Mecca Balsam has one hell of a rich, complicated opening. A blast of rich spicy frankincense and oud, paired with a smoky pipe tobacco brings to mind a mix of Aftelier’s Sepia and dried fruits – with more incense. A subtle bitter bundle of herbal notes up top spike the fragrance with a little greenery, and a smidge of clove, before the frankincense tumbles more into resinous labdanum.
The sticky black quality of the labdanum lacquers the skin, whilst sweet benzoin softens all the rough edges. Mecca Balsam becomes softer as time goes on, sweetening slightly as the tobacco becomes for flavoursome than smoky. The natural oud underneath is beautiful, yet again bringing to mind the Aftelier ouds I adore – namely now Oud Luban with its frankincense/oud mixture, rather than La Via Del Profumo’s signature oud soliflore Oud Caravan which is far harsher on the nose.
A resinous base finishes Mecca Balsam, sweet and ambery, a dash of smooth oud, frankincense and a smidge of woody vanilla. A tiny hint of clean rose joins in a while later, but its soft floral touch is extremely subtle underneath the resins and seems to act as a delicate layer of clarity so that Mecca Balsam’s base isn’t too heavy. All in all, it’s a beautiful fragrance that I would love a bottle of.
Tartar Leather has a rich, spice laden opening paired with a bitter citrus. A sticky bergamot and orange with a medicinal herbal undertone that brings to mind eucalyptus and something warm like nutmeg, falls shortly into an abstract, smooth suede. The top notes create an almost tar like astringency, only soft on the skin. The leather isn’t a literal leather, it is more a mirage of one – some animalics underneath (mainly a soft, ganache-like civet) provide a rich musky texture which paired with the opening astringency give off a faux-suede.
The heart brings rich florals of rose and jasmine, and a hint of oud underneath turns Tartar Leather into a woody/floral more so than a leather. The suede effect seems to dart in and out of focus, drifting further into the background as a wood and vetiver base dominate. The oud is yet again, super soft on the skin, not at all a challenging note and used beautifully to round out the florals along with the merest hint of civet and castoreum. The castoreum comes across like labdanum with a slightly sticky texture on the skin, and I think there’s a hint of incense to go along with it due to a growing presence of smoke.
Tartar Leather is sweeter than Mecca Balsam which must mean there’s a bit of benzoin in here also, unless the florals are giving this a softer, sweeter scent. But in comparison, the labdanum/incense/rose/smoke is similar in both (hence why I paired these together). Tartar Leather is a lovely fragrance, but I’d hardly call it a leather. Instead it is a soft, smoky floral with a rich, woody drydown. Both beautifully blended and full of life.
Tartar Leather 32ml La Via Del Profumo – 71.40 Euros
Mecca Balsam 32ml La Via Del Profumo – 79.34 Euros both available from
Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment and enter the draw! I really appreciate it
So, the lucky winners!!!:
15ml Bottle of TAWAF – La Via Del Profumo
4ml Miniature TAWAF – La Via Del Profumo
If your name wasn’t drawn, don’t worry, head over to the Profumo Friends Club on Basenotes:
For your chance to win a Tawaf Blending Kit
If the winner’s can contact me at email@example.com that would be fab!
If prizes aren’t claimed within five days, I will re-draw on Friday 7th September 2012.
Having recently been captivated by the niche, natural perfumer’s of our fragrant world, I have been exploring the La Via Del Profumo line – previously AbdesSalaam Attar.
Tawaf is the latest (and last I believe) release in his Arabian line, it is quite something!
Sweet earthy fungal notes of rich mushroom, and fluorescent indolic jasmine burst into the opening of Tawaf. It’s raw and primal, the jasmine taking on a no holds barred animalic role.
The green twang underneath, paired with the sodden mushrooms create the dense, damp soil in which the heady jasmine bush is growing from. To compare to another fragrance, at first it almost brings to mind what Un Matin D’Orage is to gardenia (in the opening at least) – an accurate representation of a single flower, up close at first, that begins to distance itself incorporating all the aromas surrounding it. A huge difference however is that the Goutal smells hugely synthetic – piling on bunches of aromachemicals to create this effect. Here however, the naturals create a far more organic, even unrefined initial portrait with far more corners to explore.
Bizarrely Tawaf’s translucency becomes apparent quickly, and within minutes an ethereal almost aquatic layer coats it. A pure water note brings out the clarity of the jasmine, as though the rain has just fallen onto the dense, stuffiness of the opening. The fungal notes of earth disappearing, they filter out the harsh edges of the jasmine.
This water note pulls with it the most delicate, clean rose – almost a tea rose in its modesty but with the most subtle floral spice that throws me a little off track. If I heat the scent with my breathing, the warm throwback is that of pure rose, overpowering the jasmine – so true to life it’s like burying your nose deep into the petals – traditional yes, but lovely none the less.
The ever so slight, resinous base has an almost honeyed tobacco like smoke – although extremely subtle underneath the florals. But even the florals are quiet now, they are a tranquil aura – which is surprising – what started out as a loud jasmine portrait quickly transitions into a landscape, well, not quite a landscape – but Tawaf has a large sense of space, like it’s aroma is simply a smell around you.
Opoponax? I don’t quite get that – the resinous quality is tame, with the honey sweetness more prominent to my nose. I’d even have thought there was a little smidge of labdanum in there, with the smoke mentioned earlier still the merest whisper.
Tawaf is loud, manic and intense on the outside, with all the elements’ characteristics at full volume and hugely expressive of personality; on the inside is the quiet clarity and harmonious balance, peaceful, clean, and secluded – just like the Kaaba it was based upon. Composed with simplicity, but what a lovely perfume.
(GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED) 15ml Tawaf – La Via Del Profumo
AND 3 x 5.5ml minis of Tawaf!!
Dominique Dubrana the nose behind La Via Del Profumo has generously gifted me a 15ml bottle of this gorgeous jasmine rich juice to send to one of my lucky readers! So, if anyone is interested, please comment and mention that you would like to be included in the draw – and a lovely bottle of Tawaf could be yours For three runner’s up there are 5.5ml mini’s of Tawaf, so lots of opportunities to try this fragrance!
The winners will obviously be picked completely at random, but it would be lovely to include some of your thoughts and discoveries in the world of natural perfumery, or even your favourite jasmine fragrances (for my pleasure alone!)
A huge thanks to Mr.Dubrana for this opportunity and for supporting my writing (and of course for his lovely work!)
DRAW IS NOW CLOSED. Head over to
to see if you are one of the 4 lucky winners!
Gringo opens with a bracing peppermint that almost comes across as a cool eucalyptus. A spicy frankincense with a peppery/clove like angle pushes forward pretty quickly – the herbal notes paired with the resinous incense has a really interesting hold/cot contrast.
The opening is quickly joined by a citrus lemon drop that feels slightly candied, subtle and sweet. It’s a clean, masculine opening which feels quite simplistic, but cleverly put together.
A rich, spicy rose similar to the one I smell in Tauer’s Incense Rose comes into play – and actually now I’ve mentioned it, Gringo shares a slight resemblance with the entire composition of the Tauer (which ironically I wore today) – rose, citrus fruits, incense.
A bitter patchouli in the background of Gringo and the slightly fleeting citrus pulls the fragrance away from the Tauer resemblance – along with a leathery note (which is listed as Castoreum) which gets more prominent over the next few hours. The castoreum has that rich nutty texture that reminds me of a subtle, more earthy mix of labdanum and Isobutyl Quinoline (the bitter leather note famously in Bandit amongst many other fragrances). As I said, it’s a subtle inclusion, but with the patchouli is a great alternative support for the frankincense.
The incense burns strong, as does that lovely spicy rose, and the quiet base supports these two notes – taking a more rugged edge into the drydown from the fresh, clean beginning, where the patchouli becomes slightly headshop-ish and a little musty. My favourite part of Gringo is the later drydown, where the stuffy patchouli is joined by an incredible sandalwood (probably the best I’ve smelt), and whilst maybe a bit “dated” for some, I think it’s quite charming Very nice work.
Holy Water opens with a crack of pepper and a cologne-fresh lemon. The frankincense comes forward quickly after, and paired with the freshness of the lemon, is completely different to the opening of Gringo surprisingly. Using these same two notes, Holy Water’s texture is translucent and smooth – it literally glows off the skin, particularly as a chorus of neroli joins in.
Now, this isn’t my usual kind of fragrance – fresh, translucent, and citrus isn’t really my thing – but the quality here is lovely, it’s crystal clear, and an unusual take on a cologne type fragrance with the dominant inclusion of incense. The incense is presented almost mineralic – cold and damp, and not remotely smoky.
As it continues, similarly to Gringo, a rose joins in. In Holy Water however the rose is a pale, tea rose – it enhances the lemon accords a little, and brings a slightly soapy quality to the heart. The floral addition is much-needed, but it turns out the tea rose then begins to dominate above the frankincense. For me, Holy Water becomes a little bit too simplistic here on. It is pleasant enough, very clean and light, with the soapy tea rose and subtle, mineral frankincense leading the fragrance to the finish. An unexpected, yet again very subtle, herbal element manages to creep in: it smells a little like lavender, but much lighter – it may just be a facet of the rose?
A sandalwood rounds the fragrance off at the end, although it’s not as potent and rich as that in Gringo. These two fragrances are great examples of how similar notes can create completely different fragrances. Whilst Gringo is obviously my favourite – they are both lovely introductions to the non-oud fragrances of this line
Gringo 15.5ml La Via del Profumo - 37 Euros profumo.it
Holy Water 16ml La Via del Profumo - 42.15 Euros profumo.it
The name Dominique Dubrana is relatively new to me – after being put forward to review his new release (essay to come soon), a lovely Basenoter sent me samples of various fragrances in his line – La Via del Profumo. Reading up about this perfumer has been extremely interesting – his approach is so personal and thoughtful, involving us perfumista’s into his work to a point where he has allowed us to manipulate it! This is very apparent in the concept of his new release Tawaf – where two accords come with the fragrance to tweak it to your preference!
Here, with the Oud Caravan project, Dominique Dubrana has attempted to create as he calls: “The Ultimate Oud Fragrance”. Just like my recent explorations into my now beloved Aftelier - Dominique is all natural, so the quality is of course exceptional. The first OC1 was sent out to specific perfume lovers, who reported their feedback, encouraging Dubrana to work on No.2 and so on. He settled on No.3 (the only one I have yet to try at the time of writing).
The tweaks have been quite subtle, so I’ve grouped these mini reviews together to write down the evolution of Oud Caravan.
Oud Caravan 1 opens with a pungent, camphorous blast. For some reason it brings to mind Borneo 1834 – the same kind of camphorous opening but where the cocoa patchouli is replaced by pure oud. There is nothing fecal in Oud Caravan 1, but the mental image comes to mind. A hot, barn-yard like dirtiness scruffs up the smooth line that is hidden in the centre of the composition.
Crystal clear underneath the highly rugged edges, a note of oud – far brighter and neater – centres the fragrance, easing up the wearability and slight complexity. It is the subtle smooth woody notes in the middle that keep my nose to my hand, trying to break my way through the initial barrage of overpowering scent.
I get a pimento-like heat from this, a bitter/sweet vegetal spice, with an almost labdanum-like resinous undertone, rounded with intense leather. It is bold, raw and masculine – rugged and untamed. It mellows, but never enough to full let go of this image. Just as it becomes more comfortable and quiet, a flash of warmth on the skin and up rise the animalic notes again, making me wait to find the hidden oud gem of clarity in the middle.
Oud Caravan 1 is too rough for me, the depth of the singular note is highly impressive, but it feels more like a portrait of oud rather than a fragrance. Still – a great portrait.
Oud Caravan 2 has an almost identical opening, I find it hard to differentiate between 1 & 2 from the initial top notes. I’m kind of glad, I love a fragrance to begin with a punch.
After a couple of minutes, expecting Oud Caravan 2 to flood into a hot, barnyard eruption – it doesn’t. Instead, it decreases in volume, with much greater clarity and arrangement, and recreates the more rounded and comfortable feel of Oud Caravan 1 in the later, more pleasing drydown. There’s some sweetness in OC2 that isn’t there in 1, it has the bitter, earthy quality of vanilla bean, but it doesn’t smell vanillic.
I find OC2 has much more of an ethereal quality. Whilst it is always pungent and present on-and-above the skin, with all the usual challenging oud facets – the clear, smooth sweetness and lighter handled notes makes Oud Caravan 2 far more welcoming and understandable. Yet again, I don’t find that it feels like a fragrance, and I currently see it as another portrait of oud.
Oud Caravan 3 yet again has a familiar opening. The opening of these ouds seem untamable - and maybe they shouldn’t be changed. I’m looking out for drastic differences here but it seems Dubrana is manipulating the subtleties of the oud rather than its true character. That’s a good thing I assume.
Oud Caravan 3 is smoky – it has the charred leather scent of charcoal, paired with a fresher take on the barnyard hay facet. The earthy sweetness seems to be coming from this “hay” note – it’s ethereal quality in No.2 shapeshifted it into something that appeared completely separate. The fragrance is bone dry, almost jarring with its burnt quality and harsh, ashy texture. The oud ever prominent, pushing forward more powerful than No.2, but more mature than No.1. The medicinal quality is lovely, and the oud’s various persona’s all slip into place to form something quite harmonious, with nothing in particular jolting out making the fragrance uncomfortable – like the heated spice in Oud Caravan 1. The drydown is long and languid, it’s a smooth oud with sweet ambery notes – for me, the best part of the fragrance.
Would I wear Oud Caravan 3? No. Whilst the note itself – to many – has all the complexity needed to make up a fragrance, to me it is too simplistic, and as I have mentioned more than once – not a fragrance. Ok so, it’s not a typical fragrance, it’s an attar. This is the first attar I have tried, so I hope I don’t come across as too immature. I realise these traditional scents rely on great quality ingredients in simplistic compositions to enhance the characters of each ingredient – it’s a beautiful theory, and I’m sure it can work. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet, but I can appreciate the daring display.
I hate to compare, but whereas this seems a literal oud portrait, Aftelier’s Oud Luban is, for example, a more fully orchestrated oud portrait to me. Oud Luban enhances the oud’s true quality by pairing it with a bright orange, and then pulling at its depths with spicy frankincense – to me it is heartbreakingly perfect. I will revisit this project soon, as it’s a wonderful learning curve for the complicated oud note.
Oud Caravan No.3 La Via del Profumo 10ml – 60 Euros profumo.it