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July 28, 2011:
Among the descriptors that perfumer Abdes Salaam provided for his latest fragrance, Sharif, were a couple that really caught my attention, that had me thinking about the concept of a sharif—the Arabic word for “noble man”—long before the fragrance arrived at my door. The first was Salaam’s explanation that “among Arabs, nobility is not necessarily associated with lineage: for the fierce people of the desert, nobility is above all a quality of the soul.”
The second was his targeted description of what his fragrance is meant to evoke: “Sharif is the fragrance of a noble sheikh of Arabia who has chosen supreme elegance over loudness, gentleness over arrogance and seduction over overbearingness.”
Elegant, gentle and seductive—that very nicely sums up everything I have ever looked for in a man for most of my life (and have had the great fortune to find more than a few times). In fact, elegant, gentle and seductive is how I prefer my women friends, too. Oh I could add a few more adjectives, but considering that when I hear the word “seductive” I automatically think of someone who is intelligent, creative and playful, then I guess you could say that all of my bases are covered: yes, this is how I, too, define “noble” when I use the word in its adjectival form, when I think of someone who has that magnanimity of spirit that is sooo attractive.
Suffice it to say, I very much liked Sharif as a concept, but you know what got me really excited? The confident feeling I had that this high-brow concept would be thoughtfully realized in the actual perfume. Because that’s the joy of niche and artisanal perfumery, and the reason why perfume blogs exist and perfume lovers are willing to plunk down more of their hard-earned cash on these creations. There are artists working in this olfactory field who actually look at a concept as a theme to explore—as the aim of their creative thrust—rather than as an extension of marketing.
Sharif is a perfume that lives up to its concept in every regard—a perfume which surprised me so much by its inspired choice of a sweet-almond accord at its base, I would have called it a very cleverly-conceived perfume had I no reason to call it beautiful. But, in fact, it goes beyond clever and is indeed beautiful and authentic in the way it alludes not only to Arabian handsomeness but to the legendary hospitality that is considered, by most Arabs, a sacred duty.
Like all of the fragrances in La Via del Profumo’s line, it is an all-natural (no synthetics) perfume, and because I never expect all-natural perfumes to have longevity, I am quite amazed at how unhurriedly Sharif unfolds in three deliberate stages for me. The first stage is highly reminiscent of his fragrance Balsamo della Mecca: resinous with a tar-and-ashes leather bent that is arid, weighty and masculine (though not as weighty as it in Balsamo della Mecca). There is no listing of notes for me to refer to, so these are merely guesses, but at this stage of the scent I smell what I think is labdanum and either birch tar or castoreum with a hint of tobacco, along with a lash of something green and something that provides a bit of lift—bergamot, perhaps? At any rate, here we see in olfactory terms the rugged profile of a man of the desert.
This profile will soften a bit, but the whole of it will remain intact for a good long time—longer than the top notes stage of most conventional perfumes. Not until a good forty minutes to an hour into its wear does Sharif arrive at stage two, which is where I realize that this fragrance story is not about just any handsome man, but a man whose bearing speaks of age and wisdom, announced by the arrival of a weathered-smelling combination that I read as cedar, patchouli and frankincense. For those who love their patchouli to smell more roughed up than refined, you’ll love this stage of the perfume, though this is the stage that is the shortest-lived within the fragrance.
And that’s fine by me, because what most surprised and delighted me about Sharif arrives next and lasts a good long time. Out of the dry and slightly acrid woodiness, the scent begins to climb again, getting sweeter as it goes. The scent of almond emerges, as gently sweet as a smile, as welcoming as a kiss on the cheek. Like a bowl of almonds set before a visiting guest in an Arab home, this facet of the fragrance speaks of generosity—of the largesse of spirit that seduces friends and lovers into our personal spheres, which, as the wise man knows, is the only way we thrive. Stage three of the fragrance smells of tonka bean and maybe even a hint of heliotrope: it’s a dry and almost fluffy almond scent that is about as sweet as an almond biscuit one might be served at a good Chinese restaurant. The fragrance notes that preceed it keep the almondy-accord from being cloying, such that it is like the sweetness one finds at the heart of a noble soul: sweetness that is natural, easy and true.
Thanks to the generosity of Abdes Salaam, the perfumer of Sharif, I’m holding a drawing for a 32-ml bottle of Sharif (as shown in photo). In addition to the bottle, I’ll be drawing four other names who will each receive a dab sample vial of Sharif.
Drawing is available to all readers worldwide. Simply drop an email to me at email@example.com saying “Put me in the drawing!” by the end of the day on Monday, August 1st (midnight, Eastern Standard Time, U.S.) Your email address will be kept private and will not be used for any other purpose except the drawing. (I have no commenting forum on my site so have to conduct the drawing via email.)
NOTE: DRAWING IS NOW CLOSED.
Sharif is otherwise available for purchase from La Via del Profumo in Italy. Prices are in euros and are currently
€ 35 for a 10-ml roll-on bottle; € 96 for a 32-ml spray bottle; and € 149 for a 50-ml spray bottle.
Photo of Sharif bottle is courtesy and copyright of Nathan Branch.
(photo courtesy & copyright of Nathan Branch)
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Review and Prize Drawing for...
La Via del Profumo Sharif: A Noble Concept, Beautifully Executed
In a Few Days, this Gorgeous Perfume Bottle—
February 11, 2010:
and the equally gorgeous, all-natural perfume housed within it—will be up for grabs on my blog, as part of a drawing that will be open to all my readers anywhere in the World. In addition to the full-bottle drawing, I’ll be selecting four additional names who will each receive a sample of the fragrance, all thanks to the generosity of perfumer Abdes Salaam (aka Dominique Dubrana) of La Via del Profumo, whose creation it is, and who sent me these items so that I could do a giveaway in connection with his latest launch.
Sharif, the Arabic word for “noble man,” is the name of his latest fragrance, a beautiful, unisex perfume that seeks to convey the qualities of a noble soul: for, as Salaam so beautifully points out in the description of this scent on his website, “among Arabs, nobility is not necessarily associated with lineage: for the fierce people of the desert, nobility is above all a quality of the soul, and it is said of a person that he is noble even though not of noble descent.”
Those of you who have been part of the online perfume community over the past few years are likely familiar with Salaam, whose generosity and noble spirit cannot be missed. He is an active member of Basenotes.net and also has an informative blog on his own website, where he provides great insight into Middle Eastern perfumes and customs; he was prominently featured in a New York Times magazine article last summer; on the heels of being featured in the Times, he spent not one, but two days fielding perfume-related questions in his intelligent, honest and straight-forward way at a live chat on Carol Sasich’s blog, WAFT; and he had a highly-successful launch in winter 2010 with his deeply resinous, contemplative tobacco perfume, Balsamo della Mecca (or Mecca Balsam, as it is also known).
If anyone is a sharif, let me tell you, Salaam is one. He may live and work in Italy, but the hospitality of the Arabian desert is very much alive in him. Though my interactions with him have always been brief, I have come away from them feeling that “radiant light of a noble person’s character” that he refers to in his literature on Sharif. Kind and generous beyond measure, he is also someone who answers emails in a prompt and courteous manner—and he’s one of those people who can say a lot in just a few impeccably-chosen words.
(And speaking of impeccable…the amazing photo of the Sharif bottle is by fellow perfume blogger Nathan Branch, who by arrangement with Salaam kindly consented to providing the promotional photos for this launch. You can read Nathan's review of the fragrance—and drool over his other photos of the bottle—here.)
I hope you’ll join me in a few days to read my review of Salaam’s beautiful Sharif fragrance and to partake of his generosity by entering my drawing. (On or about Thursday of this week.) If his last launch was any indication, there will be a number of opportunities across the blogosphere to try Sharif in the weeks ahead—and I’m just delighted to take part in it!
Photo courtesy (and copyright) of Nathan Branch.