Tom Ford’s Oud Wood, Acqua di Parma’s Colonia Oud, Creed’s Royal Oud—each of these are great examples of fragrances that seek to make oud pleasing to the masses, with very little (if any) oud. Standing in stark contrast to those tame beauties, Al Kimiya’s Hayat is an example of what can be crafted when a talented perfumer attempts to make an actual oud palatable.
Upon first spray, it is clear that Hayat is a different animal entirely. From the outset, I can smell the quality oud clearly and without obstruction. The oud note here smells similar to the one used heavily in the fragrance “Ilm”, also from Al Kimiya. The best I could describe it, which may sound a bit odd, is the smell of a piece of fragrant bleu cheese sitting on a wet, mossy log. For the uninitiated, it will smell strange, perhaps a bit weird, but never unpleasant or disturbing as the oud is always accompanied by other elements. To make it less conspicuous and enveloping (you’ll have to try Ilm for a pure oud in all its alien glory), Hayat buries the lovely oud in mounds of cedar, spices (cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron), patchouli, and cypriot, all rounded out with a traditional dash of lavender.
The result is a pleasant mix of a masculine woody spicy fragrance and a proper oud perfume, somewhat in the vein of Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. It is typically spicy, woody, and yet oriental and mysterious. The oud element ensures that Hayat stands out, even alongside classic industry titans such as Oud Wood. And best of all, excepting the first hour or so, when the oud is pumping off the skin at full blast, Hayat will likely be more pleasant to the average Western nose than most proper oud fragrances.
I’d see this fragrance on a traditionalist that also happens to enjoys the Arab style of perfumery. Like all Al Kimiya fragrances that I’ve tried, Hayat oozes quality, but I’d be the first to suggest that this fragrance won’t be for everyone. First of all, it’s beastly on my skin, which may be a drawback. I’d feel like I was getting my money’s worth, as the sillage and longevity are both above average on my skin. On the other hand, its strength ensures that I will avoid wearing it to the office, so it loses a few points for versatility. Second, while it does everything in a unique way and certainly smells distinctive, the “woody spicy + oud” category has been played out for years, so some may find that it vaguely resembles a number of other fragrances on the market. I’d hesitate to agree with those comparisons though, except in passing, since the quality of the blend and the otherworldly beauty of the oud ensure that this fragrance stands apart.
Would I buy it?: While I’d find Hayat to be worthy of a purchase for the right person, I would not buy it myself simply because I am tired (for the moment) of the woody spicy genre. Nevertheless, this is a great scent, and though expensive, it is certainly worth a try. If you are already into proper oud fragrances, get a sample of this one, and hurry up about it. If you are not yet into oud, this might be a good place to start.