Lush, almost tropical florals drenched in honey and cocooned in golden amber. Clean, sugared roses laced with black incense and woods. Those are the faces of Kalemat Floral and Kalemat Musk from Arabian Oud. One of them is a variation on the theme represented by the gloriously opulent Kalemat Amber. The other is not. I’ll take a look at each one of them in turn.
Kalemat Floral is an attar or concentrated fragrance oil that was released last year. Its notes on Fragrantica are incorrect, judging by the information provided to me by Mr. Ahmed Chowdhury of Arabian Oud London who kindly sent me my sample. He said the perfume pyramid is officially:
Top notes: Heliotrope, Jasmine
Heart notes: Hibiscus, Rose
Base notes: Vanilla, Cedar Wood & Musk.
A brief word about the hibiscus note. I don’t recall the actual flowers having any smell at all. Furthermore, the “hibiscus” bath or body products that I’ve tried smell primarily like frangipani or plumeria. On Fragrantica, hibiscus is defined as a “soft note of flower recreated in the lab.” In a discussion on the Fragrantica boards, Doc Elly of Olympic Orchards Perfumes bears out my view that the flowers have no scent and that the “fantasy accord” is primarily based on “tropical flower notes like frangipani,” unless the goal is more of a musky scent in which case ambrette seeds might be used. Here, in Kalemat Floral, the aroma is absolutely the tropical one of frangipani (or plumeria).
Kalemat Floral opens on my skin with honey, lots and lots of dark, raw, sticky honey in a heavy, thick stream that feels as dense as molasses. Trapped inside, like flies caught in amber, are a slew of flowers dominated first and foremost by what really seems to be orange blossoms. To be precise, orange blossoms splattered with the sweet juices of sun-ripened oranges, as well as Middle Eastern orange blossom syrup and more honey. They’re a smoother, deeper, more fruited but a less shrill, overpowering and nuclear version of the note in Ghroob, which is clearly an orange blossom fragrance. Arabian Oud makes no mention of the flower in its notes, but then again, they don’t mention the roses that are such a clear part of Kalemat, either. Regardless, every time I wear Kalemat Floral, “orange blossoms” are what come to mind in the opening moments, and I wasn’t the only one. When I brought the oils to a family testing session, my father had the same reaction.
There are other elements as well. Trailing behind the orange blossoms is a heady, slightly lemony, pink-white floral that has both a tropical character and a liquidy feel, much like concentrated frangipani or plumeria absolute. Lurking on the sidelines is a sweet, slightly syrupy rose, flecked by the lightest, thinnest streaks of cedar, then sprinkled with a few drops of clean musk. Once in a blue moon, in a few of my tests, I also detected something that smelled like fresh, raw almonds, but there is never an actual heliotrope note on my skin, at least none so visible amidst the sea of honey that I can recognize it.
10 minutes in, Kalemat Floral changes the order and prominence of its notes. The rose grows stronger, wrapping itself around the juicy, fruited orange blossoms, as the honey pipes down a notch. Both the perfume’s vibe and its focus have shifted away from being centered predominantly on honeyed sweetness towards something that is now more overtly floral. There is an even stronger sense of something tropical about its richness, a sort of pink-white, liquidy, lushness that is both heady and narcotic. It’s more than just frangipani, though. All the flowers have started to overlap, creating a mixed accord that sometimes skews more rose-like in nature, sometimes more towards the orange blossom, and sometimes is merely a “tropical” white, floral sweetness.
Thick, raw honey continues to coat their petals, but other elements arrive at the end of the 1st hour and the start of the 2nd. There is now a citrusy brightness to Kalemat Floral that feels as though concentrated, juicy, green neroli has replaced some (but not all) of more floral, sweeter, feminine orange blossoms. At the same time, the jasmine surges forth from the base to dance alongside the rose and frangipani on center stage. Meanwhile, the amber wakes up, and starts to emit caramel nuances that slowly alter the fragrance’s honeyed veneer. In fact, the honey weakens as a whole, feeling less thick and dense, more akin to some sort of spicy, saffron-sprinkled, honeyed, neroli syrup instead. It works beautifully with the other notes, and gives Kalemat Floral a more interesting nuance than mere honey alone.
By the middle of the 2nd hour, Kalemat Floral is dominated by a quartet of rich roses, frangipani, jasmine, and orange blossoms, laced with neroli and cedar, lightly sprayed with clean musk, and then enveloped in a honey-drizzled haze of golden amber. It’s smooth, luxurious, bright and sweet, but also sensuous, narcotic, and infinitely feminine.
It is also incredibly strong in sillage and very full-bodied. Using 3 smears of the wand, equal to roughly one-fourth of a 1 ml vial, Kalemat Floral opened with 3 inches of projection at first and a foot of sillage. Like a wine blooming as it airs, those numbers quickly ballooned. Within 20 minutes, the projection was 5 inches, but the scent trail felt like it was about 8 feet. Yet, Kalemat Floral has serious presence even if you only use a little. When I first received the fragrance, I was actually testing something else but curiosity led me to open the little vial bottle and take a sniff. I accidentally got a few, tiny drops on my fingers and, for the next 3 hours, I kept smelling orange blossom honey wafting around me. When I took the Kalemat oils to my parents’ house for a family test session, two small smears on my father (whose skin amplifies sillage) created such a monster cloud of scent, I could smell him from across one room and into the next. When my mother tried it, it was a similar story. Going outside, the air seemed to carry Kalemat Floral in waves ahead of her.
I cannot emphasize enough how much Kalemat Floral carries in the first few hours, how heady its aroma really is, and just what an impression the fragrance makes. It made my father do a triple take, talk appreciatively about just how “beautiful” and “feminine” it was, and then insist that my mother buy it for herself. “This is a good fragrance,” he announced, and that says something because he usually just sighs when I make him smell something, rolls his eyes, or simply shrugs. It can be the most expensive luxury scent, it can be something I love or hate, but my father is rarely moved enough to even bother commenting. Yet, Kalemat Floral truly impressed him. And I’ve gotten nothing but compliments from other people every time I’ve worn it. Two of my neighbors, my post lady, the UPS guy, and several people in a store. I rarely get one compliment on my fragrance, let alone so many! Then again, few scents carry quite like Kalemat Floral does in its first few hours. The projection may shrink to 2 inches after 2.5 hours, and the scent trail may drop to only two and a half feet, but something about this fragrance turns heads again and again.
Kalemat Floral continues to change as time passes. At the 2.5 hour mark, the perfume feels somewhat woodier, and there is a slightly synthetic streak from the clean musk, though it is very minor. By the end of the 3rd hour, the honey has almost dried up, a caramel-flecked amber has taken its place as a core element, and both the jasmine and the woodiness have grown quite pronounced. From afar, Kalemat Floral smells primarily like jasmine, rose, and orange blossom atop a woody, musky base and cocooned within a haze of caramel-nuanced, ambered goldenness.
It’s beautiful, but the best part is yet to come. Half an hour later, the vanilla awakens in the base. It smells as silky as French Bean ice-cream or rich crème anglaise sauce, and it transforms Kalemat Floral into a soft, incredibly creamy scent. The amber has turned musky, but has also taken on the tiniest chocolate-like nuance that works really well with the vanilla, especially in conjunction with the dry woods acting as a counter-balance on the other side. The latter is starting to sink into the base more and more and, by the middle of the 5th hour, the vanilla replaces it amongst the top notes. There, the florals have turned into a haze, and you can’t really pick apart the individual elements, but the overall effect is lovely. The fragrance is now primarily a mix of creamy florals infused with crème anglaise vanilla atop dry cedar-ish woods and nestled within a soft, caramel-nuanced amber cocoon. The projection is only 0.5 inches, but the sillage is still half a foot.
Kalemat Floral’s drydown begins roughly at the start of the 8th hour, and marks a complete change in focus. Suddenly, the fragrance is barely floral, and is now primarily a mix of creamy amber with woodiness and a trace of sweetness. The amber doesn’t smell like labdanum, ambergris, or even a benzoin mix but, rather, like soft warmth that is both golden and creamy. It’s hard to describe because the fragrance definitely gives off an “amber” vibe, and, yet, it doesn’t actually smell of the materials which traditionally constitute that note. It’s certainly not as explicitly and clearly ambered as the main note in the original Kalemat’s drydown, nor is it as musky, wooded, or dark. Yet, it’s far more “ambered” than mere vanilla or benzoin could ever be. Whatever the precise components, as time passes, all that is left in Kalemat Floral’s final hours is a creamy, incredibly plush, golden softness with only the most miniscule suggestion of something woody.
As noted above, Kalemat Floral has monumental sillage (at least in its first stage), but its longevity and its overall projection aren’t quite at that level. Using 3 smears from the glass wand, the fragrance lasted just under 11 hours on me, though the number was a little higher (12.75) when I used a greater quantity. Kalemat Floral became a skin scent on me 6.25 hours into its development, but was still very easy to detect up close without much effort for a while to come.
I’ve found no blog reviews for Kalemat Floral, and the perfume’s Fragrantica page has no entries, either. However, Sultan Pasha, a London friend who is intimately connected to the Middle Eastern fragrance scene and knows Arabian Oud products well left a comment briefly discussing Kalemat Floral and Kalemat Musk in one of my Arabian Oud reviews from last year. He loved Kalemat Floral, far more so than the Musk, but I’ll quote his assessment in the final section of this review where I’ll talk about both scents as a whole.
Kalemat Musk is a completely different fragrance from the original Kalemat (or its oil), and the two have absolutely nothing in common in my opinion. The note list bears that out. According to Mr. Ahmed Chowdhury of Arabian Oud, the perfume pyramid is:
Top notes: white musk.
Heart notes: sweet musk.
Base notes: frankincense & wild rose.
Kalemat Musk opens on my skin with clean musk that smells like Bounce laundry dryer sheets, mixed with sweet musk. The latter is something that I’ve never encountered before because it is almost literally like sugared cupcake icing (only a hair less sweet) mixed with fabric softener musk. Its cleanness is completely separate from the other clean musk, and feels as though white sugar granules had been mixed into a musk base. Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows how much I despise white musk, and that I’m not keen on sugared icing sweetness, either.
Other elements float behind this difficult, strange, multi-faceted cleanness. Most surprising is a greenness that resembles mineralized lichen or oakmoss, mixed in with a few drops of equally mineralized vetiver. There is also a distinct woodiness, as though cedar had been added to that green base. Lying atop all his is a rather abstract, thin pink rose wrapped up with a ribbon of black incense. Something about the green-tinged rose feels almost chypre-like in nature, but the main, driving force of the fragrance is the namesake musk note. It takes only a few minutes for all the competing elements to merge together in a single bouquet. The two forms of clean/sweet musk pipe down a hair, while the green-tinged, rose grows stronger. The woods fuse into the flower fully, creating one of the key accords for the rest of Kalemat Musk’s lifespan: a woody rose.
Unfortunately, the musk is the other side of the coin and still incredibly strong. To give you a sense of the balance of notes and the perfume’s composition, let’s imagine a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the strongest. The clean laundry musk would now rank a mere 8 instead of a solid 10. Same with the sugary sweet musk. The woods and rose would each be a 5.5, while the incense would come in at 2. So does the vaguely mossy greenness, though it weakens near the end of the first hour and vanishes completely at the 75-minute mark. At that point, Kalemat Musk is primarily a very, very, very clean and sweet woody rose, laced with the tiniest wisp of incense.
Kalemat Musk remains that way for hours and hours to come. There are small changes in the nuances or strength of certain notes, but not by much. The rose turns wispier, hazier, and more abstract near the 5th hour, while one of the musks feels a hair less sugared. The incense fluctuates in its prominence, sometimes giving Kalemat Musk a small but noticeable streak of smokiness, but sometimes fading away into the shadows. For the most part, Kalemat Musk merely turns more and more woody in focus with the ever-present blanket of cleanness on top.
I don’t have a detailed breakdown of how Kalemat Musk smells from the 5th hour onwards for a few reasons. First, as should be clear by now, none of this is my personal cup of tea because I find clean musk fragrances to be incredibly difficult to handle, so I tried to block some of it out. The hint of something vaguely chypre-like with that tinge of green amidst the woody roses initially kept me interested, but it’s merely a brief and miniscule flash. Second, the rest of the fragrance is a very linear one with a singular, laser-like focus on clean and, sugared musks infused with woodiness and a streak of incense. It really doesn’t change drastically. The woodiness simply grows stronger during the late part of Kalemat Musk’s development, bringing with it an increased sense of dryness. The incense is more noticeable, too, and smells a little sharp at times.
But that’s about all I can tell you because I didn’t last all the way through to the final hours. The first time I tested the scent, I tried to go sleep after the 5th hour just so I could avoid smelling it, but Kalemat Musk chugged on, seeping all around me and keeping me up with its strong sillage. (Even worse for me, the scent imbued all my bed linens, and Kalemat Musk lasts forever on fabric.) I didn’t take my usual detailed notes of every subtext or nuance, but the general gist was very clean, very sweet woodiness with a streak of incense. In my subsequent tests, I tried to determine any additional nuances in the later hours but, in all candour, I couldn’t focus because I just wanted to scrub it off. I know some people really love clean, fresh scents and white musk, but I’m afraid there is far too much of it here for me personally, especially when mixed with that utterly disconcerting aroma of sugared Bounce dryer sheets. I simply gave up after the 8th hour.
I haven’t found blog reviews for Kalemat Musk, but there is a comment on Fragrantica. There, “Alyaa” writes, in full:
This seems to me to have no similarity with the original Kalemat. It comes as a 20ml oil in a beautiful metallic bottle covered in Arabic writings. The applicator is glass and picks up a generous amount of the oil. This is a gorgeous scent which starts with a strong animalic musk mixed with a sharp gardenia. The scent takes about 30 minutes to quieten down and thats when the vanilla surfaces and takes over the scene. I dont find this to be overpowering but is very longlasting and can smell it on my clothes on the next day.
I wish I’d experienced both gardenia and an animalic, dirty musk, as those are two things I enjoy, but Arabian Oud’s official note list has no gardenia for the scent, no vanilla, and nothing animalic. At least she and I agree that Kalemat Musk is nothing like the original.
ALL IN ALL:
In my opinion, Kalemat Floral is the one to choose out of the two. It’s a heady, bold, intoxicating show-stopper, as well as a more luxurious, higher quality scent. A friend of mine who knows Middle Eastern fragrances extremely well and who owns most of the Amouage attar line concurs. Last year, Sultan Pasha wrote a brief blurb on four of the Kalemat oils and how they compare in the comment section of my review for Arabian Oud’s Ghroob, Woody, and Misty Wood:
I’ve fallen in love with Kalemat Floral and Amber. To me Kalemat Amber is the very best of what the original Kalemat spray had to offer, and [the] floral to my nose is a rather deep rose/pandanus rendition of kalemat….. by the way avoid kalemat musk and oudh if you can…..too Cynthia(synthetic) for my liking. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
He’s right. Kalemat Floral does have a “pandanus” (tropical) feel in addition to its roses and general Kalemat vibe, while the Musk is too synthetic. If you love intense cleanness and laundry freshness in the general “floral woody musk” genre, you may enjoy it, but I think the fragrance lacks the quality, luxury, and distinctiveness that characterize the other two Kalemat oils. If I were you, I would stick to either Kalemat Floral or to the equally enjoyable and opulent Kalemat Amber that I reviewed yesterday. If you want a lighter version, perhaps for summer use, then try the regular Kalemat eau de parfum because the oils are very concentrated indeed. [UPDATE 3/25: Right now, Arabian Oud has a 30% off sale that lasts until April 6th. The Floral is only £56 and the Amber is £63.]
Unfortunately, none of the Kalemat oils are easy to obtain if you don’t live in London, Paris, or parts of the Middle East (especially Dubai and Saudi Arabia) where Arabian Oud has its stores. However, I’ve worked out a deal for my readers with the manager of Arabian Oud’s London boutique, Mr. Ahmed Chowdhury, who has kindly agreed to ship small packages of any fragrance oils world-wide. There are some caveats, though, so please make sure you read the Details section below carefully.
Arabian Oud products are also available from Zahras, including all the Kalemat oils for $99. However, I should state that the site has received mixed reviews on Basenotes, seems to ship primarily from Bahrain, and one commentator said they did not ask for PayPal or credit cards but something called BACS (direct electronic bank deposit). In addition, one of my readers didn’t receive an Amouage attar in the quantity or size that was described. I personally haven’t ordered from them and was advised by a friend to be careful, but their prices are affordable so it’s up to you.
So, that’s it for Arabian Oud for this week. I’ll cover the other fragrances at a later point, since almost all of them are alcohol-based eau de parfums which couldn’t be shipped out to you from London anyway. I do hope that I may have tempted you with two of the Kalemat oils, though. Both the Floral and Amber oils were really a joy to wear.
Disclosure: My samples were kindly provided by Arabian Oud in London. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.