty sprays from my little sample atomiser.

As a whole, the fragrance reminded me of a few things, none of them good: a cheap room spray, a cheap cologne you buy in the mall, and something my neighbor’s teenage son began to wear when he first became interested in girls. Believe for Him is better than such teenage mainstays as Axe body sprays simply because Believe is so nonexistent, anonymous, and mild. On my skin, it doesn’t even have the strength of a cologne, and feels more like an eau legère in concentration. (Well, except for the clean musk.)

On Fragrantica, the only two reviews for Believe at this time say it smells identical to Abercrombie & Fitch‘s Fierce. Or Montblanc‘s Legend. I’ve never tried either, but the Abercrombie style seems like a perfect comparison or analogy for Believe’s olfactory bouquet and general vibe. I can’t shake the impression that Ajmal spent more on the actual bottle and how it looks than on the scent in question. One Fragrantica poster said there is 22-karat gold trim around Believe’s crystal cap, while the second seems to have spent $290 buying the fragrance and ruefully says “A sucker is born every minute.” I’m assuming the $290 price tag was an eBay one but, either way, he has my full sympathy. Don’t make his mistake. This is not a fragrance worth $290, in my opinion. Even a $40 price tag seems dubious to me.

BELIEVE FOREVER (2013 EDP): Believe Forever opens with fresh aromatic spices smelling like nutmeg and cardamom, layered with bergamot, black pepper, rose, and a nice patchouli. Faux, extra dry, peppery cedar and woody aromachemicals run through the base. It reminds me of D&G‘s The One, only with black pepper and rose in lieu of ginger and tobacco. Since I happen to like The One, Believe Forever wasn’t too bad at first. But then it just got more and more and more peppery, in that artificial way that’s a by-product of some woody molecules rather than an actual pepper note.

Putting the synthetics aside, Believe Forever feels like a flanker to some designer men’s fragrance in Sephora, except I think it’s rougher and not as pleasant as, say, The One. To me, it lacks any distinctive, creative, or luxurious additional component that would make it worth your time to seek out. And you really would have to seek it out unless you live in Russia which is the only place where I’ve seen Believe Forever sold; it isn’t listed on Ajmal’s website or on eBay at this time. Save yourself the trouble and don’t bother.

THE “M” SERIES (2015):

Ajmal M Series, trio of Muscs. Source: Fragrantica

Ajmal M Series, trio of Muscs. Source: Fragrantica

CUIR MUSC (EDP): Cuir Musc opens with spicy, peppery, woods infused with shower fresh, strangely aquatic musk and lying atop a woody, tarry, pseudo-“leather” base. The latter basically consists of a Guaiacol-style wood smoke with some ISO E-style woody chemicals that, to my nose, smell a lot like Cedramber. Other notes quickly follow: a citrusy freshness, a quiet, unexpected powderiness, and a nebulous, amorphous, very musty greenness that is ostensibly meant to be oakmoss. The odd aquatic note grows stronger at the same time. Cuir Musc is supposed to have watermelon in it, but that’s not what it smells like on my skin. It’s merely an indeterminate, bizarre wateriness.

Eventually, the endless woody chemicals take over, and Cuir Musc becomes an ultra-dry, woody fragrance with leathery woodsmoke, woody-amber synthetics, and sharp, musty, dank, fusty, faux “moss”, all blanketed by a slightly powdery clean musk. After 5 miserable hours of this, I gave up and scrubbed. When I tested the fragrance a second time on paper, the final hours involved dry, peppery, musty woodiness with powdery musk.

Arab Luxury World has an article quoting Ajmal’s General Manager in its description of Cuir Musc:

almost synonymous with luxury; the ‘most luxurious perfume available in the region‘. Imbued with unique leathery musk and accords, Cuir Musc brims positive energy, guaranteed to make a bold statement. [Emphasis added.]

I have two reactions to that. First, I clearly have a very different definition of “luxury,” because this is not it. Second, the leather-woody accords are about as “unique” as a Kardashian selfie, so don’t believe the marketing hyperbole. Cuir Musc seems to retail for about £115 or €138, and goes for about $170 on eBay. I wouldn’t waste your money.

Ajmal Violet Musc via Fragrantica.

Ajmal Violet Musc via Fragrantica.

VIOLET MUSC (EDP): Violet Musc opens with watery, diffuse, faux florals that are intended, allegedly, to be muguet (lily of the valley). They’re blanketed in powder, then placed atop a base of ISO E-heavy Ambermax or one of the similar ISO E-based woody ambers. Within minutes, Violet Musc devolves into basic, floral-scented baby or talcum powder. It’s infused with a generic, abstract floralcy, streaks of ISO E, and fresh musk. A hint of rose and an even more elusive whisper of ambered sweetness occasionally circulate about its edges, but that’s about as complex as the fragrance gets. Violet Musc remained like inexpensive floral baby powder until I gave up and scrubbed it off a number of hours later. Violet Musc retails for £115 a bottle. I can only shake my head.

AMBER MUSC (EDP): Amber Musc opens with chilly, thin, crisp citruses, shower-fresh cleanness, white musk, fruity sweetness, and a drop of rose all infused within a diffuse, powdery, quasi-amber, quasi-woody (wholly synthetic) background. The latter quickly turns immensely sharp and dry, pulsating with such force from the scent strip that it gave me a piercing headache. I moved it to the furthest reaches of my office and tried to avoid it, but the powdered, woody, clean “amber” had great reach. The citrus quickly fades, replaced by a soapy aroma, no doubt from the clean musk. A mere 20 minutes into its development, Amber Musc devolves into a simple, powdery, peppery, synthetic woody-amber bouquet blanketed with soapy, laundry musk. An elusive wisp of fruity rose meanders in the background, but it’s minor and heavily muffled. Eventually, the scent turns into a one-note woody musk. I couldn’t stand any of it, and it’s certainly not my definition of an “amber” fragrance. It was also one of the least interesting Ajmals that I tried, and that’s saying quite a lot.

THE “W” SERIES (2014):

Ajmal W Series. Source: Fragrantica.

Ajmal W Series. Source: Fragrantica.

AMBER WOOD (EDP): This one sent me reeling merely from the chemical soup that billowed from the unopened vial with such “beast” mode, nuclear strength that Montale and Orto Parisi would be left in awe. In fact, the sample seems to infect anything and everything in its vicinity, pulsating out smoky, arid, abrasive, needle-sharp Norlimbanol, heavily peppered faux “oud,” and amber-woody synthetics up the gazoo. Buttery (faux) saffron, generic musty and earthy spices, and a pinch of red fruitiness (that doesn’t smell like the listed “apple” note) are subsumed within. To me, Amber Wood smells like the perfect brother to the new, mediocre LM Parfums release, Scandinavian Crime, fused with its Malefic Tattoo, only infinitely more powerful and synthetic than either one of those. I couldn’t bear to put Amber Wood on my skin, but even smelling the scent strip made me feel physically unwell and gave sharp shooting pains through my eye for several hours. At one point, I actually felt dizzy and nauseated, so I gave up.

The “W” series is supposedly higher end and I’ve seen it priced around £100 or €140, to which I can only say, “No, thanks,” but Amber Wood receives rave reviews from a few guys on Fragrantica, perhaps because of its “beast mode” and machismo “bro” style on steroids, so if this genre of perfumery is your thing, ignore me and try it for yourself.

SANTAL WOOD (EDP): Santal Wood opens with big handfuls of cardamom poured over syrupy, gooey, fruity roses. A dusty, earthy marigold note follows suit, then fiery ginger, earthy cumin, and a touch of sandalwood that smells slightly green and like creamy buttermilk. Ajmal claims that it’s real sandalwood, “the finest Sandalwood oil from the Western Ghats of India.” To me, it smells exactly like green, milky Ebanol with smoky, dark, dry Javanol, both synthetics, and not remotely natural. In the base, a dry, strongly synthetic oud pops its head up from time to time. For the most part, Santal Wood’s opening bouquet is primarily centered on extremely jammy, fruity, and heavily spiced roses atop a base of various woods. Something in there gives me a profound headache whenever I smell my arm up close. I think it’s the oud, but it could be the cedar which rapidly emerges, smelling like a powerful, peppery, leathery woody-amber aromachemical with an ISO E-like facet.

Ebanol via Givaudan

Ebanol via Givaudan

What’s odd is that, on paper, Santal Wood was quite different in its opening. It debuted with a positive deluge of lovely creamy, buttermilk, slightly green, Australian-style sandalwood that smelt almost natural and not instantly, overtly, and abrasively synthetic from first whiff. True, the telltale Ebanol and Javanol aspects eventually showed up later, but the opening on paper had some pretty decent quality.

Unfortunately, on my actual skin, that sandalwood was merely a whisper, one that was largely drowned out by generic, run-of-the-mill spices, syrupy roses, and oud. Even odder was the fact that, on paper, the fruity accords smelt quite different. There was almost a watery quality to it that brought to mind the watermelon note that’s supposedly in Cuir Musc, except here it was blended with raspberries and black cherries, instead of the typical red berry or fruitchouli accord. Other differences were the fact that the spices weren’t so earthy or fiery, while the woods took much longer to turn parched, peppery, and so smoky.

Javanol via Givaudan.

Javanol via Givaudan.

In any event, both versions end up in the same place after an hour, whether on paper or my skin: creamy, slightly green, buttermilk and spice-laden, synthetic sandalwood that is layered in-between strongly peppered, smoky, leathery, ultra-dry oud and amber-woody synthetics, high-pitched spices, and intensely sweet rose-fruitchouli jam. I tried to wear the fragrance as long as I could, but it was too much for my aromachemical sensitivities and I got  the typical migraine that I always experience with Javanol. After 2 hours, I had such a sore throat and such intense pains through my eye whenever I smelt my arm that I took 3 Tylenols (to no avail) and gave up.

On Fragrantica, many of the same people who loved Amber Wood love Santal Wood even more. One person writes that it’s like Tom Ford‘s Cafe Rose layered with Santal Blush but without the latter’s synthetics. I disagree. If you ask me, Ajmal’s Santal Wood has the exact same Javanol that’s in Santal Blush, but with additional and other woody aromachems to boot as well. As for Cafe Rose, he’s right that the saffron-fruitchouli-smoky-woody-rose accord here is similar, but it’s also similar to that in hundreds of other fragrances in this extremely tired, worn-out genre. So, the issue then becomes quality. And Ajmal fails there as well, in my opinion. I’m not a fan of Cafe Rose, but I think it’s smoother and better quality than Santal Wood.

Be that as it may, if a combination of those two Tom Ford scents is your cup of tea, if you have no aromachemical issues, and if you’re looking for chest-thumping masculinity in “beast” mode, then you should probably seek out Santal Wood for yourself.

Ajmal Hatkora Wood via ajmalperfume.com

Ajmal Hatkora Wood via ajmalperfume.com

HATKORA WOOD (EDP): According to Ajmal, Hatkora

is a semi-wild species of citrus and its amazing perfume emanates from the oil of the fruit’s luscious peel. W Series Hatkora Wood guarantees using the finest Hatkora wild lemons sourced from Assam, Mizoram and Manipur for this fragrance.

It’s really wonderful and gives Hatkora Wood a great opening: rich, deep, bright, and sunny lemon that smells far sweeter than the norm, and is beautifully fragrant as well. Other elements are noticeable as well. Infused within the Hatkora is the second best part of the fragrance’s opening: a surprisingly delicate but strong, bright, and very honeyed floralcy that really reminds me of linden blossoms. A few drops of ripe, juicy, musky, sweet peaches, a pinch of fiery ginger, and an elusive whisper of vanillic lavender complete the top layer, while a series of smoky or dry woods run through the base, smelling of (synthetic) sandalwood, oud, and musky cedary-amber. Still, the wild, sweet lemons are utterly delightful, particularly with the linden blossom quality of the floral accord.

I enjoyed parts of the debut quite a bit, but it didn’t last. The woods turned abrasive, overtly chemical in nature, and increasingly parched in feel. About 30 minutes in, they seep up from the base, weakening the lemon-linden-floral accord, diffusing its clarity and beginning the slow transition towards a very different sort of fragrance. Not long after, the “linden”-style honeyed floralcy is replaced by roses that bear the typical and far less interesting syrupy jamminess and saffron spiciness that is so typical of Arab rose-oud fragrances.

What puzzles me is a waxy note that appears around the same time, reminding me of those wax fruit decorations you find in cheap stores, except this one is fairly soapy as well. In addition, there is a slightly burnt plastic aroma that becomes more and more noticeable on my skin as time goes on.

Oddly, none of those unpleasantries appeared when I tested Hatkora Wood on paper, only when I did so on skin. On paper, the wonderful lemon, honeyed floralcy, and peach were strong, the spices (and particularly the fiery saffron) were a muted wisp, and the woods were less parched, less smoky, and less overly chemical in aroma. The latter give me an unexpected headache, but it’s the combination of the sharp synthetics with that awful plasticity that I find to be most difficult when I tested the fragrance on skin.

Hatkora Wood continues to evolve quite quickly. About 75 minutes in, the dried lavender begins to emerge, pushing the lemons to the sidelines. The roses becoming stronger than ever, twining around the oud, spices, fruits, and woody-amber aromachemicals on center stage. The cumulative effect is a jammy, spicy, syrupy, smoky, dry, and peppery rose-woody-oud fragrance layered with lavender, then wrapped up with thin ribbons of lemons and placed against a woody-amber backdrop. I tried to last as long as I could, but I’m afraid the fragrance was too much for my aromachemical sensitivities and I had to scrub it off after 2.5 hours. From what I read on Fragrantica, most people (with a few exceptions) find it to be a 24-hour “beast” with monster projection that finishes in “oud” and “amber.” Several say there is a powerful, forceful layer of lavender that lasts almost right to the end as well.

None of it is for me and I’m completely unenthused, but fans of Ajmal’s “W” series seem to love Hatkora Woods the most out of the lot. I mean, really, really passionately. So, if this style of perfumery is your catnip, then look at the Fragrantica reviews, and then decide for yourself. For most readers, particularly those in North American, your best bet to find or buy the fragrances is eBay. An Omani eBay retailer sells each of the W series for $199 with $15 expedited worldwide shipping. Zahras eBay store in Bahrain has them for $175 with $18 shipping. Or you can turn to this eBay search for “Ajmal W Series.”


Ajmal Al Janaan attar or perfume oil. Source: fragrantica.ru

Ajmal Al Janaan attar or perfume oil. Source: fragrantica.ru

AL JANAANAl Janaan attar opens with soft, lightly powdered, quietly aldehydic and translucent florals laced with a gossamer thin veil of musky goldenness. There is an elusive whisper in the base of a slightly synthetic, faux woody note (faux sandalwood?), but it’s a sliver and heavily muted. The whole thing is cocooned in shower-fresh musk. The latter rapidly expands, vying with the aldehydes for control, and both of them muffle the abstract floralcy, turning it into a faint squeak after a mere 10 minutes. Not long after that, the flowers become a ghostly suggestion that weave around the background, anonymous and wholly faceless. Roughly 30 minutes in, Al Janaan is almost entirely a soapy, aldehydic, laundry fresh bouquet with a rapidly dying whisper of some generic floralcy. It’s sharp, aggressively clean, and smells a lot like my Bounce dryer/laundry sheets. On Fragrantica, Al Janaan only has one note listed — musk — and that pretty much sums it up. In terms of availability, Al Janaan only seems to be sold in Russia. Poor them.

Ajmal II attar. Source: Fragrantica.

Ajmal II attar. Source: Fragrantica.

AJMAL IIAt least this one is more interesting and complex at the start, although I’m not sure that’s saying much after the shockingly subpar shoddiness of Al Janaan. Ajmal II opens with an immensely tart, tangy, almost sour blend of red, green, and citrus fruits, all slathered over a juicy, fresh, and syrupy sweet rose. It’s nestled within a soft cloud that is simultaneously woody, green, leafy, and ambered. The fruits occasionally give off whiffs resembling something like grapefruit and raspberry, while the amber backdrop bears a hint of animalics in addition to its warm, chewy, and slightly salty muskiness. It’s all rather decent, especially once cardamom shows up to add an aromatic freshness up top. After 20 minutes, a creamy, spicy, almost natural smelling sandalwood stirs in the base.

Gradually, inch by inch, the notes blur together, led by a core accord of spice, rose, and sandalwood, fused together and draped in soft folds of amber. And that’s really it for the scent. Wisps of abstract fruitiness are folded within the rose and there is a wisp of the usual, expected cleanness circulating around the edges, but nothing else appears on my skin. Fragrantica says Ajmal II includes carnation, but I couldn’t detect it in any distinct, clearly delineated fashion. All there from the end of the first hour largely until the fragrance’s end is a soft, lightly fruited, moderately spiced rose with sandalwood and some abstract, ambered warmth.

Depending on whether I applied one or two drops or a slightly larger quantity, Ajmal II typically lasted between 11 and 13 hours. The sillage was initially strong, but not nuclear or as big as I had expected. On Fragrantica, there are no actual reviews for the scent at this time, but there are a handful of votes for “Long Lasting” and “Very Long Lasting” longevity.

Ajmal II is a moderately and comparatively pretty scent. It’s basic. It’s wearable. And I like the quality of the rose and the sandalwood which feel superior to the materials in Ajmal’s regular line of fragrances. Having said all that, I think some sort of Stockholm Syndrome set in by the time I got to Ajmal II such that my reaction is only relative to the months of trauma that came before. One becomes grateful for the smallest of crumbs.

I’ve only seen Ajmal II in Russian shops. It’s not on eBay and, odder still, isn’t even on Ajmal’s own website. Why they decided to show it at Esxence when it’s so limited in availability, I have no idea. In any event, it’s not worth hunting down but, if you should happen to stumble across an Ajmal store, I suppose this one is worth a passing sniff.

Ajmal Relentless via Fragrantica.

Ajmal Relentless via Fragrantica.

RELENTLESSRelentless attar opens with sharp, soapy, semi-sweetened lemon that reminds me of an intensified, concentrated dishwashing liquid. Black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and a drop of sharp, lemony roses finish things off. Within minutes, the lemon turns so sour that it’s lip-puckering, triggering some sort of salivary reaction in my mouth. (God, these fragrances. Urgh.) At the same time, the rose suddenly turns jammy, gooey, thickly sweet, two polar extremes happening side-by-side to confuse my mouth and nose.

Other changes are somewhat more pleasant in comparison. Roughly 10 minutes in, the spices surge forth, led primarily by nutmeg, then followed by cloves, tonka, and a drop of creamy sandalwood. They engulf the rose, fusing together within it with great speed. Roughly 30 minutes into Relentless’ development, everything turns surprisingly blurry, a haze of lemony, spiced, jammy roses infused with clean musk and lying atop a woody base.

That’s Relentless’ core bouquet, but the details, prominence, and nuances of the notes vary from one moment to the next because it is a rather kaleidoscopic scent. From the 30 minute mark until I finally gave in to immense boredom and scrubbed it off about 5 hours later, each of the notes takes turns in the spotlight. Sometimes the lemon (that always smells just like Joy dishwashing liquid) leads; sometimes it’s the nutmeg-rose that feels suffused with fruitchouli-like molasses and often sharp, laundry clean musk. Once in a while, there is a quiet, elusive streak of syrupy jasmine. At other times, the rose wafts glimmers of tonka, black pepper, sandalwood, or a peppery, synthetic oud instead.

None of it grabs my attention. Perhaps if I were a hardcore rose lover my reaction would be different, but I doubt it. I’ve liked or admired other rose-based attars in the past but, to me, the only things separating Relentless from the tens of other rose-ouds or rose-woody fragrances that I’ve already tried this year is: 1) the persistent lemon note; and 2) the fact that, as an attar, Relentless is heavier, denser, and stronger than the typical eau de parfum. In terms of quality, Relentless feels like a Montale or Jeroboam fragrance, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on your point of view. Neither brand impresses me, and neither does Relentless.

Once again, Ajmal doesn’t bother to list the fragrance on its own site and, once again, it’s only sold in Russian stores. So, I have no idea why the company even bothered to bring samples of the dregs of the dregs to show in Esxence Milan, but I don’t advise you to hunt this one down.

Ajmal Unveil Attar. Source: ry7.ru

Ajmal Unveil Attar. Source: ry7.ru

UNVEIL: The last one, so hang in there and bear with me a bit longer, the end to our mutual nightmare is almost in sight!

Unveil opens with soft, sweet and sour, green apple-scented water and lemony bergamot, poured over syrupy jasmine, syrupy orange blossom, and a pale, soapy, lemony rose. Finishing things off is fruitchouli and an immensely fresh, clean musk that smells just like my Bounce laundry dryer sheets. According to Fragrantica, Unveil is supposed to include raspberry in addition to the apple, but I can’t smell either one in the midst of so much fruitchouli gunk and white musk.

In fact, even the apple — the only interesting and different thing about this fragrance — vanishes after only 5 minutes, bulldozed to death by the artificial freshness and the overwhelming sense of commercial, mainstream, youthful, and girlie floral sweetness. Taking the apple’s place is a generic spice mix that occasionally hints at saffron (but not in any clear way). A syrupy, synthetic smelling quasi-amber-ish warmth floats around the background, equally indeterminate and generic in aroma. Roughly 15 minutes into its development, Unveil devolves into nothing more than the typical fruity-floral bouquet led mostly by syrupy, fruitchouli rose that is thinly streaked with orange blossom, then enveloped in a heavy, heavy cloud of laundry fresh musk. The latter grows louder and louder (and louder) as time passes, leaving me with a huge headache every time I smell my arm.

By the end of the 2nd hour, Unveil reminds me of the attar-strength, attar-heavy version of one of Bath & Body Works’ summery, fresh, fruity-floral “fine fragrance” body mists that you can buy for $14 at the mall. Okay, fine, let’s be charitable and compare it to the sort of composition that you’d find at The Body Shop or, if you’re lucky, at Victoria’s Secret. That’s truly how Unveil smells to me, only in attar strength. None of this is a positive in my eyes, particularly not for a fragrance that, last year, Zahras sold on eBay for $185 for a mere 10 ml bottle.

Bottom line, Unveil is as commercial and derivative in composition as you can get outside of a shop in the mall but with no commensurate boost in quality to justify the increased cost.


Unveil is the epitome of the theme and aesthetic that marks all these fragrances, in my opinion. Perhaps Ajmal’s most expensive and exclusive attars are a different story, but I didn’t think any of these 13 were remotely interesting, distinctive, creative, compelling, high quality, smoothly done, or opulent in feel. I don’t care if fragrances are synthetic so long as they don’t sear your nose like razor-hot needles or punch you repeatedly in the head, and so long as the composition isn’t something I’ve seen a hundred times before. Ajmal fails that two-pronged standard repeatedly. And most of these fragrances are not dirt cheap or inexpensive, either. Some are this lot are quite expensive over in the West for what you’re getting.

So, bottom-line, the “bros” out there will probably want to try the heavily hyped, feted, machismo “W” series, but everyone else should stay far away. From all of them.

There, this ghastly post is done and my months-long nightmare is finally at an end. In the immortal words of Dr. Alban: Sing Hallelujah.

Disclosure: My samples were provided by Ajmal’s representatives via Esxence. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

14 thoughts on “Ajmal: 13 Reviews En Bref (Eau de Parfums & Attars)

  1. I totally understand the compulsive part. I’m like that with literature. I’ll start and can’t stop even if I don’t like it (982 pages, Brothers Karamazov). And this happens because I read and liked a work and compulsively need to read all of the authors books. In Dostoevsky case, Notes from the Underground got me going. The need to complete. I have curated piles by single authors that I have given away in this imminent move. So. I get it. Completing. The neat finish. The thorough job.

    Thanks again for another super fun well written read. You do know that we know that this blog is way more than just what perfume to buy next or not 🙂

    (Ps. First comment got lost in the ether. Apologies if a doubled post comes up)

  2. Oh yeah. Tongue in cheek: “le retour à la norme est plus inquiétant que la folie” (Claude Chabrol): what will you do now that the bread pudding envelope is gone?!

    • What will I do? Sing Hallelujah (“SING IT!!”) on repeat until it finally sinks in that I’m free. 😀 Then try to fumigated one part of my corridor where that baleful, malignant padded envelope has basically contaminated the air for the last four and a half months. Lol.

      How is the packing going? Almost all done? Are you starting to feel excited by the changes ahead, or is there still too much to do before you get to that point?

      By the way, eons ago and at my old uni, I took the last ever Dostoevsky course ever taught by a chap who was supposed to be the world expert in the subject. For whatever reason, Notes from the Underground ended up being a very big symbol of that whole university semester for me, so I remember it fondly. But The Idiot was always my favourite Dostoevsky novel. It’s certainly not his best work (and hardly as thought provoking or existentialist as Notes from the Underground) but The Idiot spoke to me for reason. Purity and goodness of character in a tainted, corrupt world, perhaps. A fable, really.

      Anyway, serious stuff aside, good luck with the rest of your packing and the move!! I hope it’s all over soon, and then you can finally relax a little.

  3. I have done the same literature thing (notice I’m not referring to the infamous bread loaf) of having to read all that an author has written. I started reading all of Tolstoy by reading War and Peace while riding the New York city subway one summer a long time ago.
    You’ve shown great fortitude and persistence with the bread loaf and I salute your tenacity. Many would have quit. Its certainly a brand that I will not ever seek out.

  4. Hahah! Love how you ended this post. So funny. I’ve not seen Ajmal in any shop in the UK so never had the ‘pleasure’ of spritzing any on my wrist at any point in time. Always been intrigued though. Your post was very informative, I now know to ignore the whole sordid collection.
    I like investing in original attars – I’m saving for the Sultan Basha. I proudly own a Sayed Junaid Oudh – proper barnyard but the smoothest I’ve ever had the pleasure to wear. Unfortunately for a lot of traditional attars, they’re struggling to grow amidst pressures and competition from the likes of Ajmal et al. So sad that the dying trade is dying in the face of this horrid stuff.

    • I’m glad someone else enjoyed the Sing Hallelujah! 😀 😀 It was the best or only way to demonstrate the extent of my relief that this ordeal was over. But, joking aside, I really am disappointed that I didn’t get to try some of Ajmal’s good stuff because some of the Dehn Al Oud Mukallaths are supposed to be really nice. I’m baffled beyond measure that Ajmal would bring stuff to show at Milan that it clearly doesn’t think are good enough to sell on its own website, and that aren’t the best sellers or top of the line. In several instances, some of them seem (at least to me) to be almost akin to leftovers that are gathering dust on the shelves of a few Russian stores. It’s perplexing. I have the feeling that Ajmal is set in a very traditionally Arab way of doing things and that, for all their talk of wanting to expand into Europe, they really don’t get how things operate here. They’re used to selling in hundreds of their own stores, and my guess is that they’re a bit complacent in the decades of their established name recognition over there on their own turf.

      Having said all that, if you ever come across any of the attars with a “Mukhallath Dahn” name and NOT with an English or European name (like “Stature” or “Crescendo” lol), I think you should definitely give them a try. Those will be much more representative of the quality products.

      Your Sayed Junaid Alam Oudh sounds great! Did you buy it in the UK or in the Middle East? As for Sultan Pasha attars, they’re definitely worth trying, so consider getting one of the sample sets. The price for those isn’t too bad, and 1 or 2 drops goes a long way. (I really do not recommend ever applying more than that because it can screw up the balance of notes.) Since he often adds in a few extra samples, too, the set is really decently affordable for the really superb quality that you’re getting.

  5. XD, I am one who recently blind bought over all the hype. No samples to test. I trusted people who recommended them . I was literally torn apart for disagreeing with some of them. I didn’t know they were clones. So when I got mine I was happy and wanted to talk about them. I spritzed some on and went to chat about it.That’s when I found out it was supposed to be like Amouage’s Jubilation 25. My first thought was no, this opening is like D&S Durga’s Coriander . Almost identical , plus some band aid oud. This opening lasted for almost three hours. Then you had wood, bucket loads of it. It reminded me of a cross between CdG and a Polo. I didn’t get the resemblance at all of Jub 25. Maybe a little around the edges, but that would be it. I wore it outside and asked a few people what they thought of it. One person said, ” Oh, I had that . It’s Polo ” I asked him if he had run out of it, but he sad no. His wife made him get rid of it. She said it was to strong. The other two people I asked said it was to strong also . Thinking now, I remember what parts of the fragrance reminded me of, Orto Parisi’s Bergamask. I remember sampling that one to and having people smell it.The response was the same, To Strong. I’ve sampled all of the Jeroboam . I really didn’t care for them, except for maybe one. All of them have been done before to a lesser degree. I do like Montale’s Patchouli Leaves though. There’s something autumnal in the opening for me. But then there is Fruit of the Musk from Montale. That one was way over the mark of to strong . Fruit of the Musk is right up there with Junky. SCRUB. When it comes to these Arabic , Indian, whatever’s, I want something that smells like their country. I want something traditional. Something of their country. I remember my sisters friends from India coming over to our home . They smelled different and so good. They didn’t smell like Tide. I have to confess . I like the old Sable’s from Annick. That’s why I don’t understand the whole Arabic/Indian Bro thing. I thought what I bought was going to be something that was going to resemble their country. I’ve already got de blue Chanel, and I also got it at a better price then what these other companies are asking for theirs. So I am really sad at the communities and those companies. I do hope that Al Harmain’s Arabian Treasure is just what the name implies. I ordered the Prestige Sample’s from them. Thanks for the heads up .

    • JBS1, was it an Ajmal fragrance that you bought because of the hype, or something from another brand? Which fragrance was said to be comparable to Amouage’s Jubilation?

      I’m sorry to hear that you got torn apart for expressing your thoughts and experience with the scent. One thing that frustrates me is the way a few people (not all, not most, but merely a rare few) seem to think that there is one set path, one set experience, one set absolute TRUTH for how a fragrance will smell. There is no absolute. There are only perceptions and subjective interpretations resulting from different skin, the different ways that we all filter or process our sensory reactions, and our subjective personal tastes. It’s why I try to discuss or quote other people’s experiences in my full reviews. There is no one single reality or set path. Not mine, not anyone’s.

      Why are you embarrassed to like Annick Goutal’s Sables? That’s a much admired fragrance, particularly within the immortelle category. Some think it may be the best immortelle fragrance in the genre. And Montale’s Patchouli Leaves is nice. Too sweet for me personally and when taken as a whole, but I enjoyed wearing/testing it and it had some very appealing elements. Definitely one of the nicer Montales for me, probably because it didn’t have all their cheap, band-aid smelling, ISO heavy, synthetic oud. And you’re absolutely right, it does have a very autumnal feel to it for some reason. 🙂

      BTW, I smiled at your reaction to Jardins d’Ecrivain’s Junky. I thought that one was a scrubber, too. Highly synthetic, plastic-y, soapy, abrasive at times, and unpleasant all around, in my opinion.

  6. I completely agree with you.Most of Ajmal’s line is utter dreck.I know that Osswald in NYC carried some of their higher end line.I sampled some of it there but none really inspired me.It takes a delicate hand to balance out the synthetics with the naturals and many firms I think are moving towards wholly synthetic perfumes whether for cost issues or raw material consistency.It’s a shame.It seems to be affecting most of the Arabic brands as well.I do find other lines much higher in quality or at least originality.As you have found Al Haramain puts out some quality stuff.Even their lowest end line of rollerball perfumes has some nice gems.I call them cheap and cheerful and at about 8-12$ you really can’t go wrong.Abdul Samad Al Qurashi has always been the top brand for me with some absolutely stunning attars.Unfortunately on solid insider information after MS/GC testing they’ve re tweaked their whole line apparently to become IFRA compliant from the ultra high end to the lowest line.It seemed in the past that the Arabic houses were not beholden to the IFRA but sadly that seems to have changed.However even the reformulated IFRA compliant ASAQ oils of which I have a few are far better than the Ajmal’s.For those that truly like authentic Arabic Attars now is the time to try to find the original formulations or better turn towards some the of the smaller artisinal producers such as Sultan Pasha.Well Kafka thanks for bravely wading through the painful miasma of the Ajmals.I feel for you as I’ve experienced and kind of dulling of my olfactory capability after smelling a high number of overwrought synthetic Attars in a shot time.Cheers and Ciao from Italy!-Robert

  7. Wow! You poor dear. BTW, Just discovered a marvelous new author/book: Patrick Ryan/The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories. Really good stuff!

  8. Ajmal have everything from synthetic to pure , but the care more with ouds and they have pure mukhallat but they are expansive , they care about oud and mukhallats more than perfumes to me I don’t like the perfumes of ajmal I enjoy oud more specially the TOP Line

    • I know their top line is supposed to be amazing, and I wish they had brought the mukhallaths to Milan. If they did, they certainly didn’t provide samples to my friend to pass along to me. My guess is that they intentionally stuck with their more European-style fragrances in order to try to break into the Western market, so they didn’t bother to bring their purely Arab attars and ouds. It’s a shame because, in my opinion, the latter group would have made them stand out far more than the perfumes that they did bring along to share.

  9. Pingback: Review en Bref: Puredistance Sheiduna - Kafkaesque

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