AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam

Having blogged on a difficult, fancypants niche scent on Monday, I thought I’d blog on the opposite end of the spectrum today – AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam from the Scents of the Soul series.

As many of you know, I was trapped in Snowmageddon, parts I and II (part III, yesterday, failed to materialize.  The kids went to school, today, sort of.  The snow is piled now five feet high on the roadside, and there’s nowhere to walk.  Friday was declared the worst commuting day in regional history in Washington, D.C., and that’s saying something.  My guess is today wasn’t too much better.  We’re missing a lane on most of our major roads.)

So our car was still snowed in, and Louise came down this past weekend, on the nearest plowed road, to pick me up for some sanity time.  She got stuck in traffic.  I’d had terrible insomnia the night before and was feeling a bit sick and sad.  I sat outside of the local market nursing a Coke and watching angry commuters honk at each other.  My mood could not have been much more fragile, although I was trying to keep my game face on.

She brought along AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam, which is being bounced around hotly on the blogs and perfume boards right now.  I figured I’d get around to trying it eventually, but “eventually” came sooner than I thought.  (Look, I’ve created a new tag: Blame Louise).  I sprayed Mecca Balsam on in her car before limping into Starbucks for a latte and conversation with someone other than my immediate family, about something other than some dire aspect of the blizzard.  (Did I mention our gutter fell off?  While I was out?  40 linear feet of metal in the driveway, fortunately not on anyone’s head, as that’s the route to the side door and the mudroom that we all use.  It was laden with a foot of slushy ice, and is now twisted like a dead sea serpent on the concrete.  I don’t want to think about what would have happened if it had landed on someone’s head.)  Notes are: cistus labdanum, frankincense, benzoin, agarwood, tonka bean, tobacco, Indian tuberose and Damask rose.

AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam is not a high-art scent, like perhaps a Serge, or a Malle, where you are thinking your way through what you are smelling.  (In the case of some Serges or Malles, perhaps your thought process is w…..t…..f….?, even if you find yourself loving it later.)

This is the olfactory equivalent of a giant, warm embrace of the incense/benzoin sort.  Don’t be alarmed by the name – it is not balsam-y in the Pine-Sol way, as you can see from the notes.

AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam is, according to the perfumer, Dominique Dubrana, inspired by a trip to Mecca.  I’ll link here so you can read all the blurbage.  At the opening it’s sweeter than I’d have expected, rather ambery, but not overwhelmingly so.  It settles quickly into a fairly uniform scent that tilts very slightly, constantly, back and forth, between warm and cool – that’s the only way I can think of to describe it, and as I see the same description on The Perfume Shrine I’m linking to Helg’s review, as she clearly knows much more about the line than I do.

I was smelling it without thought, on a messy, sad, frustrating day.  And … it’s lovely.  Lovely. I smiled and the sun broke out from behind the clouds and my heart lifted. AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam feels more like an essential oil, and I don’t mean that disparagingly – it sits on the skin and then blooms and blooms and blooms.  I could not keep my nose away from my wrist.  I deliberately sprayed the sleeve of my jacket so I could enjoy it later, and I did.  Very much so.

I can’t think of the last time I smelled a fragrance cold, without much in the way of preconception, and was so enchanted.   It’s not really about the florals (rose and tuberose) at all; I can’t even pick them out.  Incense freaks: man, you need to try this.  There is nothing austere about it; it’s warm, like a golden orb.  It’s honeyed. It makes me think of burning those papiers d’Armenies, with their smoke and benzoin.  It’s rich but not cloying.  There’s nothing at all edible about it, it’s not gourmand, but it provided me with approximately the same amount of pleasure as a mouthful of a really excellent creme brulee, or the rice pudding I had recently at an Indian restaurant.  It has a fullness to it. It’s smoke and amber, tobacco and the dry/sweet joy of frankincense.  (Oud lovers – it’s really subtle here, I wouldn’t buy this scent for that note.)  I, who have a ton of incense scents, can’t say that this reminds me of anything at all other than why I think incense scents are so fabulous.

PS Looks like Trish is giving away a bottle on Scent Hive — here’s a link to her review, she liked it too.  (nope, they didn’t offer me a giveaway bottle for the Posse, sorry folks!)

You can get a 16ml bottle of AbdesSalaam Attar Mecca Balsam for 34 Euros, and that seems more than fair to me.  I’m ordering it.

  • Joe says:

    So if y’all come to L.A. and drive up to SF, you have to stop for lunch in Santa Barbara, m’kay? 😉

    I have a small decant of Balsamo coming, so I’ll find out soon enough, but your description made me think of Jubilation XXV. Anything like that, even a little bit? I love an ambery incense.

  • (Ms.) Christian says:

    I read the review last night and promptly ordered Mecca.

    My way of dealing with sad/stressful times (as in the past 14 months) is to come home from work, take care of ALL the animals (non-human), pick out a book, get some decaf chai brewing, throw my huge back support lounger reading pillow on the bed, throw off the executive garb and shoes, put on loud, loose pj bottoms, a soft t-shirt and an aging cashmere sweater over that. Then wet myself down with a good scent. I think Mecca will be in heavy evening rotation for the job.

    Thanks March.

  • maggiecat says:

    It’s warm somewhere? Really? Can I come? I know what you mean about how a scent can make a bad day much, much better. And I don’t know Louise personally but have no problem blaming her for whatever I find that makes today manageable for me….ebay, anyone?

  • Disteza says:

    You mean gutters are SUPPOSED to be up on your roof, not lying under a pile of icy snow (snowy ice?) in your yard? Next thing you’ll be telling me trees are supposed to be growing out of the ground, and not lying in sad little piles after VDOT comes through and cuts everything down that hasn’t fallen on its own. [-(

    The incense does sound quite nice though–I’ll have to dig up a samp.

    • March says:

      Oh, don’t say it. I’ll start thinking about my roses in the back yard. The shrubs out front I’m not going to cry over, but the roses, and their trellises, are completely crushed and broken. I am fairly confident they’ll grow back, but it makes my heart hurt looking at them the way they are right now. There was simply nothing I could do at the time.

      • mals86 says:

        Oh, I’m so sorry about your roses. It’s so hard to be patient and wait for them to recover and bloom again.

        We had an ice storm in 1993 that destroyed trees right and left. I vividly remember talking to my stoic grandmother on the phone and realizing that she was crying, listening to the crackly death of the century-old trees in her yard.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’m a wannabe incense freak, so I’m hoping to win that FB! Lovely writing about how the fragile mood thing can feel–had one of those yesterday. Hope your snow melts away very soon. Here’s a little poem for you:

    The way a crow
    Shook down on me
    The dust of snow
    From a hemlock tree
    Has given my heart
    A change of mood
    And saved some part Of a day I had rued. ~Robert Frost

  • maidenbliss says:

    That was a perfect example, March, of perfume lifting one’s spirits and bringing a smile to your face in the midst of snowmalicious and all it entails-it’s still snowing madly here and my gutter is laying along my house so I know how you feel. I must have this Mecca Balsam!!! Thank you, Louise!

  • Shelley says:

    High art. We’ve covered this before, right…some days are best served with Mac & Cheese, and nothing fancier. Comfort. Though it sounds like this one might be my variation on mac ‘n cheese, fumbled upon as a New Mom (oy, baby days…remember those?) Easy to do: add in julienned sun dried tomato from a jar, some goat cheese, et voila! Mac ‘n frommage! Kids can have it either way.

    I wonder if I should save my first sniff of Mecca Balsam for a bad day, so that it gets full contrasty benefit. Nah, who am I kidding. I shall seek it out. Thanks for the review, and may today bring an even bigger break in the “clouds.” ~o) >:d<

    • March says:

      Yes. I like me some High Art as much as the next gal 😉 and I don’t mean to suggest there’s anything unsophisticated about this. It’s just … right there, being what it is. And while it doesn’t strike me as something I’d want to wear in the summer, it’s quite nice right now.

  • Melissa says:

    I wish I had $10 for each time one of us has posted “blame it on Louise”. I would probably have a full bottle of an Amouage or something. 😮

    Cabin-fever was certainly the theme last week and it was difficult not to be irritable and touchy. So a trip to the Galleria on Saturday was a welcome relief. I unexpectedly fell in love with Balenciaga Paris- slightly metallic violets on a soft, elegant base. Balsam sounds like a resinous wonder, but I’m starting to crave florals!

    • Musette says:


      wanna talk ‘unexpected’? I didn’t even know this existed ( I love Balenciaga evening gowns – never paid much attention to their scents.

      😕 Prolly a good thing I’m on the train to Chicago – it’s gotta be there somewhere – I just know it!

      xoxo >-)

    • March says:

      I have not smelled BP yet! If they ever clear Conn Ave maybe I’ll drive to Tysons…

      Hon, for sure we’d EACH have a bottle of Amouage.

      • Musette says:

        well I did smell the Balenciaga and :-?. It is beautiful but I think I like my violets a little smackier. It was a total waste in the store but I am not blaming it – NM is an olfactory heart-attack! once i got outside in the cold it woke up a bit. I’m going to try it anon, when my nose settles down.

        MdB – totally forgot! I’m such a l-)

        xox >-)

  • Silviafunkly says:

    Instant lemming from Incense Girl here. :)>-

  • tania says:

    I’m an incense-lover, so this is a no-brainer. Thanks for the enabling! :d

    Damn, that site is chock-full of tempting stuff, isn’t it?

    • March says:

      NOT looking at the others. ARen’t a couple of those the things LT was going all batshit crazy for in The Guide? Yes. Hindu Kush and I am pretty sure a couple other things.

      • tania says:

        Smart move! 🙂 Don’t Look at the Pretties.
        Yes, I think so. And Hindu Kush is on my must-try list.

  • Louise says:

    It was a lovely escape for me, too 😡 It’s been a rough patch all around…

    The Balsam is such a comfort, innit? My skin brings out the balsam-y aspect, as in resin, in a pretty way. It’s just so well blended, and a bargain at that :d

    I love getting blamed for other than my whoopsies 😉

  • aotearoa says:

    Not on topic – but of course now I want to try this too – Just wanted to say thank you for the ebay suggestions for FB Lutens…I am on the way to a whole new perfume problem now!
    Also I wanted to say how much I have enjoyed this website over the past year for it’s entertainment as well as education.
    Kia Ora from NZ

  • I smelled this last Sunday and I find it quite beautiful, though as you said, quite static: it doesn’t really tell a story, it just takes you somewhere. I’m not an incense freak so I don’t see myself needing it, but it really does have a calming, meditative effect and I’d love to be able to sniff it now and then.

    • March says:

      I’m enjoying reading these comments and you’re right, it just takes you somewhere, well put. It’s a nice destination, yes, even if we don’t want to go there every day!

  • violetnoir says:

    I’m glad it made you smile, darling.

    And, yes…you should totally come to LA.

    Hugs and love!

    • March says:

      I miss LA. You guys are killing me. 🙁 But I have to drag P with me again, because I can’t deal with the driving. She was totally fine with it.

      • Elizabeth says:

        NorCal is where it’s at ;). If you go to LA, you must come up here to verify this. 🙂

      • Musette says:

        if she won’t drive, I will. I spent way too many years of my life in LA traffic but as long as you are not trying to make a meeting it’s all good!

        I’ll drive you to Roscoe’s.

        xo >-)

        and then we’ll drive up the coast to SF and have a great time, too!

        o-tay! that was fun!

  • Arwen says:

    Yes, all of you come to LA. We’ll have a big sniff party!
    Today it felt like summer here.

    Anyway Balsamo della Mecca is really enchanting. I found it very comforting. I am glad you enjoyed it to and that it made your day a little better.

  • tmp00 says:

    you my dear need a trip to LA >:d<

  • Scent Hive says:

    I loved this too! It’s a warm embrace of an incense fragrance. I got a ton of labdanum from it which is fine by me!


  • Elizabeth says:

    I think I’m ordering it too, now. Seeing as I’m an “incense freak.” 🙂 It sounds divine, marvelous, my soul mate of a perfume.