Desperately Seeking OudhAoudOudAgarwood...
Having sniffed out the skankiest new launches in London, Basenotes set me the challenge of seeking a spectacular Oud. The Oud / Aoud / Agarwood trend just keeps on giving. And every house seems to have a different name or spelling for the note!
M7 started it out all that time ago, and has recently been relaunched as Oud Absolu as part of YSL's heritage collection. M7 Oud Absolu felt fizzier than before in the opening, less of the 'cherry lips' sweetness from my old timer bottle, with a deeper and richer myrrh note in the base. In my mind I'd linked Parfumerie Generale's Iris Oriental to M7 years ago, and as Oud Absolu it feels even closer. That wet woody quality. (Interestingly, PG claims to use 'Jinkoh' wood in Iris Oriental. Jinkoh is Japanese for sinking incense, or 'oud'...)
Luckily for me, I was going on a day trip to Paris just as Basenotes set me on task. After a brief wander around, we headed to Montale where we proceeded to smell all the ouds. A few that stood out in my mind (Montale have a vast range of fragrances, let alone the rather intimidating amount of ouds!) were Aoud Lime, with it's strangely rubbery and metallic oud note plumped up by saffron, Black Aoud, a straight up rose and oud combo that was pretty fantastic, and Aoud Cuir Arabie, which was intensely barnyardy. It transforms after about 4 hours into something otherworldly, but those first 4 hours are skank heaven!. Moon Aoud was bizarre, as was Steam Aoud. The sales assistant even grabbed out the pure stuff, a 400 roller vial of super potent oud it was pretty transcendent stuff. Animalic and dark. I settled on Aoud Lime the rubbery notes reminded me of one of my Comme des Garcons favourites, Tar, but I felt it was sufficiently different to join my already extensive wardrobe... I also bought Full Incense and took a small 20ml bottle of Chocolate Greedy as my free gift.
Back in London, we'd just received the new Heeley Extrait de Parfum scents at Les Senteurs. Agarwoud (I enjoy the name, a rather clever portmanteau of Oud and Agarwood, and was surprised it hadn't already been thought up!) is a resinous, benzoin and rose heavy oud, but it has this feeling of open space and clarity, as well as feeling very smooth. Somewhat traditional, but because of the openness, it feels like a revolutionary take on oud.
I'd still not really paid any attention to Byredo's Ouds, or in fact, any of their creations outside of Pulp a fragrance that I enjoy immensely just because it turns to rotten fruit on my skin, so I spent a good twenty minutes assessing the line in Liberty. Accord Oud seemed like a fairly well constructed and traditional oud withrose combination, but on the skin it felt plasticky and fell apart very quickly. Oud Immortel was earthy, dark and much more oud-y, but smelled of incense chips - like a kind of cedar and frankincense and was ended up becoming quite bland.
I quickly moved into the rest of the fragrance hall, where I tried out L'Artisan Parfumeur's Al Oudh, a much more interesting and sweaty type of oud, which I vastly preferred over the Byredo duo. Then the sales assistant showed me Nasomatto's Pardon, a scent featuring an agarwood note, but that to me felt intensely chocolatey it was almost as though Guerlain's L'Instant pour Homme had had an Oud note somehow worked into it! Still in Liberty, I enjoyed Le Labo's Oud 27, which had an enjoyable rubber and metal top note owing to the saffron and patchouli that are so prominent and also had the cherry lips Haribo aspect which I so love in an Oud. It felt much more offbeat than everything else I'd tried there.
Following a tip off from Kagey in the comments of the Filth Glorious Filth feature, I headed back to Selfridge's to try out the Leather Oud from Dior again. I put it straight onto my skin, forgoing the blotter, and immediately regretted the decision! The honey and musk stood out so much that I felt a little overwhelmed (my skin does seem to amplify honey notes) I wanted to get it off as soon as possible. Pissy (not in the good way), powdery, oudy, dark and shiny. No thanks. Having re-sniffed it on the blotter, though, I understand how it could be liked.
In Harvey Nichols I found By Kilian's latest addition to the Arabian Nights collection, Amber Oud. To me it smelled of a rich vanilla and benzoin with a hint of the medicinal quality about it. Lots of sweat, too, when sniffed up close. Wonderful in its way, but it feels like a bit of a misnomer!
Eventually, I made a mini scent pilgrimage on a Sunday morning over to Angela Flanders boutique on Colombia Road, to test out Oudh Noir. I'd smelled it previously at one of Odette Toilette's Scratch + Sniff events, and remembered liking it very much. My eyes may have rolled back into my head when I sniffed it. So when I resprayed it on the back of my hand to re-experience the heavenly smoky, earthy and dark woodsy blend, I fell back in love. The Oud in here has a light touch, but that makes it much more intelligent and wearable. I find it works incredibly well with the rooty vetiver note, especially on me. Angela tells me that it doesn't contain the real stuff, but that makes it no less beautiful. And how many of the others do, really?
About the author
Nick loves scent and co-runs @FragrantReviews, a 140 character fragrance review project. Visit the blog for an archive of the reviews.
Disclosure : Nick Gilbert works for Les Senteurs in London.