I don't think I've ever fully grasped the idea of a meditative perfume until I smelled Mecca Balsam by natural perfumer Dominique Dubrana of La Via del Profumo. What I mean is that while I was familiar with the concept and aware of the aromatherapy qualities of several of the usual suspects in such scents, I've never actually experienced a perfume that took me there.
Why is Mecca Balsam different? It might be the depth and rawness of the natural ingredients. There are no minimalistic tricks and gimmicks here- this is the real thing. Unyielding and authentic to the core, Dubrana (also known under the alias AbdesSalaam Attar) wants us to experience the city of Mecca and his spiritual journey with him, and he chose frankincense, agarwood, raw tobacco and labdanum (among several other notes) as his vessel.
The first whiff of Mecca Balsam is nothing short of stunning. It makes you stop, take a deep breath and take it all in. This is not something you'd find at Macy's, where they sell perfumes that aren't supposed to make you feel or think too much. What you get here is dark and dry, resinous and smoky. It creates a certain mood right away. It's very deliberate and there's nothing casual about this scent. The labdanum and tobacco are the most pronounced notes on my skin. They make me feel like I've stepped into a dark, sacred place out of time. Sweet incense is burning in the corner and the red and pink lights of sunrise are felt more than actually seen through an elaborately ornamented window.
It's a mental and emotional place, not a real one, but it feels safe and honest and allows one to take a good introspective look. The scent is strong and would affect your surrounding, but at the same time it's personal and and reflective. I wouldn't wear it to a job interview or a first date (no matter if you're a man or a woman), but your nearest and dearest would be lucky to smell it on you.
Mecca Balsam by La Via del Profumo (€ 34.17, 16 ml or 91.67 euro for 50 ml ) is available directly from www.profumo.it. The rest of La Via Del Profumo Scents of the Soul range can be purchased in a discovery kit that doesn't yet include Mecca Balsam, but The Perfumed Court sells samples of this fragrance.
A press sample was provided to me by the perfumer.
Photo: A guide pricking the bark of a frankincense tree in Oman from dallasnews.com.