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Amber Oud – It’s in the genes - May 9, 2014 New Fragrance Listing


Image - Wikipedia - Perfumeur Patricia de Nicolaï

Back in 2010, Gwen and I started writing about niche fragrances that featured the oudh note because we’d discovered Black Aoud and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie in the old Montale shop on Place Vendôme in Paris. On that trip to the perfume capital, we walked those cobbled streets floating on clouds of oudh, and the locals had to suffer for a few days until we checked out and flew home, because I know we heavily OD’d on those two frags, spritz-wise. We literally fell in love with them.

We thought aoud or oudh or oud, a perfume ingredient distilled from aged agarwood which grows in dry, hot countries, smelled so strange and so fascinating. Oudh on its own smells medicinal, like a fresh band-aid at first sniff, then develops smoky/musty/woody aspects, and when mixed with florals, spices, woods, or animalics like leather or musk, it has the effect of elevating a scent from the ordinary into the sublime. Oudh has been used in Middle Eastern and Eastern scents for centuries, for purification in religious rituals as well as in personal scents for men and women. It’s obviously taken a while for Western noses to be ready to appreciate the unusual beauty of the oudh note.

Since our Paris discovery, we’ve found other perfumes which feature oudh, like Al Oudh from L’Artisan Parfumeurs, Mecca Balsam from La Via del Profumo, and Thirty-Three by Ex Idolo, an uber-niche creation that is ALL about very expensive ultra-aged oudh. They’re all delicious. And many of the scents in our Decant Store include oudh in their note list, where it adds nuance and character to accords. Just enter “oudh” in Search, and you’ll find them.

Oudh is now going more mainstream, appearing over the past year in star frags from luxury designer brands like Tom Ford, by Kilian, Byredo, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Christian Dior. My trusted Sales Assistant at Holt Renfrew reports that oudh fragrances are among their top sellers in both Mens and Womens categories.

So I wasn’t surprised, and I was very happy, to see two new fragrances  launched this winter by one of our favourite perfume houses, Nicolaï (recently re-branded from Parfums de Nicolaï), and both were oudhs but spelled without the “h” - the French, of course, must always be just a little bit different! Two oudhs at the same time – now I have to make a choice!

The press materials tell me that… “Madame de Nicolaï is using oud in a perfume for the first time since the Company's inception…Amber Oud and Rose Oud are the first two EdPs in what will be an OUD collection….” She says “By adding rose and amber in my oud perfumes, I wished to remain faithful to a certain tradition of French elegance.” Nicolaï website

Amber Oud is the one that I chose and have been blissfully spritzing these past few weeks, and I can tell you that Madame Nicolaï definitely succeeded in fulfilling her wish, because Amber Oud is totally elegant in the way that only the French can be. There is that difference, that refined je ne sais quoi that sets Amber Oud apart from the current oudh offerings. Let me explain…

The traditional amber note is a mix of vanilla and labdanum, sweet, creamy, and smooth, but Amber Oud opens with the sharp feel of a traditional cologne. Lavender in all its soapy aromatic freshness jumps right out of the bottle. From the note list, I know that thyme and sage are there too, and I soon identify the herbal sage. Spices come up quickly, dusty saffron and cinnamon, and then, there it is, the oud note, but it’s very different from the oud I’ve experienced in other perfumes. This oud doesn’t take centre stage, it’s very much subdued, relieved of its traditional dank bitterness, tempered by the lavender, sweetened and smoothed by the amber. It seems suspended in a golden haze as the heart notes appear.

A woody accord of cedar and creamy sandalwood forms the heart of Amber Oud, which adds a distinct richness and is the transition to the rich animalic base. Vanilla and tonka with their slight boozy notes, the hint of stink from musk and castoreum, the smooth warmth of golden amber, all wrap around the fascinating lavender oud accord, and transport Amber Oud into the perfume heavens, where it shines with a clear golden light. 

Image - - Amber Oud bottle

Amber Oud is definitely different from other ouds. It’s scent is mysterious but not forbidding, it smells exotic but familiar, it is rich and balanced, it’s a scent that I want to go back to over and over again. It's also a perfect example of why I love the work of Patricia de Nicolaï (read about her here). By using lavender as the link between amber and oud, she’s offered a unique experience of traditional notes from different cultures, and created a new interpretation of oud that can be worn by everyone.

Many perfumers create beautiful fragrances, but Patricia de Nicolaï, who is the great-granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, creates beautiful fragrances which never fail to include that special “difference”, that quality of refined elegance that the French do so well. It’s in her genes, and it’s in her perfumes.

Today, we’re adding Amber Oud to our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00