But first, some text that I already have on hand. I'm beginning to notice that, every time I think to update this blog with something I've already written, it turns out to be some frivolous stuff about perfume. Testing new perfumes and writing reviews about them is a great hobby -- something I devote more hours to that I'm willing to admit. In Scandinavia it's also a bit of a vice -- the culture here could even be described as anti-perfume, with "fragrance free" being the selling point for loads of bodycare products and makeup. I hardly wear perfume when I go out, for this reason.
Anyway, the perfume aficionado website to which I belong has a message board. Here there's been a slew of posts about perfume oils, how long they last compared to alcohol-based fragrances, how best to apply them, and how they smell. There's a whole range of perfume oils from the Middle East and India, where the use of alcohol in products is unpopular for religious and/or cultural reasons. Western-leaning perfumistas are only just discovering them.
The chief attraction -- to me, at least -- is that they smell weird. They are lush and over-the-top. Many of them have oud (synthetic in the cheapest), a component that Western designers are just discovering and exploiting. I'm one to be intrigued and excited by strangeness, and to me the strangest of all is that the same heavily floral- oriental- woody perfume is marketed to men as well as women.
My own experience with perfume oils is modest. Last year I bought a score of 6ml roll-ons from al-Rehab, and added to my collection of "inspired-by" oils available on a British website (which, by the way, thanks to tighter Royal Mail rules, no longer ships outside the UK, so that's the end of collecting for me). Here, some reviews of a few of the al-Rehabs in my collection, for those who may be interested in this brand. Their products sell for very little, by the way.
Now, my reviews.
Looking at the other reviews, I can see how much this perfume has perplexed those who have tried it on. I think it is an oriental floral in the complex 80s manner. Dior Poison is the closest Western perfume I can compare the final effect with, though I'm sure there are better matches out there. The fragrance oil I have lies close to the skin, unlike Poison. I like it a lot.
A sharp and rather synthetic note of orange-flavored hard candy greeted my nose as I sniffed my 6ml rollerball of Dalal perfume oil. On application, the other notes -- a strong caramel and a baked-goods vanilla -- made their appearance, and the hard-candy smell diminished. The cacophony of notes, each of which seemed to be battling the other for prominence, calmed down soon enough, and in about 15 minutes I had a pleasant, warmly-sweet sandalwoody skin scent spiked with smooth orange. Dalal, despite its name, turns out to be a very Western-style gourmand sweet fragrance -- a genre I'm beginning to crave. As for the heaviness, it was for that reason I liked Dalal a lot. I could wear this with ease.
improbably-named Superman is among my favorite al-Rehab fragrance oils. It is,
obviously, marketed for men, but in my opinion it can be as
unisex as some of the niche offerings. It is well within the Western-fragrance
category, beginning with a very pleasant spiciness that I think is nutmeg, and
calming down into a wonderful woody scent, like certain types of burning wood
or the walls of an outdoor kitchen where wood is the fuel. I can detect the
slightest bit of (synthetic) oud but it is not intrusive, unlike other oud
fragrances from al-Rehab. If you are a woman and enjoy slightly masculine
fragrances, or want to experiment, this is a good one for starters ... only
problem is, it probably is too Western for attar connoisseurs.
* red-hot chili spiciness (like some of the food in Ghana)
* black musk, like the pelts of animals (another Arabian oil, musk al-Kaaba, smells of this)
* dusty dryness, maybe a bit of vetiver
* mimosa or night-blooming jasmine kind of sweetness
Al-Rehab Africana is none of this. Instead, it is all about a rich, sweet fruit paste, infused with oil, maybe. A review I once read (negative review) likened it to synthetic apples and nothing much else. I disagree. I do get the apple note, but it is tempered with a sweet floral and it is not of the green, acidic variety. Africana has no citrus nor sour tones whatsoever. However, I am hard put to identify what the constituent fruits might be. It may, however, have a tiny bit of synthetic oud.
Despite the detailed reviews all over the web (this perfume is apparently causing a sensation), this is not what I expected. I hoped I would get, well, a rich, dark, moist chocolate-cake aroma. I wasn't counting on the vanilla being so prominent. Well, anyway, for yummy, grown-up, patisserie chocolate cake, there is Cobalt Blends Luxe Chocolate Amber, while Yves Rocher Neonature Cocoon smells like illicit chocolate cake nursed in a secret corner of the barn