Le Gemme is Bulgari’s exclusive luxury collection of fragrances (after all, you’re not anyone without an exclusive collection these days) and it takes inspiration from precious gemstones. I find the idea of the collection incredibly evocative and more often than not, the fragrances have a strong link to the colours, textures and emotions associated with the stones they are inspired by. Falkar, the latest masculine in the collection (composed by legend Jacques Cavallier) is an example of this cohesion, using oud, incense and saffron to capture the dappled irridesence of the Falcon’s Eye of Brazil. For me, and the story I envisaged, Falkar was a fragrance of stark contrasts…
Sometimes I smell a perfume and I just don’t know what to make of it. Whilst many fragrances I smell can provoke an immediate reaction – filing themselves neatly in to piles of ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘ew’, and ‘oooooh’, some take time, and some forever remain in a purgatory land where an opinion is the absolution never to arrive. OK, so I’m being a bit dramatic (just a tad, mind) and this is all a very longwinded way of saying that sometimes, it takes me a while to make up my mind about a fragrance.
Aaaaaand you can probably guess where this is going, right? Yes, when it came to Opus XI from Amouage, the 11th instalment in the brand’s Library Collection (where Amouage does its most unusual and often challenging work), I found myself unsure what I thought, even after spending a considerable amount of time with it. Opus XI was created by perfumer Pierre Negrin – it takes inspiration from the Orient and presents oud, one of perfumery’s most popular materials, in an entirely new guise. It’s a singular perfume that brings nuances to a material that could easily be described as tired, forging something that really is fascinating.
There are so many fragrance launches each year it’s difficult to write about them all. Speed Sniffs is a way to bring you to the point reviews fragrances that are quick and easy to digest. After all, sometimes all one needs is a few lines to capture the essence of a scent. Speed Sniffs are perfume reviews without all of the faff.
Oud Wood by TOM FORD is a fragrant tour de force. A cult classic that is one of the brand’s most popular fragrances, Oud Wood may not have started the oud trend, but it certainly cemented it as a prominent part of the olfactory zeitgeist. I find it to be a soft, comforting take on oud with an unusually rubbery texture that makes it stand out from the crowd – and even now I’d say that it’s an absolute must-sniff for anyone exploring the world of oud. Oud Wood is sexy and alluring, smart but casual – a complex perfume with a bold signature. Well, fans of Oud Wood can now rejoice because TOM FORD has just launched Oud Wood Intense, which promises Oud Wood but more!
Tom Ford knows his way around the note of oud. Within his own brand he has a mini-collection of oud fragrances amongst his many Private Blends, each of which takes the style of oud in a very different direction. He’s also the man behind YSL’s M7 which was one of the first mainstream fragrances to promote the use of oud (whether it was the first is up for debate). So it’s safe to say that oud is very much a signature of the Tom Ford brand and it’s a style of fragrance (and I say style instead of note because it’s really more of a genre than a singular ingredient).
The latest addition to Tom Ford’s oud oeuvre is Oud Minérale – a fragrance that intends to approach oud from a much fresher angle. The brand describe it as a scent that merges “rare and precious oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean”, which may lead one to think that perhaps this is an oud too far. After all, smoky, animalic, middle eastern oud is on the polar opposite end of the fragrance spectrum to anything remotely aquatic. But to think that, whilst justified, would not be correct because Oud Minérale is a clever little composition that manages to find the common ground between these two opposing styles.
If you asked me to sum up my thoughts on the Italian niche brand The Merchant of Venice, I’d say that I think their fragrances are very nicely done and beautifully presented but lack a bit of inspiration. They’re not the type of brand one would go to for something new or innovative, instead they offer up familiar styles of perfumery executed very well. The quality of The Merchant of Venice is apparent in everything they do, from their bottles to the fragrances themselves, so it would be fair to say that what the brand offers is a classical take on perfumery where luxurious materials are central to everything they do right from the compositions to the presentation of the bottles.
The Merchant of Venice have a number of collections, with the newest being the Murano Exclusive Collection. Launching exclusively in Harrods, this collection celebrates the ‘East meets West’ aesthetic of the brand with six oriental fragrances, each of which is housed in a heavy flacon shaded in gold and deep venetian blue. Vinegia, the stand out in the collection, is composed by perfumer Valérie Garnuch-Mentzel and promises to express “the splendour, the opulence, and the fascinating alchemy for which the ancient world of spices is justifiably renowned”. Let’s check it out.
One could quite easily look at Amouroud, a new niche brand that celebrates oud, perfumery’s note du jour, and feel a little bit skeptical. One might even be inspired to exclaim “oh for the love of oud” in a loud, exasperated tone. But that would be a bit OTT, admittedly. Just ask yourself this question, how many niche houuses out there are offering exclusive oud fragrances, not to mention exclusive oud fragrances in black and gold bottles? Well the answer is many, but Amouroud isn’t just another cynical brand trying to make a quick buck, they are in fact, passionate about perfume.
Amouroud comes from The Perfumer’s Workshop, who have been creating perfume since the 1970s and are most famous for their Tea Rose fragrance. They launch this month in Harrods with an initial collection of six fragrances, each of which showcases or contains oud. Speaking of oud, my good friends Nick and Pia made a valid point in a recent episode of their Vlog Love to Smell (subscribe, goddamit), when they said that oud is now its very own olfactive family, in the way that orientals and chypres are, rather than just an ongoing trend. Anyway, I digress. Amouroud are not the brand that one may think they are and what they have done is really quite intriguing.
I’ll do a bit of a topsy-turvy review here and provide my overall verdict of the collection before I do a scent-by-scent rundown. Amouroud is a very nicely pieced together brand. One can see that years of experience have been poured into each and every single detail. The bottles are heavy and luxurious, the box has a metal plaque appliquéd onto it and the fragrances themselves are well thought out, and exciting. But the best thing about Amouroud is the price. Where other brands think that £300+ is acceptable for any old scent in a blingy bottle, this one is content with marketing 100ml of interesting and enjoyable Eau de Parfum for £145. That’s practically free in this post-niche day and age! One other nice touch is the fact that the brand will give you a generous spray sample of your second favourite scent in the collection, alongside your purchase. How nice is that?
It was reported last week that NASA had found evidence of liquid water flowing on Mars. The red planet is no longer a dry, and arid collection of rock and dust, it seems. In other surprising and space-related news, Thierry Mugler has made the decision to launch a limited edition version of Alien called ‘Alien Oud Majestueux’, an oriental fragrance that sees the hyper-jasmine of the original accompanied by oud, the ever popular heartwood extracted from the Aquilaria tree, and seen so often in modern fragrances over the last few years. Composed by the masterful Dominique Ropion, who co-signed the original with Laurent Bruyere, this new version of Alien promises to tantalise with its opulent spices and sweet flower nectar. Colour me intrigued.
Now, I must confess that the news of an oud-injected version of Mugler’s successful Alien did arouse some titters on Twitter in addition to the usual moans about the over-exposure of everyone’s favourite noble tree rot. Of course, Mugler has all but resisted the oud trend for quite some time (although, they have flirted with the note in their Miroir Miroir! series) and the fact that the last non-oud converted bastion of the industry had finally given in did elicit a sigh or two, from yours truly included. As time progressed however, the idea of an Alien oud grew to be an interesting one. I mean, Alien is a pretty fierce woody jasmine fragrance that lends itself well to remixes (see Alien Essence Absolue & Alien Le Goût du Parfum), and a middle-eastern take on an intense, space-age floral actually seemed like something worth sniffing. At risk of spoiling the rest of this review, I can confirm that it is.
“Cocoon your mind, body and soul in Alien Oud Majestueux, the new oriental fragrance. This scent will transport you to the spice markets of the Middle East where your senses will be tantalised with the fragrant notes of opulent spices and sweet flower nectar.”
During this review I am going to attempt not to; a) mention; or b) moan about, the perfume industry’s boring obsession with oud. Oh, well that didn’t last very long, did it? In all seriousness, you don’t need to hear me bang on about oud and why we’re all fed up with it, because frankly, I’m fed up with saying it. So onwards and upwards. Oud is popular and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite our collective ennui regarding the subject. Which leads me nicely onto two brand new oud fragrances from luxury brand Robert Piguet…
The Piguet brand has exploded considerably over the last three years and their small capsule collection of a handful, or so of scents has increased significantly with 19 new fragrances created since 2012 (that’s quite the growth, people). In truth, they’ve been a bit of a mixed bag, and whilst I thought that scents such as Petit Fracas were great fun (and really worth sniffing), many haven’t lived up to the greatness of the brand’s classics such as Fracas, Bandit and Visa. Which, let’s face it, must be quite difficult, i mean, not every fragrance are ever going to be as great as Fracas!
This summer, Piguet have launched Oud Divin and Oud Délice, two follow-ups to their Oud, which was launched in 2012, and was a pretty big and funky take on the note. These two ouds take the signature of the original and turn it into something a little bit more palatable. They flirt with the gourmand and present the signature Oud Piguet, the “proprietary blend of resins and woods” that was the core of 2012’s stinky (in a good way) Oud, in two strikingly different ways – one is robust, shocking and intriguing, whilst the other pleases with softness and familiarity.
Niche brand Juliette Has a Gun seems to be spoiling us with a bevy of launches this summer. We get not one, but two pillar fragrances from the house and style-wise these launches play to two completely different styles, with both opting to defy conventions in different ways. That said, they both sit comfortably into Juliette’s ever-growing oeuvre, which is a distinct mix of the oriental and strong, and the musky with intent. They make for an interesting mix, that’s for sure.
First up we have Gentlewoman, a fragrance inspired by a traditional eau de cologne but given a feminine twist. Of Gentlewoman, brand creator Romano Ricci said he wanted to “give women a dash of dandy”, creating a ‘gentlewoman’s code’ outlining a “citrus woody musky” fragrance that according to the brand, possesses, amongst other things, dandyism, impertinence, audacity, look and freedom. The result is a modern eau de cologne that strips away the gender barriers, favouring androgyny over tired notions of what is appropriate for men, women and anyone that identifies as in-between.
We also have Another Oud. That’s to say that the name of the fragrance is in fact, ‘Another Oud’, not that the launch is another oud fragrance, which it is, actually – an oud, that is. To clarify, this is another oud fragrance cheekily entitled ‘Another Oud’, which is all a bit of a riot if you ask me. Juliette Has a Gun say that this is actually “just the opposite” of a traditional oud fragrance and is, “Version 2.0.” as they quite nifty describe it. You’ve got to give credit to a house that says what we’re all thinking and does so deliberately in order to inspire curiosity. What’s more, this particular oud is actually rather sniff-worthy, and not just because of the name.