London is an awesome city. I say this not just because I am British and therefore undeniably biased in the matter, but also because it is a simple truth. London has a charisma that many cities do not, stemming from the many contrasts that besiege its winding streets. These disorganised clashes of new and old, rough and smooth, and clean and dirty, make for a cultural mish-mash that is at times, utterly bonkers and entirely unique but ultimately very charming.
One man that loves London as much as I do is Tom Ford and to celebrate the opening of his Sloane Square boutique in 2013, the incredibly prolific fashion and perfume purveyor that is Mr. Ford created his very own olfactory tribute to this finest and fairest of cities. Taking its name from the city of the same name and launching last year, ‘London‘ is the newest addition to the Private Blend collection, available only in a select number of stores within the nation’s capital.
The brand describes London as being “rich, elegant and urbane” – three words that could certainly be attributed to the city after which it is named, if only just the glamorous bits in which one would find a Tom Ford boutique. But this perfume is more than just a tribute to a city, it is in fact a celebration of Mr. Ford’s favourite ingredient – oud. Now before you all start rolling your eyes at the sheer mention of the ‘o’ word (I see you), heed this notice: this perfume is a damn good example of how to do an inconspicuous oud – an oud that doesn’t take centre stage and plays a supporting role, or as they used to call them back in the day – an oriental.
Tom Ford has a thing for oud. He is reputed to have been the first person to popularise and bring the ingredient (albeit a decent synthetic rather than real thing) to mainstream perfumery with Yves Saint Laurent’s impressive M7 in 2002. Since then he has remained relatively active on the oud front, releasing the equally impressive Oud Wood (a robustly woody oud for western tastes) as part of his initial onslaught of Private Blends way back in 2007.
Cut to 2013 and Mr Ford is once again throwing his hat into the somewhat overcrowded oud ring with The Private Blend Oud Collection. The collection sees the repackaging of Tom Ford’s immensely popular Oud Wood in addition to the release of two brand new fragrances, each displaying a unique and entirely TomFordian take on the most intensely addictive (and definitely over exposed) of aromas.
“I have wanted to revisit oud for years; it is one of the most endlessly fascinating ingredients in a perfumer’s palette. For this collection, I explored how oud could intertwine with other precious ingredients from the rich and storied culture and artisanal traditions of the Middle East”
– Tom Ford
The two new perfumes are Tobacco Oud and Oud Fleur. The former is inspired by Dokha, “a blend of herbs, flowers and spice-laden tobacco that was smoked in secret five centuries ago during a ban on smoking” and is suitably tobacco-filled. Oud Fleur is somewhat more difficult to pin down, and presents a slightly more individual take on the note. Between the two of them however, these two new fragrances show that when it comes to oud, Tom Ford is a significant cut above the rest.
By Kilian – the brainchild of cognac heir Kilian Hennessy – launched as a brand in 2007. Hennessy’s first collection, wonderfully entitled ‘L’Oeuvre Noire’, was an impressive outfit, consisting of rich, decadent and expertly created fragrances. Since then, By Kilian has been relatively prolific with its output, releasing a number of fragrances under its ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Asian Tales and ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’ collections.
Comparing the fragrance within these latter collection to those found in L’Oeuvre Noire leads one to question what happened to the brand. The more recent offerings have failed to capture the hedonistic magic of those initial fragrances, with none of the newer offerings being even remotely comparable to the photorealistic tuberose of Beyond Love, the film noir honey of Back to Black or rich, pink delicacy of Love.
This year By Kilian has added two new fragrances to its collection; Musk Oud and Playing with the Devil. Both are polar opposites in style, proving that as far as creative direction goes, Hennessy definitely understands and enjoys variety. On the downside however, they also show a continuing ‘watering down’ of ideas within the brand and when looking back at what By Kilian has brought to the table before, this feels very sad indeed.
If I were to pose most perfume-addicts the question; “are you in the mood for oud?” the response would likely be a resounding ‘no’, with a good few exasperated sighs and possibly one or two slaps to the face for good measure. The simple fact is that oud, the noble rot from the Aquilaria tree, is over exposed in the world of perfume and one cannot step into their local fragrance hall without being bombarded by “THE LATEST OUD FRAGRANCE FROM XXX” or “LOOK, WE’VE MADE A PERFUME AND IT HAS OUD IN IT, ACTUAL OUD (KINDA, NOT REALLY)!”.
But I refuse to be disheartened by the oud trend, because that’s exactly what it is – a trend, and we all know that trends are transient in nature, meaning that it’ll all be over before we know it. In reality this trend is far from being all bad, after all there are some great oud-based scents out there (check out my Guide to Oud), with perhaps the best in most recent years being Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s incandescent OUD.
“The creation of the OUD mood collection is a tribute to the type of perfume that makes you feel as if you are wrapped in a rare, delicate material, one that is in perfect harmony with a warm, gentle, refined state of mind.”
Following on from the success of last year’s incandescent OUD, Francis Kurkdjian has added not one, but three new oud fragrances to his Maison. Named ‘OUD Mood’ this collection takes inspiration from the soft feel of fabric, namely; Silk, Velvet and Cashmere. Each one offering a brand new and interesting texture of oud and serving as a wave of refreshment for tired, bored and frankly cranky perfume lovers.
If I could change one thing about my life it would be to ensure that I was better travelled than I am. In my head I long to be a great explorer scouring every corner of the earth. I want to walk the Great Wall of China, taste the street food in Mexico, eat lobsters in Maine (it all comes back to food with me), play with the cats at the cat cafe in Tokyo and float around the streets of Florence , but the problem is, I’m a bit of a wimp.
So, as much as I wish I’d visited all of these places, and I do truly hope to one day, I haven’t, in fact up until a few years ago I hadn’t made it further than France. It’s appalling, I know. Luckily for us armchair explorers, with Ormonde Jayne’s latest collection ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ one can visit the most exotic destinations without even removing one’s pyjamas. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the Gulf, Russia, Latin America and China…
For the Four Corners of the Earth collection Linda Pilkington and perfumer Geza Schoen have taken Ormonde Jayne on a trip round the globe, soaking up the sights, smells and colours of four distinct cultures without diluting the brand one bit, and this is what makes the collection so excellent; the fact that despite the strong influences of their respective homelands, each fragrance still very much follows the Ormonde Jayne signature of refined, elegant fragrances. After all, it’s not just where we go that shapes who we are, it’s where we come from too.
Mr. Butterworth, my rather lovely partner-in-crime and Mr. Ford, the dashing designer behind Tom Ford go hand-in-hand. Well, not literally of course. I know that you know that I’d never allow that kind of shenanigans! What I mean is that, whilst not being a fumenerd like you are I, Mr. Butterworth does have a certain penchant for fragrances bearing Mr. Ford’s name.
If you were to take a peek into mine and Mr. Butterworth’s bathroom you would find a big collection of perfumes and although we share a lot of scents there is most definitely a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ thing going on. So if you look hard enough you will see a small contingent of masculine fragrances that belong solely to the Butterworth (although I do occasionally raid his stash), and three of his favourites are by Tom Ford.
Tom Ford currently has four masculine fragrances and about a million unisex private blends to choose from. Mr. Butterworth, with his ever-discerning taste, has found love for Tom Ford for Men, Oud Wood and Grey Vetiver, you could say that he’s a little bit obsessed. Should I be worried? Let’s just say that I will be keeping a close eye on him next time we’re near the Tom Ford counter
I think the only thing more frustrating than the constant slew of oud-based fragrances is the fact that each time one is released I have to mention that we’re all a bit fed up with this oud avalanche that we’ve all been facing over the last few years. So, for this review I refuse to mention the frustration (I am aware that I haven’t succeeded in doing so) and instead say that at least Christian Dior appear to have got this whole oud malarky spot on.
In 2010 Dior, following on from the trend started by Chanel with their Les Exclusifs line, created La Collection Privée, a series of exclusive boutique scents. Part of this private collection was Leather Oud, a fantastically pornographic take on oud. Following Leather Oud’s success Dior, who know a good thing when they see it, have decide to launch a second, Oud Ispahan.
Oud Ispahan, which is named after the Iranian city, follows a more traditional route by pairing oud with its beloved partner rose. If the oud trend is considered boring, then the fact that most of its offerings are blends of oud and rose is even more boring, but fear not, Dior has done a good job with Oud Ispahan. Taking its inspiration from Christian Dior’s “fascination with a fantastical orient” along with the “intoxicating scents” and colours of such a place, Oud Ispahan is a very beautiful perfume indeed.
Ormonde Jayne is a house that has always sat on the periphery of my perfume sampling. I have tried a number of their fragrances in passing (I have tried a shocking amount of things “in passing”) and have even visited one of their boutiques, but I don’t feel that I’ve paid them the attention that they deserve. So when the lovely people at Ormonde Jayne offered to send me one of their discovery sets I was more than happy to accept, because Ormonde Jayne is a house that I want to get to know.
Launched in 2002, Ormonde Jayne is a British perfume house created by Linda Pilkington. The Ormonde Jayne philosophy is simple: “[…]quality and true luxury, the pursuit of beauty and elegance.”  There is something very appealing about the sleek simplicity of Ormonde Jayne and the lack of bells and whistles is appealing. But don’t let that fool you, the perfumes themselves are very complex indeed.
This review focuses on Ormonde Jayne’s two signature fragrances: Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man, both of which have been highly praised by many and received five star reviews from Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: The Guide. Both wood-based fragrances are as enigmatic as they are sophisticated and having spent sufficient time with them I can understand why they are so highly regarded.
Well, it looks like Nigel really came through on the old birthday front (thank you all for your kind wishes btw) deciding much against his better judgement to generously give me a big ole bottle of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Al Oudh as his gift. Al Oudh has been sat on my wish list for quite some time now (which makes me wonder why I haven’t reviewed it already) and out of the slew of ouds available I believe that it is one of the few thatt brings something new to the party.
Al Oudh now joins my three other L’Artisans (Vanille Absolument/Havana Vanille, Traversée du Bosphore and Nuit de Tuberéuse) all of which, Al Oudh included, just so happen to be Bertrand Duchafour creations, thus proving that I really do have a “thing” for le Duchafour, and who can blame me? The dude is clearly a genius and with Al Oudh his skill of turning common accords entirely on their head is in full swing.
Bertrand Duchaufour created Al Oudh for L’Artisan Parfumeur in 2009. It’s billed as an exotic, spicy and woody oud with accents of rose and dried fruits. L’Artisan describe it as “the elixir of sensuality itself”, which is a very fluffy way of saying that it is in fact sex on a stick, or sex in a bottle to be more accurate. Al Oudh may not be what you’re expecting from an oud but that is exactly what makes it so captivating.
We all have a lot to be grumpy about when it comes to Christian Dior Parfums. Not only must we be giving them the evil eye for the dwindling quality in classics such as Diorissimo, we must also be narked about the shoddy reformulations of modern classics like Hypnotic Poison, Pure Poison and Dior Homme/Homme Intense. So yes, it may just be me, but Dior could do a lot more to get in to many a fumehead’s good books.
One area where Dior isn’t letting us down is in their relatively recently launched (2010) “La Collection Privée”, which saw the original Dior Homme Cologne collection (Eau Noire, Bois d’Argent and Ambre Nuit) bumped up to a total of 9 fragrances, before being joined by two new fragrances; Leather Oud and Patchouli Imperial. My interest in in the former was officially piqued at Perfume Lovers London “Evening of Leather“, in which it was described by Lila as a “Sex God”, a moniker which is not to be ignored!
Leather Oud is definitely a stand out within La Collection, and I would argue that it is also a stand out amongst the onslaught of oud based fragrances that populate the market. On the creation of Leather Oud, Dior says: “Christian Dior searched the world, looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. Like the designer, the Perfumer (François Demachy) chooses the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is oud wood from Indonesia.”  It is this haute couture approach that makes Leather Oud such a success, it is a wonderful example of what happens when quality and artistry collide.