The intent here of the perfumer was clearly to imply devotional pilgrimage. The very name of the perfume (Mecca Balsam) suggests that this is an ancient salve to weary pilgrims on a religious mission. Somewhere, I read that Dominique Dubrana, or Abdes Salaam Attar as he is better known, wanted Balsamo della Mecca to capture the scent roiling in the wake of the hundreds of thousands of dusty pilgrims circling the sacred Ka’aba on their hajj in Mecca, chief among them the smell of frankincense, labdanum resin, and tobacco.
And yes, it does capture those smells. In fact, Balsamo della Mecca is a veritable monolith of ancient resins, balsams, smoke, and incense, swallowing up any trace of delicate florals (tuberose) or vanilla in its composition. But, although there is frankincense here, it is not the type of frankincense that makes me think of High Mass. The genius of Dubrana’s treatment of the note here is that Balsamo della Mecca sidesteps any references to liturgical worship and goes directly to a warmer, quieter, more human-scaled place.
So, despite the devotional connotations attached to this perfume (both professed and implied), Balsamo della Mecca does not strike me as a straight-ahead, literal rendition of worship (and it is all the better for it, in my opinion). This perfume is about the type of human warmth that transcends cultural, religious, and language barriers.
The opening of the perfume, with its hoarse roar of smoky, dirty/tarry labdanum and hot, woody cinnamon or cloves, represents the overwhelming swell of noise and humanity in the procession. Once the initial onslaught dies down, frankincense and precious woods come to the fore. Abundantly spiced, it is warm, woody, and inviting. The frankincense presents a different face here than it usually does – there are no lemony, astringent, or herbal qualities at all, instead it is the pleasantly stale, sourish air of a place where frankincense is burned all the time, just not right now. Joining this is a dry, smoky smell of oud wood chips, ancient books, resins kept in ornate little tins, and the pipe tobacco in a leather pouch. It is austere, dry, and smoky, but at the same time, filled with warmth (tonka, amber, resins) simmering just underneath the surface.
The hajj begins with a dry, warm cinnamon-nutmeg blitz and a boozy wallop of alcohol. The first few moments of the experience can actually smell like cinnamon schnapps, from some vantage points. Counterintuitively (given the title), a lot of sniffers are going to be reminded of Christmastime libations. Messa Balsam is like many of Dubrana’s all-natural creations in the sense that its longevity is not immense. However, it rewards the nose with an almost cinematic pageant of olfactory imagery that unfolds at a measured pace, like a flower in a time-lapse photograph. The spice and alcohol that dominate at first quickly yield to a more complex accord that juxtaposes cinnamon, labdanum, galbanum, and oud with a camphorous rush of aromatic woods, rose, and resins. Notes of cedar and wood smoke wreath around an ostinato base of rosin and frankincense. This is a big, complex oriental; smelling Mecca Balsam is a bit like plunging one’s face into a cedar chest and inhaling the polyphonic smells still clinging, ghostly, to last season’s sweaters. If the scent has a fault, it’s that this middle phase can feel a little too complex in an undifferentiated, unbalanced way. It’s as though Dubrana threw the contents of the wood pile plus the spice drawer at our nose at once: the result can be chaotic, and can verge on overwhelming. However, in the dry down phase this olfactory tumult gives way to a more restrained, linear experience of cedar, incense and resins, tinged with a hint of wintergreen. This last accord remains constant, fading gently over the course of several hours. The scent is a trip, in more senses than one.
November 14, 2014
Well, another great La Via del Profumo's dense potion to enjoy on skin as a diverse new sensorial journey across the universe of really natural oily perfumery. As well as already written around before, the Dubrana's inspiration for Mecca Balsam came properly from his own journey to the sacre arabian city of Mecca. He composed this olfactory experiment in order to encapsulate the olfactory signature of the Holy City itself and “the trail of a million scents in the wake of the pilgrims”. Mecca Balsam is a visceral spicy-oriental growing up progressively on your skin as an hypnotic potion of mysticism, exoticism and sacredness. The dramatic opening is a swirling and misty (yes absolutely complicated) spicy/resinous/smoky fist on your face. Dubrana surprises indeed us with a welcome of luxurious spicy frankincense supported by a considerable amount of smoke (burning resins) and hyper-realistic oudh. This opening is more than vaguely liturgical since the note of incense appears resinous and like exhaling straight from a burning censer while you can detect in the air the waxy aroma of the evaporating candles. I detect by soon several Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant/Norma Kamali Incense/Etro Messe de Minuit/Jovoy La Liturgie des Heures's references but also the stormy spicy Terenzi Ecstasy/Piguet Casbah's complicacy jumps on mind. I really like this seriously encompassing opening which is highly evocative and superbly austere. It seems to detect by soon luxurious bergamot (providing a sense of "palatin decadence"), cloves and may be cumin (it seems for a while to detect also aldehydes but I'm almost sure those are not present while the "spacious" effect is provided by an association of "airy" spices- may be coriander?- oudh, possibly fir resins and frankincense). Probably a touch of tobacco is inserted in the recipe, a sort of pipe tobacco effect seems after a while to emerge indeed joining the spicy-liturgic accord. Along the central stage an heady note of dark-green labdanum seems to embrace in to a pacifing musky hug all the burning and spicy elements as supported by resinous myrrh, natural oudh and probably benzoin in a way the aroma becomes softer, smoother almost balmy though still incensey and more than vaguely smokey/tobacco flavoured. The dry down holds on to be resinous, woody (probably rosewood, it seems like this anyway) and still soapy/incensey. A final note of carnal amber seems to finally emerge in to a so sticky and rosey "outline". This fantastic incensey resinous and rosey dry down conjures me more than vaguely the Tiziana Terenzi Ecstasy's (and Gorilla The President's Hat's) woody resinous final evolution, being it so ambery-incensey, woody, tobacco rounded and rosey (among the previous fragrance and the Dubrana's Mecca Balsam we record indeed a common foundation of several key elements as amber, incense, may be fir resins, high quality oudh, rose, probably hints of patchouli, tobacco/tonka, labdanum and ancient woods). Frankly any trace of listed tuberose (nor vanilla) dances under my profane nose. The final trail is moderately sweet, surprisingly subtle, still reeky and highly wearable. Another fantastic potion from the talented performer Dominique Dubrana alias Salaam.
15th June, 2014 (last edited: 31st December, 2014)
Tall, dark and soulful
This one is an experience rather than a list of notes. Warm and comforting, this is a scent I reach for when it's been a long day or promises to be one. It wraps me up. To be honest if scents can have a soul then I think this one has the soul of a healer. A sexy healer! I would totally go to bed with this perfume- and have. Wait am I getting off-topic? I might add I've been dab dabbing this frag from my small sample bottle so it might be a bit different sprayed. When I run out it is going on my full bottle list. Lasts all day, or all night.
Pros: warm, enduring and strangely compassionate
this one is all about labdanum:resinous , spicy , with some tobacco and loads of frankincense, that i mixed for some pepper
it opens up like a blast of some herbaceous spices including pepper , for a soup :)....gourmand like to my nose, and then goes on heated by the body heat for hours, like it melts layer by layer, its dense, resinous, sweetish scent with lot of spices, a little bit dark
its very longlasting for natural perfume, and has really nice projection!!
the experience of natural perfumery is so unique, all those scents they seem like heavy oils they are not pumped up by synthetics and not flying sky high like a bubble :)they stay closer to the skin, emanating beautiful natural smell layer by layer and it probably takes big master to make all natural perfume that is wearable and that doesnt smell raw.
this one is unique, and i like it but i did get the feeling when i wore it that its not for this world :) its for special purposes , some religious ceremonies....transcendental, the name fits it perfectly it does feel like balsamic!healing the soul :)