Agar Aura‘s Malayaku is a paradoxically simple yet complex shapeshifter – something which I’m starting to suspect may be a characteristic of many of Taha Syed‘s opulently rich creations. I think it will appeal to fans of high-quality vetiver, leather, frankincense, tobacco, oud, and sexy dark musks. So let’s take a detailed look at the scent.
Malayaku is pure parfum or extrait that was created by Taha Syed of Agar Aura and released in 2021. Though Agar Aura is long since sold out of the fragrance and doesn’t even list it on their site, Luckyscent has the old official description of the scent, its materials, and its notes:
Chances are, you haven’t heard of half the stuff in this juice – let alone smelled them. Malayaku means ‘My Malaysia’ with connotations of adoration and possessive love. It is an homage to the land I love, the country I have called home for the past 7 years.
Just as Java was inspired by my first trip to Java island, Malayaku follows the same theme but this time it encompasses my exponentially vaster experiences in Malaysia – from jungle treks to local cuisines and rare aromatics.
At the core is wild Malaysian oud from Kedah State, north-west Malaysia, where our distillation factory is located. Lifting up this core is an exotic base comprising of aromatics including Pandan leaf extract, tinctured black tea from Cameron Highlands (Pahang, Malaysia), and bitey Betel leaf extract. Hints of lemongrass and ginger lily ensures the scent profile remains unmistakably tropical Asian.
The first-ever Malaysian vetiver distillation; our own in-house brew that is devoid of all the oddities of the bulk of market-grade vetiver distillations out there (ranging from motor oil to burning VHS tape), was carefully designed to preserve the fantastic aroma of actual vetiver roots. There’s also dry-distilled frankincense which, together with the vetiver, imparts a rich dark-leathery-smoky flavor.
Kayu Kemenyan and Raja Kayu add a wonderfully rich balsamic woody resinous flare to the cola-peppery-jungly oud, while our Champaca flower, mimosa flower (yes, actual Mimosa!), and Bunga Raya extracts prettify the otherwise-ultra-masculine aromatic palette.
If you enjoyed Java, you will absolutely love Malayaku. If you’ve yearned to travel across South East Asia but couldn’t, don’t fret. Malayaku is a journey in a bottle, no visa required.
Based on that description, the succinct list of notes seems to be something like this:
Pandan leaf extract, black tea tincture, Betel leaf extract, lemongrass, ginger lily, wild Malaysian oud, vetiver, frankincense, Kayu Kemenyan resin, Raja Kayu resin, champaca, mimosa, and Bunga Raya.
Don’t ask me what half of those ingredients are or what they smell like because I don’t have the faintest clue!
In fact, throughout my tests of Malayaku, I frequently had no idea of the source or the origins of many of the aromas I was wafting and whether they were by-products of the unfamiliar regional materials, of the type of oud, or simply the cumulative effect of several things combined together.
Malayaku opens on my skin with a complex, layered bouquet. The very first wave is of rich, sexy, dark, skanky muskiness that deeply mimics the smell of cumin combined with leathery, musky castoreum. Following that is resinous oud woodiness and a completely separate, distinct aroma of smoky and tarry black leather. A slew of other aromas follows moments later: gritty, dark, almost raw-smelling tobacco; medicinal camphor; a smattering of black tea; smoky but oddly calming frankincense; smoky vetiver roots, earth and, per usual for vetiver on my skin, the imitation of mint; and, lastly, a certain spicy vegetal note which I assume is from one or more of the unfamiliar regional elements. Those are the aromas on the scent trail but, if I sniff my arm up close, there are occasional muted whiffs of something suggestive of fresh, biting, spicy ginger, though they are largely overwhelmed by the plethora of dark, musky, leathery, and smoky notes.
Many of the times when I test a fragrance, I do so at least once on each arm because the schizophrenic skin on my right arm typically yields a completely different version of scent – but not this time. Both arms yielded the same bouquet from start to finish. And on both arms, my immediate thought during the first 10 to 15 minutes was that Malayaku reminded me of Amouage‘s fantastic old attar, Tribute, minus the latter’s rose and with vetiver instead. Both fragrances share that overwhelming sense of dense, Darth Vader-like darkness imbued with leather, smokiness from incense, leather, and oud, tobacco and, 10 minutes in, darkly balsamic, sticky resins. Malayaku’s Tribute parallels and impression don’t last long, though they do return many hours later.
Like many parfums which contain rich naturals and top-grade oud with a complex array of innate facets, Malayaku shifts constantly in the prominence, order, and side effects of its notes. Also like many heavy, concentrated parfums or attars, those changes and nuances are easiest to notice up when I sniff my arm up close close whereas the bouquet on the scent trail paradoxically appears to be quite simple and linear.
Making matters more complicated here in trying to give you a sense of how Malayaku develops is the fact that this is a prismatic fragrance which is constantly shape-shifting on mu skin from minute, then one hour, to the next. Every time I thought I had Malayaku pinned down during, for example, a stage that seemed to be the heart stage or the drydown, things rapidly changed both in terms of the nuances, prominence of certain notes, and also with the constantly rotating appearance then disappearance then appearance again of certain key aromas. The latter situation primarily involved the vetiver but, to a lesser extent, the tobacco and dark muskiness as well.
Let me share examples of some of the changes on my skin, both on a micro and macro level. 10 minutes in, the cumin vanishes. 15 minutes in, the muskiness and skank drop into the base. 20 to 25 minutes in, the Tribute parallels vanish, thanks to a surging blast of smoky, earthy vetiver which fuses with the oud to become Malayaku’s driving force. Also at the 20-25 minute mark, the frankincense retreats to the background as mere amorphous incense smokiness; the black tea vanishes, and so does the sense of spiced vegetation, though Malayaku does maintain a certain fresh spiciness (from the ginger lily?) when I smell my arm up close.
From afar, however, Malayaku smells different. It hits the 30-minute mark as a simple mix of smoky vetiver and smoky, tarry, slightly raw black leather, woven together with soft threads of incense.
Everything changes up at the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd. A subtle, muted floral powderiness now runs under the top notes. The latter now smell, in order of strength and prominence, of tobacco, musky oud woodiness, tarry smoky leather and, in last place, vetiver. I’m assuming that the floral powder stems from the mimosa, but it is an amorphous scent in character and never translates as a clearly defined, solid mimosa flower. As a side note, there is no champaca on my skin at all, at any time. I’m guessing it’s been buried under the forcefulness of the dark ingredients.
Separately, from the 2.25 hour mark until a little after the 5th hour, the “cumin” makes a quiet return. To be exact, it’s a subtle undertone that darts in and out of the background, adding a touch of skankiness to the scent when I sniff my arm up close. A little after the 5th hour, it disappears before returning around the 7th hour. This cycle of ebb and flow repeats throughout Malayaku’s later hours. The cumin’s presence appears to be connected to the dark muskiness emanating from the oud. Or perhaps its origins lie within one of Malayaku’s many regional Asian materials?
No note, however, ebbs and flows, appears and disappears, quite like the vetiver. Even though it is a central ingredient in Malayaku and on my skin, it can’t sit still. It vanishes 4.25 hours in, reappears 5.25 hours in, vanishes again at the end of the 7th hour and start of the 8th, reappears midway in the 9th hour, and so on. It’s a constant, repetitive motion that lasts until Malayaku’s drydown.
Let’s return to a closer, micro look at Malayaku’s morphing bouquet in the meantime. About 4.25 hours in, the floral powder vanishes and the Tribute vibe returns, thanks to a surge in the moody leather, frankincense smokiness, and dark tobacco.
Around 5.25 hours in, things change again: The vetiver returns; the cumin and spicy muskiness doubles in strength, growing extremely prominent; the incense smoke increases as well, vying with the dark musk for first place in this horse race; and the resins (?) return, adding a warm, dry-sweet, musky, and orange-hued warmth.
The start of the 8th hour alters the prominence, order, and nuances of the notes yet again. The oud takes the lead and the ambery resins explode. Malayaku is now a golden haze imbued with: spiciness; oud woodiness; muskiness, dry sweetness; and tobacco that is dry, sweet, and now a bit like pipe tobacco in addition to its dark leaves. The whole thing sits on a base of plush, slightly buttery, almost suede-like leather. There is no vetiver, though it returns an hour later.
Malayaku’s next stage begins midway during the 11th hour and is the lead-in to the drydown. It consists of a simple duo of smoky vetiver and incense against a muted, impressionistic backdrop of spicy, dry-sweet, faintly powdery goldenness. The tobacco comes and goes at random intervals.
When the long drydown begins around the 14th hour, Malayaku turns bipolar on my skin. Basically, it veers back and forth between two completely separate bouquets: 1) incense vetiver; and 2) vetiver tobacco with ambery goldenness. In the final hours, however, all that’s left is a suggestion of woody vetiver.
Malayaku was also a shapeshifter on my parents who, to my surprise, turned out to be huge fans of the scent and actually preferred it to Layali. Longtime readers will remember that my parents were the ones who instilled in me a love and knowledge of perfumery starting when I was 5 or 6 years old. Readers may also remember that I have occasionally used my parents as guinea pigs to test the different nuances or bouquets that individual skin chemistry might trigger.
In this instance, however, it wasn’t an intentional plan at first. I noticed my mother sniffing the air around me during the 2nd hour, and I asked her if she wanted to smell the fragrance that I was testing. Now keep in mind that my mother is one of those grande dames who has never met a skanky, floral oriental, floral leather, or opulent chypre that she didn’t love. But vetiver? I can’t think of a single time when she’s smelled a vetiver-dominant fragrance that she’s enjoyed.
Until Malayaku. She absolutely loved the scent on my arm, as did my father, so I applied two small atomizer squirts on each. I was genuinely surprised at the response. Even more so after I used up the remnants of my Layali sample to later apply squirts on their other arms as a side-by-side. While my mother appreciated Layali, both of them couldn’t stop talking about Malayaku (or about how the scent filled the air around them).
On my father, Malayaku opened with the same “cumin” aroma as it did on me, followed by loads upon loads of black tea. Far more black tea than on me. Moments later, the smoky leather (which he was crazy about) arrived, then a more mossy, green, and rooty vetiver.
As I sniffed his arm in the two or three hours that followed, I noticed that the bouquet had different nuances each time.
Ditto on my mother, although she had a very different opening. On her, Malayaku debuted with waves of skanky, dark musk (which she loved), followed by a torrent of dark tobacco (which she also loved). There was no cumin, barely any black tea, no gingeriness, and no real incense (at first). The dominant note both on her skin and on the large scent trail that she exuded right from the start was tobacco.
To be precise, dirty, dark, resinous, earthy, freshly picked tobacco leaves. 5 minutes later, it was joined on center stage with the tarry, smoke-filled, Darth Vader-like leather licked by lashes of dark incense. As there was no vetiver until much later, the scent mimicked Tribute attar quite a bit on her skin.
When the vetiver did later appear, it engaged in the same cycle of appearance and disappearance that it did on me.
And, just as with my father, Malayaku kept changing its nuances and the order of its prominent notes during the two or three hours that I was able to sniff her arm.
I can understand my father loving Malayaku as he wears leathers and enjoys vetiver, but cannot tell you how surprised I am to my mother’s reaction to Malayaku. She wears and loves vintage fragrances like Fracas, Opium, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Bandit, or Jolie Madame along with modern Chypre Palatin or Areej le Doré fragrances. With the rare, equally surprising exception of ALD’s War & Peace, she’s never liked or worn a fragrance with smoky, dark materials like the ones in Malayaku, so I can only ascribe her reaction to the high quality of Taha Syed’s materials, how refined and smooth they are, how well-blended but also well-delineated the notes are, and the sheer sexiness of that dark, skanky musk with the tobacco. Yes, definitely the sexy musk; my mother has never met a skanky or animalic fragrance that she hasn’t loved. (If she could pour civet on herself and smear castoreum on her arms, she would.)
Forgive me for spending so much time in discussing the scent on my parents, but I have done so for several specific reasons. First, the way Malayaku acted on them gives you two more scent profiles to consider. Second, their experiences support my shape-shifter conclusions and experience with Malayaku. Third, for a worldly, discerning, not easily impressed sophisticate like my mother to fall for Malayaku is, in my opinion, a testament to the quality of the scent and its materials. It also suggests that fans of skanky musks may enjoy Malayaku even if some of its other notes are not ones to which they normally gravitate.
Lastly, and equally importantly, the reaction of my mother (who is not a vetiver wearer) provides a different subjective response to counter-balance my own ambivalence about a scent so heavy in a note with which I personally struggle. Vetiver is a huge challenge for me, in part due to how my skin makes it blast “mint” in addition to its other facets. I really enjoyed since Malayaku’s Tribute parallels, its leather, that damn sexy muskiness, and the tobacco, but I didn’t like the fragrance so much when the vetiver arrived. This is purely an issue of personal note preferences and tastes, not an issue about the quality or character of the scent.
Two things that I haven’t talked about, but have obliquely alluded to, are Malayaku’s sillage and longevity. In a nutshell, the longevity is superb. With regard to the sillage, it’s an up-and-down situation on my skin during the first 2 to 2.5 hours as well as during the drydown stage but, when Malayaku is taken as a whole from start to finish, I’d say the scent trail is moderate to low, on par with many high-concentration extraits.
If anyone is interested in the specifics, they are as follows. With 2 squirts from my atomiser sample, Malayaku opened with about 5 inches of sillage on me that increased to about 8 inches after 20 minutes when the vetiver and other rich materials bloomed. 40 minutes in, the scent trail explodes to about 4 to 5 feet in length. It felt even bigger when I was in warmer temperatures outside. However, 1.5 hours in, the numbers begin to drop quite rapidly. At the start of the 3rd hour, Malayaku loses much of its volume and trail; the scent veers back and forth between roughly 2.5 inches above my arm to 1 inch then back again.
The rotation continues until the start of the 8th hour. Malayaku turns into a skin scent, though it’s generally easy to detect up close. For reasons that I cannot explain, this changes, too: one hour it suddenly becomes difficult to detect unless I put my nose right on my arm and inhale hard; the next, it ‘s pretty easy to detect on the skin. Around the 14th hour, I started to think that Malayaku was about to die away, but it surprised me by lingering tenaciously as a mere lacquer of woody vetiver until the 26th hour when it finally gasped its last breath.
Malayaku comes in a 25 ml bottle that costs $320. The bad news is that there are only 5 bottles left in the world, and they’re at Luckyscent. The good news is that samples are available if anyone is interested in trying it. (See the Details section below.)
As I mentioned earlier, I lack the vetiver appreciation gene but I think Malayaku will appeal to fans of the note who also enjoy tobacco, leather, smokiness, incense and, of course, oud.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.
You are making me want bottles of all of these! As soon as you mentioned Tribute with vetiver, I was hooked. So far these sound like fragrances that are actually worth the price tag (as compared to some new to the market oils I won’t mention). Will you be reviewing any of the others in this line? They all sound wonderful on the Luckyscent website.
I thought of you in reviewing both of these but particularly when I experienced the Tribute vibe!
Luckyscent has been really kind: they’re sending samples of 3 or 4 others in the line soon. I don’t know when they’ll get here since the postal service to my city has become terrible, so I’m going to cover other brands in the meantime.
And yes, this is a house with superb quality that I think you’d very much love and whose quality and character are far superior to the new stuff from the brand that we won’t mention.
Okay, I’m sold! I went ahead and got one of the bottles from Luckyscent. If it is good enough for your mom’s high standards then it must be amazing 🙂
Now I feel guilty. I only meant for you to get a sample because blind buys generally worry me. Gosh, I really hope you love it. Will you let me know how it is on you and if you like it?
I blind-bought Layali on your recommendation (it is in the mail!), but I do not think you should feel bad. Blind buys are of course inherently risky. However, at least the thing with the world of perfume that you and your readers generally inhabit, for most of these brands like Agar Aura, ALD, and Slumberhouse, they are good enough and rare enough that it even if it is a miss, they should hold their value pretty well. In my case if Layali is actually a very expensive dud, I am confident I should be able to offload it on a perfume forum or eBay for about what I paid for it, maybe even at a profit even with a spray or two missing.
Oh dear, oh dear. What is Layali like on you? Or why do you find it to be a dud? Btw, if it is still in the mail, how do you know you dislike it?
Oh, you said “IF Layali is a dud.” Sorry, I misread. So sleep deprived. And I need way more coffee. But what a relief that it isn’t yet a dud. PHEW!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to inject caffeine and espresso into my veins, lol.
You can get a sample of this also from Sealed Essence.
It would come in Taha’s 5th collection Discovery Set.
Here’s what is in it
1x 1 ml Blu
1x 1 ml Malayku
1x 1 ml Layali.
It sells for $64.99.
I have a few of Taha’s Diecovery sets.
I also have a partial Oud Lubani.
I haven’t sampled Malayku.
I will try and get a sample or decant myself.
Thank you for the review.
Another wonderful review, Ms. Kafka. I know times are rough and it is a lot of work and effort to put these together, and I appreciate them very much. Your lovely detailed and passionate writing is a welcome treat these days.
I am actually trying Malayaku right now and what strikes me is the vétiver. It really is quite fine. It reminds me of what I think Sultan Vétiver by Nishane and Vétiver Nocturne by Bortnikoff were trying to do, but for me did not really pull off successfully. The overall effect is so pleasant and calming, almost spa-like. It is quite a shift considering how decidedly *meaty* Malayaku opened for me.
Ooh, do tell me about this meatiness as well as any other scent aspects that you experienced. I love hearing how fragrances can differ on people or what their experiences were like.
Okay, I still have not quite gotten around to coming back to Malayaku (but it is on my to do list), however I just wanted to come back and close the loop with Layali and your blind buy recommendation.
I wish it came in a 250ml size and I was a millionaire and could afford a bottle that large ^^
The opening is a rich, dark oudy punch in the face. I am not sure I can pick out the notes as well, but on me it is campfire and smoke and grilling meat and something just slightly sour, but somehow delightful? No rose at all in the beginning, it is straight up oud. It is so intense and yet at the same time as soon as it starts to fade I want Taha Syed to punch me in the face again.
The rose slowly appears and my goodness, it does that really good rose-oud thing where the rose and the oud like refract or something and the whole composition feels 3D like the rose smells like it is floating over the oudy base. I am not sure that I can adequately describe it, but oh I love it when perfumes have that like, 3D/depth thing.
There was not really planned space in my perfume budget for Layali, but oh my, what a successful blind buy and unplanned baby.
Honestly it is almost like what I think Oud Satin Mood by MFK was intended to be, but Layali makes OSM smell like a drugstore b-list celebrity perfume in comparison.
I’m out at a meeting now so I can’t respond in depth as I would wish until later tonight or tomorrow, but thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful and detailed review of Layali.
May I be a total pest by asking you to copy and paste this description in the Layali post so that people curious about Layali (when it’s re-released in the future) can read about your experience with it? xo
Of course ^^
Also if it helps for organization, I don’t think I can delete a post, but you are absolutely welcome to delete these comments.