Gulls wheel between the cliffs and the sea-stacks. You stand on a narrow dirt-road. The cold flushes your cheeks. On either side of you, waist high blady grass, russet from the frosts, undulates in the gale. To your left, there is a shack with an old prop-up washing line. The line is filled with sheets, billowing like galleon’s sails, sagging between gusts. Between you and the shack, a huge bank of pink wild roses, in full bloom. The combination of fresh apple roses and sea air fills your senses…
Until she met Rasassi Al Ward Al Musk (RAWAM), the Moth Woman did not subscribe to the idea that batch numbers were important. RAWAM however, varies so much between batches, each one practically counts as a different fragrance.
This should not have been a surprise though. The Moth Woman’s initial sample of RAWAM was at complete variance with the reviews on Fragrantica. A trusted reviewer, Planet X, described it as an overpowering black musk but the Moth Woman smelled no musk at all in that sample. She did, whoever, notice that her back-up bottle seemed closer to Planet X’s description. A few months later, she found herself in the position to buy a full bottle. When it arrived though, the Moth Woman got a shock. The juice in the full bottle opens with a massive, feral, animalic, musk note, albeit it, very fleeting. This version exactly matched Planet X’s review. Fortunately though, the Moth Woman enjoys all the permutations of RAWAM.
The variance in the batches seems confined to the opening section but because they are so different, it makes more sense to offer an overview of all the versions trialed. For convenience, the different bottles will be referred to as V. 1 – V. 3, V. 1 being the first sample, V. 2 the back up bottle and V. 3 being the full bottle.
V. 3 opens with an aggressive black musk and apple-scented pink roses ala Dorothy Perkins. These notes alternate with a dark red rose, like piccolo and oboe in an orchestral piece. There are hints of patchouli but just hints. The black musk note lasts a minute at most but seems to be composed of a unusual wet-doggy, deer musk and another more conventional diesel scented black musk. There is a raw wildness to this fragrance, nothing human, nothing tame.
The opening of V. 1 is subtler, less wild, dominated by the pink roses, no musk at all. V. 2 has a touch of the musks but they act as modifier rather than a strongly individuated element.
In all versions, for the first hour, pink and red roses duel it out.
After the first hour, RAWAM is all pink roses and salty oakmoss, haunted by drifts of the black musk. In V.1 and V. 2 it is the deer musk; V. 3 it is both. If emotional experiences could be quantified using scents, this stage would match the sensation of pleasurable daring.
Two hours in and the musk is gone, leaving the impression of sea air and fresh roses alone. It is unchanged at four hours, perhaps a touch sweeter. The intensity is building again though.
At five hours, the marine element dominates, breezy and open. This combination of notes remains till, between the ninth and tenth hour, a luscious, dried red-rose-petal note appears.
Remarkably, it is still present at 33 hours. By this time, it has morphed into a warm, fur-style musk, similar to the dry-down of Youth Dew.
Magnificent, intense, original. These are all words the apply to RAWAM. It begins with only moderate projection and by the time it has settled, after half an hour or so, it is close to the body. To someone unfamiliar with Arabic perfumery, it might be a little confronting but is unlikely to raise eyebrows in anyone more than half an arm length away. This fragrance is worth pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to try.
The Moth Woman is committed to reviewing the price-conscious end of the perfume oil market. During her exploration, she found a lurk. There are excellent, budget friendly bargains to be had in the samples area. Unlike most Western perfumery, where the samples are tiny, Arabians sell 3ml lots. Given the intensity of these fragrances, that’s MONTHS of daily wear for between $10-25 dollars. This means you can try a large number of their high end scents whilst still spending very little.
The Moth Woman will be reviewing a few higher end scents, available in sample size, in future posts.
Ladies with big hair and 50’s style, new look dresses mill about in groups, chatting. The cupcakes and goodies on the buffet tables smell fantastic but you stand in the background, in deep shade at the edge of the garden, looking on, fidgeting. These are not your people.
The most luscious smell of fruit wafts from behind you. You turn to see a handsome man with a white pointer’s smile. He offers you a strawberry…
This scent, like Song of India Night Queen, has been radically reworked in the last ten years. In its previous incarnation, Song of India Aphrodesia (SOIA1) was a somewhat uncomplicated affair. Fruit to the forefront, tiny touches of flowers, not very effusive and moderately long lived. Great but not fabulous, value for money though. SOIA2 version is a tremendous improvement.
It opens with a modern but original fruit accord, recalling a luscious, cold-climate fruit salad and topped with lots of crystallised sugar. There is a tiny touch of discreet oudh, hints of violets and carnation. It is very effusive and completely different to SOA1. Whereas the original version was strawberry dominant, SOIA2 is fruit collectively rather than singular and the fragrance is better for it.
Ten minutes in, something green appears, suggesting crunchy fresh greenery. The oudh merges with the greenery giving the fleeting impression of a walking in the forest and they both depart together.
At an hour, the notes are more unified. It is still very effusive. A lush powderiness is evolving but the fruit salad is still dominating. SOIA2 is not your standard fruit bomb though it is largely gourmand, its aim seems different, more an attempt at naturalistic olfactory portrait of fruit, less the chemical bomb/shampoo bombs that have become common at the lower end of the market.
Two hours and the projection has dropped to two feet. The scent has also lost some intensity. The violet and fruit elements are balanced out at this stage, creating a slightly raspberry feel.
At the three-hour mark, SOIA2 is reduced in reach to only a few inches above the skin. A whiff of something dark and distinctly animalic dances through. It is more flowers than fruit and the powder flips to powdered sugar.
Around four hours, it takes a sophisticated, luxurious turn with the emergence of a huge Guerlain-like, vanilla note. There is a slight resurgence of intensity, typical of some Arabian/Indian oils. The powderiness remains but the violets have died back.
By five hours, it is a skin scent—a fruity musk type—but still lovely and expensive smelling.
Longevity runs to approximately ten hours, dependent upon the weather.
This version of SOIA2 is big upfront but quickly retreats to a manageable level of sillage and has improved longevity. The Moth Woman wants to say this is one for the sex kitten in you but it is far more nuanced for that, more fitting for your inner fairy queen. And like the fairy queen, it displays qualities of youth and age simultaneously. It starts as the flirty ingenue, dropping the glamour half way through to reveal as sexually confident woman who knows who she wants and how to get them. Though you would never pick it from the opening, there is a strong vintage element in this one. It time travels from 2010 to 1920 at one point.
The Moth Woman would like to challenge anyone who thinks quality in perfume is always indicated by price, to try SOIA2. For the grand sum of $5.50, the Moth Woman got what she considers the best fruit perfume she has ever sampled, considerably better and less clichéd than most mainstream offerings of the same type.
…the sound of bells from her anklet, a swish of her dark hair, she brushes past you with a waft of sandalwood, warm skin and roses before you can think, do more than imprint the memory of smile, she is gone into the market crowd…
Al Rehab Al Sharquiah (ARAS) is a lesson in why you should sometimes take a leap with fragrances. The Moth Woman had read about the notes for this one, read all the reviews. The notes included dates. The reviews included caramel. ARAS was being categorized as being gourmand. The Moth Woman is not a fan of gourmands. However, the price of this being what it is and because she is conducting a wide survey of Al Rehab, the Moth Woman purchased it anyway. She is so glad she did. This is never off her skin now. Instead of being gourmand, ARAS is, in fact, a dirty, animalic floral and the Moth Woman adores these type of scents. This is not your grandmother’s rose perfume. If it is, the Moth Woman sincerely wants to meet your nana!
ARAS opens with dirty bandaid (sticking plaster) oudh, a little medicinal, a little indolic. There is a pervasive sweetness this and hints of non-specific florals at this point. Even from the outset, this scent oozes feminine sexuality. It has incredibly potency. The projection, on a mild day, is six feet. It can be double that in the heat. Do not over apply.
As it warms on your skin, aged, black rose petals notes emerge. This is followed by a series of quick switches over a period of about half an hour. The indole increases in volume. Given indolic rose scents are not common, ARAS gives the impression of refreshingly originality. Animalic elements provided by sandalwood appear. These as somewhat reminiscent of skin. The bandaid/plastic doll head facet becomes more prominent but this phase does not linger. Eventually this note integrates into the mix and modulating the rose.
At an hour, this develops into distinctly dark rose fragrance. Imagine plunging your nose into a bowl of pot-pourri made with antique red roses whilst standing next to a bunch of fresh blooms. ARAS has a distinct cold feeling but at the same time, it invites touch. Although it is a rose based perfume at this stage, it is not a soliflore by any measure. There is that sandalwood skin note, an unnameable sweetness, like pure sugar, anilla is somewhere in the back and the bandaid oudh, is lurking. ARAS is a complex brew. Rose is just the lead singer. The projection is two feets now.
Two hours and it remains unchanged in terms of strength or projection but is becoming more distinctly animalic. The bandaid element has vanished entirely. With time, the scent becomes less complex but more like luscious skin perfumed with roses.
Three hours and the volume has substantially diminished. Projection is down to a foot and it is largely sweetened aged roses. This phase lingers for quite some time.
By six hours, the dirty elements have diminished and the intensity but the volume is very good compared to other fragrances.
At twelve hour mark, ARAS remains as strong as at six. The bandaid oudh makes a reappearance.
Longevity is easily 24 hours. ARAS actually survived a two washes on the Moth Woman’s shirt.
Animalic fragrances are the worldly incarnation of the concept of sexy. ARAS is dirtiest, sexiest dark rose that the Moth Woman has thus far encountered. It is dangerously impolite and not for the timid. In short, it is amazing.