I love the richness and unabashed potency of Middle Eastern and Indian fragrances. One of my first ‘exotic’ fragrance purchases was a tiny jar of waxy sandalwood-amber paste from India; a few dabs of that dense perfume paste on my collar bone scented me all day long. The perfume paste also came in the scents of orange blossom, rose, lotus and jasmine, and the entire line was advertised using the image of a turbaned man applying the perfume paste to his throat. Slowly and, unfortunately, turban-less, I ventured into floral territory with my fragrance purchases. The simple, inexpensive Indian perfumes opened up a new world to me: I started reading about the history of perfumery, I created “to-smell lists” of individual plant and animal perfume notes, and I started burning incense and wearing fragrances from India, Nepal, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Both Montale Red Aoud and Agallocha Tedallal Homme were inspired by Middle Eastern perfumery.
Montale Red Aoud
No matter their other ingredients, Montale’s aoud fragrances are all about the unvarying and forceful Montale aoud note. I like Montale aoud perfumes but, until the release of Red Aoud, I’ve never felt it was worthwhile to own more than one Montale aoud fragrance at a time — the scents are too similar. At last, in Red Aoud, non-aoud ingredients encounter the overwhelming Montale aoud note — and survive.
Montale Red Aoud contains red pepper, cumin, saffron, iris root, sandalwood, vetiver and, you guessed it, aoud. Red Aoud’s long-lasting opening contains a mix of aoud and saffron; one minute this accord reminds me of fine leather and the next minute it smells like dark-chocolate scented with saffron and sweet pepper. I’m not a lover of strong saffron in perfumes, especially when that note is permitted to take over a composition, and to my nose, deaden it (Washington Tremlett Black Tie is an example of the type of saffron scent I can’t wear) but I like how Montale uses saffron to “ornament” Red Aoud’s notes. (I can’t detect even a hint of cumin in Red Aoud — has cumin met its match when mixed with Montale’s aoud?) Red Aoud wears down to a milky aoud-sandalwood-iris accord.
Montale’s Red Aoud is classified as a gourmand fragrance but I don’t find it especially food-y. For those of you who have tried Montale aouds in the past and found them too linear – give Red Aoud a try. As with most Montale scents, Red Aoud’s lasting power is great and its sillage superb (apply with caution the first few times you wear this scent or you risk overpowering a room, or suite of rooms, or an entire floor of a building). To illustrate the Power of Montale Red Aoud: I put my trial dose, three sprays, of Red Aoud on at 5 a.m.; when I visited a huge Nordstrom perfume department at 2:30 p.m. that same day, several people, amidst hundreds upon hundreds of perfumes and people spraying perfumes, commented on my fragrance (it’s been a while since I’ve gotten so many “You smell FAB-U-LOUS!” comments in one day).
Montale Red Aoud is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum. For buying information, see the listing for Montale under Perfume Houses.
Agallocha Tedallal Homme
Paris-based niche line Agallocha (Aquilaria agallocha is a type of tree that produces agarwood/aloeswood) will celebrate the use of perfume around the world with culture-specific fragrance collections. Agallocha’s first collection, comprising two men’s and two women’s fragrances, is called Arabia Felix and was created by perfumer Habib Al Soweidi. Tedallal Homme contains lemon, bergamot, tarragon, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, clove, musk, sandalwood, oud, vetiver, gaiac, amber and saffron.
Tedallal Homme opens with a wonderful lemon-bergamot-rose accord that evaporates in less than a minute. Searching for specific notes in this well-blended scent is difficult — in mid-development jasmine is blurred by clove and woods, and those notes are in turn veiled by what smells like castoreum. If you like oud, but prefer it as a bit player in perfume productions, try Tedallal Homme; oud is discernable, but not overpowering. Tedallal Homme wears down to a soft, vanillic (and elegant) musk-wood accord, and saffron, as in Red Aoud, provides a subtle glint to the perfume’s overall composition. On my skin, Tedallal Homme improves with each passing hour and 10 hours after applying it, I smell a delightful “sandalwood talc” aroma; this beautiful note is a pleasant way to reach “The End” of Tedallal Homme.
I would categorize Tedallal Homme as a modern take on Middle Eastern perfumery (there is less floral presence and oud than in more traditional Middle Eastern men’s perfumes). A Now Smell This reader recently asked me to name a few fragrances that are similar to Gucci Pour Homme and I can now recommend Tedallal Homme as a Gucci Pour Homme “upgrade.” Tedallal Homme has perfect lasting power and sillage — it doesn’t seek out admirers but draws those that come close to smell it even closer: I spent two ‘testing’ days answering the oft-repeated question: “WHAT are you wearing!? It smells GREAT!”
Arabia Felix Tedallal Homme is available in 30 ml, concentration unknown. For buying information, see the listing for Agallocha under Perfume Houses.
I can no longer find the fragrant Indian perfume pastes that started an obsession but if you are interested in exploring Middle Eastern and Indian perfumes, I can recommend the following sites and products: Mukhalat al Malaki (“Royal Blend” for Men); Swiss Arabian Perfumes; Attar Mohd, Saeed Dawood & Co.; Ajmal; Rasasi; and Amouage.
Note: first image is A PORTRAIT OF THE NAWAB OF OUDH, ASAF-UD-DAULA, LUCKNOW, INDIA, CIRCA 1785-90, from the collection of Columbia University via Wikimedia.