Roses and oud are a combination tried a million-fold before, but Agar Aura sought to surpass all prior standards with Al-Jazzab, an extrait described as having even more indulgent, extravagant, wildly sumptuous roses than even Layali, his parfum that stunned me blind despite my not being keen on roses in perfumery.
Today, I’ll take a look at Al-Jazzab’s olfactory bouquet and progression before adding a few brief thoughts as to how it compares to its sister rose-oud Layali. Let me cut some of the suspense regarding the latter issue: I think the one which will reverberates most with you will depend on your individual skin chemistry, the degree of the oud aromas, how strong or persistent they are on you, the extent to which your individual skin chemistry brings out the rose in Layali versus the rose here in Al-Jazzab, and a slew of other subjective factors. The ultimate bottom line: both fragrances are of superb quality and contain whole olfactory microcosms within their seemingly two-note focus of rose and oud, microcosms of nuances whose tilt one way or the other will come down to purely personal, subjective, scent preferences and skin manifestations.
Let’s start at the beginning. Al-Jazzab is pure parfum or extrait that was created by Taha Syed of Agar Aura and originally released in 2020 before being reformulated and relaunched in 2022. The official Agar Aura description of the scent, its materials, and its notes reads as follows:
Oud and rose. A combination that’s quite common and yet most perfumes that utilize it fall short in doing it justice.
Our Layali featured oud and rose, and the sheer quality of its ingredients put it in a category of its own. But in crafting Layali, the aim was to bring out the notes already present in the oud oils that were used in the blend. Rose was only a secondary ingredient.
Al-Jazzab, on the other hand, is cloud nine for rose lovers.
The crisp alluring fragrance of Bulgarian rose otto dominates the opening, and permeates through the heart and base of the fragrance. The careful mix of different rose oils ensures a very rich rosiness that is present from start to finish.
In this reformulation of Al-Jazzab, no less than five wild-harvested oud oils from different countries were used. The careful marrying of these oud oils alone bequeathed it a remarkably complete perfuminess, and the healthy dose of rose further enhances that. Accents of black pepper, leather and smoke gives it a warmth that vividly contrasts with the crisp top notes of rose and camphor.
Dab some on and go for a stroll. Prepare to experience the Pied Piper phenomenon first-hand.
From that description, the succinct note list appears to be, at a minimum:
Bulgarian Rose Otto in start, middle, & finish stages; other rose blends; and 5 different types of oud woods. [Plus, possibly separate notes of black pepper, leather, and smoke.]
Al-Jazzab opens on my skin with a world of notes replicated by its five different ouds: Cinnamon; cloves; dark, furry musk; myrrh-like resinous incense; charred woods; campfire smoke; spicy patchouli; sticky ambered resins; and Cuir-de-Russie-style tarry, smoky, black leather. Flitting about like a firefly is the rose, weaving in, around, under, and through each of those individual “notes.” (The “notes” being the nuances of the ouds, not separate or distinct raw materials, even though they smell like it.)
At its core and on my skin, Al-Jazzab is a linear oud (not rose-oud) soliflore which shifts with glacial slowness and in tiny ways over time. The changes are incremental differences of degree that involve almost entirely the prominence, strength, and order of the ouds’ many nuances. The rose is a tertiary note, at best, on me during the first few hours but also later on.
About 5 minutes in, the first of the small changes occurs. The oud takes on a medicinal, camphorous aroma that overshadows the spices, muskiness, patchouli, resins, and rose. The exceptions are the resinous incense-like smoke and the equally smoky, tarry leather.
10 minutes in, the camphor grows stronger and is backed aromas of eucalyptus and menthol, thereby evoking Tiger’s Balm or Vicks muscle rub. At the same time, even more leather rumbles and roils, smelling positively treacly in its thickness and tarriness.
45 minutes in, the rose remains a tertiary note in 2 of my 3 tests, hiding behind a thick wall of deep, rich, opulent oud and its many nuances.
In the 3rd test, however, when I dabbed on only a small scent application, the rose briefly appeared as a co-equal partner to the oud at this point before it disappeared again a short time later. In this test, Al-Jazzab’s bouquet was centered on a complex rose slathered over tarry, smoky, black leather. One part of the rose smelled of dry, withered, and medicinal from smoke, camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol; another part smelled fresh, bright, and sweet with undertones of strawberries, honey, and tiny dots of citrus and mint. The duality is lovely. Alas, even in this 3rd anomalous test, the rose doesn’t last for long as a key element on my skin.
Roughly 1.75 hours in, all versions of Al-Jazzab smell of smoky, incense-y, spicy, leathery and woody oud set against an amber-ish, resinous background speckled with soft, quiet rose. The “amber” smells increasingly of toffee’d, musky labdanum that’s been infused with “patchouli” dark chocolate.
Roughly 2.75 hours in or towards the end of the 3rd hour, the rose and several of the oud’s lesser nuances begin to grow in prominence. First is the rose which smells honeyed, jammy but also, unexpectedly, dried as if withered by all the incense and campfire wood smoke. Those latter two elements from the oud grow stronger at this point as well. Ditto to the oud’s patchouli and labdanum-like toffee’d amber.
The cumulative effect strikes me as a luxurious modern take on the 1960s bohemian, patchouli-incense “head-shop” bouquet. The funny thing is that 1960s bohemian “crystal shop” is exactly what Riley, my adopted niece’s friend, said Al-Jazzab smelled like on me during its opening 30 minutes. Now, however, as the 3rd hour draws to a close, the budding young fragrance neophyte thought that Al-Jazzab smelled “more modern, less heavy, and less vintage,” perhaps because the camphor and leather have receded in prominence on my skin.
I personally did not interpret the opening as a Woo Woo crystal shop at the time because I didn’t find the patchouli or resinousness to be dominant back then, but I certainly do now. For what it’s worth, none of this is an insult or a negative in my eyes; regular readers know what a die-hard Patch Head and amber lover I am, so the increased prominence of the two “notes” is, if anything, a bonus to me. Perfumistas who are much less into patchouli, incense, resinousness, and amber will probably feel differently, though.
About 3.25 hours in, or early in the start of the 4th hour, the rose finally emerges in two of my three tests as a significant player. (It took 5.5 hours in my 3rd test.) At the same time, Al-Jazzab settles into a more simplistic (relatively speaking) bouquet that is turning increasingly wood-centric on my skin, wafting notes of charred, resinous, smoky, clove- and spice-infused woods with only a soupçon of black, tarry, smoky leather underneath. Having said that, however, if I had to estimate the relative ratios and strength of the two central components, the rose and the oud, I’d say that the rose is merely 35% of the bouquet now. Though that number is better and higher than the prior 5% rough estimate of the opening, it is still a far cry from the rose-centric, rose-dominated bouquet that I had anticipated from Al-Jazzab’s description.
As the 4th hour draws to a close, about 3.50 hours in, Al-Jazzab is now predominantly a spicy, patchouli, incense, resinously ambered, rose-flecked, smoky oud woody bouquet. Some of the multi-faceted wood, in conjunction with its smoke, spice, and golden amber, reminds me increasingly of Mysore sandalwood in olfaction, an olfactory similarity that grows more pronounced on my skin with every passing hour until the drydown begins. As for the cumulative whole, it evokes something quite unexpected: An oud and woody twist on my beloved Mitzah, a labdanum, incense, patchouli, rose fragrance that is one of Dior‘s few dark, opulent orientals in the Privée line and one of its most beloved releases.
From this point, the start of the 5th hour, until roughly the 11th hour, the rose ebbs and flows in dominance and centrality. For roughly 45, 60, or occasionally even 75 minutes at a time, Al-Jazzab will smell as I have just described in the paragraph above.
The rest of the time, however, the rose retreats, leaving an oud woody and oud leathery bouquet as the central core, one that’s slathered with a co-equal mix of resinous and richly toffee’d labdanum-like resinousness, spices, patchouli woodiness (that has an occasional nuance of dark chocolate), charred wood, myrrh-like incense, and spicy, smoky, resinous, rich sandalwood. The rose flits about like a disloyal, fickle handmaiden. On occasional, there are also pops of camphor, but they’re even more tangential.
In all my tests with 2-3 big, generous smears of scent, Al-Jazzab’s drydown typically started at the end of the 11th hour and the start of the 12th. With a lighter 1-2 smear application, the drydown started earlier, roughly around 8.5 hours in.
In all 3 cases, however, the drydown scent is a woody but mostly ambered bouquet layered with variable, fluctuating, and increasingly hazy nuances of spiciness, wooded smokiness, incense-y smokiness, something vaguely patchouli-ish, something vaguely sandalwood-ish, and something vaguely leathery dark. Broadly speaking, the vibe is a sweet, non-sweet, dry, resinous, smoky, and pretty addictive, nuzzalicious, golden-dark, wood-infused amber.
Al-Jazzab’s final few hours are nothing more than a sweet-dry, faintly spicy, infinitessimally musky, woody, and singed ambered goldenness.
Al-Jazzab had initially moderate sillage on me that took a few hours to turn low. With 2-3 generous, wide smears on my forearm, the fragrance opened with about 6 inches of sillage that gradually increased to 11-12 inches after 30 minutes before dropping back down to 6 inches again after 3.5 to 3.75 hrs. With a lighter scent application of about 1-2 smears, the opening was also roughly about 6 inches but it remained that way without expanding. In 2 of my 3 tests (and with the larger scent dosage), it took Al-Jazzab until shortly before the 6.25 hour mark or just after the start of the 7th hour to lose all scent trail and to get to the point of hovering just 0.5 to 1 inch above my skin. The fragrance turned into a skin scent about 9.5 hours in on me with the larger scent application, though it did not take much effort to detect it if I brought my nose right to my arm. That changed around the middle of the 11th hour. With the small scent dosage, it took about 8.10 hours for Al-Jazzab to coat my skin but only required effort after the 9.5 hour mark.
In total, Al-Jazzab lasted just shy of 16 hours with 2-3 generous smears from a vial and a little less than 13.5 hours with a light 1-2 smears. To be crystal clear, the final 4-5 hours were a highly muted affair that required effort in each case on my skin, regardless of quantity.
The way Al-Jazzab turns out on you in terms of scent nuances, focal points, and the prominence of the rose will, I strongly believe, depend on individual skin chemistry. Per Agar Aura’s descriptions, the sumptuous Layali was designed to be more oud-forward while Al-Jazzab was designed to be more rose-centric. That was not the case on me. It was Layali’s extravagant, multi-dimensional, powerful, and dizzyingly beautiful roses that took my breath away (particularly when paired with its multi-dimensional oud). And I’m saying that as someone for whom roses are actually my second most disliked floral note in perfumery (versus in real life). But Layali’s roses were simply that glorious.
In contrast, and to my surprise, my skin turned Al-Jazzab into an extravaganza of spices, incense, campfire smoke, leather, singed oud, tarry leather, musk, patchouli and its chocolate, labdanum toffee, and even a sandalwood-like aroma. It was lovely in a completely different way due to a completely different (and unexpected) olfactory profile, but it was not a rose-driven fragrance on my skin as intended.
That’s solely an issue of individual skin chemistry which will vary from one person to the next. On half of you or maybe more, the rose situation could well be the reverse when it comes to Al-Jazzab versus Layali. I can only tell you what happened on my skin over the course of 3 separate tests.
And part of that immensely subjective experience is my personal conclusion that — enjoyable, high-quality, and lovely as Al-Jazzab may be — it isn’t in the same league (to me) as Layali which remains an absolutely sky-rocketingly exceptional scent that I won’t forget for years to come. The latter’s prismatic nature and its radiant, opulent, truly naturalistic and 3D roses blew me away. (Remember, I’m saying this as someone who actually doesn’t dislikes roses in perfumery.)
In contrast, I found Al-Jazzab to be more conventional and typical, at least on my skin. That’s not to say that it was of lesser quality or that it lacked interesting nuances but, comparatively and purely personally speaking, it lacked the same oomph, wow factor, and degree of complexity. Again, it comes down, as always, to personal skin chemistry and tastes.
Normally, my advice would be to sample both fragrances to see which works better on and for you but, unfortunately, that isn’t a readily available option when it comes to Agar Aura fragrances or oud oils. They’re limited in number, quickly sell out in full bottles, and aren’t commonly or widely accessibly in sample form. To wit: At the time of this review, Luckyscent, Agar Aura, and Sealed Essence are sold out of Al-Jazzab in full bottle form.
However, Luckyscent still offers samples of the parfum. For those of you who managed to get samples or bottles of Layali perhaps that might be of interest, either because of comparative olfactory curiosity or because you hope to find Al-Jazzab on eBay or at an overseas retailer.
All I can really say at the end of the day is, after trying 8 samples of Agar Aura, both old and new, I continue to be highly impressed with Taha Syed’s creations and their quality. Whether or not a particular scent works for you or me, it’s so clear that he is part of a particularly rarified, elite trio or quartet of master artisanal craftsmen and perfumers.
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.