Areej Le Doré Indian Attars- Part I: Tuba, Champa, & Genda

Areej Le Doré has released a five-piece Indian Attar Collection, each focusing on a single flower combined with Mysore sandalwood and prepared in the centuries-old Indian bronze pot method of distillation.

Today, in Part I, I’ll provide a broad introductory overview to the collection, cover the particular methodology and raw materials that were used, then share an olfactory description of three of the attars. They will be the tuberose, champaca, and marigold attars. Part II in several days time will describe the rose and jasmine ones, Gulab and Motia. Part III will cover different attar layering combinations and what they smell like.

Areej Indian Attar Collection. Photo: Areej Le Dore. [Photo cropped by me at the top.]

I. INTRODUCTION –

BACKGROUND, METHODOLOGY, & LAB TESTING:

I think it’s important to briefly cover the amount of work that went into the making of these attars, the methodology, how it differs from regular attars that we’re used to, the type of sandalwood used here, and the issue of lab-testing. The last two play a small role in the cost of the fragrances.

I’ll let the perfumer, Russian Adam, explain in his own words:

If you’re curious to learn more, Russian Adam has a detailed YouTube video on his Indian Attar Collection that discusses the methodology used and much more:

After the individual floral component, the other key part of each attar composition is the sandalwood. Here, it consists of costly, rare, and pure Mysore sandalwood that smells exactly like the specific type of santal that I adore and which I infrequently encounter. All five attars include the same batch or type, by the way.

While the use of genuine sandalwood is traditional in Indian attars, it is not commonly or widely used these days for obvious reasons:

On his website, Russian Adam elaborates further on the distillation process and the olfactory impact:

It is important to note that traditional Indian Attars are made solely through distillation by a master distiller. The process can take over a month. Every single day approximately 100kg of flowers are slowly distilled into the sandalwood oil base infusing it not only with extremely intense oil but also highly fragrant hydrosol of a given flower. This results in a far superior olfactory composition rather than a simple blend of sandalwood and jasmine oil/absolute.

Once created, Areej had each attar lab-tested for santal purity and for overall quality control:

We went the extra mile of not only selecting the large collection of highest quality attars but actually testing every single one of them for purity and quality using GCMS lab tests. It sets them apart from any other Indian attars one may find online.

Let’s move on now to how three of the attars smell and develop on my skin.

II. TUBA, CHAMPA, & GENDA ATTARS – WHAT THEY SMELL LIKE:

TUBA ATTAR:

Areej Tuba attar. Source: Areej Le Dore

Russian Adam describes Tuba attar, in part, as follows:

Tuberose in general is one of the most challenging floral notes. Love it or hate this type of sensation. Often too indolic and herbal to most people. However, this attar showcase tuberose as cream de la creme brule type of experience with its most pleasant notes on display.

This attar will leave you pleasantly surprised. Another gourmand type of an attar that is truly delicious. It opens up with the most creamy Guava banana whip cream notes.

Photo: iStock photos.

I confess, that was far from my olfactory experience with Tuba. The attar opens on my skin with tuberose that wafts enormous gusts of dark, earthy, almost savory Porcini mushrooms, thickly slathered over each green, unopened floral bud. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with tuberose’s complex facets, a mushroom aroma is authentic and photorealistic to the scent of concentrated tuberose absolute. (Ditto gardenia, by the way.)

There is more. Rivulets of cool and bitter green sap drip down the tuberose stalks into the dark, loamy soil below. Running through the latter are delicate, quiet slivers of an almost nutmeg-like spiciness. Joining them 5 minutes later is a thick layer of Mysore sandalwood that is milky green and smells of buttermilk and sour cream, though it also has a subtle resinous quality lurking within and a red-brown tinge at the edges.

As a soliflore or single-focus composition, Tuba is a linear scent whose changes — when they happen — are both incremental and predominantly to the prominence of individual nuances. For example, 35 to 40 minutes in, the strength of the mushroom note softens, fractionally, on my skin. The green sap remains, but it is now minimal, muted, and largely engulfed by the mushrooms and by the sandalwood which is starting to seep up from the base.

Source: mkwsurfaces.co.uk

75 minutes in or at the 1.25-hour mark, the santal merges fully into the mushroomy, green, and now quietly sweet tuberose. They are so closely entwined that it isn’t easy to separate them; the notes overlap and are slowly beginning to turn blurry. The cumulative effect is green, mushroomy tuberose infused with green buttermilk sandalwood that is now also slightly smoky, faintly clove-ish and spicy, and red-brown-black resinous in character. I like how the bouquet is sweet, non-sweet, dry, warm, green yet not, and infinitely smooth. In addition, the richness of its aroma is being increasingly matched by a richness in body, thanks to the deepening effects of the gradually darkening and incrementally more resinous Mysore wood.

At the end of the 2nd hour and start of the 3rd, Tuba attar shifts a little. Its tuberose is now sweeter, spicier, and headier in scent as the once-green unripened buds begin to unfurl in the golden warmth of the sandalwood’s now ambered resinousness. The wood is also turning quietly musky in addition to taking on a subtle leatheriness.

“Java Mandala 1” by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: Behance.net (Website link embedded within.)

At the start of the 7th hour, the drydown begins and Tuba attar changes in its focus. The tuberose — which now smells of abstract, impressionistic mossy greenness on my skin more than mushrooms — retreats to the background, letting the sandalwood shine in the forefront. The latter is extremely ambered and resinous now in addition to its spicy, softly musky, and dry-sweet woody attributes. On occasion, it even wafts soft, small puffs of a benzoin-like caramel aroma.

Tuba remains this way for several hours, changing only in terms of the strength of its mossy, mushroomy floralcy and the ease with which it can be detected. In its final hours, all that’s left is velvety, sweet-dry, spicy, lightly ambered woodiness.

I tested Tuba using about 2-3 smears of the sample vial’s lightly wetted inner stick. It was an amount equal to perhaps one tiny drop (and I do mean “tiny”) from a proper attar bottle’s larger applicator. I’d estimate that the amount would be half what I’d personally or normally apply from a full attar bottle and perhaps one-fourth of the standard amount that I’d apply in testing something sprayable and less concentrated in format. Given the extremely small size of my sample, I didn’t dare use more because I wanted to save the remaining oil for a second test and also for layering combinations with the other attars.

Areej Attar Set samples and quantity levels. Photo: Areej Le Dore

With a tiny one-drop equivalent, Tuba opened with about 3-4 inches of sillage. The bouquet is strong and rich in scent up close, yet weightless and airy in feel. That lightness of body changes after 35-40 minutes when the sandalwood arrives on center stages, fuses around the tuberose, and adds its heavier and increasingly resinous qualities. Tuba attar’s sillage begins to shrink, however, at the same time. Roughly 55 minutes in, the scent projects about 1 inch to 1.5 inches above my skin. I think my numbers would be higher or larger if I applied one large drop, let alone two. At the end of the 3rd hour and start of the 4th, Tuba projects about 0.5 inches above my skin, but there is a soft cloud that forms around me whenever I move my arm. The attar became a skin scent on me in the middle of the 6th hour but wasn’t difficult to detect up close until the 8th hour. In total, the most minimal quantity dosage possible yielded 10.25 hours in duration.

I’d planned to test Tuba attar a 2nd time using a larger quantity but I ran into a problem on my end when my vial suddenly disappeared. You see, I have been adopted by a stray kitten that Apollo and I found on one of our midnight walks. She must have been about 7-weeks old back then and appears to be half tabby and half rare Savannah cat. Though I had originally intended merely to foster Athena, my big German Shepherd, Apollo, has fallen wildly in love with her, treats her like his baby who needs constant licks, kisses, and baths, sleeps cuddled with her (or using her as a pillow), plays for hours with her, including letting her box him on the nose, and would be heartbroken without her. Athena has gradually fallen for him in return.

Athena and Apollo. Photos: my own.

Like many mischievous cats, Athena has a penchant for knocking things over the edge and then playing football or soccer with them. She has a particular obsession with going where she is forbidden, including one tall chest of drawers upon which I place whatever samples I am currently testing.

My Areej Tuba attar vial was last seen there… as was Athena. I do not know where the sample is now and cannot find it anywhere, no matter how much I search. As a result, I am unable to test Tuba with a larger scent application in order to provide you with any scent differences that might trigger or with the undoubtedly higher/better performance numbers that would ensue. I am also unable to layer Tuba with any of the other attars to see what the scent combination(s) would yield. So, I’m afraid Part III won’t include Tuba in any of the layering combinations I manage. Blame it on the tiny, baby, feline princess.

CHAMPA (CHAMPACA) ATTAR:

Red champaca via tropicalbonsainursery.net

Red champaca from India is supposed to be the best varietal. Generally speaking, on my skin, it tends to have a deep, sultry, heady aroma like lush orange blossoms and/or magnolia, layered with honey, different fruits, fruits, spices, and even sometimes hay, earthy tea, and other undertones. 

The champaca here is on a whole other level: truly stunning, absolutely intoxicating, and wildly opulent in both body and richness. It is one of the two reasons why Champa attar is my favourite, thus far, of the three Areej oils that I’ve tried. (The other reason, as I mentioned briefly up above, is the particular olfactory bouquet of the sandalwood used in the collection.)

Areej Champa attar. Photo: Areej Le Dore.

Champa attar is described, in part, as follows:

Red champaka flowers are water distilled in a copper pot into the purest sandalwood oil. This deep creation turned out to be one of the darkest and most powerfull [sic] attars of this collection.

It opens with a dark red aroma akin to the scent of fermented grapes. The indolic nature of the flowers start to slowly reveal itself enveloping the wearer in its intoxicating glory.

With time musky notes start to appear perfectly balanced with the cocoa like sweetness. The darkness of red champaka truly dominates making it extremely more complex and nuanced then its white variety.

Sandalwood aroma seems to be hiding behind the stage however its effect is always present. Surprisingly once reaching the heart notes perfect combination of creamy woodiness and deep dark red floral create a feel of dry woods and red failing leaves. Champa attar manages to recreate the perfect scent of fall season.

Again, my experience was different.

Honeysuckle flowers via Fragrantica.

Champa attar opens on my skin with fruity, sweet, lush, tropical, spicy, and ambered notes. The champaca smells like ripe, heady, tropical, and indolic honeysuckle, jasmine, and magnolia that have been generously strewn with floral-scented green honeydew melon, then dunked into a vat of rich, dark, floral honey, sprinkled with cinnamon spice, and finally placed within a cloud of molten, honeyed, resinous, and slightly caramel-like amber.

Moments later, the base to the addictive, intoxicating bouquet reveals itself to be fantastically dark, red-brown, stickily resinous, and richly spiced Mysore sandalwood. 35 minutes in, soft tendrils of smoke are added to the mix along with a subtle undertone of muskiness. This is the precise olfactory profile of the type of sandalwood that I love. (I fear I’m a bit of a sandalwood snob.)

Taken as a whole, the bouquet is wonderfully extravagant in richness and opulence. It is also powerful and thick in aroma as well as hefty in weight, body, and texture.

Photographer unknown. Possibly AP or Reuters. Source: oregonlive.com

Champa attar changes at a glacial pace and the differences are primarily one of degree, not of kind. For example, over the course of the 1st hour, the Mysore grows spicier and even more ambered. At the start of the 2nd hour, the champaca develops an even stronger aroma of green honeydew melon and honey-laden honeysuckle; the jasmine becomes a mere undertone; and the bouquet turns more indolic and heady. At the same time, the sandalwood grows more prominent. As the 2nd hour progresses, I’d estimate that the Mysore makes up roughly 40% to 45% of the composition on my skin, adding wonderful spice, resins, and dark musk to the bouquet.

In the middle of the 3rd hour or at the 2.5-hour mark, Champa attar changes. The bouquet takes on a beautifully creamy, buttery texture. In addition, the Mysore’s smokiness turns into incense in aroma, smelling a lot like nutty, caramel-ish opoponax or sweet myrrh resin, my favourite type of incense. There is also a subtle leathery quality running underneath the wood.

Source: hdwpapers.com

As a whole, the bouquet smells and feels even muskier, perhaps due to indoles from the champaca. I want to stress, however, that whatever indolic traits there may be, they do not smell camphorous, fecal, or like mothballs on my skin the way that some forms of concentrated indoles can smell.

At the end of the 4th hour and start of the 5th, Champa attar takes on nuances of hazelnuts and/or almonds in addition to the opoponax-like aroma and the ambered caramel. There is now little to no magnolia or green melon; the floral component has turned into a co-equal mix of honeysuckle and jasmine.

Caramel banana pudding. Source: myrecipes.com

When the 8th hour rolls around, Champa becomes something completely unexpected. In essence, the attar smells of: spicy jasmine rice pudding; cinnamon-dusted banana benzoin crème brûlée; nuts; opoponax incense resin; tropical hothouse flowers; and spicy, musky, resinous, leathery, ambered, yet also creamy, sandalwood.

As regular readers know, I have a very low tolerance for excessive sweetness so let me state bluntly that I find this stage of Champa to be utterly delectable. It’s not cloying or sugared; it’s perfectly balanced on my skin, thanks to the sandalwood’s darker, drier, and smokier facets countering the champaca’s gourmand-skewing fruitiness and sweetness.

Champa’s drydown begins in the 10th hour on my skin. Once again, the sandalwood is front and center, wafting all the qualities I’ve described above. The difference now is that thin, soft layers of cinnamon-dusted and fruity crème brûlée with a faint touch of toasted nuts are layered within, not existing side-by-side. More importantly, there is no floralcy on my skin.

Source: confessionletters.com

Roughly 13.75 hours in, all that’s left is delicious, addictive, cuddly, velvety, spicy, and woody butteriness with just a faint whisper of almost toffee’d amber in the background. Champa remains this way until it finally dies away.

Though I tested Champa with a slightly larger quantity than I did Tuba, I think it is a much stronger, richer, heavier attar. Russian Adam said it’s one of the most powerful ones in the collection and it certainly smelled and performed that way out of the three that I’ve tested thus far.

With 3-4 smears of the wetted sample stick, equal to roughly one good or moderately big drop from a full bottle, Champa had initially moderate-to-strong sillage as well as superb longevity. The attar opened with roughly 4 inches of sillage that briefly expanded to about 8-9 inches after 35 minutes before dropping back down at the 75-minute mark to about 4 inches. In the middle of the 3rd hour or 2.5 hours in, the scent only projected about 2 inches above my skin, but the scent cloud around me from the opening remained so I still felt inundated with fragrance. The start of the 5th hour yielded 1.5 inches of projection. Champa attar turned into a skin scent on me at the start of the 9th hour but didn’t require much effort to detect up close until the 13th hour. In total, one large drop of oil yielded just a bit under 19 hours (or 18.75 hours to be precise) of scent.

I loved Champa attar without reservation and from start to finish. In fact, it is among my favourite things that I’ve smelled this year. Just A+ stuff.

GENDA (MARIGOLD) ATTAR:

Areej Genda attar. Photo: ALD

Genda attar is described, in part, as follows:

This attar delivers a gourmand-like sensation akin to the scent and feel of a delicious Asian desert of sweet mango with milky and sticky rice. Fruity and creamy upon the application it slowly reveals some of its deeper and richer herbal nuances.

Sandalwood elevates the creaminess adding a wonderful buttery foundation of woods. Marigold – quite a challenging flower truly blooms in the company of sandalwood. It shows its fruity sweetness then slowly exposes the bitter green herbal like contrast. Unexpectedly beautiful combination that deserves our patience and admiration.

My experience, once again, departed quite significantly from the official description. I can only conclude that Russian Adam and I have wildly different skin chemistries.

Chamomile flowers.

Genda opens on my skin with an unexpected aroma of sweet lemon mousse infused with a soft, earthy, and floral herbaceousness that smells like chamomile tea, dried chamomile flowers, and dried lemon verbena. The bouquet lies atop a base of santal woodiness that is pale, dry, green, minimally spiced, and faintly milky.

No part of it smells like the way marigolds have smelled on my skin in fragrances featuring the note. In my past experiences, marigolds have smelled earthy, earthily spiced almost like maté herbal tea mixed with turmeric, dusty, and rather fusty musty.

I confess, I’m relieved Genda has taken a different olfactory route. Also, while I’m not generally gaga for chamomile aromas, I must say that I find the opening, when taken as a whole, to have an enjoyable overall vibe that is calming, gentle, and evocative of rather earthbound, holistic naturalness. As a side note, the opening bouquet is definitely the lightest, airiest, and softest out of the three openings.

Like all the others, Genda attar shifts incrementally and slowly. Roughly 25 to 30 minutes in, the sandalwood loses a third of its greenness and turns more resinous. The first hints of smokiness appear, but they smell like singed wood, not incense. The santal rises to the top not long after, swirling with the other notes, all of which blur together now as a citrusy, earthy, chamomile-scented, herbaceous, and santal floralcy. That said, sometimes, the balance of notes veers more towards the herbaceous side than the floral during the first hour. During this time, the sandalwood is gradually gaining ground. It’s growing strength deepens and enriches the earlier airiness and lightweight character of the bouquet.

As the 1st hour draws to a close and the 2nd begin, Genda’s notes become a total blur, dominated largely by the sandalwood. The marigold’s floralcy is now an impressionistic haze of something minimally floral but predominantly herbal, earthy, and {chamomile) tea-like in scent.

Source: Png wallpapers

90 minutes in or in the middle of the 2nd hour, Genda shifts again. The Mysore santal is creamy and still smells of buttermilk but it is also now green-red in hue, resinous, spicy, smoky, and increasingly ambered. I’d estimate that the sandalwood comprises roughly 80% to 85% of Genda on my skin at this point.

That percentage grows higher with every 15-minute block of time on my skin until Genda attar is 100% Mysore santal at the 2.5-hour mark (or the middle of the 3rd hour).

The changes over the next 6 hours are minimal. At the end of the 4th hour and start of the 5th, an earthy undertone returns, though it doesn’t read as floral or as anything properly herbal. Separately, the santal begins to waft leatheriness and muskiness in addition to its sour cream, buttermilk, resinous, spiced, and ambered facets.

Photo: my own.

8.5 hours in or in the middle of the 9th hour, the long drydown begins and Genda changes more noticeably and significantly. The santal now emits strong incense-like aromas resembling both myrrh and opoponax. The latter does not, however, evince any nutty or benzoin-like Crème brûlée aromas as it did in Champa attar. Instead, Genda wafts occasional but tiny puffs of something medicinal and camphorous in nature, further reinforcing the impression of myrrh. The wood undergoes other changes, too. Its leatheriness has disappeared, while its amber is more than halved. What’s left is a dark, dry, spicy, faintly medicinal, faintly camphorous, and strongly incense-y woodiness.

Genda attar remains largely unchanged in the hours that follow. The only exception is an unexpected one that occurs in the middle of the 11th hour (or 10.5 hours in) when the marigold returns, floating quietly in the background, and wafting its nuances of dried chamomile flowers, dried chamomile tea leaves, and faintly earthy, dried green herbs. The marigold lasts for about 90 minutes before vanishing, this time for good. What’s left behind is an impressionistic, soft, incense-y, dry, and now musky woodiness with fluctuating hints of something medicinal or camphorous lurking underneath. These, too, eventually disappear.

Source: sharefaith.com

What remains in Genda’s final hours is a soft, plush, lightly spiced, lightly smoky, lightly musky, dry-sweet woodiness that eventually turns into dry, minimally spiced, quietly musky woodiness.

I applied the roughly the same amount of Genda attar as I did Champa: about 3 swipes of a lightly wetted sample wand stick amounting to one good-sized drop of oil.

With that amount, Genda opened with sillage of about 4-5 inches. Though the weight and feel of the bouquet deepens once the sandalwood rises to the top and adds some heft, the sillage does not expand further as it did with Champa on my skin. At the end of the 4th hour and start of the 5th, Genda attar has no scent trail. It projects 0.5 inches to 1 inch, at best, above my skin. The fragrance turns into a skin scent on me at the end of the 6th hour. However, it does not require effort to detect if I put my nose on my arm until the 11th hour. Thereafter, I have to inhale hard. In total, Genda attar lasted roughly 14.5 hours or just a wee bit more on my skin.

All in all, I enjoyed both Tuba and Genda, but I think that Champa is something extraordinary. The reason why Tuba and Genda didn’t rise to the same level for me is a purely personal one related to floral nuances. While tuberose is my absolute favourite flower in both life and perfumery, its mushroom facet — which was almost entirely the flower’s longstanding aroma on my skin in the case of Tuba attar — does little for me. I prefer my tuberose to smell wildly carnal, lush, indolic, heated, ripe, narcotic, and heady à la Fracas or like the flowers blooming in nature. As for marigolds, neither they nor chamomile-related olfactory traits are a passion of mine.

It is all a question of personal tastes in addition to what one’s individual skin chemistry unfolds.

For Areej’s Gulab (rose) and Motia (jasmine) attars, please turn to Part II. Part III will cover the scent of a 4-attar combination, a 3-attar combination, and whatever 2-attar combinations that I manage to squeeze in without delaying or extending things too much.

Disclosure: My samples were provided by Areej Le Doré / Russian Adam. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Each individual attar comes in a 3 gram bottle that costs $75. You can buy them directly from Areej Le Dore: Tuba, Champa, and Genda. Areej also offers a Full Set of All 5 attars for $375 that comes with an extra bonus or a 6th bottle: a 3 gram bottle of pure, aged Mysore sandalwood that was distilled in the year 2000. (As a side note, this Santal Millennium is not composed of the same material that was used in the attar collection. Russian Adam told me that its scent is quite different — milder, gentler, and greener — than the santal used in his attars.) In terms of samples, Areej has a sample set of all 5 attars, each in 0.2 g vials. However, high demand has forced Russian Adam to put it currently on hold. I do not know when it will be available again.

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