Last time, in Part I, we looked at the issues and methods that Feel Oud used to make its high-end artisanal oils, so today there will be 9 reviews covering the actual scent profiles of a range of different ouds and sandalwoods. What surprised me in several cases were the amazing number of complex olfactory facets and nuances that a single piece of wood could manifest, resulting in a bouquet that was really more like a fine French perfume with evolving layers and stages, rather than a mere distilled oil. It’s due solely to the things we covered in Part I, the complicated, laborious way in which that one piece of wood was treated in order to extract the maximum number of scent molecules. When more than one type of wood was used or when a rich floral essence was added to the mix, the result could be quite mind-blowing indeed, and I say this as someone who doesn’t always have the greatest degree of comfort around oud.
Otherworldly, alien, haunting, captivating, and mesmerizing, Thebes G1 from Sultan Pasha Attars brings Guerlain‘s famed Djedi back to life in the most opulent fashion, resulting in a fragrance that turned my head from the first sniff.
There are actually two versions of Thebes, G1 and G2, and they’re extremely different, in my opinion. One I loved; one I actually loathed for its first two hours, recoiling until its surprising subsequent transformation led to a truce and appreciation. That said, much of my initial response to G2 stemmed from personal tastes. I think that it’s bound to be a huge hit with people who adore classic 1950s-1970s Chanel, Lanvin, Carven, and Balmain-style vintage fragrances, whether their cool green florals, their minimalistic, austere aldehydic chypres, or their animalic, floral vetiver-leathers.
I’ll cover both versions in this review, but I want to emphasize Thebes G1 because its first 6 hours are like nothing that I’ve encountered. The more I wore it, the more spellbound and obsessed I became. For those 6 hours, Thebes G1 exerts a strange power over me that grows each time I wear the fragrance, spreading its tentacles deep, binding me with its strangeness and its unearthly beauty, and transporting me to alien worlds. The rest of the fragrance is well done, a Bandit-style, musky, animalic, butch leather immersed in smoky vetiver, but, the first half of Thebes G1 truly blew me away. If one could confine a fragrance to certain stages and were I the sort to ever to limit myself to one modern fragrance as a signature, this one would be extremely high on the list, if not close to the top.
Al Lail is a new attar from Sultan Pasha Attars, a heady and heavy floral oriental enveloped in a golden muskiness that hums like a deep bass, powerful and throaty. At times, it reminds me of the sorts of thing Amouage used to do 20 or 30 years ago, back when it released fragrances like Gold.
Sometimes, there are happy surprises when you test a fragrance. Fougere du Paradis and Pure Incense both took me outside of my normal comfort zones and, much to my astonishment, the new environment actually turned out to be wonderful. It was the last thing that I had expected. “Pure incense” usually ends up being a “Catholic High Mass,” liturgical fragrance like Avignon, and I dislike the attendant dustiness, soapiness, and coldness that usually shows up. As for lavender, the foundational element of a fougère, I’ve hated it since childhood and was actually phobic about it until just a few years ago. (I’ve now progressed to the “wary” category, where it strongly depends on how the plant is handled.)
But Sultan Pasha has tweaked the traditional settings for both genres, and it’s made all the difference. Fougere du Paradis transports you to a bucolic pastoral setting where the lavender is bisected by verdant, grassy fields, piney elemi, and soft herbs under a warm sun. When night falls, the olfactory landscape turns dark, smoky, earthy, leathery, and immensely resinous in a way that is reminiscent of Bogue‘s much admired, limited-edition, lavender-leather fragrance, Cologne Reloaded. Pure Incense is also different than the norm. Instead of plumes of cold, clean, dusty, white smoke evoking High Mass at the Vatican (or a church crypt), this is incense by candlelight: golden, warm, resinous, and cozy. So, let’s look at each one in-depth.