Showing posts with label perfume. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perfume. Show all posts

Oct 18, 2016

Perfume Review: Ajmal's Ragheeb

Perfume Review Ajmal's Ragheeb attar perfume oil fragrance ajmal

With a slight nip in the air and the steamy rains of the Monsoon finally gone, Autumn has finally arrived. Now's the season to break out those warm, woodsy orientals and delectable gourmands from your fragrance wardrobe. Ajmal's 'Ragheeb' is one of my favorite oriental floral fragrances for the Fall.

The late Mr Ajmal Ali, founder of Ajmal perfumes. 
For those of you unfamiliar with Ajmal it is a luxury perfume house started in the 1950's in India by Mr Ajmal Ali. Mr Ali was a native of Assam where some of the best agarwood or oudh is sourced. Moving to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) he began by selling Assamese oudh to Arab countries. Eventually he began mixing perfume oils into brilliant compositions and became a premier supplier of perfumes to the Middle East. In 1976 the House of Ajmal moved it's headquarters to Dubai. In 1987 Ajmal was the first company to introduce the classic Dahn-Al-Oudh (literally fat of the wood) in an eau de parfum form bringing to a to wider, global audience. (Yes, Ajmal's Dahn-Al-Oudh eau de parfum started the Western world's craze for oudh that's still raging on presently.) The fine tradition Mr Ajmal Ali started in India in the 1950's has been carried on now for 3 generations of his family. Today Ajmal is represented by over 100 boutiques and showrooms across the Gulf countries and is quite popular in Russia too.

So, in and amongst the myriad traditional Arabic oudh and rose attars on offer at a posh boutique in the Bahrain airport in 2006 I found 'Ragheeb.' Instantly, this scent brought memories I couldn't quite place. Late Summer and early Fall mornings in northern California in a traditional Arab attar? That's what it reminded me of. The 'Ragheeb' means willing or desirous in Arabic. Ajmal's description of the fragrance and notes:
"This exotic bouquet opens with the floral essence of bergamot and rose creatively infused with spicy hints of saffron, nutmeg and clove, interspersed with geranium. The fragrance highlights aromatic, warm and contemporary base woody yet sweet notes, for that long lasting trail.
Fragrance Description
Top: Floral Citrus
Heart: Spicy
Base: Woody Ambery"

Ragheeb opens with a bittersweet blast of saffron after which the nutmeg, bergamot, rose, geranium, and cloves seamlessly appear. You might look at the note pyramid and wonder where the woods and amber are. Saffron this intense takes on a woodsy, ambery effect with an almost masculine tobacco-like tone. The spiciness of the cloves bolsters the warmth of the saffron. Bergamot and nutmeg brighten the composition with their citrusy notes and keep the saffron from going completely leathery, metallic, or dark. The rose is the classic deep and intense Taif rose so prized in Arab culture. Real Taif rose oil isn't very long-lasting on the skin so typically geranium is added to prolong it's presence. The famed Taif rose has tea-like notes but can have peppery or even sharply tannic edges. To Western noses the Taif rose can often be perceived as harsh and soapy. You might think the intensity of the saffron and the harshness of the rose would make the composition come off as acrid or astringent. It doesn't. Ragheeb perfectly emulates the uniquely warm, spicy, myrrh-like fragrance of certain old rose varieties. The bergamot, nutmeg, and rose are unfortunately first to go in this scent after about two hours. The drydown is gorgeously Autumnal as the saffron mellows to an almost honeyed amber and rich aromatic cloves remain for hours.

Photo from the Taif Rose festival in Saudi Arabia
That was it! When I lived in California in the 90's I began collecting David Austin's English roses in my garden. Not only for their gorgeous forms and color but I particularly loved the strength and complexity of their warm old rose fragrance with varying touches of myrrh, clove, musk, fruit, and tea. Somehow the saffron, bergamot, cloves, rose, geranium, and nutmeg in this attar captured that old rose scent perfectly. Mr Austin's pink and apricot colored rose cultivars were particularly known for their spicy, myrrh-like notes similar to the fragrance of Ragheeb.

'Constance Spry'
This was the grande dame that started it all. David Austin's first commercially available rose, 'Constance Spry.' Mr Austin's emphasis is on breeding roses with the character and fragrance of old roses such as gallicas, damasks and alba roses but with the repeat-flowering ability, disease resistance, and wide color range of modern roses such as hybrid teas. 'Constance Spry' was the incredible twelve foot climbing rose that graced the arched trellis over my front door in California. Richly myrrh scented she was supposed to only bloom once in Spring. I found that through rigorous deadheading she would keep blooming for about 3 months. Her spicy, warm, almost resinous old rose scent would grace my doorway along with her heavily cupped blooms. I had a collection of about 20 different David Austin roses interspersed with various lavenders, lavandins, yarrow, and a few Italian cypresses in that garden.

As you can see in the above photos Ragheeb comes in an opulent glass bottle with gold ornamentation and a scattering of sparkling white stones. (This is rather modest as Ajmal bottles go, some are like miniature fairy palaces or daring pieces of modern sculpture.) The bottle has some considerable heft as well as a delicate glass applicator. To use attars or fragrance oils like this you simply dab a few drops to the inside of each wrist. Then dab a little behind each ear with the inside of your wrists before it absorbs. You may also apply to the back of the knees so the fragrance envelops you. Attars and fragrance oils take a bit longer to develop on the skin than alcohol based perfumes. Wait at least an hour for the fragrance to develop before reapplying if necessary. I find Ragheeb lasts about six to eight hours with moderate sillage. Although I bought this bottle about ten years ago I believe this fragrance is still available for purchase as I've seen it on Russian websites. These Arab attars last for years and are not nearly as prone to degradation due to heat or light as alcohol based perfumes. As you can see in the above photo I probably have another ten years of use out of this bottle even though I wear it at least once weekly in the Fall and Winter. A little dab will definitely do with this type of fragrance.

I think I need a pink burqa like that.
And a hammam. Definitely a hammam.

Ragheeb makes me desirous of the late Summer days in northern California. The leaves were starting to fall, the grapes in the vineyards being harvested, the roses and other scented plants in my garden were at their most fragrant. I don't really miss California except for the gorgeous weather. The foggy days of Autumn would soon start and the holiday season would begin with all the festivals, food, and fun. Ragheeb is the last bloom of my old rose collection in the Fall before being tidied up and tucked in with a blanket of mulch for the coming Winter.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that remind you of certain times of the year?

Sep 5, 2016

Cheap Thrills Perfume Review: Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom

While perusing the meager selection of fragrances at a department store in Kathmandu about a month ago I came across this gem. Those of you who love fragrances may recognize Jeanne Arthes as one of the less expensive brands on offer seemingly worldwide. This bargain brand puts a lot of effort into kitschy packaging and it's fragrances are usually reminiscent of popular mainstream scents. Such is the case with Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom. This is a great dupe of Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Summer for less than half the price! Citrus and green tea scents are my personal favorites for the hot and humid Monsoon months here in Nepal. I like Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea series* and prefer it to the other well known green tea fragrances like Tommy Girl. Unfortunately most green tea and citrus scents are rather short lived. Even when generously applied rarely do they last more that two hours. Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom lasts a good four to six hours in the heat and I actually like it better than Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Summer.

Here are the notes of Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom according to Fragrantica:

Top notes
Green Tea, Pear, Lemon

Middle notes
Rose, Cherry Blossom, Black Currant

Base notes
Musk, Peach

Camellia sinensis (TEA!)
It opens with an initial blast of floral green tea and brisk lemon. Very clean and citrusy but not not to the point of being antiseptic or smelling like a household cleaning product. 

In a few minutes the fruits become apparent. I get a bold, realistic peach with a bit of black currant and a hint of ripe pear. The fruit is not at all candied, artificial, nor overly sweet. I can detect no rose nor cherry blossom at all. The only floral notes in this fragrance are in the green tea.

All this sits atop a base of clean musk making for a very refreshing fragrance. Surprisingly, the lemony notes stick around for a few hours on my skin unlike most citrus notes which usually disappear in a few minutes. The fragrance never grows cloying nor synthetic but gently fades to the peach and light musk base. You can spritz oneself with absolute reckless bravado and never offend anyone with this scent.

So, if you're a fan of green tea scents or just looking for a simple, fresh, citrusy, and fruity floral fragrance to get you through the Summer try Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom. We kept a bottle in the fridge as a little  sentir bon dans sa peau to refresh ourselves this Monsoon and quite enjoyed it. For a bargain perfume it definitely performs well and has excellent manners. (Unlike some inexpensive brands, I'm talking to YOU Bath & Body Works!) I am told in the US Walgreens and Walmart carry the Jeanne Arthes line.

*Except for Green Tea Yuzu by Elizabeth Arden. For some reason that fragrance turns to a smoked salmon sort of smell on me. Now from a culinary standpoint green tea and gravalax sounds quite interesting, as a perfume just NO.

Aug 8, 2016

Perfume Review: Forest Essentials' Madurai Jasmine Cologne Intense

sambac grandiflorum perfume forest essentials intense cologne

Today I'm reviewing India's leading luxury Ayurvedic beauty brand Forest Essentials' Madurai Jasmine Cologne Intense. Named after the the south Indian city famed for it's jasmine production, this is a gorgeous soliflore with a fresh, airy, and green take on the king of flowers. A breezy, sheer, yet surprisingly lush interpretation of jasmine that works perfectly in searing temperatures and humid climates.

cologne perfume jasmine soliflore fragrance indian forest essentials

This was part of my Delhi haul on our recent family vacation. Forest Essentials products are always beautifully presented. Those ribbons you see on that fabulous box in the top photo were hand tied when I purchased it at their boutique in Khan Market. The box was then wrapped in watermarked tissue paper and sprinkled with fresh rose and marigold petals before being placed in a lavishly embossed tote bearing the shop's logo. Then my husband sat on it in the taxi. Oh well. I wished I'd taken a pic of it at the boutique so you could have seen how lovely it was with the fresh flower petals.

Jasminum sambac
According to the label on the box this fragrance consists of Jasminum grandiflorum flower water, pure grain alcohol, aloe vera leaf juice, and Jasmine sambac essential oil. Clearly, this is a straight up natural jasmine and not some perfumer's abstract construct of the flower. 

Jasminum grandiflorum
 Jasminum grandiflorum and Jasminum sambac actually have quite different scents. Jasminum grandiflorum is variously described as heady, hefty, rich, opulent, narcotic, dirty, cloying, animalic, and sometimes even hard to stomach for some folks. To my nose, Jasminum sambac has a dewier, sharper, cleaner, greener, lighter, and more translucent air that usually instantly appeals to most people. Forest Essentials' Madhurai Jasmine Cologne Intense leans towards the transparency and affability of the sambac as one would expect with the use of the potent essential oil. However, lurking under all that breezy charm and charisma a is just a bit of naughtiness and haughtiness from the mix of Jasminum grandiflorum flower water. This cologne intense is not as simple as it seems.

I think everyone needs a jasmine soliflore in their fragrance wardrobe. As I learned from reading Mandy Aftel's book Fragrant: the Secret Life of Scent jasmine goes with absolutely everything so it's great for layering. The famed perfumer Edmond Roudnitska in his essay The Art of Perfumery had this to say about jasmine: “It is the natural product par excellence.”  It is no wonder that jasmine is often a middle or heart note in perfume compositions. Bridging the gap between brisk, fleeting top notes and deeper, solemn base notes jasmine lends it's lovely tinge to everything.

I love wearing Forest Essentials' Madurai Jasmine during the Monsoon heat and humidity here in Nepal. It lasts a good four hours on my skin in the Monsoon heat. It's light and diaphanous freshness somehow reminds me of cool breezes off the Pacific ocean in my native California. As the fragrance progresses that wily seductress Jasminum grandiflorum peeps through just a tad so you don't feel like you're wearing a household cleaning product. Madurai Jasmine Cologne Intense doesn't have the high sillage or longevity of a synthetic fragrance blend. It's understated yet gorgeous complexity more than makes up for it though. You'll never be overwhelmed nor offend anyone wearing this jasmine. Apply it with wild abandon, layer it with almost anything, and wear on any occasion. Don't be fooled by it's seeming simplicity, revel in it's classic beauty!

The entire Madurai Jasmine collection at Forest Essentials is available for purchase here.

(I purchased this product myself and was not reimbursed in anyway by anyone for my opinions on this product.)

May 14, 2016

Book Review- Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel

 A few months back I won a signed copy of Mandy Aftel's book Fragrant: the Secret Life of Scent and it's companion kit on Perfume Shrine!

I have to first mention how beautiful the book is. The cover is a gorgeous foiled metallic magenta and brilliant saffron orange with a medieval illustration of people harvesting cinnamon. The pages are a lovely cream colored quality paper with deckle edges. The endpapers and spine are coordinated in a rich purple. The are no photos in this book but plenty of hand drawn illustrations and prints of ancient woodcuts.

The companion kit shows equal thoughtfulness in presentation. The box with it's sliding cover matches the book. The star shaped divider partitions the substances discussed in five chapters of the book-  cinnamon, mint,  frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine. The cinnamon and mint essential oils are not to be worn but used in food. The nugget of frankincense can be rubbed to release it's fragrance. The jasmine and ambergris dilutions can be worn directly on your skin and layered to create your own perfume.

I was so excited to receive this book as it has received rave reviews from such notables as Howard McGee, Alice Walker, and Alice Waters. This sentence from the first chapter summarizes her book:

"As I researched and thought about the deep ways that perfume touches our most primal selves and the collective self of our species, I realized that I had the makings of an adventure story of sorts, an entrée to writing about scent as a series of excursions into the fragrant world that I think will return you more awake and alive, more profoundly able to “smell the roses.”

Each chapter is filled with musings upon scent from countless angles- literature references, religious uses, modern and ancient recipes, differing cultural insights worldwide, and various historical tidbits on all of the five scents discussed in the book. She states that cinnamon represents our longing for the luxurious exotic, mint speaks to our affinity for the familiar, frankincense taps our longing for transcendence and spirituality, ambergris embodies our never ending curiosity and fascination with the unknown, and jasmine exemplifies our yearning for beauty no matter how transient. 

The most interesting part of the book for me is when Ms Aftel delves into her zen philosophy of perfume making, the beauty of the hand crafted, the perfection of the imperfect, and the nature of luxury. She's certainly correct when she asserts that part of the allure of beauty is it's impermanence, more isn't necessarily better, expensive certainly isn't always better, and a cup of mint tea is true luxury. 

This is a fascinating book for browsing as well as in depth study which never veers into the overly technical making it a great read for hard core perfumistas to those with just a casual interest in scent. I'm excited to try making Ms Aftel's original recipe for Coca-Cola with essential oils, the lavender and frankincense shortbread, and her mint vetiver perfume. I wonder if Ms Aftel would be interested in trying my attempts at making a lavender infused garam masala and parfum d'Nepal?
Ms Aftel also has an online shop full of all sorts of goodies, she even has long pepper/pippali essential oil!

Calmly currying on,

I had never smelled straight ambergris before. The scent of ambergris surprised me as being reminiscently human- first a bit like dirty hair, then baby spew, a blast of placenta, and a sea breeze. I know it sounds disgusting but I wouldn't call it unpleasant. It reminded me of how newborn babies, newborn animals, and delivery rooms smell. I expected something a bit withered, perhaps fecal, and marine in fragrance and was completely flabbergasted. Since we were all steeped in placenta for 9 months prior to birth perhaps this scent memory is why humans find ambergris so attractive? Who knew weathered whale poo smelled so human? I can see how this would make a perfume come alive and really pop backing up an ethereal floral or resinous woods now.