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Attar - Rose, sandalwood, and lots of style


We’re in Week Three of living and working in our homes, cut-off from family and friends and most of the familiar things we do in the course of our daily lives. Abrupt and radical disruption to the way we live with no definite end in sight, mixed with horrific financial impact and very real dangers of illness and death, has skyrocketed anxiety levels for everyone, everywhere. You’d have to be unconscious or demented not to be affected by this epidemic.

Now the newsfeeds and social media are filling up with advice on how to cope, what to do to stay sane, which I’m ignoring. If I start to feel stressed, I come upstairs to my perfumes and waft a couple of old favourites or random bottles under my nose. Without fail, my brain shifts to happy mode, or thrill mode, when I get that little frisson of anticipation that I might smell something new, something different, which is what happened yesterday… 

It’s cloudy and grey and damp and depressing outside. I crave something exactly the opposite to lift my mood so I pick up the gold box I bought a few months ago, and pull out the shiny gold metal bottle in its black satin bag.  Montale Attar, Eau de Parfum. Perfect. If ever you want a perfume to jolt your olfactories, then Montale is the brand to do it…

Perfumer Pierre Montale opened his original Paris shop on Place Vendome in 2003, creating shockwaves in Perfume World with his range of perfumes in the classic Arabic style, uncomplicated fragrances made from pure materials,  rich floral attars (steam-distilled essential oils) mixed with oudh (agarwood), spices, and fruit notes, BIG scents that announce one’s presence and that last and last on skin. Currently Montale offers forty-seven oud scents, and we’ve listed two of the best-sellers  – Black Aoud and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, universally acknowledged as modern classic oud scents. Today, the expansive Montale Paris line now includes many more non-oud luxury scents, such as Greyland, the fabulous “Mr. Darcy” scent that Gwen fell in love with and wrote about, and Attar, an ode to rose and sandalwood. describes Attar EdP as:

“The perfume of Maharajas obtained by the double distillation of the fabulous Mysore Sandalwood and Bulgarian Roses. A very powerful, bewitching and secret perfume.”

Two ingredients in the note list. Simple. But unlikely, because my nose discovers so much more…

The opening of Attar follows the Montale opening style - the oudh bursts out first, a medicinal camphorous pungence like a mixture of band aids, nail polish remover and tinned shoe polish. The power and weirdness of the oudh note always impresses me, and I just love it. Slowly, the medicinal fumes subside and after ten minutes or so, the double-distilled Bulgarian rose begins to unfold, the distinctive rose note edged in sugared citrus, wrapped in notes of soft suede, which I know is the oudh, and perhaps some saffron.

An acidic sour note accompanies the lush rose into the heart, which focuses the intensity of its spicy floral character, but this acid note slowly disappears and gives way to the rich creamy warmth of the double-distilled sandalwood. As a result, in the dry-down the rose accord becomes softer and muskier with almost caramel undertones from the powdery wood resins, making it softer, more feminine, more rose-y than a real rose. The two key essential oils of rose and sandalwood play throughout the base, seamlessly blended in perfect harmony, and accented every so often with a slight waft of leather from the opening oud note. The waft is soft and steady and I catch whiffs of it as I drift off to sleep at night.   

Attar is about rose, but what a rose!  If Montale Black Aoud is dark rose, a black rose with thorns, sultry, erotic and uncompromising, a very grown-up rose, then Montale Attar is red rose, not overly sweet but lush and feminine, powerful, with elegant style. Attar is rose within a rose within a rose, an imaginary invisible rose that you can easily love.

Just two notes in Attar? Hardly. But thank god for perfumers like Pierre Montale, and thank god for perfumes like Attar. I’m going to be sniffing a lot of them to get me through the next few weeks…or months… 

Attar is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikimedia Commons - Rose Hybrid Tea "Kardinal" by Laitche, May 26, 2013