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sexta-feira, 12 de fevereiro de 2016

Top 5 Ajmal Perfumes: How I Came to Love Oud


I have to tell you that I am not an oud conoisseur and until recently I didn't even like it. Except for a few scents, everything seemed uninteresting and even unpleasant to me. Then I discovered the warm animalic ouds of Le Labo Oud 27Oud de Burgasand Tiziana Terenzi's Ursa and these opened my eyes to the beautiful dirtyness in oud without the harsh chemical mess almost all western ouds are (I really dislikeMona di Orio's Oudh Osmanthus, for example). The more commercial editions likeVersace Oud NoirArabian NightsAigner Nº1 Oud were also nice introductions but lacked depth. So, Oud was for me like a secret I hadn't been told. Everyone loved it, but I just couldn't understand what was so interesting about it that made so many brands junp into that trend.
I was still unable to find the secrets of oud, until I visited the Ajmal booth in the Cannes TFWA exhibition last October. I had an instinct that proved to be correct. I felt like I had to try oud scents made by a brand that is not fantasizing. A brand that comes from an oud culture. It still think that most Western ouds are nothing but a synthetic harsh smelling twisted idea on oud. And so I entered Ajmal with the will to try everything, especially the mukhallats oud attars. It was my last chance to understand oud. After that I might as well give up. I'm happy to have made that decision for I finally got it!
Ajmal's Oscar Menezes was the man who could see my need for instruction. He started showing me the eaux de parfums from the brand, but they were just normal perfumes of western style. No oud, nothing new nor exotic like I expected. Then I told him: “Listen, I really want to be surprised. Show me the strongest oud you have here, the purest, the oud attars, the perfumes a really rich inhabitant from Dubai would wear.” He tried to explain  about the Middle Eastern perfume traditions and saw that I already was theoretically prepared.
Ok, let's get started. Oscar picked an absurdly beautiful crystal bottle and showed me the thickest and hardest to sell product they had, difficult for a European, or so he thought. His face was not hiding his disbelief. He really thought I would hate it. He took the little glass wand from the bottle, dripping in sparkling transparent brown oil and put it close to my nose. I adored it! Oh that barnyard funkyness smell of sexual attraction and rich nuances of woods and nuts, or something I couldn't even explain! This represents one of the best editions from Ajmal: Dahn Al Oud Hikaaya. It's a concentrated perfume made of oud oil.
At this point I have to disclaim that I am not in the know of the different kinds of oud. Well, I know where they come from, but I can't tell it by smelling. I also agree with the common belief that it takes time to enjoy oud. You have to educate your nose in order to appreciate it. So what I am going to describe comes solely from my sensations. Let me tell you about  my 5 favourite perfumes from Ajmal.

“Exquisitely packed in a hand-cut crystal bottle, Hikaaya is a Dahn Al Oudh concentrate, crafted using the finest Indian and Cambodi agarwood oil. The heart of this Oudh is of Indian origin, which has been matured and meticulously blended with Cambodi notes to provide the fragrance with an expressive aroma centered on sophistication and mystique. Designed for Khaleejis, this product category is an acquired taste, and is slowly but surely becoming accepted by a wider audience. “ - Ajmal
Dahn Al Oudh Hikaaya is a bold attar, not for the faint-hearted. It is incredibly intense and dirty. "Barnyard" is the immediate association I made, but in a good way. It is animalic, woody, nutty, almost fecal. This is a characteristic that almost any good oud has, as I  learned later on. And that is exactly what lacks in western oud perfumes which seem like washed ouds. This one has no shame: it is hard, strong, beastly and warm. It has a sensual personality and an enveloping thickness. It's just rich and smells organic. It's still hard for me to find an appropriate vocabulary to describe such a perfume, but as an animalic scent lover this fills all my desires. People around me seem to disagree. This is still a very hard to pull off scent for an European. But I do love it, me and my strange tastes...
“Al Shams (Arabic for ‘Sun’) is an oriental Eau de Parfum exclusively created for today’s brightest and trend setting individuals. This fragrance is highly diffusive and has a very good retention. Derived from aged Indian Agarwood, the pleasant and long lasting aroma radiates unique characteristics bearing the mark of Indian Oudh.” - Ajmal
Another one I loved from Ajmal was Dahn Oudh Al Shams. This is not an oil, but rather an eau de parfum with massive nuclear strength. Half a spray and it's a blast. Again, woody, animalic, spicy. This is truly good, sultry and manly. The longevity is even better than the one in Dahn Al Oud Hikaaya, it lasts more than 24 hours on the skin and an eternity on clothes. It brings an aura of sensuality and richness I had never smelled before. Depth, warmth, power. This variety of oud is more medicinal and balsamic, and therefore it may be fresher but also a bit harsh, especially in the first minutes. But the brutal force is impressive and it gives way to an enchanting smell. Be sure not to overspray. Oh and may I warn you: absolutely not office safe.
Different from the first two I mentioned, Mukhallat Tharwaan is not only oud. The word Mukhallat means that this is a composition of oud and other ingredients. What I smell here is the traditional combo of rose and oud. This is not such a strong fragrance and it can be an easier way to get introduced to these scents. This stunning (and extremely heavy) bottle contains a beautiful and delicate aroma which is a contrast of florals and woods with the animalic base of oud. It also has a fruity top note of something like raspberry. The sensation is rosy and dry with a background of richness and elegance. It shows a very successful balance of warmth and freshness, of woods (I smell sandalwood) and flowers with a sweet ambery tone which envelops everything in a graceful matter. The touch of saffron gives it magic. More refined and more unisex than the previous two scents, Mukhallat Tharwaan is easier to pull off and also more versatile.
Again, I have to stress that this bottle is a true jewel. Now this is what I call luxury. These bottles from Ajmal are made from solid, heavy crystal and even the boxes are symbols of extravagance.
“Derived from the essence of finest Agarwood trees from India and Cambodia and worn by individuals who like to bask in the glow of purity, this traditional fragrance forms the heart of Arabic culture exuding pure magnificence and a touch of traditional sophistication. An excellent blend of Indian and cambodi notes denote the power of this enthralling scent”. - Ajmal
Pure oud oil again, but this time this attar reveals an animalic resin like the first example of this article, infused with a ripe fruit aspect with a touch of sweetness. Very balmy but also creamy, this oud packs a punch and it smells like an old horse saddle, leathery and thick, with the warm smell of an animal and bits of honey. There's a plummy fruit smell coming very subtly to the stage, making this oud rich in nuances. The old wood tone is very prominent, with a slightly musty feeling to it. Velvety and soft, this attar comes in an exquisite crystal bottle with a lovely gold cap in the shape of a radiating sun.
This one comes in a small and light bottle which you can carry around to reinforce your fragrant day. This is another traditional oud attar which is considerably sharper and not as thick. It is closer to the eau de parfum Dahn Oudh Al Shams, but being an oil it has less projection and is easier to control. Less animalic and more woody, it still has that old musty wood smell which you may learn to love like I did. Sometimes I wear this and spray it with Tea Rose Parfum on top. The result is divine!
If you are an animalic scents lover and you still can't figure it out why oud has such a cult, please try these and comment below if you fell in love like me. But a word of warning: Once you start wearing the ouds from Ajmal, everything else may start to seem wishy-washy.
All bottle photos by Miguel Matos

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