Perfume Review: Xerjoff Mamluk (Oud Stars Collection)

Mamluk. Source: Fragrantica.

Mamluk. Source: Fragrantica.

Xerjoff is an uber-luxury, Italian niche perfume house founded in 2004 by Sergio Momo. In 2012, Xerjoff (pronounced as “Zer-joff”) launched its Oud Stars Collection of fragrances which included Mamluk, a gourmand take on agarwood. Like the rest of its siblings, Mamluk was created by the perfume house’s founder, in conjunction with Sonia Espelta and Laura Santander

The notes in Mamluk according to Xerjoff and Luckyscent include:

Italian Bergamot, Honey, Caramel Accord, Jasmine Garndiflorum, Osmanthus, Laos Benzoin, Vanilla Madagascar, Indian Oud, Crystal Musks, and Amber.

Photo: Blentley via fr.fotopedia.com

Photo: Blentley via fr.fotopedia.com

Mamluk opens on my skin as the most unbelievably sweet bouquet of lemon and honey with a beautiful, but faint, floral tinge. Quickly, sour notes emerge, smelling rather urinous, though simultaneously infused with an incredible sugariness. Thankfully, both the sourness and the pee-like nuance are very short-lived, and fade away in a matter of minutes. In the meantime, subtle whiffs of a sharp, slightly astringent oud flicker on and off, while musk, amber, and a warm plushness stir in the base.

The famous Cora "Sun Drop" yellow diamond. Source: extravaganzi.com

The famous Cora “Sun Drop” yellow diamond. Source: people.com.cn

What’s interesting about Mamluk’s opening minutes is that, despite smelling the nuances of the individual notes, you’re subsumed by the overall effect which is far more over-reaching, all-encompassing and lovely. Yes, you can detect the lemon or the subtle florals, along with the other elements, but Mamluk envelops you in a blooming cloud that feels absolutely radiant. It’s like a giant, yellow diamond shining in the dark, throwing off rays of crystal clarity and sharpness. And, yet, there is incredible softness billowing out as well. It’s like a juxtaposition of angles but, also, of extremes that’s very hard to describe. Take, for example, that lemon and honey combination. It is so sweet, it almost hurts; so intense, it can verge on the sharp; and yet, there is a radiant softness that almost glitters.

Bergamot. Source: a1.ro

Bergamot. Source: a1.ro

Ten minutes into Mamluk’s development, the perfume turns even sweeter and warmer. The citrus is heady, conjuring images of the fruit lying ripe, thick, and heavy on the branch, and so sweetened by the sun that it verges on the over-blown. The subtle floral nuances are simultaneously airy, thick, gauzy, dainty, indolic, and slightly voluptuous. Again, it’s the story of contradictory extremes. In the background, the Indian oud now feels so sweetened that it almost verges on the caramelized. It’s a far cry from the medicinal, ripe cheese and fecal characteristics of the very aged, rare agarwood from Laos that dominates Mamluk’s very masculine sibling, Zafar. The overall effect of the different elements in Mamluk is an intoxicating, honeyed headiness that feels almost piercing in its sweetness and glitter.

Slowly, slowly, the sweetness starts to take some shape. Twenty minute in, the heavy honey cloud takes on a definite salty caramel undertone. There is a similar salty vibe to the musk and golden amber, leading me to believe that there may be actual ambergris — that really rare, difficult to find, incredibly expensive ingredient — in Mamluk, and not the generic sort of “amber” that is used in most perfumery. The floral notes aren’t as easy to distinguish. They feel amorphous, and never like distinct jasmine or osmanthus. In fact, I don’t smell any of osmanthus’ tea or apricot undertones, though I detect something that feels a lot like peach. Perhaps, it’s the effect of the rich honey and the lurking caramel that have made the osmanthus into something far richer than delicate apricot. Over time, the caramel becomes stronger and more powerful, infusing everything with its sugary tones. When combined with the honey, the sweetness completely overpowers and overshadows the subtle flickers of oud, which now retreats far, far to the background, never to be seen again until the drydown. At the 40-minute mark, even the flowers feel as though they’ve been drenched in caramel and, to be honest, it’s a bit cloying at this stage. Have I mentioned that Mamluk is a very sweet fragrance?

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Mamluk never changes in its primary essence, only in its shape. From start to finish, it is predominantly a very sweet citrus-honey fragrance with other notes that circle around it like planets around a honeyed sun. For the first three hours, the florals are the main lady-in-waiting, though they always feel abstract and indistinct. Sometimes the floral-peach note seems a little more prominent, sometimes the caramel, but, at all times, the star of the show is the tangoed dance of honey and heavy, sun-sweetened lemon.

The only big change in this period is in Mamluk’s texture which becomes softer, warmer, smoother, lighter, and less thick. The edges have been rounded out, even blurred, so that the whole thing feels more billowy than ever. The perfume feels better balanced, particularly the sweetness which, at the start of the second hour, seems much less overwhelming. Mamluk is that oddest of combinations: a fragrance whose potent, indolic notes feel simultaneously thick and airy, strong and light, voluminous and heavy, sharp and blurry. It would almost feel like a vague cloud, except you can clearly detect those main notes — limited and monotonous as they may be.

It’s only around the fourth hour that the notes themselves start to shift their place in the rotation. Now, the oud starts to peek out from behind the sun. It’s as though it needed the power of the other notes to fade a little before it had the chance to be noticed. Taking its place in the background is the floral bouquet which becomes softer and less noticeable with every passing hour. Mamluk is now a honey-citrus perfume infused with sweetened agarwood and the barest suggestion of rich vanilla bean paste. In its final moments, Mamluk is nothing more than abstract sweetness with the vaguest suggestion of honey.

All in all, Mamluk lasted a little over 11.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It’s an incredibly powerful perfume, even when its projection drops from its initial heady heights towards the end of the second hour. At that point, Mamluk only wafts 3 inches above the skin, though it is still extremely strong within that small cloud. It takes the fragrance about 7.5 hours to become a skin scent, though it doesn’t require voracious sniffing to detect it even then. For all that Mamluk sometimes feels like a billowing, radiant cloud in weight, the strength of the fragrance cannot be under-estimated. I merely dabbed, approximately 2.5 large-ish smears, and I cannot imagine the power of Mamluk if one actually sprayed it on, never mind if one sprayed on a lot. My God, they might smell you out at the space station!

I like Mamluk, though I think one could get a little bored of it and exhausted by the fierce onslaught of its richness. It’s linear, monotonous, far from complex, and, yet, it’s also pretty, lush, rich, heady, and languid. Mamluk is really a honey lover’s fragrance, and not something I’d ever recommend to those whose skin chemistry always turns the note sour, urinous, or animalic. I’m lucky and, with one single perfume exception, honey always blooms on my skin, so obviously this review reflects that aspect. As a whole, Mamluk feels quite unisex, though it may be too feminine for those men who like their agarwood on the very undiluted, masculine, edgy, raw side (like in Zafar). Mamluk is actually a perfect fragrance for those who normally struggle with oud, who like it highly tamed and sweetened, and who prefer it to be a minor, unobtrusive player instead of a main one. It’s definitely a fragrance for those who love very sweet or gourmand perfumes. For me personally, it’s a little too repetitive, one-dimensional, and boring, but I can definitely see its heady charms. Mamluk is frightfully expensive, however, and I personally think it’s actually far too expensive for its very simple nature. However, price is always a subjective issue, and Mamluk does feel opulently luxurious, so if you love honey and dislike strong oud, then you may want to give it a try.

DETAILS:
General Cost: Oud Stars Mamluk is an eau de parfum that is only available in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that costs $315 or €240. In the U.S.: you can buy Mamluk from Luckyscent, though they seem to be back-ordered. There is also an Oud Stars Discovery set of 6 fragrances in 15 ml sizes for $250, but they are sold out of that too at the moment. Mamluk is also offered by Parfums Raffy for the same price of $315, and it is not sold out there. MinNY does not list Mamluk, though it does offer a sample for purchase. Outside the U.S.: You can order Mamluk directly from Xerjoff for €240, or you could opt for the sample set (which is currently sold out) for €195. In the UK, Xerjoff is carried at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. In Paris, Mamluk is carried at Jovoy which sells it for €240, Germany’s First in Fragrance sells it for €247, and the Netherland’s Aafkes for €240. In Russia you can buy Mamluk at Orental for what seems to be 6,000 Ru, and also at Lenoma. The Oud Stars Discovery Set is offered by some perfume retailers, such as Aafkes and First in Fragrance. It’s priced at €195 for 6 different fragrances in 15 ml sizes. For all other locations from Sweden to the Middle East, you can turn to the List of Retailers on the Xerjoff site to find a Xerjoff vendor near you. Samples: you can buy Mamluk from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $6.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Samples are also sold at MinNY.
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29 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Xerjoff Mamluk (Oud Stars Collection)

    • Zafar definitely seems to be the choice of those who love their oud the Laotian, untamed, super masculine way. 🙂 And, yes, very good longevity for me, though nothing beats Profumum Roma in that regard.

  1. Urinous, pee-like opening? Even if it is only for the first 10 minutes, I’ll just walk past New York Penn Station or past ANY subway entrance (or really, just about any corner in NYC except perhaps the more chi-chi addresses) on a hot day to have that smell waft over me for free. Thanks for saving my wallet and skin-time, dear Kafka!

    • Only for about 2-3 minutes, Hajusuuri, hardly any time at all! And I know you love your gourmand fragrances. But LOL at the NY streets comment. 😀 I promise you, this does not smell like Penn Station, or the corner of Lex and 59th.

    • Or any big city in Europe…good God that stench you sometimes get from some parts of Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid… 😦

    • Ew! Gross. I try not to think about it. While my parents were here, they insisted on taking any elevator they saw in the subway. They thought I was crazy for taking the stairs but I personally think the elevators are disgusting because drunk people use them as urinals 😦

      • Your parents are a hoot! I don’t think I had ever been in a subway elevator and don’t plan on using one, ever. The use of it as urinals is probably not limited to the drunks…oh yuck!

  2. I have to admit I was very distracted by the yellow diamond 😛 , but when I managed to read the review I was impressed…mainly by the price. I don´t know if a fragrance deserves this much money, unless if it was absolutely lovely, but then this smells like urine for some minutes, no 240 euro fragrance should smell like urine, not even for a second, at least in my book 🙂 . I don´t think I will search for this, even if the yellow diamond is tempting, my perfume list is already too long .

    • LOL, that diamond is enough to send anyone off track for a few minutes! Spectacular, isn’t it? 🙂 As for Xerjoff, yes, their prices are very high, especially for the size of the bottle, though there are a few perfume houses which are in the same range and a few which are actually far more. Still, it’s too expensive for me. With regard to the urinous sub-note, that’s actually a pretty common perfume nuance of very concentrated honey. It rarely smells like the sort of urine you’d detect on a street corner, I promise. 🙂

  3. Great and interesting review Kafka. You got me interested in Mamluk. I generally don’t fancy Xerjoff because of the prices (that I’m never going to pay and am probably never going to afford too!) but I like Irisss, which is lovely buttery and rooty at the same time.
    Quality Missala carries Xerjoff here but they don’t have an Oud Collection in offer.

    • The prices are very off-putting, I agree. As for the fragrance, I think you’d like it. If the remainder of my sample were more than just a few drops, I’d send it to you. Hopefully, the Oud Stars line will come to Ms. Missala’s boutique soon.

  4. I definitely have to give this one another try. I think I smelled them all one time at the store and got so turned off by Zafar that I didn’t give the others a fair shot. Fortunately, in Dubai, besides the actual Xerjoff store, these are sold a quite a few locations including duty free 🙂

    • HA, I can see how Zafar would send you fleeing and completely erase all memory of everything else that may have preceded it! It’s not an …. easy…. scent, that’s for sure. As for this one, I will bring my vial to our upcoming, mini Sniffapalooza, but there is so little left that you may not be able to get any proper test out it. There are only a few drops left, but I’ll toss it in the pile nonetheless!

  5. This sounds so lovely and rich and deep. I have stayed away from the line because of the expense, but you describe them exactly how I thought they would be. I am turned off by the bottle though, why is that?

    • Is it the shape or the colour that you don’t like? I like some aspects of the bottle, but brown is far from being one of my favorite colours, so….. eh. As for the scent, I’d love to know what you think of it, if you got around to trying it. If you love honey, you may very well adore Mamluk. 🙂

  6. I did get a decant of this from STC. I somehow miss the pee stage (yay) and just enjoy the honey/lemon/caramel goo. It is darn sweet. But pleasant. I don’t know when I would ever wear this outside my own home, but it is nice to just enjoy the sweetness of it sometimes. I marvel at your ability to sniff out all the little details and nuances of perfumes. Thanks for another interesting review.

    • “honey/lemon/caramel goo” — GOO, ha, I love it. It’s so true. But it’s airy, billowing “goo” at the same time, at least on my skin, so it was an intriguing contradiction. Why would you hesitate to ever wear it outside of your own home? The sweetness, or something else?

  7. Since I’m not a big agarwood fan in general, I have no plans to test this line. In general, the brand interests me but because of the limites availability so far I’ve tested just a couple of their perfumes and none of them warranted spending that amount of money (for me, I’m not arguing the price in general). So for now I’ll stick to reading your reviews 🙂

    • I actually think you may like this one, Undina. Seriously. The agarwood is so nonexistent, you have no idea. In fact, the Micallef Durand fragance with its convergence of elements creating an “oud” scent is a thousand times more oud-y than this one. This one is gorgeously golden and very sweet, perhaps a little too sweet for you, but I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, it’s not easily accessible unless you order a sample. If I had anything beyond two minuscule drops left at the bottom of my vial, I’d send you some to test.

  8. Hmmmm. Pretty sure I tried this one. Zafar tainted the whole line for me. I forget if Mamluk was even among the samples I had – I remember Al Khatt (gross, smelled like cheap beer), Gao (the most likeable), and Zafar (I won’t rehash my loathing for that one, lest I bore you with the sordid tale once again…LOL). Even if Zafar hadn’t been so traumatizing, the price would keep me away anyhow. I know price is subjective, but it’s simply too unattainable for me to lust after. Haha!

      • I thought I might have, but I didn’t want to feel a fool! But I suppose it’s too late for that! 😛 I have the smell version of amnesia for this one. I literally remember nothing about it except that I know I’ve tried it!

        • Honestly, you may have some perfume PTSD over Xerjoff, thanks to Zafar…. *grin* It never fails to make me laugh when I think about you and your reaction to that scent. You’re very lucky Zafar was not the first niche perfume you ever smelled, or else, you’d have escaped into Acqua di Gio right now and nothing else. 😉 ROFL.

  9. I haven’t smelled a fragrance from Xerjoff’s Oud Stars Collection that inspired lust. Don’t think that this one will either. Especially at the price point. That being said, have you ever tried anything from Casamorati or Sospiro Collections? Those are the Xerjoffs I like a lot more.

  10. Pingback: Perfume Review: Amouage Interlude (Man) | Kafkaesque

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