Montale Patchouli Leaves: Caramel Praline Patchouli

A perfume house known for its extensive line up of intense, potent ouds seems to be doing some lovely things with gourmands as well. Some months back, I covered Montale‘s two treatments of a lovely chocolate-rose with Intense Café and Chocolate Greedy, but it still wasn’t enough to sway me or to tempt to actually buy a Montale fragrance. Montale’s Patchouli Leaves may be the first, a perfume I’m considering getting for its indulgently gourmand, caramel-praline treatment of the controversial note.

"Autumn Abstract." Photo: Tim Noonan via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Autumn Abstract.” Photo: Tim Noonan via Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

As I’ve tried to explain with this whole patchouli series, true patchouli is very different from the note so many people are exposed to in modern perfumery. It’s not the vile, purple, molasses syrup reeking of fruits and berries that accompanies so many florals or quasi-“chypres” in the aisles of Sephora. The original, real, true patchouli is smoky, spicy, very brown-red in hue, with hints of aged cognac or brandy, toffee, dark chocolate, milk cocoa powder, tobacco, leather, toasted nuts, dry woods, and incense. It’s a woody smell that can take on green, mentholated aromas, ranging from peppermint to medicinal camphor. It can also reflect earthy notes, whether dusty or like damp, black loamy soil. Whatever its many characteristics, the true, brown patchouli often has a negative reputation lingering from its days as a favorite of “dirty hippies” in the 1970s who doused themselves in it to cover the strong smell of pot (or a lack of hygiene).

Source: biofarmacia.ro

Source: biofarmacia.ro

The niche houses have tried to rehabilitate poor, maligned patchouli, refining it for the modern era with its modern tastes. Montale‘s version seeks to turn patchouli into something gourmand and indulgent, seeping the leaves for two years in Bourbon vanilla. The result is something that uses vanilla’s richness to soften and tame patchouli’s wilder side, creating a soft, affordable, cozy caramel (or caramel-praline) combination that feels wholly in tune with today’s love of gourmand fragrances.   

Source: Dezire.org

Source: Dezire.org

Montale puts Patchouli Leaves into the Woody or Bois category, and describes the perfume as follows:

Beautiful Patchouli Leaves macerated for two years in the trunk of the Oak tree combined with Vanilla, Amber and White musk on a base of Cystus Ladaniferus from Tibet.

Fragrantica classifies the scent as an Oriental Woody. It lists its notes as follows, excluding the mention of any oak:

patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk and labdanum.

Patchouli Leaves opens on my skin with a spicy, slightly smoky, mellow rich warmth that floods over me like the deepest, smoothest wave of brown-gold-red lava. It’s quickly infused by rich Bourbon vanilla, boozy aged cognac, and a distinctly toffee’d nuttiness. It smells like pralines, vanilla, and toffee’d woods, flecked lightly by a smoky incense. Deep down in its depths lurks a balsamic, ambered resin with a faintly leathered element. The labdanum amber isn’t detectable in its own right, and you never think, “oh, amber,” but the dark, chewy note runs like a deep vein through the base, giving off a toffee, nutty aroma that amplifies the same characteristics in the patchouli. 

"Black Widow v1" by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Black Widow v1”
by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

There is great warmth and a golden haze circling around me like a plush cloud. Patchouli Leaves is sweet, but never excessively so on my skin; there is too much dryness, woodiness, and smoky incense for it to be cloying and syrupy in any way. The cognac and brandy aroma softens surprisingly quickly, retreating to the sidelines and leaving mostly a subtle nuttiness. Another surprise is Patchouli Leaves’ weight. For a fragrance with such richness, body, and potency, it is quite airy. It never feels opaque, dense, or heavy, perhaps as a way of countering the richness of the vanilla that is slowly rising to the surface. The initial bouquet is very strong and intense, projecting easily 6 inches in range, depending on the quantity you use, but the actual fragrance itself feels like a pillowy, praline-coloured cloud of patchouli.

Source: Mama Quail at mammaquail.blogspot.com

Source: Mama Quail at mammaquail.blogspot.com

Ten minutes in, subtle changes occur. Patchouli’s greener, “dirtier” side emerges with subtle hints of earthy soil, mentholated peppermint, and dark chocolate. The latter is like bitter-sweet chocolate, though it eventually turns into a dusky cocoa powder. The earthy note is simultaneously musky, dusty, and like sweet, damp potting soil that you find in a garden. It’s subtle, and much more muted than the chocolate and peppermint accord. And the medicinal touch smells like eucalyptus camphor, though it’s much milder here than in other patchouli fragrances that I have recently tested. As Nathan Branch wrote in his brief review of the scent, “Montale Patchouli Leaves has an earthy, leafy tone that reins in the sharp bite of actual patchouli so that you’re smelling what might be patchouli plants growing in a deep forest.” 

Source: wallpapersus.com

Source: wallpapersus.com

All the notes are infused with a dry woodiness that, to my nose, smells more like aged, slightly smoky cedar than the lighter, milder oak. The notes blend together seamlessly, creating a beautiful spicy, sweet bouquet of: dark, smoky woods; toffee’d balsamic, amber resin; toasted nuts; damp, earthy soil; dark chocolate; chilly peppermint menthol; incense; Bourbon vanilla; and smoky cedar.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

It takes about 20 minutes for the vanilla to rise fully to the surface. At first, it takes on an oddly musty dryness as it merges with the woods and the patchouli’s earthier side. As its sweet richness washes over the darkness, Patchouli Leaves loses more and more of its boozy, cognac, leathery nuances, its spiciness, and its dark, balsamic feel. A friend of mine recently compared patchouli’s rich, sweet, spiciness to a deep, fat, sub-woofer bass, and I think that’s a perfect way to describe the note’s most beautiful characteristics. Here, the sub-woofer is increasingly pumping out a deep, fat vanilla “thump, thump, thump” — both of the sweet Bourbon variety, and the drier, woody, occasionally dusty kind. The patchouli is on top, but its truly dark, balsamic, spiced smokiness has been tamed from a deep operatic bass to a mid-level tenor.       

Forty-five minutes in, Patchouli Leaves turns softer, creamier, and more blurred. The notes fold seamlessly into each other, though I wish they had a little more separation and distinct shape at this point. The woody elements seem less smoked and dry, the fragrance’s hint of dusty earthiness is more muted, and the dark, bitter-sweet chocolate is turning increasingly into milk chocolate powder. The faint traces of mentholated camphor are replaced almost entirely by peppermint, but they’re not very significant as a whole on my skin.

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

More and more, the focus of Patchouli Leaves is turning almost entirely into a caramel praline bouquet, with all the other notes standing on the sidelines. The prominence of the patchouli’s smoky, woody, or earthy characteristics varies over the next few hours, but they are increasingly inconsequential, appearing in only the subtlest way if you really sniff hard at your arm. Around the middle of the second hour, Patchouli Leaves’ powerful sillage finally drops, hovering now only 3 inches or so above the skin. However, it takes about 5.75 hours for the fragrance to turn into a true skin scent. After that, it just lasts and lasts.

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

Ten hours have passed, and I’m still wafting toffee’d caramel, praline, vanilla patchouli. A few more hours after that, the perfume fades in large part, but remains very noticeable on small patches of my arm. All in all, Patchouli Leaves lasted an astonishing 14.75 hours with a small application (2 big smears amounting to a single spray) on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin. With a larger amount (approximating 2 sprays), Patchouli Leaves lasted 17 hours on tiny parts of my arm. Montale fragrances are known for their longevity, but still!

What makes it so surprising in the case of Patchouli Leaves is that I don’t smell anything strongly synthetic in the base — and synthetics are what usually give a fragrance enormous longevity on my skin. Even more astonishing is the fact that there is no ISO E Super in Patchouli Leaves. None at all. That is a first for any Montale that I have tested. How Pierre Montale managed to survive without imbuing the perfume with his usual gallons of ISO E Super, I have no idea, but he did it. (Bravo, and please continue!)

To like Patchouli Leaves, you have to love both original, true patchouli in all its manifestations and gourmand sweetness. If you don’t like both, you’re in trouble. The reactions to Patchouli Leaves on Fragrantica are highly mixed, with some posters having issues with the patchouli’s “hippie” element, while others can’t handle the sweetness. Those who love patchouli with all its earthy, spicy, or occasionally medicinal sides have much less trouble, and love it. Some examples of the range of opinions:

  • My new OBSESSION! It’s drop-dead gorgeous. The amber is not synthetic like most ambers. This is a warm, mellow, slightly sweet amber perfume. Patchouli is intense–rich and nutritious like a peat bog. I smell plenty of dark, damp soil, full of partially decayed mosses and leaves. [¶] It reminds me of Prada’s Amber, but Prada is spicy, and I don’t get that spicy quality in Patchouli Leaves. [¶] So earthy, yet so heavenly.
  • Patchouli patchouli patchouli, a floral note drifting by.
    A tidal wave of sweet sweet patchouli, if you like pot brownies then this’ll probably tickle you in your bad spot. […] OH!, a moist dampness is present as well. [¶] A hippies wet dream.
  • Very sweet and creamy patchouli. After 1 hour smells like some eatable sweety made of patchouli and vanilla. Reaaly too sweet.
  • Patchouli Leaves smells like a cheap head shop perfume. The vanilla is awful sweet and unnatural, the Patchouli is sweet and unearthy, the amber is sweet and cloying. Allover it smells cheap-oily. For the goths out there: You don’t want this patchouli, you’d smell like your hippie grandma, who has lost her sense of smell by using too much acid.
  • This is definitely a hippie patchouli. It begins smelling intensely of mud and tilled soil, then it transforms into a bodily, sweaty patchouli within about a half hour. If you are a hippie, this is you in liquid form. It’s genius, but it’s not something I’d wear.
  • In the nutshell: remove cocoa note and you get l’instant pour homme extreme from guerlain. This is classy, deep, dark evening scent.
  • This is completely stunning. It creates a certain warmth that really puts me at ease. […] I can definitely smell patchouli (duh!), but it’s not what I have always known patchouli to smell like. Two people at my work wear some kind of patchouli scent, but on them it smells like dirt. It is obviously NOT Montale! Instead of smelling like a hippy, I smell angelic: fresh patchouli leaves mixed with a gourmand vanilla. Top shelf stuff!

Basenotes, however, has a very different, positive take on the scent. Out of 30 reviews, 24 are positive and only 6 are negative. Their perception of things:

  • Best patchouli ever made. Sorry Borneo and Coromandel, but you’re a step below of Patchouli Leaves. Opening is raw and earthy, then join the vanilla and make it creamy and sexy. Projection is huge, same with lasting power (over 12hs).
  • Or. Gasmic. [¶] My girlfriend suggested I use “smellgasm” or something similar but I just felt, in my bones, that it wouldn’t do this superlative scent justice. […] My goodness this stuff is dangerously divine.
  • I’ll tell you what I got with wearing this- old book pages in a library vanilla and I loved it. I’m going to own this some day (I hope). I sit down on the sofa and wear this as I read a book and it’s so comforting to me.
  •  it’s like a big scoop of Mint Chocolate Patchouli ice cream on me for the first 5 minutes. It develops quickly and warms into a loamy patchouli within 15 to 30 minutes on my skin, but it starts out as patchouli wearing a winter coat of bracing green (mint and/or lime and/or lavendar) and dark chocolate-oak boots. Granted, this feeling of coolness is very fleeting. It begins morphing almost immediately into a warmer patchouli and amber brew with a touch of vanilla.
  • Holy Smokes! This patchouli is no joke. This is not a classy, refined patchouli like Chanel’s Coromandel. This is not a dry, chocolaty patchouli like Borneo 1834. This is a sting-your-nose, transport-you-to-the-Grateful Dead-lot-circa-1989 kind of patchouli. […] This patchouli is very earthy and very rich. The juice itself is dark and seemingly thick. […] After about an hour the ferocity subsides considerably, leaving an amber/vanilla/patchouli that is indeed more akin to Coromandel, albeit more earthy.
  • This smells like the woods. Sweet, dry, powerful, earthy, serene. And it has the most beautiful deep brown colour. However, there is a lot of amber here. A LOT. A very beautiful fragrance that works amazing is the autumn.
  • Like eating dark chocolate with your lover under a tree after it has rained.

The people at Basenotes seem to have a better understanding and appreciation for real patchouli than those at Fragrantica, which probably explains why 24 out of 30 people gave Patchouli Leaves a positive rating. For me, I don’t think the fragrance is as “hippie” or “dirty” as they do, but my skin amplifies base notes and obviously brought out more of the vanilla from the start. On other people, the fragrance may be indeed have more of an earthy funk like damp soil or a medicinal touch for the first hour until the vanilla rises to the surface.

With regard to other patchouli scents, I agree with only some of their comparisons. Patchouli Leaves definitely isn’t as refined, nuanced, or gorgeous as Chanel‘s incense, white cocoa, and light patchouli amber fragrance, Coromandel, which is one of my favorite perfumes. Someone at Fragrantica wrote Les NereidesPatchouli Antique was a better interpretation of note, but for me the two scents are extremely different as Patchouli Leaves is very gourmand and vanillic, while Patchouli Antique is very musty, dusty, woody, and minty. They also preferred Reminiscence‘s Elixir de Patchouli which many people on Fragrantica repeatedly find is similar to the Montale. I don’t agree with that either. To me, the Elixir is significantly more woody, and smoked, with a mildew-y swamp quality from the strong vetiver. It is also more ambered and less vanillic, in my view, but it may be a question of skin chemistry. As a whole, the strongly gourmand touch in the Montale separates it out from all the patchouli scents that I’ve tried thus far, which is why I think Serge LutensBorneo 1834, David Jourquin‘s Cuir Tabac, or Profumum‘s Patchouly also don’t compare.

Source: vanillesdesiles.com

Source: vanillesdesiles.com

To be honest, I like Patchouli Leaves, but I’m not in love with it and something holds me back from committing fully. It’s not as chic as Coromandel, or as beautifully spiced as Profumum’s more ambered Patchouly. My main problem is that I’m not really into gourmand scents, and that is the essence of Patchouli Leaves on my skin. Deeply vanillic scents always leave me a little cold, even when they turn into caramel praline. I would prefer more spice and incense, and for the patchouli to really shine through as the main star, instead of being tamed by the equally significant vanilla.

On the other hand, Patchouli Leaves has some definite positives that I find hard to ignore. It’s a cozy scent that beats out all the others in terms of its projection and astounding longevity. It’s also extremely affordable, with one discount retailer selling the large 100 ml bottle for $104 instead of $160. Given the strength and richness of the fragrance, that 100 ml bottle may last you until the end of days. Those unwilling to commit to eternity can also go with a 50 ml bottle that costs roughly the same amount at retail.

At the end of the day, Patchouli Leaves will only work for you if you know and love patchouli in all its true, original manifestations. If that is you, and if you adore sweet fragrances centered around vanilla, then you should definitely give the Montale a sniff. It is an incredibly warm, rich, smooth and indulgent take on the note, and a perfect scent for a cold winter’s night curled up before the fireplace.  

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Patchouli Leaves is an eau de parfum and is most commonly available in a 3.4 oz/100 ml for $160 or €80, but some sites also sell a 50 ml bottle for $110. It is available on the Montale website only in the large 3.4 oz size for €80. Montale also offers a free 20 ml mini-bottle of the fragrance at the time of purchase. Discount Prices: I found Patchouli Leaves discounted at LilyDirect in the large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $104.71, instead of $160. I’ve known a few people to buy from the site without problem, and they are a reputable vendor. In the U.S.: Patchouli Leaves is available in both sizes from Luckyscent and MinNewYork, at $110 for the small and $160 for the large. Parfums Raffy offers both sizes for a fraction less: the 50 ml size for $105, as well as the 3.4 oz/100 ml size for $155. All the sites sell samples. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Patchouli Leaves is available at The Perfume Shoppe‘s Vancouver site which sells the 1.7 oz/50 ml size for US $110. Since the site is originally a U.S. vendor, you may want to contact them about Canadian pricing. In the UK, I couldn’t find any sellers. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the 100 ml Patchouli Leaves for higher than retail or the Montale website at €94, but ships all over the world. In the Netherlands, the perfume is sold by ParfuMaria for €95, while Italy’s AllaVioletta offers it for €80. In the Middle East, I found Patchouli Leaves at PerfumeUAE, while in Russia, it is offered on Montale’s Russian website. In Japan, Montale is sold at a few stores, like Tokyo’s La Beauté One. For all other locations from Osaka to Spain, Austria, Italy, Bahrain, Lithuania, Kuwait, even Uruguay, and elsewhere, please check the Montale Distributor page. There are even more stores all over the world from Japan to Africa shown on Montale’s Store PageSamples: I obtained my sample of Patchouli Leaves from Surrender to Chance which sells 1ml vials starts at $3.99.
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Perfume Reviews: Montale Intense Café & Chocolate Greedy

Source: Zedge.net

Source: Zedge.net

A perfume house known for its intense, extensive line up of potent ouds seems to be doing some lovely things with gourmands as well. Last month, the Paris niche house of Montale released a new fragrance called Intense Café (or, as my head always reads it “Café Intense”), and it seems to be a great hit with everyone who has tried it. So, I decided to try it along with another Montale that always caught my eye, Chocolate Greedy.

It turned out to be an apt choice, as Intense Café feels like a cocoa-dusted vanilla latte with rose, while Chocolate Greedy is a dark, bitter chocolate ganache cake sweetened by dark fruits and a jammy rose liqueur. The two faces of a chocolate-rose Janus, if you will. Neither scent is complex, both of them carry the Montale trademark of ISO E Super to the nth degree, and, yet, they’re both quite addictive fragrances that I actually liked. If they weren’t so ISO E Super intensive, I would enjoy wearing either one. Consider me pleasantly surprised!

INTENSE CAFÉ:

Cocoa roses, via Kew Gardens at Kew.org

Cocoa roses, via Kew Gardens at Kew.org

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Montale puts Intense Café into the rose category, and describes the perfume as follows:

A truly enticing fragrance. Brillant Floral Notes reveal a surprising heart made of Delicate Rose and Sensual Coffee. This perfect duo leaves a very beautiful sillage of Vanilla, Amber and White Musk.

Fragrantica classifies the scent as an Oriental Vanilla, and lists the notes pyramid as:

Top note is floral notes; middle notes are coffee and rose; base notes are amber, vanila and white musk.

pink-roseIntense Café opens on my skin with a jammy rose and bucketfuls of ISO E Super, followed quickly by a café au lait aroma, and a creamy, warm, very rich vanilla. The ISO E Super dominates everything in its path for about 40 seconds before it retreats to skulk broodingly in the corner and around the edges of the rose. For all its name, Intense Café primarily focuses on a rose that is dark, rich, syrupy, and infused with vanilla bean concentrate.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

Though the coffee nuance is not paramount, it’s definitely noticeable, especially after 5 minutes have passed. Actually the “coffee” might be more aptly described as “cocoa beans” processed into different things. I struggle to place the note with precision because it varies so widely from minute to minute. Sometimes, it seems like actual coffee or, to be precise, milky café au lait. Frequently, I’d swear that the aroma was actually that of a vanilla milkshake. At other times, it feels like a Chai or soy latte sprinkled with white cocoa powder. Whatever it is, it’s very pretty, but not particularly strong. What’s more interesting is how it fluctuates throughout the first two hours, almost like a wave that reaches a peak, crashes on the shore, ebbs, and then returns to do it all over again. At times, the cocoa variation feels very noticeable in its own right, but, at others, it ebbs away to become a more delicate nuance to the vanilla latte.

Source: Sivmui C. on Yelp.com

Source: Sivmui C. on Yelp.com

Either way, the primary aroma of Intense Café for the first hour is variegated shades of cocoa and coffee powder dustings on a vanilla latte or milkshake. The thick, creamy vanilla is the dominant note (besides the bloody ISO E Super), and its beautifully decadent lushness sits atop a thin layer of dainty roses. Visually,the colours are all pink roses, creamy vanilla, and pale, dusky cocoa. It’s very airy bouquet, though it has Montale’s trademark potency in terms of sillage and strength. As for the prodigious amounts of ISO E Super, Montale has always worshipped at its temple, but I will say that the amount in Intense Café seems far less than in many Montales and it didn’t give me a headache. The aromachemical sometimes takes on a rubbing alcohol, astringent facade, while at other times, it’s merely peppered and synthetic in feel. Either way, since few people seem to ever detect ISO E Super, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you know you’re one of those who always gets migraines from it.

Source: eBay.com

Source: eBay.com

If you smell Intense Café from afar, it’s truly delicious. At the start of the second hour, it’s a delicious cocoa-y vanilla, but soon, the rose starts to become much more prominent. At the 90 minute mark, Intense Café is cocoa-dusted rose with vanilla and it calls to mind an extremely similar note in Serge LutensSantal Majuscule. Of course, the Lutens is supposed to be primarily about the “sandalwood,” but the most beautiful part of that fragrance for me was the chocolate-dusted rose. It’s equally lovely here, in Intense Café, only it sits cocooned and embraced by the creamiest, richest vanilla essence. At the end of the second hour, Intense Café softens, fades a little, and loses a bit of its forcefulness. By the start of the fourth hour, the fragrance is a discreet, soft cloud of sweet, dusty cocoa-infused rose with vanilla with only the barest hint of coffee. It sits right on the skin, where it proceeds to get more muted, abstract and blurry. Finally, it fades away as a nebulous, amorphous blur of sweet but dusty rosiness.

All in all, Intense Café lasted under 9.75 hours in a really distinctive manner, and about 14.25 as a whole if one counts the fact that a tiny patch on my arm continued to emit a small burst of roses. Part of the problem is that ISO E Super can create a ghostly note that seems to vanish to one’s nose due to the large size of the molecules, before it reappears. Another thing is that I applied about 2.5 large smears. As a general rule, a perfume’s strength, longevity and potency are increased by spraying (and by synthetics), and given the normally prodigious longevity of some Montales, my numbers are obviously lower than what others may experience through aerisolization. Still, the numeric votes at Fragrantica indicate that Intense Café’s duration is generally “moderate” for most people with that category receiving the largest amount of votes (5) thus far, followed by 3 for “long lasting” and 4 for “very long lasting.” 

On Fragrantica, the commentators compare Intense Café to a few other fragrances. A handful of people bring up the new Mancera perfume, Rose Vanille. Others mention Rochas Man. I haven’t tried either fragrance, so I can’t comment, but I can discuss a third reference: Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. Quite a few Fragrantica commentators mention how the opening of Noir de Noir is very similar to that of Intense Café. I think it’s only the very jammy, beefy rose which the fragrances have in common, and not much else. On my skin, Noir de Noir opened with spices, in addition to that dark, baroque rose. There was saffron, the merest suggestion of oud, and the earthiness of black truffle. Absolutely none of that remotely resembles Intense Café!

What’s interesting to me about the Fragrantica comments is that a few people seem to think Intense Café has oud in it. It doesn’t, but almost all of Montale’s Aoud line has a blisteringly high quantity of ISO E Super in it, and I think people are so highly conditioned to that smell (or so unaware of the existence of ISO E Super) in the Aouds, that they’re confusing the two notes here. Another point that I found to be curious was the 3 or 4 references to musk in Intense Café. One chap even said that musk was the dominant note in the fragrance, and that Intense Café was not particularly distinctive from any other Montale musks. I blinked at that because, on my skin, there was no musk at all. Still, clean, white musk is listed as one of the notes, so it clearly depends on skin chemistry. 

As a whole, I liked Intense Café during in its first two hours when it was quite a rich, nuanced scent. The subsequent blur and haziness was still pretty, but a little too redolent of ISO E Super for me personally. The perfume is sweet, delicious, and obviously gourmand in nature, but it’s a lot drier than you’d expect thanks to the cocoa powder. If you’re expecting a pure coffee scent, however, you may be disappointed.

CHOCOLATE GREEDY:

Source: cakechooser.com

Source: cakechooser.com

Montale Chocolate GreedyDespite being an utterly scrumptious, decadent chocolate dessert in a bottle, Montale puts Chocolate Greedy into the vanilla category, and describes it as follows:

The delicacy of the Tonka Bean lightly toasted and flavoured with dry fruits, Orange and Vanilla.

The full notes, as compiled from Luckyscent and Fragrantica, are:

mocha bean, coffee, bitter orange, cacao cream, vanilla from Madagascar, tonka bean and dried fruits.

Molten Lava Cake. Photo & Recipe: Spicie Foodie. (Website link embedded within photo. Just click.)

Molten Lava Cake. Photo & Recipe: Spicie Foodie. (Website link embedded within photo. Just click.)

Imagine the darkest chocolate lava cake or, as it is sometimes called in Britain, chocolate fondant pudding. Now imagine slicing into it, and seeing a gush of warm, rich, oozy, thick, heated warmth that is at once bitter and sweet. A mere hint of juicy, zesty orange lurks underneath. Sweet vanilla wafts all around, like the delicious crème anglaise sauce used to go with lava cake.

That’s the opening of Chocolate Greedy on my skin. It’s lovely, quite heady, and very appealing — even to someone like myself who doesn’t normally go for gourmand fragrances. Unfortunately, as always with Montale, there is also that massive dose of ISO E Super mixed into the delicious mix. Even more unfortunate, it has a nuance of bug spray that quietly lurks underneath. Thankfully, it’s subtle and leaves after about 15 minutes.

Black Forest Torte. Photo/Recipe by Mark F. Weber at Clean Me. http://tinyurl.com/mb2j6rh

Black Forest Torte. Photo/Recipe by Mark F. Weber at Clean Me. http://tinyurl.com/mb2j6rh

What fascinates me, however, is the orange element which takes on an interesting characteristic after a few minutes. It actually smells a lot like a very jammy, fruited, syrupy rose. With every passing minute, the dark fruits grow more noticeable, creating an impression of dried cherries in some instances, and of dark rose liqueur infused with zesty orange in others. When it’s the former, it calls to mind Black Forest Cake with its rich, dark chocolate, sweetness, and candied cherries. Either way, the overall result is quite delectable.

"Bleeding Rose" by April Koehler. Source: redbubble.com

“Bleeding Rose” by April Koehler. Source: redbubble.com

The cocoa in Chocolate Greedy is equally complex and layered. At first, it’s merely dark, molten chocolate, but, later, it varies between: mocha; dusty, dark cocoa nibs with its dry, slightly bitter aroma; something more like dark fudge syrup; and expresso infused with both dark chocolate and cherry syrup. It’s beautiful, especially when the very fruited, jammy, almost plummy, rose liqueur swirls into Chocolate Greedy’s dark bitter-sweetness. Not even the final, dying whispers of bug spray chemical (just before the 15-minute mark) can ruin the heady, potent, decadently rich, delicious bouquet of dark chocolate ganache with boozy rose liqueur, dark fruits, and vanilla crème anglaise. The aroma is especially intoxicating from afar where it’s a swirl of beautiful notes. For my nose with its sensitivity to ISO E Super, it’s better not to sniff Chocolate Greedy too closely due to the aromachemical’s powerfully peppered, rubbing alcohol, facial astringent characteristics.

Like all the Montales, Chocolate Greedy is a simple fragrance without much nuance, complexity or layers. It’s linear, and continues on the same trajectory for hours and hours. But it’s a lovely, compulsively sniffable linearity. Oddly, about 3.5 hours in, Chocolate Greedy turns primarily into a rich, beefy, meaty, dark, damask rose followed by chocolate in second place. The floral element isn’t syrupy or cloying, thanks to the effects of the dry, bitter chocolate, even though it’s more like dark chocolate powder now instead of molten ganache lava cake. The rose is still also flecked by a rich vanilla essence, but it is no longer the rich warmth of vanilla custard sauce. Instead, it’s merely a background note, third in line behind the rose and chocolate twin-ship, and it soon fades away entirely. Montale may classify this fragrance as a vanilla one on its website, while placing Intense Café into the rose category, but I think the fragrances should both be in the rose group.

Source: frederickschocolaterie.com

Source: frederickschocolaterie.com

As time passes, Chocolate Greedy becomes hazier around the edges, and the notes all blur into one another. Around the fifth hour, the perfume is a nebulous, hazy, soft cloud of chocolate powder tinged by rose. The chocolate has returned to far overtake the rose element, and I really like its dusty, dark quality with a smidgen of milk chocolate mixed in. Chocolate Greedy becomes a skin scent about 6.75 hours in, creating a delicate, discreet veil that caresses you with dusky cocoa powder and florals. Eventually, hours later, it fades away to nothing more than a whisper of dark, dusty cocoa powder. All in all, it lasted a whopping 12 hours on my skin in a very noticeable way. However, like the Intense Café, those synthetics and ISO E Super’s ghostly characteristic helped create small patches on my skin where Chocolate Greedy continued to linger. On those tiny, dime-sized areas, I could detect the faint traces of Chocolate Greedy well past the 14th hour. If I had actually sprayed the fragrance, and a large amount of it, I have no idea what longevity numbers I’d get, but they’d be huge. It’s one of the benefits of Montale’s signature touch.

Unlike the brand-new Intense Café, Chocolate Greedy has been around long enough to receive quite a few reviews. On Basenotes, a lot of people really love the fragrance, with one commenting excitedly that Willy Wonka must have made it. However, there are quite a few detractors, too, though they still rate Chocolate Greedy with three stars out of five. Their primary issue seems to be that the chocolate is too sweet, and that the “sticky/thick vibe can be cloying.” I think the latter is definitely a possibility if Chocolate Greedy were sprayed in a large quantity; this is one fragrance where less is more, especially given the Montale potency.

Amour de Cacao Eau de Toilette. Source: Luckyscent

Amour de Cacao Eau de Toilette. Source: Luckyscent

On Fragrantica, 64 people said that the fragrance was similar to Comptoir Sud Pacifique‘s Amour de Cacao. I haven’t tried the fragrance, but a number of people argue that there are quite a few differences, small though they may be. For one thing, they say that the CSP has a significantly stronger orange zest note at the beginning, while Chocolate Greedy focuses on the dark chocolate. Others find the CSP doesn’t last long and has little projection (undoubtedly because it is a weak eau de toilette), but such comments are rarely said about a Montale fragrance. A few think that the CSP is milder, more linear, and less complex, while some others argue that it is better value for the money. Luckyscent certainly sells it for much less than it does the Montale, but the reviews for the fragrance there seem highly mixed with talk about how Amour de Cacao smells synthetic, resembles “cocoa puffs,” doesn’t have a good vanilla note, or doesn’t emit a lot of dark chocolate.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad

Another fragrance that is brought up by a number of people on Fragrantica is an Arab perfume oil called Choco Musk from Al-Rehab (Crown Perfumes). Apparently, it “not only smells better than this but you can find it for about $3-$5 online and in Arabic stores[.]” I’ve never tried it, but the cost issue did make me curious, so I looked it up. Yes, it really is that inexpensive. Choco Musk is sold through a supplier in Ohio and 6 ml (.2 oz) of the concentrated perfume oil costs $3.20. The three reviews on the company website are all positive, and talk about how long the fragrance lasts. As a further plus, the company also ships to Canada and worldwide, with all mailing costs dependent on weight (which can’t be much given the amount in question). In short, Choco Musk may be a definite option for those of you who are tempted by the Montale, but don’t want to spend a lot of money. I can’t vouch for the smell, and I find it hard to believe that it’s more than mere chocolate musk, just as the name states, whereas Chocolate Greedy’s nuances vary from the orange zest to the dark fruits and rose liqueur. Still, at that fabulously crazy price, the Al-Rehab is absolutely worth ordering to find out!

ALL IN ALL:

Given my prior experiences with Montale, I know it will surprise regular readers to the blog when I state that I truly enjoyed both Intense Café and Chocolate Greedy. And that actually brings me to another point. I’ve sometimes slammed Montale for having fragrances that smell extremely synthetic, and I know a few other perfume bloggers avoid the house like mad for the same reason (and, also, because the fire-extinguisher bottle). I will maintain until my death that Montale’s Aoud Lime is the perfume equivalent of Chernobyl, and should be used to exterminate cockroaches in a post-apocalyptic world. Actually, most of Montale’s Aoud line — which is how they made their name, after all — smells chemically artificial to me, and not solely due to the galloping bucketfuls of ISO E Super. Real, genuine agarwood is extremely rare these days, and a number of perfume houses use a synthetic, lab-made version of the wood to create the scent of “oud.” Guys seem to go absolutely nuts for Montale, but for me, there are better brands with more complexity and better quality ingredients.

Yet, despite all that, I think Intense Café and Chocolate Greedy are actually lovely and smell delicious. I mean it. Perhaps the inherent nature of a gourmand fragrance makes it easier to avoid the pitfalls of an Oud one. After all, how can you go wrong with chocolate and vanilla mixed with roses? Whatever the case, I think the synthetic Montale signature has been really minimized in each fragrances. (The exception is that blasted ISO E Super, but since most people can’t seem to detect it, the issue doesn’t apply.) Are Intense Café or Chocolate Greedy complex, edgy, revolutionary, or original? Of course not! How many gourmand perfumes are? Yet, if you’re looking for something very cozy, comforting, wholly unisex, and extremely versatile with a massive bang for your buck in terms of projection and duration, then you should consider Intense Café or Chocolate Greedy. The latter, in particular, has been around long enough to be offered at discounted prices on some online perfume sites as well.

Source: Cakechooser.com

Source: Cakechooser.com

For me, personally, I preferred Chocolate Greedy. The reasons are its greater layers, nuances, richness and depth. The chocolate is infinitely deeper, darker, and more interesting than the more café au lait cocoa in Intense Café. If the latter had a more noticeable, actual coffee note, as opposed to the light chocolate powder that dominated on my skin, the roles might be reversed. Or, perhaps not. I’m a sucker for dark molten chocolate, especially when mixed with dark fruits and a jammy liqueured, almost boozy rose. Chocolate Greedy was essentially like the best part of many desserts, only without the calories and weight gain. But if you’re one of those who lives at Starbucks and adores their soy lattes, then you may want to opt for the new Intense Café instead. Either way, you’ll smell delicious.

 

DETAILS:
INTENSE CAFÉ Cost & Availability: Intense Café is an eau de parfum and comes in two different sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $110; or 3.4 oz/100 ml for $160 or €100. It is available on the Montale website where a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle retails for €100. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size offered there than 100 ml, but Montale offers a free 20 ml mini-bottle of the fragrance at the time of purchase. Discount Prices: Unfortunately, the fragrance is too new for it to be available for less at the discount retailers. In the U.S.: Intense Café is available in both sizes at Luckyscent. It is offered only in the large 3.4 oz bottle at Parfums1 and MinNY (though they’re currently sold out at the time of this post). All the sites sell samples. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Intense Café is available at The Perfume Shoppe‘s Vancouver site which sells the 3.4 oz/100 ml size for US $160. Since the site is originally a U.S. vendor, you may want to contact them about Canadian pricing. In the UK, I couldn’t find any sellers. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Intense Café and ships all over the world. The price is €139, which is higher than through the Montale website. For all other locations from Italy to Bahrain, Poland, the Netherlands, even Uruguay and elsewhere, please check the Montale Distributor page. There are even more stores all over the world from Japan to Africa shown on Montale’s Store PageSamples: I obtained my sample of Intense Café from Surrender to Chance which sells 1ml vials starts at $4.49.
CHOCOLATE GREEDY Cost & Availability: Chocolate Greedy is an eau de parfum
and comes in two different sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $110; or 3.4 oz/100 ml for $160 or €80. It is available directly through the Montale website, but only in a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle that retails for €80. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size offered, but Montale tosses in a free 20 ml mini-bottle of Chocolate Greedy at the time of purchase. Discount Price: Chocolate Greedy is slightly discounted at Parfums Raffy which offers both sizes: the 50 ml/1.7 oz for $105, and the large bottle for $155. You may get a better deal for the latter from the Kuwaiti vendor, Universal Perfumes, which sells the same 100 ml bottle for $129.99, but shipping may take a little time. Chocolate Greedy is also discounted from LilyDirect which sells the large 100 ml bottle for $140.80 instead of $160. The site was planning to start shipping to Canada, so you may want to check to see if that has taken place. Rakuten sells the perfume for a similar price, $140.80, via LilyDirect. PennyLane has two bottles of Chocolate Greedy left for $140, with an additional 25% off taken for even greater savings. Chocolate Greedy is also discounted at Beauty Encounter which sells the large 3.4 oz size for $150. In the U.S.: Chocolate Greedy is available for normal retail price in both sizes at Luckyscent. It is also sold in the large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle at MinNY and at Parfum1 for $160. Outside the U.S.: In Canda, Chocolate Greedy is available in the large 3.4 oz size from The Perfume Shoppe for US$160. The site is the Vancouver branch of an American company, so you may want to email for Canadian prices. In the UK, I couldn’t find any sellers. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Chocolate Greedy and ships all over the world. The price is €94, which is higher than through the Montale website. Samples are also available for sale. In Russia, Chocolate Greedy is sold at Orental.ru in various sizes. For all other locations from Italy to Bahrain, Poland, the Netherlands, even Uruguay and elsewhere, please check the Montale Distributor page. There are even more stores selling Montale all over the world from Japan to Africa shown on Montale’s Store PageSamples: I obtained my sample of Chocolate Greedy from Surrender to Chance which sells 1 ml vials starts at $3.99.

Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Safran

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that my personal nemesis is Montale, the French niche perfume house known primarily for their panoply of agarwood fragrances. Whenever I wear one, I feel like Sisyphus crashing down the mountain after a Herculean struggle. In fact, Aoud Lime will forever remain my kryptonite, a scent of Chernobyl proportions that astronauts in space could detect from a mere drop and which riot police really should consider using for crowd control.

Today, however, I felt that hope may not be lost and that Montale may, eventually, perhaps, win me over. It’s all thanks to Aoud Safran which took me much further up that Sisyphean mountain, though its simple linearity failed to create true love.

montale_aoud_safranMontale describes the perfume as follows:

An exceptional combination of three materials with powerful spiritual impact: the Red Gold – the Saffron – the mystical Aoud and the Roses from Arabia for a highly sensual fragrance.

The notes are as simple as that: saffron, Arabian rose and agarwood/oud. Now, saffron is one of my absolute favorite ingredients, but that is no guarantee that I’ll like a fragrance, especially if it involves Montale’s typical take on agarwood. So, I fearfully put on a few drops — far below what I usually apply — and waited to be blown to outer space by Montale’s usual, ferocious, and feral potency.

Instead, I was overwhelmed by a stunningly beautiful, warm, buttery, red saffron. It was so good that I overcame my fear, and put some on the other arm as well. (I know, it’s truly quite shocking!) The saffron was followed by a brief instance of sharp alcohol of the rubbing variety, but it vanished in few seconds. On its heels was sweet, red rose upon a backdrop of subtle oud. The rose note was rich, beefy and as fleshily red as a hunk of rare sirloin. It helped to really sweeten the agarwood which was surprisingly mild — both by the standards of an oud fragrance and for a Montale oud in particular. Even more surprising, the agarwood was not even remotely medicinal, camphorous, bitter or plastic-y like pink bandaids.

There is a great warmth to the fragrance, unlike some of the colder, stonier or screeching treatments of oud in the Montale fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. I don’t even think it’s because of how the other ingredients sweeten the agarwood; I think it’s because the oud is a completely different beast than it was in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom. It seems almost more like a regular woody note than actual agarwood. In fact, I wondered if it was really agarwood at all; that’s how shockingly different it is. As time progresses, the oud takes on a distinctly peppery note, as if slathered under heaps of crushed black pepper, but that fades away after twenty minutes, too. All that’s left as time progresses is a very faint impression of some amorphous “wood” note.

The agarwood is never the star of this show. At first, it is the saffron which is simply stunning and very heady, singing its aria of warm nutty sweetness. The rose note is there, but it shyly waits outside the limelight. After an hour, however, it joins center stage and joins with the saffron in a lovely duet.  Eventually, about three hours in, all that is left is the rose who stays to sing a solo for another three hours. And that’s about it. The perfume never progresses in any way beyond that simple duality and linearity.

With the exception of the linearity, Aoud Safran does not seem like any of the other Montale perfumes that I’ve tried thus far. It’s not only the peculiarly muted, emasculated and de-fanged nature of the agarwood (though that is pretty striking as compared to the way it manifested itself in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom). No, it’s also the fact that Aoud Safran is both quiet and somewhat rich smelling. There is nothing remotely synthetic, chemical, astringent, abrasive or antiseptic about the scent; and it smells as though expensive ingredients were used.

Furthermore, the potency and sillage are almost demure by the standards of the feral Montales I’ve tried thus far. Aoud Safran had good-to-moderate projection for the first forty minutes; you could smell it maybe from a foot and a half away. After that, however, it dropped dramatically. By the end of the second hour, the scent barely hovered over the skin. By the end of the third, you actually had to put your nose on your arm to smell it. After six hours, all lingering traces were gone entirely. Again, relative to the Montales I’ve tried, that is quite a volte-face.

All in all, Aoud Safran was a pretty, uncomplicated, simple saffron and rose scent. However, those seeking a real agarwood or agarwood-heavy perfume may be disappointed. On the other hand, those who have some problems with agarwood but who love saffron and rose may find Aoud Safran to be ideal.

Unfortunately, there are a plethora of fragrances on the market with saffron, rose, oud, or some combination thereof. Many of those perfumes have a lot greater depth or complexity to them than Aoud Safran. Personally, I would recommend the stunning, spectacular Trayee by Neela Vermeire Créations if you wanted a mesmerizing scent whose notes include hefty doses of all three ingredients (but with many others as well). Its range, kaleidoscopic nature and richness render it far more than a mere, simple saffron, rose and oud scent. Plus, it lasts for an astonishingly long period of time.

Nonetheless, Aoud Safran is a very approachable fragrance. And it helped Sisyphus climb just a little bit higher up the Montale mountain…

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Aoud Safran is an eau de parfum and is available on the Montale website where a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle retails for €110. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size than 100 ml. Montale offers a 20 ml mini-bottle of Aoud Safran for free at the time of purchase. The fragrance is also available at Parfum1 for $160 and at The Perfume Shoppe for $150. If you want to try a sample of Aoud Safran, Surrender to Chance sells vials starts at $3.99.

Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Cuir d’Arabie

I always try to be fair. In fact, I’m a bit obsessive about giving things second and, sometimes, third or fourth chances. (I think it’s my Libra side.) So, I decided to give the high-end French niche house of Montale one final chance.

If you’ve read any of my prior posts, you will know that Montale is my kryptonite, a perfume house that consistently brings me to my knees — and not in a good way. At various times, I’ve described Montale fragrances as: “horrific,” or “Chernobyl” on my arm, and Lime Oud, in specific, as something warranting a “Silkwood Shower,” an extreme measure normally suited for cases of radioactive contamination that will lead to inevitable death.

Montale aoudcuirdarabie-fragranticaBut, my Libra side is hard to ignore so, a few weeks ago, I ordered Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. I did so even before a fellow perfume blogger, Scent Bound, suggested it, but when he recently warned me that it would take a few tries because “it is the smell of a raw skinned animal,” I paled. No, really, I actually paled when I read that. So, last night, I put on Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, fully expecting to end up huddled in a foetal position in the corner, sobbing and crying “Mommy!”

The fourth time is the charm? I’m shocked — truly and genuinely shocked — to say that it wasn’t bad. In fact, I think I may have liked it?

The Hairy German.

The Hairy German.

Now, I should confess right at the start that, soon after I put it on, The Hairy German jolted my arm and almost all of my sample vial ended up on my sheets. So, I didn’t have enough to try it out for 2-3 days to see if Scent Bound was right and I’d end up liking it, but I certainly had enough to know that it was very different from my prior experiences with Montale.

I started by putting on (cautiously and with great fear) 1 small dab on each wrist. Normally, I put 3-4 on each arm, but this is Montale! It is a line where prior experiences have shown that a miniscule tiny drop on your finger can last through numberous, frantic, desperate washings, through Lady Macbeth-like pleas to “out, damn spot, OUT!” and through hysterical fear that you will never, ever (ever!) be free of Montale. You see, all three of my prior experiences with Montale followed that exact same path, and I am a woman upon whom almost nothing lasts. But Montale is a whole other story; it is nuclear stuff and you can’t escape it. A single drop can drag you by the hair, caveman style, and clobber you like a T-Rex. And it’s not just Montale’s Aoud line, either, as I tried one that wasn’t. (Oriental Flowers.)

But Montale has as many as 27 different oud fragrances, and this one definitely strays from that horrific, nuclear path. I put on that initial dab on each wrist, waited to be brutalised, but soon realised I was still alive and unharmed. So, I put on some more. Yes, I actually did. Me! Montale!!! I put on 2 more dabs on each arm, and still I lived to tell the tale.

Aoud Cuir d’Arabie isn’t a hugely complicated scent. According to the notes on Fragrantica, it consists merely of: tobacco, leather, birch and oud. Birch is an element whose extract, tar or oil has often been used in treating leather, as an antiseptic in medicine, and to treat eczema or psoriasis. Here, in Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, it creates an immediate impression of the pink rubber in Bandaids. It is medicinal. But so is the initial smell of oud, and the two together create a rather singular, linear note. There is leather — black and cold, almost raw and feral, but never (on me) painfully fecal like horse manure, the way it was in Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie.

Finally, there is an oddly soft floral note that almost evokes rose and hovers as faint as a ghost in the background. I must be hallucinating it from the pinkness of the rubber bandages because rose is the furthest thing from the notes listed anywhere, though I smelled a rose note in both the prior Montale ouds that I tried. I later learn that, according to the Perfume Niche, the rose note is a signature to Montale’s aoud fragrances.

Aoud Cuir d’Arabie is a cold, cold, cold scent. I smell cold leather and cold, stone fireplaces. There is smoke, but it is not the warm smell of tobacco. Rather, it is the smell of burnt paper. I imagine a giant, cold, stone hearth where there is a lingering trace of burnt papers. It is not acrid, and it is nothing like the smell of burning that one finds in incense, but it adds an interesting note to the leather and birch. I am reminded of By Kilian‘s Pure Oud which has similar cold notes of smoke, stone and pure leather. I liked it then, and I like it now.

That is about the sum total of my experience with Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. I find little else because — on me, as with all the prior Montales — it is an incredibly linear scent. It doesn’t morph or vary, and it never turns into something hugely animalistic or rich with sweet tobacco. On the other hand, it is also nothing as extreme as the experiences noted on Basenotes where the scent is described with something approaching fascinated horror or bewildered love. Some of the comments:

  • A hospital janitor using bleach to clean puke off the floor. Oh, and an animals corpse by the roadside rotting in the hot summer sun. Why do I love this?
  • Limberger cheese. Vomit. Dry down did improve to leather, but what a nasty start!
  • This is a difficult fragrance. When I first applied it, the fecal/animal note was a turn-off. Luckily, after dry-down plus 15 min. that lessened, and the Oud and Leather predominated. It’s projection is great, and longevity is excellent. I wouldn’t EVER blind buy this, you must try it first. I enjoy it after the fecal smell dissipates, and own a large sample spritzer of this. I can’t apply it unless I have 15min. to let it dry-down before I have contact with anyone.
  • The first thing you get when you apply this is a very barnyard, fecal note, I’m not sure if this is caused by cambodian oud or a very animalic leather. But once you pass that stage the whole composition gets softer and a toned down version of the classic rose oud Montale combo emerges. I also get a pipe tobacco smell together with the leather in this stage that is very interesting. While it evolves the composition becomes very resinous, leathery and animalic, it gets very close to the skin becoming a skin scent, and when you think the scent is gone, you suddenly get a waft of it trough the air. Just marvelous!
  • it wreaks its dirty havoc all around me. The thick, pungent, hot leather of this fragrance, further pronounced by the Oud, is a leather reminiscent of an attire which has clearly been used repeatedly for numerous socially unconventional sexual acts and yet has never been cleaned once. It is almost verging on repulsive. Nevertheless, when I wear this, there is some aspect of this which gives me the greatest pleasure. […] Perhaps this says more about me than of the fragrance itself, but at least in my opinion, it resembles an almost forbidden indulgence of monarchial proportion.

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies also loves this passionately. (You can read her review for Perfume Posse here.) As did the Perfume Niche who wrote:

It opens with an animalic note of sweaty, worn leather combined with a medical hit of oud. Pungent, rugged and raunchy. A note of tobacco adds richness, Soon Montale’s signature rose note appears and adds a gentle floral presence. As it dries down, the leather becomes more refined; the oud softens, becomes warmer and more resinous. Together they combine to create a sexy sensuous intimate scent that stays close to the skin.

I certainly liked it enough to want to give it a further, detailed review over the course of a few days. That said, I have to confess, I frequently wonder if I’m confusing enormous relief (at surviving a Montale without being clobbered with ghastly, nuclear strength horror) with actual liking. I think relief may be a huge factor here, particularly as I did find the scent to be very linear. But, I’m a Libra and I like to give things chances, so I will buy another sample of Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. If things change, if multiple tries end up revealing far greater complexity, or if I fall for it without question, I will be sure to update this review.

 

DETAILS:
If you’re interested in trying out Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, you can get a sample on Surrender to Chance where the smallest vial starts at $3.99. If you are intrigued enough to want to buy it outright, it is available at Lucky Scent where it costs $110 for a 1.7 oz/ 50 ml bottle, $160 for a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle, and $4 for a sample. And, of course, you can purchase it directly from Montale on its website where it costs 80€ for a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle.

Reviews En Bref – Boucheron, Montale, Caron, & Annick Goutal: From Average to Terrible

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m verbose. 😉 I can’t seem to help it and, frankly, it often exhausts me as much as it probably overwhelms (terrifies?) you. So, from time to time, I thought I would offer brief thoughts and conclusions on a wide range of colognes or perfumes. Sometimes, they will include fragrances that I plan full reviews for down the line. Other times, like now, it’s for perfumes that I don’t like and find it difficult to sum up the enthusiasm to write a full review.

BOUCHERON:
Boucheron For Men Eau de Parfum is a scent I should like, in theory. It’s a powerhouse citrus aromatic that is most definitely unisex, regardless of what’s written on the bottle. I didn’t like it. It opened with too much soapy citrus and was utterly overwhelming. I’m not easily overwhelmed and usually like powerhouse perfumes. This one is justifiably considered by some to be utterly unbearable. (For the sake of balance, others adore it. It’s definitely a very split opinion.) Boucheron became much better as it developed but not enough for me to like it. Bottom line: nothing special and somewhat nondescript in the end.

 

MONTALE:

I’m glad I tried Montale’s Oriental Flowers if only to prove to myself that my intense dislike for Montale scents thus far has nothing to do with oud. The two Montale oud fragrances that I’ve tried (and reviewed here) were nothing short of Chernobyl on my arm and made me desperate for a Silkwood shower. A close friend recently tried Montale’s Amber Aoud and commented: “Montale clobbers you over the head and drags you back to a cave to roast you on a rack.” So, clearly, it’s not just me. Oriental Flowers is better — but that’s not saying much. It’s sharp, screechy, and very synthetic (to me, at least). For a floriental, there is a note that suspiciously calls to mind the oud in Montale’s other fragrances.

Perhaps it’s the very synthetic lime note that keeps appearing in the Montale perfumes, even though there shouldn’t be lime in any of those that I’ve tried thus far. I think “sharp, hostile lime” is how my nose processes the extremely synthetic florals and ouds in the Montales. Regardless, I find the rose scent in Oriental Flowers to be synthetic and screechy too. Over all, the perfume gave me a headache and I wanted it off me. It wasn’t the unrelenting horror and nuclear explosion of the Montale ouds, but it was damn unpleasant. And, even worse, it simply won’t go away. There is just no escape from Montale scents, no matter how microscopic the amount.

CARON:

Perfumistas and bloggers rave about Nuit de Noel, a favorite particularly around Christmas time and a fragrance that Karl Lagerfeld allegedly sprays around his house to get him in the holiday mood. Huh. Maybe I need to try the vintage version, because I’m in the clear (and tiny) minority on this one. Consider me utterly unimpressed, though so, so desperately eager to like this one. Dammit, why don’t I?! It’s a floriental whose spice is supposed to evoke marron glacés, old-fashioned Christmases with gingerbread men, sugar and spice, baking cookies, and cozy fireplaces. Even Goth Christmases and the 1920s. The superb blog, Perfume Shrine, had an absolutely delicious review (which convinced me to buy it)  and which reads, in part, as follows:

Caron’s Nuit de Noël (1922) is a soft oriental built on an accord of rose absolu and Mousse de Saxe perfumer’s base (i.e. a ready-made accordof ingredients producing a specific effect), with the addition of 25% sandalwood, jasmine, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, vetiver, amber and iris. It’s prismatically constructed around 6-isobutylquinoline, a leathery molecule.

The fragrance emits a cozy, inviting scent poised between the starch of marrons and the bitterness of the iodine/leathery note(hence my Fernet Branca evocation) fading into musky woods. Indeed the famous “Mousse de Saxe accord” is comprised of geranium, licorice (created with anise), isobutyl quinoline (leather notes), iodine and vanillin (synthesized vanilla). If older Carons, especially in their superior vintage form, are characterised by a signature “Caronade”, a common thread that runs through them, Nuit de Noël is a good place to start this escapade into one of the most chic and historical French perfume houses.

Less incensey than similarly oriental Parfum Sacré, less abrasive or bold than straightforward leathery En Avion or Tabac BlondNuit de Noël has a sheen that starts and ends on an unwavering tawny pitch. The spiced rum-licorice notes aplified by musk (a musk comparable to that in Chanel’sNo.5 and Bois des Iles) take on a rich saturation; the fragrance dries down to a powdery warmth redolent of the bourgeois scents of a festive evening spent outdoors.

Every single one of the reviews mentions things that are right up my alley, and make me wonder about my own judgment. (Did I mention that I’m desperate to like Nuit de Noel?) Unfortunately, as I wrote to an inquiring friend yesterday, I actually regret having bought a full bottle. A small sample would have sufficed. I only get fleeting notes of a few of the things mentioned by others, if at all. Plus, there is a very surprising bit of an underlying coldness and dryness to it. Someone called it “melancholy” but in a good way; I’m not sure I would go that far. Now, again, the vintage may be very different, but the bottom line is that my version is nothing particularly special. It’s perfectly nice, nondescript and pleasant, but I don’t want “pleasant.” There are too many perfumes in the world for unenthused “pleasant.”

Montaigne by Caron is one I’m on the fence about. It’s not a perfume I reach for often and, when I do, I think to myself, “I should wear this more.” It makes me think of Cannes, mimosa flowers under a brilliant blue sky, and Van Gogh paintings. It’s a floriental and the notes are described as follows: Top notes are jasmine, coriander, bitter orange, mimose and tangerine; middle notes are narcissus and black currant; base notes are sandalwood, amber and vanille. It’s sunny, elegant, and incredibly powerful both in terms of sillage and longevity. I have no clue why I don’t like this more. Perhaps it’s going to take a lot more tries, though that didn’t work for Nuit de Noel.

ANNICK GOUTAL:

Grand Amour is a perfume I should adore, and not solely because of the incredibly romantic story behind it. It’s a perfume that Annick Goutal created in 1996 for herself as an ode to love and her husband. Lucky Scent says: “Grand Amour is the perfume that encapsulates the serene passion Annick experienced with her husband, the cellist Alain Meunier, who would bring her a bouquet of white flowers every week. A dense perfume with flowery chords, amber, and musk that speaks of love, because “love is everything.” It’s another floriental (can you see a theme in my tastes?), and according to Fragrantica: “[t]he composition is based on three accords: floral, amber, and musk. In the floral bouquet, lily, honeysuckle, and hyacinth lead the way to Turkish rose, French jasmine, and Indian mimosa, with a touch of fruity notes. Oriental accord (amber) is represented by the notes of amber, vanilla and myrrh. In the base the sensual musk united with precious rare balsams create a very long trace.”

Hmmph. If they say so. To me, Grand Amour has a painfully green opening. It is the filthy, fetid, murky green remnants of a week-old vase of flowers whose water has not been changed and started to stink. At the same time, it’s a bit powdery and soapy. After a queasy hour or two, it turns softer. But now it’s musky soap and powder, but with leather and balsam. There’s something about it that I find unpleasant. I bought it because I love hyacinth, amber and myrrh; because the rest of the notes sounded completely up my alley; and because it was reported to be one of the rare Goutals that has good longevity. Well, the longevity isn’t bad, but it’s an utter ordeal and chore to wear it. It’s hardly akin to the sheer horror that is Montale (nothing is), but it’s one of the few perfumes I own that I want to sell. Not only do I not want to have anything to do with it, but I need to have that full bottle stop staring at me so hauntingly and reproachfully.

Modern Trends in Perfume – Part IV: Oud/Aoud – Elegant Wood or Medicinal Sexiness?

While the Fresh & Clean scents outlined in Part III have been around for almost two decades, our final category involves the very latest and hottest trend in the perfume industry: Oud or Aoud fragrances. These scents use, Agarwood, one of the oldest ingredients and most expensive ingredients in the world, and its distillation is responsible for a truly different, modern fragrance.

In its purest incantation, it can evoke a cold campfire in the outdoors. At times, it can have a definitely medicinal element to its woodiness, smelling of bandaids or, in one case, reminding me of a lime disinfectant sprayed in a cold, steely hospital morgue and creating the olfactory equivalent of Chernobyl on my arm. If done well and with the right body chemistry, it can descend into smoky, incense-y, sweet, leathery richness. Oud is always expensive and used mainly by the more niche perfume houses. It can also be an extremely polarising scent. In fact, the most controversial, polarising Oud fragrance of all may be the Tom Ford-created YSL “M7,” a cologne whose very advertising campaign broke all the rules by featuring a hairy, nude male model in full frontal… er… glory. We will get to that bit later.

Let’s start at the beginning. While spellings may vary, Aoud and Oud (I’ve even seen Oudh!) both refer to Agarwood which is an extremely ancient element found in the East. No-one explains its heritage, characteristics and its current usage half as well as the experts at CaFleureBon, so I will just link to their marvelous, brilliant analysis of it here. To make a long story short, however, Fragrantica states that Agarwood “is reputed to be the most expensive wood in the world” and that Oud is the “pathological secretion of the aquillaria tree, a rich, musty woody-nutty scent that is highly prized in the Middle East. In commercial perfumery it’s safe to say all ‘oud’ is a recreated synthetic note.”

There are an increasing number of different Oud/Aoud fragrances on the market these days, from the 2011 Creed offering for men (Royal Oud) to Tom Ford. But the majority of the oud scents come from even more niche houses, from Juliette Has a Gun (founded by Nina Ricci’s great-grandson), to Montale, to the offerings of the Sultan of Oman who founded the ultra-exclusive niche house, Amouage, reputed to be the most expensive fragrance line in the world. If “clean and fresh” is a more commercial, mass-market scent, then ancient Oud goes the exact opposite way. It’s hardly surprising given the expensive nature of the ingredient.

I’ve tried a number of unisex Oud scents, thanks to the incredibly useful website, Surrender to Chance, which sells small vials or large “decants” of almost every scent imaginable – from department stores lines to the niche houses to the rare, discontinued and vintage. (I cannot recommend them enough and the shipping is a fantastic price for a fast turnaround: $2.95 for First Class Shipping on any order within the U.S., and starting at $5.95 for international shipping.) Thanks to them, I was able to try a selection of Oud/Aoud fragrances from such lines as By Kilian and Montale. By the way, you may be interested to know that Kilian is a scion of the famous Hennessy cognac dynasty. (The Hennessy company is now a part of the LVMH luxury conglomerate). You can find reviews for those Oud/Aoud fragrances here.

The very first mainstream fragrance to feature oud was M7 by YSL, under the direction

The abbreviated version of M7 ad that was run in most magazines. For the full, uncensored version see the review at One Thousand Scents, linked to below.

The abbreviated version of M7 ad that was run in most magazines. For the full, uncensored version see the review at One Thousand Scents, linked to below.

of Tom Ford. It was 2002, and I don’t think the mainstream market was ready for either an oud fragrance or for the way it was marketed. As CaFleureBon put it in the article linked to up above, “[i]t was a resounding failure at the time, although it would probably be very popular if it were introduced today due to the current market’s new familiarity with oud. It was apparently too much, too soon, as it was a very powerful fragrance, but it has a cult following to this day, due in part to its provocative ad campaign.”

One Thousand Scents has an excellent review of M7 that I highly recommend, though I should warn any readers who are at work that it features that absolutely NSFW, full-frontal photo which we’ll talk about momentarily. The review states that official list of notes for M7 are:

Top: Bergamot, mandarin, rosemary.
Middle: Vetiver, agarwood.
Base: Amber, musk, mandrake root. 

I was very impressed by One Thousand Scents‘ review. I have not smelled M7 in person, but absolutely want to now as a result. A close friend of mine who adores it (but is not sure he dares wear it out the house yet) sent me a few sprays on thick stationary and I loved the sweet, smoky notes that linger on it.  I asked him to write a guest review, but he felt he wasn’t enough of an expert to do M7 true justice. However, he kindly agreed to let me share some of his impressions which I thought added to M7’s intriguing nature. He found it:

weirdly intoxicating. Medicinal yes, perhaps smokey as well? Like dousing a campfire with some antibiotic perhaps” but not in a bad way. After some time, the incense came out but not in a strong, pungent way that would nauseate one. “It does still smell medicinal, but in a more intriguing and less abrasive way.” Like “a clean bandaid or like gauze with a mild ointment on it. But less potent and unpleasant. I’ve read some comments that liken it to a hospital, but I think that does it a disservice…. Someone on basenotes described M7 as both hypnotic and comforting and I utterly agree. I am totally under its spell. It’s definitely for cool/cold weather. […]  M7 makes me want to mysteriously wander the streets of Paris on a cold, rainy day while wearing a trenchcoat.

[In the very end though,] M7 is basically Grenouille’s final scent where people don’t know why they are descending into a giant orgy!

As you can see, M7 is a complicated, complex fragrance, and I bring it up not to review it per se (I can’t, I haven’t worn it!) but to demonstrate how far the market has changed today. In 2002, the perfume world — mainstream or even, perhaps, as a whole — was not ready for such an aggressive, confusing, novel scent. As One Thousand Scents noted, M7 is “a smoky, incensey, bristly, growling thing. You’ll either love it or hate it; there’s no in-between. It is not kidding.” (emphasis in the original.)

M7 might perhaps have had a chance in the mainstream world had it not been for “That Ad”! One Thousand Scents talks about, very amusingly, the British reaction:

Some people were a little less sanguine than the French. The British, for instance. This article about the ad in the Sunday Herald tried to keep its tone light and amused, but it smells like borderline panic to me; it really boils down to OH MY GOD IT’S A NAKED MAN IN A MAGAZINE AD AND HE’S NAKED AND YOU CAN SEE HIS DICK AND EVERYTHING OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD!

A less censored version of the ad but this is still not the full, original one!

A less censored version of the ad but this is still not the full, original one!

If that was the British reaction, one cannot begin to fathom what the American one would have been!! Of course, that would require the full advert being shown here in America and that would have been highly unlikely given the puritanical mores. (The lingering effects of Janet Jackson’s “Nipplegate” are still not over!)

How did M7 have a chance to make it, and to introduce the mainstream, soccer dad world to Oud? It didn’t. Not a chance in hell. Even if the perfume notes hadn’t made it too alien for the time (mandrake root?!), that ad simply sealed its doom.

Poor M7, it was not only ahead of its time but, then, it suffered in inquity of being utterly emasculated. Adding insult to injury, a new version was put out in 2011: M7 Oud Absolu which, contrary to what its name would seem to imply, was most definitely not a more intense version of the original. By all accounts, it is a de-fanged meow of a scent as compared to the ROOOOOOOOOOOOAR of the original.

If 2002 was too soon for Oud, look at the market now. What a difference a decade makes! Givenchy, that old, extremely conservative house, now has Eaudemoiselle de Givenchy Bois de Oud! Demoiselle (or “young lady”) and oud… what a surprise. (Particularly from a house as conservative as Givenchy!) Givenchy is not alone. Dior, another mainstream house, has a Fahrenheit flanker, Fahrenheit Absolu, with Oud. Jil Sanders, Jo Malone, Armani, Calvin Klein (Euphoria Intense), Trish McAvoy, and even Juicy Couture (Dirty English) have now gotten into the act with fragrances containing some degree of oud.

But perhaps few things better epitomize the increasingly mainstream acceptance of Oud than the fact that, in 2009, Bath and Body Works came out with a fragrance whose notes include oud! Honestly, I’m not sure I believe it. And, yet, Fragrantica explicitly states that Bath & Body Work’s Twilight Woods includes “oud wood” in its dry notes. I’ve owned the candle version of Twilight Woods, and I don’t detect any oud — at least not proper, true oud which would seem to be far too expensive for such a line — but far be it for me to dispute the official ingredients for the perfume.

Regardless, the point remains the same. Oud is entering the mainstream in a way that was not imaginable at the time of M7’s launch, or even 5 years ago. And Oud fragrances are no longer extremely hard to find. Tom Ford now sells mainstream perfumes featuring oud (but not featuring male genitalia!) at Nordstrom’s and Saks. Juicy Couture’s Dirty English is available at Target and KMart. Interestingly, however, Sephora — that key destination for most mainstream beauty buyers in the U.S. — doesn’t carry Tom Ford’s Aoud perfume, though it does sells several of his other fragrances, and it doesn’t have any oud fragrance that I can remember seeing. (Perhaps Oud isn’t truly mainstream until it’s commonly sold at Macy’s and Sephora?)

I haven’t found the perfect Oud fragrance for me, though granted I’ve only tried 6 variations on it. It doesn’t help that my body seems to process the ingredient in a less than charming way. Most of the time, though not always, it is incredibly medicinal, bandaid-like, metallic, screechingly sharp and acrid with a peculiar lime note that really shouldn’t be there. (Particularly when lime isn’t listed as one of the ingredients in the perfume.) One iteration of it drove me to utter and complete madness. And not in a good way….  On many other people, however, oud can be sweet, woody, leathery, evocative of cold stone, vegetal, and/or very outdoorsy. I’m still on the hunt for one which will work on me and I will probably turn to Tom Ford’s Oud Wood next. I also plan on trying M7 for myself, if only to understand the huge polarising nature of the cult hit and to see if I fall into the camp of admirers.

Are you interested in trying Oud? If you have, do you have a favorite that you adore? What makes it so great and how does it smell on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any suggestions that you may have.

____________________________________________
For Part I: “Sugar, Spice & Even More Sugar,” go here.
For Part II, “Sweat, Genitalia, Dirty Sex & Decay,” go here.
For Part III, “Fresh & Natural, or Soapy Detergent?,” go here.

Review: By Kilian & Montale Oud perfumes

I’ve tried a number of unisex Oud fragrances from such niche perfume lines as Montale and By Kilian. (The latter was founded by the grandson of the famous Hennessy dynasty whose high-end cognac company is now part of the LVMH luxury conglomerate.) Oud scents are not cheap and the niche houses who put them out can charge a pretty penny. I could afford to try so many only thanks to the incredibly useful website, Surrender to Chance, which sells sample vials or larger-sized “decants” of almost every cologne or fragrance imaginable – from department stores lines to the niche houses to the rare, discontinued and vintage. (I cannot recommend them enough and the shipping is a fantastic price for a fast turnaround: $2.95 for First Class Shipping on any order within the U.S., and starting at $5.95 for international shipping.)

From By Kilian (hereinafter referred to just as Kilian), I tried four unisex fragrances from his Arabian Nights Collection: Amber OudRose OudIncense Oud and Pure OudIncense Oud opened with a sharp lime note which quickly receded to the background as the smoky, incense-y wood notes appeared. I liked this scent, though I swing back and forth as to whether I prefer the Rose Oud which opens with that sharp lime note before adding a rose element to the smokiness and woodiness. Honestly, I’ve concluded that that bitter, acrid, sharp, almost burning lime element has to be some element of the Oud distillation because I get it in a number of different Oud scents on the market. Not all, but enough such that I sometimes wonder if I’m imagining its pervasiveness, particularly as “sharp, acrid lime” is not something usually associated with Oud. This is obviously where personal chemistry comes into play.

Regardless, both Incense and Rose Oud settle into a comfortable, smoky woodiness that is quite different.  Neither has much sillage or longevity on me, but as I have repeatedly mentioned, few things do. With both Kilians, they fade into softness as quickly as 15 minutes later! However, they do remain, albeit close to the skin, with the Incense lasting for about 2 hours and the Rose Oud lasting a bit closer to 3 hours.

Kilian’s Amber Oud was a different experience because I smelled no oud whatsoever! No acrid, sour lime here but, rather, a lovely, very sweet opening note of amber and brown sugar. Almost a caramel feel, you might say, mixed with some 1970s-style patchouli and vanilla. The wood accord is simply nonexistent. So much so that I wondered if I was completely insane and decided to check the website, Basenotes. Apparently, I’m sane. There is no oud, according to most of the commentators, even though the official notes include it, along with bayleaf, cedarwood, amber and vanilla. As one person noted, you could get  the same result from Prada’s Amber series. I will say this, however, it lasted longer on me than the Rose or Incense versions.

Pure Oud was a completely unique experience out of the four Arabian Night fragrances that I tried. Basenotes states that it is composed of: “Oud, Saffron, Copahu balm, Amber, Gaiac wood, Cypriol, Cistus labdanum, Myrrh, Animalic notes.” On me, it (thankfully) lacked the strong opening lime note but descended immediately into a pure, almost synthetic perhaps, explosion of woodiness. It was different, there is no doubt, and quite fascinating. I can honestly say I’ve never smelled anything like it, perhaps as it is a cold, stony, wintery wood scent with a leather undertone. It strongly reminds me of the inside of a new, very expensive luxury car with ample (real) walnut wood and leather that is like butter. Except here, the leather isn’t hugely prominant in the face of that cold, steely wood. There is definitely an outdoorsy feel to this that is quite mentally and psychologically evocative. Living in warm Houston, I was strongly reminded of living in New York at Christmas time, wrapped up in a thick woolen coat and walking a street decorated with Christmas lights and covered with snow as tall steel or stone structures loomed up above. There is a slightly stony element and a coldness (in a good way) to the scent, along with the outdoorsy elements and leather. It made me wonder if this was what “cold,” “winter” or “stone” smelled like to the antihero, Grenouille, in the famous book Perfume.

Alas, even half a sample vial of this (in one go!) started to mellow on me within 15 minutes. It did not, however, fade completely. Instead, something different emerged. I actually could smell some Saffron (I cook a lot) and definitely some Myrrh. From that very cold, almost stone-like opening of wood with leather, now emerged lovely Myrrh, Saffron and Oud. My nose is not distinguished enough to know what Gaiac Wood, Cyprior or Cistus Labdanum smell like exactly but, whatever this is and whatever they do, the overall result is lovely. All in all, Pure Oud lasted perhaps 2 hours on me. I can’t say that it is something I would reach for daily but for those occasions when I want to feel different, unique and strangely enough, powerful, I would reach for this.

In contrast, Lime Aoud from Montale made me want a “Silkwood Shower.” (“Silkwood” is a fantastic film with Meryl Streep which led to the popular term referencing the scalding shower intended to rid one of radioactive contamination.) In fact, I did take my own version of Silkwood shower. Alas, there was no remedying how revolting this smelled on me. Oh, the irony that the woman on whom most things fade is subjected to a perfume she loathes and cannot escape. (As one of my best friends put it, it’s a situation worthy of the Twilight Zone.) I should begin by stating that the niche perfume house, Montale, is well-known (and much adored) for its various Aoud scents. They have many, with Dark Aoud being one that people frequently rave about as the ultimate in pure, really dark, super intense Aoud scents. (God, if it’s stronger than the Lime Aoud, please kill me before a touch of it gets on me.)

I ordered Lime Aoud because of the many raves for it on Fragrantica. Its notes intrigued me and certainly sounded good at the time: Aoud, Rose, Iris, Amber, Patchouli, Sandalwood, and Saffron. (See, Basenotes.) Some comments mention the extremely harsh opening of lime and Aoud. (It was the first time that lime was officially supposed to be part of an Aoud fragrance that I’d tested and, yet, I sometimes smell that note when it’s not supposed to be. Baffling.) Other commentators talk about a medicinal, bitter and metallic scent. I agree with both of those impressions. I’m not sure I agree with those who say that Lime Aoud turns into amber, sandalwood and roses.

The first time I put on Lime Aoud, I put on a small amount as I could tell from the moment I opened the vial that it was intense. I was blasted back by the lime and medicinal nature of it for hours. Sharp, acrid, medicinal, camphorous even, mixed in — totally incongruously, if I might add — with competing floral scents in an utterly revolting mix that just got stronger and stronger. After about 5 hours of barely suppressing nausea, I finally caved and took a long, scalding shower. Even after that, I could still smell faint traces of the worst part of it. And my clothes and hair positively reeked of it. It was so horrendous, I threw my clothes into the washer.

A few days later, I wondered if I’d imagined it and thought that I should give it another go. After all, some scents develop and change. Maybe I hadn’t given it enough of a chance. No. I lasted even less this time. I simply could not bear it. It was like someone had sprayed a floral scent in the air of a morgue, combining with its antiseptic, harshly metallic, cold, steel, and then added about a gallon of bitter lime on top of all that. My God, I’m cringing at the sheer memory.

Montale’s Aoud Blossom was slightly more successful  on me. Probably because it seems to have very little Aoud in it! According a commentator on Basenotes, it contains: “bergamot, Sicilian mandarin, ylang ylang, violet, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, Mysore sandalwood, Arabian oud.”  Many seem to think there is little to no real Aoud in it. I disagree. I can definitely smell it in the opening minutes, faint though it may be. Someone says they can smell the tuberose in it. I love tuberose and I get none of that on me. What I can smell is a definite floriental. Floral from the very dominant rose component, and oriental from the more spicy notes. I’m not sure I can really detect the mandarin, violet or jasmin but I can definitely smell the bergamot, ylang ylang and the sandalwood. However, everything is essentially overwhelmed by a very loud rose note that remains consistently dominant.

While Kilian and Serge Lutens fragrances don’t last long on me (at all!), Montale ones have decent to moderate sillage, and great longevity. (Too great, alas, in the case of the Lime Aoud). Its longevity is quite surprising to me, given how niche fragrances usually die a quick death on my skin. Aoud Blossom lasted about 5 hours on me, all in all. I will be frank, however, this is not a scent I would ever reach for again. And I am fighting off the urge to take another shower. It’s simply too pungent and in-your-face. Now, I *adore* strong scents, floral orientals and anything with a POW! And almost nothing gives me a bad physical reaction. But this… I can feel it at the back of my throat, it’s so overpowering that I feel a bit dizzy and I feel the onset of a migraine. It’s a deeply unhappy experience and one which has made me conclude that I must stay very far away from the House of Montale.

That said, there are enough variations of Aoud on the market that — whether your preference is for a sweeter version, a more woody one, a floral rose variation or hard core medicinal iteration — you can be sure to find one that appeals to you. If you’re willing to pay the prices for the uniqueness! This is not Coty or even your mother’s Estée Lauder. As for me, I will continue my exploration of Oud – probably with Tom Ford’s Oud Wood next as a friend of mine reports nothing medicinal, metallic, acrid or sharp about it. If I do try it out, I will be sure to report back.