How do you actually make perfume? For AbdesSalaam, the fundamental starting point is with an idea or thematic concept for your creation, one that is as simple as possible. Again and again, AbdesSalaam returned to the Guerlain quote discussed in Part I on the importance of simple ideas, and emphasized that you should not get lost in your own fantasy or over-complicate things. Once you have the idea, then you try to render it concrete by blending materials in accordance with a formula that is centered first on the main accord, then on secondary elements.
The scent hit you with the force of a tornado from the moment you pushed open the door. Even at the very threshold of our classroom, you were plunged into a maelstrom of aromas. Sparkling citruses danced a brisk Foxtrot with green herbs; dark spices intertwined in a slithering tango with lush floralcy; ripples of golden warmth ran over a hint of desert dustiness here or a whisper of geranium there — they twisted and turned in the air, alone and together, a multitude of invisible forces spinning out to touch you, to suffuse your body, to stampede up your nose with the force of an invading armada before quickly flittering away. A wave of woods, both spicy and aromatic, vibrated in the air, set at a lower frequency than the rest, but caressing you nevertheless.
The molecules may have been invisible, but they carried as much weight, heft, and impact as anything solid in the classroom. They felt like an introduction to the lesson we’d be learning, a welcoming committee or advance guard that enveloped our senses far before we ever sat at our tables. It’s a testament to the sheer force and intensity of concentrated essential oils that the scent maelstrom had somehow managed to escape from the hundred of closed bottles in that room, transforming the very air around them into a tantalizing promise of things to come.
Giant sunflowers filled the field, their yellow faces turned down to hide against the glare of the sun that dominated the cornflower blue sky. The next field over was filled with golden hay, freshly harvested and rolled into enormous, round bales that dotted the landscape for several miles. Small grapes hung from trees in another field, while the distant landscape was a gentle, rolling wave of green hills adorned with tall, ancient cypresses, elegantly pruned into long columns and standing proudly like Roman centurions guarding the land.
This was Coriano‘s “Agriturismo” commune, the countryside about 15 to 20 minutes outside the busy seaside resort of Rimini on Italy’s central coast. As I stared at the view from my taxi window, I thought of how the scene had been repeated from the trains I’d just taken from Rome and from Bologna. Well, minus the enormous fields of sunflowers that would have made Van Gogh utterly ecstatic. Italy was in full bloom, its countryside lush and slowly getting ready for harvesting. It made me all the more eager to get to my destination, to harvest my own crops of an olfactory nature, and to begin the perfume course that I’d journeyed so far to take.
Yesterday, we visited Tarzan in a forest of oakmoss vetiver but, today, we’re going on Oud Caravan No. 3 in the Sahara before taking the Cuba Express. Those are two fragrances from AbdesSalaam Attar (“Dominique Dubrana“) of La Via del Profumo, and I’ll look at each one in turn.
OUD CARAVAN No. 3:
Oud Caravan No. 3 is an eau de parfum and the final part of a trilogy that was originally created in conjunction with a 2011 Basenotes project called the Oud Caravan Project. On his website, AbdesSalaam Attar explains that No. 3 is a true, authentic agarwood fragrance and, as a result, its opening and head notes are not for the faint of heart, even though the oud’s fangs have been muzzled here as compared to the first two entries in the line. He also elaborates on the nature of true, Middle Eastern oud which I think might be important for those of you accustomed to the very inauthentic or diluted Western sort which, frequently, isn’t even real agarwood at all. I’ve taken the liberty of formatting AbdesSalaam’s single-line description into paragraphs for reasons of space and it reads, in relevant part, as follows:
For those who want to know the real Oud. […] Oud Caravan N° 3 is the last and final version of the Oud Caravan project. A rich, lushful fantastic Oud. It is an authentic Oud, wild and full fledged, hose animalic notes have been at last tamed.
Real Oud is not a perfume for all. It is not an easy scent to wear, you must have a lion’s heart. He is somehow like the mythical Dragon, if your inner force is too weak you will not bear it. In the Oud Caravan N°3 the Dragon has been briddled and saddled, made ready for you to ride him.
Oud is the perfume of the Bedouin princes of the desert. I have tempered with exotic fruitty notes the aspect of excessive power that caracterize the head notes of a good Oud. A good Oud must be excessively powerful and long lasting. The initial heaviness is a natural characteristic of a quality Oud but the beauty of this essence is in its heart and end notes.
The head notes of Oud have to be overcome by the wearer and not all have the energy for that, but thesse notes are indeed those who give the greatest joy to the real Oud lover. My aim was to smooth and temper the initial notes and to control their energy in order to make the scent real Oud accessible to a greater number.
Oud is comparable to the date tree of the Arabs, difficult to climb because of the dangerous needles of its leaves, but when you overcome this, you reach a treasure of sweetness, the ripe fresh dates. It is more easy to enjoy the date tree sitting under its shade than by climbing it and eating its dates, likewise it is more easy to smell the sillage of a prince wearing real Oud than to wear it oneself. Oud Caravan N° 3 is like a date tree where the leaves have been cleaned of their sharp needles so that the treasure of sweetness of the fresh dates is easily at hand.