La Via del Profumo BALSAMO DELLA MECCA:  review and drawing


One of the most rewarding things about putting yourself out there on the Internet is that occasionally you meet someone, albeit in cyber space, who truly is a world apart from you and not someone you would likely encounter in daily life.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from natural perfumer Dominique Dubrana, a French-born gentleman living in Italy, who is also known by his Sufi name, Abdes Salaam. He told me he was launching a new fragrance inspired by his pilgrimage to Mecca and asked if he could send me a sample. “I would be very interested to know your true valuation, even at the risk of a negative review,” he said, impressing me with his honesty and adding, “I understand that no perfume is able to please everybody “

I did not tell him this, but I had already browsed his website several times over the past few years, as his fragrances have been lauded by more than a few people (Linda from The Perfumer’s Apprentice,  Helg  from Perfume Shrine, and the perfume world’s most famous critic, Luca Turin, to name a few). From that standpoint alone, I was very excited to sample one of his fragrances, but even more intriguing to me was that here was a man who had made his religious pilgrimage to Mecca. “In Mecca, the scents of labdanum resin, of benzoin, frankincense and of the precious agar wood invade the streets together with the 4 million pilgrims who pour to the streets 5 times every day, walking to the great mosque like a river,” Salaam writes eloquently in a thoughtful pamphlet which he enclosed with the fragrance—and which echoes the words of renowned author Huston Smith, who in his book, The Illustrated World’s Religions, states:

The basic purpose of the journey is to heighten the pilgrim’s commitment to God and his revealed will, but the practice carries fringe benefits.  It is, for one thing, a reminder of human equality, for upon reaching Mecca, pilgrims exchange their clothes (which are status-ridden) for two simple sheet-like garments. The gathering also promotes international understanding.  In bringing together people from multiple countries, it demonstrates that they share a loyalty that transcends national and ethnic barriers. Pilgrims pick up information about other lands and peoples, and return to their homes knowing more about the world.†

Isn’t that beautiful? Oh how little we know about the world and each other, really, until we travel and cross paths.  The media, no matter how far it reaches and how prolific it seems, cannot tell us these things, in my opinion.

But onto the fragrance. Balsamo Della Mecca is composed of notes of labdanum, tonka, frankincense, tobacco, tuberose and rose, and its opening notes have all the gravitas of a prayer: they are weighty and deeply resinous—almost medicinally so, such that I could swear I smell the astringent lash of clary sage among them, though perhaps it is a figment of my imagination, as the perfumer does not list it among the notes. After five minutes, the labdanum and frankincense combination become smokier and more ash-like, with a little bit of tarriness that makes me also wonder if there might be a hint of castoreum, too, in the composition. As it continues to dry down, the fragrance softens considerably but continues to unfold. The smokiness is still there but it is ever so lightly sweetened by the balsamic and ambery tonka note, and then rounded out by the warmth of tobacco. The floral notes go unnoticed, as their function here seems to be that of a soothing olfactory balm, if you will—taking the edge off the rawer notes and lending softness and depth to the scent .

What is most impressive about Balsamo Della Mecca is that it does what most all-natural perfumes don’t do: it stays with you. After its weighty opening, it becomes this wonderfully breathy tobacco scent that you fear is going to disappear on you—it becomes a tobacco-y skin scent, really,  a rare thing among tobacco scents—and remarkably, it goes the distance. I get at least seven hours of wear from two generous spritzes of Balsamo Della Mecca. The far drydown has a faint tickle of the honeyed-beeswax smell that sandalwood begets on my skin and which I absolutely adore (though again, I must pause to say that I have no idea whether there is actual sandalwood in the fragrance’s base or if it’s a phantom note of my imagination.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Abdes Salaam is not only a talented perfumer, but a kind and generous man.  He sent me a 16-ml bottle of the fragrance, enabling me not only to test it thoroughly but to offer the chance for my U.S. readers to try it too.  If you live in the United States and would like a chance to win a 5-ml decant of Balsamo Della Mecca, please drop an email to me at by midnight, EST, on Wednesday, February 10th, when I will randomly draw TWO winning names.   (If you’ve won something on my site before, you are still welcome to enter.  Also, your email will only be used for the purposes of the drawing and will be kept private).

Balsamo Della Mecca can be purchased online from

Bottle image was provided by the perfumer.

Posted by Suzanne Keller, 2/6/2010.

Originally published at