Each of the fragrances of Rania J. Parfumeur showcases a different raw material, and it is the turn of tobacco in T. Habanero. It seeks to give the dark, black note the spicy fire of hot Cuban nights and the aroma of Havana’s famous cigars, but it is more complicated than that for me. Honeyed sweetness, black frankincense, Middle Eastern oud, synthetic sandalwood, and leather all play a part in T. Habanero’s dance, resulting in scent which took me to some surprising places. There is a stage where T. Habanero is a drier, deeper Killianesque Back to Black tobacco that is more suited to an aristocratic, private club in London frequented by Prince Charles and captains of industry than to a wild tango in Cuba. At other times, the scent is like Cuban cigars by way of bedouins in the Sahara, thanks to the barnyard funk of authentic, Middle Eastern oud. And, in the very end, it is a simple trip to overly smoky, arid, blackened woods. It is the last stage which is my problem.
A mix of East and West lies at the heart of Oud Assam which showcases and highlights a true, authentic Middle Eastern oud in many of its complex facets before giving a nod to the West through touches of vetiver greenness and neo-chypre-like elements. It is not a scent for everyone, particularly those who have only experienced Western “oud,” a different animal entirely, and your reaction is going to depend on your familiarity with and appreciation for the more challenging aspects of the genuine article. On the other hand, if you love cheesy, creamy, musky, smoky, and slightly barnyard-like oud, Rania J.’s creation is one for you to try.
Names are suggestive things, whether in literature, art, or perfumery. In my experience, fragrances often fail to live up to the moniker bestowed on them but, sometimes, the good ones lead you elsewhere, evoking other images and worlds. With Ambre Loup, I never thought a golden wolf, but of dark, elemental, and wholly primal forces, encircling and bowing to a central core. Like dancers in an ancient ritual, they go round and round, faster and faster, until they turn into a mesmerizing blur, creating an intoxicating whole. That, in turn, brought to mind a perfumed version of Dances with Wolves, the famous film about Native-American Indians, or the ancient Navajo Fire Dance.
Close your eyes, and imagine the sun setting in a sky golden, hazy, and thick with heat. Blackness looms on the horizon, a drum beat rings out, and dancers begin to circle a giant totem made of tobacco. Ambergris, labdanum, vanilla, spices, aromatic cedar, the stickiest and blackest of resins — one by one they whoop and stomp, round and round, their feet beating up clouds of cinnamon and cloves, as the golden thickness of the dying sun hangs heavier and heavier atop their heads. The blackness crashes like a wave over the land, engulfing the dancers, merging with their aroma to create a blanket of rich, dark tobacco that is sweetened with vanilla, rendered musky with ambergris, and thick with labdanum. Village elders watch the dance from under the shade of giant cedar trees, puffing on tobacco pipes, and sipping rum or scotch. All of it swirls into one, all of it engulfs you, a cloud that is so thick and richly heady, you can feel it coating your skin, stroking you with heavy fingers of opulent darkness, caressing you, seducing you. This is the narcotic world of Ambre Loup from Rania J. Parfumeur.