This one's difficult to review, not because it's gross or unpleasant (it's not!) but because it's radically different than the other fragrances this particular American nose has smelled before. I haven't smelled authentic oud oil so I can't say whether this smells like the real thing; but if this IS what oud really smells like, then every other niche oud fragrance I've tried (and I've tried a whole lot) fails miserably to replicate it. The first impression of Gao is total confusion: a powerful blast of turpentine, sour woods, and saffron. The complexity here is really something else - I have no referents for this, no other fragrances I can list that smell like this. What I can say is that I've grappled with Gao for a while now and have found it to be an immensely addictive scent, perhaps because it's so mysterious and hard to parse, and because it's obviously made with very good quality materials. Also, this stuff is POTENT. Like, nuclear power levels of potency.
Gao is full-throttle excess, and should probably carry a health and safety warning for those of a weak disposition. A crazed, almost unhinged, composition of earth, smoke and wood tones, it offers the wearer the power and still focus that is at the core of the whirlwind.
Opening with the most intense saffron as yet encountered in perfumery combined with a strong dry and warm oud, this is the genuine article alright, completely Arabic in inflexion, heady, hypnotic and rich, paying full respect to its precious components. As the saffron becomes milder over time, the smoky resinous aspects of nagarmotha (cypriol) complement the oud wonderfully, assisting the opening up of a wide spectrum of rich and dry woody tones that rise singing from the skin.
Whereas the dry woody category is getting a bit crowded of late, this perfume is way ahead of the rest of the class – for one, it doesn’t seem to have the nostril scraping aspect of many of these perfumes, it’s pure, rugged, pleasure all the way.
Of all the Oud Stars this is the one that delivers something novel, edgy and thrillingly wearable – if one sprays sparingly.
This really resinous and strong. One spray and you're done for at least 1 day. The oud is sharp and medicinal, with saffran added to make it drier. A must have for oud lovers.
OK. So this is saffron. Now I get it. And I now can say I love it. The bombastic dominating spice at the head, midsection, and tail of Gao is much more earthy and smokey than what I thought to be Saffron in Noir de Noir or Red Aoud. Someone in an initial discussion on these boards likened Gao to other Montale Ouds (Aouds :-), a similarity that I also sense so much to the extreme of confusing this with Black Aoud once some paper strips had been resting a few days. It is the dry down where the similarity is apparent (so I assume a similarity in the oud accord.) Though the rose and saffron are really polar opposites on the dry-and-dusty continuum, Gao carries THAT style of medicinal oud (ala Montale) - whether real or synthetic - for those wondering. This is quite different than the velvety richness of the Laotian Oud in Zafar or the Barnyard sensation of Najaff and perhaps Al-khatt. Still it is fantastic, tenacious, and striking. Thankfully, it does have a softer side, though it never reaches any of the sweetness suggested by notes in the base. Until the peppery saffron ceases, the other players don't really stand a chance. Loud. Spicy. Intoxicating. Magnificent.
To me it smells like deep dark woods like Mahogany. It also has that medicinal hospital disinfectant smell you always get when you are in hospital mixed with the mahogany wood. As time passes the wood aspect starts to fade and you begin to smell incense resin.
I have to say imo this fragrance would not appeal to the mainstream but moore to the Oud connoisseur as it does not smell good in the conventional sense.
What surprised me though is it does in fact strongly resemble a Burmese Oud oil called Kyra Koutan which I actually have a sample of. I could not resist doing a side by side comparison and they are quite similiar. Both have the dark woods and that hospital medicinal disinfectant smell. Except the real Oud was deeper and did not dry down to that incense resin accord.
I would say if you are into your Creeds, D&G and Hermes frags then stay away from this.lol....... But if you are serious about Oud then this is worth checking out as it actually does smell like real Oud oil which surprised me.