Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Familiar Yet Worthwhile Journey Of Mecca Balsam

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Is variety necessary for enjoying perfume? As evidenced by the popularity of the signature scent feature of Fragrantica, many perfume wearers like the idea of having a single favorite fragrance to fall back on. I also tend to go through months of wearing the same few perfumes over and over again. There are certainly times in our lives where consistency is a wonderful thing.

However, I’m also beginning to think that sampling is an area where variety is really, really helpful. In my review of Bengale Rouge, I referenced a massive sample set of amber perfumes that almost universally disappointed me. It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that part of that disappointment was my fault. By pitting a bunch of amber perfumes against each other, I naturally found a favorite which cast a shadow over everything else. I barely gave myself an opportunity to enjoy most of the perfumes in the first place.

Mecca Balsam is one of those perfumes. The perfume is inspired by the titular city, a core religious site to which millions make a pilgrimage every year. It is a place that breathes perfume. Dominique Dubrana, founder and perfumer of Abdes Salaam Attars (also known as La Via Del Profumo), recounts the trip that inspired the fragrance:

The purification ritual necessary to enter the sacred state of Ihram wearing its simple white dress is accompanied by the abundant use of perfume: once the Ihram is put on, however, the pilgrim will no longer be able to perfume himself.

The scented skis of millions of scents left by slowly walking pilgrims enchant the visitor’s nose, and make this trip an unforgettable experience, especially for a European unaccustomed to such a profusion of olfactory stimuli.

Dominique Dubrana, Translated from Italian from Abdes Salaam Attars

While I can’t personally attest to the accuracy of this perfume to the given experience, I am certain of one thing: this is a richly imagined amber that balances depth and comfort very well.

Mecca Balsam notes:

Indian tuberose, tobacco, rose, benzoin, agarwood, incense, labdanum, tonka bean

Tuberose, that bold floral that can either enchant or terrify, grants the perfume’s opening a floral lift that disappears rather quickly. Mecca Balsam almost immediately announces itself as a woody-incense-amber fragrance. On one hand, the effect is strikingly well-composed. At one moment, the woods grant the perfume a striking holy-forest quality; at the next, the sweetness of the tonka and benzoin almost tilt the scales toward ambery-gourmand territory. At yet other moments the incense wisps through, making for a perfume that’s undoubtedly reverent. These shifts easily elevate Mecca Balsam above the average amber.

The strongest impression I get while wearing Mecca Balsam is that of safety. It carries a certain well-rounded prettiness in its carefully constructed atmosphere, even as it shifts between its aspects. It’s a perfume that I can easily imagine pleasing adventurous and cautious noses alike. For all these aspects, the perfume certainly deserves praise.

The little aspects holding Mecca Balsam from being an auto-buy for me are difficult to pin down. It’s a little quiet, but would a perfume like this really be suited for loudness? It’s also, despite all its strengths, still quite settled in that crowded arena of resinous amber perfumes. None of its notes are particularly, and I can’t really imagine a perfume nerd encountering Mecca Balsam and being surprised. It’s the type of fragrance that’s aided by standing alone, given its own opportunity to shine and do what it does admirably well.

Luckyscent offers multiple bottle sizes and samples here.

The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated. 

Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!

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  • Jade

    Jade is the Lifestyle Editor at the Fandomentals, where they obsess over perfume and underground music. Their wacky poetry is floating around the internet - beware! Follow them for fragrance and poetry content @johndarrextreme on Instagram.

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