Perfume Review: Oak Wood by Sunspel

It’s not often that I experience love at first sniff, but in the case of Oak Wood, my immediate thought upon spraying it on my skin was “oh, I love this” and my secondary thought was “I’m going to wear the heck out of this”. Spoiler alert: I do and I did. But hold up, let’s talk a bit about this fragrance before we go right into the nitty gritty of whether I love it or not (I do, obv.). Sunspel is a luxury British clothing brand that focuses on high quality wardrobe staples and knitwear. Their aesthetic is very neutral and smart (and a little Scandi?). Oak Wood fits in nicely.

Sunspel tasked British perfumer Lyn Harris (formerly of Miller Harris, now of Perfumer H) to create their debut fragrance. The brand had previously created signature sweatshirts for Harris, featuring the names of two of her Perfumer H fragrances (I really want one of those, btw) so it feels like an organic partnership. Harris said she wanted to “create something that represented the beauty of the English countryside” because for her “that’s what really represents the brand, Sunspel”. The name Oak Wood was her working title for the fragrance.

When I review a scent I don’t just think about the words I want to use to describe it, I also consider how I’m going to capture the essence of the scent in the accompanying images. To photograph Oak Wood, I took a long walk with my husband and Pugsley, our pug. We ventured onto the thrift that is a short walk from our house and got lost in the winding paths that led us through the growing saplings that represent a forest in its infancy. We walked past reeds and brush, treading on gravel paths scattered with fiery leaves decaying in the autumn air. I was wearing Oak Wood and it felt so poignant in such a beautiful space. It all just felt right. These photographs represent Oak Wood and the feelings of that day.

The Notes

Bergamot, Neroli, English Camomile, Angelica Seed, Cedar Wood Sandalwood, Oak Moss, Amber and Frankincense

The Perfumer

Lyn Harris

How Does it Smell?

Oak Wood opens with a beautifully clear and golden cologne accord. Brimming with the sparkling dew of bergamot and the fresh, breeziness of neroli, it feels sunny and cool, like a cold breeze softly blowing on a sunny autumn day. There’s a vivid sense of greenery in the opening too, almost as if one is rubbing green leaves between their fingers, and a sprinkle of anise, evoking tree bark and the forest floor.

Speaking of forests, I find Oak Wood to perfectly capture the colours of the woods in autumn. There are blazing yellow leaves (citrus), myriads of green with moss and grass, and the soft, auburn colours of trees and reeds. It’s so vivid and evocative, and I think it’s been a while since a fragrance I have smelled has been so instantly transportive. The first time I smelled Oak Wood I was immediately taken to the heart of an expansive woods situated in the isolated British countryside.

Things progress to a much woodier and mossier state as Oak Wood dries down. The wood notes are soft and warm, with cedar and oak wrapped in a plush veil of amber. In fact, it does all go a bit ‘woody amber’, meaning that there is a pungent woody amber material to amplify the wood facets however, instead of standing in the way of the accord (see Malle’s French Lover – a beautiful tobacco-galbanum hidden by a monolith of woody amber) it melts into it, boosting and diffusing it. It smells satisfying.

As you can tell I am really enjoying Oak Wood. I have a lot of fragrances but I’ve found myself reaching for this over my usual staples at this time of year, just because I cannot get enough of it. Lyn Harris is such a idiosyncratic perfumer and her signature, which is clear, precise and androgynous, is well and truly alive here. I think it is one of the best things I’ve smelled all year and in 2020, the dumpster fire of all years, that really means a lot. Oak Wood is joy – it’s moments of walking the dog with my husband in the crisp autumn air, and honestly, that’s exactly what I need right now.

Longevity & Projection

I would say that both longevity and projection are moderate. The initial impact of Oak Wood is strong, but it does lose some of the punch after about two hours, settling to soft woody notes on the skin. Projection is impressive at the beginning but it does hold closer to the skin after the three or four hour mark. All of this feels right to me – Oak Wood is not meant to be a heavy hitter or an oppressive scent, instead it’s as calming as an autumn breeze.


Oak Wood is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £95. There is also a candle, which of course, I really want.


Images are my own. Sample (full size) provided by brand for review. I was not paid to feature this product and the brand had no say in the content.