Aloes of Ish provide a wide range of affordable mukhallats and attars. I initially ran across them after encountering oudh as an accord in a handful of western fragrances (most notably, Kilian’s Incense Oud and Montale’s Black Aoud), and between these experiences and some of what I had previously read, my curiosity was piqued. I subsequently learned about brands that were previously unfamiliar to me: ASAQ, Arabian Oud, Swiss Arabian, Ajmal, Surrati… Each seemed to have an endless selection of products at all sorts of price points, and this was very intimidating, so I shelved my oudh interest for awhile. Then I ran across Aloes of Ish, which has its own fairly extensive line. I selected two, enjoyed them, and then tried two more. Now that I’ve got a baseline, I might be ready to sample from other lines. As far as these scents go, I find them very enjoyable, and they’re very affordable as far as these sorts of fragrances go. I’ll probably try more as time goes on.

Surrati Black Oudh – The most affordable entry in the Ish lineup, this attar is actually produced by Surrati, and is somewhat of an homage to Montale’s Black Aoud. In the Montale spray perfume, the rose is very pure and clean, floating above the somewhat linear oudh accord. In Surrati’s version, the two are slightly more blended – in a way, muddled. Black musk adds an interesting element to the base without making the scent animalic. This may lack the longevity and some of projection of the Montale, but it comes across as very natural. [**1/2]

Royale – This is easily the driest and most savory of the attars I have from this source. The first few minutes or so are a bit funky: intense saffron backed by something dark, dry and brooding. As more time passes, the veil is drawn back from this presence. The blend of amber, oudh and musk becomes less monolithic, with distinct aspects of each lending to the overall feel – the amber softening the rich oudh, and the musk adding a slight animalic element. Longevity is about average. [**1/2]

Black Oudh de Ish – This is a variation of a fairly straightforward theme – rose and oudh (and sometimes a black musk). In this version, a creamy sandalwood and an earthy vetiver are added to the blend, grounding the central notes provided by the rose and oudh. The rose is dominant at first, blending with the oudh to create a bouquet akin to that of a well aged Barolo. As the drydown persists, the woods and musk become more apparent, giving this more depth than its inspiration. Longevity is just slightly above average, but the ride is amazing. [***]

Dragon’s Claw – This might be the richest of these. Dragon’s Claw begins with the sweet Taifi rose, which mingles with the sharp aspects of the oudh. The drydown is enriched by patchouli and musk, leaving no real sharp edges anywhere. [***]