An unexpected surprise greeted me when I tried an attar and two eau de parfums from Al Haramain‘s Prestige and Premium Collections: a common theme of refreshing aromatic, herbal, and leafy greenness that tied the three fragrances together despite being in very different genres. It also made them more interesting than I had expected, particularly for an oriental blend from a Middle Eastern company, and even more so for an oud-based one. In my experience, Arab oud fragrances tend to follow certain stylistic conventions or formulas, but Ode of Oudh was a refreshing change and I mean that in the literal olfactive sense as well as metaphorically. Mystique Musk similarly felt more creative than its genre or note list had led me to expect. Both of fragrances are from the Prestige Collection which treads a lighter and quieter path than the Premium Collection attars which have the typically dense, forceful, or powerful aesthetic of their genre. The Prestige Collection follows a slightly more European aesthetic but without completely giving up its oriental roots, and the result is a nice mixing of styles.
As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.
One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.
The end of the year is always a crazy time, particularly in terms of new releases. I’m starting to have visions of a Leaning Tower of Pisa composed of sample vials toppling over and squashing me to death. I simply can’t keep up. It’s almost entirely my own fault because of the detailed, verbose way I approach my reviews, but there are also more and more fragrances being launched every year. According to Michael Edwards, author of Fragrances of the World, there were 1620 releases in 2014 as compared to 38 back in 1984. I’m sure there are even more this year — and it all seems to reach a crescendo during the holidays. I’m exhausted, both mentally and physically, and my stack of notes (some going back months and months) exceeds the number of proper, full reviews I can write before it’s time to do the year-end “Best of” lists.
As a result, for much of this week, I’ll be posting rapid-fire mini reviews, starting today with Diptyque‘s new Oud Palao and Essences Insensées 2015, Al Haramain‘s Najm Gold and Atifa Blanche attars, A Lab on Fire‘s new Mon Musc à Moi by Dominique Ropion, and Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Remarkable People. They are all 2015 releases except for the Al Haramain attars. I’ll provide only the most basic information: note lists, and links to the company, a vendor, and/or Fragrantica for you to pursue later if you’re interested. The “reviews” themselves will be generalised overviews or nutshells. So, let’s get to it.
Al Haramain‘s Prestige Collection turns away from the extravagant and ornate orchestral symphonies of Middle Eastern attars to focus on quieter melodies that bear a more European aesthetic. Eau de parfums like Obsessive Oudh and Arabian Treasure are both soliflores that pay tribute to a characteristically Eastern ingredient — authentic, genuine agarwood and labdanum amber, respectively — but they do so in a quieter fashion, filtering the materials’ complex, animalic, or decadent qualities through a refined lens to create a very approachable scent. And, yet, the fragrances never give up their oriental roots completely, always maintaining a strong olfactory vestige or quality that nods to the company’s origins.
They may not be the edgiest or most complicated of scents, but they’re not meant to be. What they’re meant to be are highly polished orientals that clarify the ingredients and blend them seamlessly in a lighter, airier, softer bouquet to create an easy-to-wear, versatile, and high-quality scent. All of that is then packaged in a truly luxurious, chic manner. I’ll look at each fragrance in turn.