Room 237 by Bruno Fazzolari

What a great perfume! Not only is it entertaining, and not only is it artistically inspired and refined, but it smells wonderful. Obviously an olfactory rendering of The Shining, this specifically draws from the Room 237 where Jack experiences some of the earliest degenerations into madness. Based on this connotation, I was at first disappointed by the fragrance - it was too green, too musky, too vegetal. To be specific, the fragrance wasn't bad at all, but I had trouble associating it with The Shining, particularly Room 237 - but in all honesty what I was expecting? I really don't know. Something more "intense" I guess, perhaps more shocking. And yet I couldn't stop wearing it, there was also so much reward in wearing it - was I going mad, too? Eventually, I started to make connections: the colors, the smell of soap, steam - there is a sense of cleanliness with something a little "off." In a strange evolution for a perfume, it opens with a citrus-woody accord and then almost in reverse backs into a green-musky accord. These two profiles smell like two different perfumes coming together as one, like two people in an embrace - or the combined smells of a bathroom - soap, steam, aftershave, etc. It brought to mind the scene in the bathroom with the woman bathing who then turns into a nightmarish hag in Jack's arms. Room 237 keeps a grip on reality at this point, however; there's nothing nightmarish about this scent. I've come to enjoy this fragrance quite a bit. Two very big thumbs up for this creation, which is not only unique in inspiration, and not only artistically executed (see what I did there?), but easily enjoyed day after day.

Amber Jewels by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

My experiences with amber is based largely on perfumes I've tried in which amber has been related to experiences of coziness or some kind of insulation from cold, dreary days. I find it typically paired with patchouli or vanilla and sometimes has a cocoa powder vibe. Testing Amber Jewels has changed my perceptions of amber, though, and I'm frankly surprised that the "amber perfume" has been confined to such basic expressions. Amber Jewels absolutely redefined what an amber perfume (or in this case a blend) can do and broadened my expectations. AJ opened clean with an openness and brightness of a sunny beach but was not screechy or otherwise untoward. It lacked any brininess on me but was scrubbed rather clean, instead - a nice unassuming unchallenging "clean" almost muskiness. It slowly becomes warmer, though, but not as if someone was turning down the dimmer on the lights. Rather, as if the sun was obscuring the clouds, scattering light everywhere, and then the clouds parted, shining brilliant golden warmth. It even starts to get a little cozy the familiar "cocoa" note before I start to pick up spices of what seems like cinnamon but could include others. Right behind the cinnamon is a woodiness that really balances this out. At moments there are waves of oud-iness as well. Amber Jewels lasted all day for me, even after exercise and a shower. It is listed with just ambergris as the single note but I pick up so much more: musk, amber, cinnamon, and oud - at least. I would be surprised to find out that ambergris was the only ingredient but I'm kinda hoping that's the case. This is a surprising experience, the best "amber" I've ever tried, and worth every penny.

Al Sheikha Fatima Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

The first thing that comes to mind is Amouage's Al Andalus, which is based on the period when the Moors ruled Spain long ago and incorporates notes typical of the region - like a lot of green, herbal, citrus notes. ASFB is less green and a little muskier but identical in the general effect. It's supposed to be an aged oud, musk, rose, and bergamot blend but it's pretty much dominated by the striking citrus and musk base. There's a period where I get a bit of the oud weaving in and out early on but settles into a low-key back-note giving just a touch of woodiness in the drydown. And the rose was fairly undetectable except that I did discern an unrecognizable "floral" note that, like the oud, was sitting quietly in the background. Like Al Andalus, Sheikh Fatima maintains a designer-like mainline in a vibrantly neon tone that is almost freakishly surreal, perhaps self-consciously so - and in a way I love it and dislike it at the same time. There is a time and a place for it and what would seem like an office-safe scent is perhaps just a little too strong. I wore Al Andalus while at the beach this past summer and loved it - my hair was matted up by salt and sand in Billy Idol fashion, my skin tight and brown. Dressed in an oversized polo shirt over salt-stained surf trunks and a pair of flippities, it made me feel rather suave despite my outward beach-bum fashion. Sheikh Fatima provides the same discordant comfort zone but with a touch of musk in the drydown giving a slight nod to some "long walks on the beach." And for that reason, for me at least, it edges out Al Andalus by just a little bit. Giving this a neutral rating simply because I couldn't wear this all the time but this is without a doubt an interesting and at times perfect fragrance to wear.

Al Ta'if Rose Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Despite claims that this has short longevity, this one lasted all day for me. This blend is made from the "first flush" roses, meaning they are picked first thing in the morning. The result is a good rose that never approaches mundanity or annoyance. It's a bit jammy up front and slightly spicy, perhaps with a touch of pepper and something else - the influence of spices is extremely modest. I believe there might be a touch of amber or musk as well but this is pretty much just rose. While rose itself isn't my favorite floral, I'm aware it's considered a masculine note in the East and I'm reassured by that but it's still a hurdle that any rose scent must clear in order to impress me and usually requires some assistance from oud, patchouli, sandalwood, etc. Al Ta'if Rose Blend nearly clears that hurdle with very little help. I never once felt awkward and quite often thought I smelled very nice. I like it a lot but still don't think I'd ever wear it except to layer with something else, like some ruh khus or something. But if you like roses, you should definitely give this a try. I'm giving this a neutral because I'm not keen on it personally but as far as a rose scent goes, this is pretty solid stuff.

Royal Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

This is absolute dynamite! I know a lot of blends have a great oud presence with a rose accompaniment, and others have a nice rose opening but let the oud roam free, but Royal Blend is the perfect balance between the two. The oud note really fills the space in the room but the rose note stays close and fills the space around me. Both notes are readily available and last all day long, neither one pushing the other out of the way, but rather embracing each other. On my wrist it smells strongly of rose with soft sweet hints of hay and vanilla while around me is a more strongly resinous incense of woody oud. The two really walk hand-in-hand and never let go. Both the oud and the rose are very clean with almost no smoke and with what smells like just a touch of bergamot, some spices, and some amber in the mix, which really just makes it all the more interesting and well-rounded with a bright and lively step. There's some musk in the base that really comes out late in the drydown. Royal Blend is such an easy blend to wear and so much fun. Even though the oud note is so prevalent, it's equally suited to noses unaccustomed to eastern-styled blends as the balance and radiance in this one is simply perfect.

Al'Molouk Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Molouk means "king" so this is also known as the King's Blend. So now I'm sampling stuff well beyond my budget and it's breaking my heart. The quality of the ingredients in this blend is undeniably and extraordinarily good. Al'Molouk is oud dominant but has a bright rosy opening that disappears in a couple of hours. I noticed in some ad copies that indicate it's "taif rose nakhb al arous," which is the first flush pickings of roses that are distilled slowly giving them a better aroma but longevity is short making this a perfect rose top note that gets out of the way of the oud underneath. There's a touch of spices down there, too, very dry spices, but I cannot pick anything out in particular. The same ad copies mention a "thin flick" or "thin layer" of wildflowers, which I suppose is what I'm smelling. What they are I can't say but the "spice" notes (or wildflowers) are very subtle, never overpowering, but remain deep in the background like a layer of earth. The oud in this blend is very high quality, very clean, slightly woody, not animalic at all, not petrol or vaporous either, just a crisp, clean, aromatic, resinous, and incense-like oud with endless staying power. The sillage is deceptively low key and consumes the air around me. It's gentle and quiet while I'm seated but as soon as I move I can smell it, and when I re-enter the room I can smell it like a light incense. At times my body heat really ramps up the oud projection and at one point while sitting in close quarters in a meeting I thought it was perhaps too strong but I enjoyed it anyway. This blend and this oud in particular is gorgeous. Within several hours after applying it becomes something with a golden aura, a description that doesn't do it justice, but is all I can think of. It is perhaps some of the best oud I've ever tried or at least very much to my tastes. In general, this is amazing stuff - the rose is there in the top but doesn't linger, giving the oud all the room in the world to express itself, and the "wildflowers/spices" do nothing more than put the ground beneath its feet. (The ASAQ site indicates this also includes geranium, vetiver, patchouli, amber, and musk in the blend.)

Al Noukhba Elite Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Al Nokhba is a great blend of rose and oud with some notable additions of amber and some spices. The addition of amber in this gives it a very warm feeling, very comforting and almost texturing, and the spices make it very interesting but not in any off-putting way - they are very subtle and not at all overpowering. The main gist of this blend is the oud and rose, though - a nice jammy rose mixed with the intensely aromatic woody resins of oud. The spices are mild, but kinda fill in some gaps between the two star notes. It's definitely an oud dominant blend paired with rose but the use of amber provides softness, which is then rounded out with spices. Folks familiar with Amouage attars will find this comparable if not better. A tiny drop lasted all day long and a week later I could still smell it on the cuffs of my shirt sleeves - incredibly long-lasting!

Sheikh Abdul Samad Al Qurashi Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

I find Sheikh ASAQ to be very similar to Al Nokhba but the oud in this blend is much more intense and the rose, although prominent, is not as big. Structurally it seems to be very much the same as Al Nokhba but with different proportions of ingredients - the oud is stronger, the rose is there but not as loud, the amber is dialed back, and the spices very low-key perhaps giving the oud more freedom to roam. In a way, I want to say Al Nokhba is the feminine version and Sheikh ASAQ a masculine blend, but they are both easily worn by either gender. One just has a touch more floral and a touch less oud. But both are incredibly good. I suspect the type of oud used in each is different, though, and while I like the construction of Al Nokhba better, the oud qualities in Sheikh ASAQ are superior!

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalid Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

In the Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalid Blend, there is amber and there is rose but I swear there is also some sandalwood and there may be some spices but to me this is all oud and sandalwood. In the opening there is some rose and what smells like perhaps some other floral but the oud is on top. There are moments when I get the creamy woody notes of sandalwood, even a touch of citrus, and it's fantastic. Of all the blends I've tried from this house, this is one of my favorites because of the use of sandalwood. Anyone who knows me knows I have a weakness for the stuff and in this blend it just floors me. The note is mild, however, and I could stand a bit more sandalwood presence, but it's still one of the best oud/sandalwood blends I've tried; and the longevity isn't nearly as good as some of the other blends from this house, but I still get a full days wearing out of it and longevity is a shortcoming of real oud oil anyway. An incredible blend to say the least!

Crassna 25-Yr Oud by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

If you like ouds but don't like the price, Crassna 25 is an incredible find. In fact, even if price isn't an obstacle, you probably still want to check out this oud. This Crassna oud oil is aged for 25 years and is unblended with other ingredients yet it's anything but plain. I get a combination of typical oud notes starting with a subtle animalic opening, and then some hay-like notes, followed by petrol vapory "ashy" aspects, and finally some incense quality smoke. Thus, this oud defies regional stereotypes of ouds and brings them together in a non-challenging but complexly interesting way. Despite the seemingly diaspora of notes, this oud is simply smooth! And compared to other oud oils on the market, this is incredibly affordable.

Sadeen Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

I seem to have traveled from the West to the East in a matter of days. This opens with rose and oud but instead of being "screechy" like some blends, this one is warm and mellifluous (if I can use that word to describe a scent). The oud in this is soft, woody, cozy, almost nutty and the rose is mellow and dark (as opposed to pink, bright, or green). It reminds me a LOT of something I've smelled from Amouage (Al Shomoukh?). Then it turns creamy on me, radiating warmth and woodiness, and reminds me so much of Mona di Oro's Oud - creamy woodiness but with roses and spices. The spices I can't place but I want to say there's a touch of cardamom, or maybe a pinch of cinnamon. Underneath there is a light leather note that is borderline naptha yet cool and pleasant. And surrounding all of this is a sweet incense note that I suspect is myrrh rather than frankincense. But the rose is the key here, threading and holding all these notes together. At the bottom is a wollop of musk that outlasts everything. In sum, this is a spectacular blend from ASAQ and would make a fine addition to my collection. It has depth, complexity, and facets that keep me interested. Furthermore, this is stronger than the others I've tried, providing bigger sillage and improved longevity. Highly recommended!

Al Lolo Al Maknoun by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

The Exotic Blends from ASAQ are meant to provide small steps for western noses to become accustomed to middle eastern blends, especially to the use of real ouds. With that in mind I suspect many will enjoy this one but on me it's an overly sweet attar with a sweet powdery floral vanilla musk. To be fair, though, when I first put it on I really liked the syrupy tropical floral thing going on, which was like Fire Island in extrait or something - a rich sum of florals with a touch of sun, sand, and skin. That period just didn't last long enough, though, and unfortunately I got little to no oud out of this - not enough for my tastes. Instead this finished as a floral-musk with the powder and vanilla coming out later. It's extremely feminine even though I know men could pull this off. While this may not be to my tastes, I know many will enjoy this one and for those looking to branch out into eastern oils and blends, this is a great place to start.

Al Ghar Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

My fifth sample from the Exotic Line and the fifth one created for ASAQ's Diamond Jubilee. They must have gone crazy creating so many blends for the same event. I have mixed feelings about this one but my strongest opinion is one of disappointment because it is supposed to have sandalwood in it but the presence of sandalwood is about as strong as the presence of oud, or perhaps less. Descriptions vary on what it includes but I get pretty much all the notes mentioned from sources I've found: amber, sandalwood, oud, saffron, musk, and rose. I get rose right from the start. As soon as I apply it there is rose, then saffron, then musk, all three. It's a tad screechy but not bad. I can then smell the amber trying to beat its way in, but not a rich, warm amber, something lighter. At this point the whole thing smells like a cola - and the sweetness starts to ramp up. A little later I can smell the milky-woody note of sandalwood and then this is followed by a clean, crisp oud note, and the whole thing has a translucent kind of leather and powdery rose thing going on with that cooling naptha note I smelled in Heritage Blend. But the sandalwood and oud are gone almost as soon as they appear. There's a lot of quick shape-shifting that goes on from the beginning up until this point when it starts to settle in to a fuzzy vanilla and musk again, not unlike Al Lolo al Maknoun. Al Ghar has a strange "dusty" thing going on on one hand but on the other it is interestingly peculiar, like finding a treasure in an antique store. On top of that is this feeling of familiarity that I can't shake, like I've smelled this before, just as it settles into a drydown of sweet vanilla musk again. Another very interesting and well-made introductory blend for those looking to ease into eastern blends without being overly challenged.

Akabir Blend for Men by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

This is a blend of ingredients that should appeal to noses accustomed to western styles with notes of vetiver and citrus over a base of aged oud and fruity woods. Although there are no floral ingredients, there is something in this that comes across as such, perhaps a bit of rose. The opening is the most interesting part because there is a very unusual grassy-earthy note that I don't recognize and as much as I want to attribute it to an herb or spice, it actually smells like vetiver - although I'm hesitant to pin it as such. It even smells a bit waxy in a very pleasing way but unfortunately that part is short-lived. The citrus note is pungent and smells like orange zest with a touch of limes, reminding in a way of Al Andalus by Amouage. It then evolves into a more obvious and warm rose and I detect some musk in there, with a slightly powdery side reminiscent of that powdery musk in Helmut Lang edc. The base is a sweet woody oriental that reminds me of Micallef's more current creations with ambery woody bases. The longevity is surprisingly good but the sillage tapers off rapidly from a bright and striking start to a quieter woody base making me feel like I need to reapply even though I know I'm radiating well enough. (I should note that I am only applying a single swipe of the applicator wand and rubbing between my wrists.) While I won't deny that there's any aged oud in this, it's very minimal as this is meant to be an introductory blend for those not used to more robust oud attars. The delicate touch of oud in this does give the blend a resinous finish and a slight woodiness in the drydown. For what it is, this is a good blend and suitable for those looking to ease into explorations of eastern-style creations, one that would be readily accepted by western noses and not challenging. To recap: citrus/vetiver top > rose/musk heart > sweet woody oriental base.

Heritage Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

There is nothing overly complex about this one yet my impressions may not be quite in sync with the ingredients. For the most part, I get a Borneo style oud, some (clean, fresh) musk, and some floral notes that I can't quite place - a simple triad that gives this a somewhat feminine appeal. Reading a couple of rather uninformative descriptions online however this claims to have rose, oud, and spices. I wouldn't have figured this floral note as a rose but as I re-examine it I'm thinking that might be true, mild but true, and that the spices are saffron and maybe something else. The oud is very clean, though, which makes me think this is Borneo style oud (think Oud Wood). I still maintain there is a touch of musk, though. Although Borneo oud tends to get higher praise than most other types, I dislike the cleanliness of it and prefer the fruitier Cambodian or the funkier and more interesting Indian (Assam) ouds. In addition, I'm just not a fan of saffron, believe it or not. Still, this blend is not bad and I'm sure there are fans out there. It garnered some interesting remarks as well: my 3-year-old daughter told me I smell good like wet wipes (3-year olds say the darnedest things) and my colleague at work asked me if the windows were open because the office smelled "fresh." It's a "clean" blend for sure, easy to wear, and a great starting point for those looking to explore eastern styled perfume blends.

Gendarme by Gendarme

Top note: White Rain hair sprayMiddle note: Dryer sheet fabric softenerBase note: Faux suede

Unbound for Men by Halston

I happen to love Acqua di Gio, despite the fact that I smell like everyone else (I don't know anyone else that wears it). the cedary basenotes always take me by surprise (I often wonder who smells so good - oh, it's me!). AdG also reminds me of being a child and sneaking/rummaging through my parents drawers, smelling the cedar blocks in there. Finally, AdG has been a constant dependable fragrance for the office, which is close quarters. So, when a fellow BNer recommended Unbound to me, since it was apparently an AdG clone at a fraction of the cost, I decided to try it, especially after looking at 17 positive reviews and nothing else. I will agree with Sunsetspawn: "just take AdG and turn the citrus and white musk down a bit...add some watermelon and a hint of a floral scent...Almost di Gio. However, I will disagree with all other 17 positive reviews so far and say that this is close but definitely no cigar. The topnotes to me were almost identical with Unbound being a little sweeter (probably the blackcurrant) and sharper than AdG. I started to tell the difference in the middle notes, which were soapier, like a dryer sheet fabric softener in the Unbound but brighter than AdG, yet still not as smoothed out. The middle notes in Unbound are more floral, sweeter while AdG retains marine notes. The difference was slight but obvious. But the drydown disappeared in a hurry, at least it did on me. I tried them both, side by side, today, and right now Unbound seems tired, almost vinegary, while AdG is still strong, with a comfortable, warm woody cedar smell. It's just what I like at the end of the work day.I can say this, though: I purchased a bottle of Unbound for only $12, and therein lies the difference. This is only my first time trying Unbound and so will give it several more goes before I give it away but for me, Acqua di Gio is far superior. If you like AdG, stick with it, it's been the best selling fragrance for men for the past six years...for a reason.

Black by Bulgari

This is the best of the best, seriously. Bulgari Black can multitask better the most of us: if you need a superhero costume here it is; if you love the Godfather, this is your chauffeur; if you prefer libraries and literature, everyone from Coleridge to Collins would find inspiration here. Bulgari's Black is like no other, it transcends traditional fragrances and offers something more like a Ticket to Ride. From the very first instant I smelled it, I could smell something as unique as it was enjoyably excitable. Black smells smart, innovative and incredibly contemporary. It also smells like new tires and black powder. This is a fragrance that could appeal to the agrarian in the comsopolitan while also crossing genders. To me, this is a very warm masculine scent, like De Lillo in a limousine. Yet, I must admit how much I really want to smell this on a woman. Truly a unisex scent, it embodies both the masculine and the feminine in one remarkable fragrance. While not for everday use, this should be in everyones selection. In fact, I make plans just so that I have an occasion to wear it. It dominates!

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