I grabbed a 50ml bottle of this from a friend in the industry for £85 recently, and as it retails at £170 I snapped it up as a blind buy. Dolce e Gabbana Velvet Desert Oud is relatively new on the market at the time of writing, having been released in Britain in August 2013. I think it's only available through Harrod's, Harvey Nichols and DandG shops here in the UK.
First off, the opening is terrific - it's a soft, sultry, woody incense caress for the first twenty minutes, very classy and sophisticated. There are hints of a smoky amber in there too. It really is a delight.
After the top notes evaporate, the heart starts to come into focus, and the oud starts to wind its way around your senses. This is not the elegant, charming oud of, say, Maison Francis Kurkdjian - it's more towards the "barnyard" end of the oud scale, and it very, very closely resembles Acqua di Parma's Colonia Intensa Oud. On my skin they are almost identical, with the only real difference to my nose being that the AdP is more intense. This is not a bad thing for me personally, since the Colonia Intensa Oud smells foul on me and gives me a headache. In Dolce and Gabbana's Velvet Desert Oud it's basically the same note, in fact I would not be at all surprised to find the oud is from the exact same (synthetic?) source.
It's pretty much a one note show from here onwards, with just a slight smoky muskiness coming in on the fadeout. It's long lasting and projection is good - I can still smell it on my clothes at the end of an 8-hour shift at work.
The packaging, by the way, is absolutely exquisite. The cap has a gorgeous thin soft-touch layer of dense foam around it, which gives a lovely tactile feel of quality when you open the bottle. The smoked gradient of the glass is very fine, and there is a very classy gold coloured metal plate on the front, with the DandG logo and the name of the fragrance pressed into it. The fragrance is a deep gold colour and it seems to resonate inside the shaped chamber made by that smoked glass. It's a fantastic piece of work.
So...overall this is a good addition to my evening/winter fragrances. There is no way I would pay £170 for a 50ml bottle; it's just not "wow" enough nor does it distinguish itself significantly from other similar fragrances on the market, particular the aforementioned AdP Colonia Intensa Oud. If you like the latter, you'll definitely like this, as the middle and base notes are so strikingly similar. The opening notes are the best part of Velvet Desert Oud; think Andy Tauer's l'Air du Desert Marocain with a touch of Illuminum Amber.
Pros: Exquisite packaging. Great initial notes
Cons: Turns into Colonia Intensa Oud clone"
I bought this in Saks Fifth Avenue in Santa Barbara, CA, having tried it at the airport on my way over from Europe on a business trip. "Wow", is the word I'd pick if I had to choose just one to describe this.
It's rich, dark, complex, masculine, redolent of classiness and intrigue. The opening is beautifully smooth and Oud Wood soon develops a slightly sweet, warm middle age like a hug in an autumn forest. Funnily enough I don't get much in the way of oud from this; it's present but subtle, in a similar way to Maison Francis Kurkdjian's Oud. I sense more of the creaminess of the tonka bean and the fresh-cut sandalwood than the oud, but everything's so harmonious, yet maintaining complexity, that you don't really miss the oud, and there's none of the skankiness that you get with some ouds.
This is now by far my favourite fragrance ever. It works perfectly on my skin and suits my style perfectly. Longevity I'm finding good, sillage perfect (not so strong that it knocks people out, but enough to attract compliments). Price is certainly high, but a little goes a long way. Tom Ford Oud Wood is an absolute knockout!
Pros: Exquisite, complex scent
Cons: None that I can think of"
I'm a big Cool Water fan - I had the original back in the day and have enjoyed many of the flankers since then, with Cool Water Deep being a personal favourite. I was offered Cool Water Game at a heavily discounted price (£10) when I made a purchase in a department store recently, so I didn't hesitate. I kind of wish I had - whilst the initial clean watermelon note is very nice, the fragrance is so ephemeral that it's disappeared completely within half an hour of spraying.
Basically I'm now going to use this as a spritz after sport - a nice post-shower pick-me-up after a long bike ride or a tennis match. As a daywear scent it's completely useless, however. Who wants a scent that has completely evaporated between the time you've got dressed and the time you've arrived at work?
Davidoff, Cool Water, Cool Water Deep - massive thumbs up. Cool Water Game - nope. Not for me.
Pros: Initial watermelon note is nice
Cons: Extremely poor sillage and longevity"
Well...I'm a fan of oud and niche fragrances, so I took the plunge and bought a bottle of this when I found it cheap (well, relatively - I paid £95 and this stuff has an RRP of £170 here in the UK) bottle locally in a department store. A colleague wears Colonia Intensa Oud and I'd tried it before I bought it.
The initial blast is terrific - a kind of winding citrussy thing with dark woody notes underneath. After an hour the oud began to blossom...complex, rich, earthy and heady. I was really enjoying it. But - oh my - after 90 minutes it began to turn on me, and I was left with a powdery, dirty stink. It's hard to describe what it was like but it was a filthy monotone, like some kind of aging excrement. None of my other oud fragrances do this. Oh boy, was I disappointed - I spent £95 on this? It's awful! So bad it gave me a headache. Even after showering five hours later it was still on me. I'd put some on my forearm and even after scrubbing with some black pepper handwash I could still smell it. Obviously my skin chemistry has done something crazy to this.
Anyway, the packaging and presentation of Aqua di Parma Colonia Intensa Oud is terrific; the bottle design is great and the box is satin-lined. So that's a point in its favour.
I'd advise going VERY carefully with this one. DEFINITELY get a sample and try it on yourself for a day or two first. It could be great on you, but for me it's horrendous, and I will be selling mine pronto.
Pros: Extreme longevity
Cons: Turns truly disgusting on me"
This is the first really expensive niche fragrance that I've owned. At £195 for 70ml (from Liberty department store in London), you don't want to be blind buying this - I tried it in the store then went and had a meal nearby before deciding to go back and purchase. My skin chemistry works really well with it (I've heard that it turns on some unfortunate souls) and it is deliciously complex and masculine.
I own a couple of other oud scents; oddly, this one doesn't knock you on the head with oud (despite the fact that the fragrance is called "oud"!), but for me, that's a good thing. I know people who have bought fragrances where oud is the dominant note and you know what? They smell like sweaty dung. In their heads they've conjured up an image of this recent phenomenon of the world of scent as the "must have" part of their scent wardrobe and have basically over-ridden what their own senses are telling them. "I smell like the rear end of a warthog".
Thankfully, as I said, Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian uses this now slightly clichéd note as a caress, an enticement, not a sledgehammer. It's beautifully constructed with a dark, inviting complexity that dries down with a smoky leatheriness, allowing the oud note to spiral around it and send out "come hither" signals. The oud is apparently real, rather than synthetic, and comes from Laos. It's refined and elegant.
Projection is great, and longevity matches it, with one spray being perfectly sufficient to last all day, which offsets the high cost somewhat. I own around 20 fragrances and this one is currently sitting at the top of my list - I will wear it on special occasions, or when I want to impress, and probably always with a suit. It's definitely not a casual fragrance. So there it is - a masterpiece. Definitely try before you buy, but if you're lucky enough to be able to wear this, add it to your collection at once.
Pros: Exquisitely complex, great projection and longevity
I was lucky enough to visit the Illuminum store in London for a full sampling of all their range last year. This fragrance line is the concept of Michael Boadi, and he's made some specific and rather odd decisions about the construction of each fragrance, e.g. limiting himself to (supposedly) eight ingredients per fragrance. Whilst this gives most of his scents an admirable simplicity, it also seems a little arbitrary: why eight?
The scent line is also very heavily focused on celebrity marketing, another thing which makes me suspicious. We have, I'm sure, all heard the stories that Kate Middleton wore Illuminum's White Gardenia Petals on her wedding day. Piper Leather (the best Illuminum fragrance by far, in my opinion) is allegedly worn by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Arabian Amber is worn by James Franco. Why focus so strongly on alleged links to celebrities? I know that movie stars have promoted perfumes for time immemorial, but there is no official brand association here, just allusions that certain people might be wearing this or that. Why not just let the scent speak for itself?
Anyway, onto Arabian Amber. There are some frankly awful scents in the Illuminum line, but the two stand-outs for me are the aforementioned Piper Leather, and Arabian Amber. It's a woodsy fragrance with a strong middle eastern connection. The top note is bergamot but I don't get a lot of that; instead, the first projection is a resinous woody cedar and incense, with a musky patchouli a little way down in the mix, and you can really pick up the opponax. It's warm, striking and a little smoky, definitely more of an evening or winter scent than a fresh summer number. Projection is good and it lasts fairly well - I can still smell it on my wrist 5-6 hours later.
The scents in this line can be expensive but search around and you can find them much cheaper; I got a 100ml bottle for £45, considerably less than the £100 RRP. Swing by the shop on Dover Street, just north of Piccadilly, and try it out.
Pros: Good longevity and projection
Cons: Illuminum concept starting to wear thin