The Koh-i-Noor, “mountain of light” in Persian, is one of the largest and most famous diamonds in the world, part of the British Crown Jewels, and a glittering focus of the opulent Queen Mary’s Crown. It is also the name of Areej Le Doré‘s latest parfum, a floral oriental with a heart of lush, indolic flowers, radiating white, yellow, and gold, against a velvety backdrop of golden amber, Mysore sandalwood, citrus, deer musk, and oud.
Mossy forests, leathery tea medleys with apricot, ginger spice blends atop soft florals, and indolic floral orientals — those are the heart of four fragrances from Providence Perfume Company that I thought we’d look at today.
Providence Perfume Company is a highly respected, American artisanal and all-natural brand founded by Charna Ethier. I really liked her Provanilla when I tried it earlier this year, a deep, dark vanilla with Caribbean rum and a surprisingly delicious splash of creamy honeydew melon. Ms. Ethier kindly sent me samples of her other creations and, today, I’ll cover Osmanthus Oolong, Ginger Lily, Hindu Honeysuckle, and Moss Gown. That’s a lot to fit into one post and I don’t want it to be ridiculously long, so I’ll try to be as brief as someone with my verboseness can manage.
Bruno Acampora wants to take you on a journey into the twin worlds of tuberose and jasmine where the waters run blue and the white flowers are almost green, drenched with a dewy freshness that drips onto their bitter stems. The Italian niche house is an interesting one, and I’d long heard about their famous Blu, a tuberose scent, as well as their Jasmin. (Officially, the fragrance is called “Jasmin T,” but I shall sometimes go by the simpler version that several retailers use.) What I hadn’t realised at the time was what an interesting chap Mr. Acampora was. He was part of the European jet-set, close friends with Gianni Versace and hung out with Andy Warhol at the latter’s Silver Factory. In fact, there is even an Andy Warhol print of Mr. Acampora.
A Fragrantica article from earlier this year provides more details. Apparently, Mr. Acampora founded his perfume house 40 years ago after advice from a “French sensualist” on the beaches of St. Tropez who told Mr. Acampora to create fragrances that embodied his jet-setting experiences from Rio and Cairo to the Saharan Desert, Kenya, Marrakesh, Venice, Capri, the Antilles, Rio de Janeiro, Beirut, India, China and Japan. In 1974, Bruno Acampora did precisely that, releasing several fragrances, including Blu and Jasmin, all in very concentrated essential oils.
Mr. Acampora is now deceased, but the company continues under his son, Brunello Acampora, who works alongside his wife, Sonia, to continue his father’s vision. To that end, in 2012, they released the classic scents in a new concentration: sprayable eau de parfums. It is those versions of Blu and Jasmin T which shall be the focus of this review. One reason why is that they are much more affordable, per ml, than the oils. Another is that the eau de parfums apparently hew closely to the scent of the originals.
“Debauched jasmine” rendered musky from Laotian oud, sweet from vanilla, and fresh from bergamot lies at the heart of Al Khatt, an eau de parfum from Xerjoff that seems more like an attar in its concentrated richness. It’s a creamy, sometimes animalic jasmine whose petals often feel as though they had been drenched in sharp honey, and which wafts a quiet animalic sensuality that is subtly amplified by the earthiness of a very muted, truffle-like oud.
Xerjoff is an Italian luxury perfume house founded in 2004 by Sergio Momo. In 2012, Xerjoff (pronounced as “Zer-joff”) launched its Oud Stars Collection of fragrances which included Al Khatt. (The perfume’s name is sometimes written as Al-Khatt or Al Khat, but I’ll go with the version given on the company’s website.) Like the rest of its siblings, Al Khatt was created by the perfume house’s founder, in conjunction with Sonia Espelta and Laura Santander.
I love Xerjoff‘s description of Al Khatt as a “debauched jasmine” that meets the “irrepressible sweetness of vanilla” in a 1000 and One Nights tale. Other sites provide the more boring, general press release summary:
Al Khatt is a mystical and seductive fragrance crafted to transport the wearer to a far off land. Refreshing and floral top notes of Bergamont and Jasmine tantalize the senses as a warm heart note of Cashmeran lends a soft musky and woody core to the heart. At the base, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Laos benzoin and Oud Laos provide a warm and long lasting finish to scent sending the wearer to a glamourous reverie reminiscent of 1001 nights.
Italian Bergamot, Jasmine Sambac, Cashmeran, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Benzoin, and Laotian Oud.
Al Khatt opens on my skin with a veritable tsunami of jasmine that is syrupy, treacly, heady, and massively concentrated. Initially, it is flecked with vanilla, then with a jammy richness that turns into plush oakmoss for a brief moment. Slivers of fresh bergamot slink around the edges, feeling as though the fruit were so over-ripe that its sweet juices had burst from the skin.
It takes less than 2 minutes for a musky oud to appear, though the note stays firmly in the background. At first, the wood is slightly sharp and definitely honeyed, but there are also quiet, very muted whispers of the same blue cheese Gorgonzola note that was such a strong presence in Xerjoff’s famous (or, rather, infamous) Zafar. Here, however, it’s merely a subtle undertone that only lasts about 10 minutes, at most, and which is always deep in the base. Neither that muffled whisper nor the actual oud itself ever detract from Al Khatt’s main focus which is, from start to finish, the jasmine.
The flower has been expertly manipulated in Al Khatt to reflect every one of its natural characteristics. When I first wore the perfume, I was initially puzzled by a jammy quality underlying the jasmine which felt as if a very fruited, syrupy patchouli had been used in lieu of the oakmoss. The fruitiness went far beyond mere bergamot, no matter how rich or sun-ripened the latter might be, and it really felt more like dark, plummy fruits.
After 30 minutes, those fruits clearly read as purple damask grapes, and a light went off in my head: methyl anthranilate. As a Wikipedia entry explains, one of the natural organic compounds in white flowers like jasmine is methyl anthranilate which is the same natural compound that exists in Concord grapes as well. Wikipedia adds that the element has also been synthesized into an aroma-chemical which is used a lot in perfumery. Whether here, in Al Khatt, the grape element comes from the natural side of the jasmine or from something else, I don’t know, but the floral component in the fragrance is definitely fleshed out on my skin by the sweetness of grapes.
There is another side to the methyl anthranilate found in jasmine, and that is muskiness. The Wikipedia entry states that the compound is also naturally “secreted by the musk glands of foxes and dogs, and lends a ‘sickly sweetness’ to the smell of rotting flesh.” Rest assured that, on my skin, Al Khatt does not smell remotely like “rotting flesh,” but the jasmine’s grape undertone is definitely accompanied by a sharp muskiness. The latter is amplified further by two things. First, a honey note that appears after 90 minutes and which seems to coat the jasmine’s white petals with a sweetness that almost verges on sharpness. Second, the oud.
The oud in Al Khatt merits a separate discussion, primarily because it was not at all what I had expected when I first applied the scent. I was extremely wary of Xerjoff’s handling of the wood, primarily because of Zafar where it was like ripe Gorgonzola blue cheese and extremely intense. Aged Laotian oud — like the kind used here — can also smell like a barnyard, verging on an actual fecal aroma. A quick reading of Al Khatt’s Fragrantica’s entry did not reassure me, as there were differing opinions of the note and just how fecal it was. So, I had quite braced myself to experience either mounds of manure or, even worse in my estimation, rotting blue cheese.
It didn’t happen. On my skin, the oud is neither fecal, barnyard-like, urinous, or Gorgonzola. Instead, its most defining characteristic is a muskiness that is earthy. Once, and for a mere 5 minutes, it smelled a bit like a horse’s sweaty leather saddle. To be honest, the thing I keep detecting the most is a black truffle aroma, mixed with a tiny, miniscule dash of sweaty, sweetened, loamy dirt. The overall effect is to create the strange sense of wood that has been coated with musky, sweet black truffles, but it’s only a vague, nebulous feeling because the oud is barely perceptible on my skin.
I’ve never worn Al Khatt and instantly thought to myself, “Oh, oud.” On me, the perfume is always about the jasmine, then the vanilla and bergamot, with various undertones dancing at the edges that alternatively translate as “animalic,” or “musky.” It merely happens that the “musky” note occasionally has a wood-like basis as well. Even then, it is more like a subtle vein that runs below the top layers, that is thoroughly imbued into the jasmine, and that only pops up intermittently. And it doesn’t appear at all after 40 minutes.
It’s hard for me to dissect Al Khatt and its evolution the way that I normally do because this is one supremely well-blended fragrance. It is what I call “prismatic,” and throws off different notes each time I wear it and at different times. Like light hitting a crystal chandelier, those notes bounce around throughout Al Khatt’s development. Each time I think something has vanished, it pops up again later, most noticeably in the case of the bergamot. Everything is seamlessly blended into the dominant jasmine note, infused into its fabric in a way that transforms it into a musky, sweet, syrupy, sometimes animalic creature, but which is hard to pull out in a separate, distinct way. That said, the oud is one of the least noticeable things on my skin. The other elements appear and reappear almost in a circular continuum around the jasmine, but not the oud.
For the most part, Al Khatt is a linear bouquet of jasmine, vanilla, and bergamot, nestled in a generally abstract bed of woodiness. The nuances of those notes change over time, as does their individual prominence, but the core essence of the perfume never does. The bergamot’s heavily sweet character adds to the jasmine’s syrupy nature, but also providing a contrasting touch of bright freshness from time to time. Every time I think it has faded away or been overtaken by the creamy vanilla, it comes back like a tidal wave. The creamy, extremely smooth vanilla ebbs and flows in the same way.
Those two notes are almost constant companions to the jasmine, which is the only thing to really change in the perfume. Its Concord grape facet vanishes after an hour, to be replaced by a coating of sharp, thick honey — though where the latter comes from is a mystery to me. Honey is not listed in the notes, so I assume that my nose is reading the intensely syrupy sweetness of the jasmine sambac in the first few hours as “honey.” However, the flower also has a creamy velvetiness, largely thanks to the vanilla. The latter sometimes appears as a very distinct entity in its own right, but it’s generally just infused and melded into the very core of the jasmine. Throughout it all, the jasmine remains musky and excessively sweet. At times, there is almost a feel of something brownly leathered lurking underneath, though I don’t know whether it stems from the methyl anthranilate, the Laotian oud, or the flower’s naturally indolic essence.
There are other notes that occasionally pop up in Al Khatt, but they are either so minor or so fleeting that they don’t warrant a lot of discussion. I detected a miniscule pop oakmoss in Al Khatt for all of about 2 minutes in the opening, and then it vanished. The cashmeran wood doesn’t show up in any solid way until the end of the 8th hour. Up to then, it works indirectly to create the subtle feeling of abstract “woodiness” hovering around the edges of the jasmine-vanilla-bergamot trio. At the start of the ninth hour, however, Al Khatt finally turns drier and the vague sense of abstract woodiness grows fractionally stronger. That’s really about it on my skin.
The greatest, most obvious changes to Al Khatt involve its weight and sillage. This is an eau de parfum that feels like an attar because it is massively concentrated in smell. I cannot stress enough the incredibly potency of the aroma in the first few hours. 3 smears amounting to one 1/4 of a ml or one good spray from a bottle created a thick, dense bouquet that felt like solid, treacly jasmine syrup at first. Al Khatt doesn’t seem at all like an alcohol-based eau de parfum, or even an extrait de parfum. Yet, for all its heavy, concentrated sweetness, Al Khatt is surprisingly light in weight and has only moderate sillage at first. Those 3 smears created a small cloud that initially extended a mere 2 inches above the skin. After 90 minutes, Al Khatt lay right on the skin, and the perfume turned into a skin scent at the start of the 4th hour. Attars usually have soft projection because they are pure oil, not alcohol-based fragrances. Al Khatt is listed as an eau de parfum, but it doesn’t feel or act like it.
Thankfully, Al Khatt doesn’t remain as solid jasmine syrup throughout its development. The perfume loses a lot of its heft after 2.75 hours. As the honeyed nuances soften, Al Khatt feels lighter and thinner. By the end of the 4th hour, the bergamot-infused, musky jasmine is lightly flecked with vanilla, barely coated with honey, and feels more like a rich, deep eau de parfum. It may be a skin scent, but it is still easy to smell up close if you bring your nose to your arm. Eventually, by the 8th hour, Al Khatt becomes a gauzy wisp of jasmine and vanilla, infused with an abstract woodiness that makes the perfume a little drier in feel. In its final moments, Al Khatt is nothing more than sweet jasmine.
The perfume lasted for a monstrous amount of time on my perfume-consuming skin. Al Khatt had entered into its 15th hour when I really couldn’t take any more and finally washed it off in fatigue. If I experienced those numbers, I have to wonder what people with normal skin may get.
I have very mixed feelings about Al Khatt. Initially, a part of me reveled in the heady, very excessive jasmine, especially given the creamy vanilla with which it was mixed. The honey and musk were also pretty, but the oud’s truffle earthiness was perhaps the best part. It was so minor, so unusual, and so muted at times, that it added a fascinating mysteriousness to the otherwise syrupy flower. I kept sniffing to try to pinpoint the exact nature of the aroma, but it tantalized me by feeling just out of reach for a lot of the time. When it disappeared almost entirely after 2 hours, and was replaced by a swathe of animalic honey instead, Al Khatt became much less interesting.
What I’m really ambivalent about is Al Khatt’s over-the-top richness. At first, it was lovely, then it became too much, and finally I was completely worn out. Al Khatt is clearly meant to be “death by jasmine” — whether infused with oud or not. That’s fine. I’m usually all for death by jasmine. But Al Khatt’s linear simplicity in conjunction with such intensely unadulterated richness simply became too much after a while.
I’ve concluded that Al Khatt is a mood fragrance, by which I mean that it’s one of those things that is best suited for both a particular mood and a very special occasion. I think it might be wonderful as something that you’d wear once every six months, perhaps for a black tie dinner. Al Khatt’s opulent, luxurious intensity and soft sillage would make it perfect for a gala evening, especially one that may last all night. But I really don’t think Al Khatt is the sort of fragrance that people would be tempted to reach for often, let alone daily.
The “special occasion” feel is probably just as well, given Al Khatt’s high price. The elaborate crystal bottle crowned with a hand crafted bronze stopper is only 50 ml or 1.7 oz in size, and costs $310 or €240. Kilian’s Ouds cost far more ($385) for a comparable size, but have never once conveyed as much concentrated richness or full-bodied weight. To my nose, they certainly don’t smell as though they contain actual oud, let alone the aged Laotian variety that is one of the most expensive on the market. There may not be much of it in Al Khatt (in contrast to the infamous Zafar), but it’s certainly there. So, determining whether Al Khatt is worth its price will be a very subjective, personal valuation. I love jasmine, especially the “death by jasmine” variety, but I wouldn’t want to wear Al Khatt even if it were less expensive.
Some people love Al Khatt. In fact, I’ve read a few comments in groups or places like Basenotes where the person will state that it is one of their favorite Xerjoff perfumes after Zafar. On Fragrantica, however, the reviews are quite mixed. One of the positive ones which mirrors a few of my own experience or thoughts comes from “Jack Hunter” who writes:
This opens with bergamont and jasmine giving the scent that Summer freshness. Then the skanky Laotian Oud comes in to the mix and it does have that barnyard stink. Thankfully this only lasts for ten minutes tops and mostly disappears and you can only smell it ever so slightly. It does add a carnal sensuality under the Summer fresh jasmine accord which dominates and after a while it dissappears. So if you can get past the first ten minutes its not a issue. After a few hours the vanille comes into play and slightly sweetens the jasmine accord without it losing that Summer freshness.
The fragrance projects strongly and lasts and the ingredients are top notch. The thing I like about this fragrance which for me makes it stand out is the floral fresh jasmine accord which is perfect for the Summer. Most fragrances have lemon, orange or citrus which makes this one a pleasent change. Though there is no denying that this is more on the feminine side of unisex. Those who are looking for a Oud dominanted fragrance will be disappointed me thinks as it disappears completly forty minutes in.
So to sum up a Summer fresh jasmine dominated fragrance which has the skanky Oud for the first forty minutes then disappears completly. Its floral and gets sweeter without losing that freshness which leans towards the feminine side of unisex. I have to say this would smell great on a woman.
The issue of the oud is the greater divider, splitting people into different camps. For example:
- I love this as a flora, the jasmine is superb, but I don’t think it is an Oud Star. The oud is very earthy and animalic but it disappears very quickly. How does o base note like oud behave like a fleeting top note? I don’t think it warrants the price tag with oud being the high priced accord and not lasting long enough to satisfy my oud craving. The jasmine is nonetheless superb.
Literally smells like animal feces, specifically cow manure and hay. This is purely awful and would offend just about anyone you encounter. Unless they live on a farm and love the smell of cow manure blasting their nostrils. This is the worst smelling fragrance I’ve ever encountered in my life. I laughed at how bad it smells. It reminded me of sweaty arm pits, civet juice being drained from its body, barnyard oud and feces all in one bottle. Repulsive to the core. Who the hell would want to smell like this??????
One commentator, “Alfarom,” who initially loved Al Khatt, slowly changed his mind about the fragrance. His review pretty much sums up how I feel about the fragrance after only 2 wearings:
Al-Khatt, together with Zafar, have been my favorite composition in the Oud Stars series for some time but, lately, it bores me.
The fragrance opens with an extremely interesting fecal oud note paried to some indolic Jasmine. During the initial phases Al-Khatt is quite a wower if you like challenging stuff. Strongly fecal and dirty, extremely exotic but somewhat fascinating in its carnal iteration of this neglected accord. Unfortunately the jasmine takes brutally over in no time and drives the fragrance towards a more conventional territory. What I’m left with, is a bombastic and overly sweet musky-jasmine base that’s not so distant from Mugler’s Alien. Quite linear, extremely long lasting (almost exasperating), potentially cloying and, in the end, a bit boring too. Mild thumbs up more leaning to neutral.
Again, I didn’t experience anything fecal, but at least that sounds more interesting that the musky earthiness that I detected for a mere 40 minutes. I fully and completely concur with much of the rest of his description. Al Khatt is definitely “a bombastic and overly sweet musky-jasmine” that is “potentially cloying” and “almost exasperating” in how long its linear simplicity endures. I washed it off after 15 hours, and I love jasmine, so that should tell you something.
The same split in opinion that you see on Fragrantica also exists on Basenotes, where the perfume has 2 positive reviews, 2 neutral ones, and 2 negatives. One of the latter reads:
Belongs to the mercifully small category of jasmines drowned in syrup, the point of which somewhat escapes me. All vitality is sucked out of the floral scent in order to squash it under the weighty backside of something unrelentingly sweet. The lino glue tones of the opening didn’t do much to help either. Why this is an Oud Star is a bit of a mystery, anything resembling oud is submerged.
The other negative one is rather hilarious as it mentions “being a spectator under the big top of a traveling circus with its animal stench and cotton candy,” but I was most interested to see that one of the neutral reviewers also experienced a grape aroma:
Al Khatt opens with a sweet candy accord – with all of the concentrated powder of a tutti-frutti instant drink mix (with a lean toward grape, me thinks). Luckily there is an immediately recognizable creamy (almost sour milk) oud lying beneath and this quickly begins to aid in the balance of what might otherwise become a syrupy sweet scrubber on me. Just when you think you are in a candy shop, this blend goes all horsey on your ass and you have been transported to the hides, sawdust, smokey, and yes – even fecal notes – of a well-kept stable. Truly Bizarre to pair a synthetic-feeling sugar-toothed opening with the most natural and skanky of the ouds in the series. Nice projection and longevity on this one. Still, I cannot say I love the marriage here. It is just too unbalanced to my nose, and even conjures up an odd sneeze-inducing moment from time to time as if telling my body not to dare spray this stuff again.
In all fairness, Al Khatt does have some freshness amidst its jasmine overload, thanks to the bergamot. The same positive Fragrantica review was also posted on Basenotes, and I think “Jack Hunter” does have a point in talking about “floral fresh jasmine accord.” He finds it perfect for summer, though I personally think Al Khatt is far too rich and heavy to be tolerable in the heat. That said, I definitely concur with his feeling that Al Khatt feels quite feminine in its floral intensity, particularly given the brief, muted oud note that everyone mentions.
All in all, I think Al Khatt is best suited to those who want a “death by jasmine” fragrance, and who also enjoy extreme floral sweetness. It’s a pass for me.