Top Ten Mukhallats (Arabian Perfume Oils)

“Mukhallat” is an Arabic word that means “mix”. Although many mukhallats use the same basic ingredients the variations, for example, in species of rose, whether the musk is plant or animal based, the povenance of a specific oud, the amber recipe, additional essential oils or synthetics, and the quality and quantity of individual ingredients, is what distinguishes them.

Below is a list of favorite mukhallats. In this post I’ve attempted to familiarize the reader with the most common ingredients, and to list examples from large, well-established companies as well as smaller, niche perfumers.

Al Yaqoot, (Aluwwah.com)- -This mukhallat is a bit of a tease – it smells parched and chalky one moment, and rich and sumptuous the next. A combination of the highest quality rose oils enriched with sandalwood, musk, ambergris, and other exotic resins and spices, this perfume is equally suitable for men or women. The many different roses create a feeling of glamour and luxury, the musk and frankincense add a provocative and untamed sensuality, and the amber and sandalwood add creaminess and depth to the dusty notes that unexpectedly appear and then disappear as the perfume unfolds.

There are other less expensive blends on the Aluwwah website which would be an excellent introduction to this genre.

Prince Bandar, (AgarscentsBazaar.com)- This heady blend features rose, oud, musk, ginger and patchouli. From the notes I would have expected a slightly herbal and sassy scent but rose (red, round, bountiful) and musk (powdery but potent) are the real stars. There is nothing understated about Prince Bandar. The intensity and power of this blend suit its namesake who was a fighter pilot, as well as a Prince.

Amir Meshaal, (Abdul Samad Al Qurashi. Available through  shop@agaraura.com)- Although not very complex, the superior quality of rose, oud, amber and musk in this perfume is what earns it a place in the top 10. The oud used is the renowned Kalakassi, an Indian oil distilled from 80 year old trees. The refinement and aplomb of Kalakassi, coupled with the dry spiciness of amber, gives Amir Meshal a dignity and hauteur not always present in such rich blends.

King Fahed, (ArabianOud.co.uk)- King Fahed contains many of the same ingredients as Prince Bandar but it is more subtle, more refined and more balanced. The first “Arabian” perfume I feel in love with, King Fahed is a harmonious symphony of delicacy and grace in which the notes merge together so effortlessly it’s as though they’re perceived as a single element. Unfortunately it is very expensive, and the only way I can justify having purchased it is to remind myself that the scent is extremely long lasting, and  that I always feel very elegant and sophisticated when I wear it.

Prince Diamini, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- for those who love “sillage monsters” Prince Diamini is certain to fit the bill.  This fragrance is BIG- so big that you might be accused of being politically incorrect if you dare to wear it in a crowded elevator. The rose in Prince Diamini is listed as “wild” rose, which doesn’t surprise me. This rose hasn’t been tamed by over breeding. In fact it’s easy to think of it as a wild rambler that’s irrepressible and uncontainable. The clove and pepper add a little bit of “kick” to this reckless blend, oud adds animalic power and ambergris accentuates al the notes. . Beware of getting any on your clothing- it’s likely to outlast at least a few washes.

Rahil, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- This one is for the ladies :-)  The addition of saffron, , cinnamon and cardamon to the usual rose, musk and oud gives this blend a distinctly gourmand edge, with the exotic sweet and soft spiciness of saffron in the forefront. This  spicy perfume seems perfect for Autumn, when the airiness of Spring and the floral headiness of summer are about to become sweet memories.

Mukhallat Dehen Al Oud Moattaq, (Ajmal; available on Aluwwah.com)- The usual oud, flowers and spices have made it into the mix, but the absence of musk  and the presence of herbs makes this blend feel light, spicy, dry and very masculine . In fact, if I had to use one adjective to describe this perfume it would be “brawny”, although some men feel it is more of a woman’s scent, maybe because rose is clearly there.  But to me this blend feels as though it’s been stripped of its gushing prettiness. Its leaves feel dry and crumbly, and it’s prickly thorns come to mind more than its delicate petals.  There is also a lot of saffron in this blend which adds an element of mystery and intrigue to the mix.

Syoufi Sandal,  (Areej Al Ameerat)-  Although there may be sandalwood in some of the above perfumes it’s in such a small quantity that I’m unable to smell it.  Syoufi Sandal, on the other hand, is predominantly a sandalwood scent, and although it doesn’t contain the buttery, creamy, smooth sandalwood I prefer it’s very refreshing to smell a mukhallat in which sandalwood is featured. This sandalwood smells somewhat sharp and stern; nevertheless it’s a nice compliment to the quieter oud which, for a change, is subservient to it’s less acknowledged sibling. The scent is ultra dry and woody, and feels very grounding, strengthening and calming.

Al Hamra, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- Although this isn’t one of my personal favorites I would like to include it because it’s the only Arabian perfumes I’m aware of that has ever been nominated for a Fifi award. With notes of apple blossom, jasmine, lilac, and balsam in addition to the usual rose and musk, Al Hamra has a more “Western” feel and will appeal to women who prefer lighter, fruitier fragrances. The apple in Al Hamra is more green than sweet, it’s crispness enhanced by the addition of balsam to the blend.  The lighter florals enhance the juiciness of the apples.

Al Arabiya, (AgarAura.com)- One thing that causes me to give a perfume high marks is it’s complexity and ability to show different facets as it develops. Al-Arabiya is one such creation.  It is constantly shifting, each shimmering nuance (floral, resinous, spicy, herbal, earthy- jasmine, frankincense, cloves, tobacco, henna to name a few), revealing unique and distinct impressions while we journey down a winding path through the alleyways of a Middle Easter souk. Every clear and rippling note echoes at a different interval and I never know which elements are going to flow together and form a surprising and delightful alliance. This perfume is as beautiful as it is exciting, and is much more affordable than many of the other perfumes on this month’s top 10.  I have purchased many unusually creative and fascinating mukhallats from Agar Aura, however this is the only perfume currently available on the website.

When I first discovered Arabian mukhallats I began to lose interest in “Western” perfumes; they smelled meek, synthetic and lackluster by comparison. After almost exclusively smelling “Arabian” scents for a couple of years many of them seemed formulaic and uncreative. Now there is a place for both “styles” in my perfume collection, and I am excited to see how Eastern and Western tastes and styles interact, develop and expand in years to come.

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83 Comments

  1. Anthony said,

    July 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Hello Marian,

    I like the this information you have given, it’s very helpful to me. Thank you for that. But for people like me who like perfumes like Armani essenza and versace eau fraiche, what blend of Arabic perfumes would have the combination of those two pls?

    Thank you

    • Anthony said,

      July 19, 2014 at 9:22 am

      I forgot to add that it should also smell like channel allure sport home the one in the sliver bottle. A sharp and cool but really long lasting smell all at the same time if you get what I mean…lol. Your recommendations would be highly appreciated

      Thank you

      • Marian said,

        July 19, 2014 at 9:38 am

        HI, Anthony,
        I apologize that I am unable to answer your question. I am not familiar with either of the fragrances that you mention. In general mukhallats tend to be heavier than Western fragrances. I’d suggest you try to find samples before placing an order to avoid disappointment.

        • Marian said,

          July 19, 2014 at 9:47 am

          A few places that sell samples include Agaraura.com, Ensaroud.com and theperfumedcourt.com. Perhaps you can look up the notes of the fragrances you like and try to find an “Arabaian” scent with similar notes, but I’m sorry that I don’t have any suggestions.

  2. MonkeyBars said,

    February 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for your informative post and recommendations! I’ve just recently begun exploring Middle Eastern scents. My favorite so far is Al Rehab Saat Safa, a very cheap and lovely amber, oud, musk and oakmoss with huge potency and longevity. Unisex and with non-IFRA compliant ingredients.

    • Marian said,

      February 23, 2013 at 11:48 am

      I remember how exciting it was when I first discovered these scents. In general, and I”m not specifically talking about Saat Safa since I have never tried it, very strong scents that last a long time often contain synthetic ingredients. A very inexpensive perfume that contains oud and musk in all likelihood does not containreal oud or musk because those ingredients are very expensive. If you enjoy the scent, of course, whether the ingredients are natural or not doesn’t matter (or at least to me, it wouldn’t).
      Enjoy your explorations!

    • Martin said,

      February 25, 2014 at 2:32 am

      Where can i buy Al Rehab Saat Safa??

      • Marian said,

        February 25, 2014 at 8:01 am

        I suggest you do a google search. I see it on the U.S. Amazon website.

  3. Orgoglio ItalianO said,

    February 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Ordered a couple from the list,want to recommend HouseofOud from eBay great customer service,communication and you don’t have to wait 30 days for your product if your in an area where they aren’t available easily. He does 3ml bottles of Abdul Samad Al Qurashi & Arabian Oud oils. He’s also on Basenotes he is new there. Highly recommend tell him Italiano sent you :-) contact him with inquires if you needed somthing not in his grip he’ll get it.

    • Marian said,

      February 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Orgoglio ItalianO.
      I just did an ebay search and he has no feedback and no items listed for sale. Are you sure you wrote the correct seller ID?
      Have you tried ASAQ and AO oils you’ve purchased from another source with which to compare the HouseofOud oils?

      • glennjf said,

        February 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm

        I searched also, heck, searching is free ;) houseofoudh seems the most likely candidate.

        • Marian said,

          February 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

          That must be it, glennjf :-)
          Grade 5 higher than grade 1? Interesting. Prices are cheap – I’m surprised he can sell them for that little considering he’s in the UK and probably has to pay customs duties.
          I wonder if the gets a lot of interest if he’ll start carrying the higher/priced mukhs. In my personal experience the lower priced oils contain synthetics 
          I’d be curious to hear about anyone’s experience who places an order.

      • italiano215 said,

        April 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

        Sorry Houseofoudh with an H at the end sorry…
        also look at my posts on Basenotes under Orgoglio italianO you’ll be amazed at low prices for 1/4 tolas. the only one i can’t get my hands on is Prince Diamini i want to try this so bad… how much did you get you bottle for? if you don’t mind me asking

        • Marian said,

          April 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

          I don’t remember what I paid for it- sorry. You could email or phone them for current prices.

          • italiano215 said,

            April 17, 2012 at 9:17 pm

            was it a 3ml?

          • italiano215 said,

            April 18, 2012 at 10:02 am

            Marian sorry for buggin’ you :-)

            is Prince Bandar similar to Prince Damiani?

            Thanks

            • Marian said,

              April 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm

              Not to worry. No- they are not very similar other than that they are both very heavy scents.

      • italiano215 said,

        April 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

        it is houseofoudh with an H at the end sorry 4got to mention that.
        on my basenotes (Orgoglio italianO) account I’m listing great ASAQ stuff amazing $’s
        just can’t get my hands on Prince Diamini if you don’t mind how much did you require yours for and what size? I want to try this stuff soooo bad

  4. Vinny said,

    December 1, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Marian I have a great article for you , I stay in Dubai currently and hope you enjoy the article: :)

    http://www.khaleejtimes.com/wknd/wknd_article.asp?xfile=/data/wkndtopstories/2011/November/wkndtopstories_November14.xml&section=wkndtopstories

    • Marian said,

      December 1, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Vinny! I especially enjoying reading about the relationship of Indian attars to the use of agarwood in the Middle East.
      Enjoy your stay in Dubai. I hope you come across some amazing scents during your stay :-)

  5. Vinny said,

    November 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Apsara , you seem to have lost all hope in finding in Mysore Sandalwood oil , it exists and its not extinct , you just have to look in the righ places.

  6. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 30, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Has anyone tried – or has anyone had any experience – with Liberty Natural?

    http://www.libertynatural.com/bulk/bulking.htm

    They have attars, and two supercritical Indian agarwood co2 extracts, one for $1,200 an once, and one for $200 an ounce.

    Their prices seem low to reasonable, which in my experience is *usually* a red flag.

    • Marian said,

      October 30, 2011 at 6:48 am

      I never ordered their agarwood CO2 or SCO2 since people on BN didn’t speak too highly of them. I’ve never tried their attars. I love their pink champaca abs. but haven’t had has much success with other of their oils. Sorry I be of more assistance.

  7. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for going back in to your article and updating it with links and more info, even in the title!

    Very nice, classy, and helpful. ;)

    • Marian said,

      October 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      It was your input that was so extremely helpful, Jacob. The thanks go to you, and next time I’ll try to be more on my toes!

  8. SC Attarwalla said,

    October 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Love this website, and certainly love this post on attars.

    I’ve been collecting attars for almost 20 years.
    My introduction came from living in India for an extended period of time.
    The are truly wonderful and have kept my olfactory senses dazzled for almost two decades. I am now leaning a bit into the western world of perfume artistry and studying eastern influenced compositions.
    So far nothing has ever come close to the presence of attars but there are some interesting ideas.

    My experience of shopping for attars for such a long time in India gave me some first hand experience into the synthetic world and how often people would try and pass off rubbish as the pure goods.
    One must be careful and experienced.

    I hope to one day get to the UAE and spend some time experiencing what is available there.

    Anyways, great post and again, amazing website.
    A true mecca for those obsessed by scents.

    best wishes,

    SC.

    • Marian said,

      October 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      I’m glad you enjoy the website, SC, and thank you for your contribution. If there is anything you could share with us about your experiences, and what you have learned about how to recognize or where to source good quality attars, we would all be most grateful. Although I think I have learned the most about oud from smelling many different examples, I have surely benefited from information other people have shared about adulteration, their impressions of different oils, the reputation of sellers, etc. Smelling “bad” examples of oud has been as instructive as smelling the “best”. IMHO, in order to assess any oil it’s necessary to have become familiar with examples from the full spectrum of quality, and I gather, from what you and others have written, that finding good quality attars is very difficult. If it’s hard to find them in India I imagine it’s next to impossible to find them elsewhere.
      Are you familiar with Amouage? They have “French-ified” Arabian perfumes. I very much like a few of their “attars”- Al Shomoukh and Tribute are my favorites; many people like Homage.
      I hope you continue to enjoy your exploration of Western perfumes and that you will use this venue to share your thoughts.

      • Vinny said,

        October 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm

        Amouage is very over rated , their fragrances are more or less centered on Omani Frankincense, their CPOs are great but over all, I feel underwhelmed , and their fragrances have longevity issues. I much prefer Montale ordered from Paris , even though the oud they use I am sure is synthetic , over all they have some stellar fragrances , Black Musk, Cuir D’arabie, Attar (very close to old school indian attars) , Dark Aoud , Red Aoud and their signature Black Aoud are must tries! A safe blind buy would be Dark Aoud and Attar IMO , Black Aoud can smell like bug spray on many skins and be overwhelming initially.

        • Marian said,

          October 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

          It was after smelling Montale’s White Oud that I became interested in oud oils. I’d like to try some of their other fragrances but since I have a limited perfume budget I prefer to spend it on ouds, essential oils and good quality agarwood, incense and very occasionally bakhoors. If I come across them I will definitely try the Montale’s you suggested. Since Montale started me on my oud journey there’ll always be a soft spot in my heart for that brand :-)

      • SC Attarwalla said,

        October 31, 2011 at 10:32 am

        Hi Marian,

        Thank you for your reply.

        I’m not sure I quite have the vocabulary to educate here, but can share a little of my experience. I am just only now starting to take my olfactory region more seriously.

        My experience of collecting attars was largely a solo effort, as I never encountered anyone who had any interest other than myself and the many attarwallas I befriended over the years. Whatever I have learned has just been through buying various qualities and comparing. Certainly in my early days, I bought some dodgy items that I can laugh about now. As you mentioned, experiencing poor quality as well as high quality attars is a necessary education and I can’t recommend it enough.

        I really have no experience buying online. I was fortunate enough to have spent a great deal of time in India and could wander around visiting merchants and smell things first hand. I can’t imagine spending a fortune online without being able to smell them first hand and see them decanted in front of me. Online, we can only go by descriptions, reviews and friendly advice.

        I found being around attarwallas that had a largely Arab clientele was a good way to sample good oudhs. Those folks go crazy for them. I was lucky to sample not only the highest priced oudhs first hand, but also hung around enough times to watch the Saudi women waltz into a shop and smoke the place out by burning piles of oudh chips to test their quality.

        As far as the western houses you’ve mentioned, I’m quite familiar with many of them by name and review only. Amouage & Montale I certainly know of and have discovered other houses which claim to use related ingredients in their compositions. I am placing an order very soon to sample as many as I can afford. Perhaps I can report back with my findings if you are interested in my amateur opinion.

        FYI, I was drawn to this site by the reviews for Japanese incense.
        I have long been a fan of quality incense and was floored when I saw a site devoted to such things. This site is certainly one of the greatest things I have discovered on the internet.

        Bravo to all of those who established this site, contribute and keep it running.

        One last thing…… can anyone recommend a good olfactory training kit to purchase? IE: a few dozen small bottles of various substances commonly encountered in the natural perfume world?
        I really really need be able to pin point fragrance notes much better.

        Cheers,

        SC

        • Marian said,

          October 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm

          You’re way too modest about your vocabulary, SC Attarwalla :-) Thanks for the peek into your attar education. I can’t think of a better way to learn about attars than by the kind of extensive sampling and sensory exposure that you’ve been fortunate enough to experience. It’s a real “shot in the dark” when making a “blind” purchase- a description of a scent, no matter how extensive or careful, is a poor substitute for trying it. Companies that either sell samples (AgarAura.com), or provide them as a courtesy (Agarscents.com. Calambac.com) are popular in part because they want their customers to be able to make purchases with a high degree of confidence. Everybody experiences a scent differently and perfumes react differently to individual body chemistries and site-specific environmental factors. There is no good substitute for trying an oil on one’s own skin.

          I hope you do share your impressions of Western perfumes with us. I’m very curious to hear how someone with your extensive olfactory history perceives and relates to them. Perhaps you’ll also share your impressions of Japanese incenses as they are reviewed. Let’s hope that ways are found to increase the reserves of precious natural resources so the great tradition of of Japanese incense continues to grow and to flourish.

          Although I’ve never purchased her kit, I’ve purchased individual oils from aftelier.com, the website of acclaimed natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. She sells a basic kit of 18 5ml bottles.
          Jeanne Rose offers a “Natural Perfumery Base/Accord & Book kit” which includes 28 3ml vials diluted 50-50 in organic neutral spirits (http://www.aftelier.com/product.php?productid=17828&cat=259&page=1) I have only tried her Rosa bourbonia and I was impressed with the quality. She has a good reputation amongst people in the aromatherapy world. She has many other kits (citrus, confier, lavender and others) if you would like to explore a particular subgroup of oils more closely.Here you can find a list of kits from Nature’s Gift:http://www.naturesgift.com/kits.htm Their “Energetic Oils” kit (under Perfumery Kit One contains 10% dilutions of 56 oils. Nature’s Gift also has a good reputation and a large stock of different oils. I’ve notice on their website some hard to find oils that aren’t available anywhere else. I’m sure there are other kits around. Perhaps you’ll find more information on one of the natural perfumery forums.

          Good luck with your sensory training. I hope you find some new oils that captivate you!

  9. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 28, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Forgive the novice question; I was always under the impression that you need perfumer’s alcohol for scents to carry, so for that reason, fragrances that are pure oils usually don’t smell as strong or carry as well as colognes/edt sprays. How true do you feel that is with the mukhallats?

    • Marian said,

      October 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

      You don’t seem to be a “novice”, Jacob. Some of the Arabian perfumes use animal fixatives, like musk and ambergris. Others use synthetics. It’s hard for me to believe that Prince Diamini, for example, does not contain synthetics because of it’s unusually potent longevity and sillage. The perfumes from Agar Aura are 100% natural, and they have ample, if not “over the top” strength and durability. Perhaps they incorporate some natural plant ingredients, like patchouli, orris root, sandalwood, cedarwood, labdanum, benzoin, and others, that function as fixatives, but I don’t know that for a fact.

      • Jacob Holmes said,

        October 29, 2011 at 9:19 am

        To clarify, I wasn’t really talking about fixatives… ingredients that make scent last longer… but alcohol’s ability to help a fragrance *carry* so that it can be smelled more easily (or smell “stronger” if you will). I remember reading somewhere… not sure where now… that fragrances should have *some* alcohol because it helps the fragrance carry, and that blends that are pure oil (with no alcohol at all), while super concentrated, do not smell as “strong” when worn. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with that.

        • Marian said,

          October 29, 2011 at 9:44 am

          I don’t know why I got sidetracked on fixatives. Sorry.. Alcohol helps fragrances to carry, and in general scents that are alcohol based dissipate more quickly into the air, in the same way that EDPs carry more than perfumes. But some oil-based perfumes are very strong, and havelots of sillage, ncluding Prince Diamini from the above list. Most of the oils are stronger right after application (as are alcohol-based scents) but each oil is different- even the pure ouds. Some I can smell from quite a distance away and others I have to put my nose to the person’s skin. But yes- it’s been my experience that in general alcohol perfumes carry further.

  10. apsara said,

    October 27, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    You are lucky, Marian, that you got to try so many of the Ouds!
    Have been to Dubai and was not very aware of the perfume culture at the time – of course the scents are wafting all around you, but you go “well it’s the Orient”. Also, it’s the men who float around in such cloud.

    • Marian said,

      October 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Yes, I am very fortunate in that regard, and you are fortunate to have travelled to Dubai. To me an experience like that is worth more than all the ouds in my collection.
      I’ve been told over and over by sales associates that oud is a masculine scent, yet somewhere I recently read that women are in charge of shopping for agarwood to perfume the home. I believe that women, too, stand over burning wood to smoke their clothes but you don’t hear about it as much as you hear about men doing that.

  11. October 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

    considering that the separate prices for most of the ingredients in these perfumes(if they are natural) is anywhere from the $100/oz to $1000/oz, or more; they are going to be pricy, no way around it.

    great write up Marian, thanks

    • Marian said,

      October 27, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Good thing they sell them by the ml and not the oz or I’d never had had a chance to try them :-)

      I think the big houses use some synthetics, especially in the less expensive blends, which is why they cost so much less. A salesman once told me that even in the Gulf not many people buy the ultra pricey oils. I think having a perfume that’s named after a famous, high-ranking Sheikh, that hardly anyone else can afford, is part of the attraction.

      • Jacob Holmes said,

        October 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

        Do keep in mind though that many synthetic ingredients cost just as much as naturals! :)

        • Marian said,

          October 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

          Do you know which are the most expensive? I’ve looked at the Perfumer’s Apprentice website and there aren’t that many that stand out as being very much more expensive than most of the others.

  12. Vinny said,

    October 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Zahra’s is a big fake , and the Montales they have are knock offs. I find Abdul Samad’s CPOs to be THE best in Arabian Perfumery, I have several bottles I got from visiting KSA over the years. Some Indian attars are also equally stunning , in some ways more complex , especially some of the Kannauj Attars which are sold at Attar Ahmed Dawood are just mind boggling.

    • Marian said,

      October 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      I agree about Zahra’s, Vinney. They sell things that are not what they say they are and I’ve also been shorted on the quantity. It’s too bad there isn’t another online retailer who sells an equally large selection. Abbdul Samad Al Qurashi has a website but it’s impossible to purchase anything from the directly online.

      I am much less familiar with Indian attars. I’ve tried a few from Gulabsingh Jorimal but most of the ones I’ve tried have been from White Lotus. I’ve never heard of Attar Ahmed Dawood. Thanks for mentioning it. I’m going to see if I can find anything about them on the web :-) One thing I have heard is that there’s a lot of synthetic stuff being sold in Kannuj. I’ve heard that from so many people that I’d be wary of making purchases there.

      • Vinny said,

        October 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

        Well it depends , because the price of Sandalwood has gone up astronomically, so I do not blame them. Few families have their own production factories and do use Sandalwood bases but its VERY expensive and those products go Attar houses or customers in the Gulf. Dawood’s attars are Sandal or Oud based. None the less , it has a storied history of perfumery since the 5th century.That are is mostly now in the business of supplying Ittars, which are a mix of rose,saffron and screwpine essences for tobacco products, desserts, and other food items.

        • Vinny said,

          October 27, 2011 at 11:12 am

          Well it depends , because the price of Sandalwood has gone up astronomically, I do not blame them for using some synthetics, and many French houses do too ( musk,amber,civet). A Few families have their own production factories and do use Sandalwood bases but its VERY expensive and those products go to Attar houses or customers in the Gulf. Dawood’s attars are Sandal or Oud based. None the less , Kannauj has a storied history of perfumery since the 5th century. Most production facilities are mostly now in the business of supplying Ittars, which are a mix of rose,saffron and screwpine essences for tobacco products, desserts, and other food items.

          • apsara said,

            October 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm

            The question is what is left of the original perfume history in Kannauj. They produce synthetic flavor / fragrance chemicals measured in thousands of tons in this city now. It’s amazing in our world, every product in a supermarket, from cleaning supplies to body care products to jelly beans to fruit yoghurt has these ingredients. Even chocolate is flavored with fake chocolate flavor (Dove).

            • Marian said,

              October 27, 2011 at 10:12 pm

              I get one of the trade magazines and in every issue there are many pages devoted to new flavor and fragrance chemicals. After reading it I’ve begun to think that almost everything we eat is adulterated in some way.

              • apsara said,

                October 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm

                Dove changed the packaging of their bars a couple of years ago, and also the “composition” of the chocolate, i.e. flavored it. Could not stand it, never bought it since. They are also in “Kinderschokolade”, of all places.

            • Vinny said,

              October 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm

              Well , not all of it is synthetic Apsara , I have been to fragrance facilities , they are mostly family owned and their fragrances are exclusively made and those people work VERY hard . Yeah , Kannauj was the Grasse of the East in ancient times , and yes it is now mostly driven by synthetics but , people have to adapt and survive , and cope with limited resources. You cannot lump all of Kannauj like that , it is very unfair. Even big fragrances houses in France use a lot of synthetics , musk , amber , ambergris, civet , and even sandalwood are mostly synthetic now, Some rich families still get Rose Otto attars which are incredibly expensive , most rose distilations now even in Turkey and Bulgaria use Germanium as filler . Marian here is a link for you to see http://scentedtravels.blogspot.com/2006/02/kannauj-perfume-capital-of-india.html

              • Marian said,

                October 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

                I enjoyed the link, Vinny. Thank you for sharing it.
                It’s well known that many of the ingredients of French perfumes are synthetic. Customers who prefer “natural” ingredients buy perfumes made by visionaries such as Mandy Aftel, who is part of a growing network of natural perfumers. When we buy Indian attars we expect them to be 100% natural because the word “attar” is defined as a process in which natural ingredients are processed in a specific, traditional way; we don’t have the same expectations for perfumes released by Guerlain, Chanel, etc.
                Yes, perfumers have to make a living, and if the price and/or scarcity of natural ingredients makes it more sensible for them to use synthetics, I have no objection to that, but in that case perhaps the ensuing product should be marketed as a perfume, not an attar. Also, if chemicals comprise a substantial part of the “recipe” that should be reflected in the price. Although Damascone Beta is twice as expensive as other aroma chemicals it doesn’t come close to being as pricey as Rose Otto or Ruh Guhlab.
                As SC Attarwallah indicated said, it takes a lot of experience to be able to tell a real attar from a fake. The woman who wrote ‘Scented Travels” is a student. What is the likelihood that, given her limited experience, she is able to accurately evaluate the origin or purity of everything she saw? In any case, the article was funto read, and the photos were especially interesting. Thanks again :-)

              • apsara said,

                October 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm

                Well, this is a lively discussion, isn’t it. As far as I am concerned, I get a red flag when a company is from Kannauj, offers Essential oils via website in the US. I ordered Sandalwood Oil last year from Essential Oils Company and out of curiosity, one of their attars. The sandalwood oil was labeled “Amyris”. I got back to them and said, I could have bought Amyris in the US for much less. They said that they labeled it that way in order to circumvent government regulations. Whatever was in that bottle was a sickly sweet substance that made me gag, the same base was in the attar. So I paid my dues in the form of $$$ for my education – I am not saying that there are no small family businesses left, of course.

                • Marian said,

                  October 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

                  I purchased a couple of ouds from them. One I gave away; the other they allowed me to return when I sent them a photo showing big globules of something solid floating around in the oil. Sorry you had that experience, aspara.

        • Marian said,

          October 27, 2011 at 11:36 am

          I always thought the word “attar” and “ittar” were interchangeable. Thanks for clarifying that.

          A place of that age must have a venerable reputation or the wouldn’t have lasted that long :-)

          Is this the same place?

          http://www.indianperfumes.com/location.swf

          It’s in Mumbai, not Kannuj, so I wasn’t sure, and the phone number is different than here:

          http://www.asklaila.com/listing/Mumbai/Colaba/Attar+Ahmed+Dawood/08VVkuPq/

          but there are a lot of similarities.

          Do you have any specific recommendations? On page four of the product list on the indianperfumes.com website a number of attars are listed.

          • Vinny said,

            October 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm

            HI Marian, LOL , I did not know they have a website , and its seems dated by 10 years lol. Actually Marian , the Saffron attar is great, I have that one , the other private blends i have are good too, but its a very personal opinion, I like Majmua ( sandalwood based ) a lot , there is also a black gulab / agarwood blend I have which my grand father gave me , its from the late 50s from that store, and smells very similar to Bond Streets New York Oud. My mother was super shocked when she sniffed New York Oud , because there is nothing NYC about it , its a total Oriental fragrance in EVERY respect and smells almost like the attar I have from my grandfather.

            • Marian said,

              October 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

              I’m tempted to place an order, Vinny, although the attars from Gulabsing Johrimal that I purchased “long distance” were quite a disappointment. Apparently at GsJ they have different grades of rose, sandalwood, etc., but the price list I received didn’t. I got the feeling that had I been in the store I would have chosen different attars than what I received in the mail :-)
              That’s so funny about your grandfather’s attar smelling like Bond Street’s New York Oud! How special to have such an old attar from your grandfather. I’m trying to imagine how it smells! What a precious keepsake :-)

              • Vinny said,

                October 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm

                I am highly against placing orders for Attar bottles online , especially overseas, even buying within North America , is a risk.but there are some decent retailers. My friend bought amouage attar CPOs worth 700 dollars from Luckyscent and some of them had leaked. I was going to add, for attar shopping you have to have an experienced nose ,that is very true , I can very quickly detect sandal oil.

                • Marian said,

                  October 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm

                  Luckyscent now opens each Amouage box to make sure the tops are screwed on tightly. Since they’ve been doing that I believe the problems have stopped. They are not the only seller who had problems. I know people who come over from India, but not people who are interested in or knowledgable about fragrance. Maybe I’ll just have to accept the fact that I may never smell a true Indian attar of excellent quality.

                • Jacob Holmes said,

                  October 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

                  Provided Essence of the Ages can get it back in, Shroff’s Natural Sandal incense is basically a charcoal stick dipped in old stock Mysore Sandal oil. Last I checked it was $120 for five sticks. I have some and it is definitely the real deal. I also have some Mysore sandal oil from the 1960’s and all the subtle nuances are there! :)

                  • Marian said,

                    October 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm

                    Lucky you! I know how hard it is to describe scents- otherwise I’d ask you to go into details :-) I am sorry to say it, but I really loathed Shroff’s Agarwood Incense stick. To my (untrained) nose it smelled like cheap perfume and lighter fluid. I’m not accustomed to burning Indian sticks so maybe I have to change my expectations, but that stick didn’t make me want to try their sandalwood, which I almost purchased at the same time as the agarwood.

      • apsara said,

        October 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm

        An Indian attar means that an essential oil, most often a rare flower oil, is distilled directly into a pot with sandalwood oil.

        Given the fact that there is no Indian (meaning Mysore) sandalwood these days, there is no Mysore sandalwood oil, and there is therefore no real attar.
        Whatever is called attar these days is either made with Australian or Vanuatu sandalwood oil, or Amyris (all of which I personally find terrible); this is what White Lotus probably uses. Or it is some synthetic chemical that comes out of big vats. You can find “Sandalwood” cremes and lotions, some labeled “Ayurvedic” in India these days, without one drop of Indian Sandalwood oil.
        I had Sandalwood oil sent from “Essential oils company” in Kannauj, that’s how I came to know them, and it was terrible, but not as terrible as the sample of “Osmanthus”: pure chemistry.

        For a description of the sorry state of the distilleries in Bangalore, Karnataka, see Trygve Harris’ blog. I stay away from everything “attar” due to this reason. (Trygve’s Osmanthus is very good, by the way).

        I mixed Osmanthus and Cambodi Royale – two queens in one bottle.

        • Marian said,

          October 27, 2011 at 9:44 pm

          The worst sandalwood I ever tried was from Vanuatu. Although the Australian can’t, IMHO, compare with Mysore some of it smells OK to me- not great but far from repulsive. I’m familiar with Trygve’s opinion of the distilleries and perfume suppliers in India. Negative and distrustful aren’t strong enough words to capture it.
          I fortunately have tried her Osmanthus which is far superior to the one I purchased from a well known supplier in India. Their’s was sourced from China and smelled so bad I asked them if it had spoiled. Speaking of Enfleurage, Trygve’s tuberose and gardenia enfleurage oils are amongst my favorites of her offerings.
          Some of White Lotus attars contained New Caledonian sandalwood. I think, but am not sure, that some of their “attars” are, in fact blends of essential oils and sandalwood.
          I have purchased what is purportedly Mysore sandalwood from the Karnataka Soap and Detergent Company. I’ve heard it’s not as good as it used to be but it’s creamier and has more depth than other sandalwoods I’ve sampled.

          I’d like to try a “real” Indian attar in “real” Mysore sandalwood. I’m sure it would be an unforgettable experience :-)

          Osmanthus and Cambodi Royale- that sounds like a very heady combination! I can imagine it. Hmmmm- something to think about.

          • Vinny said,

            October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm

            IF you want to try try real Mysore Sandalwood at an affordable price , I highly suggest
            Montales Dark Aoud and CDG Wonderwood , honestly they are as good as old Sandalwood figurines from Mysore, I even did a test lol , and they smell the same in the dry down. Some how they secured Mysore sandal oils before the price shot up astronomically.

            • Marian said,

              October 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm

              I like CdG Hinoki. Next time I’m in Barneys I’ll check out the Wonderwood, Thanks for the tip!

  13. Anne said,

    October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Great write up, Marian! I really enjoyed your scent descriptions and I am now thinking about purchasing some of these oils!

    And like you ever since I discovered arabian perfume oils a few years back, I became disenchanted with western perfume for a while. They seemed coarse and mundane compared to the little middle eastern beauties, those delirious and potent fragrant oils from Arabia. With time though, I came to re-appreciate western style perfumes again.

    For those of our readers that are considering ordering from Zahras.com…just an fyi that I also had negative experiences ordering from them. Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware at Zahras. Though they are one of the largest online retailers that specialize in middle eastern perfume oils from all the major arabic perfume houses, they are also not particularly honest or fair. They’ve lied about shipping methods and prices.

    @ Jacob, these are quality mulkhats that Marian graciously reviewed for the ORS. Though certainly on the pricey side for some, they are actually considered inexpensive compared to some of the other perfume oils out on the market! I’ve seen oud oils and mulkhats that price into the thousands! Also, these perfume oils are generally extremely potent. A little goes a very long way, and a smidge or drop can last the entire day or even longer.

    • Marian said,

      October 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks, Anne. I hope you find some oils that especially appeal to you :-) A number of sellers have told me that perfumes with oud, which are the ones I gravitate towards, are generally sold to men. For that reason I was very happy when Caron released two oud perfumes especially for women. I may not have been smitten with those particular scents but I especially appreciated their intention!

      Please let us know how you like your perfumes when they arrive. It’s been a while since I’ve tried anything new so I’m very curious to hear your thoughts.

  14. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 26, 2011 at 11:34 am

    By the way, thanks very much for listing the sites that you did. AgarscentsBazaar.com has some VERY interesting incense sticks that I am now wanting to try! :)

    • Marian said,

      October 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      You’re very welcome. I haven’t tried the Agarscents incense but I am very fond of a number of their perfumes, including Mukhallat Maliki Moattaq, Al Manara, Royal Myanmar Mukhallat, and Amra.

  15. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 26, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Is ArabianOud.com the same as Arabianoud.co.uk? They do have all the blends you listed except for Prince Diamini; there’s no mention of it anywhere on there.

    • Marian said,

      October 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Yes, that’s the Arabian Oud website, Jacob. Whew! I was concerned. Next time I will check the links before I post.
      Prince Diamini is an exclusive mukhallat that, as far as I know, is only offered in the store. I am not sure it is offered in any branches other than the London branch. It is sold in large bottle that is way, way, way beyond my means, but occasionally they have an open bottle from which they sell decants. You could email or phone the London store to inquire.

  16. Marian said,

    October 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Thanks so much for your notes, Jacob. I fixed the typo in Aluwaah. By the way Aluwaah’s bakhoors are excellent and the owner is a very talented perfumer. I think, after writing up Al Yakoot, I have to purchase it myself :-)
    You could try Zahras.com for the Al Qurashi oil, although I never do business with them after a bad experience I had.
    You can purchase Areej oils by writing to Hajer Youssfi here:
    info@areejalameerat.com

    It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the Arabian Oud website. I am kind of shocked that it is not functioning! I should have checked before I posted this article. I feel like an idiot :-(

    Al Hamra is $115 for 12 ml so the prices vary but in general high quality mukhallats are very pricey, and the higher the quality of ingredients the pricier they are. There are many more affordable but good quality blends on Aluwwah’s site that would be an excellent introduction to the “Arabian” style of perfume.

    I thought it was obvious these are perfumes. Just goes to show how much is taken for granted when one is familiar with something. I will add this to the post’s title, in case people don’t read your comment.

    Thanks again!

  17. Jacob Holmes said,

    October 26, 2011 at 6:42 am

    A very interesting article. Some notes though:

    Aluwaah.com does not seem to exist. I believe you meant aluwwah.com.

    Amir Meshaal, Syoufi Sandal – is there a source for these?

    ArabianOud.com is no longer active as it leads to a parked domain portal.

    It should also be noted that these are not incenses; they are perfumes. They are also *extremely* expensive… hundreds of dollars for a few milliliters.

    • Marian said,

      October 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

      Jacob- I just found out that the owner of Agar Aura could get something from Al Qurashi for you. You can email him at
      shop@agaraura.com

    • apsara said,

      October 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      I guess I will play the advocatus diaboli again: I looked at aluwwah.com and they sell “Pure Karnataka Sandalwood Oil”, and this just cannot be believed, given the state of affairs. The Karnataka government does not allow any export of Sandalwood products, and the state distillery that made the soap that this website refers to is inactive. The soap factory does not make Sandalwood soap these days, as far as I know. Forget about Sandalwood boxes, elephants or prayer beads that were on sale everywhere many years ago.

      • Marian said,

        October 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm

        People have brought back Mysore sandalwood oil for me form the government craft shops. The bottles say Karnataka Soap and Detergent Company and they have the same elephant logo you see on their website. I’ve also purchased the same oil in one of the Indian stores here. Oudhasi had sandalwood blocks for sale from one of the same shops. I have also seen their soap- the box looks the same, and the soap smells the same, as the soap I’ve seen for years and years in the local Indian stores. Maybe the oal, the wood and the soap are all very old stock, but that seems unlikely.
        Oudhasi also sold sandalwood malas from the same shop. I purchased one and it smells like sandalwood to me. A gentleman I know purchased one of the wood blocks and he said it was the real deal. This is a guy who’s collected sandalwood for years so I’m happy to take his word for it :-)

        http://www.mysoresandal.co.in/sandalwood.php

        (My bottle looks different than this photo).
        It is confusing, though. I know India even imports sandalwood from other countries. I don’t know what to think.

        • apsara said,

          October 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

          The reason I’m still here is because I tried to find out about that very Mysore soap. It used to be everywhere, and I tried to find it lately in the health food stores and I was in an Indian grocery and they did not have it. It’s available on the web, though, and I looked at the soap factory’s website.
          It is amazing but they can’t show a single mature Sandalwood tree, only the saplings that they are planting. They have a special permit from the government to buy a tree, if this tree happens to be on some property, and the owner wants to sell it – one tree at a time. Otherwise, there is nothing left.

          It says that they try to work with imported wood. Their capacity is a a few thousand tons of soap. So I wonder where the oil comes from.
          I have contacted them a year ago, trying to buy the oil (yes, they show the bottle that you mention on their product list still). Was told they don’t have any – so be glad you have the oil, I hope you like it. I was in Bangalore and Mumbai two years ago, and just naively thought I could pick up a small amount of Sandalwood oil in any old pharmacy like in the old days – but no. Until then, I had no idea about this situation. I still had a bottle of EO from ten years back, which I had bought in Europe. But because of the whole situation, I distrusted even the couple of milliliters which were left in that one.

          If you click the Mysore tab on this page

          http://www.mysoresandal.co.in/locations.php

          it is sad to see that the distillery is absolutely dead and dysfunct. On the next tab (Shimoga), that’s what they have as trees – 20 inches high, that’s it.

          • Jacob Holmes said,

            October 28, 2011 at 2:20 am

            Holy cow, you really sound disillusioned! Are there any sources you *do* trust? :) (Serious question!)

          • Marian said,

            October 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

            Thank you for this most excellent post, aspara. I knew the situation was bad but those pictures and your experiences trying to buy sandalwood in India really brought it home to me.
            Very, very sad. I hope they let those little trees grow to a good maturity. To try to imagine the future without Mysore sandalwood is almost unthinkable.

            • Vinny said,

              October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm

              Well Marian , luckily they are growing vast Mysore sandalwood trees in Australia now , but it will take another 15-20 years for it to be viable, but the irony is India will be importing an oil it was once famous for producing. Australian sandalwood is NOTHING on Mysore sandalwood, and they know that , thats why they are growing the Mysore Sandalwood now. Also Marian if you like sandalwood incense , I really recommend Balaji Chandanam.

              • Marian said,

                October 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

                From Australia I’ve only tried Australian double distilled spicatum. I’ll have to check around and see if anyone sells Australian Santalum album (why haven’t I done that yet???) And I will order that incense (assuming I can find it).Thanks for the recommendation. I very much enjoy Yamada Matsu’s and Baieido’s sandalwood chips and chip mixes; Japan Incense has some very nice examples.

                • apsara said,

                  October 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm

                  Enfleurage is moving to West 13th, opposite the Integral Yoga place, they now have a Santalum Album from Indonesia which is the closest to the real thing she could find, Trygve said.
                  They also had a very Arabian / Oriental Oud scented body powder last year.

                  • Marian said,

                    October 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

                    I got a newsletter saying the move was delayed but I’m looking forward to seeing the new place. She had a vintage mysore last year that I missed out on. Maybe I should hightail it down there before the Indonesian is sold out. I’d like to try it. I remember that body powder. It didn’t seem to be a fast moving item :-)


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