Vintage Shalimar, Opium, and Lagerfeld cologne, modern Salome, Ambre Precieux, Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille, eau de parfums versus eau de toilettes from all eras — these may not seem like automatic choices to combine with Indian-style soliflore attars from Areej Le Doré‘s new History of Attar Collection, but that is what I did. And the results were fascinating! In fact, they were significantly better than my experiences in layering various Areej attars with each other — to the point where I’ve discovered a few new fragrance loves.
Based on my experiences, I’d strongly argue that layering the Areej attars with Western mixed or blended fragrances is successful in a way that layering the attars with each other is not. I think the latter is a mistake whereas the former demonstrates how the attars can either fix major structural and raw material problems in a bad scent formula, provide positive olfactory additions to a good fragrance, significantly improve the concentration and body of lighter scents, or some combination thereof. Today, I’ll share with you my various experiments in both genres.
METHODOLOGY, SCENT CHOICES, GOALS, & OBJECTIVES:
The impetus for my experimentation was a section in Russian Adam’s description of the complete attar set that mentioned layering different attars together. I was curious to see if combining different single-flower attars would result in an even more opulent, mixed blend, complicated bouquet. The results were far from what I anticipated when I tried four attars together, three, and then two. In fact, I think layering the attars absolutely ruined much of what made each one so beautiful on its own.
I subsequently decided to try layering the attars with Western fragrances. My plan was facilitated by Russian Adam kindly sending me with the full set of attar bottles, thereby providing me with sufficient quantity to experiment further as I’d almost run out of what was left in the 0.2 gram sample vials that I’d originally been sent.
I specifically sought to see if a fantastic high-quality natural attar with the same raw materials as contained in a truly garbage, highly synthetic, Western blended fragrance (in this case, an absolutely vile 1998 EDT formulation of vintage Shalimar) could act as a curative or remedy. It did. Oh, how it did! Truly remarkable.
There were other mission objectives as well. I wanted to see how a Western fragrance that lacked the particular floral component in an attar would change when that note was added to the composition. Similarly, I wanted to see how a Western fragrance that included the same flower as in an attar, say, roses, would change if the attar was added and whether that would significantly change the flower’s role, prominence, or balance f notes.
Separately, I sought to see what changes in body, concentration, and sillage would ensue from combining an attar — the richest scent concentration available — with a light eau de toilette and if there would be similar results if I used an eau de parfum instead.
For any of this to make sense, I urge you to read Part I (Tuba, Genda, and Champa) and Part II (Gulab and Motia), if you haven’t already. Those articles describe the scent and nuances of each individual attar so that you might understand what notes they may or may not add when combined with other fragrances or with each other.
Let’s start with what happens if you layer different combinations of the Areej History of Attar Collection scents together.
LAYERING THE AREEJ ATTARS WITH EACH OTHER:
In testing the various combinations of Areej attars, I started with four (minus the Tuba whose sample I’d lost at the time) and worked my way backwards to three and then to two. The precise combinations were:
- the rose, jasmine, marigold, and champaca attars (Gulab, Motia, Genda, and Champa).
- the rose, jasmine, and champaca attars (Gulab, Motia, and Champa).
- the rose and jasmine (Gulab and Motia).
The quartet of attars opened with earthy, indolic, green, floral, sweet, resinous, spicy, herbal, resinous, and ambered woody notes, all blurred together in a dense, opaque, and completely muddy wall of scent. It’s as though there is zero space for the individual attars to breathe and show off their facets, probably because of the opacity of the overall bouquet. I dislike it. A lot.
Frankly, this was a surprise. I had anticipated that layering the different flowers would result in an extravagantly heightened and more complex sum-total that I would love. Instead, the cumulative effect is as muddy as a child’s painting that mixes every possible colour in the palette. Further, due to the muddy, dense, and opaque blur, there are few individually delineated notes or facets to give the cumulative bouquet any character. If you’re all things at once, then you can end up being nothing — and that is the case here.
The problem of a mundane and totally anonymous bouquet lacking individual clarity to give it any interest or character grows worse as the quartet develops, growing muddier with every passing hour. I have detailed notes on what little development occurs — primarily involving how Genda‘s marigold facets dominate more than anything else, comparatively speaking — but I don’t think it’s worth boring you with the specifics given the bottom-line and the overall problems.
The same problems exist if I layer only three attars. When I tried Gulab, Motia, and Champa trio without Genda’s herbal, dried chamomile tea and flowers, and earthy qualities, the opening was still a tight, airless, muddy floriental blur. The individual facets of the jasmine, rose, champaca, and the degrees thereof feel largely erased as though an opaque filter had been placed on top.
As the trio develops, yes, there are fluctuating and varying pops of honeysuckle from the Champa, rose from the Gulab, camphorous indoles and greenness from the Motia, and yes, they are all woven together by strong (almost doubled) amounts of resinous sandalwood, santal leatheriness, resinous amber, ambered woodiness, or various combinations thereof, but I still find the dense, largely opaque composite effect to be unimpressive, anodyne, and mundane in character as compared to what the attars smell like in solo form.
I think part of the problem is that doubling the pure Mysore sandalwood oil creates a disparity between the floral component and the dark, heavy, intensely resinous base aromas. After just 1.5 hours, the bouquet is mostly a blur of indolic, camphorous, sweet, honeyed, syrupy indeterminate floralcy fused with fluctuating notes and degrees of spicy, resinous, leathery, ambered, smoky, incense-y, and/or woody santal. The heart stage, the long drydown and the end hours essentially consist of the santal taking over as the dominant partner, then swallowing up the floralcy fully.
I don’t find any of it to be distinctive or novel. Layering three attars just doesn’t work, in my opinion. It’s too much.
Layering two attars, however, works better, at least comparatively speaking. I chose my top 2 favourite attars from Russian Adam’s collection, Champa and Gulab to work with.
I liked some of the ensuing results. For example, the rose’s fruity qualities complemented those of the champaca. What I really appreciated, though, is how Gulab’s opening of intensely tarry, sticky, and smoky leather complimented the champaca’s sunny brightness and how it served as a sultry counterbalance. Put another way, it roughed up the strongly feminine aromas of honeysuckle that Champa exudes and added some raw grit to it.
A note of caution, though, to those of you who don’t enjoy extremely musky and/or indolic florals: combining Champa and Gulab attars seems to intensify both qualities to the Nth degree. The quantity or dosage of my scent application seemed irrelevant to this outcome; the real cause appears to be the doubling of both the indoles and of the sandalwood’s musky side. The florals consequently end up feeling carnal in their very fleshy, ripe, and voluptuous effects.
The attar duet develops over time in small, basic ways. First, each of the flowers takes a turn in the spotlight and as the floral focal point of the scent before the cycle begins anew. Second, the overall bouquet turns muddy in terms of note clarity as the hours pass. Even from the start, layering Champa and Gulab resulted in an opaque, dense, wall of scent – it was merely much less so than combining four or three attars. But time dissolves even the duet, alas. And the very first sign of it kicks in as soon as the 45-minute mark.
Just as with the other combinations, the duet’s base essentially swallows up the florals. In the case of Champa and Gulab, this occurs at the end of the 5th hour and the start of the 6th. The result is, honestly, actually too resinous, leathered, dark, spicy, and musky – even for me!
In short, doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the attars seems to throw the entire balance of notes out of whack or sync in addition to also creating muddy, a less distinctive, less nuanced, and personality-less composite. Some of these attars are so beautiful on their own that I think they should be worn that way.
Unless you layer an individual with Western fragrances because that combination can lead to some utterly magical results, depending on what fragrance or concentration you choose.
LAYERING WESTERN FRAGRANCES WITH AN ATTAR:
I specifically began my experimentation with a fragrance in my collection that I abhor and avoid wearing like the plague: a 1998 eau de toilette version of Shalimar. Now, if you’ve read me for a long time, you know my love for the vintage parfum (see, Part I of my Shalimar Guide), but that love does not extend past the formula change of the early 1980s when the birch tar and musks were largely removed and it most certainly does NOT apply to any concentration or formulation from the 1990s onwards, let alone the 1998 EDT covered in Part II of my Guide. As far as I’m concerned, my 1998 EDT is a garbage formulation that should be stabbed through its heretical heart and then tossed under a bulldozer to be obliterated forever from scent and memory.
Could a fantastically opulent, smooth, top-quality, natural attar centered on the rose which original formula Shalimar parfum had (but lacked in all versions after the 1980s) fix the EDT’s myriad olfactory problems? What about adding both the jasmine and rose attars? Could the pronounced leather base in Gulab attar return this revolting EDT back to the grandeur of Jacques Guerlain’s original parfum formulation? What impact would one attar have on the light body of the EDT? What impact would two attars have?
I started with two light, small swipes of Gulab attar before adding two sprays of 1998 Shalimar EDT on top. The opening sucked, as it always does, because the attar hadn’t kicked in enough or bloomed enough at this point to overcome or eradicate the EDT’s shrill, harsh, raspy synthetics. Its jasmine was atrocious, thin, and one-dimensional; its “sandalwood” was absolutely nothing of the sort; there was virtually no bergamot to speak of; and its white musk exuded excessive aromas of laundry dryer sheets.
That said, Gulab did add a thin patina of pale, feminine pink roses that wasn’t in the EDT. What was unexpected, though, was that both Gulab’s roses and its sandalwood weren’t the same as they were in the attar solo. The roses weren’t dark, deep, leathery, or ambered, while the attar’s sandalwood was overshadowing in the opening phase by Shalimar EDT’s heinously grating, thin, raspy, faux santal/synthetic.
The start of the 2nd brings about the first signs of improvement. The EDT+Gulab combination has morphed into something significantly less artificial, chemical, thin, and one-dimensional. For inexplicable reasons, the rose attar seems to accentuate the EDT’s jasmine in addition to transforming it into something lush, voluptuous, and narcotically heady. Gulab’s sandalwood also cures the many failures of the EDT’s “santal.” The attar’s top-grade, concentrated, smooth naturals even overpower that dreadful laundry white musk. The unexpected thing, though, is that the smell of actual roses from Gulab attar has faded away at the end of the 1st hour, even if it is somehow amplifying Shalimar’s jasmine indirectly. I don’t understand it, to be quite honest.
The start of the 3rd hour marks a transformation from straw into utter gold. The duet has made Shalimar EDT significantly less artificial, chemical, thin, raspy, one-dimensional, and intolerable. The rose attar has somehow managed to accentuate and double the EDT’s jasmine, turning it lush and voluptuous, while the Mysore santal cures the many failings of the faux wood in the EDT. Together, they even overpower the EDT’s dreadful laundry musk. And, unexpectedly, the attar not only brings out Shalimar’s vanilla in a way that wasn’t present in the EDT but it enriches it, rendering it into thick, smooth, utterly creamy decadence. The cumulative effect is the way that Shalimar should be (and was in early parfum versions pre-1980/82) but that it most definitely wasn’t in 1998, either in EDT form or any other concentration that I subsequently tested. Speaking of the concentration, Gulab attar transforms the EDT into something akin to a parfum or an extrait. It’s a lovely and welcome surprise. What is unexpected, however, is how the duo lacks any roses on my skin at this point. It’s as though Gulab is working its magically wholly indirectly.
The remainder of the Gulab/Shalimar EDT proceeds just as a really great vintage formulation of Shalimar parfum would develop, only with a heightened degree of amber and resins in the drydown and final hour.
Layering 1998 Shalimar EDT with both Gulab and Motia jasmine attars yielded a roughly comparable development. The only major difference is that the process is speeded up significantly with the first of the changes occurring after just 20 minutes, instead of 1 hour. In addition, the force of the jasmine note was even stronger, the rose was even weaker, and the overall body of the scent felt somewhat heavier than when I added only Gulab to the mix.
VINTAGE LAGERFELD COLOGNE:
Vintage Lagerfeld (sometimes known as Lagerfeld cologne, Lagerfeld Pour Homme, or Lagerfeld Classic) is an eau de toilette that I’ve loved since its release in the late 1970s. (1978 to be exact.) Supposedly, Mr. Lagerfeld sought to make a masculine-skewing homage to his beloved Shalimar, only with tobacco, more florals, and some green or chypre-like elements. Personally, I’ve never found much overlap between Lagerfeld and Shalimar. Also, I know more women who wear it than men these days, so it’s completely unisex, in my opinion.
For those of you unfamiliar with Lagerfeld’s notes, Fragrantica lists the following:
Aldehydes, Tarragon, Clary Sage, Bergamot, Lemon, Green Notes, Tobacco, Sandalwood, Orris Root, Patchouli, Rose, Cedar, Jasmine, Amber, Vanilla, Musk, Oakmoss, and Tonka Bean.
The range of florals made me think that Areej’s Champa attar would be a good fit. I applied 2 light swipes of the oil then topped it with 2 sprays of the EDT. The result was Lagerfeld with the addition of both honey and a beautiful honeysuckle floralcy to the fresh, citrusy, spicy, jasmine-laced tobacco opening as well as a greater fruitiness. In fact, the EDT’s orange-smelling facet seemed to be heightened after 15 minutes, as did its bergamot.
30 minutes in, other changes occur. The attar: doubles Lagerfeld’s overall floralcy, though the accord smells opaque and blurry on my skin; adds pronounced, multi-faceted, and resinous Mysore aromas where there was no genuine or rich, nuanced santal before; and lends a different sort of leathery undertone, one which is smokier, more natural-smelling, darker, and significantly chewier to the one existing in the EDT’s base.
I find the effect to be even better than the EDT by itself. The way Lagerfeld’s own orange and tobacco work with Champa’s fruity notes, honey, spicier, and more ambered qualities is compulsively sniffable to me. Better yet is what happens at the start of the 3rd hour when the attar turns Lagerfeld’s leather (and also every other part of it) buttery, creamy, and rich. Fantastic. And, once again, the original concentration has been jacked up to extrait strength on my skin.
But if I thought Lagerfeld +Champa was good, Lagerfeld +Gulab rose attar blows me away. The original EDT never had a pronounced rose aroma on my skin, despite the note list including it. What Gulab attar brings is a tsunami of fresh, bright, romantic, heady, and sweet-smelling pink roses to the mix. OH MY GOD!
Just as when combined with Shalimar, the roses here do not smell as they do by themselves in Gulab — dark, crimson-hued, leather-backed — but as something much more feminine. They’re still lush, honeyed, softly fruity and, eventually, lightly jammy in character.
They’re a stunning addition to Lagerfeld, turning it into a tobacco rose, then later into a rose-infused tobacco atop a base of buttery calfskin leather and suede, vanilla, and soft, sweet-smelling amber, all dusted with soft spices, a few pinches of bright citrus, and a hint of vanillic tonka.
I love it. It’s sexy, it’s inviting, it’s chic, and it is, in my opinion, the best fusion version of Lagerfeld yet. I cannot wait to go to bed with this combination as my evening “cozy, comfort” scent.
VINTAGE OPIUM EDT:
I layered an early 1980s vintage Opium EDT with Motia jasmine attar. One of my goals was to see how the richer, concentrated distilled jasmine oil would impact the jasmine in Opium as well as the fragrance’s balance of notes. I applied 2 light swipes of Motia (a swipe back, then forth on a roughly 2-inch patch of skin), then topped it with 2 sprays of Opium.
The combination opens with Opium’s exact citrusy, spicy, floriental bouquet, only significantly heavier and richer than the EDT by itself.
Within 5 minutes, Motia attar effects other changes. First, there is an immediate hit of sandalwood instead of the material appearing later on as it usually does on my skin when I wear the EDT. Next, there is a heightened and multi-faceted smokiness that smells indolic, like singed wood, and like opoponax incense. Also amplified and speeded up are Opium’s innate amber characteristics, only now the amber is joined by a thin base layer of dark, resinous leather. Finally, 10 minutes in, Opium’s jasmine turns lusher, heavier, muskier, and more voluptuous.
30 minutes in, Opium +Motia remain the same except in one regard: the bouquet feels much blurrier as though the thick attar oil had added an viscous, opaque filter to the picture.
Roughly 75 to 90 minutes in, the blurriness increases. So do the prominence, role, and strength of Motia’s jasmine and santal. To be honest, I’m not crazy about either this or the way that their heightened ratios changes regular Opium’s balance of notes. Thanks to the muddying heft of the attar, Opium’s famous trademark spiciness is muted then eventually banished to the shadows where it is a mere pipsqueak. To the extent that Opium+Motia is spicy, its source clearly seems to be the santal, rather than Opium’s traditional cloves, spices, and spicy opoponax.
By the end of the 3rd hour, the preponderance of notes in the layered duo skews towards Motia. At a rough estimate, I’d guess that Motia’s highly indolic, musky, and syrupy jasmine and its resinous, smoky, ambered Mysore comprise 70% of the scent on my skin. The remaining 30% is mostly subsumed within that Motia focal point. As someone for whom vintage Opium is one of those sacred scents, I’m not keen on how the attar has obliterated the highly nuanced complexity of the fragrance in addition to a number of its trademark olfactory characteristics.
The sillage is roughly the same as regular Opium EDT, but the differences to the weight, body, and feel of the bouquet are noticeable.
In the days to come, I’m going to try 1 swipe of Motia and 3 of Opium EDT to see if that fixes the imbalance between the two products. Or maybe try a 2:3 ratio. Layering is far from being an exact science. As this article hopefully demonstrates, it requires some experimentation to see what works on your skin and for your particular tastes.
VINTAGE JOLIE MADAME:
I have a Balmain vintage Jolie Madame 1960s EDT that I find to be overly thin and soft on me and, consequently, easily consumed by my voracious skin.
For those of you unfamiliar with Germaine Cellier‘s exquisite chypre, floral, and floral leather, this is one of the two different note lists which I’ve found for the fragrance:
Top notes: gardenia, artemisia, bergamot, coriander, neroli
Heart notes: jasmine, tuberose, rose, orris, jonquil [narcissus]
Base notes: patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, musk, castoreum, leather, civet
Given the inclusion of tuberose and chypre oakmoss, I thought Tuba attar would be a good complement. If you remember, that was the Areej attar that did not work for me, unexpectedly given my usual obsession with tuberose, due to its pronounced mushroom note. But given how Gulab attar manifested itself differently when layered with other scents and did not emit quite the same aromas, I thought Tuba might as well.
Well, yes and no.
Vintage Jolie Madame EDT +Tuba opened on my skin as a much, much mossier, greener scent with enhanced chypre characteristics. Happily, the overall scent was significantly heavier, richer, and deeper in body and aroma as well. Alas, Tuba added to Jolie Madame its blasted earthy mushrooms in addition to its deluge of green and/or mossy qualities. I really do not enjoy feeling as though I’m wearing Eau de Porcini mushrooms and, unfortunately, that is what Tuba always does on me.
At the end of the 1st hour and start of the 2nd, Tuba takes over as a focal point of the pairing. There is no narcissus, none of the floral leather that Jolie Madame’s second stage typically turns into, no citrus, and no castoreum or skank. The bouquet consists predominantly of a woody tuberose floral (65%) with quiet and largely impressionistic chypre-like layers (35%) subsumed blurrily within.
By the end of the 2nd hour and start of the 3rd, the richer Mysore oil changes the original Jolie Madame even further by adding a lovely, strong spicy quality (like cloves with a touch of cinnamon) that the EDT never had before. Also, to my relief, the tuberose’s mushroom aroma is now half what it was at first.
Early into the 4th hour or about 3.25 hours in, Tuba has transformed Jolie Madame EDT into a floriental extrait. In essence, the attar has taken over even further, dominating as much as 85% of the bouquet on my skin. In lieu of Jolie Madame’s typical middle and late stages, the scent now has notes of clove-like spice, woody cream, wood smoke, buttery suede, and softly shimmering ambered warmth.
The cumulative effect is lovely, but it’s not Jolie Madame or even a sister to Jolie Madame. Let’s call it a distant cousin, one which is oddly more complex than the EDT by itself, although I have difficulty in pinpointing the exact reason why. Perhaps it’s because the EDT is so blurry and shapeless on my skin in its middle to late hours. The duo combination is blurry, too, but much less so and with more discernible categories of notes even if the florals are now one jumbled, green-hued blur alongside the equally blurry oakmoss-y-ish ribbon that is wrapped around everything. It’s the Mysore’s myriad facets that are discernible now and I think they work well with everything else.
In its final hours, all that’s left of the duet is a resinous, ambered, buttery, and green-tinged woodiness. I’d estimate that adding Tuba to the weak, soft EDT increased the latter’s longevity by at least 4 hours. Next time, I plan to try Motia layered with my vintage 1970s/80s Jolie Madame parfum to see what happens. I think that will be a more successful pairing due to Motia’s equal greenness but lack of mushrooms (when combined with something else).
MPG’S AMBRE PRECIEUX:
Having tested the Areej attars on vintage EDTs, I wanted to try a widely available modern one that many of you may know or have. I chose Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier‘s fantastic Ambre Precieux, an eau de toilette that is one of my favourite fluffy, cozy ambers and also one without any florals, in my eyes. (I consider lavender to be an aromatic more than a floral, per se.)
To refresh your memory, here are Ambre Precieux’s notes:
Top Notes : Myrtle, Lavander.
Heart Notes : Coumarin, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Labdanum Cistus (labdanum amber).
Base Notes : Balm of Peru, Tolu, Grey Amber (ambergris).
Motia was my attar of layering choice. I applied 2 light swipes of Motia topped by 2 sprays of Ambre Precieux.
The ensuing opening began as the traditional A/P one veiled with fresh, sweet, bridal yet sultry jasmine. Initially, the flower weaves in and out in soft, airy waves but they increase in strength and weight as time passes. After just 15 minutes, the cumulative effect is a beautifully fluffy, ambered, lightly powdered, vanilla-flecked jasmine laced with fluctuating, varying degrees of aromatics, woodiness, and soft, amorphous spices. Oh my heavens, is it good – and it gets even better over the next few hours as the jasmine becomes stronger, more voluptuous, more carnal, more indolic, and headier. Ditto to the resinous, spice, buttery, and incense-like qualities of the Mysore. Honestly, I cannot stop sniffing my arm.
Roughly 5.5 hours in, Ambre Precieux +Motia remains addictive. Its bouquet is centered on rich, sweet, musky, ambered jasmine that is dusted with fluffy, vanilla-scented tonka powder and then given further character and interest by the santal’s incense-laced, resinous, spicy, patchouli-like, and amber aromas. The latter adds a shimmering warmth as well which I find very lovely in conjunction with MPG’s own labdanum and ambergris. The sum-total effect is: sweet; dry; spicy; resinous; solid and rich, yet also paradoxically airy and fluffy; smoky through both incense and woods; complex yet also simple; bright, sunny, cuddly, and sexy.
The equally delightful drydown which begins at the start of the 8th hour consists of a spicy, resinous, velvety, and sweet trio of jasmine, amber, and Mysore sandalwood.
I love every bit of it, and I highly recommend that any Ambre Precieux lovers who bought one or more attars try layering for themselves.
TOM FORD TOBACCO VANILLE:
Up to now, I’ve paired the various Areej attars with eau de toilettes, but I wanted to see what would happen if I used an eau de parfum and whether the richer combination would stand up better to the super-concentrated oil. So I applied 2 sprays of my Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille decant over a base of 2 swipes of Champa attar.
To be honest, this combination was a disaster for someone like me who has a very low tolerance for excessive sweetness. I’m also not particularly certain that the two sets of notes work together.
To refresh your memory, Tobacco Vanille’s notes, per Nordstrom’s website (which has the most complete list that I’ve found), is reportedly:
ginger, tobacco leaves, anise, coriander, tobacco flower, clove, spices, fruit wood sap, benzoin, vanilla, tonka bean.
You would think that a flower that smells of honey, honeysuckle, jasmine, and even a big of magnolia — in addition to its spice and fruity qualities — would work well here, but I was actually somewhat disconcerted by the fusion. Tobacco Vanille and its synthetics essentially dominate the first hour, erasing everything that made Champa beautiful in solo form except for its honey. And, boy, that honey in combination with Tobacco Vanille’s pre-existing sweetness… it’s quite something. Gah.
At the end of the first hour, Champa attar peaks out from the background shadows to which it has been relegated. Its presence is noticeable only via a demure, impressionistic, subtle sheen of vaguely honeysuckle-like floralcy and floral honey. There is no increased spiciness, resinousness, muskiness, or amber from the Mysore sandalwood and no fruitiness or jasmine from the champaca whatsoever.
The sweetness of the duo seems to double at this time, by the way. I’m starting to clench my teeth.
90 minutes in, I wave the white flag of surrender and scrub Tobacco Vanille +Champa. Or, rather, I try to since the degree of synthetics in the Tom Ford scent meant that remnants stayed on my skin to torment me with sickly sweetness for hours and hours.
I learnt a lesson from this combination that I want to impart to my fellow sufferers of cloying, overly sweet fragrances: layering an attar that has its own degree of sweetness under or on top of a fragrance that is semi-gourmand to begin with is a big mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Our final Western fragrance is Papillon‘s animalic floriental eau de parfum, Salome. To refresh your memory, here are its notes:
Turkish rose, Jasmine, Carnation, Oakmoss, Castoreum, Civet, Hyraceum, Styrax, Tobacco, Orange Blossom, Patchouli, Sweet Hay, Bitter Red Orange, Bergamot, Cumin, Clove bud, Birch tar, and Vanilla.
Given its floral components, I first tested Salome with Gulab rose attar and then, in a separate second test, with Champa champaca attar. I was curious about two things: 1) how an attar might impact the degree and prominence of Salome’s animalics; and 2) whether it would amplify the concentration or strength of an eau de parfum to the same or different degree than it did to an eau de toilette. In both my tests, I applied a base layer of 2 light swipes of the chosen attar upon which I added 2 sprays of Salome.
With Gulab, Salome opens as Salome before quickly taking on a far stronger, far more overt rose aroma than the EDP by itself. Once that occurs (about 12-15 minutes in), the fragrance’s vintage-skewing skank or dirtiness felt softer, more tempered, comparatively speaking, as though the volume had been dialed down from the original 7.5 out of 10 on my skin to somewhere around 4.5 or 4.
Let me be clear, Salome +Gulab is still skanky, still animalic, and still inundated with urinous civet, castoreum and hyraceum dirty musks, and sexualized cumin animalics. The difference now, however, is that they are seeping out through an increasingly thick filter of narcotically heady, richly concentrated, fruity, honeyed, and strawberry-flecked pink rose petals. Salome by itself never had such a degree of roses on my skin, nor such beautiful, opulent ones.
Champa attar did not impact Salome as rapidly or as prominently. The only noticeable change in the opening 20 minutes was the addition of dark, molten honey from the champaca’s honeysuckle side. Salome’s animalics were not comparatively softer because they weren’t muffled through the addition of a thick layer of something else. If anything, 35 minutes in, the Mysore sandalwood’s resinous and musky qualities seemed to further amplify Salome’s innate ones from the civet, castoreum, and hyraceum. The leather innately present in the EDP was similarly amplified.
One thing that both attars do is to increase Salome’s opening sillage as well as the weight of its overall bouquet. The version with Champa seems especially dense due to the significant spikes in muskiness, leather, and skanky animalics. The version with Gulab is less heavy in feel, no doubt because the combination has skewed heavily towards the floral (rose) side in lieu of more animalics or dark base notes.
At the start of the 3rd hour, Salome +Champa wafts the usual Salome bouquet at this same stage in time as the EDP by itself except it’s significantly more ambered than the EDP solo. I’d estimate that, thanks to the Mysore’s resinous ambery side, the amber in Salome’s bouquet has doubled in presence and/or quantity.
Roughly 4.25 hours in, or early in the 5th hour, Salome +Gulab continues to have a prominent veneer of ripe, lush, fruity and heady roses to a degree unlike the solo EDP did at this same point in time. Salome +Champa continues to be exactly as I described above: Salome with the addition of thick honey as well as heightened degrees of dark musks, skanky animalics, leathery resinousness, and amber. Salome +Gulab has only a tenth of those qualities, comparatively speaking. Essentially, the roses continue to tame Salome’s naughty side.
The combinations follow on their set paths with all their set differences through to the middle of the drydown. Basically, whatever I experience with Salome solo, I get the addition of roses when I add Gulab attar or I get increased musks, resinousness, and amber when I add Champa.
The final hours for both versions center on a simple, skin-like, warm musky, spicy, woody, and golden plushness.
My experiences layering the attars with each other and then with blended Western fragrances led to a number of conclusions.
First, I really do not recommend layering more than two attars together. Trios or quartets create too muddy a scent, so more is not better.
If you do decide to layer two attars, I wouldn’t recommend using Champa attar as one of them. My experiences layering Champa with Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille and with Salome solidified a thought that I’ve had all along: Champa is best on its own. What makes it stand out always seems to be lost when paired with something else; its beauty shines best and its multiplicity of little faces shine most clearly when it is used solo.
That is not the case with the other attars like Motia or Gulab, each of which operates as a fantastic addition to Western fragrances, either remedying major raw material and/or performance flaws in a scent or else adding notes that were lacking and sorely missed. I still can’t get over how good the combination of Gulab and Lagerfeld were or Motia and Ambre Precieux. No, “good” is an understatement. Each layered bouquet feels like a new scent entirely, one that is compulsively sniffable and addictive. As for what the attars did to one of the vilest formulations of Shalimar that I’ve ever encountered, I remain staggered at the degree, nature, and quality of the improvements. Frankly, I would never have believed it possible if I hadn’t smelled the before and after myself.
Due to their soliflore or single-flower note, I know that some people have either not bothered to try the Areej attars or else dismissed them as being too basic relative to the typically complex Areej blended fragrances. I hope the many, many Western +attar combinations that I’ve outlined here will show the incredible versatility of the oils, their unexpected benefits, and how they might expand your fragrance collection simply by virtue of creating new blends. The sheer quality of the oils — absolutely top-notch and smooth — is also bound to enhance the richness, body, and/or synthetic nature of some of the problem fragrances you may have.
That said, I want to repeat that most of the attars are equally enjoyable on their own in solo form. My order of preference is, as mentioned at the end of Part II of this series: Champa, Gulab, and Motia. (I remain steadfast in my opposition to Genda as a whole and in my dislike of Tuba’s mushroom side, but maybe those two attars will shine on someone else’s skin.)
All in all, nice job!
Disclosure: My samples and bottles were provided courtesy of 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 come in a 3 gram bottle that costs $75. You can buy them directly from Areej Le Dore: Champa, Tuba, Gulab and Motia. (Yes, I’m blocking out 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, lab-tested, and aged Mysore sandalwood that was distilled in the year 2000. (This is not the same sandalwood used in the attars. It has a mild and milkier aroma.) While there was a sample set of all 5 attars, each in 0.2 g vials, high demand has forced Russian Adam to put it currently on hold. I don’t know if or when it may return.
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Love jasmine and I love MPG Ambre Precieux! Glad to hear that they make a beautiful combination.
I ordered the Gulab. For me, it is way too intense. I have to put the smallest bit on so it doesn’t over power me. I ended up adding two drops to a 3% tincture of Ambergris I have. This made the rose softer. I can still smell the ambergris, too.
That sounds like a gorgeous combination!
This was a very interesting read, thank you! I´ll be happy to try anything that improves the rather flat, insipid version of Shalimar that I currently have.
OMG…I loved this article! Your passion for fragrances is highly apparent in the way you poetically describe something so ephemeral with such accurate eloquence. I have a long-standing love for fragrances since a young age, and have recently discovered your blog, which I am enamored by. I have so many neophyte questions to ask…but I will save those for another time. Thank You for sharing your wisdom with us all…you’re appreciated!
Thank you so much for the kind words, Relmaster. And welcome to the site! 🙂
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Can you please publish an article on how to apply fragrances and your routine? What spray distance from skin are you applying your fragrances?
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!