Friday, 17 August 2012

Persolaise Review: Mukhalat Malaki from Swiss Arabian + Perfume Calligraphy from Aramis + Encounter from Calvin Klein (2012)

It's always round about this time of year (can't think why) that I tend to be asked what makes so-called Arabic-style perfumes smell so... Arabic. If I were a chemist or the owner of a gas chromatograph (neither of which I am) I'd probably be able to provide a technical answer outlining the main constituents of such scents, but I'm not sure that would be terribly helpful in any practical sense. Alternatively, I could pass around certain raw materials for sniffing, but then that would be like trying to explain the taste and texture of a cake by showing someone an egg, some flour and a knob of butter. So I think I'll just try to be concise and restrict myself to a two-word response: Mukhalat Malaki, the signature scent from Swiss Arabian.

This is the perfume you need to hunt down on the net in order to understand what people are referring to when they talk about the overriding scent of Harrods in July. In simple terms, it's a woody rose, but then in simple terms, Christ The Redeemer is a statue of Jesus. Mukhalat Malaki is so monolithic, it makes Rio's most famous landmark seem as tiny as a Lego man. The scent's massive scale, not to mention its positively indecent tenacity, are almost certainly achieved through the use heavy-hitting sandalwood substitutes (substances such as Ebanol, Javanol or Sandalore) and serrated, ambery-wood synthetics (like Karanal). Together with the ingredients typically used in the creation of leathers and thick, peppery roses, they evoke - what else? - the sight of a woman adjusting her abaya while wandering over from the Louis Vuitton counter to the Prada... or even, come to that, the image of a man in a dishdash jumping the queue at Laduree. To occidental noses, the scent spells 'heat', 'exoticism', 'mystery' and 'intrigue'. To residents of the Middle East, it stands for comfort and familiarity. 

Of course, I'm generalising here - and veering too close to racial stereotyping, so please forgive me - but then, the very question I mentioned in my opening sentence is itself based on a generalisation. There are many 'Arabian' perfumes out there (several of which are now produced by 'Western' brands) so it's dangerous to reduce an entire culture's olfactory codes to a single fragrance. But if we're going to be reductive, then we need look no further than Mukhalat Malaki for a succinct lesson in cultural scentibilities, Dubai-style.

In brief... If you haven't yet had enough of the whole 'west sucks up to the east' trend, then spare some time for Aramis' effort, the awkwardly-named Perfume Calligraphy. Although at first it appears to borrow too many ideas from Estée Lauder's over-egged Wood Mystique, it certainly gets more interesting as it goes along, toning down the predictable leathery, woody rose accord in favour of a dry saffron note, clean musks and an intriguing link with the familiar, cologne-like Aramis freshness. Well worth taking the time to track down...

... unlike Pierre Negrin and Honorine Blanc's Encounter for Calvin Klein. An embarrassing attempt to jump on the oud bandwagon, it places cliched masculine citruses, a garish marine note and uninspiring woods alongside a thin rendering of the leathery, smoky accord that the mainstream keeps trying to pass off as genuine agar wood oil. This is Bleu De Chanel combined with an anaemic M7 that's had all its chest hair shaved off. File under: 'encounters I wouldn't like to repeat'.

[Review of Mukhalat Malaki based on a sample of perfume oil obtained in 2012; review of Perfume Calligraphy based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Aramis in 2012; review of Encounter based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Calvin Klein in 2012.]



  1. Thanks for this, Persolaise. I'm getting naffed off with this trend and your 'reductive' point is a valid one. When I last checked - in my capacity as a university lecturer in this discipline - this term applied to the language spoken by Arabs and other peoples, myself included. And where the blazes is this 'Arabia' of which this industry speaks? Perfume and Orientalism have long gone hand-in-hand, but surely it's time to pull the plug on this nonsensical, cliched discourse? Do forgive the self-plug but I touched on this tangentially a little while ago: It may interest.

    Yours grumpily (it's hot in these parts), The Scentimentalist

    1. Scentimentalist, you can be as grumpy as you like. And thanks for the link. I'll be sure to check it out when I return home.


Thanks very much for reading my site and taking the time to leave a comment.

Please note that whilst the full range of views is welcome on, comments containing expletives and/or abusive language may not be published.

If you're using Safari on an Apple device, you may experience some difficulties with submitting comments. Please consider using Google's Chrome browser on your Apple device; this may make it easier to leave your comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...