In a market submerged with brands, only a few stand the test of time. And then there are those that manifest a sense of patriotism by embedding themselves into their adopted home of the Middle East. Such brands are as rare as precious gems, and the one that tops my list has to be Ajmal Perfumes.
With a history dating back to 1950, I have a special connection with this brand as like me, Ajmal Perfumes roots back to Assam, the North Eastern state of India.
Haji Ajmal Ali was an Assamese farmer of humble origins. He originates from the sleepy little nook of Hojai in the southern part of Nagaon district, Assam.
He started his career by exporting Agarwood and Dahn Al Oudh to Bombay, the commercial capital of India. Within a year, his business flourished, and he started experimenting with various mixes of precious oils creating exotic perfume scents that found their way into the exclusive markets of the Middle East.
With orders flooding in, the family business was finally branded with the family name ‘Ajmal’.
By the mid 70’s, Ajmal Perfumes moved its operations to the Middle East, and the very first Ajmal store was opened in Dubai way back in 1976.
Oudh was in high demand, and to meet the needs of the Middle Eastern market, Ajmal Perfumes started an afforestation program. In 1979, a large plantation field for Agarwood was set up in Assam.
Currently, the program has adopted over one million trees for Agarwood and is arguably the largest source of Oudh in the world. Yes, Oudh originates from Assam!
What is Oudh?
“Oud is one of the most expensive perfume ingredients in the world. When the wood of this tree gets infected with a certain mould variety (Phialophora parasitica), it reacts by producing a precious, dark and fragrant resin, which is the perfume ingredient oud (also called agarwood).” – Beauty.About.com
Traditionally, Oudh was used in the wood form, and burnt. Oudh was also distilled into a fine, fragrant oil.
Oudh is very expensive given the wood chips are very rare, and one kilo of wood chips only gives you a milliliter of oil!
History tells us that oudh was first discovered and used by Indian royalty. After giving birth, a royal lady would ask for oudh chips to be burnt, and she would stand over it and inhale the fumes to purify herself. Perhaps it was the spice routes that brought oudh from the Indian subcontinent into the Arab world.
Till then Oudh was still a prized Arabian scent, lesser known to the outside world. In 1987 Ajmal Perfumes were the pioneers in introducing Oudh as an Eau De Pafum, thus exposing the classic scent a wider, global audience.
In 1997, Ajmal Perfumes launched “Sarah”, the very first branded ‘Mukhallat’ under the brand. A ‘Mukhallat’ is a mixture of pure oils such as Dehn Al Oudh, Rose, Musk, Sandalwood and Amber, all combined together to create a perfume oil.
“Sarah” broke all records by becoming the fastest selling perfume in the Middle Eastern region! Another classic from Ajmal Perfumes is the “Danaat Al Duniya”, launched in 1997. Both perfumes are Ajmal classics, that are still available at every Ajmal store today.
The awe-inspiring rags to riches story of a humble farmer turned business tycoon is beyond legendary. Haji Ajmal Ali was a pious soul, and did not let fame and fortune bloat his ego. He took his phenomenal success as a gift from the almighty and took upon himself many humanitarian projects.
He founded theHAMM (Haji Abdul Majid Memorial) Hospital and Research Centre in 1995, which was inaugerated by Nobel laureate Reverend Mother Teresa. The hospital is poised for growth towards a full-fledged 350 bedded hospital and Medical College. The Ajmal brand is very CSR driven, and strongly believes in giving back to the community.
For more on the history of Ajmal Perfumes, visit their website by clicking here.
Fancy mixing up your very own personalized scent? Next generation Ajmal (and General Manager to Ajmal Perfumes), Abdulla Ajmal gives us a mini tour here:
I recently attended the very grand Suhoor night at St Regis hosted by Ajmal Perfumes, and we were given a bag of Ajmal perfumes for him and her. Will be doing a review on these beauties real soon, stay tuned!