Tuesday, October 23, 2012

La Via del Profumo Tawaf: fragrance review & bottle giveaway

"It was the month of March last year when I stopped by in Arabia on my way back from Oman and went to Mecca. Silk produces strange optical effects according to the way it is woven. One afternoon I discovered the Ka’aba in a colour I had never seen it before. Instead of a dark black on which the oven calligraphies were nearly invisible, the particular sunlight of that afternoon made it light grey, enhancing the calligraphies."

 Thus begins the inspiration behind Tawaf.... The Ka'abah is the geographic center of the Arabian soul, of its spirituality, culture and civilization and Tawaf (طواف) is the name of the muslim ritual consisting of circumambulations [7 times counter-clockwise] around the Ka’abah, the cube shaped building in Mecca, adorned with black silk.

El Topo (1970) film via killthesnark.blogspot.com

Abdes Salaam, the all naturals perfumer pilgrim which travels under the passport of Dominique Dubrana, now has encapsulated this spiritual journey into a new fragrance that is as oriental as it is mystical. It's a common westernized preconception to think of the scents of the East as seductive by default, a tradition inaugurated by Shalimar (Guerlain) in the 1920s when anything eastern seemed filled with promise of forbidden delights, but the apocryphal spirituality of the Middle East hides in the sockets of this jasmine-strewn all natural oriental that aims at the soul as much as it does at the body. Forget all about the Middle Eastern tourist-y "oudh" fragrances churned out by western niche brands too.

The Tawaf fragrance is the aromatic "melody" of the scents that surround those performing the Tawaf. It brings together the trails of Jasmine Sambac that pilgrims wear, the rose water poured from buckets to wash the white marble floor and the Oppoponax attar spread by the handful over the corners of the Ka’abah. These are the essences that comprise the new fragrance. Other ingredients meaningful in the Arabic tradition are Narcissus and Myrrh. Tawaf is a binary perfume constructed on the combination of two accords that intertwine without melting one into each other, the Jasmine Sambac accord and the Oppoponax resin accord interweaving like two colored Chinese silk fabrics which display two different colors depending on how the light shines on them."

I am already a fan of most of Abdes Salaam perfumes (if you have read this blog long enough, you know it by now) so it wasn't such a leap falling in love with a perfume which combines two of my favorite notes: jasmine and opoponax. You got to love a perfumer who is as assured of himself as to publicly state that "it's not difficult to make a good fragrance". Even more so when he's not profiting of the short-cuts that using a handful of passe-partout synthetics present in today's industry ("let's put a lab-produced citral and peony top note with some rose & patchoulol in the heart and boost the base with tons of Iso-E Super and Ambroxan for tenacity & diffusion and call it a day"). But the blending in Tawaf, although recognizably a melange of jasmine and opoponax resin (the latter giving that hazy, soft focus effect that seems like you're seeing everything through a vaseline-smeared lens), is so much more than the sum of its parts. The golden ambience of the jasmine is warm, plush, generous, late summery in feeling, yet with an austere and unusual broom hint. The flower takes on facets of honeysuckle and still green narcissus; fatty, happy, yellow, elevated on an elemental plane where plant emerges from the soil triumphant, alive, touching the sky. The myrrh inclusion is ascetic, bittersweet, offsetting the sweeter floral essences and the delicate rose veil.
Tawaf surrounds the self with the mystery and awe reserved not for tales of maudlin romance, but for the encompassing need for a higher being that knows no religious boundaries and no country borders. And for that it is essential. It's hard to believe anyone wouldn't -at least-like it; it would indicate they're soulless...

Tawaf is available at the La Via del profumo site in 15.5 ml, 33 ml and 50 ml bottles (beautifully decorated with Arab calligraphy). There is also an innovative Tawaf blending kit the aim of which is to allow you to compose the fragrance according to your personal taste. With the kit you’ll be able to change the perfume every day in a different way, to match your mood and state of mind.[more details on the link]

 A 15ml bottle of Tawaf will be given by the perfumer to a Perfume Shrine reader. Please share in the comments how you envision a spiritual experience related to smell (or if you have any such scented spiritual experience!) to be eligible. The giveaway is open to US and Canada readers only, this time, due to USPS regulations (sorry about that...). Draw remains open till Friday 26th midnight and the prize will be posted by the perfumer directly to the winner.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Abdes Salaam & La Via del Profumo fragrances
Mapping Scents of Spitiruality.

In the interests of disclosure, I was sent a sample for reviewing purposes by the perfumer directly.


  1. cheesegan15:56

    I think a spiritual experience would smell like resin, fragrant wood and spice. Not terribly original, but there it is.

  2. Julia16:35

    A spiritual experience related to smell, for me, would evoke memories of a person, place or object that I experienced first hand or vicariously by reading or hearing. Smell aggregates these experiences of the other senses and doles them out in unexpected ways and moments. Would love love love to try Tawaf.

  3. AbdesSalaam Attar16:55

    Thsnk you Elena for reviewing this latest fragrance of mine.
    Aperfumer often discovers much about his perfumes through the effect that they have on others.
    The word of yours that revealed to me a meaning of Tawaf that I had not yet grasped is the word "generous".

  4. There's something about incense that is transporting; it feels old very old, and reminds me that throughout recorded history people have been using it to connect to the divine. Whenever I wear incense, there is a feeling of connection - to the deep past, to cultures far different than mine, to that striving within to find meaning. I feel larger than myself when I wear an incense.

  5. Nina Z18:02

    The most spiritual experience of my life involved an orange and a volcano and a walk near the sea at night (I tossed my orange into the molten lava of a Hawaiian volcano as an offering to Pele in gratitude for the miracle of my life--and life on this planet). Could that be captured in a fragrance? And would it feel "spiritual"?

    The notes of this new perfume, jasmine sambac and oppopponax, are two of my favorites. I'm dying to see how they work together.

  6. solanace18:25

    For me, it would have to be the smell of the rainforest, with its little streams and big tress. Vetiver somehow conjures the feeling of walking on a track in the middle of it, looking for birds and orchids (and minding for the snakes)...

    The notes in Tawaf sound delicious: jasmine, opoponax, rose water, myrrh... Huuummm...

  7. i would love to try

  8. ElizaC18:36

    I was wearing Chanel No. 22 when our local Russian orthodox church had its festival. The beautiful interior of the church, permeated with incense, combined with the perfume to create a memorable experience.

  9. Isayah19:18

    Santal makes me feel serene, grounded and connected, so I made it my spiritual scent. I dab a little EO before meditation, prayer or yoga. It never fails to enhance my practice and always makes me open and centered.

  10. Sujaan20:06

    My most vivid spiritual scent memory is when I was studying in China. We would often take a break and go listen to the monks chant at our local monastery. The sound of the chanting coupled with the incense burning was always an out of body experience for me. I loved it.
    I look forward to exploring this line. The bottles are beautiful and the notes sound amazing. I love that through you I am learning about perfumes I would not be able to find on my own. Thank you!

  11. Comfort and joy and peace and patience come from being one with the Spirit. And being content.
    Thank you for the opportunity for this giveaway.

  12. Incense, of course. Because of its historical connotations, but also because it is burned, and goes through that mysterious transformation. And I think scent is so important to the religious experience because it forces us to move beyond our reliance on sight, and acknowledge the existence of things beyond.

  13. Anonymous21:24

    Oh, Helg!
    Thank you for the beautiful review. You have an amazing ability to tell a story that makes me feel like I can smell what is going on.

    Incense is a sacred smell for me. It was always prevalent at mass. One Easter, two years ago, I was walking home in the cool Canadian April spring after a yin yoga class. I felt great. Yin is quite a spiritual practice. As I walked home, there was the smell of sap on the breeze, the smell of the winter's ice on the Kennebecasis River, and the hypnotic smell of incense coming from the Catholic church. It was a magical moment for me.
    I have Sharif, and that to me is another medicinal, beautiful smell. i don't know how to describe Sharif: to say medicinal makes it sound like a band aid. That's not it at all. But I will tell you this: when my mom and I were attempting to reconnect, after years of estrangement, I shared my bottle of Sharif with her. We both loved it so much, and it gave us a bridge to cross years of bad feelings. Now that is magic in a bottle!
    I hope you are well, and thank you for hosting the draw.
    Carole MacLeod

  14. My spiritual experiences have an ozonic, electrical fire kind of vibe, like the plastic melting off am overloaded copper wire. It's actually menacing to smell, as one would go sniffing around to make sure no small appliances are on fire: No, no, just your mind. I can't say I'd want a perfume to conjure that up.

  15. brie22:34

    I work with severely autistic children and in an attempt to decrease my stress level I began practicing yoga three years ago. I would arise at 5am and practice deep breathing exercises on the floor of the alcove in my kitchen with a large Pacifica Tibetan Mountain Temple candle lit the whole time. To this day the scent of that candle (patchouli, vetiver,ginger and orange) brings me to a calmer place. Nowadays, deep breathing is 5 minutes here and there throughout my day. However, I still engage in a different scented spiritual activity every day. I always allow myself 10 minutes every morning outside on my deck with a heavily fragrant cup of tea (orchid oolong, white honeysuckle, jasmine green, cherry blossom, cardamon black,etc) and stare at the moon in a star studded blackened sky while wafting the aroma of flowers/spices in my hot cup-there is nothing more awe inspiring than that!
    Another fragrant spiritual association I have is with a cocoa/lavender massage oil that I make on a regular basis and mail to my friend's daughter who is autistic. A year ago I won a custom made aroma therapy session with a famous perfumer on a perfume blog. Another commenter desperately wanted to win it for her autistic daughter and I was so moved by what she wrote that I gifted my win to her daughter. Thus began our friendship. Whenever I smell cocoa or lavender I think of this child (who tells her mother that I am her "good friend" who makes her "smell good" because she is "special")and I am reminded of how the universe connects us all on a spiritual level in surprising ways :)
    In my fascination with essential oils and their healing properties I have sought out information on natural perfumers and Abdes Salaam has been on my radar for quite some time. I would be honored to win and wear Tawaf as I am sure it would send me on another spiritual adventure.

  16. To me there is no scent that translates spirituality more than the combination of cypress myrrh and labdanum. There is no other perfumer who's work I'd like to try more than Abdes Salaam.

  17. Rednails03:36

    I create a spiritual experience with perfume every week by making it an accoutrement to an ancient ritual: In celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, just before I make the blessing over the candles, after I've finished cooking the Sabbath feast, showered and put on my special Sabbath robe, and everything in my house is clean and serene, I daub myself with a handmade sample kindly sent my way by one or another of you lovely perfumistas out there. After blessing the creator of the universe who commands me to kindle the Sabbath lights (and praying for the health of my family and the planet), I send a mental blessing and thanks to whatever lovely woman has taken the time to share this fragrance with me. Ambers, leathers and Orientals heighten the Sabbath atmosphere, because they go well with the golden glow of the candles and rich aromas of the food.

  18. I'm fascinated by the way the literal sacred sacrifices are described in the Hebrew scriptures of the Bible; the scent of the smoke ascending to heaven like incense, the perfumed oils used to grease the head and wash the desert's dust from one's feet. I try to imagine how David prepared to throw himself on God's mercy, to smell the unguents that he wore beneath his clean robes and mantle. I like to meditate on the different stories until I think I can feel the air and the sand. Thanks for the opportunity.

  19. Kay P.03:50

    There is something spiritual in experiencing an intoxicating smell itself. I am often compelled to smell the lovely, fascinating things I encounter in my daily life -- food, books, and especially plant life. For me, a daily spiritual experience is walking past a pink jasmine vine growing wild in my otherwise urban, sooty neighborhood. Every morning that it is in bloom, it never fails to slow me just a little on my way to work, whether to breathe more deeply or to pluck a blossom that I tuck into my blouse. A reminder of something outside me, that is effortlessly beautiful and endlessly giving.

  20. Anonymous04:53

    For me, the scents I associate with spirituality are probably incense and resins, along with beeswax from candles at Mass. I think Tawaf is spiritual in a different way in reminding me that the earth in all its beauty was created for us to cherish n - not exploit. Tawaf reminds me of having a day off and spending it in a meadow full of earthiness and all the gifts of the earth. It is one of my favorite frafrances to wear at bedtime for happy dreams. I would love to win this because I am down to my last few drops. He sells a kit to custom blend it, but I think it is perfect as it is. And my birthday is October 30 :)


  21. I don't know that I've had a spiritual experience with perfume... I wasn't raised Catholic, but Protestant, but I do find incense fragrances very moving, like Tauer's Incense Rose. I also find certain fragrances that remind me of my daughter very nostalgic and contemplative (like Annick Goutal's Petite Cherie).

  22. I love thinking about the Ka'aba, just imagining something that is the intense focus of the energy of so many people, and you make it sound beautiful as well. I love the idea of a perfume embodying such an experience! What a wonderfully different approach to spiritual experience! I can't wait to try some!

  23. A spiritual fragrance is one that helps me feel calm, relaxed, but is comforting enough to distract me from outside stressors. Love this questions!

    Thank you for the draw!

  24. A spiritual fragrance, I'm still looking...

  25. Lynne Marie13:30

    for me, as others have said, incense has a spiritual quality - deep, resonant and calming yet uplifting at the same time. Incense mixed with musk is like combining spirit and nature, the divine and the human brought together. I often layer perfumes to get that effect. Tawaf definitely sounds like something I will want to try! Your description was marvelous!!

  26. Maria15:08

    Where tehre is incense as a prominet note in a parfume, there is for me an ascetic and mystic experience...

    Hope to win!


  27. lilacskin15:35

    about ten years ago i went through a life-changing event. at the same time, i began running on a woodland trail every morning. the scent of the evergreens blended with the river water...and the (imaginary) honeyed scent of sunshine are forever linked with that spiritual awakening...

  28. all smells are spiritual when the moment I become aware of them they ground me in the present moment. I wear perfume to work for this very reason....when I lift my wrist to my nose and sniff the scent, it is like resetting my mental state to the task before me and clears my mind of the thoughts piling up. Even unexpected stinky smells can do this....walking down the street, mind wandering on negative thoughts, worries, outcomes that can't be controlled....then wham! a stinky smell and I am suddenly aware of my surroundings and the present moment...makes me smile even if the smell was vile....

  29. Amarie12116:21

    I love how in the Old Testament, God describes precisely what will be an acceptable sacrifice, down to the oil and incense burned so they will be a "sweet and satisfying fragrance to the Lord" (Lev. 2:2). In the New Testament, " Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God (for you, so that it became) a sweet fragrance". (Eph 5:2 Amp). We also become a sweet fragrance to others as we speak life and truth to them; what a profound mystery! (2Cor:14-16)

    As far as a personal experience with scent, I do have scents that are comforting to me, but only God gives me true comfort. I am thankful that He created us with the capacity to smell all the wonders that He has given us!

  30. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox church, so spirituality means the smell of incense to me. I love to go into different churches (Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic) and pick out the diffent types of incense they use. Even though I don't go to the Orthodox church anymore, the incense they use is still my favorite.

    Tawaf sounds amazing and I would love to try it!

  31. Anything that has the ability of grounding me 100% in who I am has a spiritual effect on me. What I love about perfume is that every single one I try is a reminder of my uniqueness. Every perfumista out there could be raving about a particular perfume, but my reaction to it when I smell it is entirely my own. It's very difficult to be indecisive about smell, I find, and believe me, I'm indecisive about many things. So, a long way of saying that I find the experience of perfume to be spiritual in and of itself.

  32. To me, a spiritual experience related to smell would have to involve outdoor and nature scents, such as cut grass, fallen leaves, rain, and burning wood.

  33. For me, the spiritual experience I associate with scent is the all-senses-engaged experience of incense. It's the smell, but also the way it coats the palate after an inhale and lingers there, and the way the smoke feels in the air, the way it looks rising and curling and dissipating, and even the way it sounds when it's made of resins burning.

    I always used to imagine the way that the incense in the Hebrew Bible must have smelled based on the ingredient list (still don't know what 'nard' smells like though), so I guess the spiritual experience I was actually having was reaching out with my imagination back to an unreachable past. I connected with this temple ritual much more than animal or food sacrifice (which made a 'pleasing smell' for G-d) since I believed that we as humans had progressed beyond that (and found the thought of killing for G-d upsetting). But I connected the imagery of smoke and scent with some sort of metaphysical form of prayer. I mean as instead of thinking about physical ritual as having spiritual significance I thought about verbal prayer as having come from this more physical place, as being a kind of invisible incense, formless but with the shadow of substance...if that makes any sense.

    I also identify with putting on fragrance for the Sabbath and holidays. I love Frapin for that because it's like kiddush! But really anything that won't bother others or clash with food. I also like Jubilation XXV and wear my decant pretty much exclusively on Shabbat/holidays.

    Please count me in the draw--I would love to try Tawaf, it sounds marvelous! I like the idea of it resonating as the interplay between two poles like silk in the sun.

  34. For me, a spiritual experience is best found in nature - I know that's sort of a dithery response...I suppose I mean to say 'garden' - I find that when I'm in my enclosed vegetable garden, amongst the bees, surrounded by the scent of damp, hot earth, crushed tomato and pepper leaves...pulling garlic..watching the toads hop under the cover of huge broccoli leaves..sunflowers reaching up to the heavens...those scents are the most spiritual for me.

  35. Anne22:42

    I've never thought about what a spiritual experience would smell like. In theory I think it would be a scent that was old and vast, but in practice, for me personally, I think it would be the scent of Korean spice viburnum flowers, because that brings back the woods and yard around the house I grew up in, where there was always a sense of something magical waiting and of being part of something larger than yourself.

  36. My first time in a Muslim country (Morocco) and hearing the first call to prayer.

  37. Ariadne02:06

    A spiritual experience for me is to be able to smell all the elements...the earth, the smell of intense sunshine, the smell of the water in a river and then all the nuances of scent that are carried on the wind. I may have been a bloodhound in another life. ;+)

  38. I would have to agree with what Ariadne said. Anything to do with elements(earth, fire, water, wind) all conjure up spiritual feelings in me.

  39. I associate the fragrant resins with spiritual experience.Frankincense,myrrh,elemi and labdanum etc have been used for centuries in religious rituals.I'm sure their strong liturgical association has something to do with it but when I smell them either alone or in a perfume I feel a sense of peace and spirituality.Even the Latin origin of the word perfume literally meaning "through smoke" indicates the cleansing and purifying role of these scented rituals.Nothing creates a more grounding experience for me than burning some real frankincense tears.Thus many of my most cherished perfumes are ones in which these resins play a prominent role, my all time favorite being Andy Tauer's L'air du Desert Marocain

  40. Anonymous07:27

    A number of commenters have already mentioned incense, which is a wonderful spiritual aid to prepare for meditation and prayer, so I will share a different fragrance of spirit--when my children were babies, and just nursed, their breath would sometimes smell of milky cardamom, for I loved to drink a cardomom scented tea, and it would pass between us. This sense of interconnection through our very breath elevated my spirit with gratitude, but it was also profoundly physical and emotional. To this day, I feel a special love for cardamom. And my children, now teens, would be appalled to know I was writing this! But they also still love cardamom in tea and pastries. Better stay anon. Thank you for the beautiful review, and the opportunity to try for a sample of one of Abdes Salaam's gorgeous perfumes.

  41. incense, of course, and that unique old-church mixture of candles, smoke, marble, wood, etc.

  42. There's something about pure roses that always takes me to a spiritual place!

    volta2173 at sbcglobal dot net

  43. I've been devoted to incense-based scents from my youth. Nothing is more moving than going to church during holy week. The ritual, the hymns, the rebirth...a sensory break from the pedestrian to the sublime

    happypulitzer at hotmail dot com

  44. Stephan20:45

    I'm not so sure about the spiritual experiences I might have had. But certainly the smell of candle wax and burning incense, and even floor wax sort of lifts my spirits.Thank you and AbdesSalaam for this draw.

  45. I've had moments of ecstasy while sniffing fresh jasmine. The scent is so deeply refreshing that I would call it spiritual. While smelling jasmine my mind clears instantly and I experience brilliant focus. It feels like reading excellent poetry, that kind that makes the top of your head open up.

  46. To me, incense scents, along with resiny and woody scents are spiritual. Thanks for the draw.

  47. the story of what inspired Tawaf is a serious one; it makes me think that yes in fact it is through our senses - sight, in the case of the silk that wasn't black,was grey instead, or scent in the case of perfumes - that we access our spiritual. The beauty and joy conveyed in choosing and wearing a perfume is an act of self examination, one that can be an act of meditation and realization. But it would take work. Most often we slap it on, splash it around and run into life. It was good to hear the story of Tawaf. Sometimes, just sometimes I have moments of deep sensuous joy and self awareness that is connected tot he spiritual when I use perfume.

  48. The smell of citrus blossoms has always elicited a kind of spiritual effect in me. The effect is mainly grounded in memories, maybe the rise of some long un-experienced emotions, and a state of comfort and reassurance. Thank you for the draw.


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