Sensual secrets inspired by Scheherazade in The Thousand and One Nights, and a King who speaks of passion through tender roses and oud — those are the inspirations for Amouage’s Badr Al Badour and Molook. At the heart of one of them is a rose note that might as well be a signature of Amouage’s attars, a rose like no other, a rose that somehow manages to improve on Nature in a way that feels almost heretical. Amouage’s attars take perfumery to dizzying heights, but all of them have now been discontinued. As I wrote a while back, I want to pay homage to these lost masterpieces, much as one would write a tribute to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, covering as many as I can out of the samples I have left. And I’m happy to say that I’ve found a few places that still carry a rare bottle or two of the attars which will be the focus of today’s review.
BADR AL BADOUR:
Amouage has no official description or note list for Badr Al Badour on its website, but one of the few stores that still carries the attar, Profumeria Pepos in Italy, has the old text:
Bard Al Badour is inspired by the beauty of a woman told in a famous story “The Thousand and One Nights.” Full of sensuality, its species were selected to evoke unnerving and secret pleasures. Drops of Rosa Damascena and tears of Ambergris are the prelude to a dream-erotic aroma that magnetizes the head notes. A fluctuating moment of vibrant intensity that explodes in a heart filled with three types of wood, Oudh, Burmese and Cambodian. A visceral love tribute to the aroma that most of all recounts the east.
The notes as compiled from that site and Zahras seems to be:
Bulgarian Ta’if rose, Ambergris, Burmese Oud, Cambodian Oud, Silver Oud, and Sandalwood.
Badr Al Badour opens with the typical Amouage attar rose, that practically 3D, luminescent, utterly concentrated, photorealistic rose that makes you catch your breath and wonder how it can be real, that rose whose depths and layers astound you with their beauty, and think that Man has somehow improved on Nature. It’s sweet, thick, dark, and positively haunting. Immediately following on its trail is the most beautiful oud note that I’ve encountered in a while. Deep and multi-layered with tobacco, musky, sweet, earthy, smoky notes and just the faintest whiff of a creamy, semi-sweet goat cheese. (Trust me, it works here. It works here in a way you wouldn’t believe.) Tiny rivulets of leather and tar run through the wood, amplifying its subtle smokiness, as well as its resemblance to tobacco absolute.
Other notes form a thin veil atop the magnificent rose and sultry oud. I would swear that Badr Al Badour has saffron in it, even if the notes are silent on the matter, and it adds a fiery, red richness that works beautifully with the rose. Unlike some of the Amouage attars (Al Mas and Asrar), it doesn’t smell buttery or foodie here, but has a bite, almost as if chili pepper were mixed with pepper and a pinch of clove. The rest of the veil is laced with incense and a musky, very resinous warmth, though the note is too thin and insubstantial to come across as ambergris. The final thread in the tableau comes from strands of creamy sandalwood, as fine as silk and equally subtle.
From afar, Badr Al Badour is a swirl of spiced roses with tobacco’d, musky oud and musky golden warmth. It’s a darker, spicier, and significantly earthier rose than that which is in Homage. The scent as a whole is a woodier, less tobacco’d, less smoky attar than Tribute; and less foody or gourmand than Asrar and Al Mas.
Badr Al Badour slowly starts to shift. 20 minutes in, an undercurrent of something animalic stirs deep within the river of oud. It replaces the oud’s cream cheese undertone, and begins to seep upwards. A short while after that, the balance of notes changes as the oud surges forth by a nose to become the dominant focus instead of the rose. It’s as though the equation were split 55/45 in favour of the oud.
At the same time, Badr Al Badour feels muskier and more animalic than it did at the start, less sweet. By the end of the first hour, it is also smokier than before, and the attar’s dominant woody chord now smells like tobacco absolute, leathery castoreum, and burnt oud chips mixed with incense. The rose sinks into that thin veil of abstract spices and amber that coats the wood, constantly peeking out from behind its dark mass. The situation doesn’t last for long, though.
75 minutes into Badr Al Badour’s development, the attar returns to an equal partnership between the rose and oud, and the second stage begins. The key element now is the animalic streak which has become quite profound. At times, it’s more akin to golden sharpness more than anything truly raunchy, dirty, or skanky, but it never resembles true ambergris. Actually, it is pretty much identical to leathery castoreum, both in terms of aroma and feel. In essence, Badr Al Badour has taken on a tripod structure that is split almost evenly between the rose, oud, and the “castoreum.” Undercurrents of smokiness, spiciness, tobacco, and ambered warmth remain, but they’re secondary or tertiary elements that generally work indirectly from afar to add complexity to the overall scent without ever changing its main focus.
Badr Al Badour’s final stage begins roughly at the start of the 5th hour. The attar is now primarily a warm, spiced rose, infused with slightly leathered castoreum muskiness and abstract amber, all atop a smoky oud base that feels streaked with tarry tobacco absolute. The rose takes on the faintest powderiness, though it is subtle and greatly overshadowed by the muskiness. The oud fluctuates in its prominence and structure; sometimes, it feels as though it were a minor base layer but, at other times, it swirls all around, at the edges, in the background, or as part of the rose. In Badr Al Badour’s final moments, it becomes fully one with the main note, resulting in a scent that is mostly a woody rose with a lingering castoreum-like muskiness and a vestige of smokiness. In the end, though, it triumphs because Badr Al Badour dies away as a wisp of musky woodiness.
One of the special things about the Amouage attars is that it takes only a few drops to give you a long, rich, extremely deep scent, and Badr Al Badour is no exception. I used perhaps 3 drops, partially to save the amount I have left, and partially because so very little is required for the experience. Those 3 drops (or smears of the wand) gave me a strong bouquet that lasted 10.75 hours. The projection in the opening minutes was about 3 inches, but the scent trail was about 9 inches. After 90 minutes, the projection was perhaps 1.5 to 2 inches, and the sillage was still around 8-9 inches. Badr Al Badour became a skin scent after 4.25 hours, but was still very easy to smell up close and without effort until the start of the 7th hour. Obviously, all these numbers would be significantly higher if I were not being miserly with the quantity application. On some people (those with more normal skin), I’ve heard that even a small amount creates a scent that last almost a whole day.
In Arabic, Molook‘s name means “King.” So says the official description for the attar which I found on Sacro Cuore, a great Italian niche store. It is now, alas, sold out of the fragrance, but they still have information on the scent, albeit in Italian. When translated, it gives you an idea about Molook and its notes:
Its name in Arabic means “King”.
Source of new sensations and emotions rare, naturally Molook speaks of passion, tenderness with ardor, sublimating feelings simpler. Its syntax olfactory ranges from grace infused in corollas Rose Taifi and passion profuse essences most ardent existing in nature.
A mixture of Ambergris, Sandalwood oil and two varieties of Indian Oud and cambodian bring the senses to the threshold of the Dream.
A attar that releases iridescent reflections that have the gift to make bloom in the silence of your heart and forget words and emotions to stage a fascinating show on your skin.
Perfume never arrived at so much.
[Notes:] Taif rose, Ambergris, Cambodian oud oil, Indian oud, and Sandalwood
Molook opens with a velvety soft rose coated with honeyed nectar, dusted with cinnamon, and laced with a citrusy undertone that smells extremely similar to good quality lemongrass. Hiding at the outermost edges are the woods: a soft oud note that feels very clean, and a sliver of white sandalwood. Ripples of golden warmth move through the notes, never feeling like marshy, salty, caramel-flecked ambergris but, rather, like a touch of castoreum muskiness.
From afar, Molook is primarily a sweet, barely spiced rose veiled with citrus, flecked by slivers of woodiness, and then nestled in a golden muskiness. It’s a very light bouquet, perhaps the airiest of the attars that I’ve tried thus far. What I find odd is that Molook is named for a king, a masculine ruler, because the attar feels like a lighter, more feminine treatment of a rose and, more importantly, it feels very tender. To the extent that a super concentrated attar can convey fragility, the treatment of the various notes in the opening stage do precisely that.
Take, for example, the flower at Molook’s heart. This is not a dark, beefy, meaty damask rose. Nor is it an overly sweetened, thick, or heavy one, either. It’s not fiery with spices, feral with raunchy animalics, or supersonic and 3D like the flower in Homage. It’s not Scheherazade’s erotic rose, or the bold, forceful one of a huntress. It’s Juliet’s romantic rose, tender, soft, and more youthful. It’s sweet and naturally clean with a lemongrass zest, but it’s a very luminous, delicate rose that evokes images of lace made from petals.
The oud receives almost the same treatment. In my experience, Cambodian oud can be fiercely goaty, ripely fecal, decayed, or as smoky as a napalm blast. Yet, here, it is like a hushed breath and, on my skin, positively clean. The result of both things together results in a very gentle, easy, delicate beauty that feels like the tenderest kiss on the flesh. Molook’s projection and sillage add to that impression. 3 small smears resulted in a strong but very light cloud that projected maybe 3 inches at best in the opening. The scent trail or sillage extended maybe 4 or 5 inches.
Ultimately, though, Molook’s romanticism doesn’t last. At the end of the 1st hour, the lemongrass grows stronger; the muskiness turns animalic, as the castoreum surges forth; while the oud weakens, and the spices almost disappear. The rose is less sweet now, more brisk. From afar and up close, it smells primarily of a lemony rose in a musky, golden haze. By the end of the 2nd hour, the woodiness sinks to the base, but it only slightly resembles oud. It’s really just a nebulous, generic, slightly smoky wood on my skin.
The more significant change is to the perfume’s feel and texture. The castoreum’s surge has turned Molook deep and thick, almost opaque in feel, by the end of the 2nd hour. The attar no longer feels like a luminous, billowy breeze, but like thick, brocade velvet. I know the notes only mention ambergris, but I have to say that not one bit of Molook smells remotely like that ingredient to my nose. The warmth, muskiness, and goldenness feel solely like castoreum. That becomes especially true at the start of the 4th hour when Molook takes on a definite sharpness. Something about the way the “castoreum” combines with the citrus smells overly sharp and, I’m afraid to say, quite sour.
In essence, Molook has turned into a sour, musky, castoreum rose atop a thin layer of oud. The latter smells raspy, and it’s a far cry from the smoothness of the deep, complex wood in Badr al Badour. I have to admit, I’m not keen on any of it. Molook remains largely the same way until its final hours when it turns back into sweet, soft, romantic rose with just a whiff of muskiness.
In its final moments, all that’s left is a wisp of floral sweetness. All in all, Molook lasted just 8 hours with 3 small drops. The soft opening projection dropped to 1.5 inches after 90 minutes, and it became a skin scent on me at the start of the 4th hour.
ALL IN ALL:
There are a handful of reviews for both attars on Fragrantica. For Badr al Badour, a lot of people seem to have experiences similar or slightly similar to mine. A few people talk about the smoky quality of the rose, with one person finding the attar to have a tobacco-like darkness:
Ooh, oh my God… I haven’t had this level of sensual experience in a very long time [¶] OK, let me try and explain: opening is smoky and dry; a dead ringer for tobacco. I wouldn’t call this feminine, but wait… [¶] There it is, a soft, slow moving current of lush.
This is pretty much a very high end tobacco scent; I’ve never experienced oud like this. I could just roll in it. A little goes a long way, though, so I don’t need to. But wow, what an amazing fragrance!
Others focus on the oud. One commentator wrote:
Wow! Beautiful, opulent, powerful, sensual…everything about Badr al Badour is simply grand. Just a simple drop and you feel surrounded by a cloud of sultry oud with rose, but with a twist. It is not the typical rose-oud perfume, this is way beyond that. Leathery, smoky, animalic, medicinal, but smooth and delicate at the same time.
I liked Badr Al Badour a lot, and think it’s a great scent for someone who wants an attar where the very rich, spiced rose shares the stage with a very complex, genuine oud note. Tribute is still my favorite Amouage attar, but it is far more about the smoke and tobacco, leading some people to layer it with Homage. You wouldn’t need to do that with Badr Al Badour, though I do want to emphasize that it is a woody, more animalic attar in its focus as compared to something like Tribute. For me, Badr Al Badour is sultrier and sexier than Homage, and more sophisticated than the foodie-gourmand takes on Tribute that are Al Mas and Asrar. I’ve found a few places that still sell it, and not for the arm-leg-and-a-kidney prices that Tribute now commands, so if you’re interested, check out the long Details section at the end.
I was less enthused by Molook. Part of the problem is that I struggle deeply with rose-dominated scents and, on my skin, the oud was either minimal or abstract. The other part is that I don’t like strong citrus chords, and the one here was amplified by the castoreum-like element in a way I didn’t enjoy. Yet, for the two commentators on Fragrantica who have tried the scent, Molook had quite a lot of oud. For one, it was fecal like “dung in a rosebush.” For the other, it had the cheese undertones that true agarwood often possesses.
The Basenotes entry for Molook has only one entry, and it echoes the cheese issue. “ClaireV” writes:
Despite what the fragrance notes may say, this is almost all Syoufi oud in all its sheep cheese-y, fetid feet glory. Don’t get me wrong – I like it. But I’ve grown accustomed to it. I suspect that many Western noses might be initially put off by the hot, sour “blue cheese” aroma that swells up on the skin the minute you dab it on. That’s just Syoufi oud for you. Its hot, Hindi, stinky breath is what most people in the Arabian peninsula feel is the real smell of oud. Personally, I prefer the smell of Cambodi oud, which is fruitier, sweeter, and less animalic, but there are no two ways about it – Syoufi oud is the oud smell that keeps my nose going back to the wrist over and over again. There is something deep and compelling about that odd sourness, something a little mysterious and even more interesting overall than Cambodi oud. It gets rounder and warmer (but not sweeter) as the day progresses, and the sourness of the oud becomes tempered with the creamy, salty twang of a nice ambergris reconstruction (or who knows, maybe real? Doubt it though) and woody basenotes. Masculine-leaning. Fascinating, though, especially for those interested in getting a hold of real Syoufi, considered to be the definitive oud smell in many areas of the Arab world. I am considering buying a small 1ml decant of this to have on hand, even just to sniff it occasionally. It’s really good.
Interestingly, there is a Basenotes discussion thread which compares Badr al Badour and Molook. Two people there found Molook to be primarily a rose-ambergris scent, while Badr al Badour was more “oudhy” in focus. “Igor01” writes, in part:
BaB is more about oud and rose with the ambergris providing just a non-intrusive back vocal while Molook is mostly about ambergris and rose. If you smell them side by side you should be able to tell them apart – the one with a sharper, brighter, more penetrating ambergris is the Molook. The drydown is quite different too – BaB goes into the soft oud aroma and Molook stays a pretty intense ambergris scent with a touch of oud and what smells like saffron to me (I know it’s not listed in the notes) to take off some of the roughness. Colour-wise, the Molook attar is slighly lighter than BaB.
“Cacio” agreed, saying: “Igor nailed it. Molook is mostly an ambergris with a woody, not too strong oud and a saffrony sandalwood note at the end. Badr al Badour is more oudhy.” As you can see, there is a split in opinion across the various sites on just how oud-centric Molook may be, while there is more agreement on the focus in Badr Al Badour.
In my case, my feelings about Molook would be more positive had it displayed a strong oud element or even the sandalwood that the Basenotes referenced. On my skin, the attar barely evoked sandalwood of any kind for me, neither the Mysore kind nor the greener, buttermilk variety in Amouage’s Sandal attar. And I truly think the muskiness has a very different source than either the oud or the ambergris. To my nose, the “sharper, brighter, more penetrating ambergris” referenced on Basenotes is actually castoreum. I agree that it is sharper and brighter in Molook, and that the same golden muskiness exists in Badr Al Badour in a smoother, deeper, more velvety fashion, but I don’t think it is “ambergris.” Perhaps it’s merely an issue of skin chemistry, or my nose is off.
Either way, I would happily wear the sultry, sexy Badr Al Badour. Molook, I will leave for those whose skin chemistry creates more fortunate results. If you’re interested in either one, they’re still available at a few places in full bottle form. And, happily, Badr Al Badour is available for sampling at The Perfumed Court in America. It is well worth trying, in my opinion. It’s really beautiful.