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Sniff Fest: Orientals

Sniff Fest: Orientals 9 years ago

Orientals, aka Amber perfumes

For a long time I vaguely wondered how perfumers managed to extract scent from amber. Then I discovered the perfume note by that name isn’t derived from actual amber, but is a synthesis of (usually) benzoin, labdanum and vanillin. The result has amber’s color. It’s a sensual note, sweet and honeyed, a bit leathery, a bit woody, a tad like incense, but overall radiantly warm. Blend with bergamot, jasmine, musk and vanilla and you have the classic oriental accord. Variations abound, but the powerhouse basic formula is: citrus, floral, resin, animalic, vanilla. Add woods and spice as desired.

After studying perfumes nine months, I realize oriental is my favorite genre, followed by chypre then incense. Without knowing it, I picked and wore a classic oriental for years as a signature scent: Joop femme. Before that I wore Metal by Paco Rabanne, a chypre variation.

Therefore, I’ve eagerly been looking forward to this sniff fest.

The First Modern Oriental

It wasn’t Shalimar, though everyone thought so before February, 2011 when a winter storm exposed the remains of the shipwrecked Mary Celestia, a Civil War blockade runner that went down in 1864 off the coast of Bermuda. Among the artifacts divers retrieved was a perfume bottle marked “Piesse & Lubin London.”

In 2013, chemical analysis revealed its notes: Opoponax, Vanilla, Tonka bean, Lemon, Bergamot, Mandarin, Patchouli, Civet, Egyptian jasmine, Rose de mai, Orris, Olibanum.

The first modern oriental was actually Bouquet Opoponax by British designer G.W. Septimus Piesse, author of The Art of Perfumery, 1857. It was the firm’s most popular fragrance. How I’d love to smell it. Impossilbe, so I searched the database and found five fragrances with all its notes except orris and olibanum. Most have extra florals and woods. Close enough. I’ve sent for a sample of the first, the only one I could find. If anyone has another, I’d love to read your take on it.

Shalimar Fourreau du Soir by Guerlain
Shalimar Black Mystery by Guerlain
Shalimar Yellow Gold Limited Edition by Guerlain
Ekos Perfume do Brasil Breu Branco by Natura
Optimal for Men by Diamond Parfum

Meanwhile, the 64 orientals I do have are ready for sniffs and Yasmin and Walad don’t want to wait for the Chypres. They insist I begin with Shalimar, since we have it. Walad is eager to tell Yasmin its history, but he must be delicate, since pregnancy is involved and Yasmin isn’t yet. Walad is concealing his worry, unlike his mother, the Valide Sultan, and the entire kingdom. He must have an heir. When will Yasmin conceive?

Into the columned inner courtyard he takes her, a long pool stretching nearly its full length. Potted palms and ferns adorn it, and potted flowers. Walad knows Yasmin yearns for a real garden. “Do you know Shalimar is the name of a garden?” he says, handing her the perfume. Yasmin wears the embroidered silks he provided. Two rubies dangle from the pearl band around her forehead. Above her sheer veil, her uncovered eyes find his. Though they’ve been married several months, she still blushes under his gaze. “Why would they name a perfume after a garden?” she asks, taking the bottle.

They are on the Persian devan she ordered for the courtyard, bolsters at each end — she leaning on hers, he on his. It’s a moment he treasures—her expression on first sniff of a new perfume. Will she frown in curiosity? Will her nose wrinkle in distaste? Will her lids close over her eyes in rapture?

by Guerlain (1925)

Notes: Fresh blossoms, Bergamot, Iris, Jasmine, Rose, Vanilla, Iris, Opoponax, Tonka bean. They say Jacques Guerlain poured a bottle of vanilla into Jicky and Shalimar was the result. Maybe the story is a tongue-in-cheek way of expressing just how much vanilla Shalimar contains because, if their pyramids are correct, Shalimar only has 4 of Jicky’s 21 notes, other than vanilla. Shalimar is a sweet oriental, missing musk. Sultry-spicy, somewhat camphorous opoponax stands in for warm, golden amber. As she sniffs, Yasmin frowns and focuses. “Without animalic notes or woods, Shamilar ought to be sweeter than it is. However opoponax is the dominant note, softened by florals and vanilla. It is a very interesting fragrance, an accomplishment certainly…sophisticated, involving. Not love on first sniff for me, but one I might come to love. Tell me it’s story.”

“The perfumer named it after the Shalimar Garden in Pakistan. It was built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Janan, the same man who built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz. She enjoyed Shalimar when she was alive. When he built the Taj Mahal, he reproduced the Shalimar garden around it so her soul could wander there.”

Shalimar Garden, Lenore, Pakistan

“How beautiful,” Yasmin says. “I hadn’t heard the story that way.” Walad nods. “It is obvious when you study the history.” Yasmin hands the bottle back to him. “What did Mumtaz die of?” Walad knew she’d ask that. To address the fear he thinks is causing her infertility, he has prepared an answer. “She died in childbirth at the age of 39. It was their 14th child. I would never ask so many of you.”

Yasmin flushes and smells her hand. “Shalimar dries down very much like it starts. Opoponax is still strong, but softer. Now the vanilla stands out. Somehow, my soul yearns for woods and musks.” He shifts toward her side of the devan and takes her in his arms. “Then I shall plant you a forest, Yasmin, and populate it with deer.” She laughs and kisses him. “Perfumes with musks and woods will do, Walad.”

Nearby the Valide Sultan watches, out of sight, peeved at their useless kisses. Surely it is Yasmin’s fault that there is no child. It can’t be her son’s fault. Surely he is virile. Yet the Valide Sultan remembers the many women he has lain with in his harem. None have conceived. Walad didn’t want children except by a woman he loved. He thinks they used herbal female protection at his request. The Valide Sultan knows they did not, on her orders. She faces the truth. If there is to be an heir, her son’s precious Yasmin must be impregnated by another man.

Again the pair embrace and Yasmin weeps for love of Walad. Hatching plots, the Valide Sultan retreats and leaves them to their passion.
Part 2 - Classic Orientals, The Seducers 9 years ago
Classic Orientals

(This courtyard at the Riad Dar Saad in Marrakech, is no doubt similar to Yasmin’s and Walad’s)

Twenty-seven of the orientals, almost half of the 65 I have, contain the classic accord: bergamot, jasmine, amber, musk, vanilla. All but three also contain woods. Instead of starting there, I want to jump to the magnificent powerhouse orientals — ones that contain not only woods and the classic accord, but other florals, other resins, spice. These grand symphonic perfumes are so redolent, they could properly be called narcotic. I’ve actually daydreamed of finding the time to slowly compare them.

The Seducers

Walad has dreamed, too. He will use these perfumes in what may well become the most important task of his life — creating an heir. For days he has prepared. Now he wakes next to Yasmin and lies gazing at her until she opens her eyes. She smiles and says good morning. He replies, “Good morning, My Darling. I have planned wonderful days for you, today and tomorrow.” Her maid, Diba enters the room and Yasmin looks surprised. Diba doesn’t usually attend her in the morning anymore, because she is six months’ pregnant with Fizur’s child. Fizur is Walad’s faithful guard. He proposed to Diba, and she accepted, when they all returned from Cyprus almost seven months ago. Apparently, Fizur had only to glance at Diba and she was with child. Walad and Yasmin haven’t been so lucky. Diba sets down a tray of perfumes. Behind her, a servant enters with pomegranates.

“These are glorious perfumes,” Walad says. “He rises from bed. I will leave you until the clock strikes tomorrow. Will you wait for my signal to try them? Will you eat only the fruit Diba supplies, drink only water?” Yasmin sits up, looking uncertain. “But why, Walad?” He touches her cheek then beckons for Diba to come attend her mistress. Yasmin feels chastened by Diba’s pregnant stomach. Walad dons his robes. “I wish to take you on a journey. The destination is assured if you will but follow with your whole heart.” Yasmin frowns. “Trust me, Yasmin,” he says then adds uncertainly, “Do you trust me?” Her doubt vanishes before the man who offered her marriage or freedom, as she chose. “Yes, Walad, with my life.”

He nods and leaves the room. Yasmin bathes in her courtyard pool and soon learns she is to have no visitors when Diba leaves her, read no books, hear no music. She is to spend the day in solitude and prayer, fasting but for the sweet pomegranates left for her, drinking no wine. Fizur has placed a guard at the door to keep others away, even Yasmin’s parents. They live at the palace, now, in their own apartment. Walad ordered it to ensure his bride’s happiness. Daily she sees them, but not today or tomorrow she is told.

By midnight she has grown accustomed to her sweet solitude. In it she hears not just the birds but the thrum of insects, the lapping of the river beyond her courtyard wall, the animals that swim there or come to drink. In the throbbing silence she sleeps, wakes, sleeps, faint hunger making her feel light as the wind in the palm trees.

Suddenly beyond her gauzy curtains, she senses movement in the courtyard. Lanterns light. Now Walad is beside her, holding a bottle of perfume. He sits with her and in the courtyard she sees the silhouettes of men and women begin a silent, shadowy dance.

Calvin Klein

Top Notes: Basil, Bergamot, Green notes, Mandarin, Peach, Vanilla
Heart Notes: Exotic spices, Jasmine, Coriander, Orange blossom, Rose, Sandalwood, Cedar
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Vanilla, Vetiver, Frankincense, Civet

Yasmin sniffs. “Everything is in this.” Walad replies, “Yes, and you are everything to me. You are my obsession, Yasmin.” They hold hands and watch the dancers whose fluid movements mesmerize. “Amazing that I can smell each of these notes, just like I can see each dancer, yet they create a single powerful performance.” Yasmin wonders why Walad doesn’t try to make love to her. “There is something in this perfume that holds back, Walad, is there not?” He smiles. “Wait.” She does and soon is rewarded. “I don’t have words for this scent, now. The separate notes are gone, as if … as if..” Walad helps her, “As if they made love until they joined?” She nods shyly.

Panthère de Cartier

Top Notes: Grapefruit, Ginger, Labdanum, Mandarin, Orange blossom, Pepper
Heart Notes: Freesia, Gardenia, Carnation, Heliotrope, Iris, Jasmine, Karo-Karounde, Nutmeg, Narcissus, Tuberose, Vetiver, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Frankincense, Cedar, Civet

“Oh, Walad,” she cries. “This has even more notes, but I can’t smell them each so easily.” They combine to create a perfume chord, not a single note. The orange blossom is strong and the cistus labdanum, the woods. I smell civet and the musk, yet only if I concentrate. They take me prisoner together. Can there be a more entrancing fragrance? It’s a citrus grove, a flower garden, a forest, all planted together. It is womanhood itself. I do love this one so much, especially the vintage.” Out in the courtyard, thrilling music accompanies the dance.

Jean Desprez
Bal à Versailles

Top Notes: Bergamot, Jasmine, Cassia, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange blossom, Rose, Rosemary, Lemon
Heart Notes: Lilac, Orris root, Lily-of-the-valley, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Resins, Musk, Tolu balsam, Vanilla, Cedarwood, Civet

“Can this be even more wonderful? I see why you brought them together, Walad. They are alike in their power and beauty. They contain similar notes. The first reminds me of us when… when we lie as man and wife. The second is sensual, but bright. This one is rapture itself. It has the woods I adore, the resins and musks. I can’t move my nose from my hand. They are all glories, but this one may be the greatest.”

The door opens and a table is laid in the room, covered with fine cloth, lit with candles. A feast arrives, the portions small, but their smell and appearance are as enticing as any banquet at the palace. Yasmin realizes she’s famished. Walad claps his hands and sends the attendants away. He rises, washes his hands in a bowl of orange blossom water. He brings a dish to Yasmin. Then he reaches into a bowl of turmeric, sumac and saffron soup. Yasmin hesitates for only a moment then drinks the musky liquid from his hand. He feeds her fish and fowl, rice and vegetables from his fingertips, touching no part of her but her lips. Hand to mouth, she feeds him, too. They make a happy mess of their clothes.

Salvador Dali

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Basil, Bergamot, Fruits, Green notes, Mandarin
Heart Notes: Orris root, Jasmine, Lily, Lily-of-the-valley, Narcissus, Orange blossom, Rose, Tuberose
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Musk, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Cedar

Servants come and bring clean shifts for them to wear. They take the food away and bring sweets, fill beautiful goblets with a fruity Shiraz wine. Walad gives her another perfume.

“Oh, praise Allah,” she cries. “Can this be as potent, as beautiful as the last? Is that possible? Can it be stronger, as sophisticated? Walad, how will ever pick between these? It’s like asking me to choose between gold and emeralds, between diamonds and pearls?” He says, “We should wait for the drydown, but you are covered in saffron and sumac. Laughing, he takes her hand and leads her to the now-empty courtyard. From beyond the walls, two sitars begin a plaintive harmony beneath the moon.

Walad and Yasmin swim next to each other, not speaking, or even touching hands, just sensing the other’s nearness. They get out and at last he touches her, dries her, dries himself, saying nothing, the only messages the love in their eyes. Inside she dons her gossamer shift and he dons his. On her hands and upper arms he lavishes the opened perfumes, placing each far enough from the others to be distinct. “You smell like heaven,” he says. She sniffs them again, sexy Obsession, rich Panthère, incomparable Bal à Versailles, Dali, less loud now than it was.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Raspberry, Mandarin, Peach, Black currant
Heart Notes: Carnation, Hyacinth, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Narcissus, Orchid, Tuberose, Turkish rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Honey, Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Civet

“Here, try this one,” Walad says. She sniffs then puts some on. “If you gave me any one of these I’d be impressed, Walad. This has many of the same notes, yet I think the oak moss and vetiver stand out, making it more crisp in its lushness, if that’s possible. It’s an amazing perfume. Like the others it will turn heads, close eyes, but it prefers public rooms to the harem."

Walad retrieves the wine. “Before you try the last one, my dearest, take this goblet,” he says. She starts to sip. “Drink it all, my Love. This is our night. Today I had you rest your senses so tonight they could feast—your eyes on the dance and the lanterns, your ears on the music, your nose on these wonderful scents, your tastebuds on delicacies. What remains is touch in its completeness. Praise Allah, you will receive my son or daughter. If not, we must run away from this kingdom of mine and let another have it, for I will never give you up.” Yasmin wonders if he means it, but at the moment she is too much in love to care. She has decided not to share her dream that tragedy will befall them. In their months of marriage, she has never felt like this. Walad’s sweet journey did prepare her. Her heart and body are ready. She prays her womb will not be empty after tonight. Together they down the strong, sweet, spiced wine. Yasmin shakes her head in the sudden dizziness. Swiftly Walad kisses her mouth, taking in her breath, sharing his. With effort he breaks away and brings the final perfume.

Yves Saint Laurent

Top Notes: Bergamot, Clove, Jasmine, Coriander, Laurel, Mandarin, Pepper, Plum, Citruses
Heart Notes: Orris root, Lily-of-the-valley, Carnation, Patchouli, Peach, Rose, Sandalwood, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Coconut, Musk, Myrrh, Opoponax, Sandalwood, Tolu balsam, Vanilla, Vetiver, Frankincense, Cedar, Cistus.
“A spicy beauty is this one,” she murmurs. “Like you,” Walad replies. He takes her to bed, removes her shift, takes the bottle and spreads the scent from her chin to her stomach, makes a line of it down her spine. Then so as not to rush, he cradles her and they lie together, as if they were twins in a womb of rising passion. “This is the spiciest of all, my darling,” he says kissing her back. “You could wear Obsession in our private moments, Panthère during the day when you’re with our parents or your ladies, wear Bal à Versailles to court when emissaries visit, wear Dali when you are alone and there is no one else to smell it because I think it doesn’t project for long, wear First when we are visiting foreign potentates.” He plants another kiss. “And wear Opium when…” Walad stops. To his surprise, Yasmin is snoring. He is oddly sleepy, too, though he expected that neither of them would close their eyes before dawn. Yet, before Walad knows it, he is snoring as well, and does not hear stealthy footsteps or feel Yasmin’s body moving away. We think he was about to say Opium is not only spicier than the rest, but perhaps fruitier and more resinous, but he's asleep.

If he were awake, he would see a stranger in their private quarters, a richly dressed and handsome man, with princely bearing. Walad would see the man lift his sleeping Yasmin and take her to a devan against the wall. From outside, he would hear a familiar voice, that of the Valide Sultan, his mother, whisper through the gauzy curtains,”Remember, Prince Ahmed, your young sister remains with me. To your parents it is an honor. In reality, I give you the chance to fulfill your yearning for Yasmin, but if anyone finds out, if anyone learns you are the father of the child I instruct you to give her, I will feed your sister to the crocodiles with absolute glee!”

Knowing she has done just that before, Prince Ahmed simply nods, unable to take his eyes from Yasmin, whom he has loved since he was a wedding guest at her marriage to Walad. [By the way, this incident helped cement the practice of fully veiling Muslim brides during public portions of their weddings. Unfortunately, Yasmin is Zoroastrian so was free go unveiled.] All Ahmed says is, “They will not wake?” The Valide Sultan replies, “Not tonight or even tomorrow and neither will Fizur, his personal guard. I gave him a goblet, too.” Ahmed removes his jacket (oops, cloak). “If I were a better man, I would not do this, but I am possessed by her. Give me the courtesy of privacy as I take what is not mine.” Prince Ahmed hears the Valide Sultan’s footsteps retiring. Slowly he sits on the devan beside heavenly Yasmin, who must never know what, at long last, he's about to do the rest of the night.
9 years ago
To be able to smell "Piesse & Lubin"...what dreams are made of, we can only imagine. How pure and unencumbered this potion must have been. I wonder, too, what type of woman wore it, since it seems a heavier perfume than we've been led to believe that women wore back then in the 1800's. I've always imagined women wearing the insipid floral waters that they dipped their handkerchiefs in courtesy Hollywood movies. Now I know real women existed that dared to exude raw sensuality.

Thank you ScentFan, for these thoughts. I, too, love the orientals.
Part 3 - Orientals, Simpler Woods 9 years ago
Simpler Woods
(Not every woody oriental has upwards of twenty notes.)

First, Walad’s lifelong friend, the Imam Rahib, asks to speak with me. I was afraid of that. “Author,” he says. “We allow you license with history, must you take it with our culture as well?” I sulk. “We will set aside that Walad has married a Zoroastrian, which is forbidden, instead of a Muslim, Christian or Jew.” I can’t remember whether Yasmin has converted, so I promise to examine old sniff tests and find out. “More importantly, in none of our households will servants enter the bedchamber when it is occupied, without being summoned or asking permission first, absent dire emergency.” Actually, I suspected that, too, but it was late. My feelings hurt, I point out how much culture I did look up. He concurs, but asks that I do better. Politely I mention this is just a sniff fest, not a novel. (Honestly, sometimes I wonder if fictional people are worth the trouble.) I consider throwing Rahib to the crocodiles. He reads my mind and frowns. I think better thoughts.

Yasmin’s parents,, Ara and Freni, are beside themselves with worry. They’ve been ordered to stay away from Yasmin for two days. Normally, they would abide by the wishes of Sultan Walad, even though he conquered their kingdom, stole Yasmin and put her in his harem. Subsequently he fell in love with her and made her his Sultana—even ensconced them, his former enemies, in his palace and restored much of their land. Now they trust Walad, but Yasmin’s father, Ara, cannot sleep. Yasmin is his only child. All her life he protected her until the day of Walad’s invasion. The night before, he had a bad feeling. Ara has the same bad feeling now. He knows there’s a guard at Yasmin and Walad’s door. Even so, Ara rises and walks through the palace toward their rooms.

Will he reach Yasmin in time, will the Valide Sultan stop him? If Ara catches Prince Ahmed, will he grab a scimitar and behead the rascal? Will Ahmed’s sister be fed to the crocodiles? Will Yasmin climb to the top of Walad’s palace and dash herself (and her child if she’s pregnant) upon the rocks? (These are big, big rocks.) I’d better sniff some perfumes while the characters tell me what to write.

Anne Klein
Anne Klein II

Top Notes: Bergamot, Green notes, Peach, Rosewood, Lemon. Heart Notes: Orris root, Jasmine, Carnation, Rose, Ylang-ylang. Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Civet

With only a tad fewer big notes than the powerhouse orientals, it could be argued that Anne Klein II belongs among them. It is a grand perfume, breathtaking in its lush beauty, fresh because of its citrus and green notes, yet sensual. The vanilla note is strong but not overwhelming. It’s a fine example of the big perfumes of the 80’s. My eyes close when I smell it and I am delighted. It has the best of the old and the new. I remember to open my eyes and continue typing the story.

Quetly Ara tiptoes through the empty corridors, lit only by the occasional hanging lantern. He reaches the hall to Yasmin and Walad’s suite and in the dimness sees the guard, Fizur, asleep at his post. What’s this? He moves forward and abruptly bumps into someone. It is the Valide Sultan coming from an adjoining room. “Why are you here?” she demands. Caught, Ara stammers. “I … I am concerned for my daughter.” Walad’s mother moves to block his way and his view. “My son’s wife is fine! How dare you intrude here! Return to your quarters!” Ara nods and bows to her. She can have him beheaded.

Bjan Woman

Top Notes: Basil, Bergamot, Narcissus, Neroli, Pepper, Ylang-ylang
Heart Notes: Carnation, Honey, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Tuberose
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Heliotrope, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedarwood

This one has alluring stank produced by what, I’m not sure, though I suspect sultry Narcissus and Neroli are contributing, as well as the Musk, Amber and Oakmoss, of course. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of wearing this. Not sure it has as much longevity or sillage as Anne Klein II, but there’s certainly enough to captivate any oriental-loving perfumista. This came with a body lotion to up the reek. Great.
As the Valide Sultan turns toward Walad and Yasmin’s room, Ara retreats. Yet something is wrong here. If she, a mother, can approach them, why not he, a father? He slips unnoticed into the adjoining room the Valide Sultan left, finds an exit and follows its only path. Soon he is at a courtyard wall, palm trees surrounding it. There is a door, but it is locked. Holding his head, Ara slumps against a tree. Then Ara hears. “”Forgive me, beautiful one. I have no choice in this. I am a victim of my passion and your mother-in-law.” Ara doesn’t recognize the voice. “For tonight, you are mine. Yasmin, I kiss your lips.” Yasmin? Someone other than her husband is kissing his daughter? Horror of horrors. What man would so entrance his chaste Yasmin that she’d risk her life to be with him?


Top Notes: Osmanthus, Orange blossom, Cinnamon, Mandarin, Cinnamon, Red apple, Plum, Melon, Raspberry
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Freesia, Rose, Passion fruit, Tagetes
Base Notes: Vetiver, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla

Instead of stank, this one unfortunately just (for me) stinks. At first the fruity notes dominate, but soon something fights them in an unappealing way. Tagetes? What is that? Pulling it from my Perfumery Notes Kit. Yes, that’s the culprit. It’s a pungent marigold. It overwhelms even the normally hypnotic orange blossom and renders the jasmine virtually mute. Osmanthus stands in for amber but not beautifully. The base is good, but the overall effect is too sweet and medicinal.
Desperately sorrowed, blindly enraged, Ara climbs the tree as if his legs were young again. Silently he springs over the wall and tiptoes to the gauzy curtains. Through them he sees a man caress his daughter and the sight pierces his heart. Yet she does not move, does not speak. What is this? Ara enters the room, sees Yasmin’s still form, her husband unconscious on the bed, sees a naked stranger bending over her. “Intruder! Defiler!” Ara cries. “May God strike you!” In the blink of an eye, the stranger grabs his clothes and bolts to the door, knocking over someone in the hall as he retreats. Ara pursues him and finds the Valide Sultan profusely bleeding from a gash on her forehead that the stranger must have caused in his retreat . Weakly she cries, “He…he attacked me!” Ara halts the pursuit to aid Yasmin’s injured mother-in-law.
Gabriela Sabatini
Gabriela Sabatini

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Fruity notes, Neroli, Tangerine, Lemon
Heart Notes: Exotic flowers, Honeysuckle, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Tuberose
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla

With this scent, I am back in love. Do I detect a chypre accord? No, it must be the aldehydes or simply the wonderfully accomplished base, the high-flying florals and perfect citrusy top note and the two beautiful woods. Hard to remove my hand from my arm on this one.

Only Diba and her helpers are allowed in the room where Walad and Yasmin still sleep, she lovingly returned to her bed, both of them decently covered. All the palace is gossiping about the intruder who scaled the garden wall and attempted a scandalous seduction. How he drugged them is anyone’s guess, no doubt at knife-point. Ara wonders how the intruder subdued the strong and courageous Walad.

Better turn in, it’s late, and find out tomorrow what happens at the palace.
Last edited by ScentFan on 12.12.2014, 17:47; edited 2 times in total
9 years ago
Hi, Sorceress, sister devotee. Piesse & Lubin. We can dream. I'm guessing an explanation might be that it was formulated smack dab in the middle of the Victorian Era, i.e., buttoned up in public but in private utterly ribald, at least among the aristocracy. After the death of her beloved Albert, Queen Victoria was said to be sleeping with her riding master (I think he was), Brown. Churchill's mother slept with the king, and others, out in those grand country estates. Handkerchiefs were being dropped more by the middle class, I suspect. In short, I bet his customers were royals and aristocrats. Glad you're enjoying the sniff fest. This genre is so gorgeous!

To be able to smell "Piesse & Lubin"...what dreams are made of, we can only imagine. How pure and unencumbered this potion must have been. I wonder, too, what type of woman wore it, since it seems a heavier perfume than we've been led to believe that women wore back then in the 1800's. I've always imagined women wearing the insipid floral waters that they dipped their handkerchiefs in courtesy Hollywood movies. Now I know real women existed that dared to exude raw sensuality.

Thank you ScentFan, for these thoughts. I, too, love the orientals.
Part 2 addition - Classic Orientals, The Seducers 9 years ago
These two belong with the powerhouse orientals.

Arpège (1993)

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Honeysuckle, Peach, Neroli, Lily-of-the-valley, Bergamot
Heart Notes: Camellia, Coriander, Iris, Lily, Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Geranium
Base Notes: Amber, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Musk, Vanilla, Benzoin, Vetiver

This is a reformulation that succeeds. I can tell because the scent is familiar, reminding me of ladies dressed for the evening when I was a child. I’m not sure I adore the aldehydes. Makes my nose want to twitch, but the heavenly camellia makes up for it, as does everything else — including the coriander’s subdued stank. This is a perfume to wear to the opera or symphony. Or to dinner at 3-star Michelin restaurants. Or at least it will be for me unless my nose really starts to twitch. I might have to find a pre-1993 bottle, but if I don’t this will do nicely indeed.

Ted Lapidus

Top Notes: Bergamot, Galbanum, Mandarin, Mango, Passion fruit, Peach, Black currant, Lemon
Heart Notes: Gardenia, Carnation, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Narcissus, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

This was in my first Ted Lapidus order and I fell instantly in love, packed as it is with the notes I adore. Bergamot AND Mandarin? Jasmine, Rose AND Carnation? Every single thing in the base? Add my new loves, Narcissus and Vetiver and I was a goner. It’s smoother, creamier than Arpège, doesn’t last quite as long, perhaps. Both are stunners for the woman who wants to know and let it be known that she’s wearing a classic perfume.

Ishtar Gate and Throne Room Wall. c. 575 BCE
(The entrance to Walad's throne room might have looked like this)

The next night when the couple wake
they realize it was the contents of the goblet that made them sleep. Walad orders the whole court before him. They gather in his audience room, embellished with intricate mosaics, hung with massive chandeliers. Even the ailing Valide Sultan is carried in on her devan. To his left sits Yasmin, flushing at this airing of her private pain. To have been caressed by a stranger is trauma enough. Walad, however, intends a public investigation to plumb this scandal and erase the blight on his honor, to say nothing of his wife’s. He questions each of the kitchen staff. Only one lowers his gaze. Walad rises, takes his scimitar, grabs the man by the hair and forces him to his knees. Screams ring out, but they don’t reach Walad’s heart. “Who put you up to this?” Walad demands. The man knows Walad will kill him if he’s silent and the Valide Sultan will kill him if he speaks. Why did he ever apply for a job in the palace kitchen? Instead of answering, he begins to recite the words faithful Muslims say before they die, “La ilaha illallah—’” Infuriated, Walad forgets women are present and obliges by cutting the man’s throat. [OMG! Did Walad, our hero, actually kill? Yes, he did, but just on paper, I mean in pixels.]

Still, I pause the action and call a meeting of the characters, advising them I don’t like the way this story is going. Can’t they have excitement without seducing and killing each other? They shrug, but I can see they are thinking. “Have you ever watched a TV soap opera, author?” Yasmin asks. I bristle at being compared to them. “Surely intelligent characters like you can do something less violent,” I insist. The characters and I pace, then consult. I rewrite the last part:

… Infuriated, Walad raises his scimitar to oblige by cutting the man’s throat. Suddenly, he feels someone grip his arm. It is his boyhood friend, the Imam Rahib, ever anxious to serve. Good-hearted, but not exactly a stellar student of the Q’uran, Rahib nevertheless recites loudly, “Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” Walad's not sure this means he can't kill a liar, but he lowers his scimitar and orders the man imprisoned in the palace dungeon.

There, that’s better.
Part 3, continued - Orientals, Simpler Woods 9 years ago
This continues the classic orientals (bergamot, jasmine, amber, musk, vanilla) that also contain pronounced but simple woods.

Sniffs first, then the story.


Top Notes: Bergamot, Green tea
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Sandalwood, Cedar
Base Notes: Amber, Leather, Musk, Vanilla

This could also go in a category I’m calling lighter orientals — few additions to the classic notes. However, the woods here equal the others creating a sort of muddle. Bvlgari Black reminds me of the more muted but mostly prettier Ted Lapidus fragrances and the leather note may be as responsible as the woods. It’s pleasant on the skin, but lacking both the exotic allure of the powerhouse orientals and the distinction of great woods like Tam Dao. I’ll pass on an FB.


Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Green notes, Mandarin, Orange
Heart Notes: Cyclamen, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

The first thing I smell is lovely greenness, surrounded by intoxicating citrus. Slowly the indolic florals rise. Then comes the wonderful base. Nocturnes is an altogether bewitching fragrance, a fine example of the luxurious orientals of the 80’s. No need to consider buying, it was one of my first purchases in my early perfumista days.

Gianfranco Ferré

Top Notes: Pineapple, Orris leaf, Calabrian bergamot, Melon
Heart Notes: Freesia, Jasmine, Magnolia, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Basmati rice, Iris, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla

I once owned a bottle of Gianfranco Ferré from the 1980’s. That’s what I thought Ferré was when I bought it. It lives up to its predecessor by being as wonderful an oriental as most of the others so far. Pineapple and melon in the top give it more freshness. Green comes through from the orris leaf, but it still has the classically exotic oriental accord. As the scent develops, the notes blend rather than compete, (like they do with Coty Exclamation). I do think I still smell the rice and the Iris. The fruit and rice tame the sultriness without erasing it. Ferré can be worn in the daylight as well as the dark. I think I’ll be wearing it a lot.
Après L’ondée

Top Notes: Aniseed, Bergamot, Chinese cassia, Neroli, Lemon
Heart Notes: Carnation, Orris root, Jasmine, Mimosa, Rose, Sandalwood, Violet, Vetiver, Hawthorn, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Heliotrope, Iris, Musk, Storax, Vanilla

I expected much from this fragrance, but it has a too-sweet, floral-chemical note that for me is immediately off-putting. Wish I could isolate it. Perhaps iris or violet, both of which in certain combinations can go very wrong for my nose. To me the scent is close to suffocating. But for that, it reminds me a little of L’Heure Bleue, but only a little. L’Heure Bleue’s star is the gloriously-supported carnation. Here carnation is an also-ran. Since Après L’ondée came first, it’s as if Guerlain learned his lesson and in LhB stripped down to the appealing basics, leaving the rest out. Glad I didn’t do a blind buy. It dries down a bit better, but not enough.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Green notes, Peach, Ylang-ylang, Lemon
Heart Notes: Orris root, Jasmine, Narcissus, Carnation, Rose, Violet
Base Notes: Amber, Iris, Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla

I have never truly loved Samsara and I’m not really sure why. I included it in my Jasmine Sniff Fest but it didn’t make the finals. It’s pleasant enough, but not powerful, and the woods and musks are tame. Let me try harder to ID the problem. Re-sniffing. To my nose, something lends an unlovely edge, perhaps the violet and carnation. There’s a stank too close to stink for me—bathroom not boudoir.

Joop! Femme

Top Notes: Bergamot, Neroli
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Orange blossom, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Cedarwood

I have loved this darling for years and years. Had no idea until I looked up notes for an oriental sniff fest that it was a proper oriental. Wolfgang Joop is the designer. When Joop! Femme first came out I was often in Germany, his country. German friends may have steered me to the fragrance, because I recall buying my first bottle at an airport duty free and having to replenish it in that way when I traveled. It wasn’t yet on sale in the USA. I must have gone through quarts of this. Sniffing it now and comparing it to the oriental grand dames, I immediately detect the difference. Joop is best-suited to the daytime, more boardroom than boudoir. This is due to its heavy use of woods, yet the oriental notes and lush florals keep it feminine and luxurious, just not overtly sexual. To me, this is still a knockout fragrance—less complicated, more straightforward than its exalted peers, yet a stunner nevertheless. I feel like patting myself on the back for picking it as one of my signatures during the years when, “I am woman, hear me roar,” was still a brand new thing.

Le Bain

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Orange blossom, Lemon
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Sandalwood, Cedar
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Patchouli, Tonka bean, Vanilla

Joop Femme is an EdT and Le Bain is an EdP. I used to think they were different versions of the same fragrance and they do share most of the same notes, except Le Bain has aldehydes, lemon and lily-of-the-valley. They account for Le Bain’s crisper, alert feel. Femme is awake, too, but capable of sultry mischief, just not overtly. With Femme around, I didn’t wear Le Bain much, which explains why I still have an FB that’s over 20 years old.


Top Notes: Bergamot, Freesia, Geranium, Green notes
Heart Notes: Iris, Jasmine, Magnolia, Lily-of-the-valley, Orchid, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla, Cedar

I am excusing Tocade from the sniff fest, so as not to upset the already troubled characters. I am relegating it to a place among fragrances I never plan to wear. Enough said? Okay why? Putridity. An olfactory screech that assaults the nose. Notes that look like they should work together, but don’t.

Salvador Dali
Laguna Maravilla

Top Notes: Sicilian bergamot, Calabrian mandarin, Italian lemon, Spanish verbena
Heart Notes: Cyclamen, Water jasmine, Egyptian rose, Lily-of-the-valley
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Madagascan sandalwood, La réunion vanilla

Proving there are always perfectly splendid other fish in the sea, Laguna Maravilla, fresh and lovely, elicits moans then lingering sniffs to determine the source of its magic. The citrus, yes, mandarin dominant; Lily of the valley starring with cyclamen make jasmine and rose lighter, prettier. Then, even as the rest fly high, the base rocks, reminding me to take this fragrance seriously. Yum, yum. Another that makes me want to wash off the rest and spray it all over me.

Back to the story.

Walad persists, questioning others, including his mother. “Did you recognize the intruder? You must have, if he ran you down?” She shakes her head, no. “It was dark,” she replies and closes her eyes, as if to faint. “Rouse yourself!” Walad demands. “Why were you outside our door at that time of night?” His mother looks at Ara who has already testified. “Like him, I had a bad feeling.” [Crafty, isn’t she?]

Now Walad wonders if he must resort to torturing the man who drugged them. What else will bring out the truth? Frustrated, he dismisses the court and orders Yasmin to follow him, angry that he lay helpless as someone kissed his wife. Unable to bear the thought anymore, he grabs her and presses her against a wall. “Did he do more to you? Did he take more?” Yasmin weeps. How can she be sure when she was drugged to sleep amidst the passion Walad had already aroused in her.

She dare not say this and remains mute, making Walad want to beat her (perfectly acceptable husband behavior in those days), but he isn’t sure it’s allowed for a wife who was unconscious during the crime. Instead, he takes her to their bedchamber and with no feasts or dances or perfumes or seductions, makes love to her through the night, less as his beloved, than his possession. Next morning their happiness is gone. Feeling ashamed, but still angry, Walad moves from the rooms he shared with Yasmin. Weeks later, Yasmin is pregnant. Woe descends.
Last edited by ScentFan on 03.07.2014, 14:06; edited 1 time in total
Part 4 - The Lighter Orientals 9 years ago


Before delving into the orientals that depart from the classic accord, here’s a look at the lighter classics. Generally they are less complex (fewer than 20 notes). Two overlooked powerhouses begin this list.


Top Notes: Bergamot, Blue poppy, Angel's trumpet, Green notes, Mandarin, Narcissus, Peach, Plum, Black currant
Heart Notes: Freesia, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Leather, Mimosa, Orange blossom, Rose, Tuberose, Vanilla blossom, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedar

Like its grand sisters, Poême is a rich soup of many notes. Here, green pleasantly dominates the ordinarily sultry accord. Fruit, leather and cedar tone down the perfume. Poême isn’t a powerhouse on the skin, but the notes are a lovely, muted musk of flowers with a little fruit. I note it has Angel’s Trumpet, a form of the poisonous Datura. I’m smelling Azagury, which also has Datura, to see if I can detect. Maybe. There’s something damply dankly wanton in both. Must get hold of some Datura to learn it.

Thierry Mugler

According to its 24 notes, Angel is an oriental, but the classic accord is lost in the fruity, gourmand clamor, including caramel and chocolate. Where am I? At a fruit stand, a candy shop, a bakery? Certainly not a florist because the flowers here are overwhelmed. Though this fragrance was a hit, I instantly dislike it. It also has a chemical that makes me think of factories. Yes, it’s a powerhouse, but not in a good way, at least not to me.

Back to the story

Unable to bear Yasmin’s joyless countenance or the doubt of whose child she carries, Walad sends Yasmin and her parents to a far palace and throws himself into war. Conquering enemies eases the suspicion that someone conquered his bride.

Diba wants to go, too, but Fizur will not allow it. Faithful to his master, even when behaving badly, Fizur will stay to guard Walad at war and at home. He resolves not to drink from any more goblets while on duty, though. He won’t let Diba, his pregnant wife, leave to attend Yasmin and risk giving birth away from him and Walad allows Fizure to decide. So Yasmin travels to the empty palace with only her parents, a small domestic staff, and necessary guards. There is still unrest in Persia from an occasional prince uselessly fighting the Arab conquest done by sultans like Walad. In the months of their marriage, she’d stopped thinking of him as her enemy — until the night of the throne room inquest when he touched her without love.

They arrive without incident and find the new palace is quaint and charming. It is soon put in order by the staff. Yet far-off clashes of horse and rider, spear and scimitar are now and then heard. More than once Yasmin dreams that someone climbs her balcony and steals into her room. Twice Imam Rahib comes to visit — whether on his own accord or sent by Walad, he will not say. He brings perfumes from Walad’s palace. This first group he calls the lighter orientals.

“What use have I of perfumes, Imam Rahib,” she says as she greets him, “exiled, unloved and pregnant as I am? These beauties are for blossoms who seek a bee. I do not.”

Rahib replies, “Fragrance calls to mind the ‘flowering meadows of the Gardens’ in Paradise. It brings us closer to God.”

Yasmin knows better than to ask Rahib, a questionable scholar, exactly where in the Q’uran it says that, but she takes a bottle and sniffs.

Ma Faute

Top Notes: Bergamot, Floral notes, Green notes
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Vanilla

“I wonder what the reason was for naming this, My Fault?” she asks. There’s nothing to rebuke in this oriental. The flowers are lovely and the base is classic. Green notes add freshness. It’s not strong, which suits my seclusion. I will wear it now and then.”

L'Instant de Guerlain

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin
Heart Notes: Iris, Jasmine, Magnolia, Black elder, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Honey, Musk, Vanilla

Yasmin sniffs and says, “Instantly welcome, this one is. I like how the florals blend, like the honey in the base. It’s a more sophisticated and subdued oriental, suitable for someone no longer loved, like me.” Rahib sighs and wonders how he’ll ever cheer Yasmin up. Gone is the feisty captive who resisted Walad, then married him.

Sun Moon Stars

Top Notes: Pineapple, Bergamot, Freesia, Peach, Rose, Water lily
Heart Notes: Carnation, Heliotrope, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Orange blossom, Orchid
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Cedar

“Fruit creates a citrusy top note, the pineapple distinctive. Well-blended florals rise above an accomplished base. This is quite a pleasant fragrance which gets better as it dries. Thank you for bringing it,” she says.

Majda Bekkali
Fusion sacrée clair / elle

Top Notes: Coffee, Bergamot, Mandarin, Coriander, Rhubarb, Black currant
Heart Notes: Fig nectar, Gardenia, Orange blossom, Tuberose, Jasmine, Clove
Base Notes: Canadian fir, Vanilla, Tolu balsam, Heliotrope, Cedar, Amber, Musk, Patchouli

“Oh!” she cries. “This one is rare and lovely. I can tell it’s an oriental, but it departs from the norm, the dark fruits, spice and coffee creating a rich envelope for the deeply woody /balsamic base and indolic florals. It is almost a gourmand, but too special for any kitchen. I wouldn’t say it’s as lovely as the oriental grand dames, but in a crowd of beauties it would stand out.”

Habanita (1988)

Top Notes: Bergamot, Peach, Raspberry, Orange blossom
Heart Notes: Rose, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine, Iris, Lilac, Heliotrope
Base Notes: Russian leather, Vanilla, Cedarwood, Ambreine, Benzoin, Musk

Yasmin sniffs, then stares at Rahib. “Are you sure you got this from the palace?” Rahib nods. “But it smells like camel dung.” Rahib is shocked. “Sweet dung, perhaps, but dung nonetheless.” Rahib wants to point out that many ladies of the palace love it, but he knows silence is his best course. “And what is this Ambreine? Oh, an extract of cistus labdanum? That means it’s not a classic oriental and shouldn’t be in this group.” Rahib ventures a reply. “Perhaps it will grow on you?” Yasmin rolls her eyes. “Not a chance, since I’ll never wear it.” He doesn’t agree. If she were a bit more patient, she’d see it dries down to a more agreeable, if still funky, scent. However, Rahib is glad to see her vitality return.

Robert Piguet

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Neroli
Heart Notes: Bulgarian rose, Iris, Jasmine, Rosa centifolia, Violet
Base Notes: Ambergris, Musk, Vanilla, Vetiver

“Mmmm,” she says. “This one is a musty beauty, vetiver lending a bit of freshness, ambergris and musk adding a truly appealing funk to the perfect floral accord and sophisticated citrus. I do like this perfume and would wear it in my private rooms, were there a male there. It’s not very strong after a while, but suitable for closeness.” Yasmin sighs. Rahib nods sadly. If he were Walad, nothing would make him abandon Yasmin, certainly not an act which may or may not have happened in which she was guiltless, in any case.

Rochas Femme (1989)

Top Notes: Apricot, Bergamot, Peach, Plum, Rosewood, Cinnamon, Lemon
Heart Notes: Clove, Iris, Jasmine, Rose, Rosemary, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Leather, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla

“How well this fragrance makes up for its awful sister, Tocade.” she cries. “It has sweet fruit and sweet spice, bright citrus, a gorgeous floral accord, a dash of green from Rosemary and the base is made stunning with the addition of oak moss, leather and wood — not too much but in just the right proportions, the benzoin resin bright. If I wore a hat, I’d take it off in salute. This is an accomplished fragrance and so refined.”

Seeing that this is the last perfume, Yasmin eyes fill once again with sorrow. She thanks Rahib and he departs. Rahid knows Walad won’t summon him to find out how she is. In Walad’s presence, Diba must whisper (somewhat loudly) an inquiry about Yasmin and Rahib must report in a loud whisper about the trip. That’s all Walad’s wounded ego will allow.

That night, Yasmin lay in her chambers, the night wind billowing the curtains and refreshing her skin. She dozes and does not see a shape rise onto the balcony, silhouetted in the moonlight, or see a man hide himself behind a pillar and gaze longingly upon her. Heavy with child, she groans and turns in her sleep. The man yearns to touch the stomach swollen with his seed. He remains until the first light of dawn then, leaving a single bottle, departs.

Roja Parfums

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime
Heart Notes: Carnation, Geranium, Jasmine, Orange blossom, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Ambergris, Cedarwood, Labdanum, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vanilla, Vetiver

Yasmin wakes and sees that Rahib has forgotten a bottle of perfume. It sits on a note and she reads it. “Beautiful one, I am your slave.” Her heart leaps (as roused hearts tend to do). Is it from Walad? Has he forgiven her? She sniffs and says aloud, “Classic chypre and classic oriental accords combine in a nice enough fragrance that on my skin vanishes like a new dawn.”
Part 5 - Orientals with no Amber 9 years ago

Howdah or Haudaj


Now to explore the orientals without amber, but first the story.

Servants the world over are of the opinion they know more than their masters. In this case, it is true. When Diba hears Fizur’s sad report of Yasmin's unhappiness, Diba unintentionally says out loud, “It’s all the Valide Sultan’s fault.” Fizur says, “What is”? Diba makes an excuse and changes the subject. Silently she considers the tangled web woven by the Valide Sultan. First in the harem, countermanding Walad’s order that the women protect themselves from pregnancy in advance, preferably by drinking a tea of thistle. Stoneweed could be used as well, but at risk the sterility would be permanent. On the rare nights Walad chose a new, unprotected female, he expected them to drink thyme or ginger root tea for several days, or eat wild carrot seeds to prevent implantation.

What a terrible choice this left the harem women. Obey the Valide Sultan, become pregnant, and risk Walad’s all-too-handy scimitar, or obey Walad and risk his mother’s crocodiles. In the end, they all chose to obey their Sultan and take anti-pregnancy herbs. Compelled to hide this fact, they allowed the Valide Sultan to believe her son was infertile.

As a result, the entire harem has figured the scandal out. The Valide Sultan must have hired some rascal (for who else would do such a thing?) to secretly impregnate Yasmin, but he’d been interrupted, thank goodness, or so they thought.

Only one person knoww the truth—Diba and the unknown intruder. Diba alone had attended her mistress that awful night and seen evidence of a mating. Thanks to Diba, it was gone when Yasmin and Walad awoke, but either he or a stranger could be the father of Yasmin’s child.

A week after giving birth, Diba, her new babe in arms, insists on traveling to Yasmin’s palace. Fizur begs leave of Walad to protect his family on the journey. Naturally, they bring new perfumes.

Ann Gérard
Perle de Mousse

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Pink pepper, Bergamot, Mandarin, Galbanum, Ivy
Heart Notes: Lily-of-the-valley, Hawthorn, Bulgarian rose, Clove, Jasmine, Gardenia
Base Notes: Mastic resin, Ambergris, Musk, Vanilla

The baby asleep, Diba spends time alone with her mistress. “Such a beautiful child you and Fizur have and you look so well, Diba,” Yasmin says. “What perfumes have you brought me?” Diba replies, “this is a group without amber. Another resin stands in for it. Otherwise, they are proper orientals. Try this one.” Yasmin sniffs. “It has ambergris as well as musk and it’s lovely but that seems to be the norm with orientals. Their beautiful core accord is hard to ruin, though some designers do manage.”

Shalimar Fourreau du Soir

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Cedar, Lemon, Citruses
Heart Notes: Iris, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose, Vetiver
Base Notes: Leather, Musk, Opoponax, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Frankincense, Civet

Diba says, “This is the fragrance our author searched for because it resembles the first oriental, Bouquet Opoponax, from the latter 1800”s. They share Opoponax, Vanilla, Lemon, Bergamot, Mandarin, Patchouli, Civet, Egyptian jasmine, Rose de mai.” Yasmin sniffs. “I am trying to make my nose subtract the cedar, iris, leather, musk, frankincense and vetiver, which is hard to do, but I do detect the citrus, the jasmine and rose, the patchouli and civet, the vanilla and opoponax. It is the delicious oriental accord: citrus-floral-resin-vanilla-animalic. In this fragrance it is deepened by leather, cedar, musk and frankincense. A man could wear this oriental, as well as a confident, mysterious woman. Yet again I note how leather and wood can mute a fragrance’s potency if not handled perfectly and that’s what happens here. The top note is strong and beautiful. The drydown is hypnotic and sophisticated, but soon not strong.”
La Route d'Emeraude (2012)

Top Notes: Bergamot, Rose oil, Cinnamon
Heart Notes: Jasmine sambac, Moroccan jasmine absolute, Orange blossom, Tuberose
Base Notes: Ambergris, Benzoin, Vanilla, Musk

Diba says, “Our author already has this one, too, so she’s biased.” I point out that an author must be capable of suspending her own opinions and looking at things through the character’s eyes or, in this case, nose. Yasmin sniffs. “Oh, I remember this from our Jasmine Sniff Fest. I think I loved it then, didn’t I?” I nod and remind her she was hypnotized. “But now that my nose is smarter, author, I’m not sure it sweeps me away as much.” I point out that, together, we have encountered and reencountered the oriental accord, which was new to us then. To me, this oriental’s jasmine emphasis still appeals.

Ted Lapidus
Lapidus Woman

Top Notes: Bergamot, Freesia
Heart Notes: Cyclamen, Jasmine, Orange blossom
Base Notes: Ambergris, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla

This is another oriental on the lighter side, underscoring the many notes required for a passionate reek—particularly lots of amber. This has no amber, but the other notes make it beautiful. Yasmin sniffs. “It’s so, so beautiful. I love the freshness of freesia and cyclamen against the voluptuous rest.” Me, too. It’s captivating.

Revlon / Charles Revson

Top Notes: Bergamot, Raspberry, Neroli, Lemon
Heart Notes: Rosewood, Iris, Jasmine, Palma rosa, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Leather, Musk, Opoponax, Frankincense, Vanilla, Cedarwood

“Have you changed your mind about this one, author, since you bought it?” Not only do I feel the same about this potent treasure, I bought two back-up bottles. Spraying it on, I wonder how to even describe delicious Ciara. In spite of its fewer notes and the absence of amber, it really belongs among the powerhouse orientals. Ciara is a to-die-for fragrance that lasts and lasts. It is femininity made irresistible. Yasmin, whose charms have been quite well resisted by Walad, refuses to put it on. She walks to her balcony and quietly weeps among the billowing curtains. Poor girl. I’ll have to think of something!

Gloria Vanderbilt

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Pineapple, Bergamot, Green notes, Lavender, Orange blossom
Heart Notes: Carnation, Orris root, Jasmine, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Musk, Opoponax, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Civet, Cinnamon

“This one’s spicy from cinnamon, but it can't hold a candle to Ciara. Here, try it,” Diba says and takes the bottle to Yasmin, who sniffs. "This is another agreeable oriental among the many I've smelled. It has less voluptuousness and more distinction, I'd say. In the drydown, civet is noticeable, though. If I hadn't smelled the others, I'd say a genius created it," but it's not as good as La Route d'Emeraude, or apparently Ciara, much less the powerhouses."
Next day, there is a commotion outside the palace and Yasmin hears camel bells. She goes to her balcony and sees a grand caravan approach, its many beasts richly laden, someone important in a canopied haudaj on the main camel’s back. She cannot see who it is but the palace guard lets the caravan in. Yasmin returns to her room and moments later the door opens. The Valide Sultan enters, attendants still brushing off sand from her traveling garments.

With no greeting, Yasmin’s mother-in-laws sits, demands a cup of water, stares at Yasmin’s pregnant stomach as she drinks and says, “When?!”

“Any day,” Yasmin replies.

The Valide Sultan says, “I am here to witness the birth and ensure Walad accepts your child.”

Diba, who knows all, scowls at Yasmin’s scheming mother-in-law. Because of her, Walad’s and Yasmin’s happiness has flown.
Last edited by ScentFan on 14.07.2014, 22:46; edited 1 time in total
Part 6 - Orientals with no Jasmine 9 years ago


Now to explore perfumes that have no Jasmine. First, the story.

That night, Yasmin again dreams of a man on her balcony. She wakes, sits up and sees a shadowy figure start to flee.” Curiosity overcoming her fear, she calls, “Wait! Don’t go. Tell me who you are.” The shadow stops, but does not speak. Yasmin rises and makes her way to the curtains. With a guard always outside her door, she must only scream for help. “If you will not tell me who you are, at least let me see you.” She pushes aside the layers of fabric until she sees a man. They stand, face to face, the curtains blowing around them. He looks familiar, but Yasmin doesn’t know his name. She notices he is handsome and his eyes are full of love. “Are you the stranger who came to me that night?” He nods. “What did you do to me?” she whispers. He lowers his head then raises it. “I made you mine.” Yasmin sobs and he comes to her. At long last Prince Ahmed’s hands touch the swollen belly that nurtures his child. He explains he’s loved her since he first saw her. To him, she is the most stunning woman on earth. Yasmin says, “You have ruined my life. Why? Why?” Thinking of his sister, Prince Ahmed knows he can’t explain until she’s safe. “Who are you?” Yasmin insists, “A thief, a swindler?” He embraces her. “I am no thief, unless adoring the moonlight robs it of its splendor.” Before she can reply, he kisses her. Yasmin knows she should pull away, or call the guard, but it feels right to be in his arms. He puts his lips to her ear and whispers, “Do not stay in exile, Yasmin. Your husband should not banish you for a sin that is not yours. That isn’t love.” Yasmin has been thinking the same thing herself. Their kisses enflame them. He leads her to her bed and carefully, ardently makes love to Yasmin, except this time she is fully conscious, willing, and already carrying his child.

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Diba, suddenly awake, goes to her balcony and sees a man descending from Yasmin’s, hears him say, “I will return for you day after tomorrow. You will come to my palace. You will be mine.” Diba flies to Yasmin’s room, enters and stops. She listens as Yasmin on her balcony weeps long, lost tears into the night.
Annick Goutal
Les Nuits d'Hadrien

Top Notes: Artemisia, Green mandarin, Sicilian bergamot
Heart Notes: Basil, Caraway, Juniper, Cypress
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla

Next day, when Diba enters with more perfumes, she brings the young girl who has been in the Valide Sultan’s retinue since just before that awful night. Her name is Havva, Persian for Eve. She’s the young sister of Prince Ahmed, heir to a neighboring kingdom not yet conquered by Walad. Prince Ahmed has managed to make peace with Walad. He was even invited to Walad’s and Yasmin’s wedding. In truth, both are formidable warriors. The two men do not want to fight. Diba introduces the girl to Yasmin, who stares at her, surprised. All night has she not looked into similar eyes?

“I am not used to smelling perfumes, my Sultana,” Havva says, but to me this has no flowers at all. Yasmin smiles at the girl, twelves years old at most. Can her seducer/lover be Havva’s brother, Prince Ahmed? Is that who fathered her child and plans to kidnap her tomorrow? How did Havva come to be in the Valide Sultan’s retinue? Stunned, Yasmin focuses on the perfume. “It has an oriental’s citrus top note and amber-musk-vanilla base. Instead of florals, it has green spices and woods. Unusual. A man could wear it or a woman who wants to smell fragrant, but not sweet.”

Flower by Kenzo

Top Notes: Ginger, Lychee, Mandarin, Violet
Heart Notes: Camellia, Mimosa, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Patchouli, Vanilla, Frankincense, White musk

“Oh, how very lovely,” Yasmin says, thinking of Ahmed. “Gentle florals, too sweet to resist. Noble resin, exotic fruit. I cannot help but surrender to you.”

Diba frowns, fearful of what may have happened last night. She stares suspiciously at Havva whose sudden appearance preceded the scandalous intrusion. Was her brother, Prince Ahmed, the seducer? Did he return last night? Did Yasmin welcome him? Even if Yasmin flees with Ahmed, Sultan Walad will not just shrug and let it pass for the same reason he didn’t force Yasmin to eat carrot seeds or drink thyme to end a possible pregnancy. The odds favor that Yasmin is carrying the Sultan’s child, not an intruder’s. He and everyone else is waiting to see who the child looks like.

Narciso Rodriguez
For Her (Eau de Toilette)

Havva smells this and quickly hands it to Yasmin. “Is this not for a wanton woman, an adulteress? Someone who seeks to seduce?” Yasmin blinks. As of last night, that is who she is — an adulteress, and a pregnant one to boot. According to Walad’s Q’uran she should be lashed with a hundred stripes, or is it a thousand? Many a non-Zoroastrian husband would kill her and feel justified. How has she come to this?” Yasmin smells the sultry perfume. “It is incomparable. I would wear this only on a moonlit night in which my love comes to me in passion.” Havva smiles and says, “Then I will wear it on my wedding night.” Diba frowns. “Wedding night, not wedding day,” she adds.

A knock at the door and the guard announces Yasmin’s parents, Ara and Freni, come for their daily visit. “I have a surprise for you,” Ara tells Yasmin after they greet. “Yes, Pedar,” she says in Persian. “You need an outing, daughter. I’ve arranged a picnic at a nearby oasis. Do not worry. You will have a houdah and the ride is short. The midwife will come, too, but she says you are not yet close to your time. It will be good for you.”

Yasmin’s heart sinks (like hearts do in disappointment). She can think of no objection. Yet tomorrow Ahmed will come and find her gone.

Far away, Walad is unsettled. Practically his whole household has gone to see Yasmin. He feels like the banished one, rather than she. He summons his army on pretense of a challenge in the area, asks his friend, Imam Rahib to join him, and swiftly rides towards Yasmin’s palace.
Part 7 - Orientals with no citrus, 1 9 years ago

Oasis -oasis-echoes-of-eden-101210.htm


Behind my back, the characters call a secret meeting that night. The agenda? They worry about the likely outcomes of the plot. The Valide Sultan points out that if her son isn’t sterile and Yasmin carries his child, running off with Prince Ahmed is unthinkable. Yasmin rises angrily to her feet and retorts that it’s all the Valide Sultan’s fault that she even knows Ahmed. The Valide Sultan humphs and sits down. Prince Ahmed says it’s unacceptable to him, too, that if Yasmin’s carrying his child, she remain with Sultan Walad. Walad rises and states he hasn’t liked this sniff fest tale from the start. Ara, Yasmin’s father, agrees. I am insulted, but I do not say so. However, neither Yasmin nor Walad are prepared to give Yasmin up. Yasmin says there’s theoretically a solution. Sultans may have many wives, right? Why not sultanas many husbands? Everyone gasps at the scandalous remark. Yasmin says it was just a thought, but she is getting a bit sick of being a pawn. She thinks of dynamiting both of Walad’s palaces, but does not say so. Ahmed’s too, but I inform her dynamite wasn’t invented yet. Havva declares that Yasmin must be a harlot to suggest such a thing and Prince Ahmed tells his little sister to shut her mouth. Freni, Yasmin’s mother, thinks the only crucial question is: who’s the father of the child? Seeing their impasse, I interrupt and ask them to please resume their places in the story. All will work out. Grumbling, they do, grabbing perfumes without citrus.

Accord 119

Top Notes: Jasmine, Currant blossom
Heart Notes: Blackberry, Patchouli, Black pepper
Base Notes: Amber, Heliotrope, Musk, Vanilla

There’s no citrus and therefore it’s not a classic oriental. Havva sniffs this when she’s alone and thinks: I suppose they’re going to tell me it’s too old for me, but I like it. Only Ahmed and the Valide Sultan know his sister, Havva, is really 14 going on 15, not 12. They had to fib because older girls are rarely brought into royal service, except to the harem. Havva likes this perfume and thinks about Walad, a handsome sultan who deserves a better sultana than Yasmin. Havva has always suspected the reason for her arrival at the palace had something to do with her smitten brother, Prince Ahmed. Was he the intruder that awful night? A welcome intruder?

Infini (1970)

Top: Jasmine, Narcissus, Lily of the Valley Aldehydes
Mid: Iris, Lilac, Tuberose, Rose.
Base: Vetyver, Musk, Sandalwood, Amber, Tonka Bean

It’s almost dawn when Walad, his army and his friend, Imam Rahib, approach Yasmin’s palace. As they come upon an oasis Walad sees what looks like a royal caravan. Thinking it must be Yasmin, out on a journey, he retrieves an especially nice perfume he found. It has vetiver instead of citrus, tonka instead of vanilla, but the flowers create the kind of rich intoxication Yasmin adores. He remembers she often doesn’t like the lily/iris combo, but here the other florals take the lead, narcissus in particular. He loves the scent and knows she will, too. He gallops ahead of the others toward the central tent.


Top Notes: Aniseed, Coriander, Orange honey, Plum, Pimento, Rosewood, Wild berries
Heart Notes: Carnation, Jasmine, Neroli, Opoponax, Rose, Tuberose, Frankincense, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Amber, Heliotrope, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Cedar

Prince Ahmed is not sure what perfumes Yasmin prefers, but he has brought this one. Fruit and spice stand in for citrus, otherwise it’s also a classic oriental, opoponax and frankincense adding resinous appeal. Yet somehow it avoids being overly sweet. In early dawn he wakes, hearing what sounds like many camels and horses. Looking out of his tent, he recognizes Walad’s army thundering toward the oasis. Fortunately, Ahmed has brought his own army, fearing pursuit when he kidnapped Yasmin, but how did Walad find out already? He wakes his sleeping encampment with a battle cry.

Walad raises his hand to halt his men, surprised at the commotion in the oasis. He watches as a Persian battle line forms: archers in back with enough range to reach them, the javelins next and in front horsemen. What prince could mount such an army and why is it encamped near Yasmin’s palace? Only Prince Ahmed’s realm is near and Walad has heard of no threats from him.

Back at Yasmin’s palace the gates open. Her father, Ara, has decided they should leave before dawn for their picnic at the oasis. In her hawdaj (houdah), Yasmin worries. What will Ahmed think when he arrives and finds her gone? She settles into the pillowed seat, pulls the curtain, and lets the motion of her camel lull her back to sleep.

I suspect the characters didn’t turn in last night but secretly planned this immediate crisis. Fair enough. What love story isn’t improved by the threat of battle?

Of these perfumes with no citrus, I like Caron Infini the best. It’s the definition of sultry gorgeousness. Walad knows his sultana better than Ahmed does.
Part 7 - Orientals with no bergamot, 2 9 years ago

As is the custom, Sultan Walad and Prince Ahmed, send one rider out to ask, in this case: are you about to attack me with your army? The riders return with the same answer: your presence here is a surprise. I have no hostile intentions. Walad’s rider reports one additional fact. In Prince Ahmed’s caravan is a luxuriously-draped camel with a regal hawdaj, obviously meant for a woman of royal blood who would certainly not accompany an army intending to attack. Perhaps Prince Ahmed’s fighters are only meant for defense? Walad thinks Ahmed has quite a lot of defense given that no one in the region could threaten an army half that size. Unable to make sense of things, Walad orders his men to make camp. He will watch. He will follow Ahmed to see what’s going on.

Ahmed, in despair, watches Walad’s army set up its tents. Now he can’t sneak off to kidnap Yasmin.

An hour later, Yasmin’s caravan appears on the horizon. Yasmin recognizes the colors of Walad. Ara, her father, recognizes the colors of Prince Ahmed. Yasmin, who is still a Sultana, orders her own caravan to stop and make camp. “Perhaps your husband has come for you, my daughter,” Ara says. She doesn’t reply. To hide her terror she sniffs perfumes.

Parfum Sacré

Top Notes: Clove, Cardamom, Coriander, Pepper, Cinnamon, Lemon
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Mimosa, Orange blossom, Rosewood, Rose
Base Notes: Amber, Musk, Myrrh, Vanilla, Cedar, Civet

“So delicate, so hypnotically beautiful.” I explain that lemon take the place of bergamot. Sweet spice and a distinct note of pepper usher in the heavily indolic floral/rosewood heart. The base is luxurious, myrrh adding its incense to the sexy musk/civet combo. I ask Yasmin if she intends to buy every beautiful perfume she finds and she stares at me as if she doesn’t understand the question. Of course she must own it. What if she wakes in the night, dreaming of it? How horrid if it were not there to put on her skin. As we talk, a faint desert wind wafts the scent to the caravans of Ahmed and Walad, who only now realize the distant caravan must be Yasmin’s. On the day he married her, Walad secretly forbid the women of his realm to wear such perfumes. Only his new bride would be richly scented.

Walad mounts his horse and with his friend Imam Rahib beside him, begins to ride toward Yasmin’s caravan.


Top Notes: Dog rose, Jasmine, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Orange blossom, Pepper, Brazilian rosewood, Citruses
Heart Notes: Spices, Carnation, Osmanthus, Rose, Ylang-ylang, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Amber, Siam benzoin, Gaiac wood, Patchouli, Sandalwoods

Having noticed her fondness for perfumes, Ahmed has brought several for Yasmin, including this peppery delight. His night of love with her has only inflamed his desire and he dreams of the day when she, no longer pregnant, can be fully his. This spicey/woody scent has no vanilla or bergamot to mute its dry appeal. Distracted by sniffing, he doesn’t at first see Walad and Rahib depart.

Grain de Soleil (no musk or Bergamot)

Notes: Amber, Heliotrope, Iris, Jasmine, Orange blossom, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Frankincense, Cinnamon

Ahmed is certain she’ll like this perfume. It smells a little like Yasmin did night before last. He feels angry that Walad still perfumes her though he banished her. Ahmed tries to ignore his unspoken lingering fear. What if the child is Walad’s and not his? When they married, months of agony ensued as Ahmed tried not to picture Walad making love to her. In Admed's heart, Yasmin was his on sight. His hopes rose when she didn’t conceive and rumor spread that she was infertile. If so, would Walad abandon her? What joy Ahmed felt when the Valide Sultan arrived with her proposal that Ahmed secretly impregnate the very woman for whom he yearned. Noting that this fragrance has a pleasant hint of caramel in the dry down, Ahmed looks up and sees Walad and Imam Rahib.


Top Notes: Mandarin, Neroli, Peach, Plum, Rosewood, Violet
Heart Notes: Gardenia, Carnation, Jasmine, Cassia, Mimosa, Orchid, Black locust, Rose, Red berries, Black currant, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Woody notes, Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedar

In her tent, Yasmin is so anxious that she deeply inhales this perfume then coughs. “Oh, eww!” she says to Diba. What is this? Camel piss? That’s what it smells like.” Diba sniffs, too. “Pew!” she says. She takes the bottle and hides it before Yasmin hurls it at someone. Diba thinks Yasmin should be more circumspect since Givenchy is a famous label and many women surely like Amarige. She has no real hope of convincing her to mute her reactions, though. Yasmin is passionate, as attested by her heedless act. She has given herself not to one man, but two, and seems no worse for it. In fact she’s been glowing ever since. Now both Diba and her mistress are having fits of nerves with both men encamped so near — Yasmin for obvious reasons, and Diba because she secretly knows all. Surely something bad must happen.


Top Notes: Bulgarian rose, Clove, Iris, Jasmine
Heart Notes: Pear, Blackberry, Black currant leaf
Base Notes: Amber, Bourbon vanilla, Mysore sandalwood, White musk

“Try this, mistress,” Diba says and hands the bottle to Yasmin who sprays it on her hand, sniffs and says, “That’s better! The black currant leaf is a bit strong, but otherwise this is wonderful. In fact, I think I’m getting used to it. The fruit makes it a bit sweet, but at least the camels haven’t gotten to it.” They laugh, Yasmin peering out the tent flap toward the oasis.
Amytis Parfum Fin

Top Notes: Heliotrope, Coriander, Almond
Heart Notes: Love-lies-bleeding, Honey, Jasmine, Vanilla
Base Notes: Praliné, Violet, Musk, Amber, Patchouli, Woody notes

“Is this perfume or food?” Yasmin asks as she sniffs. Immediately I smell almond and pralines, honey and vanilla, too.” Diba says, “It must be a gourmand. Do you like it?” Yasmin smiles. “Ah, this perfume is named after the woman Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon created the hanging gardens for. I’m not sure I love it, but I do like it. The woods and florals rescue it. The musk and amber add deep warmth.”
Serge Lutens
Chypre rouge

Top Notes: Pine needle, Thyme
Heart Notes: Beeswax, Honey, Jasmine
Base Notes: Amber, Moss, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla

“Why do they call it a chypre when it has no labdanum or citrus?” Yasmin asks. “Can oak moss and musk alone be sufficient? This, too, has a gourmand character because of the honey and vanilla though the pine and thyme balance it. But with only Jasmine as a floral it can’t match the many grand orientals here. It’s a pleasantly interesting fragrance, but for me not more.”

Yasmin’s mouth drops open. Through the tent flap she sees Walad and the Imam Rahib riding toward her and behind them Prince Ahmed in as furious a pursuit as the sand dunes allow. In distress, she cries out and collapses.

Sonoma Scent Studio
Lieu de Reves

Aldehydes, Amber, Heliotrope, Iris, Jasmine, Musk, Rose, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Violet, Vetiver, Cedar

Diba holds a final perfume to Yasmin’s nose in hopes of reviving her. Diba thinks she’d faint, too, in Yasmin’s shoes. Two lovers approaching with two armies? Ahmed seems determined to intercept Walad. Does Walad even suspect what has happened? What will he do when he finds out? Yasmin wakes and says, “Thank you for reviving me with such a lovely scent, one of the best of today. It smells authentic, beautifully blended. I adore the violet note.”
Yasmin’s parents, responding to her cry, enter the tent and go to their daughter, unaware of the drama about to unfold.
Part 8 - Simpler Orientals with Oakmoss, 1 9 years ago

Once again, the characters meet behind my back. Freni, Yasmin’s mother whispers, “Do you know what our author intends to write?” She tells them and they are outraged, all except Yasmin who looks bored and wonders when she can ride her horse again. I interrupt and point out that I am not the author of this plot. Yes, I thought the characters up, but they’ve been telling the story ever since. Besides, the next development is obvious! “Not to me!” Yasmin’s father insists. Walad and Ahmed say nothing. Instead, each privately inquires of me if they’ll be allowed to murder the other soon and I reply that, since we haven’t arrived at that scene, yet, how can I possibly know? I glare until they return to the story.

*Chloé (1975)

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Lilac, Honeysuckle, Hyacinth, Coconut, Orange blossom, Peach, Ylang-ylang
Heart Notes: Carnation, Orris root, Jasmine, Narcissus, Rose, Tuberose
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Musk, Sandalwood, Cedar

Apparently, I have to take over the sniffing since perfume will be the last thing on the characters’ minds in a bit. Good grief! The 1975 version of Chloe is so sultry, so mesmerizing that words are almost pointless — like trying to analyze the Mona Lisa. Let me just say that the 10 florals here smell superb together. Coconut lends a surprising tropical-airiness, just enough oxygen so the wearer doesn’t pass out on first sniff. When I’m done with sniff tests, I intend to set up a rotation — two different fragrances per day — to make sure I re-experience each of these heady glories. Who in the world created this? No doubt some shameless sensualist like me, reveling in any redolence that floats past her nose, any perfection of vintage wine that finds her tongue, any ethereal aria that vibrates her ear, any paradisal garden she’d gladly gaze upon forever, any…okay, that’s enough. For a nose that seeks delight, Chloe is one.

Realizing Yasmin and her family have left the palace and feeling suspicious, the Valide Sultan organizes a caravan of her own and brings along young Havva who, hating camels, throws up over its side then moans in her swaying hawdaj. Soon enough they near the oasis and the Valide Sultan is startled to see three encampments. Her son’s, Prince Ahmed’s and Yasmin’s. Her breath stops in fear of what could happen if these three meet. Her plot could be discovered. Her son, Sultan Walad, might feed her to her own crocodiles. As she gets nearer still, she sees that Walad is riding toward Yasmin’s camp and Ahmed is making chase. Can she reach them in time? The Valide Sultan orders her camel pullers to make extreme haste. In her hawdaj, Havva throws up nonstop, camel-sick.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Spices, Coriander, Neroli, Orange
Heart Notes: Clove, Jasmine, Narcissus, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Cedar, Civet

Tabu is another name that put me off trying the fragrance, like Opium did. Something in me resists dramatic names for perfume. I want the scent itself to speak. Am I as wrong about Tabu as I was about Opium? First sniff. The vintage EdC. Oh, good grief. I was wrong, wrong, wrong! To my nose, this is a carrot on a stick. Open the bottle near me and I’ll follow it anywhere. It is slightly less delightful on my skin, though. I think the Coriander with the Civet create just a tad too much funk, but heck, there are times when this sort of thing is practically mandatory. Now I see why they called it Tabu. However, it’s obvious, like a dress that shows too much skin. No mistaking what’s on the wearer’s mind. Me, I prefer an olfactory hint of things to come rather than the brazen nakedness of such a scent, fabulous though it is. Now to try the current Tabu. Hmmm. No point in discussing it. Let’s move on.

Seeing his mother’s approach, Walad stops riding. Unfortunately this permits Prince Ahmed to catch up. Within sight of Yasmin’s camp, Prince Ahmed dismounts and, scimitar drawn, rushes toward Walad. Fizur, Diba’s husband and Walad’s faithful guard, doesn’t believe his eyes — someone rushing to murder his sultan? Grabbing his own scimitar he rushes from his tent, raising a battle yell to distract Prince Ahmed. The yell also alerts Ara, Yasmin’s father, who also grabs a scimitar and rushes out to discover and confront the unknown danger. The yell alerts Walad as well, who’d been oblivious to Ahmed’s approach and is so startled to find himself under immediate attack that he uncharacteristically hesitates. The men converge so quickly, some are unsure of who is attacking whom. Of the five, only the Imam Rahib is not a fighter, but he has pledged his life to his boyhood friend, Walad. As Prince Ahmed’s sword descends, Rahib steps in front of Walad and takes the blade. Fortunately, it pierces the Qu’ran Rahib holds against his chest.
Emanuel Ungaro

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Cardamom, Coriander, Mandarin, Tuberose
Heart Notes: Orris root, Jasmine, Narcissus, Carnation, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Honey, Iris, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Civet

The vintage EdT doesn’t work as well for me as the best orientals here. Something creates a distinct stank in the top note but it does die down as the heart florals rise. The base is complicated and I have the sense some elements cancel out the others. Overall Diva feels more dated than Chloe, for instance, and less beautiful. It’s good, though, and I’d wear it again, if not swiftly.

Elsewhere at the oasis all is in chaos. Both armies, seeing the trouble, are marching to the defense of their commanders, Ahmed and Walad.

Fizur has snatched the blade from Ahmed’s hand and Ara—not wanting to see Ahmed, a kinsman Persian prince, die—swiftly does the same with Walad. Unarmed the two men attack each other with fists, as the air reverberates with the thunder of their two approaching armies.

Outside her tent next to Diba Yasmin stands, hands to her face. Her hearts pounds. Her mind reels. What has she done? In moments the armies will be here and nothing will prevent a bloodbath. But which death would her soul mourn? Ahmed’s or Walad’s.

Estée Lauder
*Youth Dew

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Lavender, Narcissus, Orange, Peach, Rose
Heart Notes: Spices, Cassia, Clove, Carnation, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Orchid, Ylang-ylang, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vanilla, Vetiver, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, Musk, Frankincense

The vintage EdP is initially a sweet, sweet concoction of florals and spice with a little fruit. However, the base complicates things considerably with disparate notes. No deft blending here. Ultimately, it creates a stank that for me doesn’t work.

In agony, the Valide Sultan watches her son fight the man who fathered Yasmin’s child. What has happened? Where did Prince Ahmed come from? Does Walad know the truth? He must or why this fighting? Then she realizes it is Prince Ahmed who must have betrayed her. Learning of Yasmin’s whereabouts, he must have decided to try to see her and possess again what he had that night. Incredible that he would risk not only himself, but his sister, Havva. The Valide Sultan glares at the puking Havva, wanting to instantly drown her in the oasis. Ahmed promised to stay away, but he hasn’t. The Valide Sultan tells her caravan to make camp then she orders the caravan master to her side and gives him instructions. Perhaps Walad will kill Ahmed before he has a chance to speak, but she must stop this slaughter about to occur. In her grand hawdaj, the Valide Sultan rides into the breach between the fighting rulers and their oncoming men.


Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Cardamom, Coriander, Mandarin, Rosewood, Lemon
Heart Notes: Carnation, Geranium, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Ylang-ylang, Cypress
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Spices, Leather, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedar

Ah, an oriental that’a pure classy sophistication! What a beautifully-blended treat of exotic citrus, mellow spice, sedately lovely florals and a base as complex as Youth Dew’s except this one rocks. Fendi is a scent that works in daytime or at night. Hope to find an FB of this discontinued work of art.

At the sight of a lone woman in their path, a roar arises from the charging armies. Such a great clatter commences of reigning in of horses and camels, shouting, banging of spears and shields against one another as they try to halt the charge, that Walad and Ahmed stop their fisticuffs to see what’s going on. A cloud of dust obscures the dunes below, but soon they make out their many soldiers, brought to a halt only feet from a camel, grandly clothed. Atop it—Walad can’t believe his eyes—stands his mother, her arms held out to stop the men. Walad runs toward her.

Prince Ahmed takes this opportunity to run toward Yasmin’s tent, but just outside of it Ara, her father, intercepts. Why is this prince trying to make contact with his daughter? Ara holds Ahmed at bay with a scimitar. With its tip, Ara invites Ahmed to join him in his tent. Ahmed has no option but to comply. First he sends a runner to command his army to return to their camp.

Walad has done the same. When he reaches his mother, they exchange greetings. “Good to see you, mother.” She replies, “Good to see you, son.” Walad sends the caravan master away and, grateful for what his mother has done, becomes her camel-puller and resumes his journey to Yasmin. It gives him time to think. Why did Ahmed try to kill him? Why did he bring an army here? Why does his army travel with a hawdaj for a royal woman? Walad’s heart shields his mind from the answers.
Part 8 - Simpler Orientals with Oakmoss, 2 9 years ago
OAKMOSS (continued)

Unable to sleep, Walad returns in the night and paces outside Yasmin’s tent. He has lost the battle against his love for her. Silently he enters the tent and lies beside her, stroking her arm until she wakes. “Yasmin, I forgive you,” he says. “I seek my rights as your husband.” Since she makes no objection he proceeds. In the dark he cannot see the tears that fill her eyes. Rebuked by her silence he leaves when it’s over. Sorrowfully Yasmin rises and bathes under the moonlight. Hearing sounds, she grows afraid. A figure appears. A servant, a soldier? She draws the bath sheets around her. Someone whispers, “Yasmin, it is I, Ahmed.” Suddenly he is there, his arms reaching out for her. “Now is the time,” he says. “Do you love me?” Yasmin nods and embraces him. He hands her shift to her, she puts it on, then he lifts her onto his horse. Not allowed to ride, Yasmin smiles. She is strong and didn’t need a hawdaj just because she is pregnant. Ahmed says, “We’ll take the long way so we’re not seen. We’ll go slowly.” It is nearly dawn when they reach Ahmed’s camp, she riding, Ahmed leading the horse. All is packed for departure, but Yasmin begs to sleep, if for only an hour. His army on guard, Ahmed agrees and, unable to resist, lies with her. This time, there are no tears in Yasmin’s eyes. [In fact she dreams of a television show called The Bachelorette and wonders what all the fuss is about.]

Liz Claiborne
Liz Claiborne

Top Notes: Bergamot, Freesia, Carnation, Green notes, Lily, Mandarin, Peach, Pot marigold
Heart Notes: Lilac, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Narcissus, Rose, Tuberose, Violet, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes: Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Sandalwood

How did this one get in here? Oh, right. The notes say it’s a near-classic oriental, given its bergamot-jasmine-amber-musk accord, missing only vanilla. However, I’ve finally discovered what’s making some perfumes smell putrid like this does. It’s the Lily. It’s also in Sisley’s Soir de Lune, in Tocade, White Diamonds, Yavana, Youth Dew — none of which I like. They all have oak moss too. However, some of my favorite orientals do as well: Bijan Women, First, Fendi, Metal, Creation, L’Arte di Gucci. Apparently, it’s a matter of skill. At least I know now to approach cautiously if i see lily and oak moss among the notes.

Also unable to sleep, Ara, Yasmin’s father, wanders past her tent in the early morning, peeps in, and finding her gone instinctively knows Prince Ahmed has taken her. He must have been the intruder that first terrible night. It’s still too dark to see Ahmed’s encampment clearly, but Ara thinks they’re packed to leave. Outraged, he orders horses saddled, wakes the others, and together they ride toward Ahmed’s camp to rescue Yasmin, Fizur riding fast in the other direction to alert Walad that Ahmed has kidnapped his pregnant wife. The Valide Sultan, unable to stop what’s about to occur, keeps Havva near, determined to get revenge on Ahmed.
Paco Rabanne
La Nuit
(no amber, musk or vanilla)

Top Notes: Artemisia, Bergamot, Cardamom, Myrtle, Tangerine, Lemon
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Pepper, Peach, Rose
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Leather, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Civet

In spite of lacking the oriental base entirely (amber, musk, vanilla) La Nuit beautifully previews the final category, which is orientals with woods but no musk. Here, peach and cardamom make up for vanilla’s sweetness. Civet provides the animalic and oak moss the resinous note. La Nuit is a delightful fragrance, brighter than the classic oriental, but still sultry and luxurious. Noses could do worse than to smell this and the swoon-worthy L’Arte di Gucci back to back.

Because it is nearer, Fizur reaches Walad first and together they get to Ahmed’s camp first. They dismount at a distance and stealthily approach the sole remaining tent. Walad pulls back the flap and is horrified to see Ahmed and Yasmin embracing. Shouting, “I will kill you both!” he reaches for his scimitar, but Fizur is faster. He takes it, not wanting to see his lovely sultana die. From the hints his wife Diba has been dropping, Fizur senses these events are not entirely Yasmin’s fault. He asks, “Shouldn’t you call an inquest first, Sultan Walad?” Walad stalks out of the tent. Ahmed’s army is awake now, but Walad’s has followed him and is present, too. At a standoff, they await instructions. The Imam Rahib, Walad’s friend, has also come.

Sonoma Scent Studio

Aldehydes, Bulgarian rose, Oakmoss, French beeswax, Indian patchouli, Jasmine absolute, Leather, Mimosa, Musk, Myrrh, Mysore sandalwood, Peach, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Violet, Violet leaf, Vetiver

Oakmoss stands in for amber and beeswax for bergamot in this richly intense scent. A little citrus might have helped the heavy leather-musk-woods accord, but Nostalgie is still nice as it reminds of yesteryear.

The rest arrive from Yasmin’s camp — Freni, Yasmin’s mother, knows nothing. Havva, Prince Ahmed’s sister, also knows nothing but suspects much. Walad’s mother, the Valide Sultan, as the cause of it all, knows a great deal. Only Diba, Yasmin’s maid and wife to Fizur, knows all. When Prince Ahmed is dressed, Fizur assigns three guards to him who lead him from the tent. Then Diba runs in to assist Yasmin, who is sobbing uncontrollably. Walad reenters, cursing at Yasmin. Diba stands between them so he doesn’t hurt her and stares at Walad until he leaves.

Moments later, an inquest is assembled under the palm trees on the bank of the oasis, morning sunlight glittering in the fresh water, supplied from an underground artesian spring. Present are two very frightened women—Yasmin openly and the Valide Sultan secretly. The Imam Rahib stands by, ready to judge. Prince Ahmed is only afraid of the danger to Yasmin, who respects tradition for such events by lying face down in the sand at Walad’s feet. Prince Ahmed raises his voice, “My loyal soliders, should anyone move to harm this woman, attack! Defend her unto death.” In response, Walad says to Ahmed’s guards, “If Prince Ahmed moves a muscle, slit his throat.”
Part 9 - Orientals without Musk 9 years ago


Imam Rahib speaks, intending to be thorough on this grave occasion. “We are gathered to consider a charge of zina, adultery. If proved, the penalty for a single person is 100 lashes.” He scowls at Prince Ahmed then lowers his voice and gazes compassionately at the prostrate Yasmin. “For a married person, some Qur’anic scholars say the punishment is rajm, death by stoning, but—”

The Valide Sultan, herself a better Qur’anic scholar than Rahib, states, “No one is going to stone to death a woman carrying my grandchild. Nor are they going to flog her. Besides, four witnesses are required to prove adultery. Four! You my son, and Fizur your guard are only two.”

Fizur, knowing he risks all, says. “It was dark in the tent. Forgive me, Sultan Walad, but I’m not sure what I saw.”

Angrily, Walad rises. “You lie to protect her, Fizur. You admitted to me what you saw. Also, there were two other witnesses. My wife and her lover. I daresay they will lie, too, but you forget, my mother, that when the accuser is the husband, he may simply bear witness with an oath four times before Allah. No one else need testify.”

A gasp arises from the assemblage. Everyone had forgotten that.

“I intend to swear four times,” he continues. “The only question is the penalty, 100 lashes or rajm? I myself will administer it since no other—” he glares at Ahmed — “may touch my sultana.”


Top Notes: Aldehydes, Basil, Bergamot, Brazilian rosewood, Green notes, Orange, Lemon
Heart Notes: Honey, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Carnation, Rose, Ylang-ylang, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Amber, Benzoin, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Storax, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Frankincense, Civet

Here’s a lily a girl can love. Though it blends well with the other florals, I smell it plainly, but it doesn’t disturb. Perhaps because there’s no oakmoss. With its 25 notes, Incognito is a powerhouse, giving its wearer no chance of being unrecognized, as implied by the name. The scent screams, “I’m not your run-of-the-mill sweetly-scented perfumista.” Rich greens, wonderful woods, citrus, and a touch of incense calm the sweetness. Very nice.

The Valide Sultan, thinking fast, says, “But wait. Are they repentant? ‘Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards.’ If Allah won’t punish the repentant, how can we?" Imam Rahib sighs and says, “Repentance must occur before they come before the Imam. Any scoundrel will swear repentance when facing 100 lashes, much less death.” The Valide Sultan replies with a blizzard of Qur’anic quotes to support her position.

Prince Ahmed wants to shout, “I am not repentant!” but he can’t publicly admit what he’s done without risking Yasmin. Realizing this, Yasmin lifts her face from the sand, rises and sits back on her heels. All her life she’s tried to practice the virtues of good thoughts, good words, good deeds as required by her creator, Ahura Mazda, and not to flee from life experiences, but do her duty by living fully and thereby achieving the purpose of her urvan (soul). What did this bring her? A happy childhood, wealth and beauty, Walad’s conquest, imprisonment in his harem, his wooing, becoming his wife, Ahmed’s defilement, pregnancy, becoming Ahmed’s lover. In only two did she have a voice. If these are her last hours, she will speak. “I request my right to address you, husband,” she says.

Furious, Walad delays his answer until his mother yells, “Let her speak!”

24, Faubourg
(no civet or musk)

Top Notes: Bergamot, Hyacinth, Orange, Peach, Ylang-ylang
Heart Notes: Gardenia, Iris, Jasmine, Orange blossom, Black elder
Base Notes: Amber, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla

One spray at a fragrance counter and I pulled out my credit card. Hyacinth is the star here, all else supporting it, beautifully. This is a warm and woody floral, a genius creation. Until I saw the notes and compared the smell to the two others here, nothing would have convinced me this has no animalic. On analysis, what creates its sultry beauty is a large dose of amber supporting the heavily indolic florals, the perfect woods, the freshening but non-astringent citrus, all of it sweetened by peach and vanilla. Who needs an animalic with all that? It’s my favorite in this group.

“I will not call you my sultan,” Yasmin begins. “I speak to you as your wife. You conquered my kingdom, murdered my kinsmen, made me your captive, wooed me, made me your wife. Yet I came to love you and was faithful. You know as well as I do that we were both unconscious that awful night. You saw me fall into deep sleep. Yet when I could not reassure you of what happened before we awoke, you chose to behave as if I’d wronged you when I had not.”

Walad roars, “I do not know you stayed asleep!”

“You call me a liar with no evidence? Walad, if you found me in the embrace of another man, are you not also to blame? I did nothing, but you sent me away and broke my heart.” She looks at Imam Rahib. “What does your Qur’an say about that?” Rahib begins to speak but the Valide Sultan interrupts and they exchange another volley of Qur’anic quotes.

Havva, Ahmed’s sister, peeved at her brother for misbehaving, and unaware of her own peril, loses patience. The more she sees and hears of Walad, the more she takes his side. Besides, if Prince Ahmed had joined their kingdom with Walad’s in the first place, maybe she’d be Walad’s wife. “I think Yasmin is a harlot who leads men astray! Look at the perfumes she prefers!”

Forgetting that he himself sent her the perfumes, Walad nods and begins swearing his first oath, bearing witness to Yasmin’s infidelity. To him, Havva is pure and brave to speak truth to a sultan’s power.

The Valide Sultan, who’s been meaning to drown Havva for a good while now, interrupts Walad by rising and lunging for the girl. Prince Ahmed is prevented by his three guards from interfering. No one else dares. As for Walad, only rarely does he stop his mother from doing as she pleases since her actions are always on his behalf. With mild regret, he watches her drag the struggling Havva to the oasis pool and plunge her head under the water.

Diba, a mere servant, knows her own life will be at risk if she interferes. For a moment, she thinks of her newborn baby, asleep at Yasmin’s camp. Yet what kind of a mother can she be if she doesn’t try to prevent terrible injustice? Diba cries, “Imam Rahib, I have evidence that no one else knows! Please stop the Valide Sultan because the evidence I will give is against her. She has no right to drown this girl.”

Rahib and Walad are shocked that a slave should speak so, but Rahib nods to Walad who tells Fizur to rescue Havva. With the Valide Sultan swearing oaths that she will have Fizur beheaded, he drags the dripping girl to Walad. Choking, gasping and resolving to say not another word, Havva cowers behind Walad.

Before anyone can prevent it, the Valid Sultan marches up to Diba and backhands her across the face. “Scum! How dare you say lies against me.” Walad comes, pulls his mother away, and makes her sit. He says to Diba, “Speak. If your words ring true, I will protect you. If they do not, I will allow my mother to do as she pleases with you.”
Tom Ford
Black Orchid

Top Notes: Bergamot, Gardenia, Jasmine, Mandarin, Black currant, Ylang-ylang
Heart Notes: Fruits, Spices, Lotus, Orchid
Base Notes: Ambergris, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Chocolate, Vanilla, Vetiver, Frankincense
Ambergris stands in for musk, frankincense for amber in this divine oriental. It’s closest to Incognito, but instead of green there’s chocolate. Both rely on an animalic presence that 24, Faubourg does not. However all three are keepers.
Diba drops to her knees. “Master, I swear by Allah that I speak the truth.” Walad nods. “Continue.” Shaking, Diba says. “In the harem, you gave orders that the women protect themselves from pregnancy?” He nods. “The Valide Sultan countermanded your order.” Walad looks at his mother in shock. She doesn’t meet his gaze. “But, Master,” Diba continues. “The women discussed who they should obey and voted. They chose to obey you, not your mother.” The Valide Sultan cries, “What!?” Diba continues, “When the women didn’t get pregnant, your mother thought you were sterile.” The Valide Sultan shouts, “Silence, wretch!” Walad holds his mother down. Diba continues, “When Yasmin also did not conceive, your mother went to Prince Ahmed and asked him to impregnate Yasmin so the kingdom would have an heir.”

Great shouts and exclamations arise from the assembly.

“No, no, no, she is lying!” the Valide Sultan cries. Walad resists drawing his scimitar. It’s his mother. Perhaps he’ll drown her, but he won’t cut her throat. Diba continues, “She compelled a man in the kitchen to drug your goblets that night and that of my husband Fizur, who was on guard. Your mother is the reason all this happened.” Walad reconsiders using his scimiar and asks his mother, “Is this true? Can this be true?” She can’t meet his gaze, which tells him it’s true.

Diba knows even more, having made it her business to listen and gather the facts. “Your mother knew Prince Ahmed fell in love with Yasmin on sight when he saw her at the wedding. Since he is royal, too, she gave him the chance to possess the woman he yearns for and produce an heir for you. She kept his sister, Havva, as ransom that he never tell anyone the truth. It didn’t work because, once mated, however unforgivably, Ahmed’s heart belonged to Yasmin.”

Walad looks at Yasmin. “It is truly not your fault then, my Sultana.”

Imam Rahib says, “The Qur’an does allow adulterers to marry each other, just no one else.”

Walad goes to Yasmin and helps her rise. He hugs her and gently says, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you.” Yasmin hugs him back, says, “Thank you my ex-husband,” and runs toward Prince Ahmed who holds her close and shouts across the oasis, “I marry you, I marry you, I marry you!”

Havva, still dripping wet, races to Walad, her eyes beseeching. “I am not twelve you know, I’m almost fifteen.” Walad strokes her wet hair and says, “I may marry you, young brave one. Just not today.” Walad goes to Prince Ahmed. “I, too, was smitten by Yasmin on first sight. I know you would not have dared this without my mother’s invitation. I forgive you. We shall remain at peace. Now, do me the courtesy of returning to your own kingdom with your new wife, but if the child looks like me…”

Yasmin says, “If it’s yours, I will bring the child to you when it’s old enough to leave me. You will have your heir.”

As Walad prepares an edict that his household never take orders from the Valide Sultan again, Prince Ahmed summons the luxuriously-draped camel, helps Yasmin into the regal hawdaj, and leads his armed caravan into the desert sun.

Next Installment, the sniff finals.
Part 10 - The Oriental Semi-Finals 9 years ago


Diba wants to leave Sultan Walad’s household and join Yasmin’s and Prince Ahmed’s. Havva, her new mistress fervently agrees. For a month she has been married to Walad and all she hears from Diba is, “Yasmin, Yasmin, Yasmin.” Since Havva is only 15, Diba thinks she’s helping by informing her of how Yasmin did things, but Havva has come to hate the very name, Yasmin. However Fizur, Diba’s husband, does not want to leave Walad. He has guarded him since the beginning of his reign. No one else knows Walad’s ways like Fizur does.

As a compromise, a visit is arranged. Diba and her baby will travel to Prince Ahmed’s palace for a month. Twenty-nine of the original 65 perfumes have survived the initial sniffs and Diba knows Yasmin would like to narrow the list down. As a wedding gift, Walad sends them to Yasmin via Diba.

Anne Klein
Anne Klein II

Bjan Woman

Accord 119

Infini (1970)


Parfum Sacré

Panthère de Cartier

Chloé (1975)




Gianfranco Ferré

Gabriela Sabatini
Gabriela Sabatin

L'Arte di Gucci

24, Faubourg

Jean Desprez
Bal à Versailles

Joop! Femme

Flower by Kenzo

Sun Moon Stars


Majda Bekkali
Fusion sacrée clair / elle

Narciso Rodriguez
For Her (Eau de Toilette)

Paco Rabanne
La Nuit

Revlon / Charles Revson

Rochas Femme (1989)

Salvador Dali
Laguna Maravilla

Ted Lapidus
Lapidus Woman

Van Cleef & Arpels

Yves Saint Laurent
Part 11 - The Oriental Finals 8 years ago

The Art of Sassanian Iran
On arrival, Diba instantly sees the difference between an Arab and a Persian palace. Here, decoration is a high art. Here, women are splendidly clothed and unveiled. Here, women even go to war. As she’s taken to Yasmin’s rooms, Diba marvels at the bold Sassanian woman clothed in bright battle raiment who passes. She’s heard rumors of such women but never seen one.

Yasmin does not rise when Diba enters. She is days, hours, from giving birth, but Yasmin holds out her arms to Diba and they embrace, their relationship far beyond servant and mistress. Oddly, they both had the same dream in which the goddess Aphrodite and the god Poseidon interfered in their lives during Walad and Yasmin’s honeymoon on Cyprus. They were sniffing incense perfumes at the time. As a result, Diba became Walad’s powerful second wife. Discussing the dream brought them closer, to say nothing of the scandalous event when Yasmin’s new husband, Prince Ahmed, entered the royal bedroom at Walad’s palace and seduced Yasmin.

After they embrace, Yasmin groans. “What does childbirth feel like, Diba? Will it hurt very much?” Diba doesn’t want to say exactly how much it will, so she changes the subject. “See what I have, mistress. Walad has sent you 29 favorites from our oriental sniff-fest.”

Yasmin forgets all about childbirth pain. Eagerly she lumbers to a table and asks Diba to spread out the precious bottles. She sighs, admiring them. “Diba, I have an idea. They’re all beautiful, but what if we sniff through the whole lot one after the other, eliminating as we go.” Diba asks, “But won’t we get anosmic?” To demonstrate why not, Yasmin blows air in and out of her nose and points to an ornate ewer full of water. She’d suggest they sniff coffee beans, but I tell her they haven’t been introduced to Asia and the Middle East yet. “One good sniff, that’s all, keeping whichever enthrall us the most. Let’s try to cut the list in half. For this to work, we’d better start at the top.” She looks at me and picks up my favorite, Bal à Versaille. I nod agreement. We all sniff it. With that as a basis, we begin.

The 10 Finalists

Anne Klein
Anne Klein II

Infini (1970)

Parfum Sacré


Jean Desprez
Bal à Versailles

Yasmin and Diba pause to rest their noses. Diba asks what makes these perfumes stand out. Yasmin replies, “The classic oriental accord is mesmerizing by itself (bergamot, jasmine, amber, musk, vanilla) but with the addition of woods and resins, of other florals and animalics, and often spice, the accord becomes celestial, narcotic, a fragrance experience so magnificent that in homage other senses pause. Ears hear only silence, eyes do not see, touch is numbed as the monarch of scent ascends its throne in the soul.”

Diba stares at Yasmin, understanding her at last. Of course diamond veils did not turn her head. She is a priestess, passion her god.

“How is it with you and Prince Ahmed?” Diba asks. “Are you his chief wife?” Yasmin nods. “We drew up a proper Sassanian wedding contract which stipulated money and property affairs. I marry you, I marry you, I marry you, isn’t enough here. He said it only to satisfy Walad. Prince Ahmed has afforded me the highest rank. I am his patikhsahi or privileged wife, which means I run the household and will inherit when he dies, unless it’s proven in court that I disobeyed him.” Yasmin laughs. “Why would I, when he grants my every wish?”

Refreshed, they continue sniffing.


Narciso Rodriguez
For Her (Eau de Toilette

Revlon / Charles Revson

Van Cleef & Arpels

Yves Saint Laurent
“What of the child?” Diba asks. Yasmin looks away. She cannot tell Diba the one troubling fact. Yes, she promised to return the baby to Walad if it’s clearly his, but after their arrival Prince Ahmed reminded her of the long-standing Sassanian belief. “Woman is a field. All that grows there belongs to its owner even if he did not plant it.” Neither Prince Ahmed’s father, the Shahanshah (King of Kings), nor his kingdom would support giving away a child born to their future sovereign’s patikhsahi wife.

"What does Walad care?" Yasmin asks. He has a new first wife, Havva. "I'm sure she'll be pregnant soon. How is she?" Diba looks sheepish. "I think if I say your name one more time she will strangle me." They laugh.

Yasmin is about to speak when a sharp pain stops her words, followed by fluid seeping down her leg. She screams in sudden pain. Diba runs for the midwife and soon all the women of importance are in Yasmin’s rooms — her mother and Prince Ahmed’s, his sisters and aunts, the chief royal eunuch, too, ready to officially record the exact birthtime and place of the future heir to the Sassanid throne.

Next installment. The best oriental.
Part 12 - Orientals, Winner & Runners Up 8 years ago
Though the birth was only five hours, fairly quick for a first-time mother, Yasmin lies exhausted. Silence fills the room as her newborn son is passed from Ahmed’s mother to Yasmin’s mother, to the various sisters, aunts and cousins. Since Yasmin is Ahmed’s “field,” her body has produced his heir, but it is clear to all that Walad did the planting. Prince Ahmed’s hair is brown, his eyes green. Yasmin’s hair is dark brown. The baby’s hair is black like Walad’s, the eyes are brown like Walad’s, his face square like Walad’s, not oval like Ahmed’s and Yasmin’s. Anxiously, Diba lurks in the background, torn by her secret assignment. She was allowed to visit Yasmin so she could report: who does the baby look like, Ahmed or Walad? One by one the women leave Yasmin’s room, taking the news with them. In moments it will be all over the palace, in days all over the kingdom. Sultan Walad fathered the patikhsahi Yasmin’s child. Diba knows there is no point in lying when she reports.

One of the departing women hands the baby to Diba, but before she can place him in Yasmin’s arms, the door opens and Prince Ahmed enters with a woman servant. “Let me see the child,” he says. He takes one look, removes the baby from Diba’s arms and hands it to the servant. “She is a wet nurse,” he says to Yasmin. Alarmed, Yasmin sits up. “No, I will nurse him!” Discretely, Diba and the wet nurse depart. “No, my Love,” Ahmed says. “I will have you fertile. While you nurse, you wouldn’t be. Swiftly I must plant a new seed.” Yasmin must obey him, but tears fill her eyes. Prince Ahmed sits beside her and holds her as she weeps.

Later, Diba returns with the remaining perfumes to console her. Off and on Yasmin still cries, a mother without her child. Easily she chooses the final five.
Infini (1970)


Narciso Rodriguez
For Her (Eau de Toilette

Van Cleef & Arpels

Yves Saint Laurent

Only toward the end of Diba’s visit does Yasmin think of returning to the perfumes again to pick the winner. Easily she eliminates the Narcisso Rodriquez and the Caron in search of the most potently lovely classic oriental. “Which should I pick?” she asks Diba. Peachy First, civety Tabu or spicy Opium? Each is a treasure, a diamond among jewels. But which is the best of the best?”
I am alarmed. How could they have eliminated my adored Bal à Versailles? “My nose did the picking,” Yasmin pouts. “Aren’t you always bowing, author, to the nose above all else?” I inquire which she picks as the best. “It was obvious,” Yasmin replies. “I sprayed them along my hands and arms and waited for the dry down. A clear winner emerged. Of the 65 we’ve sampled, Opium is by far the best. It has wonderful longevity and sillage. Compared to it, First is a tad too sweet and Tabu a tad too animalic. In its many notes, vintage Opium achieves a balanced beauty that is not excelled.”

I think she may have made a mistake by comparing Opium to only one version of Bal à Versailles, rather than to the Edt, EdC and Pafum worn together as Jean Desprez intended. To test her conclusion, I spray the trio on one wrist and Opium on the other and go about my day periodically sniffing.

Meanwhile, Prince Ahmed enters Yasmin’s room and Diba swiftly departs. He hasn’t been there since the day Yasmin gave birth. She has long stopped weeping, since it is no use. Her body is perfect again, strong and fertile. She looks down as he approaches. He lifts her chin. “How beautiful you are. Any man would love you as I do.” He kisses her lips. “Ask anything of me, lovely one.” Against her will, angry tears fill her eyes. “I ask that you never take a child from my breast again, whatever the circumstances.” Prince Ahmed does not speak. Gently he rests his forehead on hers in silent assent. Her tears stop as they breathe each others’ breath. Once again passion overcomes them. Soon they are entangled as Ahmed seeks to beget a child that is his. All night he does not leave her and in the morning Yasmin rises as he sleeps, pulls on a delicate robe and goes to her balcony to greet the morning. On the horizon she sees a small caravan approaching, no doubt come to take Diba home. Yasmin watches and soon realizes that among the riders is not just Fizur, Diba’s husband, but Walad. Her heart sinks. He has heard the news and come for his child.

Will Ahmed give her baby up? Arms encircle her from behind. Ahmed has woken. She starts inside, but he puts his cheek next to hers and makes her stay — obviously so Walad can see their embrace. In these months she has learned how intensely jealous Ahmed is that Walad once loved her, possessed her body and soul. In her ear, Ahmed whispers the old Sassanian belief, “Woman is a field. All that grows there belongs to its owner even if he did not plant it.”

Yasmin faces the truth. She loves Ahmed, but she also has never stopped loving Walad. Only one question remains. Which one will die in the struggle for her beloved son, Adur, short for Adur-pata, the name Ahmed gave him—protected by the fire god. She knows neither man will give in.

Walad comes in sight of Prince Ahmed’s palace and makes out a couple in embrace on a high balcony. His heart drops when he realizes it is Yasmin and Ahmed.

Out of sight, Diba whispers to me, “Which one did you pick?” I sniff again and agree with their selection of vintage Opium, but say I do not intend to abandon Bal à Versailles which, though less potently voluptuous, is an achievement in sophisticated charm.

What notes does Opium have in common with Bouquet Opoponax, G.W. Septimus Piesse's long ago oriental? Bergamot, Jasmine, Mandarin, Orris root, Patchouli, Rose, Opoponax, Vanilla. Opium has all but four of the original notes, plus a good deal more.
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