Arabian Perfumes

Perfumes from the Arabian Peninsula have always been dominated by powerful woods, ambers, and florals such as rose and jasmine, and thanks to the Silk Road, these notes are now sealed into European minds as symbols of wealth, sophistication, and mystery.

This post might as well be called ‘My Favourite Intense Winter Scents’, as this style of perfumery is one of my favourites. Because of this intensity, though, I only break them out in the coldest of weather (well, coldfor Australia). It’s only in this weather that they don’t form clouds of scent so strong they overwhelm passers-by.

I don’t know much about perfumes made in the Middle East, and the authentic perfumes I have smelled mostly don’t suit the tastes of people in western nations. As a result of this, almost all of the perfumes below are made by European perfume houses which have been inspired by the legendary scents of the Middle East.

Anubis – Papillon

Anubis smells of leather, ancient resins, and spices, and in my opinion is one of the best perfumes ever to come out of an artisanal perfume house. Dark and powerful, this smells like something found deep in a forgotten tomb.

Interlude 53 – Amouage

Amouage is an Omani perfume house, so this one is genuinely a Middle Eastern fragrance. This is the most masculine perfume I know of, and has an intensity that few men could pull off. Make sure you get a second opinion before you buy this.

Dubai Amber – Bond No. 9

The oud in this has the stink of the genuine oil, and has a seductiveness that few others in this list do. Like a penthouse in the Burj Khalifa as dusk approaches.

Salome – Papillon

Though its sillage is fantastic, this perfume is extremely pungent, so keep it far from your nose. That is, spray it on places like your outer forearms, inner knees, and your upper back – not on your neck or chest, and even your wrists get a little close for comfort with this one. It also contains a couple of very animalic notes – castoreum and hyrax – which add to the pungency.

Ombre Nomade – Louis Vuitton

Probably the most instantly recognisable oud perfume on the market, Ombre Nomade (‘Nomadic Shadow’) is magnetic, bitingly powerful, and smells like a billion dollars. Like Salome, this is very powerful (I’ve had jackets that smelled of this for months after I wore it).

Nouveau Monde – Louis Vuitton

If Ombre Nomade is too strong for you but you like its style, go for this perfume instead – it blends oud with cocoa rather than rose.

Ambre Narguilé – Hermès

This beautiful fragrance by the renowned perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena is one of my top five favourites of all time. It’s also the only perfume in this list I consider feminine. Blending delicious ambery notes with spices and tobacco, Ambre Narguilé is unforgettable, and works as well with a cashmere turtleneck/shawl as it does with an evening gown. A sultry masterpiece.

Camel – Zoologist

Smells like a caravan arriving at a spice market. Quite unusual thanks to its abundant dried fruit smells, but a great fragrance.

L’Air du Desert Marocain – Tauer

I’ve never spent much time with this perfume, but I put a sample card sprayed with it in my wallet for a few hours a couple of months ago, and it still smells amazing. A lot of people consider this to be one of the best perfumes so far this century, but I’ll have to try it again to see whether I agree. It’s definitely complex, and changes constantly throughout the day.

Oud Satin Mood – Maison Francis Kurkdjian

This is a very westernised oud perfume, and probably doesn’t contain any real oud oil, but it’s still quite something, nonetheless. Likely owing to the rose and vanilla, this perfume is more unisex than the rest of this fairly masculine list.

Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme – Gucci

While not Arabian-inspired per se, this woody leather perfume makes me think of wealthy Emiratis in high-altitude offices overlooking the desert, so I’m including it in the list. This rich, smooth perfume walks the line between masculine ruggedness and sophistication.

Oud Wood – Tom Ford

A surprisingly realistic oud perfume, but not one that will make people abandon an elevator.

Let me know if you find a favourite in this list, or if you perhaps have one in mind that I didn’t mention.

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