Al Sahra. Sahara. It was very brave indeed for The Different Company to name a fragrance after Her (I always refer to deserts in the feminine gender, just look at the lush curves of dunes), ancient and mighty, soft as smooth sand of its endless dunes and harsh as suffocating winds that rage above its surface. Here is my review of Al Sahra,  first published in Cafleurebon.

I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, something gleams…“ – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The first time I ever saw the golden dunes of the Sahara desert I was fourteen years old. All the books I’ve read about it, each and every documentary I’ve watched, photos or first-hand experience stories I’ve heard didn’t prepare me for what I felt on a sizzling late June day, once I rushed to take the trekking boots off and let my bare toes sunk deep into that hot, orange-reddish-golden sand of North Africa. I was there, a small dot in the infinite universe, yet the universe was as much a part of me as I was the part of it.  Al Sahra, my love.

Al Sahra - sand from Sahara

The first time ever I saw its face (as the song goes) I thought that the sun reflected in it and that if only more people could see the Milky Way as it can be observed from the pitch-black darkness of starry nights in Sahara, the world would definitely be a better place.

Do you remember that scene from the movie Contact, when Jodie Foster is trying to describe her contact with extraterrestrial life, somewhere behind Vega? The moment when she is crying in awe, lacking the words to describe the beauty of what she felt? This is how I must have looked when Sahara, the most alien place on Earth, entered my veins for the first time. Al Sahra, my love.

The feeling of infinity. Overwhelming, consuming, soul-moving, humbling infinity: I’ve never felt more connected to Nature, never felt more alive than in the (seemingly) vast emptiness and silence of Sahara.  I fell in love with it irrevocably, promised that I shall return and kept returning: from the Atlas Mountains downwards in Morocco to Mali,  from borders of the Nile Valley at Aswan in Egypt to the Nubian desert, from the Mediterranean Coast down to entire Phoenician and Roman cities conserved in the sand, and the other way –  leading to the Red Sea side,  each time taking a small quantity of sand from different locations with me.

Desert Rose from Sahara

I’ve traveled to many other deserts all over the world, few are still on my bucket –list, but my first love, Al Sahra is the one that I still dream about.

Master Perfumer Emilie Coppermann, working withThe Different companies for over nine years, dared to express a different olfactory emotion, a vibration of Sahara, an Amber-family fragrance that doesn’t belong anywhere between Floral Ambers to Woody Ambers, those warm and sensual, vanilla and spice fragrances: the only rose I’ve ever seen in Sahara is a desert, stone rose.

Emilie Coppermann

The other precious stones there are salt rocks, bricks of salt that the proud Tuareg traditionally exchanged for food and supplies, traveling in annual Azalai caravans across Mali…yes, they were the salt of the Earth, and salt was once worth the same as gold. A desert stone flower it is, a new creation of an Amber-Mineral, that’s what Al Sahra is.

Al Sahra opens like Fleur de sel, a salt that forms a delicate crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates – mineral and cold like early mornings in the desert, just before the sunrise. That crisp quality of a synth accord is deeply sensual at the same time, a sharp metallic breath inhaled, the one that awakes all your senses at once. Well done!

Contrasts and shades emerge, a light, delicate, and translucent tender vibration of Sand Lillies trembling in haze rising above the desert that is heating up underneath the piercing-hot rays of sunshine. By now you can clearly feel that well-known, distinctive salty tone, but this time tainted with incense dust, trails of scents carried by the wind that is coming from a distant oasis. Or is it just an illusion of an oasis? Or nice use of aroma chemicals?

The warmth comes in waves, shifting like the sand of dunes in the wind. The incense is dry and strong, curling around elegant ambery, deep and powerful cistus tones, resinous and light at the same time, in a subtle, skin-musky way.

Dry woods and warmth linger hours later on your skin – specks of sandalwood glowing like tiny sparkling studs made of desert sand, never pulling too deep down the patchouli route, remaining elegant and graceful at all times. Nice use of synths, again!

Al Sahra The Different Company presentation

I would’ve expected this much from The Different Company Juste Chic Collection: a different approach, artistic, creative, using good and nice synth materials but remaining very elegant.

There are many fragrant interpretations of Sahara: most of them are poetic interpretations written with fragrant notes of oud, roses, amber, balsamic accords, or warm spices. Scents of epic sunsets observed from oasis’, palm tree leaves ruffling in the wind, breath of crimson and gold arabesque decorated heavy silk curtains providing soothing shade, depicting oriental opulence.

There are also desert-themed fragrances that lean toward floral chypres, with warm, dry, and mineral undertones, or the sweet, gourmand ones, with date accords or smoke of incense.

Al Sahra is different, contrasting, modern, and ancient at the same time: a well-crafted desert rose made of salt and rock, transparent spice, dry incense, and beautiful cistus and sandalwood seal of sensuality.

To soothe my longing for Her, I’ll spray some Al Sahra and wait for the April rains that sometimes bring Saharan dust, covering the cars in red-colored mud: I dip my fingers in those small islands of desert sand that have traveled with wind for thousands of miles, and dream of dipping my toes in Her sand again. Just once again, I hope.

Notes: Mineral accord, Salt Crystals, White Violet Sand Lily, Cinnamon from Madagascar, Incense, Cistus Labdanum, Wind of the desert, Patchouli, Sandalwood. Available at The Different Company.

The Plum Girl

 Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: Unsplash, The Different Company, Elena Cvjetkovic

A 2 ml free PR sample of Al Sahra was kindly provided by The Different Company, via Cafleurebon – for my consideration. Opinions and feelings are, as always, of my own.


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