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The Legends Of Niche, Part 4 More from the 2000s

84. Idole de Lubin by Lubin

Idole is another favorite from nose Olivia Giacobetti. She is best known for her restraint (shes known for simple creative expressions like Philosykoss fig as opposed to ornate old-school chypres) and for the translucence of her perfumes (her creations never screech and are never loud, instead having a well-rounded quality thats often mistaken for weakness when smelled next to lesser perfumes that cover their lack of nuance with loudness). As such, shes best known for working with soft woods (she designed Costes from yesterdays list) and tastefully spiced florals or fruits, so Idole is noteworthy to her fans as her expression of themes that are normally quite rough and loud (oh, and its fairly safe to say that the fancy bottle is responsible for quite a bit of Idoles notoriety as well).

In all, Idole smells like dry, dusty, sharp woods overlaid with a bright forest of cedar, under a dusting of spices, from cinnamon to cumin, all over a subtle base with just enough vanilla in it to make its deep drydown surprisingly creamy. But the thing that separates Idole from so many other woody scents is that is has Olivias trademark transparency. Its not that its watered down, its that somehow she manages to give a limpid watery quality to the whole composition that makes it wear differently than its often harsh woody-smell brethren, and also makes it a bit more comfortable for women who arent fully at ease in brash, smoky wooden scents.

85. Black Afgano by Nasomatto

Black Afgano is the newest cult favorite on this list, because its scarcity, the year-long wait lists for bottles, and the whispered rumors that it contains actual marijuana have all added up to make it the current collectors must-have. Its also fun to smell as an example of the exact polar opposite of Idole, despite sharing many of the same notes.

Basically, while Idole is a study in restraint, Black Afgano is a loud gutwrenching shriek of a perfume. To me, it mostly smells like pine tar (which does have a murky bongwater facet to it), with just enough sweet, spiced cedar to give a subtle allusion to pipe tobacco. Its also a niche experiment in woody amber, that mix of aquatic chemicals that ends up smelling like something between a hyper-chlorinated pool and rubbing alcohol. Woody amber is usually paired with salty citrus aquatic notes (remember Chrome?), but by matching it up with the tar and woods, Black Afgano explores the leathery undertones of the accord, leading up to a base thats akin to an overly-exaggerated isopropyl alcohol smell mixed with a burnt leather jacket.

This combination (the use of woody amber outside of aquatics and instead combining it with burnt woods and leathery elements) has become quite the trend in niche perfumes lately, and Black Afgano is probably the best of the bunch.

86. Black Aoud by Montale

No list of essential sniffs, especially on Basenotes, would be complete without Montale. Theyre the ones that basically kick-started the western niche oud explosion, and theirs are generally the benchmarks by which all niche oud releases continue to be judged. I dont mean to be rude, but their non-oud output is a little forgettable (an avalanche of sticky-sweet cotton candy gourmands, synthetic-smelling aquatics, and unfortunately common-smelling pseudo-designer scents), but they will always be legendary for their oud line.

As for their ouds, Montale are nothing if not prolific, so there are dozens (if not hundreds by now) to choose from, but the widely accepted king of the line and the most obvious required sniff is Black Aoud.

For one, its quite helpful to recognize the unusual synergy that happens when oud and rose are mixed. Much like how the combination of rose and patchouli brings out nuances that are greater than the sum of its parts, rose and oud do the same thing. The rubbery medicinal qualities of the oud bring out a sour brightness in the rose, while the sweet roundness of the rose dulls the sharp spikes of the oud, leading to a whole other smell that doesnt really smell like rose or oud. Meanwhile, Black Aoud has patchouli and sandalwood in it, too, so you also get the jammy depth and the thick base you get from that combination (remember Egoiste?). Its also got incense for depth and saffron, which has a leathery quality on its own but also acts as an amplifier for the oud. With all of this mixed together, you end up with an almost impossibly nuanced mix Its easy to see how this inspired a revolution.