Dominique Dubrana aka AbdesSalaam Attar and his perfume house La Via del Profumo located in Rimini, Italy, but known to most of us through the Internet. Apparently it was a Dubrana's perfumes that converted Luca Turin from thorough skepticism about natural perfumery to appreciating its possibilities - no mean feat. Since synthetics are what provides bone structure in modern (i.e. post 1880) perfumery to the natural oils' "flesh," natural perfumes often come across as spineless hodgepodges failing to bring any kind of artful arrangement to notes, that would transform them from at best smelling "pleasant" into works of true beauty and refinement. Dubrana's creations, however, are characterized by a crystalline clarity that reveals a meaningful order among the blended essences and generates images and ideas in the mind, as a great perfume should. At the same time they benefit from the aesthetic advantage of natural perfumes - the avoidance of the shrill redundancy which now characterizes far too many perfumes which wear their synthetic nature on their sleeve, all bones, like anorexic fashion models. His last fragrance, Mecca Balsam already showed how well suited this approach is to the oriental genre, which can so easily decline into a brash affair of sticky florals, screaming amber and wood synthetics and nose-numbing Yankee-candle vanillin. The new release, Sharif, which initiates a series of oriental-themed fragrances aimed at Middle-Eastern tastes, confirms it.
"Sharif is the scent of a noble Arab Sheik who chose the supreme elegance instead of the show of wealth, kindness and seduction instead of arrogance. In the pure tradition of the Middle East, Sharif consists of intense notes of leather and aromatic woods with the delicious aroma of amber scents of the East, and sweet almond," the perfumer tells us. It is, first of all, a wonderfully pleasant perfume and an ideal entry into the world of natural perfumery, as it is much more accessible than the starkly meditative, distantly elegant Mecca Balsam. The latter requires study before you can deeply appreciate it, while Sharif provides pure pleasure even before you begin investigating its complexity. There is a perfect harmony of spice and sweetness, dryness and deftness, of clarity and density, the slender elegance of a minarett and the opulence of a plate of Arabian sweets. The dry craggy resins of Mecca Balsam's pilgrimage are here enveloped in smooth delicious amber. Imagine yourself being entertained in the golden tent of an Arab nobleman, the scent of fine resins rising from incense burners, eating honey and almond cakes while a pipe rests by your side and a distant smell of leather saddle and noble horses wafts over from the stables. You are at peace, but you feel energy brimming inside you. New deeds of your own choosing await, but for now, you enjoy the tranquil flow of life and its pleasures.
Since words will never do such a beautiful fragrance justice, here is your opportunity to smell Sharif for yourself. Courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar, state of the [car]nation is giving away a 32ml bottle of Sharif which is not only worth over €100 but might also seriously transform your perceptions of the oriental genre of perfumes. All you have to do to enter this contest, is to write a commentary below this article in which you outline your vision of "your perfect 21st century oriental fragrance." The winner will be drawn at random from all such entries. Please make sure you leave a contact in your comment that will enable me to e-mail you in case of winning. The contest will close a week from now on Tuesday at 16.00 CET and the winner will be announced and notified a day or two later. Have fun!