La Via Del Profumo – Mecca Balsam, Tartar Leather

Mecca Balsam has one hell of a rich, complicated opening. A blast of rich spicy frankincense and oud, paired with a smoky pipe tobacco brings to mind a mix of Aftelier’s Sepia and dried fruits – with more incense. A subtle bitter bundle of herbal notes up top spike the fragrance with a little greenery, and a smidge of clove, before the frankincense tumbles more into resinous labdanum.

The sticky black quality of the labdanum lacquers the skin, whilst sweet benzoin softens all the rough edges. Mecca Balsam becomes softer as time goes on, sweetening slightly as the tobacco becomes for flavoursome than smoky. The natural oud underneath is beautiful, yet again bringing to mind the Aftelier ouds I adore – namely now Oud Luban with its frankincense/oud mixture, rather than La Via Del Profumo’s signature oud soliflore Oud Caravan which is far harsher on the nose.

A resinous base finishes Mecca Balsam, sweet and ambery, a dash of smooth oud, frankincense and a smidge of woody vanilla. A tiny hint of clean rose joins in a while later, but its soft floral touch is extremely subtle underneath the resins and seems to act as a delicate layer of clarity so that Mecca Balsam’s base isn’t too heavy. All in all, it’s a beautiful fragrance that I would love a bottle of.

Tartar Leather has a rich, spice laden opening paired with a bitter citrus. A sticky bergamot and orange with a medicinal herbal undertone that brings to mind eucalyptus and something warm like nutmeg, falls shortly into an abstract, smooth suede. The top notes create an almost tar like astringency, only soft on the skin. The leather isn’t a literal leather, it is more a mirage of one – some animalics underneath (mainly a soft, ganache-like civet) provide a rich musky texture which paired with the opening astringency give off a faux-suede.

The heart brings rich florals of rose and jasmine, and a hint of oud underneath turns Tartar Leather into a woody/floral more so than a leather. The suede effect seems to dart in and out of focus, drifting further into the background as a wood and vetiver base dominate. The oud is yet again, super soft on the skin, not at all a challenging note and used beautifully to round out the florals along with the merest hint of civet and castoreum. The castoreum comes across like labdanum with a slightly sticky texture on the skin, and I think there’s a hint of incense to go along with it due to a growing presence of smoke.

Tartar Leather is sweeter than Mecca Balsam which must mean there’s a bit of benzoin in here also, unless the florals are giving this a softer, sweeter scent. But in comparison, the labdanum/incense/rose/smoke is similar in both (hence why I paired these together). Tartar Leather is a lovely fragrance, but I’d hardly call it a leather. Instead it is a soft, smoky floral with a rich, woody drydown. Both beautifully blended and full of life.

Tartar Leather 32ml La Via Del Profumo – 71.40 Euros
Mecca Balsam 32ml La Via Del Profumo – 79.34 Euros both available from

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8 thoughts on “La Via Del Profumo – Mecca Balsam, Tartar Leather

  1. Mecca Balsam sounds incredibly lovely and perfect for this fall weather. You always find the most interesting of perfumes my friend.

    • I’m lucky!! :D Who’d have thought this a year ago ey!
      Mecca Balsam is lovely indeed, the heart really brought to mind Oud Luban (which is so amazing I could shed friggin tears over) – it’s texture is a little different and I’m not quite as attached to Mecca as I am OL, but it’s enough for me to put it on my full bottle list as a more affordable varient. Houndy do try this one, it’s soft as butter but so full and rich – the oud they use is just exquisit and the resinous base reminded me of you (the amber king). I don’t have such an emotional attachment to this line as I do the Aftelier’s, but they are brilliant natural fragrances in a slightly different style to what I’m used to (an attar style) – but they’re not all like that, they’re just… different. Still, I haven’t tried anything bad from the line :)

  2. Sasha says:

    Pipe tobacco, woods, incense and floral? Yes please!

    • Yes please indeed! It’s execution is completely smooth – blended harmoniously, but with ingredients that would normally be overtly dominant – the fact it’s natural perfumery just makes it even more impressive.

  3. Alexander Gruschka says:

    “Mecca Balsam” is great, but it does NOT contain oud!

    • Did you hear that from the perfumer? I’m not too interested in what it contains, it still smells like it has a hefty dose of smooth oud in there. Clever perfumery.

      • Alexander Gruschka says:

        Yes, I think I read it somewhere on Basenotes. Maybe Profumo will read this and can clarify it.

        You should also try his perfume “Hindu Kush”. A very rough, wild, but also airy and meditative scent. I have sampled a lot from him and “Hindu Kush” and “Mecca Balsam” are my favourites, followed by “Tawaf”.

      • I’ll be sure to hunt out Hindu Kush :D

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