An amazing perfume, rich, dense, vibrant, where the ancient wisdom surrounds you with the high intensity of exquisite oils. This is Sharif, the latest creation from Abdes Salaam Attar, a perfume which is literally an experience from another era, with dark woody “roots”, silent “resins” preserving the history under their hard skin, extremely hot spices and a subtle animalic note.
This fragrance is preciously kept in a square glass bottle, but when you look from above you will notice something very special. The spherical golden stopper sits on the octagonal base of the spray, like the Dome of the Rock sits on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, above the Foundation Stone. The golden spirit preserved in the square bottle, with an admirable volatile quality, is an explosion of fire and its foundation stone is a combination of ancient accords brought to life.
Sharif, a noble sheik from ancient times, was bringing through desert the most exquisite aromatic materials. This is the story of the incense road and the silk road where the glorious spices and woods brought from Asia were traveling side by side with resins like incense and myrrh in the dry Arabian desert, with precious wools and animal skins, impregnating them with a delicious scent. This was a time when sealed containers did not exist and, inevitably, the Arabian traders were literally infused with a delicious perfume. The camels were smelling like the scented gloves introduced several centuries after in Europe. The caravans were detected by their scent in a space where few flowers bloom. What else is a camel, traveling several weeks with benzoin and spices, than a living scent strip smelling of Peau d’Espagne, while its skin was infused with the most precious ingredients in their raw state? The second leather note of the humanity after the Egyptian “invention” was the traveling camel. Because camels kept a delicious scent, when they died, their skin was used and sold. Much later, the whole process of tanning and scenting would become an industry.
But what exactly is Sharif, this delicious composition of spices and sweet resins?
This small jewel holds the essence of spices, aromatic gems of the Antiquity, a type of scent that literally transcends time and space. 2000 years ago it was the roman royal perfume, a special recipe with honey and wine, surviving in the Old Byzantium and 800 years ago it was a gift sent to European kings by Saladin. In his Egyptian garden he kept some unusual aromatic trees, highly scented which gave the precious balsamum.
The foundation stone of Sharif is the precious ambery-balsamic Balsamo Della Mecca, the previous fragrance from Abdes Salaam Attar, one of the best 100% natural perfumes that can be found today in Europe. But inside the highly dense labdanum-incense creation (the essence of the previous creation), the perfumer brought the spirit of fire, the consuming power of spices melting the stone quality of resins into a sweet balm with a deep honeyed quality.
A small saffron-like note is the golden sprinkle above the peppery spiciness transforming the majestic combination of the 4 ancient spices into the golden precious “honey”, deep, highly aromatic with herbal undertones and melting on the skin. The almond-vanilla quality of the drydown, with subtle animalic notes suggesting the leather-skin facet of Musk Tonkin and the herbal-silex dimension of Hyraceum, transforms the darkness found in Balsamo Della Mecca into something serene and elegant. It evokes the ancient opopanax perfumes, different from modern opopanax resin. The sweetness is crystallized not in “sugar”, as in a Tonka bean, but in camphor, like the combination between laurel leaf/cinnamon leaf/clove and a balsamic base.
The perfume evokes the rich quality of dry tobacco preserved in an ancient leather pouch, blended with unknown powerful herbs and pepper. Its evolution on the skin is surprising and with Balsamo Della Mecca, Sharif is one of the most elegant natural perfumes. It has nothing to do with the so called Arabian perfumes, rich in Sandalore, Sandela, Polysantol (synthetic sandalwood) and embalming the air with damascones (rose), the essence of modern Arabian perfumery, as it was conceived since the 1970’s when petro-dollars met the powerful molecules.
The creations from Abdes Salaam Attar are based on the true essence of an antique craft. They are the most profound and refined expression of that lost world.
Photo: Sharif perfume bottle, photo courtesy of Nathan Branch