To begin to appreciate the complex smell of aged oud, I had to reach back into the prehistoric part of my brain, unlock a little door, and just stand still for a while to let it all in. I agree with Colin Maillard below who says that this oud smell is what marks out the difference between East and West, and all the cultural and memory associations in between. In my case, the appreciation did not come immediately. I have to be honest here - I did not find the aged oud in Jewel Blend at all easy to like or understand. In fact, I was so bothered by what I thought of as a hot, sour, rotting-wood smell that I couldn't see past it. But it is a compelling smell, this aged oud, and I found myself testing it and re-testing it over a period of two weeks. Finally, it all clicked into place for me.
I wonder if some of my initial difficulty has something to do with my gender? The men below who have reviewed Jewel Blend not only seem to have loved it at first sniff, but also were well able to perceive the different tones and notes that make up its complexity. I could not (not at first, hell, not for a long time). I would have marked this up to my inexperience and lack of a good nose (compared to the other reviewers) except for one thing: I tried Jewel Blend and other very aged oud oils on my husband, a complete innocent in the ways of perfume, and his reaction was similar to that of Alfarom and Colin Maillard (albeit expressed in a less eloquent manner, of course :-). What he said bears paraphrasing here, because it might interest oudies what a non-oud head thinks of real, aged ouds.
"This reminds me of being in a home where really good food has been prepared. Or an old deli with ancient wooden counters and cured meats hanging from the hooks."
"It is kind of sharp at first, but not unpleasant, just something you have to let your nose get used to, and I keep going back to sniff my wrist. It's kind of compelling."
"Wow, this is really special. I feel like I should be wearing a fine suit when wearing this. I think it would be a good one to wear on a special occasion, like New Year's Eve."
"I would rather smell like this than the ten same aftershaves you smell on everyone else around here."
"The smell is changing now, evolving, it's softer, deeper. I love this. Give me all those ouds you have there and I will wear them from time to time, for special occasions." And my favorite:
"If we ever divorce, you can take the children and I will take the ouds."
Now, coming from a man who knows nothing about perfume (and trust me, he does not know a single thing about it - he thinks Shalimar is a patchouli fragrance, and that's no joke), I think you just have to take it on spec that aged oud is indeed a special smell that evokes strong feelings, even emotions in certain people. I was of course delighted that this experience was proving true for the other reviewers and my husband, but more than slightly annoyed that I was the only one not getting it, and shut out, with my nose pressed up against the glass.
And then, just like that, I got it. I must have tested Jewel Blend alone five or six times, just about scraping the bottom of my small sample vial, when I just one day decided to apply a tiny amount, let it rest, and not smell it too closely for the first hour. I applied a small smear to the back of my hand. And as I went about my business, small but persistent wafts of something deeply woody, warm, and spicy began to hit my nose. When I put my nose closer to my skin (tentatively, I will admit!), although I can't say that the basic smell of aged oud had changed, but instead something in me changed so that I could perceive the smell in a different way. It is possible that my mind simply became more open. Now what I was smelling was dark, mysterious, damp, woody, but also sweet and sour at once, and later on, warm, full of spices and amber.
I actually found this experience transforming in a way, so relieved was I to finally see the full beauty and complexity of the aged oud. Freed from the negative associations I'd had at first, my nose began to appreciate and identify the warm, salty-sweet amber that appeared after the aged oud died down a bit. On subsequent wearings, I started to appreciate how Jewel moved seamlessly from this warm, sweet-sour, intensely woody, dusty, ancient-smelling oud accord to the warm, salty amber one without missing a step. In fact, the base accord of the Jewel Blend seems to be a mash-up of their Amber Jewels and Royal Amber AAA blends, which is a plus, in my book. But more than anything, I appreciate Jewel Blend because it opened that door in my brain so that I could finally start to properly appreciate the other aged oud blends and pure oud oils in my sample pack.
Although the perception of the price-value ratio is a deeply personal thing, I would have to ask why anyone would pay the asking price for Roja Dove's Amber Aoud which costs 345 GBP or 434 euros for 30mls, when Jewel Blend exists. I think I would rather invest 280 euros for a tola (12 mls) of Jewel Blend by ASAQ which contains real aged oud, and is a great, complex amber-oud blend. And when you consider that one tola would last as long as 30-50mls of regular EDP spray, then I think the Jewel Blend emerges as the better value proposition. Well, for me anyhow. I guess it is very true that value is in the eye of the beholder, and it all depends on what you really like.
Jewel Blend is an extremely beastly and oily (but averagely dry-dusty in perception) oudh/musk combo with a well calibrated ambergris addition, probably castoreum (La Via del Profumo Castoreum oil jumps more than vaguely on mind along the trip) and subtle indiscernible floral patterns in order to afford a touch of gentle vegetal mildness in the background. I absolutely subscribe all the appreciations about the unparalleled quality of real aged agarwood resin (yes skanky, vintage, arcane, animalic, smoky, woody etc, etc) but in this case I'd stress the seriously animalic vibe this aroma possesses since amber and (I suppose) animalic black musk/castoreum provide a mouldy-stale congeries of "fur/leather/organic grease/beastly glands-like" facets absolutely "secular" in effects. I feel ancient oaks, ash, animalic secretions (castoreum), steam, dried bonfires, dry leaves, dusty hides, alaskan forests, wilderness, berries, loneliness. "In to the Wild". In my humble opinion the black musky presence is generally more influencing than ambergris, the musk smells like the real black musk oil I've personally tested on skin in Quatar and I'm sure castoreum (this one in particular) enhances the typical ancient/dusty aromatic beastly temperament. I see the Montale Aoud Cuir d'Arabie's reference but even more a By Kilian Pure Oud's resemblance; of course we are here on a different level, the "odour" is really balsamic and arcane as the dawn of times, the texture is stiky/oily, the colour is dark brown with red nuances.
P.S= over two/three hours and more the sweet amber floral vibe rises on the stage tempering with a soothing touch of creamy mildness the smoky/woody/incensey dryness dominating the central part of the trip.
Jewel Blend has been my first encounter with Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, and all I can say is that it couldn't really go better than this. The very first sniff instantly throws you into the deep gap of difference with Western modern perfumery not a matter of being better or worse, just deeply different. Basically, Jewel is a powerful, faceted and dense amber-oud blend, softened and sweetened by floral notes and dirtened by a musky, skanky touch. All in a way I was quite un-used to; the texture is thick and oily, the oud is (finally first time ever for me) a real oud, full of balsamic, animalic, smoky, woody, mystical nuances; it's woody in the most deep and compelling sense dark, dry, organic, a bit dusty on one side, almost stale on the other. Perhaps a litte challenging at first, but worth the effort of some patience (one hour, and it's pure class, far from the barn). No rubber, no smell of tires. The amber accord itself is also considerably less "friendly" and gentle than the synthetic ones we're used to; it's terribly warm and sumptuously golden, but also spicy, shady, somehow austere and tough. Overall Jewel Blend exudes charm, class and interest, it's a scent to explore and to listen to, a veritable "door to the unknown". The evolution is quite long and comprises a kaleidoscope of whiffs, nuances, echoes which come and go balsamic, musky, woody, sweet; overall it tends to become drier and darker as hours pass, slowly turning into a tar, smoky-woody accord, which after some hours (6 or 7 possibly) gets again a whiff of balsamic with an unexpected floral accord which returns for a while. The woody accord mutates then again into something more gentle and aromatic (something like cedar or oak), slowly vanishing away. After almost 8 hours you get basically a dusty, delicate, sweet ambery scent with just an echo of woods. All still vibrant and clear hour after hour, even if obviously, lighter and lighter as hours pass but on a time span of more than 12 hours, so you've really plenty of time to enjoy all this. Now, maybe I paid particular and perhaps unnecessary attention to the evolution, but Jewel Blend can also be simply enjoyed as a classy, compelling, long-lasting and versatile oud-amber scent with floral nuances that lasts for hours and smells great. So basically you can either enjoy it as a "normal" perfume (probably better than most of your others, though) or like a satisfying and charming olfactory "journey", or "experience" if you wish. Needless to say we shouldn't even compare this elegant, versatile, deep and precious oud ambery scent to the sad, plain, cheap synthetic ouds we're used to. Surely worth a try.
This is some serious stuff. A super dark and dry concoction of aged oud and musk with just a faint floral presence to round things up a little bit. Warm leathery / ambery facets provide extra body while the oud-musk combo is left completely free to express its mesmerizing power. A perfect mix of smooth animalics, sort of barnyardy woody notes and dry amber. Yes, it might result a bit challenging if you don't like the genre but, instead, if you're into hardcore woody-musky stuff a-la Leather Oud / Aoud Cuir D'Arabie, you CAN'T miss Jewel Blend as one of the best offerings from ASAQ's middle range of fragrances.
Powerful, insanely long lasting and, considering its origin, even reasonably priced.