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.