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.
About 10 days later, I received a large yellow padded envelope with various Esxence samples from my friend’s friend who kindly shipped everything from Milan. The package was almost the size of two bread loaves, brimming to the top with those Ajmal samples that outnumbered everything else by a 10:1 margin. I was excited, and anticipated great things.
I took out two or three, then reeled. Powerful waves of Norlimbanol and Ambermax were wafting from one closed vial; goopy, cheap fruitchouli roses mixed with laundry musk from another; Montale-style faux oud synthetics from a third. The names on some of the cards didn’t inspire confidence, either. Contempo, Relentless, Stature, Tempest, Unveil, Believe for Her, Believe for Him, and Believe Forever were just a few of the highly Europeanized titles that greeted me. It was unexpected, but I kept an open mind and sniffed a few more, only to physically recoil, stuff everything back into the package, and put it aside for a day when I had more fortitude.
This set the pattern for the next 4 and a half months. I would tentatively try one or two of the vials, often scrubbing after several hours, and wondering all the while how I could possibly survive getting through the gigantic pile. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Or maybe next week….” became a constant refrain. That large, bread-box sized, yellow padded envelope seemed to mock me and my feebleness every time I entered my office, so I eventually moved it to a console in a corridor where it seemed to glare at me even more balefully every time I passed it. A sane person would have just scrapped the whole enterprise but, as regular readers have probably noticed by now, I have an obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic side to my personality and that side seemed to view the project as some sort of test of character, test of wills even. I felt determined to finish what I had started, determined that this blasted package would not defeat me.
In the end, it won. Towards the end of my months of testing and attempted re-testing, I had started to wonder why I was doing this to myself, whether the compulsion to get through the pile was actually worth the ordeal, and did I need to seek therapy for some heretofore unknown trait of masochism? I managed to get through 13 of the 20 vials before Ajmal finally broke me. I raised the white flag, and collapsed in a whimpering, beaten, foetal ball of misery.
But there is a stubbornness in me that lingers and that is partially the reason for today’s review. In all candour, it’s not about helping you, the reader, because, frankly, I doubt anything in here will benefit anyone except for a handful of men who love a particular sort of hyper-masculine, chest-thumping, super machismo, “beast” fragrances on steroids. For everyone else, there is not a gem or hidden treasure in sight. So, I admit, the ONLY reason I’m writing about these fragrances is a selfish one: it’s a way of clearing the decks so I can throw out that blasted yellow padded envelope that has been haunting, tormenting, and mocking me for months. Somehow, in my mind, writing these mini-reviews or brief impressions will be the final step in ending this Sisyphean ordeal and, more importantly, symbolizes that I didn’t give up without some small measure of a fight! I don’t expect that to make any sense to you, not unless you’re also obsessive-compulsive/OCD about finishing things.
So, to you, my readers, I apologise in advance for the litany of mediocrity (or worse) that I will be presenting, and I understand completely if you give up reading right here. In fact, go ahead, and save yourself while you still can. Outside of eBay, none of these fragrances are sold in America; most are only widely available in Russia, the Middle East, or any Ajmal store that may exist in the UK; and nothing here will benefit anyone except for the “bros” who love blind-buying Arab fragrances on the internet. So, unless you fall into one of those last categories or unless you enjoy reading about train wrecks, don’t waste your time and stop right here. You’ve been warned, nothing good lies ahead.
THE BELIEVE SERIES:
BELIEVE FOR HER (2011 EDP): An ultra fresh, light, clean girlie floral infused with generic, amorphous fruitiness then placed over slightly sour, plastic-y woods, all enveloped in a watery clean musk. It’s very much in the vein of one of Chanel’s lightest and cleanest Chance flankers, only significantly cheaper smelling and blander. I was astonished to find that this barely lasted. Maybe 5 hours at most with several good atomiser sprays.
BELIEVE FOR HIM (2011 EDP): Believe for Him opens with fresh, aromatic citrus water, and I really do mean something as thin, weak, and diluted as water. The bouquet is centered on lime, lemon, something genetically mossy and a drop of what may be nutmeg, all enveloped under a blanket of a shower-clean freshness. It seems to evaporate from my skin with astonishing rapidity, disintegrating within minutes to a citrus freshness with stale, dusty woods and intense fresh musk. The latter is the strongest and most distinct part of the scent. In total, it lasted maybe 6.5 hours, at best, with several hearty sprays from my little sample atomiser.
As a whole, the fragrance reminded me of a few things, none of them good: a cheap room spray, a cheap cologne you buy in the mall, and something my neighbor’s teenage son began to wear when he first became interested in girls. Believe for Him is better than such teenage mainstays as Axe body sprays simply because Believe is so nonexistent, anonymous, and mild. On my skin, it doesn’t even have the strength of a cologne, and feels more like an eau legère in concentration. (Well, except for the clean musk.)
On Fragrantica, the only two reviews for Believe at this time say it smells identical to Abercrombie & Fitch‘s Fierce. Or Montblanc‘s Legend. I’ve never tried either, but the Abercrombie style seems like a perfect comparison or analogy for Believe’s olfactory bouquet and general vibe. I can’t shake the impression that Ajmal spent more on the actual bottle and how it looks than on the scent in question. One Fragrantica poster said there is 22-karat gold trim around Believe’s crystal cap, while the second seems to have spent $290 buying the fragrance and ruefully says “A sucker is born every minute.” I’m assuming the $290 price tag was an eBay one but, either way, he has my full sympathy. Don’t make his mistake. This is not a fragrance worth $290, in my opinion. Even a $40 price tag seems dubious to me.
BELIEVE FOREVER (2013 EDP): Believe Forever opens with fresh aromatic spices smelling like nutmeg and cardamom, layered with bergamot, black pepper, rose, and a nice patchouli. Faux, extra dry, peppery cedar and woody aromachemicals run through the base. It reminds me of D&G‘s The One, only with black pepper and rose in lieu of ginger and tobacco. Since I happen to like The One, Believe Forever wasn’t too bad at first. But then it just got more and more and more peppery, in that artificial way that’s a by-product of some woody molecules rather than an actual pepper note.
Putting the synthetics aside, Believe Forever feels like a flanker to some designer men’s fragrance in Sephora, except I think it’s rougher and not as pleasant as, say, The One. To me, it lacks any distinctive, creative, or luxurious additional component that would make it worth your time to seek out. And you really would have to seek it out unless you live in Russia which is the only place where I’ve seen Believe Forever sold; it isn’t listed on Ajmal’s website or on eBay at this time. Save yourself the trouble and don’t bother.
THE “M” SERIES (2015):
CUIR MUSC (EDP): Cuir Musc opens with spicy, peppery, woods infused with shower fresh, strangely aquatic musk and lying atop a woody, tarry, pseudo-“leather” base. The latter basically consists of a Guaiacol-style wood smoke with some ISO E-style woody chemicals that, to my nose, smell a lot like Cedramber. Other notes quickly follow: a citrusy freshness, a quiet, unexpected powderiness, and a nebulous, amorphous, very musty greenness that is ostensibly meant to be oakmoss. The odd aquatic note grows stronger at the same time. Cuir Musc is supposed to have watermelon in it, but that’s not what it smells like on my skin. It’s merely an indeterminate, bizarre wateriness.
Eventually, the endless woody chemicals take over, and Cuir Musc becomes an ultra-dry, woody fragrance with leathery woodsmoke, woody-amber synthetics, and sharp, musty, dank, fusty, faux “moss”, all blanketed by a slightly powdery clean musk. After 5 miserable hours of this, I gave up and scrubbed. When I tested the fragrance a second time on paper, the final hours involved dry, peppery, musty woodiness with powdery musk.
Arab Luxury World has an article quoting Ajmal’s General Manager in its description of Cuir Musc:
almost synonymous with luxury; the ‘most luxurious perfume available in the region‘. Imbued with unique leathery musk and accords, Cuir Musc brims positive energy, guaranteed to make a bold statement. [Emphasis added.]
I have two reactions to that. First, I clearly have a very different definition of “luxury,” because this is not it. Second, the leather-woody accords are about as “unique” as a Kardashian selfie, so don’t believe the marketing hyperbole. Cuir Musc seems to retail for about £115 or €138, and goes for about $170 on eBay. I wouldn’t waste your money.
VIOLET MUSC (EDP): Violet Musc opens with watery, diffuse, faux florals that are intended, allegedly, to be muguet (lily of the valley). They’re blanketed in powder, then placed atop a base of ISO E-heavy Ambermax or one of the similar ISO E-based woody ambers. Within minutes, Violet Musc devolves into basic, floral-scented baby or talcum powder. It’s infused with a generic, abstract floralcy, streaks of ISO E, and fresh musk. A hint of rose and an even more elusive whisper of ambered sweetness occasionally circulate about its edges, but that’s about as complex as the fragrance gets. Violet Musc remained like inexpensive floral baby powder until I gave up and scrubbed it off a number of hours later. Violet Musc retails for £115 a bottle. I can only shake my head.
AMBER MUSC (EDP): Amber Musc opens with chilly, thin, crisp citruses, shower-fresh cleanness, white musk, fruity sweetness, and a drop of rose all infused within a diffuse, powdery, quasi-amber, quasi-woody (wholly synthetic) background. The latter quickly turns immensely sharp and dry, pulsating with such force from the scent strip that it gave me a piercing headache. I moved it to the furthest reaches of my office and tried to avoid it, but the powdered, woody, clean “amber” had great reach. The citrus quickly fades, replaced by a soapy aroma, no doubt from the clean musk. A mere 20 minutes into its development, Amber Musc devolves into a simple, powdery, peppery, synthetic woody-amber bouquet blanketed with soapy, laundry musk. An elusive wisp of fruity rose meanders in the background, but it’s minor and heavily muffled. Eventually, the scent turns into a one-note woody musk. I couldn’t stand any of it, and it’s certainly not my definition of an “amber” fragrance. It was also one of the least interesting Ajmals that I tried, and that’s saying quite a lot.
THE “W” SERIES (2014):
AMBER WOOD (EDP): This one sent me reeling merely from the chemical soup that billowed from the unopened vial with such “beast” mode, nuclear strength that Montale and Orto Parisi would be left in awe. In fact, the sample seems to infect anything and everything in its vicinity, pulsating out smoky, arid, abrasive, needle-sharp Norlimbanol, heavily peppered faux “oud,” and amber-woody synthetics up the gazoo. Buttery (faux) saffron, generic musty and earthy spices, and a pinch of red fruitiness (that doesn’t smell like the listed “apple” note) are subsumed within. To me, Amber Wood smells like the perfect brother to the new, mediocre LM Parfums release, Scandinavian Crime, fused with its Malefic Tattoo, only infinitely more powerful and synthetic than either one of those. I couldn’t bear to put Amber Wood on my skin, but even smelling the scent strip made me feel physically unwell and gave sharp shooting pains through my eye for several hours. At one point, I actually felt dizzy and nauseated, so I gave up.
The “W” series is supposedly higher end and I’ve seen it priced around £100 or €140, to which I can only say, “No, thanks,” but Amber Wood receives rave reviews from a few guys on Fragrantica, perhaps because of its “beast mode” and machismo “bro” style on steroids, so if this genre of perfumery is your thing, ignore me and try it for yourself.
SANTAL WOOD (EDP): Santal Wood opens with big handfuls of cardamom poured over syrupy, gooey, fruity roses. A dusty, earthy marigold note follows suit, then fiery ginger, earthy cumin, and a touch of sandalwood that smells slightly green and like creamy buttermilk. Ajmal claims that it’s real sandalwood, “the finest Sandalwood oil from the Western Ghats of India.” To me, it smells exactly like green, milky Ebanol with smoky, dark, dry Javanol, both synthetics, and not remotely natural. In the base, a dry, strongly synthetic oud pops its head up from time to time. For the most part, Santal Wood’s opening bouquet is primarily centered on extremely jammy, fruity, and heavily spiced roses atop a base of various woods. Something in there gives me a profound headache whenever I smell my arm up close. I think it’s the oud, but it could be the cedar which rapidly emerges, smelling like a powerful, peppery, leathery woody-amber aromachemical with an ISO E-like facet.
What’s odd is that, on paper, Santal Wood was quite different in its opening. It debuted with a positive deluge of lovely creamy, buttermilk, slightly green, Australian-style sandalwood that smelt almost natural and not instantly, overtly, and abrasively synthetic from first whiff. True, the telltale Ebanol and Javanol aspects eventually showed up later, but the opening on paper had some pretty decent quality.
Unfortunately, on my actual skin, that sandalwood was merely a whisper, one that was largely drowned out by generic, run-of-the-mill spices, syrupy roses, and oud. Even odder was the fact that, on paper, the fruity accords smelt quite different. There was almost a watery quality to it that brought to mind the watermelon note that’s supposedly in Cuir Musc, except here it was blended with raspberries and black cherries, instead of the typical red berry or fruitchouli accord. Other differences were the fact that the spices weren’t so earthy or fiery, while the woods took much longer to turn parched, peppery, and so smoky.
In any event, both versions end up in the same place after an hour, whether on paper or my skin: creamy, slightly green, buttermilk and spice-laden, synthetic sandalwood that is layered in-between strongly peppered, smoky, leathery, ultra-dry oud and amber-woody synthetics, high-pitched spices, and intensely sweet rose-fruitchouli jam. I tried to wear the fragrance as long as I could, but it was too much for my aromachemical sensitivities and I got the typical migraine that I always experience with Javanol. After 2 hours, I had such a sore throat and such intense pains through my eye whenever I smelt my arm that I took 3 Tylenols (to no avail) and gave up.
On Fragrantica, many of the same people who loved Amber Wood love Santal Wood even more. One person writes that it’s like Tom Ford‘s Cafe Rose layered with Santal Blush but without the latter’s synthetics. I disagree. If you ask me, Ajmal’s Santal Wood has the exact same Javanol that’s in Santal Blush, but with additional and other woody aromachems to boot as well. As for Cafe Rose, he’s right that the saffron-fruitchouli-smoky-woody-rose accord here is similar, but it’s also similar to that in hundreds of other fragrances in this extremely tired, worn-out genre. So, the issue then becomes quality. And Ajmal fails there as well, in my opinion. I’m not a fan of Cafe Rose, but I think it’s smoother and better quality than Santal Wood.
Be that as it may, if a combination of those two Tom Ford scents is your cup of tea, if you have no aromachemical issues, and if you’re looking for chest-thumping masculinity in “beast” mode, then you should probably seek out Santal Wood for yourself.
HATKORA WOOD (EDP): According to Ajmal, Hatkora
is a semi-wild species of citrus and its amazing perfume emanates from the oil of the fruit’s luscious peel. W Series Hatkora Wood guarantees using the finest Hatkora wild lemons sourced from Assam, Mizoram and Manipur for this fragrance.
It’s really wonderful and gives Hatkora Wood a great opening: rich, deep, bright, and sunny lemon that smells far sweeter than the norm, and is beautifully fragrant as well. Other elements are noticeable as well. Infused within the Hatkora is the second best part of the fragrance’s opening: a surprisingly delicate but strong, bright, and very honeyed floralcy that really reminds me of linden blossoms. A few drops of ripe, juicy, musky, sweet peaches, a pinch of fiery ginger, and an elusive whisper of vanillic lavender complete the top layer, while a series of smoky or dry woods run through the base, smelling of (synthetic) sandalwood, oud, and musky cedary-amber. Still, the wild, sweet lemons are utterly delightful, particularly with the linden blossom quality of the floral accord.
I enjoyed parts of the debut quite a bit, but it didn’t last. The woods turned abrasive, overtly chemical in nature, and increasingly parched in feel. About 30 minutes in, they seep up from the base, weakening the lemon-linden-floral accord, diffusing its clarity and beginning the slow transition towards a very different sort of fragrance. Not long after, the “linden”-style honeyed floralcy is replaced by roses that bear the typical and far less interesting syrupy jamminess and saffron spiciness that is so typical of Arab rose-oud fragrances.
What puzzles me is a waxy note that appears around the same time, reminding me of those wax fruit decorations you find in cheap stores, except this one is fairly soapy as well. In addition, there is a slightly burnt plastic aroma that becomes more and more noticeable on my skin as time goes on.
Oddly, none of those unpleasantries appeared when I tested Hatkora Wood on paper, only when I did so on skin. On paper, the wonderful lemon, honeyed floralcy, and peach were strong, the spices (and particularly the fiery saffron) were a muted wisp, and the woods were less parched, less smoky, and less overly chemical in aroma. The latter give me an unexpected headache, but it’s the combination of the sharp synthetics with that awful plasticity that I find to be most difficult when I tested the fragrance on skin.
Hatkora Wood continues to evolve quite quickly. About 75 minutes in, the dried lavender begins to emerge, pushing the lemons to the sidelines. The roses becoming stronger than ever, twining around the oud, spices, fruits, and woody-amber aromachemicals on center stage. The cumulative effect is a jammy, spicy, syrupy, smoky, dry, and peppery rose-woody-oud fragrance layered with lavender, then wrapped up with thin ribbons of lemons and placed against a woody-amber backdrop. I tried to last as long as I could, but I’m afraid the fragrance was too much for my aromachemical sensitivities and I had to scrub it off after 2.5 hours. From what I read on Fragrantica, most people (with a few exceptions) find it to be a 24-hour “beast” with monster projection that finishes in “oud” and “amber.” Several say there is a powerful, forceful layer of lavender that lasts almost right to the end as well.
None of it is for me and I’m completely unenthused, but fans of Ajmal’s “W” series seem to love Hatkora Woods the most out of the lot. I mean, really, really passionately. So, if this style of perfumery is your catnip, then look at the Fragrantica reviews, and then decide for yourself. For most readers, particularly those in North American, your best bet to find or buy the fragrances is eBay. An Omani eBay retailer sells each of the W series for $199 with $15 expedited worldwide shipping. Zahras eBay store in Bahrain has them for $175 with $18 shipping. Or you can turn to this eBay search for “Ajmal W Series.”
ATTARS (CONCENTRATED PERFUME OILS):
AL JANAAN: Al Janaan attar opens with soft, lightly powdered, quietly aldehydic and translucent florals laced with a gossamer thin veil of musky goldenness. There is an elusive whisper in the base of a slightly synthetic, faux woody note (faux sandalwood?), but it’s a sliver and heavily muted. The whole thing is cocooned in shower-fresh musk. The latter rapidly expands, vying with the aldehydes for control, and both of them muffle the abstract floralcy, turning it into a faint squeak after a mere 10 minutes. Not long after that, the flowers become a ghostly suggestion that weave around the background, anonymous and wholly faceless. Roughly 30 minutes in, Al Janaan is almost entirely a soapy, aldehydic, laundry fresh bouquet with a rapidly dying whisper of some generic floralcy. It’s sharp, aggressively clean, and smells a lot like my Bounce dryer/laundry sheets. On Fragrantica, Al Janaan only has one note listed — musk — and that pretty much sums it up. In terms of availability, Al Janaan only seems to be sold in Russia. Poor them.
AJMAL II: At least this one is more interesting and complex at the start, although I’m not sure that’s saying much after the shockingly subpar shoddiness of Al Janaan. Ajmal II opens with an immensely tart, tangy, almost sour blend of red, green, and citrus fruits, all slathered over a juicy, fresh, and syrupy sweet rose. It’s nestled within a soft cloud that is simultaneously woody, green, leafy, and ambered. The fruits occasionally give off whiffs resembling something like grapefruit and raspberry, while the amber backdrop bears a hint of animalics in addition to its warm, chewy, and slightly salty muskiness. It’s all rather decent, especially once cardamom shows up to add an aromatic freshness up top. After 20 minutes, a creamy, spicy, almost natural smelling sandalwood stirs in the base.
Gradually, inch by inch, the notes blur together, led by a core accord of spice, rose, and sandalwood, fused together and draped in soft folds of amber. And that’s really it for the scent. Wisps of abstract fruitiness are folded within the rose and there is a wisp of the usual, expected cleanness circulating around the edges, but nothing else appears on my skin. Fragrantica says Ajmal II includes carnation, but I couldn’t detect it in any distinct, clearly delineated fashion. All there from the end of the first hour largely until the fragrance’s end is a soft, lightly fruited, moderately spiced rose with sandalwood and some abstract, ambered warmth.
Depending on whether I applied one or two drops or a slightly larger quantity, Ajmal II typically lasted between 11 and 13 hours. The sillage was initially strong, but not nuclear or as big as I had expected. On Fragrantica, there are no actual reviews for the scent at this time, but there are a handful of votes for “Long Lasting” and “Very Long Lasting” longevity.
Ajmal II is a moderately and comparatively pretty scent. It’s basic. It’s wearable. And I like the quality of the rose and the sandalwood which feel superior to the materials in Ajmal’s regular line of fragrances. Having said all that, I think some sort of Stockholm Syndrome set in by the time I got to Ajmal II such that my reaction is only relative to the months of trauma that came before. One becomes grateful for the smallest of crumbs.
I’ve only seen Ajmal II in Russian shops. It’s not on eBay and, odder still, isn’t even on Ajmal’s own website. Why they decided to show it at Esxence when it’s so limited in availability, I have no idea. In any event, it’s not worth hunting down but, if you should happen to stumble across an Ajmal store, I suppose this one is worth a passing sniff.
RELENTLESS: Relentless attar opens with sharp, soapy, semi-sweetened lemon that reminds me of an intensified, concentrated dishwashing liquid. Black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and a drop of sharp, lemony roses finish things off. Within minutes, the lemon turns so sour that it’s lip-puckering, triggering some sort of salivary reaction in my mouth. (God, these fragrances. Urgh.) At the same time, the rose suddenly turns jammy, gooey, thickly sweet, two polar extremes happening side-by-side to confuse my mouth and nose.
Other changes are somewhat more pleasant in comparison. Roughly 10 minutes in, the spices surge forth, led primarily by nutmeg, then followed by cloves, tonka, and a drop of creamy sandalwood. They engulf the rose, fusing together within it with great speed. Roughly 30 minutes into Relentless’ development, everything turns surprisingly blurry, a haze of lemony, spiced, jammy roses infused with clean musk and lying atop a woody base.
That’s Relentless’ core bouquet, but the details, prominence, and nuances of the notes vary from one moment to the next because it is a rather kaleidoscopic scent. From the 30 minute mark until I finally gave in to immense boredom and scrubbed it off about 5 hours later, each of the notes takes turns in the spotlight. Sometimes the lemon (that always smells just like Joy dishwashing liquid) leads; sometimes it’s the nutmeg-rose that feels suffused with fruitchouli-like molasses and often sharp, laundry clean musk. Once in a while, there is a quiet, elusive streak of syrupy jasmine. At other times, the rose wafts glimmers of tonka, black pepper, sandalwood, or a peppery, synthetic oud instead.
None of it grabs my attention. Perhaps if I were a hardcore rose lover my reaction would be different, but I doubt it. I’ve liked or admired other rose-based attars in the past but, to me, the only things separating Relentless from the tens of other rose-ouds or rose-woody fragrances that I’ve already tried this year is: 1) the persistent lemon note; and 2) the fact that, as an attar, Relentless is heavier, denser, and stronger than the typical eau de parfum. In terms of quality, Relentless feels like a Montale or Jeroboam fragrance, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on your point of view. Neither brand impresses me, and neither does Relentless.
Once again, Ajmal doesn’t bother to list the fragrance on its own site and, once again, it’s only sold in Russian stores. So, I have no idea why the company even bothered to bring samples of the dregs of the dregs to show in Esxence Milan, but I don’t advise you to hunt this one down.
UNVEIL: The last one, so hang in there and bear with me a bit longer, the end to our mutual nightmare is almost in sight!
Unveil opens with soft, sweet and sour, green apple-scented water and lemony bergamot, poured over syrupy jasmine, syrupy orange blossom, and a pale, soapy, lemony rose. Finishing things off is fruitchouli and an immensely fresh, clean musk that smells just like my Bounce laundry dryer sheets. According to Fragrantica, Unveil is supposed to include raspberry in addition to the apple, but I can’t smell either one in the midst of so much fruitchouli gunk and white musk.
In fact, even the apple — the only interesting and different thing about this fragrance — vanishes after only 5 minutes, bulldozed to death by the artificial freshness and the overwhelming sense of commercial, mainstream, youthful, and girlie floral sweetness. Taking the apple’s place is a generic spice mix that occasionally hints at saffron (but not in any clear way). A syrupy, synthetic smelling quasi-amber-ish warmth floats around the background, equally indeterminate and generic in aroma. Roughly 15 minutes into its development, Unveil devolves into nothing more than the typical fruity-floral bouquet led mostly by syrupy, fruitchouli rose that is thinly streaked with orange blossom, then enveloped in a heavy, heavy cloud of laundry fresh musk. The latter grows louder and louder (and louder) as time passes, leaving me with a huge headache every time I smell my arm.
By the end of the 2nd hour, Unveil reminds me of the attar-strength, attar-heavy version of one of Bath & Body Works’ summery, fresh, fruity-floral “fine fragrance” body mists that you can buy for $14 at the mall. Okay, fine, let’s be charitable and compare it to the sort of composition that you’d find at The Body Shop or, if you’re lucky, at Victoria’s Secret. That’s truly how Unveil smells to me, only in attar strength. None of this is a positive in my eyes, particularly not for a fragrance that, last year, Zahras sold on eBay for $185 for a mere 10 ml bottle.
Bottom line, Unveil is as commercial and derivative in composition as you can get outside of a shop in the mall but with no commensurate boost in quality to justify the increased cost.
THE END IS NEAR! WE’RE ALMOST DONE! FINAL SUMMATION AND THEN WE’RE FREE, FREE AT LAST!
Unveil is the epitome of the theme and aesthetic that marks all these fragrances, in my opinion. Perhaps Ajmal’s most expensive and exclusive attars are a different story, but I didn’t think any of these 13 were remotely interesting, distinctive, creative, compelling, high quality, smoothly done, or opulent in feel. I don’t care if fragrances are synthetic so long as they don’t sear your nose like razor-hot needles or punch you repeatedly in the head, and so long as the composition isn’t something I’ve seen a hundred times before. Ajmal fails that two-pronged standard repeatedly. And most of these fragrances are not dirt cheap or inexpensive, either. Some are this lot are quite expensive over in the West for what you’re getting.
So, bottom-line, the “bros” out there will probably want to try the heavily hyped, feted, machismo “W” series, but everyone else should stay far away. From all of them.
There, this ghastly post is done and my months-long nightmare is finally at an end. In the immortal words of Dr. Alban: Sing Hallelujah.
Disclosure: My samples were provided by Ajmal’s representatives via Esxence. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.