Review: by Kilian Amber Oud — 4.5 points

Previously, I confessed to my aversion to oud. But ever since Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009), I have consistently been wearing the oud collection from by Kilian. I reckon I am beginning to warm up to this multi-faceted note, especially when it is as excellently crafted as the ones from by Kilian. And, Amber Oud (2011) is yet another sublime creation around this note that I heartily recommend.

In spite of the rather banal name, Amber Oud offers an interesting vantage point from which to appreciate the rich oriental notes. It opens right away with a stirring whiff of incense and labdanum, and without any attempt at a prelude, segues into warm amber. A vanilla so resplendent sets the stage, with the complexity of the cured beans one often finds in a gourmet section. Benzoin provides the dry, lingering sweetness that harks to the fantasy of honeyed almonds. All the rich, hefty notes that make my mouth water constitute the bulk of Amber Oud, but the composition is far from being cloying. Instead, it remains lucent.

The description alone is a testament to the quality of its amber, but what is it that distinguishes it from being a mere ‘nice amber’? The answer to that can remain elusive for the first few tries, as, I find, is often the case with the deceptively simple quality that marks many of perfumer Calice Becker’s creations. However, as I pondered the question, I found myself reminiscing more and more about the time when my mother made traditional desserts.

One of the last steps is to perfume them, and this is almost always a rite to Thai desserts. She would put flowers such as sambac jasmine, rose, and ylang ylang in a small cup and place it in a lidded ceramic pot containing the dessert, thereby imbuing the treats with the fragrance overnight. On the next day, a fragrant candle called ‘tian op’ was instrumental in imparting its unmistakable lingering scent to the treats. The candle has a wick that can be lit on both ends and its wax comprises a mixture of frankincense, benzoin, dried kaffir peel, brown sugar, camphor, nutmeg, sandalwood, and bee wax. After having set tian op in a holder in the ceramic pot and lit it, she would extinguish it by covering the pot with a lid, allowing the dessert to soak up the aroma for ten to fifteen minutes. Even after this step, a potent mixture of frankincense, benzoin, kaffir peel, brown sugar, nutmeg, and camphor that had been seared in a pre-heated terra cotta cup would be similarly used to suffuse the dessert with its opulent fumes. How fondly I recall that caramelised, incense-y, floral accent that staved off some of the rich sweetness of the dessert. The flavour was a combination of melancholic incense and decadent sweet amber, which is essentially what Amber Oud mirrors.

tian op

Tian Op: a scented candle used to perfume food and clothing. Its melancholic fragrance balances out the sweetness.

Now, the answer to what sets Amber Oud apart is clear: it is the floral and incense inflection of its amber accord. Just like how the rich dessert was lifted with floral hints and dry incense, the same effect is employed in Amber Oud in taming the hefty notes. This also explains why the drydown of Amber Oud possesses an uncanny resemblance to Bois d’Arménie (Guerlain, 2006), another favourite composition of mine that revolves around benzoin, incense, and balsams with a sprinkle of rose petals. The result is an unexpected delight in an ostensibly straightforward composition, a hallmark of Becker who has a knack for subtly weaving together multiple layers and facets.

All in all, the played-up aspect of sweet amber together with the unique accent that carries well to the next day makes Amber Oud my perennial favourite. It is an intriguing oud aspect that is both cosy and refined—a quality which I rarely see in an oud composition. A spritz suffices to catapult me to those scrumptious recollection of floral and incense-y fantasy.

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Review: by Kilian Rose Oud — 4.0 points

At first sniff, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) was evident in its treatment of rose in the oriental style, and I was ready to label it as ‘a plump rose wrapped decently in balsamic notes’. This is because a fragrance of this style, which is a Western imagination of Middle Eastern perfumery, is a dime a dozen. Off the top of my head I can recall Portrait of A Lady (Frédéric Malle, 2009) and Sa Majesté la Rose (Serge Lutens, 2000), two excellent compositions that set the bar for this genre. Yet, I felt compelled to revisit Rose Oud time and again.

Initially, it was not obvious to me why I kept coming back to this simple rose-oud pairing, but as I continued to wear it, the nuances and facets that lend Rose Oud its distinction became more discernible. I realised then that I regularly returned to it because, like any interesting compositions, it creates a personal fantasy. And funnily enough, Rose Oud conjures for me the delectable Viennese confection, Sachertorte, which is a chocolate cake soaked in tart apricot jam and glazed with a dark couverture. I particularly revel in the opulent contrast between a sumptuous rose and a plush oud accord, as it has the allure of bright jam juxtaposed with dusky chocolate.

demel

Just as the bright notes of apricot lift up the hefty Viennese chocolate confection, the subtle embellishments add dimensions and depths to the rose accord. A hint of cardamom and cinnamon imparts a bright champagne-like effervescence. The overtone of ripe raspberry and musky violet confers jammy sweetness. An encounter with its scintillating rose feels like the very first bite into a moist piece of Sachertorte in which the glowing apricot note primes the palate for the ambrosial chocolate to come.

The underpinning oud accord is just as faceted as the complex notes of grand cru cocoa. From the suede note of saffron set against smoky woods to the animalic and vanillic accent peeking through, the accord possesses the same alluring inky edge of biter chocolate.

Perfumer Calice Becker, who crafted Rose Oud, is a mistress of disguise. The ostensibly simple composition belies its sublime layers. The dialogue between rose and oud remains focused throughout, with its shades and strata effectively lending polish. And whereas most oriental roses tend to have enough strength and diffusive power to perfume a dessert, this one explores the nuanced intimacy of rose and dark woods.

With its rich hues and accents secreted behind an unadorned pairing, Rose Oud possesses a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it seductive. This is all the more so with its impressive tenacity. Fans of this style will cherish the sterling essences and olfactory subtleties. Even if you find this style to be ubiquitous, at least give it a try and see whether it ignites a personal fantasy, like it does for me. Now, where is that recipe of Sachertorte?

Source: K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel

Review: by Kilian Pure Oud — 4.0 points

Admittedly, I am hesitant to try any oud perfumes. This is because the choices can be overwhelming, and when bombarded with a myriad of oud variations, it is difficult to pick one. I also find that in most perfumes the note has a particularly irksome quality reminiscent of a medicinal plaster. Even the only one that I consider deserving a try and find it pleasant enough, that is 1001 Ouds (Annick Goutal, 2015), that quality persists, almost as an inherent, ineliminable character of oud. So, I have grown weary of oud almost to the point of aversion.

But that might just change with Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009).

The name itself does little to offer any promises, but give it time and let it unfold on your skin, and you will be rewarded with probably the best oud interpretation out there. Unlike most other ouds I have tried, Pure Oud, despite featuring such a rich, dense material, is unfathomably radiant. This familiar surprise, if you will pardon the oxymoron, is invariably unique to the style of perfumer Calice Becker who crafted it. She is adept at rendering shimmering compositions, and Pure Oud is one such fine specimen.

pureoud

Whilst it initially seems monolithic, the composition comes to life as the facets readily reveal themselves. Wet civet and dry tobacco are the first juxtaposition. Then, it becomes drier and smoky with guaiac wood. Saffron and musky violet suggest the nuance of leather. Far from being a dull woody accord, which is what I find in most oud perfumes, the interplay of facets is what makes Pure Oud dynamic and interesting.

Although employing shades and accents to polish the accord might seem like an obvious trick, the balance with which they are executed is no mean feat. Here, the sum clearly is round and mellow, and more importantly, the discordant note of medicinal plaster found in most ouds is absent.

A harmonious dark wood blend that continues to mesmerise with its lambency, Pure Oud more than deserves to be tested on skin. And in so doing, the richness of animalic woods will continue to hypnotise all day long.

Source: bykiliran.fr

Review: Tom Ford Vert des Bois — 4.0 points

The name Vert des Bois (Tom Ford, 2016) implies that this perfume is about green and woody notes. And it is: when I smell Vert des Bois, I think of green chypres from the 1970s. Those raunchy green-woody compositions such as Aliage (Estée Lauder, 1972), Private Collection (Estée Lauder, 1973), and Jean-Louis Scherrer (1979) come to mind.  As often is the case for Tom Ford fragrances, they are inspired by perfumery’s classics. But Vert des Bois is far removed from just another all-too-familiar knock-off.

olive

Instead a whiff of Vert des Bois reminds me of the summer trip from Madrid to Seville by train. I smell green olive, sweet thyme, and a sharp resinous fir from the outset. Its aromatic green accord, rounded by a plummy note, conjures the pastoral landscape. A peppery accent brings in the attribute of the mid-day heat in an Iberian summer. And even before the fragrance reveals its woody counterpoint, I can vividly recall the scorched land along route, dotted with venerable olive trees.

And when the dramatic woods do unfurl, they reveal themselves nineteen to the dozen. Leather. Oakmoss. Balsams. All at once. These are inextricably intertwined with a patchouli trail. The dry down some hours into wearing Vert des Bois retains this gripping character, but has become slightly warmer, as sweet tonka bean and musk mellow the rough-hewn woods. The result is nothing short of excitement, from top to bottom.

Whilst it does recall the heavy-hitter chypres from the seventies, Vert des Bois does not feel at all like a mere knock-off of the classics. What sets it apart is the accents. Plum, pepper, thyme, and pine needles make for a twist in the green accord, and when paired with a strong woody accord, one gets an interesting vantage point of a classical green chypre. Having said that, those who enjoy the stark contrast and drama of this genre will relish Vert des Bois and its olive groves and sun-scorched earth.

Source: GetYourGuide.co.uk

Review: Hermès Twilly –4.5 points

When I first read the tagline ‘the scent of the Hermès girls’, I did not have much hope for Twilly (Hermès, 2017), the latest creation by in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. Clearly, it is targeted at young women in their twenties and we all know too well what sort of composition major fragrance houses tend to have in mind for this demographic. My thoughts wandered off to the theme of La vie est belle (Lancôme, 2012), sugar confection that often ends up in very cloying vanilla and musk.

hermes

But the very first sniff simply debunked all that stereotype. In fact, at the outset, Twilly is sparkling with fresh petitgrain and this is soon joined by a beguiling white floral note at heart. It is something between orange blossom and soft tuberose; and to those who are averse to white florals, fear not: the sweetness of its white florals is foiled by a gingery accent. Even in the dry down, which also lasts well from morning into evening, its musky amber is peppered with herbal accents and sweetened only by powdery heliotrope and bitter-sweet coumarin. Nothing about Twilly betrays a hint of sugary confections.

In fact, Twilly might just be the proof that young women in their twenties do not need saccharine musks to smell good. If they want something coquettish, addictive, and quirky, this is it. Its white floral is sensual enough without being carnal. Its sweetness is just tantalising without being treacly. And, the gingery and herbal accent lends a distinctive note to the mix. It feels like a quirky, seductive eau de cologne that blends citrus, herbal florals, and musky amber. And, it remains wearable. For this reason, Twilly, much like a short, memorable melody, is easily my favourite.

Source: hermes.fr

Review: Gucci Bloom — 4.0 points

White florals seem to be back in vogue these days. Recent major launches that come immediately to my mind such as Twilly d’Hermès (2017) and Gabrielle (Chanel, 2017) were infused with such notes. With such popularity, it is easy to feel jaded of white florals. But, Bloom (Gucci, 2017), the latest launch by Gucci, makes for an exception; its vibrant interpretation breathes life into the white floral accord and makes it memorable.

Gucci Bloom

Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, wanted a rich white floral fragrance that transports one to a thriving garden, and Bloom superbly captures that spirit. At first, it offers the promised offering of a creamy white floral set in a lush green garden. The initial green stem suggestion is followed by sweet creamy notes of tuberose and jasmine, with a hint of bright lily of the valley. However, this seemingly simple pairing of green garden and white floral belies the creative streak of perfumer Alberto Morillas, who crafted Bloom. Look underneath and one finds a rose juxtaposed to the rich white floral, lending a bright effect to lighten the creamy heft. Perhaps this effect is what the marketing at Gucci refers to Rangoon Creeper whose flowers turn from white to red as they open. And as Bloom develops, the white floral accord is also accompanied by the green contrast, which morphs from stem to fruity, musky pear. In the dry down, its creamy floral segues into powdery vanilla and musk.

Bloom offers a white floral garden with a vibrant surprise. Its floral is sensual yet possesses a radiant effect, and that makes for a highlight. While those of us lusting after a take-no-prisoner white floral will have to look elsewhere, the restrained character of Bloom makes it versatile and will suit just about any occasion and time. If you want to enjoy a daydream about a fantasy garden, a spritz of Bloom will suffice.

Source: gucci.com

Review: Chanel Gabrielle — 3.5 points

I find it difficult to write about Gabrielle (2017), the latest major launch in fifteen years by Chanel Creative Team and perfumer Olivier Polge. This is because it does not evoke anything beyond the propriety of a nice, likeable launch. I have but few adjectives and words with which to work.

gabrielle

Perhaps, I should start by describing all the notes of Gabrielle with the few vocabularies that come to mind: lovely and bright. The vivacious debut of grapefruit and mandarin segues into a bright white floral heart. Although Chanel purports that this is a quartet of orange blossom, ylang ylang, jasmine, and tuberose from Grasse, what I smell is mostly a fresh lemony jasmine with a creamy accent, which is cushioned in the dry down by soft sandalwood and musk. Whilst a fresh white floral such as this is a dime a dozen, there is an accent reminiscent of dried fruits and prunes to it that lends Gabrielle its lasting luminosity — that is probably just about the only aspect that I find interesting. Other than that, Gabrielle seems to have borrowed its bright white floral from Jour d’Hermès (2013) and diluted the fruit syrup of Coco Mademoiselle (2001), arguably its more daring chypre-esque sister.

Still, I am quite willing to forgive Gabrielle. Its well-mannered white floral intended to appeal to the market at large is hardly distinctive, but at the same time it is not entirely without ploy. It also smells of quality, from the zest of its citrus to the creamy accent of white florals and the soft musk. This is rare by today’s standard. Hence, for its purpose and intent, Gabrielle makes the cut for a decent launch. Everything about Gabrielle is intended to hook, and it did me, but it does not arouse any feeling beyond mere satisfaction and fleeting delight.

Source: chanel.fr