ABDES SALAAM PROFUMERIE: SCENTS OF THE SOUL
Nathan Branch blog, May 13, 2009
I’ve mentioned the work of perfumer Abdes Salaam (aka Dominique Dubrana) on a number of occasions, but hadn’t yet devoted a full post to any of his pieces, even though I enjoy his unique and accomplished approach to natural perfumery.
Well, yesterday I received a generous sampler box in the mail from Mr. Salaam, so today I’m sitting back on the couch, drinking my morning cup of coffee, bathed in spicy waves of fragrance.
There’s a transparency to Salaam’s compositions, even when they’re meant to be virile and/or masculine — they wear like a soft aura instead of creating a brick wall of scent that no one can see past to the real you, and once you visit Salaam’s website, you realize that this is a perfumer who’s all about The Real You:
“Relying on a deep and wide culture of the natural essences and of their effects, we are able to elaborate — according to the rules and principles of aromatherapy and olfactory psychology — true ‘psychological fragrances’ that will carry to the people messages of ‘olfactory communication’.”
You can also find some lively and informative discussions of Salaam/Dubrana’s fragrances over at Basenotes, where Salaam is an active and contributing member:
If you read the second link, you’ll see the discussion includes a mention of the semi-bespoke fragrance I had Mr. Salaam create for me: Aalacho(#2) — a base accord of frankincense, tobacco and opoponax, plus castoreum, patchouli, honey bee, sandalwood, angelica and other woods & resins (if I’m remembering correctly). One Basenotes reviewer describes it as “a very refined, resinous (almost austere) woodiness . . . a Tam Dao / Hinoki kind of dryness . . . Aalacho(#2) is ‘calmer’ than Tam Dao yet conjured up an imagery of coniferous trees.”
The experience was educational in that I gained a better understanding of the characteristics of natural essences (Abdes Salaam is an all-natural perfumer), and Mr. Salaam was a pleasure to deal with, albeit in that mysterious and somewhat cryptic sort of way that’s the hallmark of interacting with a true artist — plus I gotexactly what I asked for. You can find more information on Salaam’s long-distance custom fragrance process here: Abdes Salaam Personalized Perfumes.
As you’ll see from the photos below, I received a healthy sampling of Salaam’s portfolio, so it’s going to take a bit of time to wear my way through them, but out of his fragrances I’ve so far sampled, here are some initial thoughts:
Tabac: as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, Salaam’s Tabac is one of my favorite tobacco fragrances on the market — dry, dusty, slightly boozy, a touch sweet. I get the impression that I’m smelling genuine cured tobacco leaves. Both men and women could wear this, though it lacks overt feminine elements which may leave some women feeling like it’s too masculine.
Chocolate Amber: from a previous review — “a blend of dark cocoa, vanilla and tonka bean (tonka is a kind of leafy, caramelized scent). If you’ve ever walked into a high-end boutique that specializes in expensive dark chocolates, then you’ll immediately understand what perfumer Dominique Dubrana has accomplished: an atmosphere of deep, rich satisfaction. All profumo.it fragrances are all-natural, which lends Chocolate Amber subtlety, despite its sweetness.”
Rose des Bois: a new creation from Salaam. Rose seems to be one of the new scent trends (Andy Tauer is soon to release his Rose Chypree) and Middle Eastern attars are rising in popularity, so Rose des Bois is spot-on in its timing. The rose is exceptionally subtle, dark around the edges and balanced perfectly with the woods and vanilla in the base. All of Salaam’s scents wear soft and close to the skin, but they exhibit excellent longevity — it’s been six hours after application and Rose des Bois is still sweet, rich and warm on my skin.
Cuba Express: I’m a total sucker for tobacco scents, and Cuba Express smells just like a really good unlit cigar sitting next to a just finished cup of espresso on a weathered wood table in a hot, island rum bar. Cuba Express was composed around the essences of tobacco, coffee, chocolate and rum, with a helping of island fruits and spices. Again, due to its natural composition, the scent wears soft and close, but the longevity is impressive — over six hours later and it’s still chugging along.
Re. Abdes Salaam’s spiritual approach to perfumery: I usually respond poorly to what I consider new-age/religious frippery, especially in relation to commercial goods, yet Abdes Salaam’s scents still manage to move me. I feel a response to his fragrances the way I feel a response to a Mark Rothko painting when I go to a museum and sit down in front of it. The talent, effort and quality of raw materials that go into his work is obvious, and the result is a deeply satisfying experience.
Photos of the “Scents of the Soul” sampler package below — I ordered a second full-sized bottle of the Aalacho(#2) fragrance today (there’s a story behind there being two versions of Aalacho, but we can talk about that in the comments section if anyone is interested), so I’ll have photos of that to add once it arrives:
I emailed Mr. Salaam about the specific ingredients I’d requested for the Aalacho fragrance (since my brain appears to have deleted that information from the memory backup system eons ago), and he graciously obliged:
Aalacho(#2): frankincense, opoponax, tobacco, costus, oakmoss, patchouli, cardamom, Mysore sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, angelica, labdanum, styrax, tonka, castoreum and honey bee.
It smells like a dry, crumbling gingerbread house in the middle of a deep forest surrounded by wolves. What’s not to love?