31 July 2016

Al Rehab Perfumes: A Quick Sniff

Al-Rehab is one of the largest perfume manufacturers in Saudi Arabia and has become a mainstay across the Middle East with their incredibly large range of perfumed products, from solid perfumes to room sprays. They are also incredibly cheap. And by cheap, I mean that you can get 6ml roll-on bottles and 35ml spray bottles for around the same price as, and often cheaper than, a standard perfume sample. Each of these 6ml perfume oil roll-ons cost me £1.99 delivered to my door (check eBay or Amazon), and if you are able to find them at a physical location, usually Islamic bookstores and the like, you can usually find multibuy offers (I have seen 5 for £5). While many may scoff at the ridiculously cheap price and walk away, there are actually quite a number of gems to be found if you have the patience to wade through the rubbish (as with most of life really). To save you some of the hassle I thought that I would give a quick overview of those within my immediate reach, the majority of which are most certainly worth seeking out if you have the time and inclination.

Please note that these reviews are all for the 6ml oils, however many do also come in alcohol spray form. Perfume oils tend to have a deeper and richer fragrance, and also lose a lot of the lighter top notes due to their condensed nature, so the spray bottles do have minor differences. My preferred application for these is a dab on each wrist and to the pulse points at my neck. And by dab, I really do mean a dab, the sillage on these is absurd, so you can easily overdo it.

Oh, and just in case - I am not being paid to write this, so all opinions, as always, are my own.

L to R: Aseel, Choco Musk, Cobra & Crystal

L to R: Dakar, Dehn Al Oud & Soft

Aseel - 4/10

Green rose and oud. Aseel holds no punches with the opening, hitting you with a metallic saffron and a very green rose. That green rose is the beating heart of the composition, with the saffron soon dialling down to leave room for a backbone of medicinal oud and a surprisingly nice minty vanilla that helps smooth things over. The oud here is not the dark urinous oud of Dehn Al Oud, but a slightly medicinal and ‘clean’ version that one finds in most Arabian perfumes where oud is not the main focus. Overall this smells clean cut to me, with a nice big green rose, but it never quite shakes that metallic hint that I find a bit too sharp for my liking. Be especially careful with over-applying this one because it is incredibly strong.

Choco Musk - 7.5/10

Do you want to smell like chocolate? Then Choco Musk is for you. I do find the name rather misleading though, because I struggle to detect any musk - I think that Choco Vanilla would be a better title. The opening is a slightly powdery dark cocoa, which is tempered with something akin to white sugar crystals to avoid it becoming too bitter. It quickly mellows into a warming milk chocolate and a vanilla that is reminiscent of heated marshmallows. Think of the comforting smell of hot chocolate, with those tiny white marshmallows bobbing around in the froth, and you get an idea of whether you would enjoy this perfume or not. I use this to unwind - something to enjoy after a hot bath as you curl up at home, but not really an ‘outdoors’ fragrance. I do not even eat chocolate, but I love how this smells.

Cobra - 9/10

A true 80s-style floral powerhouse, and most certainly the most complex scent out of this bunch. The dominant tuberose note in this perfume means that it gets a lot of comparisons made to Dior’s Poison, but think Poison long before its limpid reformulations, because this is a truly rich and seductive blend. The opening for me is a wonderfully spicy combination of clove and anise layered over a citrus zest, rich berries and that beautiful syrupy tuberose from the get go. The clove and anise soon dry down to a reveal a more nuanced blend of spices (cinnamon, cumin, pepper, I get hints of everything), as the fruitier notes give way to a creamy sandalwood, amber and a heavy dose of incense. But running throughout is that glorious tuberose, which is soon met by a rather indolic jasmine, that works wonders with what I am convinced is an animalic musk hiding away in there, and some lighter white florals mixing in nicely with that amber (and maybe some vanilla?). This is an incredibly heady concoction that is a delight to smell unfold and easily lasts all day and well into the night.

Crystal - 9/10

Rich chocolate, red roses, earthy patchouli and a warm musk. Think of this as a smoother and richer version of Mugler’s Angel. This is something I could easily envision people choosing as their signature scent, because it is complex enough to remain interesting throughout the day, works well across the year, and is distinct enough not to be mistaken for something anyone else is wearing. Dark chocolate blends cleverly with rose and a wonderfully earthy and rich patchouli, that helps it avoid entering gourmand ground. Yes it has chocolate, but it never feels edible in the way that Choco Musk does, mainly because of the lack of any vanilla or sugary sweetness. The dry down brings out a woody spiciness that really helps veer this firmly away from dessert territory, and I really do enjoy the complexity of what I had initially thought would be a relatively linear fragrance. I actually find myself reaching for this the most out of all the Al Rehab perfumes I have tried so far because it is so versatile. Definitely worth trying out if you get the chance.

Dakar - 5/10

An interesting enough riff off the original formulation of Drakkar Noir. A herbaceous and slightly soapy oakmoss-based fragrance. The opening is surprisingly dark and spicy with hints of tobacco smoke, resinous woods and oud. Unfortunately for me that darkness is fleeting, slipping away before you really get to enjoy it, to be replaced by a more traditional oakmoss, lavender and pine combination. Anyone who finds contemporary Drakkar Noir lacking in power and depth will enjoy this. I just wish that opening lasted longer.

Dehn Al Oud - 10/10

Dirty, animalic, sweaty, fecal, urinous, and utterly beautiful. Oud is slowly but surely gaining popularity in European fragrances (it is unfortunately still too dirty for the soapy clean arena of American perfumery, which mostly seems to think that humans in their natural state smell of white musk and baby powder), but no one does oud like the Middle East. I was surprised at just how deep and rich this synthetic oud was given its ridiculously cheap price. Bear in mind that actual oud oil, distilled from the resin of the mould-infected heartwood of Aquilaria trees, is one of the priciest raw materials in the world. I have only ever had the privilege of smelling true oud oil a few times in my life, and while my bank balance does not yet stretch far enough for me to wear it when I am in the mood, this will most certainly do for now.

The opening is not for the faint of heart, with a rich urinous streak and a background of stale tobacco smoke, sweat (perhaps cumin?), and a beautifully dirty animalic leather. The heart of the perfume is a luscious honeyed oud, coupled with a slightly lighter medicinal wood that really helps to give the fragrance dimension. Over time the honeyed note turns waxy, which works wonderfully alongside a strong civet-like raunch. I can imagine quite a lot of people not wanting to touch this with a barge pole, but for those daring few, you really are in for a treat.

Soft - 8/10

A creamy lemon sugar musk. The opening is a strong lemon and sugary vanilla, almost like a lemon drizzle cake, which playfully balances tartness and sweetness. The lemon moves from a fresh citrus to a candied peel, that I think works well with the creamier vanilla that develops in the base. That vanilla is joined by a light caramel and clean musk that blooms slowly over time, giving this a beautifully cosy warmth. The spray seems to rely more on white sugar than the creaminess of the perfume oil, so decide accordingly. Overall a very comforting scent and easily something I could wear alone throughout Spring.



  1. Soft & Choco Musk sound so appealing. I always like the sugary sweet smells.

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