Gulab rose attar and Motia jasmine attar will be the focus of Part II of my look at Areej Le Doré‘s Indian Attar Collection. As a side note, for the sake of time-management, length, and brevity (to the extent that I can muster such a thing), I’ve decided to move the scent descriptions and results of layering four attars, three attars, and various duos into a separate Part III to be posted another day.
GULAB (ROSE) ATTAR:
Russian Adam describes Gulab attar, in part, as follows:
Pink rose petals water distilled in a copper pot into pure sandalwood oil is the most feminine and delicate attar from this collection.
Pure rose oil is one of the most gorgeous aromatics known to mankind. It smells of a million soft rose petals gently squeezed and brings a smile as well as positive emotions once inhaled. Sadly it is hard to use in its purest form. Pure rose oil can irritate the skin. Therefore, a rose and sandalwood combination is the best attar to enjoy the mesmerizing aroma of rose without any fear of burning your skin.
It opens up with the most delicate, soft, silky aroma of pink roses. Feminine, sensual and with a touch of pure honey like sweetness. Silky creaminess of the rose blends perfectly with sandalwood. It is a perfect couple that enhances each other’s beauty.
Unlike Russian Adam, I don’t find Gulab to be either feminine or delicate. Rather, on my skin, it was potent, opulent, and unisex in addition to being one of the most complex, nuanced attars in the collection, a constant shapeshifter, and my second favourite after Champa attar.
Gulab opens on my skin with seemingly ten different facets all at once. First up are the roses which are dark, ambered, dried, leathery, and intoxicatingly concentrated. Yet, at the same time, they are also bright and sunny. They waft a slew of a light soft spritz of lemon, a fresh, sweet strawberries, cinnamon spice, and dark floral honey, all atop that base of dark, dry leather.
I’ve tested Gulab twice and each time, its opening had a pronounced smoky, musky leatheriness running under the roses, thanks to the deeply resinous, balsamic, and almost tarry character of the sandalwood.
Minutes later, other changes occur. Streaks of bright, crisp greenness and soft pale woods swirl around the bouquet, fractionally softening the prominence and strength of the leather base. The rose’s strawberries grow stronger and sweeter; the flower also begins to have an unexpected vanillic undertone.
7 minutes in, the leather retreats to the background, creating a backdrop of darkness in juxtaposition to the increasingly 3-D, luminescent, and sultry roses. Replacing the smoke-tinged, dry, dark leather in the base is a complex mix of notes that smells identical to spicy, earthy, woody patchouli layered with spiced earth, toffee’d labdanum resin, and equally spicy, punchy Mysore woods.
The cumulative effect on my skin is unquestionably unisex as well as unexpectedly complex for a two-material soliflore. The attar balances masculine and feminine aromas in a way that feels seamless, harmonious, and beautiful in addition to smelling authentic in surprisingly photorealistic way. It’s as though Gulab captures not only the aroma of roses in nature, concentrated down to great intensity, but also the aroma of the world around those roses. It is precisely the sort of multifaceted, narcotic, and authentic rose aroma that I love. As regular readers know, rose is my second least-loved flower in perfumery due almost entirely to how artificial, flat, dull, and/or generic its aroma is typically presented, so my reaction to the roses here should tell you something.
Gulab attar is also much stronger, thicker, heavier, and robust in body, texture, and potency than the official description had led me to believe. That holds true whether I apply a small-ish drop of oil or a large(r) one. On my skin, it is definitely not the “most […] delicate attar” in the collection. I think that’s an excellent thing, though, and it adds to my love for the scent.
Gulab continues to change profiles and fragrance families as it develops. From a fruity rose leather to a fruity rose floriental, it is now gradually turning into a shapeshifting fruity woody floral, a floral amber, or fluctuating hybrid of both. Roughly 30 minutes in, most of the leather in the base dissipates, leaving only muffled traces deep in the background. The sandalwood rises fully from the base, though it continues to act as a handmaiden to the increasingly opulent, lush, and narcotically heady roses. For the most part, its main role at the 30-minute mark is to bathe the roses in a deeply resinous, golden, labdanum-smelling ambered light and warmth. If I had to estimate the relative proportions of the notes on my skin at this stage, I’d estimate that the roses make up roughly 70% of the bouquet with the remaining 20% emanating amber and 10% wafting spicy, musky, resinous woodiness.
The roses themselves feel slightly different now, too. The fresh strawberries laced with vanilla segues into thick strawberry jam that drips off each petal. Visually, the roses feel brighter now as compared to the opening’s dark, vermillion flowers layered with black (leather).
I cannot nail down with precision the exact vibes that the shifting rose profile evokes in me. There are times after the 30-minute mark when Gulab’s sheer narcotic headiness, concentrated olfactory purity, and youthful, hyper-feminine, and romantic freshness of the roses feels practically bridal, albeit “bridal” on steroids in terms of richness. At other times, however, that same headiness and Gulab’s incredible lushness, ripeness, compositional heft and thickness, and intensity skews far more mature and sensuous in vibe than a blushing or virginal bride. Heck, I’d even call it “carnal” in its olfactory aesthetic and textural fleshiness. On occasion, the two profiles collide, evoking either an older bride, a debonair, flamboyant, sophisticated modern groom, or a lavish Indian wedding with both.
45 minutes in, the balance of notes shifts again. Now, Gulab feels entirely floral in character, not a floral leather, a floriental, or a woody floral. The almost drug-like scent of thousands upon thousands of pink roses, reduced down to their most concentrated essence, emanating a multiplicity of aromas, and radiantly gleaming like pink diamonds in sunlight… it’s beautiful. The whole thing oozes — nay, screams — baroque glamour to me, evoking images of 18th-century queens and dandies wearing elaborate silks as they float through ornate, gold-trimmed, floral bedecked palatial rooms. I could really see Marie-Antoinette wafting Gulab as well as Indian maharajahs and Arabian sheikhs; there is such an over-the-top quality to the attar’s heft and opulence. And I love every single bit of it.
Roughly 1.75 hours in or late in the 2nd hour, several unexpected facets appear, though I know not from where. In both my tests, Gulab attar took on undertones that were medicinal, camphorous, slightly astringent, and also like something almost approaching oakmoss in its greenness. The camphor-like aroma seems intertwined with the floral muskiness and continuously reminds me of the effect of indoles. Except roses are not meant to be indolic; that’s something limited to white flowers which emit indoles as a beacon signal to bees who cannot see their colour. I don’t think the camphor stems from the sandalwood because the same wood has been used in all 5 attars and Champa, Tuba, and Genda attars didn’t have these aromas. I’m similarly baffled by the slightly medicinal, bitter, and moss-like greenness that runs under the jammy, strawberry-laced, honeyed pink roses. I have no explanation for any of it and can only say that Gulab’s unexpected aspects are a big reason why I tested it twice using different quantities. They showed up on both occasions.
2.25 hours in or after the 3rd hour has begun, Gulab attar changes profiles yet again. An aroma identical to woody, clove-laced, and chocolate-dusted patchouli arrives. It floods over the fruity, honeyed, ambered rose, transforming it into a spicy patchouli rose with an undertone of cocoa. The base continues to waft varying and quiet degrees of dark greenness, dark musk, and golden, toffee-scented, labdanum-like amber.
2.75 hours in, the sandalwood finally overtakes the rose, changes its facets, and also shifts the overall balance of notes from a patchouli rose to a rose sandalwood. I’d estimate that roughly 55% of the bouquet now consists of resinous, spicy, clove-ish, musky, incense-laden, and just barely, minimally, leathery Mysore sandalwood. 45% is comprised of the rose; it has lost its patchouli-like accompaniment, for now at least. (It comes back after 30 minutes.) The rose undergoes other changes as well. Its strawberry jam, its greenness, and a portion of its honey have disappeared. What’s left behind is a dry rose, darkened and somewhat withered by arid smoke, both of the singed wood and of the incense resin varieties.
In the hours that follow, Gulab rapidly and continually cycles through various micro-stages, different focal points, and different profiles: A resinous, spicy rose woody; a pink-gold generalized floral amber; a spicy, patchouli, amber woody with fluctuating degrees of a fruity rose; a resinous, leathery, incense-infused sandalwood, solo; and various combinations thereof. The notes overlap, turn into a blur, and gradually fuse together.
This is essentially Gulab’s long drydown phase. The attar remains this way for eons, changing only in the prominence, order, and fluctuating strength of its various individual facets. Different aromas are highlighted, then replaced by the next one in line. It actually feels like an endless horse race except that it is viewed through increasingly opaque, out-of-focus binoculars.
In its final hours, all that’s left is a resinous, spicy, dark, dry-sweet, woody amber aroma.
Gulab attar had moderate to low sillage when taken as a whole and very good longevity. With 3 good smears of a wetted sample wand equal to roughly one fair-sized drop (not big but not small either), Gulab opened with about 5 inches of sillage that doubles to about 10-12 inches after 15 minutes before dropping to about 4 inches after 75 minutes (or 1.25-hours in). The sillage shrinks further at the end of the 2nd hour and start of the 3rd. While a scent cloud remains around me, it is from earlier, because the scent has no trail and now projects roughly 1.5 inches to 2 inches, at best, above my skin. Gulab turns into a skin scent roughly 7.25 hours in or early in the 8th hour. It doesn’t require effort, however, to detect up close until the start of the 10th hour. All in all, it lasted just shy of 12.25 hours or early into the 13th hour. With a larger scent application equivalent to one large(r) drop, the longevity increased by about 2 or 2.25 hours. The sillage was the same, though.
MOTIA (JASMINE) ATTAR:
Motia attar is centered on jasmine and is described on the Areej website as follows:
Jasmine sambac water distilled in a copper pot into a pure sandalwood oil is the most masculine and uplifting attar from this collection.
Once it touches the skin it blooms with a blissful, piercing, intense green, sweet and indolic notes. Projecting strongly once applied it covers a wearer in a truly exotic cloud of floral and fresh goodness. Sandalwood provides a perfect creaminess that compliments the floral note throughout the whole life of this olfactory composition.
The most enjoyable part however is the transition to long lived heart notes when the creaminess of sandalwood starts to overtake the floral aspect. This harmonious battle is indeed worth experiencing.
Motia opens on my skin with quite an unusual jasmine. It is fresh, unripened, emerald-green, and almost piercing in feel sometimes. However, the flowers are also quietly fruity and oddly earthy in a way that smells like fresh mushrooms growing in damp soil. Some Indian varietals of jasmine can be fruity, but I don’t recall ever encountering mushrooms as a jasmine subset before; in tuberose and gardenia, sure, but not with jasmine.
The jasmine blooms and shifts in as little as 2 minutes. The greenness explodes, but it’s now joined by a radiant whiteness as the green buds unfurl, their petals opening up to the sun. The effect is a more traditional jasmine aroma that is heady, narcotic, quietly indolic, lush, tropical, sultry, and yet also unexpectedly bridal in feel. The mushroom undertone remains (for hours, by the way, on my skin) but it’s slightly overshadowed by an unexpected mossiness as though a chypre-style oakmoss filled the base. I know that tuberose can manifest strong oakmoss-y greenness, as evidenced by the original version of Bogue/ Antonio Gardoni‘s MAAI but, like the mushroom, I’ve never encountered it in jasmine before.
7 minutes in, it evinces the first signs of the sandalwood’s resinous, labdanum-like ambered, spicy, and woody traits. They are, however, minimal amidst the growing swell of moss-laden jasmine.
10 minutes in, the jasmine blooms into a truly magical thing that: skews both emerald and white; exudes a crystalline floral liquidity that parallels the sort of thing you find in tuberose and hyacinth, right down to their bitter sap; is as fresh, pure, innocent as a young blushing bride; and also as carnal, fleshy, indolic, musky, and sultry as a courtesan lying languidly naked and beckoning you to her bed.
It’s the same sort of jasmine carnality and ripe lushness that dominated the flower in AbdesSalaam Attar‘s stunning Tawaf and that consequently evoked images of Mata Hari for me. The difference is that Motia is far more complex in its nuances on my skin, far richer and heavier in body and feel, and far rawer and more powerful in scent.
Motia’s small shifts continue. Roughly 15 minutes in, the santal begins to slowly rise up to the top. 20 minutes in, the mushroom undertone is joined by that of dark, sweet grapes, compliments of methyl anthranilate, a naturally occurring organic compound found in white flowers like jasmine. Some believe that it is an inherent part of indoles. Where ever or whatever its derivation, methyl anthranilate tends to exude aromas of purple Concord grapes and/or Welch’s grape jam. 25 minutes in, the first signs of indoles appear as Motia exudes both a lush floral muskiness and small whiffs of smoky and medicinal camphor.
At the same time, Motia’s jasmine turns even mossier, richer, deeper, and more narcotically drug-like in the headiness of its scent. It’s as though a thousand tightly-closed green buds coated in moss have been mixed with five thousand open blooms that are in such a later stage of indolic muskiness and that their scent skews far more sexual or carnal than bridal fresh. Thanks to the oakmoss-like quality, Motia’s vibe is now sophisticated, mature, and glamourous in addition to feeling Mata Hari-esque. (Almost vintage-style oakmoss aromas frequently tend to trigger mental associations of high couture or French fashion in my mind.)
The indoles gradually begin to change, too. First, they grow in strength, culminating roughly 1.5 hours in (or in the middle of the 2nd hour) in smokiness. At the same time, they bear a quiet but distinct odor of mothballs. This is one aspect of highly concentrated white florals that I dislike but, thankfully, it is muted and it only lasts about an hour. On the plus side, the jasmine’s mushrooms becomes a mere blip in the distant background, replaced by a syrupy type of floral sweetness.
As for Motia’s sandalwood, it changes at the 1.5-hour mark as well. First, it is now fully fused with the jasmine. Second, it adds aromas of labdanum-ish amber, sticky dark resinousness, clove-like spices, wood smoke, and just a wee hint of incense-like smoke to the flowers. Third, Second, its smokiness increases, staining the jasmine’s white and green petals with smudges of black. The santal is not as prominent as the jasmine, however. Not yet, at least….
At the end of the 3rd hour and start of the 4th, Motia changes in the order, prominence, and nuances of its individual notes and also in the overall balance of notes. The sandalwood overtakes the jasmine, comprising roughly 55% of the overall bouquet on my skin. At the same time, Motia’s mossy, floral, sweet, and indolic flowers (45%) lose any remaining traces of mushrooms, almost all of the indoles’ mothballs, and all of the big, fat purple grapes. Some camphor lingers, though it is a muted, muffled note in the background now.
As for Motia’s smokiness, it no longer seems to have even a partial connection to the indoles. Instead, it stems purely from the Mysore wood now, wafting aromas of charred, spicy, sweet-dry wood as well as that of burnt opoponax-like incense and smoky, resinous black leather. A veil of dark musk hangs over the entire bouquet whilst the moss- and floral-scented greenness continues to run lightly through the base. The cumulative effect on my skin is opulent, unisex, lush, rather glamourous, and hard to stop sniffing.
The start of the 5th hour marks Motia attar’s slow transitional micro-stage before its drydown commences. In essence, the sandalwood gradually adopts milkier, softer, and more tangy buttermilk attributes in addition to its prior ones. It also takes over, more or less, expanding from the earlier 55% on my skin to roughly 85% of the bouquet, maybe even 90%.
As the santal pushes ahead, the jasmine retreats to the background and begins to dissolve into a syrupy and more impressionistic green-white, moss-tinged, musky floralcy. Actually, to be precise, most of Motia is extremely blurry at this point, not merely its floral component. The exceptions are two specific facets of the Mysore: its dark, treacly, balsamic resinousness and its red-hued, spiced woodiness. Those aromas are crystal-clear, profound, and dominant on my skin as the 5th hour progresses.
Motia attar’s drydown begins roughly at the end of the 6th hour and start of the 7th. All that’s left of the jasmine is sweet floral-scented syrup. It weaves in thin ribbons between the background and the sandalwood in the foreground, a sandalwood which is now redolent of slightly tangy, green-white-skewing buttermilk and sour cream. Red spices, puffs of wood smoke and dark musk, and slivers of golden amber resins are quietly subsumed within, but they are never strong enough to draw much attention away from the wood’s paler and milkier qualities.
The fundamental gist and focal point of Motia’s drydown — the santal — does not change as the hours pass. The jasmine’s prominence does, however. The flower disappears completely early in the 8th hour, returns during the middle of the 9th hour with unanticipated clarity and strength, then vanishes forever when the 10th hour begins.
During all this, Motia is still fundamentally a milky, tangy, buttermilk woodiness with varying and fluctuating degrees of smoke, spice, and amber. In its final hour, all that’s left is lightly spiced, pale, buttermilk woodiness.
Motia had low sillage on my skin but good longevity. Using 3 good swipes of the wetted atomizer stick equal to 1 moderate-to-good drop of oil from a full bottle’s thicker, bigger wand, Motia opened with about 4 inches of sillage. The scent was extremely rich and powerful up close with a texture like thick, plush velvet. The sillage expands fractionally after 35 minutes to about 6 inches but drops at the end of the first hour to about 2.5 inches. At the start of the 3rd hour, Motia projects about 1 inch from my skin, though it does leave a soft cloud around me if I vigorously and repeatedly wave my arm around my nose and head. At the start of the 5th hour, the projection is barely half an inch above my arm. Motia turns into a skin scent on me in the middle of the 6th hour or at the 5.5-hour mark. In total, it lasted around 11.75 hours.
When I tested Motia with a slightly larger application equal to one big drop from a full bottle, the longevity number grew by about 2.5 hours, but I can’t say that the sillage was significantly and substantially greater.
To be fair, the sheer concentrated nature of attars means their sillage is generally on the low end, but I must say that Gulab and Champa performed pretty well for an attar in that regard on me.
As compared to each other, I had anticipated Motia would be stronger and/or more powerful on my skin than Gulab — largely because the latter was described as the most “delicate” of the bunch — but I found Gulab to be the second strongest after Champa (champaca) attar.
Viewing or taking all five attars together, my love order would be: Champa, Gulab, Motia, Tuba, and Genda.
This is not to say that I hated Genda. No, I thought it was: unusual and original in terms of subject-matter for an attar; unexpected in character; smooth; excellent quality; perfectly fine in terms of bouquet; and a good performer. I’m simply not a marigold person. Also, it lacked the grandeur and the wonderful complexity of Champa and Gulab on my skin.
In my opinion, for products that are essentially presented as soliflores, Champa and Gulab‘s complexity was equal to or far exceeded, in some cases, a number of mixed-ingredient sprayable parfums. Seen another way, their morphing character and their many nuances make the two soliflores much less linear — both in general as compared to some multi-note, mixed fragrances from other perfume houses and also relative to their other siblings in this collection.
Motia is squarely in the middle of the flock in terms of its appeal to me. That is due to certain nuances (mushrooms and the indoles’ mothball undertone) as well as how I perceive its glamour, vibe, opulence, and olfactory complexity as compared to its siblings. The perceptions change when I compare Motia more broadly. Specifically, when the jasmine in Motia is compared in olfaction, character vibe, and opulence to jasmine-based compositions from much bigger luxury niche or luxury artisanal brands, there is no question that Motia is all those things and measures up.
I think it’s all subjective, depending on the lens which one uses. Obviously, that is even truer when it comes to which attar each of you will prefer and why.
Next time, in Part III, I’ll share the results of my layering experiments. I’ll cover layering the Areej attars together in various combinations as well as what happens when you mix an attar with a blended Western fragrance such as, say, Salome, Ambre Precieux, vintage Shalimar, Tobacco Vanille, vintage Opium, and a few others.
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.
Cost & Availability: Each individual attar comes in a 3 gram bottle that costs $75. You can buy them directly from Areej Le Dore: Gulab and Motia. 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, lab-tested, and aged Mysore sandalwood that was distilled in the year 2000. (This is not the same sandalwood that’s been used in the attars. Santal Millenium has a mild and milkier aroma, according to Russian Adam, not “punchy.” There was a sample set of all 5 attars, each in 0.2 g vials, but high demand has forced Russian Adam to put it currently on hold. I do not know if or when it may return.