Qaa'ed (Lattafa)

The funny thing about frags from the UAE is that there's usually a Western connection to their more popular stuff. They seem fond of copying and spinning off successful designer fragrances from Europe and America, which makes it difficult to distinguish the quality offerings from the drone clone crowd. In the case of Qaa'ed, the dilemma is especially ironic: this is ostensibly a clone of a clone, a variant of Icon Absolute, which is a variant of Oud Wood. Fortunately I'm not familiar with either of those two, and can interpret Lattafa's scent through my own lens. (It's possible Lattafa merely copied Dunhill's packaging.)

Qaa'ed is one of the best gourmands I've ever smelled. This is a sweet spiced oriental, but it's extremely well made, and I can't find anything wrong with it. It's known for its heavy reliance on cardamom, and indeed there's a buttload of natural cardamom in the top and early drydown, but to me the prominent note right out of the gate is vanilla - thick, rich vanilla. Hovering over it are soft layers of cinnamon, saffron, and sandalwood, but I also get a clear frankincense note and Catholic church vibes, which tempers the sweetness and imbues Qaa'ed with a mystical feel. The blend of incense and charred vanilla creates an olfactory illusion of a strange fruity flavor, almost like nag champa bubblegum, an effect most noticeable in high heat. It would all be too much for me if it weren't so well composed. Note separation is pristine, yet everything coalesces into a silky-smooth and carefully balanced accord. It's skillfully done, there's no arguing that. 

Eventually, at around the four hour mark, the smoky candy shop vanilla with its edge of burnt caramel overtakes the spices, and the far drydown is an aromatic vanilla experience that feels timeless and exotic. Echoes of cardamom and incense hang in the background, reminders of the beauty that preceded this comfortable base. Everything about Qaa'ed is good, and the materials used are excellent. Where other spicy orientals lose clarity and muddle out, Lattafa's creation retains its dry beauty for the duration. Lattafa succeeded in making Qaa'ed about ageless elegance, no easy feat for any brand. This is a great all-season fragrance, and I look forward to trying more from this house in the future.