2015 in Review: Best New Releases & Personal Favourites

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook page. Photographer unknown.

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.

One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.

Continue reading

Fragrance Recommendations: Leathers, Vetivers, Fougères & More

Source: mf.techbang.com

Source: mf.techbang.com

Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.

Continue reading

Arabian Oud Kalemat Floral & Kalemat Musk

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.

Trio of the Kalemat oils at the Arabian Oud London store. Source: Arabian Oud London.

Trio of the Kalemat oils at the Arabian Oud London store. Source: Arabian Oud London.

KALEMAT FLORAL:

Source: shikhalal.com

Source: shikhalal.com

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.

Hibiscus. Source: 1ms.net

Hibiscus. Source: 1ms.net

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).

Source: etshoneysupliers.

Source: etshoneysupliers.

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.

Continue reading

Arabian Oud Kalemat Amber: Molten Magnificence

Hubble Space Telescope photo. Source: abc.net.au

Hubble Space Telescope photo. Source: abc.net.au

Rivers of honey, dark and raw, flow like molten lava from an exploding honey volcano, running along side river banks made from beefy, spicy, damask red roses that lie at the base of cedar trees. Swirling together like a force of nature, they eventually flow out to a calm, serene ocean of soft amber where there are waves of woodiness and undercurrents of toffee and cocoa.

This is not the tale of Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat, but of Kalemat Amber, its concentrated oil version that takes many of the same strands of the original but highlights different parts in different ways, all in a mix that is as rich and brightly golden as a supernova. It’s so intensely saturated and rich in feel that it blows the slightly similar Amber Oud extrait from Roja Dove out of the water. Kalemat Amber is utterly glorious, a fragrance was a real joy to wear, and one that any lover of the original Kalemat must try.

Continue reading