A song of fire and ice, to use George R.R. Martin’s words, is one way to describe Sarrasins, Serge Lutens‘ legendary animalic jasmine bell jar fragrance, but it is only the start. White flowers are stained purple, then given a fiery (carnation) bite that is also icy at the same time. Sweetness and a touch of girlie femininity come with a snarled lip and haughty contempt, cloaked in tough black (castoreum) leather. Delicate powder is juxtaposed with feral civet. Thick purple grapes and pink bubblegum that evoke an almost Andy Warhol-style of Pop Art run through flowers that bear a gothic feel at times. All of it, somehow, unexpectedly, works well together, and all of it repeatedly makes me think of Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones and the progression of her character.
Ajmal is a Middle Eastern brand with a long history. Founded in 1951 in India and now apparently based in the United Arab Emirates or GCC (Gulf countries), Ajmal has over 300 fragrances in its portfolio. The quality seems to vary across the range which consists of low-end mall fragrances at one end, some Euro-Arab eau de parfums in the middle, and some “Dahn Al Oudh” attars that I’ve heard great praise for at the other end. Unfortunately, the latter were not what I was given for review. I seem to have gotten the low to middle end of the stick, alas.
There is a long story behind this post that I think you must understand in order to make sense of what is to follow. Ajmal was at Esxence Milan earlier this year to show off its wares. A friend stopped by and asked for samples for me to review. From his account, I have the sense that the Ajmal’s assistants were harried and also didn’t understand the whole blogging issue, either. They seemed confused, so they quickly handed over a big armful of samples, and that was that. No time was expended to provide the best of the best in a carefully curated selection, although my friend did try to ask for a few attars. They disgorged a heaping pile of 20 carded manufacturers samples, and moved on.
An unexpected surprise greeted me when I tried an attar and two eau de parfums from Al Haramain‘s Prestige and Premium Collections: a common theme of refreshing aromatic, herbal, and leafy greenness that tied the three fragrances together despite being in very different genres. It also made them more interesting than I had expected, particularly for an oriental blend from a Middle Eastern company, and even more so for an oud-based one. In my experience, Arab oud fragrances tend to follow certain stylistic conventions or formulas, but Ode of Oudh was a refreshing change and I mean that in the literal olfactive sense as well as metaphorically. Mystique Musk similarly felt more creative than its genre or note list had led me to expect. Both of fragrances are from the Prestige Collection which treads a lighter and quieter path than the Premium Collection attars which have the typically dense, forceful, or powerful aesthetic of their genre. The Prestige Collection follows a slightly more European aesthetic but without completely giving up its oriental roots, and the result is a nice mixing of styles.
Today, a look at seven niche fragrances that didn’t do much for me, leaving me either shrugging, apathetic, or running to scrub. There are a few more entries this time around in the “Average” category as compared to Volume 1 because one or two of the perfumes have decent or wearable elements, typically right at the start. However, when all the factors are taken as a whole, from start to finish, and in relation to the price as well, then their sum-total amounts to merely okay or “average,” in my opinion. The rest of the scents fell into other categories, as you will see.
As in Volume 1, I’ll be following an abbreviated format and there won’t be note lists, official descriptions, photos of every bottle, links to Fragrantica, discussion of other people’s experiences as a comparison, a long list of retail links, or anything else. I’m going to take a page out of what Luca Turin and so many other people do, and simply give my opinion in the most general, synthesized fashion I can manage.