Oud Mood
Francis Kurkdjian’s Trio of Oud Moods

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.

From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf
From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf

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.

Candies 2012
The Candies 2012

I can’t believe it but it’s the end of 2012 already, which means that it’s time for us perfume bloggers to put together our lists of the very best and very worst perfumes of the year, honestly, where did the time go?! This year I’m affectionately entitling my awards ‘The Candies’ as a short, punchy alternative to The Candy Perfume Boy Awards. Neat huh?

Across all genres there have been many interesting, exciting and unique perfumes unleashed on to the market along with the usual amount of celebrity dreck, dud flankers and down-right-bizarre niche offerings. All-in-all it’s been a busy year with over 1,300 launches. Impressive but exhausting!

Below you will find my awards for Best Masculine, Best Feminine and Best Unisex Fragrances for both niche and mainstream houses. In addition to this I’ve also included awards for Best Flanker, Best Celebrity Fragrance and Best Ad Campaign. But we’re not just celebrating the very best of perfumery in 2012 here, no sir, we’re also highlighting the very worst with the Sour Candy Award, reserved solely for the naffest perfume of the year.

So I hope you’re wearing your very best frock (or tux for the boys, or frock if you prefer, it’s up to you really) and sipping on some fine Champagne as The Candies 2012 are underway…

Mr. Butterworth & Mr. Ford
Two Handsome Men

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

Oud Ispahan
The Romantic Oud

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.

Arabian Nights
One Thousand and One Nights

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.

Dior-Leather-Oud
Leather Oud Photographed by Diego Porcel for BDBM Magazine

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.” [1] 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.

Epic
“Legends of the Silk Road”

I have said it a number of times before, but things that are true must be said more than once; I am taking my sweet time working my way through Amouage’s back catalogue of scents and most importantly I am enjoying the journey immensely. What strikes me most about the Amouage line is the impressive degree of cohesion demonstrated amongst such an eclectic mix of fragrance styles, each of which is woven together by the silver thread of omani frankincense.

Speaking of journeys, none are more impressive than the ancient journeys of the Silk Road, the subject of which is the inspiration behind Amouage’s 2009 feminine and masculine duo. Creative Director Christopher Chong worked alongside perfumers Cecile Zarokian, Daniel Maurel, Angeline Leporini (for Woman) and Randa Hammami (for Man) to create two perfumes that represent the sheer scale and importance of these cross-continental journeys that no longer exist.

Epic is the moniker given to this type of journey and is bestowed upon both fragrances. Inspired by the legend of travels along the world’s spice and trade routes, and hued in imperial jadeite the name Epic could not be more perfect, and whilst it may lead you to believe that these fragrances are cinematic in their size, one should not be fooled, unlike other Amouage perfumes Epic Woman and Man are essays in soft elegance.

Extrait de Parfum

“Perfume, like fashion, is about attitude, seasons, colour, mood and context. There is a time and place for everything.”

My experience of the Heeley line (brainchild of designer James Heeley) has been generally positive, and my impression so far is that it is a line full of interesting, innovative creations which simply must be tried. What I really like about Heeley Parfums though, is that they present themselves with no pretence, no gimmicks, they just say “here we are, come smells us, don’t we smell good?”. But don’t be fooled by this simple approach, the Heeley line actually consists of a range of unique and complex perfumes with highlights such as the beautiful iris ‘Iris de Nuit’, ode to the sea ‘Sel Marin’ and almost comic ‘Esprit du Tigre’.

Late last year James Heeley decided to expand the line with a trio of Extrait de Parfums that take the Heeley aesthetic to a new level of luxury without compromising the overall ethos of unique creations presented in a simple and clear manner. Each Extrait, like the entire Heeley line come to think of it, doesn’t feel the need to shout its message, instead it confidently speaks in a ‘take me or leave me’ manner.

The Heeley Extrait de Parfums are a “collection of quite different scents made from exceptional ingredients, each with an intensity and depth that create a luxurious, ‘haute couture’ feel” and were created because James Heeley wanted to work with his favourite materials in higher concentrations. Heeley succeeds in creating a collection of three perfumes – Agarwoud, Bubblegum Chic & L’Amandière – that are not only high quality but are also high-concept interesting interpretations of familiar themes.

OUD 1
“Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue”

Perfume, like fashion, follows trends and these trends often relate to particular styles of perfumery or even individual notes. We very often see the same genus of perfumes coming on to the market at any one time, for instance fruity florals are everywhere at the moment and I challenge you to find 10 perfumes released in the last year that don’t contain pink pepper. But as with trends in fashion, things in the world of perfumery don’t last long before tastes change once again and a new style comes along. We are fickle creatures after all.

The problem with trends is that they very quickly become boring, and this has very much been the case with oud. Everyone has an oud, everybody from Guerlain to Creed, even Ferrari has one… (no, I’m not joking). A quick search of the Basenotes Fragrance Directory shows that there are in fact 199 fragrances containing the word oud in the title and a 148 which list the noble rot as a note. One can easily come to the conclusion that there are definitely too many ouds and it is easy to become overwhelmed by and even bored with the trend.

Of course, just because there are a lot of ouds on the market doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for ingenuity and excellent craft, in fact it is quite the opposite, there are some really good ouds out there (just see The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud). Last year Mona di Orio created Oud, a wonderfully unique take on oud, and this year Francis Kurkdjian does the same, and his offering could not be more unique.

OUD is the latest perfume to join the Maison Francis Kurkdjian lineup and it really is something very special. Francis Kurkdjian says of his oud offering: “My oud belongs to a marble palace engraved with gold, set under a dark-blue-star-studded night. It is the fine sand of the capricious sand dune, a fragrant harmattan in the silence of the desert.” Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue and right from the beginning this OUD makes it clear that it is not your typical oud perfume.