Inspired by the Arabian Nights, Malik Al Taif weaves tales of thousand and one opulent, majestic Taif roses — some fruity, some lemony, some honeyed, some spicy, and some laden with sticky Middle Eastern pastries and loukhoum — but all so narcotic, rich, deep, complex, and heady that they create a sensory onslaught of pure delight. It is only the start of the tale. Accompanied by beautiful, authentic, luxurious and buttery Mysore sandalwood, purring oud, saffron, and resinous amber, the Taif roses are woven into a magic flying carpet which transports you deep into the heart of ancient Saudi Arabia. There are other fragrances which have taken this same journey, but few of them are as well executed, authentic, luxurious, and smooth.
Malik Al Taif is a pure parfum or extrait dominated by stunning Royal Taif rose and officially described by the company as being the olfactory representation of the Arabian Nights. On his website, Russian Adam provides the following summary and note list:
An untold story from a desert oasis,
An aromatic version of the Arabian Nights.
Top notes: Royal Taif rose and Indian Rose;
Heart notes: Indian oud, saffron and deer musk absolute;
Base notes: Mysore sandalwood, amber resin and Siam benzoin.
I’ve already covered in my New Releases overview post Russian Adam’s explanation of why it’s significant that the rose varietal is a “Royal” Taif, rather than the more typical regular Taif, so I’ll let you read the detailed explanation there if you happened to miss it. But I do want to emphasize here something which I think is perhaps even more significant and dispositive: that Royal Taif rose oil comprises more than 40% of the overall composition. Every rose or rose-based fragrance you smell which is subject to IFRA/EU restrictions and created within their jurisdiction is permitted to have an absolute maximum of only 4%. Russian Adam, based in Asia and far outside of their purview, has no legal obligation to follow their ridiculous ceiling limit and has blown it to the wind. Whatever the actual rose varietal or how it’s allegedly picked only by delicate female hands at a certain time of the day (see the overview post linked above for more details), the truly dispositive, controlling factor is the 40+% percentage, in my opinion. No rose — not even the reportedly extra rare, extra special Royal Taif varietal — could possibly be as impressive at a mere 4% as it would be when it’s lavished in quantities in excess of 40%. It’s basic maths.
Those numbers are why Malik Al Taif blew my pantalones off, even though I’m not a particular fan of either rose fragrances or the cynically, crassly done saffron-rose-oud genre which has glutted the market in recent years. The thing is, I actually love roses, but I’m talking about REAL roses, in nature, blooming in a garden, not the synthetic, diluted, totally anemic and bloodless “rose” you find in perfumery. That crap repels or bores me, but the true flower in nature is quite a different matter with its narcotically heady, multi-faceted aroma, brimming over with complex nuances. What Malik Al Taif demonstrated to me, one more time, is that my problem with rose fragrances is not so much the flower as the pathetically inadequate synthetics which are used nowadays and how IFRA/EU rules have added insult to injury by limiting them to a ridiculous degree, even though something like ISO E Supercrappy can be poured in by the gallon to a 21% or 22% percentage figure.
The percentages are also why Malik Al Taif stands out to me in comparison to so many other rose or saffron-rose-oud fragrances on the market, fragrances which rose lovers have lauded and celebrated but which I’ve greeted with a shrug of my shoulders, if not overt dislike. To be fair, it’s not really the fault of companies like Grossmith or Guerlain; they’re operating within EU jurisdiction and must consequently comply with their IFRA-based laws. But, my God, if more “rose”-based fragrances smelled of ACTUAL real roses in bloom, as Malik Al Taif does, then some of us might not be rose-phobes at all.
With that necessary technical context and background out of the way, let’s move onto what Malik Al Taif smells like. The fragrance opens on my skin with wave after wave of the sweetest, most naturalistic rose. Its petals are stained pink and crimson with thick, generous lashings of strawberry and raspberry jam, then splattered with brisk lemon, sticky honey, and spicy saffron butter. The flower is positively narcotic in its depth, richness, and headiness, almost as though a thousand roses had been distilled, reduced, then concentrated into their deepest, fullest essence.
Other notes zoom around the periphery, never strong or loud enough to detract from the unquestioned star of the show. Deer musk sends the flower bouquet a kiss on the wind while splinters of musky, resinous oud and spicy, resinous sandalwood fall from the skies at its feet, feet which are planted in a base of thick, balsamic, and caramel-scented amber resins.
If you want to look at Malik Al Taif in the simplest, most reductivist terms, it is yet another entry in the long, long catalog of saffron rose oud fragrances on the market, but the sheer breathtaking opulence of the rose and the depth of its accompanying notes are what make it stand out for me. Malik Al Taif captures the richness and narcotic quality of real roses in nature with brilliant naturalism and authenticity. This is not one of those simpering, wan, anemic, wispy, or painfully synthetic wannabe faux “roses” which you find in so many fragrances, regardless of fragrance family, price, or sector of the market (mainstream versus niche). It’s also not one of excessively gooey, goopy, nauseatingly jammy fruitchouli roses one finds everywhere, most frequently in mainstream perfumery, the ones laden with either pink peppercorn in the 2000s style or raspberry-based fruitchouli synthetics. This rose is nature bottled, as well as total indulgence, thanks to its extravagant richness. All the flower’s innate facets are on dazzling display here — its lemony, honeyed, fruity, musky, fresh, clean, bright, and heady aromas — except that they feel super concentrated and saturated to such a hedonistic degree that the sum-total effect feels like an olfactory assault on the senses.
In the first hour, what strikes me again and again about the extravagant richness, heft, depth, and body of Malik al Taif is how much it reminds me of an attar as opposed to a mere parfum. To be specific, I’m reminded of the Taif rose, saffron, sandalwood or oud compositions that one would find in many of the now-discontinued Amouage Attars of old. I had samples of about 15 to 18 of the line at one point; the quantities were never great enough to permit me to apply with reckless abandon, so perhaps my memory of their robustness, sillage, power, body, opacity, and reach is impacted by issues of quantity applications, but I’d argue that Malik Al Taif is actually richer and has greater reach and presence than a number of the old attars did on my skin, at least during Malik’s first 60 to 90 minutes. A few small spritzes from the Areej atomizer resulted in a bouquet which actually felt heftier than what transpired with a two or three drop application of the attars on my skin. To put it another way, during the first hour of Malik Al Taif, it feels as though it’s an attar which has been made sprayable.
There are many, many, many popular saffron-rose-ouds out there, fragrances heralded by aficionados of luxury niche perfumery and of this particular sub-genre itself, but I think Malik Al Taif is better. Roja Dove‘s celebrated Amber Aoud had a cloying, goopy fruitchouli rose (which I found positively repellent) and, to my nose, no oud whatsoever — either genuine or otherwise. Grossmith’s Saffron Rose was a simpering, unremarkable, bland rose in a wholly undistinguished composition and was such a total bore that I covered it in three and a half sentences. (Nothing renders me succinct more than sheer indifference combined with disdain.) It didn’t even have enough character to warrant snark. Montale has done a slew of saffron roses or saffron rose ouds, as has Mancera and Berdoues (see, e.g., Berdoues Oud Wa Ward, which received only a few more sentences of disdain than the Grossmith one did) and a whole host of other brands. I’ve tried more saffron roses or saffron rose ouds at this point than I can even remember, and my usual reaction at being faced with yet another one in this heavily glutted, overpopulated genre is to sigh deeply.
Not for Malik Al Taif. This is not cynically, crassly, or cheaply produced crap. This is something which smells actually smells good, authentic, and high quality, and which feels carefully or painstakingly created. What makes Malik Al Taif really stand out for me, though, are the two factors I’ve highlighted above: the 3D multi-dimensionality and complexity of its rose; and the richness of the fragrance as a whole, richness which is positively baroque in the first hour or two.
Malik Al Taif’s most elemental character and focus don’t change for some time, but its nuances do quite quickly. A mere 15 minutes in, the rose’s fruity, jammy tonalities grow in strength on my skin, as does the fragrance’s overall sweetness. By the 40-minute mark, the rose is so sweet that it’s practically a Middle Eastern floral dessert. Wave upon wave of honey, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, and ambered caramel gush all over it. I have to say, it’s far too sweet for me personally, but there is no denying how authentically it replicates rose-drenched Middle Eastern desserts generally (especially Lokum/Lokhoum/Rahat Lokum or Turkish Delight) but also the particular style of Arabic rose-based fragrances specifically. The vast majority of Saudi Arabian fragrances that I’ve tried in this genre have been exceedingly sweet. It almost amounts to a stylistic prerequisite.
The small changes continue apace as the fragrance develops. Roughly 75 minutes in, Malik Al Taif grows softer and more diffusive in body and reach, although it is still intense, deep, and opulent when I smell my arm up close. At the same time, the saffron grows stronger and even more buttery. It jostles the fruitiness of strawberry jam aside to become the rose’s main partner, turning it spicier. The wood notes seem to melt away, becoming part and parcel of the sticky saffron loukhoum rose as though they were a small woody thorn on the candied flower. More noticeable than the woods are the amber notes now which seep up from the base to envelop the rose within a golden embrace.
These changes are to the nuances and proportions of the accompanying notes, but Malik Al Taif pivots in a broader and more significant sense towards the end of the second hour, roughly 1.75 hours in, and changes its focus when the rose takes a back seat to the duet of sandalwood and oud.
In this second stage, Malik Al Taif is no longer a fruity rose, a Loukhoum dessert rose, a spicy saffron rose, or an ambered rose, but all those things in the service of a new lord and master: spicy, musky, lightly smoked and softly resinous woods. The sandalwood dominates on my skin, leading the pack, but the oud is close behind, trailing tendrils of smoke and its particular sort of heavy, dark muskiness. The rose weaves around the two, dancing like a handmaiden, her frothy pink, crimson, and yellow silk robes throwing off rays of honey, fruit, saffron spice, and ambered caramel. I know Malik Al Taif is inspired by the Arabian Nights but instead of evoking sensual Scheherazade, it now reminds me of one of Andrew Yee’s bronzed-gold-hued photos in his How To Spend It luxury series.
At the end of the 5th hour, everything coalesces into a rich, concentrated but blurry haze. It is spicy, sweet, musky, resinous, rosy, woody, and ambered. The resinous, buttery, red-skewing santal is the clearest and most dominant note on my skin.
There are a three changes beyond the blurry coalescence. First, all lingering vestiges of jammy fruitiness have vanished and the first signs of creamy, silky vanilla appear in their place on the sidelines. Second, the oud makes its presence felt indirectly, radiating as much smokiness now as muskiness or woodiness. That smoke cuts through some of Malik Al Taif’s candied syrupness and creates a good counterbalance.
Third, the oud feels different now. While I wouldn’t call it animalic by any means and while it avoids the barnyard, goaty, skanky, fecal, cheesy, or intensely leathered aromas I’ve encountered with many Hindi ouds, there is a sort of buzzing quality to it, a sort of vibrating purr. It’s difficult to elucidate because it’s not “animalic” in any normal or traditional sense; it’s also not a full-throated animalic roar like a few Hindi ouds have. At the same time, however, this is no de-fanged, completely de-nuded, anemic, clean, and generic pale wood note either. The only way I can describe it is to call it a “vibrational buzzing” which mutely, subtly hints at animalism but which never really arises to that level. If you smell it, I think you will probably know what I mean. On a related point, this is not a skanky or dirty fragrance. Except for the sweetness, everything feels carefully calibrated and balanced. (And the sweetness is primarily a nod to the fragrance’s Saudi Arabian inspiration.)
As the hours pass, Malik Al Taif continues to grow woodier, then more ambered. At the 7.5 hour mark, the bouquet is centered on santal far more than anything else on my skin. The rose has changed from a handmaiden on center stage to a floating suggestion on the wind, weaving in and out of the background, occasionally darting to the forefront to kiss the main notes but usually hiding distance and coyly fluttering her eyelashes from afar. On my skin, the dominant chord is a deeply resinous, gold-red sandalwood, infused with oud musk and smudged softly with smoke. It’s enveloped within a soft, warm cloud of amber, then placed against a backdrop of vanilla, rose, and generalized spiciness. Every now and then, a pop of tonka powderiness appears for a moment before quickly darting away.
Malik Al Taif’s drydown begins roughly at the end of the 8th hour and the start of the 9th. In essence, it is now a buttery sandalwood bouquet surrounded on all sides by sweet amber, creamy tonka-vanilla, and amorphous spiciness. There is only a faint whisper of rose and something musky lurking on the edges but even they disappear by the end of the 9th hour. When the 11th hour rolls around, there is only a soft, snuggly amber, lightly flecked by sandalwood and a trace of vanilla. In its final hours, all that’s left is goldenness — sweet, nebulously woody, occasionally a bit musky, and occasionally a bit creamy.
Before I discuss Malik Al Taif’s specific projection, sillage, and longevity, I want to provide some context. First, I think all four of the new releases are roughly comparable to their predecessors with the exception of Series One. None of the fragrances since then have been monsters in sillage or longevity in quite the same way. Series Four performs generally the same as the majority of Areej fragrances since Series One, but, in my opinion, that sillage and longevity are going to depend strongly on how much you apply and what your skin is like.
I applied 3 squirts from the manufacturer’s atomizer for each of the fragrances I tested, an amount which I estimate to be roughly equal to 1 big spray or 2 tiny ones from an actual bottle. It’s not a huge amount but I intentionally sought to use what I thought the average person would apply if they bought the sample set and wanted to get several uses out of each atomiser. They wouldn’t be applying a lot. In fact, I think many would probably only apply a squirt or two, not three. I think someone with a full bottle or a large, generous decant is likely to apply much more, so it’s important to keep that in mind. You can definitely amp up the performance and scent cloud of the Series Four fragrances if you don’t apply a stingy, miserly amount.
Malik Al Taif, in particular, is very rich in aroma and has the potential to have broad diffuseness or reach. Its sillage was initially strong but I found that, when taken as a whole and from start to finish, Malik Al Taif performed more like an attar on my skin than an extrait. In other words: super-concentrated rich feel and heft, accompanied by very good longevity, but not a monster scent cloud that would fill up a room or leave a huge trail. If anything, after the first 90 minutes, the cloud had an airy weightlessness about it when smelled from afar, even though the scent was heavy, deep, and concentrated up close. I think that, if one applied a generous amount from an actual bottle, then Malik Al Taif (and Koh-i-Noor as well) would probably end up having significantly bigger sillage and even greater longevity. They’re just that rich and lush in feel.
As it was, the longevity for Malik Al Taif (and, again, for Koh-i-Noor as well) was very good. Not monster longevity, but very good. Out of the three fragrances I tested all the way through to the end, Koh-i-Noor and Malik Al Taif lasted the longest, between 17 and 19 hours, with just 3 small spritzes from the sample atomizer. (As I explained in my Overview post, I had to scrub the fourth Areej release, Oud Luwak, because it set off my olfactory sensitivities.)
That’s the broad nutshell perspective regarding performance but here are the specifics for Malik Al Taif. With 3 spritzes from a sample atomizer, roughly equal to 1 big spray from a bottle or 2 small ones, the fragrance opened with 3-4 inches of projection. The scent cloud was initially about 6 inches in radius but, after just 20 minutes, it ballooned to 10-12 inches, perhaps a little more. However, 75 to 90 minutes in, the scent radius suddenly shrank, dropping down to about 6-7 inches. (Some strong attars I’ve tried have done something similar.) The projection dropped to one inch at the same time. At the start of the 6th hour, the sillage was about 3-4 inches and the projection hovered just above the skin. Malik Al Taif turned into a skin scent 7.75 hours into its evolution, but it was easily detectable up close. That changed in the 14th hour when I had to exert effort, putting my nose deep into the skin and inhaling hard to detect its presence. Nevertheless, the fragrance clung on for a little while longer. In total, Malik Al Taif lasted just under 17.75 hours on my skin. I think both the sillage and longevity numbers could be amped up, quite easily, if one were to apply a generous or lavish amount.
Malik Al Taif was only released a few days ago, so it is too new for there to be detailed scent comparisons for me to share with you. The fragrance already has a Fragrantica entry page, but there are no comments listed there at the time of this post. You can turn to the Basenotes Areej Le Doré discussion thread in the days to come to see what other people’s experiences might be like with the fragrance. People are only just starting to get their samples, so I’ve linked to the most recent page (which is currently page 60) for you to find their scent impressions more easily.
I want to touch on one final thing before I close. At the end of the day, when you look at Malik Al Taif in the broadest sense, none of the particular fragrance genres that it touches upon — a fruity rose, a saffron rose, a saffron rose oud, a rose sandalwood, an ambered woody, or an amber — are particularly complex styles in and of themselves. Nor is this a fragrance laden with a thousand and one notes, like some Roja Doves parfums, which can be a wall of notes.
But it’s not meant to be either of those things. The Arabic saffron-rose-oud genre is traditionally quite a simple composition, and Malik Al Taif is obviously intended to be an authentic, proper rendition of the classical Arabian style of perfumery. It’s not intended to be revolutionary in style or to reinvent the wheel.
What Malik Al Taif may lack in terms of groundbreaking edginess, uniqueness, or complexity, it more than makes up for in terms of execution and quality. This is a brilliantly executed take on the classic genre and the superb quality of several of its key ingredients is unmistakable. Unlike some luxury niche brands that I could mention, it is not some hodgepodge mélange of materials drenched in cheap sugar, white musk, and wholly aromachemical oud and synthetic sandalwood, all cynically thrown together in order to grab the coat-tails of the super hot, super trendy Arabic style and target that exceedingly wealthy, booming market. Malik Al Taif is not a shape-shifter and Russian Adam has created far more complex fragrances, but the execution of this one and the way in which it carefully renders its chosen theme is beautifully done. Plus, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, its rose is truly lovely — enough so to entice and tempt someone like myself who isn’t particularly keen on the flower, at least not the way it’s normally treated in perfumery. If the overall fragrance itself doesn’t dramatically shift and transform, I think its rose certainly does, thanks to a plethora of nuances and olfactory features.
At the end of the day, execution, quality, and richness are really the most important things about a fragrance in my eyes. The fact that Malik Al Taif feels so hedonistically indulgent, baroque, and opulent mean more to me than its stylistic or developmental specifics, including its Arabic sweetness. And you know what? It’s just thoroughly enjoyable to wear. Sometimes, that matters most of all.
Retail Information: $220 for 30 ml from Areej Le Doré. $225 from Luckyscent. For ways to sample it, you can read my Overview post which discusses the sample sets. You can order them from Luckyscent and, while quantities last, from Areej Le Doré. Luckyscent will probably offer solo samples of individual fragrances at some point at the link above.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of the company. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.