Agar Aura‘s Layali has achieved something that I haven’t experienced in years with a modern fragrance: It has left me simultaneously at a total loss for words from sheer stunned, overjoyed impact and also gushing with so many hyperboles that I don’t know how I can do the scent justice without sounding like a blithering, stuttering idiot.
Inspired by the Arabian Nights, Malik Al Taif weaves tales of thousand and one opulent, majestic Taif roses — some fruity, some lemony, some honeyed, some spicy, and some laden with sticky Middle Eastern pastries and loukhoum — but all so narcotic, rich, deep, complex, and heady that they create a sensory onslaught of pure delight. It is only the start of the tale. Accompanied by beautiful, authentic, luxurious and buttery Mysore sandalwood, purring oud, saffron, and resinous amber, the Taif roses are woven into a magic flying carpet which transports you deep into the heart of ancient Saudi Arabia. There are other fragrances which have taken this same journey, but few of them are as well executed, authentic, luxurious, and smooth.
There is an exciting, bright new talent on the perfume scene, John Biebel, a man who reminds me a bit of Slumberhouse‘s Josh Lobb in his creative, bold, unusual, and very modern voice, a man who has quietly released two of the most accomplished and striking fragrances of 2017 and a third pretty one. They demonstrate a remarkably deft mastery of complex fragrance structures, an eye for good quality raw materials, and an innate talent but, above all else, his fragrances feel authentically original. Like Mr. Lobb (and also Serge Lutens), Mr. Biebel has the rare ability to combine unusual notes or aromas that might sound odd on paper but, thanks to his talent and skill, come across in the most interesting ways that leave you sniffing your arm again and again, wondering why no-one had thought of the idea before. At other times, though, he takes a classical composition and manages to make it feel modern and fresh but also dramatic. In both instances, I think that the result is bound to be somewhat polarizing, but then original, thought-provoking, impactful, and sometimes challenging fragrances usually are.