Perris Monte Carlo Bois d’Oud

Honeyed oud, plummy fruits, the smoky smell of burnt leaves and singed wood interwoven with delicate florals, vanilla, and white creaminess, all combined in a mix that resembles some other well-known fragrances on the market before turning into its own creature — that’s the essence of Bois d’Oud, a fragrance from Perris Monte Carlo.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

Perris Monte Carlo is a relatively new house that emerged in 2012. I’ve been curious about it for a while as it is based in my old home, so I obtained two samples of the line. The majority of the fragrances, including Bois d’Oud, were launched in 2012 in Europe, before later being released in the U.S. in 2013. I can’t find a company website to see how Perris would describe Bois d’Oud, only a lot of PR babble about how the company’s signature involves luxury, gold, and prestigiousness. It all sounds terribly nouveau riche and obnoxious, so let’s get directly to the perfume’s notes.

According to First in Fragrance, Bois d’Oud’s ingredients are:

Top Note: Bergamot
Heart Note: Peach, Plum, Jasmine, Iris, Rose, Orange Blossom
Base Note: Cedarwood, Agarwood (Oud), Patchouly, Vanilla, Ambergris, Labdanum (Rockrose), Musk

Honey and plums. Photo: Alice Carrier at Bread and Honey blogspot. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Honey and plums. Photo: Alice Carrier at Bread and Honey blogspot. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Bois d’Oud opens on my skin with the richness of honey-drenched oud, followed by plums, a patchouli rose, smokiness, and a toffee’d, dirty, labdanum amber. There are subtle strains of orange blossom, and, indeed, a light flicker of orange itself. The overall effect is of a multi-faceted, dark sweetness that is dominated by plummy fruit, oud, and honey.

Bois d’Oud’s opening immediately and instantly calls to mind Arabian Oud‘s Kalemat. The Perris fragrance is slightly different with more plums, a stronger oud presence, and the inclusion of orange blossoms in lieu of blueberries. It is also thinner, sheerer, and less opaque in feel than Kalemat’s opening. For a brief moment, Bois d’Oud also reminds me of an oud version of Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, though there are even more differences with this one. Bois d’Oud is less plummy than that one, lacks the heavy frankincense element, has honey instead of brown sugar sap, includes a very noticeable strain of jammy rose, and its smokiness seems to stem from different sources. Throughout Bois d’Oud’s development, I kept feeling like I was smelling something akin to guaiac wood, with its aroma of burning leaves in a fall bonfire, as well as its occasional facet of stale dustiness. That’s all very different than Fille en Aiguilles. Ultimately, perhaps the combination of honeyed sweetness, slightly dirty ambered labdanum, oud and darkly plummy fruits is closer to a third fragrance that came to mind during Bois d’Oud’s development: Nasomatto‘s Black Afgano. Bois d’Oud opens like a mix of Kalemat and Black Afgano, before eventually moving closer to the latter.

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

10 minutes into its development, the notes in Bois d’Oud realign themselves. The plum takes a small step back, while the peach, orange blossom, and jammy patchouli rose step more to the foreground. The orange blossom adds a subtle (very subtle) soapy undertone to the fragrance, though it’s fleeting. The peach adds a different sort of fruitness, but it is the patchouli which is most prominent. It’s a purple fruitchouli that is thoroughly intertwined with the rose, but it doesn’t feel like dark molasses so much as syrup. Very sweet syrup that underscores the strong impression of honey. The oud, fruit and floral accords are quite drenched with both elements, creating the impression of stickiness, though the perfume is very airy in weight.

Source: ghulmil.com

Source: ghulmil.com

The whole bouquet is nestled in a cocoon of abstract woods and a subtle tinge of smokiness. As noted above, I keep feeling as though there should be guaiac wood listed in the notes, because something in Bois d’Oud replicates its particular form of singed dryness. It goes beyond the smell of mere cedar, though both woods can have a dusty, stale undertone like the one that appears later on in Bois d’Oud. In truth, I really don’t smell cedar in the way that I’m used to, and all the wood notes beyond the oud feel really indistinct in an individual manner. As for the oud, it is not medicinal, fecal, raw, or butch. It is merely honeyed, and a little bit musky.

Photo: TheCozyApron.com. (For a recipe for grilled cinnamon plums with honey and marscapone vanilla, click on the photo. Website link is embedded within.)

Photo: TheCozyApron.com. (For a recipe for grilled cinnamon plums with honey and mascarpone vanilla, click on the photo. Website link is embedded within.)

Bois d’Oud continues to shift. About 20 minutes in, the vanilla emerges in the base, along with what I can only describe as a white creaminess. It’s doesn’t feel like it comes wholly from the vanilla, though that does seep over into it. I can only describe it as something that is almost like white, honeyed beeswax, but not quite. It doesn’t smell waxy or even particularly honeyed, so perhaps it’s not an offshoot of labdanum (which can often take on those nuances), either. Whatever the source, it goes beyond a mere textural thing and is one of my favorite parts of Bois d’Oud, especially when it has that lightly vanillic flavour to it. Interestingly, as the vanilla creaminess grows stronger, the honey note that burst out of the gates grows weaker and thinner.

At the same time, the first glimmer of a dry, woody aromachemical appears. It emphasizes my early impression that the oud note is synthetic, not real. As Andy Tauer once noted in his blog, most purported “oud” fragrances on the market today use hardly any of the increasingly expensive, real ingredient, relying instead on chemical substitutes put into a cypriol base. It smells like that here with Bois d’Oud. At first, it is quite a subtle chemical twinge, thanks to the growing creaminess and soft vanilla that help to cushion the note. Later, though, it becomes a slightly different matter.

"Coffee and cream" Art Print by Shalisa Photography/ Sharon Lisa Clarke on FineartAmerica.com

“Coffee and cream” Art Print by Shalisa Photography/ Sharon Lisa Clarke on FineartAmerica.com

As a whole, Bois d’Oud at the end of 30 minutes is a well-blended bouquet of oud, patchouli rose, slightly vanillic creaminess, plum, and labdanum amber with flickers of orange blossoms, smokiness, and an abstract woodiness. Bois d’Oud still feels syrupy, but now it is from the purple fruitchouli more than from the honey. The peach lingers in the sidelines, but it is quite muted. It’s the same story with the cedar, and that subtle smokiness.

Bois d’Oud doesn’t change substantially for the next few hours. It drops in sillage at the start of the 2nd hour, hovering just 2 inches above the skin at best, and its weight feels as though it were cut by 60%. I keep having images of translucent cream tulle, splattered by plummy, purple fruitchouli and roses, then sprayed with a synthetic oud. Something in the base is taking on a faintly medicinal vibe, though it’s not the “pink rubber band-aid” smell that oud can sometimes have. Whatever it is, I’m not a fan. Equally disappointing is how that lovely vanilla and white, cream beeswax note is being increasingly overshadowed by a woody, stale dustiness that probably stems from the cedar.

Bois d’Oud turns into a skin scent about 2.5 hours in, though it easy to detect up close, thanks to the plummy, syrupy patchouli in particular. The honey, peach and orange blossoms have vanished, though the jammy rose lingers. The vanilla seems very muffled, while the aromachemical aspect is not. The focus of the scent is increasingly on oud and dry woods, infused with that creamy note and the subtle touch of abstract, stale dustiness. Bois d’Oud feels now like a Montale fragrance. You can take that how you will.

I’m obviously not enthused about this stage, but I have to say that Bois d’Oud recovers very well, changes again, and has an extremely nice drydown. Near the end of the 4th hour, Bois d’Oud takes on more ambered and earthy nuances. There is suddenly a lot of gritty, dark, golden amber lurking about the edges, creeping closer to the main stage. At the same time, there are undertones of something that smells like dry tobacco. Much more noticeable is a definite animalic muskiness that wafts about as well, adding a dirty earthiness and the tiniest, subtle touch of skankiness.

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

For the most part, Bois d’Oud is now a soft blend of creamy woods, oud, dirty labdanum amber, dryness, earthiness, and a tinge of animalic muskiness. The bouquet is still infused with roses and a syrupy sweetness, but both are much lighter touches that have been diffused or countered by the new elements. Unfortunately, Bois d’Oud has become very gauzy and thin, and you have to sniff really hard to detect its nuances.

The earthiness and skanky musk slowly fade away, and their place is taken by other elements. There is the faintest trace of soft, sweetened powder that briefly pops up in the base for about 40 minutes. Up to top, there is a subtle stale smokiness that flitters about. It’s not quite the smell of campfire ashes, nor the smell of burning leaves, but subtle parts of both, amidst the stronger smell of singed wood. It’s that guaiac wood impression that I talked about earlier As a whole, Bois d’Oud feels much drier at the end of the 5th hour and the start of the 6th, much more purely focused on its wood notes, though that quiet creaminess still remains.

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Bois d’Oud’s notes slowly shift in terms of their prominence and order. For a few hours, the perfume consists of sweet oud, creaminess, amber, and dry woods, upon a base consisting of an aromachemical tinge and plumminess, all lightly flecked by that whisper of singed woods and dustiness. Slowly, though, the creaminess fades away and the amber takes over.

By the end of the 9th hour, Bois d’Oud is a gauzy blur of amber, followed by abstract woodiness and a lingering touch of sweetness. It’s very nice, and has almost a caramel undertone to it, thanks to the labdanum. At times, the syrupy jamminess of the patchouli rears its head, but generally the fragrance is centered on ambered woods in a mix of dryness with sweetness. That is how the perfume remains until its very end, almost 11.5 hours from the start.

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

Source: pugetsoundbites.wordpress.com

On Fragrantica, people seem to really like Bois d’Oud. I was interested to see that the notes the people found most dominant were, in order: oud (22 votes), plum (18), vanilla (16), and patchouli (14). Several people picked up on the creaminess, which they found to be vanillic in nature. Others talk about the plums, sweetness, and, in one case, the peach. One woman compared Bois d’Oud to a Montale fragrance, a brand she says she loves, and wrote, in part:

the scent is quite a stunner. It is very similar to Velvet Aoud from Montale, only richer, sweeter and woodier. There is a plastic kind of aura which reminds me of Iris Ganache from Guerlain.

I cannot smell the bergamote they describe for the top notes. It’s had a syrupy feel, without being too sugary. The sweetness must come from the plum and the peach. I do not smell any flowers of any kind. There is a strong woody, forest-like smell, which isn’t fresh at all… Aoud is the most dominant note, along with dried fruits. Like dried plums and apricots, which have a lot of sweetness and a little saltiness in them. Lots of them! The roses and jasmine, if there, are totally hidden to my nose. Maybe the smallest amount of neroli and iris…. Cedar is listed, but cedar for me is always a “fresh” kind of wood, a little green…. I don’t smell that either… The woods in here are deep and dark. There is also a lot of ambregris which has a vanillary tone, but no distinctive vanilla. I cannot smell much musk or patchouli. No freshness here.

Overall, I would call this a fruity woody, if such a category existed…
Case and point: dried fruits + aoud + dark woods + ambregris. Great silage and longevity, fairly linear, becomes a tad fresher in the base, surprisingly. [Emphasis with bolding added by me.]

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Source: spicewallpaper.blogspot.com

Other impressions of Bois d’Oud are:

  • one of the best Ouds on the market surpasses all Montale creations IMO, this could be a vintage M7 flanker, enough said!
  • The beginning, to me was all about the oud, not very sweet – quite earthy and musk-laden. It reminded me very much of M Micallef’s Oud Gourmet – and I didn’t find it at all fruity. About 5 hours later now, the vanilla has really come out and it feels more creamy. I’m really loving this dry down, but am sorry to not have experienced the plum notes and creaminess earlier on.
  • very special frag in a perfume world lately dominated by oud in all his forms ,this a sirupy quite sweet oud maybe one of the most feminine around ,it reminds me a lot of the first original not reformulated poison by dior ..anyway a definitely worth buying frag  7/10   [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]
Source: souq.com

Source: souq.com

On Basenotes, the very first review at the top of the page almost made snort with its amusing conclusion:

Perris is based in Monaco, the juice made in Italy, and the thrift store bling of the bottles is aimed straight at the Middle Eastern market.

Yes, I think the bottle’s bling definitely approaches the tacky level, and is not representative of Monaco. (I promise you, Monaco is not a vulgar place, at least it wasn’t when I lived there. This newcomer, Perris, seems to be quite a different kettle of fish, though.) The rest of the review from “Gimme Green” is interesting, and seems to reflect my perception of a stale dustiness underlying Bois d’Oud:

Dry, dark, dusty wood with touches of sweetish suede and hints of dry fruit. Faded rose petals crumble about it. Lived in and somewhat musty.
Has a shut in feel, so claustrophobics beware.
The oud is of a recognizable sort (something similar is in Dueto’s City Love) and I imagine this is one synthetic we’ll come across more and more.
It’s modest, un-fresh and a satisfying wear, if not exactly breaking new ground. An oud one can don and not be distracted by. Plumps out and opens up surprisingly in the deep drydown.

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Suede. Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

One commentator, “Darvant,” also detected a suede tonality, along with an incense-y rubberiness and a strong floral element that included the jasmine. He writes, in part:

So luxurious, stormy, spicy/fruity and intoxicating in its first explosion but in a while so silky, slightly powdery, delicately rubbery (almost as a golden musky/resinous suede). […] a tornado of diverse elements by soon interacting each other in an armonic olfactory orchestra as luxurious hesperides, mellow plummy/orangy fruits, sambac jasmine, exotic sweet spices and powdery iris (the latter in its heady and mastering role). By soon the spicy/fruity drama is encompassed and comforted by a soothing accord of mossy galbanum, smooth balsams, animalic resins and probably rubbery/incensey suede. The influencing iris provides hints of floral powder perfectly integrated with musks, star anise and suede. A touch of olibanum or just powdery iris, woodsy resins and velvety suede? Probably it’s the note of agarwood (as linked with iris and star anise) which provides a sort of suede/rubber (vaguely boots polish type of) boise vibe around. The sambac jasmine affords an incredibly glamour “icy” spark in the air, as well as combined with musky amber, anise, talky iris and may be aldehydes. Actually in conclusion a velvety rubbery suede type of vibe emerges from the storm with all its exotic silkiness. A dark patchouli provides structure and stableness for all the general oriental mélange.

PS. In the dry down the vanilla emerges and tames a bit the agarwood spicy “gassiness”. The agarwood resin smells slightly synthetic and some people can demur it but i add that this element does not understate the extreme sophistication of the olfactory performance and can’t veil in any way the beauty of its glamour modernity.

In sharp contrast to all those layers, a third Basenotes poster wrote that he or she detected nothing more than “dry woods… [b]ut it’s such a nice smell, that it’s more than enough. Not groundbreaking though.”

I agree with that last statement. Bois d’Oud is not a revolutionary or unusual scent, as all the perfume comparisons from me and various forum commentators should make clear, but it’s not identical like the others either. It is not as dark, dry or smoky as Black Afgano; it seems smoother, plummier, more gourmand at times, and sheerer. Despite the initial resemblance to Kalemat or to an oud version of Fille en Aiguilles, Bois d’Oud later turns into something quite different from either one. I haven’t tried Montale’s Velvet Aoud to know how it might compare, or the Micallef scent mentioned on Fragrantica, but I can say that I think Bois d’Oud differs from vintage M7. There are a few token similarities in terms of how oud is mixed with plummy, resinous, labdanum notes, but as a whole, the two fragrances are very different, in my opinion.

Perhaps the ultimate reason why Bois d’Oud stands slightly apart from similar takes on the plummy-oud genre is the inclusion of the vanilla, creaminess and dustiness. Half-gourmand, half-not. Is that enough for perfume lovers who own similar scents in the same style? I don’t know. It’s going to be an individual decision.

All in all, if you like very plummy oud fragrances with sweetness, amber and vanilla, you may want to give Bois d’Oud a sniff. It is firmly unisex, in my opinion, and has good longevity with decent sillage. The perfume is not hugely expensive per ounce at $150 or €125 for 100 ml of eau de parfum, especially as you can find it priced for less than retail. Will it blow your socks off? I highly doubt it, but Bois d’Oud has some very enjoyable parts, along with a useful, versatile easiness about it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Bois d’Oud is an eau de parfum that is available only in a 100 ml size. It costs €125 and £125. In the U.S., I think it costs $150, but I can’t find a ton of retailers to confirm that. The company has no website that I could find, either. In the U.S.: the Perris Monte Carlo line appears to be sold at Henri Bendel in New York, but their website only shows the Imperial Oud Black bottle. That seems to be a different fragrance entirely, but, oddly, subtext on the page also mentions Bois d’Oud. I have no explanation for that. Like Bendel, Neiman Marcus only carries the Imperial Oud and the new Rose de Taif. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed Amazon sellers offering Bois d’Oud. One sells a 10 ml decant for $35, while another has a 100 ml tester bottle for $100. Outside the U.S.: in the U.K., you can find Bois d’Oud at 10 Corso Como for £125, along with the rest of the Perris line. The perfume is also available at First in Fragrance for €125. I noticed Bois d’Oud on sale for €105 at the Parfum Center in the Netherlands, while it’s at regular price at Celeste. In Spain, you can buy it from Novento Grados, in Italy at Etos Profumeria, in Greece at Rosina Perfumery, and in Munich at Bruckner. In the Middle East, I found Bois d’Oud at Souq.com for AED 596. Kuwait’s Universal Fragrances has most of the line discounted for $99. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t have Bois d’Oud in an individual form, but it has a Perris Monte Carlo Sample Set of 5 fragrances from the line in 2 ml atomizers for $38.99. You can order Bois d’Oud in an individual vial from The Perfumed Court where prices start at $4.96 for a 1 ml vial.
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Perfume Review: Nawab of Oudh by Ormonde Jayne (Four Corners of the Earth Collection)

The Nawab of Oudh is a nonpareil, an oriental perfume of such magnificent richness and beauty that it left my jaw agape. There is no chance that I shall be — as the famous writer, William Safire, once famously penned — a nattering nabob of negativity. No, Ormonde Jayne‘s latest creation is simply spectacular.

The Raja of Mysore. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Raja of Mysore. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum.

OJ NawabNawab of Oudh is one of the new Four Corners of the Earth collection which was released in late 2012 and which pays homage to the different parts of the world that have inspired Ormonde Jayne’s founder, Linda Pilkington. The collection is the result of collaboration between Ms. Pilkington and the perfumer, Geza Schoen, and consists of four fragrances: Tsarina, Qi, Montabaco and Nawab of Oudh. (I have samples of all four fragrances, provided courtesy of Ormonde Jayne, and am working my way through the collection. You can find my review for Tsarina here.)

A nawab (sometimes also spelled as “nabob”) can mean, alternatively, a ruler of an Indian province, or a European person who made a vast fortune in India or overseas. Ormonde Jayne was inspired by the first meaning for the term, describing the fragrance as follows :

Source: Shanti Barmecha blogspot

Source: Shanti Barmecha blogspot

Nawab (Ruler) of Oudh is a province of central India. The perfume is inspired by the Nawabs who once ruled over it.  It is a potent blend of amber and rose with a soft oudh edge. Yet surprisingly not one ingredient stands out from the others. It achieves a perfume synergy that defies traditional analysis, releasing a pulsating pungency, brooding and hauntingly beautiful, a rich tapestry of fascinating depths, a jewelled veil to conceal its emotional complexity and extravagance.

Every single part of that description applies to the magnificent richness of this stunning perfume. It is no doubt helped by the perfume’s long list of notes, seventeen in all:

top: green notes, bergamot, orange absolute, cardamom, aldehyde. 
heart: rose, magnolia, orchid, pimento, bay, cinnamon, hedione. 
base: ambergris, musk, vetiver, labdanum, oudh.

The Nawab of Oudh opens on my skin with a burst of bright, juicy, sweet green notes that have a distinctly tropical, fruited underpinning. There is something that feels very much like green mangoes, alongside the bright, fresh, plump, sun-sweetened lemons and oranges. There is also a heady rose note — sweet, fragrant, dark as the reddest damask, and almost beefy in its richness. Following closely in its footsteps is a spectacular element of velvety magnolia. The whole combination is beautiful beyond words, and I actually said “Wow” out loud as the symphony of notes wafted up to my nose.

The bright, fresh, sweetly floral and fruited tonalities quickly give way to something earthier and spicier. The bay leaf starts to appear, adding an unusual herbaceous and earthy aspect to the sweetness. Dark, rooty vetiver also helps undercut some of the richness, but it is the surprisingly fiery note of red chili peppers that really adds the perfect counterbalance. Together, they work to transform the scent into something much more than a mere floral with zesty citrus notes.

Further depth and complexity are added with the advent of ambergris, and I’m convinced this has to be the real stuff. It smells much richer, almost dirtier, and definitely slightly muskier than the usual amber accords, though the labdanum undoubtedly plays a role in that impression, too. Whatever the particulars, the ambery note has enormous depth but it’s never heavy, molten or gooey. Rather, it’s sheer and light. At the same time, the perfume itself is very strong and heady, encompassing me in a lovely cloud of scent that projects about two feet in distance in these opening moments.

Ten minutes later, the orange absolute is much more noticeable, as is the orchid flower. Both accords mix with the magnolia and rose to create a floral juxtaposition to the various herbaceous, woody, citrus, ambered and slightly musky notes. The final result is a beautifully balanced opening that is never singular nor too sweet. The sweetness is further undercut when the woody notes start to appear. Speaking of appearing, on my second test of the perfume, the bay leaf gained in intensity in opening moments of the scent; during the first test, however, to my surprise, it disappeared after ten minutes. So, too, did the fiery red chili pepper and the earthy vetiver. I point this out because I know some of you struggle with those notes, respectively, and I want to reassure you that (to my nose) they are not an enormous presence or particularly sharp.

Purple rose at Warwick Castle, England. Photo provided with permission by CC from "Slightly Out of Sync" blog.

Purple rose at Warwick Castle, England. Photo provided with permission by CC from “Slightly Out of Sync” blog.

In fact, nothing in this beautifully crafted, smooth as a well-buffed piece of amber, perfume is sharp or unmodulated. That applies to the agarwood (or oud) as well. It is simply perfect: never medicinal, astringently sharp, pungent or antiseptic. No camphorous elements or images of pink rubber bandages. Instead, you have a very smooth, incredibly rich, and highly sweetened oud note. It waxes and wanes in prominence in that first hour, never dominating but floating just under the flowers. The oud is perfectly interwoven with that rich, dark rose, but neither are the primary focus of the scent at this time.

Instead, Nawab of Oudh is in harmonious balance; this is a superbly well-blended perfume that throws off notes the way a chandelier throws off prisms in the light. I am strongly tempted to add the phrase “it’s beautiful” to the end of every paragraph, but I fear I will sound like a broken record before I’m halfway finished. Nonetheless, my God, is this perfume beautiful!

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

If any single note were perhaps to dominate in the first ninety minutes, it would be the magnolia. There are many global varieties of this velvety, opulent flower, but it is an incredibly popular and symbolic part of America’s Deep South, in particular. In fact, there is a Texas town called Magnolia that is just outside Houston. In addition, the flower has been the symbol of the state of Louisiana since 1900. (I won’t even get into the famous movie, Steel Magnolias, involving the state of Georgia.) Magnolias have a creamy, rich aroma with a slightly citrus-y nuance and a floral scent that is somewhat similar to gardenia at times and, at other times, closer to jasmine. Here, however, there is a definitely tropical feel to the flower’s velvety lushness and creaminess. It’s heady and strong, but never indolic or sour. Its combination with the orange absolute — and with what I am convinced must be green mangoes — adds a beautiful tropical aspect to the scent. And, yet, its citrus-y aspects also provide some freshness and lightness. The whole thing is simply an incredibly creamy, velvety floral composition of great complexity.

Sir Digvijaysinhji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar in 1935 wearing the emerald and diamond necklace created by Cartier London in 1926 for his uncle, Maharaja Jam Saheb Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji. Source: TheCultureConcept.com

Sir Digvijaysinhji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar in 1935 wearing the emerald and diamond necklace created by Cartier London in 1926 for his uncle, Maharaja Jam Saheb Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji. Source: TheCultureConcept.com

Two hours in, Nawab of Oudh changes. Now, it is oud with cardamom, what feels like cloves, red chili peppers, and the very first hint of labdanum. The magnolia is still present, but it has now receded much more to the background. For the next two hours, the perfume reflects different facets — much like jewels gleaming around a maharajah’s neck. There is: agarwood sweetened by sweet damask rose; dusty, dry spices (cardamom in particular); a touch of muskiness; a hint of jasmine; and rich ambergris. The red chilies pop up now and then, but the perfume is not fiery. It’s a perfectly modulated rosy, spiced, woody amber perfume that is endlessly luxurious, and made with what are, clearly, very expensive, top-quality ingredients.

From the fifth hour until the perfume’s end around 8.5 hour mark, Nawab of Oudh is labdanum heaven. Now, as some of you know, labdanum is one of my all-time favorite notes; I simply adore the more nutty, slightly leathery, dirty and masculine twist on a resin. Here, it’s treated beautifully — intertwined in a lover’s kiss with the heady red rose. It’s a bit too light for my personal, utterly biased tastes — and I would have preferred a more molten, opaque treatment — but nothing about this airy, lightweight (though strong) perfume is about molten heaviness. Instead, labdanum’s ambery note is light, warm, sweet, and infused by a subtle undertone of spices. Its interplay with the heady rose was so beautiful that I will make an embarassing confession: I spent a good chunk of 30 minutes simply lying on my sofa with my nose glued to my arm and inhaling the nutty, rose-strewn amber in ecstasy. It was, quite simply, the perfume equivalent of a food coma.

Nawab of Oudh has good sillage and longevity. The opening phase of the perfume had about 2 feet in projection for the first hour, before dropping considerably. However, it only became really close to the skin around the 4th hour. To be honest, for some of the remaining hours, I had to forcefully inhale at my arm to detect it — though, clearly, I found that no hardship whatsoever! As for longevity, as noted above, it lasted around 8.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. I should note, however, that the sillage and longevity drop even further if you don’t put on a lot; on my second test, the sillage became close to the skin at around 2.5 hours and the scent lasted only seven hours. As a whole, Nawab of Oudh a wee bit too airy for my personal liking, but not everyone shares my passion for the most opulently heavy, powerful scents. For those who prefer a less forceful, and more modulated, tempered fragrance, Nawab of Oudh will be ideal.

The only real problem with Nawab of Oudh is its cost. I winced and grimaced when converting the British pound sterling price of £335.00 to U.S. dollars; at the current exchange rate, that comes to approximately $506! The perfume only comes in Eau de Parfum concentration and in a large 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle, so there aren’t cheaper alternatives in a smaller size. If, however, it were more affordable, I would buy Nawab of Oudh in a heartbeat; without a doubt, it has shot up to replace Tolu as my favorite Ormonde Jayne fragrance.   

It is probably, therefore, a mixed blessing that Nawab of Oudh is not widely available at the moment. The perfume is not even listed yet on the company’s website (though it probably will be soon). It doesn’t seem available at other European retailers and, as always, Ormonde Jayne fragrances are not sold anywhere in America. However, Nawab of Oudh is available at Ormonde Jayne’s two boutiques in London and is also available online at Harrods. [UPDATE: My apologies but, reading the fine print, it seems that Harrods does not export this item. I assume it has something to do with the UK’s postal regulations on the shipment of perfume. I’m afraid that I have no other purchasing alternatives for you at this time if you live outside London or the UK.]

If you love spicy, rich, complex Orientals (as I do), then Nawab of Oudh will be your personal heaven. It makes me think of Klimt’s The Kiss with its initial start of green, turned into creamy, lush, almost tropical florals, then to sweet, spicy roses and woody, nutty, oriental ambered richness. Frankly, I can give no higher praise than The Kiss.

Klimt The Kiss

Disclosure: My sample of Nawab of Oudh was provided courtesy of Ormonde Jayne. However, that did not impact this review. My primary commitment is, and always will be, to be as honest as possible for my readers.

DETAILS:
Price & Availability: As noted, above, Nawab of Oudh is an Eau de Parfum which comes only in a large 100 ml/3.4 oz size and which costs £335.00 or, with today’s present exchange rate, $506. Although Nawab of Oudh and the Four Corner Collection are not presently up on the Ormonde Jayne website, you can find the entire collection in the Ormonde Jayne stores, as well as at Harrods which ships out internationally. Ormonde Jayne’s two London boutiques are at Old Bond Street and Sloane Square with the precise addresses listed on the website here. As for samples, none of the perfume decant sites in the US currently offer any of the Four Corners of the Earth collection. When places like Surrender to Chance start selling the collection, I will update this post accordingly.

Perfume Review – Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood: An Approachable Oud

One might argue that Tom Ford ushered in the new dawn of oud fragrances — whether or not anyone wanted it — when he launched M7 for YSL fragrances in 2002. And, judging by the latter’s market bomb, no-one did want it. M7 was not just a trail-blazer and the first of its kind; it was also too original, unique, bold and, it seems, shocking for a world dominated by the freshness of (the revolting) Acqua di Gio. As I’ve discussed previously in my post on oud as the most popular, new trend in perfume, M7 was far ahead of its time.

Tom Ford Oud WoodWhen Tom Ford left YSL and began his own fashion line, it’s hardly surprising that he tried to remedy what may have been his first official failure. He returned to the oud well and launched Private Blend Oud Wood in 2007. Only, this time, he tried to make the oud (or agarwood) palatable, approachable and mild for the mainstream masses. (To read more about agarwood, you can turn to the Glossary, or to my post on the oud trend linked up above.)

And, he succeeded. Oud Wood is lovely and infinitely easy to wear, especially by the standards of many other agarwood fragrances in the market today. The reason is that — at the end of the day — Oud Wood is not a very oud fragrance at all. This is no nuclear Montale — a niche perfume house that has around 27 oud fragrances, all of which radiate post-apocalyptic intensity. And it’s not M7 either, a much sweeter, more potent, hard-core treatment of the subject. Though I’ve only tried the reformulated version of M7, I have to admit, I far preferred it to Tom Ford’s second foray into agarwood.

Oud Wood is a unisex perfume which Fragrantica categorizes as “Oriental Spicy.” On his website, Tom Ford describes it as follows:

Exotic Rose Wood and Cardamom, blended with exuberant Chinese Pepper, envelop the wearer in warmth. Eventually, the center exposes a smokey blend of rare Oud Wood, Sandalwood and Vetiver. Finally, the creamy scents of Tonka Bean, Vanilla and Amber are revealed.

The full set of notes according to Now Smell This (NST) are:

rosewood, cardamom, Chinese pepper, oud, sandalwood, vetiver, tonka bean, vanilla and amber.

Oud Wood opens softly. Extremely softly for a Tom Ford fragrance, if I might add. It may be the softest opening I’ve ever experienced for one of his perfumes — Private Blend or regular collection! The very first impression is of rose and sweet, nutty cardamom. It’s lovely. There is also Szechuan pepper, earthy vetiver, and hints of rich vanilla as if from a freshly cut Madagascar bean.

Following in their footsteps is the faintly medicinal tones of oud. There is no huge bite to the oud, and I don’t think it’s mutedness is due to the fact that it is covered by a veil of spice and sweetness. Even putting aside the unique nature of Montale’s fragrances, the oud here is different to others that I have smelled. For example, the By Kilian oud fragrances in the Arabian Nights collection range from cold, stony oud in Pure Oud to almost no oud at all in Amber Oud. Tom Ford’s Oud Wood may be closest to Rose Oud with its rose and soft agarwood, but there is still a difference that is hard to explain. It’s as if the oud has been hidden here such that it’s merely providing small cameo performances here or there. It’s not the star, but it’s also not one of the main supporting actors either.

Thirty minutes in, it remains a fragrance that is predominantly rose, cardamom and oud. The latter has become slightly more prominent now with a heavier element of camphor. Its chilly undertones provide a balance to the rose notes that are frequently present in oud fragrances. And the combination of oud with the nutty, aromatic, sweetness of cardamom is absolutely gorgeous. But, despite that, Oud Wood is still much less sweet, and much dryer, than the (reformulated) version of M7. And, frankly, I think I would have preferred a little more sweetness.

It’s around this time that there is an unexpected twist: I’m convinced I smell mocha! Something in the interplay of the nutty, sweet cardamom with the agarwood and the earthy rootiness of the vetiver has led to a strong impression of mocha ice cream. I’m an enormous fan of the latter, so I’m very happy (though somewhat perplexed). Yet, despite that surprise, Oud Wood isn’t a particularly complex or complicated fragrance. It doesn’t morph or fundamentally change in a huge way, but perhaps that’s why it’s such an easy fragrance to wear.

About two hours in, the vetiver starts to truly emerge and it remains prominent for the length of the perfume’s development. Oud Wood is now primarily a vetiver, cardamom and (vaguely) oud fragrance with the rose becoming increasingly fainter. At the three-hour mark, sandalwood makes its appearance, pushing the rose completely off the stage and blending with the vanilla, cardamom and the earthy vetiver in a truly lovely manner. At times, it seems as though Oud Wood is mainly a vanilla vetiver with hints of oud and spice. At other times, it’s mostly sandalwood with vetiver. The perfume fluctuates and undulates, showing just how well-blended it is.

"The Seine at Le Grande Jatte" by George Seurat.

“The Seine at Le Grande Jatte” by George Seurat.

Four hours in, the perfume is extremely close to the skin and predominantly sandalwood with vetiver. The latter is increasingly sweet, fresh and bright green, reminding me of the aromatic fragrancy of lemongrass more than anything earthy or dark. It’s lovely, especially when combined with the spiced creaminess of the sandalwood. There are faint traces of vanilla and tonka, and the oud occasionally pops up like a fleeting Jack in the Box, but those are all minor things. The dry-down is mostly just sandalwood and vetiver.

I’m truly taken aback by the moderate sillage and brevity of the perfume. The  projection is surprisingly mild and tame for a Tom Ford fragrance. Even more surprising, it has an unusually shortest duration: around 5.5 hours on my skin. I know I have peculiar skin, but I’m not alone in this one. From the review on NST to comments on Fragrantica, a large number of people have noted the average (or, for a Tom Ford, extremely below-average) projection, softness and mildness of the fragrance. On Fragrantica, there are repeated comments about how Oud Wood simply doesn’t last. (It’s enough to make one convinced that Tom Ford intentionally went to the exact opposite extreme of every single thing he did with M7.)

My greater difficulty, and one which has made this review a struggle to write, is that Oud Wood is hard to get extremely excited about. Please don’t mistake me, it’s an absolutely lovely fragrance and, if I had a full bottle, I would wear it. In fact, I would probably wear it frequently! It’s versatile, easy, uncomplicated, rich-smelling and that sandalwood dry-down is simply delicious. Oud Wood may even be my second favorite Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance. (I shall have to ponder that one.)

But it’s simply not remarkable. It’s hard to muster up enormous excitement for what is — by today’s standards in particular — a very average oud. I’m not criticizing it for that, especially as “average” was the express goal! Tom Ford already did “remarkable,” and fell on his tush. Personally, I’m still obsessed with smelling un-reformulated, original M7 but, since both it and the reformulated version have been discontinued, I’m out of luck for the moment. (It sometimes appears on eBay, so there is always hope.)

For those of you who have been unsuccessful with agarwood thus far but who really want to find an accessible oud to try, Tom Ford’s Oud Wood should be right up your alley. It’s really just a spiced, vanilla, vetiver, woody fragrance that simply happens to have some oud in it. It’s neither particularly sweet nor masculine. But it’s infinitely wearable, far from potent, very approachable, and utterly delicious at times. For those of you who have been previously traumatized by the bullying or “frat boy” aspects of some Tom Fords, you too may have better luck with this one. But if you’ve had greater exposure to the plethora of ouds on the market or are looking for a true agarwood fragrance, then this may be too tame for you.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Oud Wood is an eau de parfum, and is available on the Tom Ford website where it retails for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. In the US, you can also find it at fine department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman MarcusSaks Fifth AvenueBergdorf Goodman, and others. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods where it sells for £195.00 for a 100 ml bottle or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. (They are either sold out of the small 50 ml bottle or else, it’s not listed despite an initial reference to 50 ml on the main page for Oud Wood.) The smaller size is carried at Selfridges where it costs £135.00. Tom Ford Beauty doesn’t seem to be carried by retailers in France, but it is in many European nations from Denmark and Belgium to the Russian Federation. You can use the store locator on the website to find a retailer near you. In Australia, the Tom Ford line is supposedly carried at David Jones stores, but Oud Wood is not one of the 16 Tom Ford fragrances carried on the David Jones website. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website.
Samples: You can find samples of Private Blend Oud Wood starting at $3 on Surrender to Chance, or on other decant/sample sites like The Perfumed Court. I think Surrender to Chance has the best shipping: $2.95 for any order, no matter the size, within the U.S. Unfortunately, international shipping has leapt up in price (from $5.95) due to the U.S. Postal Service’s recent (and large) price increases. It is now $12.95 for most orders going overseas. (It is a wee bit higher if your order is over $150.)

Perfume Review: Amouage Jubilation XXV: An Oud Fit For A Sultan

The royal perfume house of Amouage would be perfect for a fairy tale or Greek myth. It would be the story of King Midas, and all he touched would be perfume gold. It would The Arabian Nightshave Ali Baba and a cave filled with treasures of scent and spice, incense and frankincense — not stolen by thieves but given freely by the Sultan with the order to create the most luxurious scent in all the land. Or, it would be the story of “Perfume” without serial killers and death, and with a happy ending.

As the renowned perfume critic, Luca Turin, said in a 2007 German magazine article:

The story of Amouage is remarkable. Twenty five years ago an Omani prince decided that his country, renowned since Egyptian times for the quality of its frankincense, home to the unique Green Mountain rose and on whose beaches half the world’s ambergris lands at random, needed a perfume firm that would take on the world’s greatest.

So, in 1983, His Highness Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud al bu Said was ordered to do just that by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman. As the perfume store Aedes explains, they wanted “to tell the world about the ingredients particularly found in Oman – the rarest frankincense from Dhofar in the south of the country and the rarest rose of all, the rock rose harvested high up in the mountains of the Jebel Akhdar range towering over the Sultanate’s beautiful capital, Muscat.”

A Thousand and One Nights.

A Thousand and One Nights.

Consequently, Amouage tends to use very Middle Eastern ingredients such as oud or agarwood, rose, incense, resins like labdanum, and spices. It also hires some of the most famous “noses” in the perfume world to create its fragrances, supposedly with an unlimited budget. No expense spared. And the result is some of the most expensive perfumes in the world, even if no longer the most expensive. (It amuses me that the Amouage website describes its offerings as “The Gift of Kings” because it truly means that – both literally and figuratively.)

The Sultan of Oman with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Oman.

The Sultan of Oman with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Oman.

On its 25th anniversary in 2007, Amouage launched two celebratory eau de parfums Amouage 2 Jubiliationsunder the guidance of its artistic director, Christopher Chong, and created by the famous orientalist nose, Bertrand Duchaufour. (“Orientalist” is Luca Turin’s description, not mine.) The men’s version was called Jubilation XXV and the women’s version was Jubilation 25. Both versions are eau de parfum concentration and both are essentially considered to be unisex fragrances. Certainly both genders seem to wear the different versions. I have both and plan to review Jubilation 25 tomorrow. For now, let’s focus on the men’s version.

Jubilation XXV is classified as an “Oriental Fougère” fragrance for men, which essentially means its a woody, aromatic oriental. (See the Glossary for a full explanation of the Fougère family of fragrances.) Fragrantica lists the notes as follows:

Top notes are orange, coriander, labdanum, tarragon, olibanum and blackberry;

middle notes are guaiac wood, cinnamon, bay leaf, honey, orchid, rose, clove and celery seeds;

base notes are opoponax, patchouli, myrrh, cedar, musk, oakmoss, ambergris, agarwood (oud) and immortelle.

Amouage describes the perfume’s evolution as follows:

With the grandeur of a great epic, Jubilation XXV opens majestically with notes of the finest frankincense from Oman.

At its heart are elegant notes of rose, orchid and smoky gaiac wood, evoking the philosophy of the enigmatic man carrying the essence of his sophistication across all eras and cultures.

Like the magic of a spellbinding epiphany, notes of musk, myrrh, cedarwood, ambegris, patchouli and immortelle resonate in the depth of the fragrance expressing his longing to travel far, across all continents, to find the ethereal unknown.

Jubilation XXV.

Jubilation XXV.

I don’t see it. Jubilation XXV opens with a massive bear hug of oud, concentrated honey, sweet myrrh, a  touch of saffron, an almost imperceptible whisper of blackberry, and a strongly boozy amber accord — all under the strong auspices of balsam-heavy orange amber. It is incredibly reminiscent of Hermès’ Elixir de Merveilles, a fragrance I truly adore and which I reviewed here. It is all bitter Seville oranges which, just like in the Elixir, are wrapped in bitter black chocolate (compliments of the patchouli), salt, amber and woody balsam. I find barely any of the supposedly massive blackberry accord that a vast majority of the people have noted. There is a miniscule hint of it seconds into Jubilation’s opening, but it is mere seconds for me. The real fruit that I smell is, as noted, orange.

I was so astonished by the similarities that I tested it out a second time, late in the evening, with a different perfume on each arm. The only difference between the two openings is the touch of oud but — bar that — they were essentially identical. I’m extremely surprised that no-one else has noticed, but I suspect that most men don’t realise the Elixir is really unisex, and perhaps the average Elixir woman isn’t likely to try a seemingly “men’s” oud fragrance.

The oud note is extremely interesting in Jubilation’s opening hour. It is a fleeting, flickering thing; a darting ghost that pops up unexpectedly for a little while before vanishing from sight. Numerous commentators have said that Jubilation is a ghost as a whole: one minute it’s here, the next it’s gone, then it’s back again. They say the scent keeps disappearing, before reappearing. I haven’t had that experience with Jubilation as a whole, but I have had it with the oud element. Sometimes, it feels as though there is absolutely no oud in Jubilation and that I somehow accidentally sprayed on my Elixir. At other times, it appears with an almost mentholated note that cools down and cuts through the narcotic headiness of the warm, boozy resins, the rich heavy balsam-infused orange, and the peppery, smoky frankincense.

The oud in Jubilation is not the sharply screechy, metallic clang of the very synthetic-smelling Montale Aouds that I’ve tried. Nor is it the more medicinal oud of YSL‘s M7. It is slightly closer to the softer ouds in the By Killian Arabian Nights collection (though, at this early stage, not to Kilian’s Pure Oud). No, the oud in Jubilation is too tamed and softened by the smoky resins and the balsam-infused orange. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it merely means that Jubilation’s first stage is not oud-dominant. (That comes later.)

Nonetheless, as a whole, Jubilation lacks the edge and hardness of some oud perfumes. It certainly lacks the more extreme aspect of oud scents like M7 (in its original formulation) which have resulted in descriptions like “dangerous.” Jubilation is a complex, nuanced, layered, very high quality and extremely expensive, rich scent. But it’s not dangerous, if that is what you’re looking for. And, dammit, it smells a lot like an oud version of Hermès Elixir for the first hour! It even has the latter’s unusual salty quality; a hint of the sea air mixed with saltwater taffy.

I checked to see how many of the same ingredients they share; both perfumes have cedar, orange, patchouli, resins, ambergris and incense. Jubilation has a ton more notes than the Elixir, but many of those separate notes come very close to replicating the accords in the Elixir. The myrrh, opoponax (sweet myrrh), labdanum (resin), olbanum (frankincense) and immortelle all have sweet, smoky, incense-y notes that parallel the Elixir’s patchouli, Siam resin, caramel, sandalwood, tonka bean and incense. Immortelle, in particular, has a maple-syrup, honey, caramel aspect that is definitely echoed in the Elixir. (See the Glossary for more details and definitions of these various notes and perfume ingredients.)

The real differences between the two scents begin after the first hour. Jubilation start to lose that sweet head, and the full roar of the woods start to appear. The lingering and final traces of orange are mentholated now, not caramelized. There is also far greater smoke. I smell hints of the Guaiac wood whose scent is described by Fragrantica as “smoky, tarmac notes” and which one Basenotes commentator finds to have a “rosy, honeyed-sweet and slightly smoky and waxy-oily slightly rubbery aroma. The Guaiac wood is subtle, especially under the much more overpowering oud notes, but it’s there. I don’t smell the coriander, orchid, bay leaf, tarragon or celery seeds listed in the notes. I cook extensively, and I know what all those herbs smell like. And they’re not appearing on me.

After a few hours, Jubilation turns into an intimate frankincense and oud party. The oud is much, much stronger now. It’s as though the top notes had muzzled it but now, it’s free to soar. The smell evokes a wintery outdoors, a large stone campfire among the dark, dry woods, with a brisk, chill in the air and the smell of burning leaves. There is stone-like coldness, with sharp black pepper and a definitely leather undercurrent to this oud. As such, it is very reminiscent of By Kilian’s Pure Oud. There is also that rubbery, almost plastic-y but medicinal aspect to the oud that calls to mind the pink plastic sides of a bandaid. That part evokes YSL’s M7. I wonder at times how much of this is the oud and how much is the Guaiac wood with its tarmac, rubber, pepper and smoke notes that others have found. Perhaps it really is just the oud itself combined with the incense, smoke, and biting pepper of the frankincense.

It doesn’t matter. The final result is that the two overarching smells alternate between a gentle waltz, an intimately fiery tango, and a loud cha-cha-cha. They weave in and out of the room. Sometimes, they are snuggling in the dark shadows of the alcoves – just out of sight. At other times, they tango back into the room and the rat-a-tat-tat of their heels stomp up my arm and to my nose. Then they vanish again. It’s bewildering. If I hadn’t read all those comments about the perfume’s on-again, off-again vanishing act, I would think I was hallucinating or that my nose had gone wonky.

The ghost act makes it hard for me to assess the sillage of Jubilation. Its projection for the first hour is as big as everyone says, but then it becomes much more difficult to ascertain. More than one person has wondered if Jubilation was just so strong at the start that their nose “got used to it” for large stretches of time. I will say that, on me, Jubilation does not have the massive longevity that most report — but that is hardly anything new. All in all, Jubilation lasted about 5.5 hours on me, with the last 3 being close to the skin.

All in all, I liked Jubilation XXV, but I’m hardly tempted to share in the mass genuflection and obeisance for the fragrance. Much of the adoring, worshipful praise seems — to me — to stem from those lovely opening notes that some have compared to spices and dates (the fruit) in a Turkish bazaar. Believe me, I know how utterly divine those notes can be; I raved about them extensively for Hermès’ Elixir de Merveilles. I suspect the Elixir is precisely why I’m not more overwhelmed and passionate about Jubilation; I’ve already had the experience. But, for one who hasn’t and who is seeking an oud fragrance on top of it, then I suspect Jubilation XXV will make you rather weak at the knees. It is not an overwhelming, crushing oud fragrance but a very luxurious one that feels expensive. Which is just as well, given that it is expensive.

Bloody expensive, in fact! The usual bottle is 3.4 fl.oz/100 ml and costs $290, £170.00 or around €210. There is a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml version that costs £140.00, but a cursory review of a few US websites shows it is not available on any of the usual or big perfume sites. I found the smaller size only at Beauty Encounter where it retails for $245. It’s not a particularly good deal, given that double the quantity (or 3.4 oz) costs only $50 more. (As a side note, the women’s version of Jubilation is slightly more expensive in general: $300 for 3.4 oz, instead of $290.)

Amouage Gold in actual gold.

Amouage Gold in actual gold.

So, is Jubilation XXV worth getting? As always, that is a subjective and personal decision, but the cost of Jubilation makes it a bit more complicated than that equation usually is. Amouage may no longer make the most expensive perfume in the world — that was Gold in 1983 — but it’s still not a walk in the park. Yet, for a large number of people, Jubilation XXV is a scent without compare, one of their all-time favorites, and completely worth every golden penny. I would suggest testing it out via a sample. If it steals your heart, wonderful. If not, then perhaps you can always layer one of your existing ouds (particularly if you already own one from By Kilian) with the significantly cheaper, but always marvelous, Elixir de Merveilles.

DETAILS:
Availability & Stores: In the US, Jubilation XXV can be purchased online at AedesFour SeasonsLuckyscent or Parfums Raffy. (Google and Parfums Raffy state that it is the authorized retailer for Amouage and that it provides free shipping.) If you want the smaller 1.7 oz version, you can go to Beauty Encounter. Samples of Jubilation can be purchased from all those places, as well as from Surrender to Chance (the decant site I always use) where the smallest vial costs $3.99. In London, I’ve read that Jubilation XXV is available at Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Les Senteurs or the Amouage boutique. In Canada, I’ve read that it’s available at The Perfume Shoppe. In Germany, at First in Fragrance. And, of course, it is available world-wide on Amouage’s own website. The website also has a “Store Locator” for about 20 countries which should, hopefully, help you find Jubilation somewhere close to you.

Perfume Review – YSL M7 For Men (Reformulated): The Lion is a Pussycat

YSL‘s M7 For Men ushered in the new dawn of oud fragrances, whether or not anyone wanted it. And, judging by the market bomb, no-one did want it. M7 was not just a trail-blazer and the first of its kind; it was also too original, unique, bold and, it seems, shocking for a world dominated by the freshness of Acqua di Gio. As I’ve discussed previously in my post on oud as the latest, new, incredibly popular trend in perfume, M7 was ahead of its time and its brash arrival on the scene was not helped by print ads featuring a beautiful, hairy, male model in full frontal nudity.

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 above.

M7 was released by YSL in 2002 under the direction of Tom Ford. It was created by Jacques Cavalier and Alberto Morillas and featured the following notes:

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

M7 was a huge failure for YSL, and was sneakily reformulated in 2008 — undoubtedly at the order of YSL Beauté’s new overlord, L’Oreal. The reformulated version lasted two years until 2010 when the whole perfume was quietly taken off the market. In 2011, YSL launched M7 Oud Absolu, a de-fanged version of the original monster. (And, somewhere in between all these changes, they found the time to release M7 Fresh, too! Clearly, they were at a loss with what to do with M7 and were trying every possible avenue to fix the problem and their loss in anticipated revenue.)

M7 is still available on eBay, but it’s hard to know which version you’re buying unless you check the bottles and boxes.

M7 Original in the solidly dark bottle.

M7 Original in the solidly dark bottle.

The original M7 is packaged in a deep brown bottle that is solidly brown all around and has a silver band at the top. Its box lists four ingredients.

In contrast, the reformulated version of M7

M7 reformulated bottle.

M7 reformulated bottle.

comes in a box that is really essentially clear with just a big solid sticker of brown on the front and back; you can tell it’s the reformulated version because the sides and bottom of the bottle are completely clear.

M7 boxes compared with the vintage original on the left and the reformulated version with its increased ingredient list on the right.  Source: Basenotes.

The different boxes for M7 with the vintage original on the left and the reformulated version with its increased ingredient list on the right. Source: Basenotes.

Its box is also different; it now lists 14 ingredients. Despite the increase in ingredients, however, the reformulated version is supposed to be substantially weaker than the original, emphasizes amber over faint oud, and lasts a fraction of the time. That said, both versions are said to have the same dry down.

I have often said that curiosity will be the death of me. (It definitely will be the death of my wallet one of these days.) All the Sturm und Drang around M7 were too much to resist. So, I ordered a sample of M7 from Surrender to Chance, and tried it with great trepidation.

I absolutely LOVED it, and that made me deeply suspicious. As I sometimes tell my friends, I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to oud fragrances. (You would be too if you’d had my experiences with Montale! Worst thing ever!)

So, I went about investigating, and I think it’s pretty clear that Surrender to Chance carries the 2007/2008-2010 reformulated version of M7, as do the other sample sites no doubt. It’s extremely disappointing. I’m determined to somehow get my hands on the original but, for now, let’s explore this version of the hairy, naked beast. (Sorry, that ad tends to stick in my head….)

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!

M7 (reformulated) opens with an absolutely stunning burst of citrus, sweetness, smoke verging almost on the side of incense, and rich wood. I love it and note, “I think I may have found my oud!” There is a soft, subtle touch of the medicinal, but far less than what I had expected. It certainly doesn’t seem to have the forceful medicinal nature that one of my best friends who has the original version of M7 had described to me. He had noted the smell of bandaids and he was absolutely right. But in my diluted version of M7, it is very subtle. The slightly rubbery, plastic quality to the outside part of a pink bandaid strip is noticeable but it is far outweighed by the smell of sweet ambered spices. It’s almost as if there is a touch of cinnamon and a whisper of honey amidst that  crisp, fresh citrus and the oud wood.

The latter has an almost vegetal element to it that calls to mind moss-covered trees in the heart of a British wood. The notes definitely evoke the feeling of a walk through the woods surrounded by faint tendrils of smoke — perhaps from a pile of burning leaves in the distance. I feel very Downton Abbey-ish when I think of those notes, but the amber dominates too much for it to be more than a fleeting feeling. The oud wood is too warmed by the amber and the sandalwood to be a true oud scent like that of By Kilian’s Pur Oud which I have reviewed previously. M7 actually feels a bit closer to By Kilian’s Amber Oud, probably because there seems to be a substantially reduced amount of oud in the reformulated version of M7 (and seemingly little to none in the Kilian).

My version of M7 also calls to mind something unexpected: my beloved Opium in a shadowy form. I feel as though I’m going mad but, no, the opening definitely evokes Opium to me. I check Fragrantica and it suddenly clicks: Opium’s top notes are bergamot and mandarin, and amber is at its base. M7’s crisp, almost zesty opening burst of orange citrus and bergamot in an ambered cloak definitely shadows the magnificence of Opium’s opening (though nothing can or will ever – ever – really compare to vintage Opium, my Holy Grail bar none). Since Opium is perhaps YSL’s greatest success, it’s not completely surprising that the company would hearken back to its roots a little when creating M7. Perhaps that’s one reason why I keep writing “love” in my notes — complete with capital letters and exclamation points.

Unlike others, I never had the “cherry cough syrup” opening in M7. No doubt that is another casualty of the reformulation. I also don’t have much duration. I’m utterly appalled at how briefly M7 lasts on me. No more than 20 minutes later, it’s already starting to fade. An hour in, it’s a virtual ghost. I feel cheated and, truth be told, a little like sobbing. I have far too little to do what I’d like, which is to pour it on me by the handful. I’m crushed and desperately cling onto the remnants of citrus, sandalwood and amber. (The oud left the building long ago.) I’m slightly comforted by the fact that someone on Basenotes stated the reformulated version lasted only an hour on him. Clearly, it’s not all me and my wonky, perfume-consuming chemistry.

In slight despair, and fighting the urge to pour the remainder of my vial all over me, I go to Fragrantica to read about other people’s experiences with the scent. And, good God,  this thing (in original form) is a definite lady killer! One of my best friends had told me her boyfriend wears M7 and… well, I’ll spare you the blushes. But I thought her reaction was simply because he’s a bit of a hunk. Apparently, M7 turns everyone into a bit of a hunk! A small sampling of the comments:

  •  I received the best compliment ever from a sexy girl after she buried her face in my neck, ‘f**k me now, and again tomorrow, just so I can smell that again.’ nuff said.
  •  A woman at work commented the other day “You smell amazing you’re affecting my pheromones”
  • This is Hardcore Sex in a bottle!!! Its Sweaty, Its Dirty, Its Intoxicating…. Its so damn nasty…..I wouldn’t be surprised to know that this one has pheromones on it.
  • It smells like sex, just in a bottle. That’s all. Yes, there is so much more, but that’s all that you, dear reader, need to understand here. There’s nothing else quite like vintage M7, and it lasts for DAYS.
  • 1. Put a man in a blender. 2. squeeze. 3. add alcohol. M7 formula.
  • i like to wear even though i’m a girl. smells very dark, erotic, strong,wild …… it makes me think: “Take me!”
  • YOWZA! YOWZA! YOWZA!  [..] “M7” is unashamed of its sexy, primal, and animalistic bed-scent persona. Any man entering a room with a bunch of ladies better proceed with caution while donning this fragrance…..They won’t be able to keep their hands to themselves. I know I wouldn’t.

The comments make me sigh, deeply and sadly. What I’m wearing is nothing like the descriptions of the ferocious opening and the almost feral roar of a wild animal seeking its mate. My reformulated version is excellent, no doubt, but it’s clearly a pale substitute. I can’t even begin to imagine what the de-fanged M7 Oud Absolu must smell like given that people say that is a tamed kitten as compared to the savage beast of the original.

M7 is a scent that I urge all men and women to hunt down and try. Those fearful of oud may want to try the reformulated version that I have, though numerous women seem to love wearing the original too. It’s a little piece of perfume history and a whole lot of glory.

[UPDATE: I finally tried M7 in the original 2002 version and you can read my review of it here.]

Scent Notes: Oud

A fantastic analysis of Oud and how much of it in contemporary perfumes is actually a synthetic molecule. Obviously, that impacts the nuances and smell. To quote one part of the fascinating post: “Nowadays, natural oud is rarely used in perfumery. Due to over-harvesting and the labourious process collecting the raw material, it is not feasible to use natural oud for mass market perfumery. Most fragrances on the market contain synthetic materials to replicate the natural oud scent. Vir Sanghvi (virsangvi.com) says that Firmenich’s Oud Synthetic 10760E is used in most oud fragrances on the mass market. Givaudan also has its own version of an oud synthetic. Elena Vosnaki (perfumeshrine.blogspot.ca) says that Oud Wood by Tom Ford is made with Givaudan’s Agarwood Arpur. Bond No. 9 New York Oud also contains the same synthetic.”

If you’re interested in Oud, make sure to read the whole thing. You can learn a lot, as I did. From Creed’s Royal Oud to others, there may be a market and commercial reason for why synthetic oud may be preferable for perfumers. Apart from the low(er) cost, naturally.

ScentBound

In the last several years oud has become very popular in mass market and niche fragrances.  I did some research on oud and how it is used in perfumes nowadays and here is what I found out:

Sourcing Natural Oud

AgarwoodTreeOud (a.k.a. agarwood, oudh, aoud) is formed when the heartwood of Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees get infected with a dark-walled fungus (Phaeoacremonium parasitica).  The infected tree releases a resin in the process of protecting itself from the fungus.  This resin emits a very complex and distinctive smell, which we call today oud or agarwood.

Agarwood can be produced only from eight of the fifteen species of Aquilaria.  Those 8 species are traditionally found in India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.  Naturally, under 10% of the trees in a Aquilaria forest would get infected with the fungus and produce oud.  A common method to get higher…

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