Time to challenge your nose? This review takes you from the easiest to the most unusual scents...
The beautiful, sweet, vanillic amber scents of Sahara, Olive Flowers, and Alma di Alma are closest to the European ideal of Orientals. Olive Flowers is "Mr. Madini's answer to Shalimar" with its amber-citrus-frankincense-opoponax composition, being resinous and vanillic--and utterly gorgeous. Alma di Alma forgoes the woodiness of the resin to create an amber-citrus-musk that is absolutely delicious. My favorite, Sahara, is similar with its amber-citrus-myrrh, comparatively dry/sweet and very aromatic. There is a fascinating note, perhaps the type of citrus, or an unlisted floral.
A step away from the Western tradition are the spicy-fruity-florals. Azahar is an orange blossom fragrance, but it incorporates an unusual herbal aroma to create an almost dry, soapy, clean presentation. The best part is a musty, resinous base note that elevates this fragrance beyond the typical sweetness that dominates most orange-blossom scents. This note is commonplace in Eastern fragrance/cuisine, yet it will impress us as bold and unique. Don't be mislead by the name of Henna. It is the henna flower that is featured, not the powdered leaves used for dye. This is a highly likeable, fruity (apple/mango), sweet, honeyed flower similar in some ways to Nag Champa. Salma is described as an ancient Saudi blend of spices and amber. The best part is an amazing spicy peach or melon in the base. Autumn is the sweetest of the category, described as Arabian spices but coming off as tangy, fruity, almost candylike and youthful. All were enjoyable.
Emerging into the un-sweet Madinis, we are introduced to more surpirsing fragrances that are every bit as enjoyable. Soulimane is a complex mix of sunny, dry, lemony, fresh ingredients that impress me as clean, soapy, and spicy, similar to the esteemed Etro Shaal Nur, which recalls the freshness of a man's shaving kit. The list of ingredients is long, including artemesia, coriander, citron, cinnamon, jasmine, clove, carnation, amber, and vanilla. Mokhalate Malaki is listed as an oud-chypre-rose-saffron fragrance, but it defies this description. There is a bitter, herbal, woody opening from the oud, followed by a green, fresh rush of rain, tangy rose, and watery lotus, and perhaps a pungent flower like lilac. Both of these must be tried on the skin to appreciate their truly unique beauty.
Form here we move into the most unusual, exotic scents--those which offer little or no sweetness. I cannot overemphasixe how interesting and different these fragrances are. They are in the Arabian tradition. Please do not expect sweet perfume. Open your mind and be rewarded.
Maderas de Orient is a great cedar fragrance, bittersweet, deep, well-blended, soft and woody. The notes feature Atlas cecdar, Oriental woods, and Moroccan blossoms with hardly a touch of sweetness and very rewarding on the skin. Hanane smells like nothing you have ever smelled before. The dark, reddish liquid is strong, pungent, deep, salty, mossy, complex, bittersweet, redolent of dried leaves, and very woody. It is described as a Balsamic composition with a long list of ingredients including, galbanum, tuberose, red rose, jasmine, clove, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, and musk. It smells like none of these ingredients. The development is clever, and it becomes more attractive as you wear it, ending up smelling very outdoorsy, natural, and compelling. Chypre comes out of the bottle dark green-black in color. It is sharp, tangy, clean, dry, warm, very earthy, and somewhat green. To me, it smells nothing like its description as a woody, musky, floral; rather more like green twigs and spruce needles. Again, it needs time on the skin to develop. Santal Blanc was the most unexpected fragrance in the group. Billed as sandalwood "nothing more, nothing less" it is light, dry, pungent, non-sweet, and earthy. If this is what real sandalwood smells like, I have received an education.