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.