Monday, February 8, 2010

La Via del Profumo Mecca Balsam: fragrance review & bottle giveaway

O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Kaa'ba,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.
~Ibn al-`Arabi, Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, in The Mystics of Islam, translated by Reynold A Nicholson

Mecca balsam 4
Balsamo della Mecca, or Mecca Balsam in English, is the latest all-naturals fragrance developed by perfumer Dominique Dubrana, whose nom de guerre is Abdes Salaam. It was inspired by a trip the perfumer took to Mecca during Hajj. Salaam parallels the aromata invading the streets of Mecca with a river carrying labdanum, franincense,benzoin and agarwood, and which pours to the street 5 times a day along with the pilgrims who walk up to the great mosque. Accordingly Balsamo della Mecca/Mecca Balsam contains autocthone notes of: cistus labdanum, frankincense, benzoin, agarwood, tonka bean, tobacco, Indian tuberose and Damask rose.

Mecca Balsam 2
The olfactory landscape of Arabia and Mecca in particular is unusual for a westerner, the proflugation of scents unforgettable, the catchartic ritual requiring the lavish use of perfumes up till taking the simple white dress of Ihram... This aromatic ambience was recreated through the artistry of one of the best all-naturals illusioninsts of this world, Dominique Dubrana of La Via del Profumo, an Italian niche line which includes the esoterically-named "Scents of the Soul". Regular readers will recall how the vetiver-infused Samurai as well as the euphorically tangy neroli marvel Morning Blossom have occupied these pages in the past. This time Salaam was most generous in offering one full-size bottle of the latest fragrance to one of our readers, which I took some liberties in photographing for your enjoyement (So if you want to win, you know what to do, leave a comment!)

Mecca Balsam 3

Comparing Mecca Balsam to other scents
, one would be inclined to classify it alongside the rich ambience of Amouage oriental attars (Amouage attar Tribute isn't at all foreign to this idea) with their majestic sweep and incredible lasting power. Even though most all-naturals have a more fleeting appearence, some of these base-heavy Arabian inspired compositions, such as Mecca Balsam, anchor themselves with conviction through the marriage of resinous and balsamic touches.

Indeed Mecca Balsam feels like it is all base, all depth, all the time! Its wonderful, smoky-ambery leather core is comprised mainly of labdanum and incense (both benzoin and frankincense for the latter; interpolating warm and cool, sweet and sour respectively) and these two notes reverberate throughout the duration of the fragrance on the skin almost audibly, such is their bass & drum dynamics! Lovers of the shredded tobacco and "cola" effect (due to the synergy of tonka bean and the balsams) that hides in the heart of classic orientals such as Youth Dew, Tabu and the percursor Coty's L'Origan, or more modern interpretations such as YSL's Opium, Escada Collection and even Eau d'Italie's Paestum Rose (with its root beer vibe), will be delighted to find a replicable effect in Mecca Balsam. These would also provide great layering partners in lotion form, to traject the tracks into the night. Aficionados of the mini-cult that is Madame X by Ava Luxe will find in Mecca Balsam a luxurious upgrade using only the finest ingredients.
Even though agarwood (oud) is mentioned within the notes, its inclusion is not the -be-all-end-all of the presentation like it is with several Montale oud fragrances or indeed some of the other "ouds", such as By Kilian or Tom Ford's. Instead working its magic in the wings, it only hints at its presence, as do the precious flowers (rose and tuberose). Mecca Balsam could be worn by both sexes with ease and is sure to create both a warming, reassuring ambience around you as well as a pulling, sexy effect that won't go unnoticed.

Balsamo della Mecca/Mecca Balsam is available directly from La Via del Profumo in 16ml bottles (for €34,17) or 55ml (for €91,67) of Eau de Parfum.

This is the actual bottle that will be given to one lucky reader, courtesy of Profumo.it. State your interest in the comments! (Draw is now closed, thanks for participating).

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Labdanum, an important material, Abdes Salaam/Profumo.it scents, Scents with leather notes, Labdanum scents and info

All photographs © by Elena Vosnaki/Perfume Shrine.


  1. Anonymous15:30

    hi Elena! I cannot believe no one has commented yet.. i am DEFINITELY interested in teh draw... I only really started checking the via del profumo last week, just when i had resolved to buy no more perfume for at least a month..*sigh*... cheers, Wendy

  2. Dear lord !
    This one has my name on it, I fear.
    and what a gorgeous bottle !

    Please, enter my greedy nose ;-)

  3. AnnYM15:51

    Hello Elena,
    Please enter me in the draw as well. This would be lovely to have. I have been pining for the chance to try Mr. Dubrana's creations. So little budget, so much to try...

  4. Mystic Knot15:52

    Sounds lovely Helg . Please put me in the draw ! :)

  5. Hi, I have never left a comment and I am a "baby" perfumista, but enjoy your blog so much! I already have a vanity full of vintage fragrances and would love to win this one though new! Thank you!

  6. Stephan16:06

    The list of those balsamic resinous ingredients sounds very enticing to me. Would be great to get a sniff of this one.

  7. "reassuring AND sexy"?.....count me in!!!

    This sounds wonderful. Thanks!


  8. Hi E--reading your lovely review as well as the remarks at Basenotes, I think I must be the only one who gets fleeting herbal notes in the top of this one. Figments of my imagination, no doubt! I think the heart is just amazing, really rich and beautiful. The base is very sweet, but I suspect that will be a crowd-pleaser. I was really impressed overall. I can definitely see why there's so much buzz about the line.

  9. Your description is positively mouthwatering; please enter me in the draw!

  10. Nostalgie16:24

    Hindu Kush was always my favorite from Via Profumo, but this one sounds like a serious contender!

  11. What an enticing description. Please enter me too. Thanks!

  12. gautami16:45

    Please enter me in the draw. I have not tried any of their scents yet, but your description is tempting!

  13. Oh my! that one sounds like me, for sure! I'd love to have it.

  14. I'd love to win this for a loved one.

  15. This sounds wonderful! Please count me in for the drawing!

  16. This sounds rather nice. I'd love to try it so please include me in the draw!

  17. Holy moly, how wonderfully generous, and how wonderful the Balsamo sounds! I would love to be entered in the drawing, and thank you.

  18. Anonymous18:16

    This sounds really delicious. Beautiful bottle, too. Please include me in the draw. Thanks much!
    Karen G.

  19. I was already extremely curious about this one! (I had to resist mightily when I recently had the opportunity to buy a decant of this un-sniffed.) Now you've stoked the fire even further!

  20. Oh my gosh. this fragrance sounds wonderful. Please enter me in the draw. Thank You.

  21. Yes, please enter me in your drawing! This sounds like a very special scent.

  22. london18:35

    I love labdanum. Please do enter me in the drawing.

  23. What a generous prize! It sounds fantastic! Please enter me into the contest. I'd love to win. Thanks!

  24. It sounds wonderful. Please enter me into the draw. Thanks!

  25. Tara C19:48

    Oh, please enter me in the draw - I have been positively salivating over this one but cannot buy any perfume right now due to budget restraints. Thank you for offering a chance to win!

  26. This Mecca Balsam is exotic and indeed would be so welcome in this winter hump of February. Your description has immediately transported me. Please enter me in the draw.

  27. Roberto20:22

    please enter my name to the draw.

  28. Hey, put me in for the draw! Sounds fantastic!

  29. SoniaGarcia20:25

    This sounds lovely, please enter my name in the draw.
    Thank you!

  30. You Smell!!!20:28

    Incense is my thing, please enter my name.

  31. The bottle, your lovely description! Please enter me for this. Thank you!

  32. Fernando21:03

    This does sound delectable. Please enter me in the draw!

  33. PhinClio21:06

    That sounds almost too good to be true. Please enter me in the draw!

  34. chris g21:10

    Oooo, I'm so curious! Please enter me in the draw - thanks.
    Chris G

  35. What a lovely and generous offer! I'd love to enter the drawing...

  36. Fiordiligi21:19

    Sorry to be so late in commenting - the description sounds very enticing. I haven't actually sampled any of this line yet. So much perfume, so little time......

    You are very generous, dearest E, but no need to enter me in the draw, thank you!

  37. Count me in the draw, please!

    Coincidence - I grew up among balsam fir, a friend's last name is Balsamo, a dream at age 14 had a neighbor, last name Balsam, conducting music arriving from the 360 degree horizon, from the middle of an atoll in a neon sea.

    Betting this smells just as good :)

  38. Aroseisarose21:32

    What a generous offer and such a lovely blog! Thank you so much for entering me.

  39. Oh that sounds amazing, please enter me in the draw as well! Thank you!

  40. I have been a huge fan of Salaam and his informative website for years but have never sampled any creations. Please include me in this drawing.

  41. OMG!

    How I love the smells of old capital of Tunisia! I can't forget those magnificent scents. So unique, mysterious and sunny, so original!

    I'd LOVE to use this gorgeous perfume so much! It'll remind me of my trips to Northern Africa as a child.

    Please, pick me! Pretty please! I can't imagine any other perfume giving me the same memories and feelings. :D


    Name: Pobeda from ATL
    E-mail: pobedochka (at) gmail.com

  42. My goodness. This one has all my favorite notes in it. I'm practically salivating & thus am unable to conjure anything vaguely smart to say except "please count me in!"

  43. E, absolutely of course I would love to be entered in the draw for this one! Your review only makes me more interested.

  44. Dear Elena,

    If the fragrance is as beautiful as you description suggests, then I do want to be entered for the draw.


  45. For a frankincense fanatic, this sounds like heaven, Or Paradise In A Bottle. Please, please enter me in the draw!

  46. "This aromatic ambience was recreated through the artistry of one of the best all-naturals illusioninsts of this world, Dominique Dubrana.."

    High praise indeed from you! Somehow I've missed the reviews on Samurai ("vetiver infused" - sounds great!) and Morning Blossom ("tangy neroli marvel" - one of my very favorite notes!). Wonderful review. As always you make everything sound like a must try, and you haven't steered me wrong yet (although I haven't pulled the trigger on the vintage Coeur Joie yet!).

    Of course I'd love to be entered, and as others have already said, this is very generous.


  47. Oooh I would love to win - provided you can post to Australia of course :-D

  48. Gisela23:14

    Great review, beautiful bottle, please enter me in the draw. Thanks!

  49. Another great review. Yes, please enter me in the drawing, this sounds like a prefect warming scent for these chilly, snowy days.

  50. Anonymous23:25

    Sounds gorgeous!!
    Pure orientalist perfume would be perfect for the cold winter here in Montreal!! Please enter me in the draw.
    Thank you
    -Laurent SP

  51. d3m0lici0n00:01

    please enter my name in the draw, this sounds like my kinda fragrance.

  52. maureenC00:20

    Please enter me for the draw. You make it sound so divine.

  53. dissed00:40

    Mmm, balsam. Oh yes, I'm interested. Thanks.

  54. Anonymous00:49

    Oh yes, please enter me in the draw. Labdanum, incense, woods; I'm convinced.


  55. Anonymous01:57

    Oh my goodness, this sounds so wonderful. Please enter me in the draw. Thank you.

  56. Count me in as well. This fragrance sounds wonderful

  57. This fragrance sounds so beautiful. Please enter me in the drawing.

  58. Anonymous03:18

    you did have fun photographing that bottle! i've been eyeing this one since your earlier mention of it, so i am hoping that bottle will be mine. :) thanks for including my name in your drawing.


  59. I'm so glad that my 10ml decant will be coming already.. but even better if there's a WHOLE bottle =P I promise to share... does that help?

  60. Oh it sounds gorgeous. So many of my favorite incensy notes. I've been so curious about trying attars, but I live in the states and have no idea where I'd look to sample them or who is a good distributor. Do you have any kind of recommendation?

    Anyway, I just won a draw so I don't think I should be included in this one! But I just wanted to say, you have a great way or whetting my appetite for new scents and experiences.

  61. ElizabethN05:02

    Well, if I don't win this, I'll just have to buy a bottle. This sounds gorgeous- benzoin and labdanum and incense, oh my! *thud* Please enter me, thanks!

  62. I just wanted to say that you took some lovely photos, E!

    No need to enter me in the drawing.

  63. I'd love to participate in the draw. This scent sounds so intriguing!

  64. This sounds like it will hit all the right buttons for me. :)
    Aficionados of Madame X? Here I am!

  65. Zazie09:51

    Here Here Here!
    It sounds pretty lovely!!

  66. condesadepitimini10:44

    Balsamo...what a lyric title for a fragrance. Evokes resins and ancient sacred scents, that, like a salve, will help heal those wounds of the soul.
    More than a bottled juice, this is surely a cathartic remedy for our hectic-paced lives...

  67. Please include me, I'm definitely interested in wearing this fragrance ... it's just the sort of thing I would fall in love with!

  68. oh wow! i didnt think i can meet Profumo.it here! sorry, i just lately started to subscribe your blog, too.... ive collected some of Scents of the soul and i just love them all! my fav is " sea wood"!! and im so curious about this new smell! want to smell it ~
    thank you for your fascinating posts as always!

  69. stella p11:41

    As one of the commentators said above, your review is mouthwatering! As was also the one of Bittergrace. Please enter me in the draw!

  70. So many of Abdes Salaam`s fragrances have a captivating delicacy, quite irresistable (I adore Legno di nave, Ciaras and pheromone for men..)
    So please draw me in too!

  71. Please enter me in the draw. This one has my name all over it - I love base notes best of all, and I love a scent that really anchors itself.

  72. Sounds like it is made for me ;-)
    Beautiful description, interesting notes.

  73. What a lovely review, Elena! Please enter my greedy nose, too, as Chaya said.

  74. seawood13:58

    hello! how you describe about this new smell makes me want to smell and wear n sleep in it ! great ..... so curious ! thank you for bringing us the fascinating news always!

  75. Anonymous14:42

    Those notes have me swooning-Please enter me in the drawing-Thank you!

  76. Anonymous14:51

    I have never heard of this line but your review makes me want to smell it very badly. Please enter me into the draw. Thank you for the opportunity.


  77. Wow- what an awesome giveaway. I can hardly believe it!

    Orientals are by far my favorite, and your article about Balsamo della Mecca is outstanding.

    Please enter me in your drawing... and thank you VER MUCH!

  78. Anonymous15:08

    Wow, it would be wonderful to win the perfume, these are exactly my favorite notes. PLease enter me in the drawing, many thx. Alica - alica@cleis.net

  79. lasuperchatis6215:33

    please enter my name in the draw, I'd love to have this!

  80. divinemama16:02

    Ha! We readers love a good drawing, don't we? Please put my name into the proverbial hat for the draw, Helg. The notes sound amazing! I haven't tried any La Via del Profumo scents yet, but they have been on my perfume radar for some time. I read so many wonderful things about Abdes Salaam. Thanks for the review and the offer!

  81. Heather Barton17:25

    I love incense scents, especially strong ones like Amouage Jubilation XXV and Norma Kamali Incense. This one sounds like heaven. I would love to be entered in your draw. Thank you so much!

  82. That sure is a pretty bottle...and from what I'm hearing you say, what's inside would be even nicer. :) Please add my name to the hat, and good luck to all.

  83. Put me in the drawing.

  84. This one sounds gorgeous! i'm craving to try it, please include me in the draw, with a little bit of chance...

  85. Throw me into the mix, please. It sounds gorgeous.

  86. pinkrain03:08

    i always enjoy your selected post~ thank you! and it s great to see abdes salaam's new scent! ive been collecting his stuff(samples) with my friend , and so just fascinated with this new one! seems so delicious! want to sniff it !

  87. Perfumed Haiku

    My suburban dreams / Long to be invaded by / Spices of Mecca.

    Thank you for the post - please include me in the draw

  88. Oh wow, those notes sound AMAZING! Please enter me in the draw.

  89. It's a fascinating scent and I'd be most keen on winning a bottle.

  90. Please, please, count me in too. I am quite familiar with this perfume house, having travelled to Italy often in the past. Their record is a bit uneven, some creations are really nice while others come short, so I am really curious to see how this one turned out:). I tried their anti stress perfume Notte africana (which was quite stress inducing due to the steep price though!),their other Arab inspired perfume Il profumo Sufi (a bit dissapointing to me, too pungent and not well blended in my view, their Te Verde, which is really just a whimpish fragrance and their Cuba Express which a nicely rounded delight. As I said please count me.

  91. Hi E !
    Thank you sooo much for once again "whetting my appetite" :o) ...
    Your review of "Balsam" sounds just like something I'm bound to go mad for. I've been meaning to get me a few of his excellent creations, (especially his "Oakmoss"). But with so many magnifiscent choices (all the time !), have yet to actually get round to doing so.
    So yes please, please count me in your marvellously generous "draw". And with a little luck, thanx to you, I'll be the very proud owner of my very first "Dubrana":o) Yipee !

  92. Alexandra13:39

    Wow! I have tried only Indu Kush and it was great. Please include me in a draw.

  93. maria13:46

    I'm curious about incense or frankincense, how they work with it. I find incense a big issue in the niche at the moment.
    Please enter me in the draw.

  94. Mecca Balsam sounds absolutely wonderful, please enter me in the draw.

  95. Anonymous14:26

    Ooh, please enter me into the draw. This one sounds lovely. Thank you for your wonderful blog!


  96. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments; you're all included in the draw and I wish you good luck , keep them coming!

    who knows, the herbal notes might be a bit like the opening of Ambre Sultan, eh? I can see a connection! Personally I sometimes perceive a hint of henna in ladbanum-rich compositions, I think it's a facet of the material itself.

    @Lura Astor,
    what a vivid imagination, wish my dreams were as colourful! Is it meant to be for you, I wonder? Good luck in any case.

    thanks, you must sample if you haven't. I think you'd like the Profumo.it/La Via del Profumo line a lot!

    yeah...I did have fun photographing, I admit it! :P
    I took quite a set of pics with it poised on several pages of Islam art volumes, but couldn't post them all. Another time maybe. ;-)

    thanks for the compliment darling! Hope you're peachy and thanks for stopping by!

    I was thinking of you the whole time I was writing the review. You'll love it!

    so wonderfully said, thanks! It's quite lyrical and comforting as a name.

    welcome and hope to see you often!! I haven't tried that one, but noting it down now.

    hey there! Thanks for stopping by, hope the best of luck for you. Yes, the line is high quality and this one should be a very popular scent, I bet.

    what a beautiful haiku!!! Thank you!! (seriously, that should have been my opening motto to the review)
    Best of luck!

    oh so you tried it, yeah, isn't it great? Good luck!

    you have experience with some I haven't tried, so can't really offer you any opinion. Do try the Pink Panther though as well as the Don Corleone and the Samurai: they're quite robust and rather unusual.

  97. sunday morning14:34

    thank you for your focusing on Profumo.it! i love his work! and so curious how it smells , the new stuff!

  98. Anonymous14:49

    Thank you for the beautiful poem and the introduction to this scent. I would dearly love to try my luck in the drawing, thank you. This scent sounds like a treasure--Mary C-S.

  99. Thank you for the wonderful review! This does sound like a scent that I would greatly enjoy experiencing.

  100. How could I NOT be interested in the draw? I'm a sucker for all things spicy.

  101. ultraviolett22:27

    interested,,, in everything spicy.

  102. Anonymous23:44

    Please count me in, he is great!
    clairsight at yahoo dot com

  103. Anonymous04:31

    I'm interested. Love the idea of a rich deep base.

  104. Anonymous06:16

    Wow, sounds so lovely! Can I be in the draw, too?


  105. cjj8812:31

    Sounds fantastic..please enter me in the draw:)

  106. lightning13:06

    my friend n i are into natural perfumes and love his works. and now so fascinated with this new perfume....wonder what it d smell like???? ;)

  107. Barbara I13:45

    I would love to be entered in the draw - this sounds like a wonderful perfume

  108. If your review didn't have me drooling buckets, a visit to the La Via del Profumo website sure inspires a major drool-fest! I am lemming the Balsamo della Mecca so badly that I can barely think of anything else....save perhaps the Rose Heart, Tabac, and ......well let's just say this niche house is now on my perfume radar!
    Oh, and your photos are pretty nice too! I especially like the last one with the bottle against the arid landscape and the ancient looking domed mosque(?) in the background---it's funny that the picture in the book appears to have a big space right in front--as if waiting for the bottle! Love it.

    Please enter me in your drawing! I would, of course, squeal and jump around like mad if I won....TMI??
    Smile it's Friday~ Daisy :-)

  109. Anonymous17:29

    I'd love to be entered too! Sexy and warming sounds wonderful. I love the photos: especially the bottle atop the mosque image.
    Thank you.
    Laura M

  110. Anonymous22:25

    Sounds wonderful, please enter me in the draw

  111. Anonymous23:19

    I would love to try this! It sounds incredible.


  112. "you know what to do, leave a comment!"

    Wow! that is very very interesting! Please add my name and I wish I am not too late ! - V

  113. By Mecca Balsam
    my heart is entranced
    I'd cry out "Salaam!"
    if I have the chance
    to make this juice mine,
    Please, Dear Perfume Shrine
    brighten my life with your glance!

  114. Anonymous11:55

    I'd like to be entered into the draw too (if I'm not late). Thanks!

  115. Mariyah21:03

    Reality is like a musk’s pod,
    the delights are in the scent.
    To smell the scent,
    to possess a fleeting instant
    of that which soon passes,
    most are satisfied.

    But who is the one to seek the musk itself,
    not served merely with the scent?
    Happy is that one who finds the musk through the scent,
    for the scent stays always with the musk.”

    Oh please, to have Mecca in my hands!


  116. Anonymous01:11

    Oh my! I'm so overwhelmed..in a good way! I'm simple, so I'll just say straight out that I'm a patchouli used from the time I first caught a whiff of it in the incense 70's...I can't wear a sweet perfume, so I'm sooo wanting to try this:) Put me on the list and if I don't get notice, you can bet this gal is ordering ASAP!
    Love this link...very imformative for a beginner like me.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu below the text box (Anonymous is fine if you don't want the other options) and hit Publish! And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin