Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. – Rumi
Notes: Black Pepper, Blackcurrant Leaf, Dried Apricot, Oleander, Opoponax, Clay, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean and Coffee Absolute,
Santal Nabataea captured me the moment I sprayed it. I’m grateful to Val the Cookie Queen for sharing her sample with me.
Santal Nabataea is the last 2018 release from Mona di Orio. The perfumer is Fredrik Dalman who also composed Bohea Boheme and Suede de Suede for the same house. The fragrance was inspired by the ancient kingdom of Nabataea and its capital Petra, with its striking sandstone architecture.
This is not the sweetened, creamy Samsara-style sandalwood perfume you may be used to: it is something much more desiccated.
The blend of Australian and Indian sandalwood is the golden glow at its core. This is overlaid by cooling incense which is resinous rather than smoky, with a nice bite of bitter green astringency to it. This is enhanced by the presence of dusty black pepper – forever a favourite note of mine.
There is no clichéd spice market on display here or the heavy blanket of amber that is often used to underpin this kind of fragrance. The foundation is actually a savoury base of roasted coffee beans which works beautifully. Multi-layered like the various coloured strata of sandstone, it is a thoughtfully crafted composition which doesn’t use shortcuts to achieve its aim.
I hugely admire and own a bottle of Bois des Iles but I find Mona di Orio’s offering more to my current mood. Santal Nabataea is transporting and produces a meditative effect. In contrast to the plush, velvet effect of the Chanel, it’s sun-baked with a sandy texture that echoes the landscape of Petra. The aridity of it feels cleansing and it does possess an air of antiquity. While its approach to sandalwood is more pared down, it is no less luxurious.
Projection is moderate and lasting power is excellent for an EdP. Unlike a lot of traditional sandalwood fragrances which have a tendency to lean masculine, I find it completely gender neutral.
The Sufi order of Mevlevi was founded by the followers of the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi. The initiates are commonly known as Whirling Dervishes and are devoted to a life of austerity. Their whirling is part of a ceremony that puts them in a profound state of spiritual euphoria. Santal Nabataea is a whirling dervish in a bottle, spinning an aura on the skin that is not a little transcendent.
How do you feel about sandalwood fragrances? Do you like the sound of Santal Nabataea?