Smelling Tawaf from La Via del Profumo for the first time can be shocking. If there ever was a "Death by Jasmine" perfume this is it. Tawaf, religious and spiritual back story aside, is as dirty and indolic as they come. At least that was what my nose informed me upon first contact. Soon after that Tawaf started changing on my skin (I'll talk about it in a second), and I've worn it several times since then without hesitation, so could it be my imagination? No, I doubt it. Tawaf is very much about jasmine- real and raw, even when it's softened and tempered with a cream-to-powder opoponax.
La Via del Profumo is an Italian line by perfumer Dominique Durbana / AbdesSalaam Attar. The line is mostly all natural, but even those well-versed in natural perfumery as we know it today will find themselves surprised by Durbana's work. In my opinion he's one of the most fascinating perfumers working today; well worth the minor hassle of ordering samples from his website (profumo.it). Tawaf is the last of the fragrances from La Via del Profumo's Arabian Series that opened with the stunning Mecca Balsam. In Tawaf the perfumer keeps us in Mecca and draws us deeper into the ancient ritual of circling the Ka'aba. The fragrance brings forth several scents associated with performing a Tawaf:
"It bring 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."
Now, I'm an East Coast Jew. Our holidays and rituals are usually associated with Gefilte Fish, something that I assure you has little to do with spirituality. Nevertheless, I can certainly appreciate the uplifting quality of Tawaf. The fragrance on all its dirty jasmine and indolic aspects commands your attention and makes you sit still and listen to its nuances. One can almost understand why the believers are ordered to circle the Ka'aba seven times in a certain direction- there's something meditative about the action, and the fragrance- jasmine and all- takes you to that place.
Once you can smell and breathe beyond the heady jasmine garlands that seem to have landed around your neck, there's more to explore. The jasmine becomes smoother and beautifully honeyed. That's where my doubts disappear and I fall in love again and again. Opoponax is usually pretty resinous, but here it emerges from the honey with a very creamy feel that dries down fairly quickly into a slightly woody powder that complements and grounds the jasmine just a little: it's still heady and golden, but the way the note responds to skin is warm and highly satisfying.
Tawaf remains detectable for five to six hours, though its projection is rather low and there's little sillage once the initial blast is gone. While jasmine is considered a mostly feminine note in Western perfumery, there's nothing girly or womanly in this fragrance. Tawaf is atmospheric, so men who aren't afraid of jasmine should give it a chance and see what happens when they go there.
Tawaf by La Via del Profumo (47 euro, 15.5ml. Other sizes and samples available) can be purchased online from profumo.it. The sample for this review was supplied by the perfumer.
Photo of the gold doors to the Ka'aba by Umutrehberi on Flickr.