Smelling Alahine for the first time was a unique moment for me. I can't remember the last time I responded so emotionally to a perfume, when the clinical part of my mind was so swiftly bypassed, the more associative part so thoroughly ignited. Alahine is that rare fragrance for me, managing to meet my expectations without sacrificing the element of surprise.
What you do expect, from the raves on various blogs and boards, is an amber oriental. What catches you off guard is the mercurial development of the thing. Alahine goes through so many stages that at various points throughout the day I imagined I must be smelling something else I couldn't remember putting on. It has the complexity of (and more than a little resemblance to) vintage Bal a Versailles. They share a balsamic warmth, though Alahine remains sunnier. Bal a Versailles, if sunny at all, is constantly threatened by clouds. It retreats into a darkened room, becoming more insular. Alahine has its own drama, but it's a drama played out in the open, in broad daylight. The colors give away these differences, the one lucidly gold, the other a more inscrutable reddish brown. For me, Alahine is the untroubled person Bal a Versailles once was.
Granted, it's a setting sun, a rich, sulfurous gold. Out the gate, it seems to me more aldehyde than amber. The florals are hazed, one of those gorgeous old soft-focus photos, the light flaring in star shapes, the flowers amorphous arrangements of color. Those florals pop, but with the kind of impressionistic fuzz you find in Cinnabar. It's a fantastic opening, and I would be happy dwelling indefinitely there. It does last a while. Gradually, things go even softer, becoming what some have characterized as powdery. I don't get that so much. There are far more powdered fragrances. What Alahine becomes is more humid, muskier, than that. Hours on, it's working magic across the skin, shifting the subject from flowers to to field.
The later stages of development are where I get the vanilla, the benzoin, the patchouli. These have the most interesting, extended conversation with each other, sometimes murmuring, sometimes getting a little more excited, projecting what they have to say. Between this and the opening come rolling impressions of rose, jasmine, and (particularly, for me) orange blossom. These aren't so pronounced that you can single them out with any kind of confidence, but you don't exactly want to anyway. Alahine is about this particular harmonious convergence, a sum of its parts in the best possible way. You forget for a second what any of these things smell like by themselves.
I'd also like to point out how sublimely unisex it is. This stuff would smell good on anyone. It seems custom blended for the person who happens to be wearing it the way a period feels inevitable at the end of a well written sentence. Abigail wrote me to say I should give Alahine time, not because I might revise my initial opinion but because it's something that you grow to understand over time. I believe that. After a year, she realized it was her holy grail, and she hadn't really been looking for one. I'd just been thinking the same thing, so I can't imagine where I might be in twelve months.
Abigail's review here.