Thursday, April 30, 2015

oud




I've been wearing Oud, Maison Francis Kurkdjian's bewitching 2012 fragrance, lately.

Given a name like "Oud," you might think that this fragrance is the smell of oud, the unusual resinous Asian wood whose unduplicable smell has been valued since the time of the Sanskrit Vedas. Well, there *is* oud in Oud, but oud isn't the smell of Oud. The rush of saffron-flower — a burst of late-afternoon sunshine — followed by cedary, leathery, incensy smells, with a quiet but distinct trace of patchouli (a smell I usually find repugnant, as does Catherine, but which we both find just perfectly framed here), and swirls of half-hidden pepper and pine, is all held together by just the right amount of resinous Laotian oud.

It's like making a stew with fruits and vegetables and meats, and then making it all come together with just a touch of paprika, and then calling the soup "Paprika." You can see why when you smell it, but it's not really even the main part of the fragrance. Maybe it's more like calling this picture "Red":


Perfect, right? Some artist would name it that, and you'd immediately know why. The exact right red in that hat suffuses the entire picture with meaning. It's a perfect metaphor for the way oud operates in Oud.

This is one of those newer fragrances that revive an older trend from the 70s and early 80s. You're always in dicey territory when you do that, because nostalgia can go both ways. I lent a sampler of Cuir to a friend whose wife couldn't abide it because it reminded her of the going-out-of-date fragrances of her childhood, and couldn't get past it. Similarly, Catherine, though she liked the smell on paper, always ended up thinking "old man from the 1970s," which isn't a thought every husband wants to call up in his wife. (Bonus: a gay friend teases me to no end about wearing a cologne called "Queer.")

But Oud is simply beyond that. It's definitely in the musky world of men's colognes from that period, but updated to feel utterly modern. To my nose, it doesn't smell nostalgic at all: less like Ford's new Mustangs than like the new Thunderbirds, every line and contour justified and all else sent away.

It settles down into a very subtle glow that just smells like incredibly great-smelling skin, and stays that way for hours. Very very complex, as it's made from several notes that are themselves complex, it's divinely hard to pin down in the mind: celestial, dark, smooth as hand-rubbed mahogany, masculine, satiny, powdery, sensual.

This is the first fragrance I've been really excited about in a long time. Catherine is too. She can't stop sniffing and nuzzling. Near-perfect.

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