I've come to the Mecca Balsam party quite late, the fragrance having received much attention and praise back in February and March this year. The notes include labdanum, benzoin, frankincense, agarwood, tonka, tobacco, damask rose and Indian tuberose. The creator behind La Via del Profumo, Dominique Dubrana, claims to use only all-natural ingredients in his perfumes. A number of people have marveled at the strength and longevity of Mecca Balsam, but actually, when you look at the list of ingredients above, it is no wonder, as they are all powerhouse notes, most with very good fixative properties. The perfume opens with what I perceive as Indian spice notes. I haven't seen a full list of notes, but I detect a lot of coriander, cumin and what I think is clove and maybe even fenugreek. It's quite heady, with an underlying current of ambery sweetness and perhaps some rose and what I thought was saffron, but perhaps not. I think I detected some oud, or agarwood, but it is by no means a dominating note and this is not an oud-centred fragrance. It's in the heart where Mecca Balsam really became compelling and interesting for me. It veered off in a smoky, resinous direction, with a strong frankincense note emerging, slightly musty and even off-putting. It reminded me ever so slightly of the style of incense in Etro's Messe de Minuit, all moldering church building. It becomes very complex, with the labdanum adding an ambery, deep sweetness, which with the rose, tobacco and incense, is quite amazing. The dry down smoothes out quite a lot, becoming quite woody, yet that slightly musty incense note persists almost to the very end. Late in development, one is left with the lingering labdanum, tinged with incense and a faint tobacco-amber woody sweetness. The late dry down reminds me a little of Bois d'Armenie by Guerlain, which I have also recently sampled, but perhaps a bit richer and more complex. I think the similarity might stem from a similar use of Benzoin.
Mecca Balsam is a compelling and very interesting perfume. It is complex, rich and has extremely good lasting power on my skin, and good sillage too. I can see why many people have raved about it; it is very well made. One thing that surprises me is that the tuberose completely escapes me. I think I generally know the smell of tuberose quite well, but if I hadn't read a note list, I would not have detected this at all. I'm not sure if others have found this as well. Overall, I think Mecca Balsam is definitely worth trying, and looking at Profumo's website, a 16ml bottle only costs about 34 euros, which is not bad for a niche perfume. It comes in 50ml size too, but I always like it when perfumers allow you to purchase smaller bottle sizes; I really think its the way to go.
Image credit: scenthive.com
Image credit: scenthive.com