7/1/20

Silver Shade (Ajmal)


Throwing it.

I figure this will piss off a few people, but hear me out.

Al Wisam Day is not the best Silver Mountain Water clone. Ajmal Silver Shade is much, much better. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm momentarily enamored with Silver Shade. I'm not creating a hype train. I truly believe Ajmal made a better fragrance than Rasasi did. Let me explain.

I'll start with why I'm not the biggest fan of Al Wisam Day. To be clear, I really like AWD. I think it's a well made tea rose fragrance, with a modern twist. I wear it often. But there are things I don't care for. First, there's its considerable weight; Rasasi made a heavy perfume, in perfume concentration. This is puzzling, because Silver Mountain Water is light, ephemeral, and tuned to a pitch that's often hard to detect. So why did the nose behind AWD strive for density? When I want a powerhouse, I turn to the fougeres and orientals of the eighties, full of woods, spices, and resins. Repurposing SMW as a powerhouse goes against the philosophical underpinnings of SMW.

Second, Rasasi strayed too far from the source material. Creed's fragrance is citrus and blackcurrant with green embellishments (tea buds, violet leaf). It dries down to a gentle twinge of violet and ambergris. Creed's "Millesime" drydown is just Green Irish Tweed with less violet and more ambergris. The nose for Al Wisam Day didn't replicate that. The composion has little to no citrus, a preponderance of lavender, and dries down to a sandalwood and shampoo-floral base.

Lastly, Al Wisam Day has a "metallic" twinge in its top notes. This element is not in SMW. Olivier Creed greenlit a unique citrus accord, not knowing how difficult it would be to replicate. SMW's frigid citrus interacts with aldehydes and ambergris beautifully. It smells similar to a citrus snow cone, where the pertness is underscored not by juiciness, but by temperature.

I get strong tea rose in Rasasi's scent, buttressed on both ends by super-synthetic lavender, and synthetic sandalwood. It's very nice, but reminds me more of Tea Rose, and less of Silver Mountain Water. Enter Ajmal's Silver Shade, a fragrance with a name apparently inspired by Gene Tierney's scenes in The Shanghai Gesture.

Why isn't anyone talking about Silver Shade? Why are there no discussions about it on Fragrantica, basenotes, or in the greater blogosphere? This fragrance is excellent. Where other clones lose the thread, Silver Shade remains on point, and tells the whole story. From top to bottom, it is beautifully conceived. Its smooth opening is full of lucid citrus notes that are rendered as "coldly" as possible, without sacrificing naturalness. They smell crystalline, not metallic and cheap.

Eventually the citrus tapers into a restrained blackcurrant and green tea accord, with a carefully balanced violet note appearing in the blend. The tea is very shy, and manifests as a transparent greenness. The blackcurrant is dark, pert, semisweet. Its fruitiness is accompanied with violet, and avoids the sugared vulgarity of other clones. Eventually a peppery violet leaf asserts itself. This "masculine" note sends the heart into a sheer version of Creed's Green Irish Tweed base.

When people discuss this fragrance, they mention its poor longevity. I don't share that complaint. I get seven hours out of it. It's not heavy. It's not overpowering. I can wear fifteen sprays of this stuff, and not be overwhelmed. The folks at Ajmal understood that SMW is fresh and light. They read a book about the perils of reinventing the wheel, and recognized the beauty of round things. The result is a product that smells balanced and kinetic. At the six hour mark, just when I suspect I'll encounter a pedestrian white musk, something lovely happens.

The drydown yields a delicate plum note, which is light enough to miss if you don't know it's there. It ushers in a base that smells just as lovely and unassuming. How many plum notes do we smell in the afterglow of modern unisex perfumes these days? So far I've only encountered this one. And I can't stress enough how discreet and gentle it is, with floral accents garnishing the fruit. The base smells expensive, which is ultimately why it succeeds as a clone - SMW is far from cheap.

Is Silver Shade a great replica of Silver Mountain Water? I think so. Captive molecules, a complex formula, and a huge budget made SMW a breakout scent. But perfumers have had 25 years to find viable shortcuts to its scent profile. You can weed through the novelty kitsch of Al Rehab Silver, the aquatic splash of Derby Clubhouse Blanche, or view Al Wisam Day through rose-colored glasses. None of them achieve the beauty of Silver Shade. At $20 a bottle, it's the deal of the century.


7 comments:

  1. Funny, I put this in my eBay shopping cart today since I was on the fence about it. Then I saw your review, and subsequently ordered it.
    I was actually disappointed with Al Wisam Day. I didn't get any performance from it. I'm hoping this does a better job for me.

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    1. I've been reading that AWD has been reformulated down to something much weaker and less complex than before. Very disappointing, if true. Hope you enjoy Silver Shade.

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    2. So I've given it some wears throughout the week. I totally agree with your review. This is a gem, even if the price was higher. Side by side, the Creed does smell a bit more expensive, but not 10x more. While I don't think Hamptons from Bond No 9 is as close to SMW as this, so a comparison isn't entirely fair, the quality of Silver Shade is easily on par with it. I can't say anything about the Rasasi since maybe the older version was richer smelling than what I had, but I wasn't impressed with it.
      Performance for this is great on me. It starts off as a skin scent, but stays that way for like 8 or 9 hours.

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    3. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it! Bond is definitely not better than Ajmal in terms of quality, based on how Chelsea Flowers smells, not that they’re the same kind of scent. The materials used by both brands are high-end synthetics that work beautifully when combined and balanced correctly. Only difference is you get that quality for less - a lot less - than niche prices.

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  2. Thanks for this review! I just bought Silver Shade because of this. I got it a few days ago and tried it as well. It truly is a beauty of a scent; really well-blended, smooth, and inoffensive. But it doesn't seem to last and project on my skin. I don't know if it's nose fatigue or I just haven't macerated my bottle enough. Still a beautiful scent, nonetheless.

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    1. You're very welcome! These kinds of scents tend to rouse olfactory fatigue symptoms pretty quickly, so don't fret - others can smell you. I've had comments on these SMW clones long after I stopped smelling them myself.

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    2. Ah, I see. That's what I noticed as well, the scent is kind of "high-pitched" and tends to tire my olfactory senses quickly. It's just sad that I don't get to enjoy the scent as much as the people around me.

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