Review: by Kilian Musk Oud — 3.5 points

One of the reasons why oud is such a popular accord with which to pair lies in its character. It possesses multiple facets: leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk; smouldering hints of vetiver; solemn frankincense; fruity raspberry sweetness; and warmth of vanillic amber. The material offers plenty of overlapping notes, which naturally harmonises and achieves synergy with other accords. And, the oud collection, I find, is an excellent study that applies a magnifying glass on the different vantage points of this complex material.

Each examines and accents the hallmarks of oud. Pure oud (by Kilian, 2009), the simplest amongst these, strikes the balance between dark woods and leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk. Incense oud (by Kilian, 2011), of course, plays up the sober note of frankincense. Then, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) accentuates the raspberry jam facet with a dollop of sumptuous rose set in the oriental style. And unexpectedly, Amber Oud (by Kilian, 2011) highlights the warm vanillic character with a weightless twist. Hence, when it comes to Musk Oud (by Kilian, 2013), one can expect a musky oud, right?

by kilian musk oud

Not quite, I reckon. Indeed, the animalic and whisky-like onset may provide a brooding tone, but this is soon supplanted by a bright outlook. Cardamom accent hints at a lemony rose that soon blossoms amidst the rough-hewn dark woods and incense. Musk Oud is not so much about musk; the more it develops, the more its rose blossoms.

As the rose fades into a silhouette, however, the musks play an important role in blurring the lines between the notes, smoothing the transition. The warmth of balsams and incense soften the dusky woods. And that is as musky as it gets.

Smelling Musk Oud, I am also reminded of Rose Oud. There is a strong resemblance, but the difference lies in the rose. In Rose Oud the opulent rose takes centre stage in contrast to the tenebrous backdrop of oud accord, whereas in Musk Oud the rose is a translucent shimmer behind an opaque folding screen. The effect is thus more of a suggestion, an invitation to peer closer amidst the dusky notes, and that is just as tempting.

Given the first-rate raw materials and execution and the fact that I relish in it, I am tempted to give it four points, but the fact that Musk Oud feels like another well-executed version of the popular rose-oud combination prevents me from doing so. Considering what its creator perfumer Alberto Morillas did with a musk accord that would, with the help of perfumer Annie Buzantian, become the trend-setting metallic freshness in White Pour Elle (Emporio Armani, 2001), I had hoped for something more exciting for the musks, and not just a beautiful variation on a theme. It is nonetheless satisfying and has excellent lasting power. So, if you are looking for a well-crafted composition of this style and are comfortable with by Kilian’s price tag, you will not be disappointed. But as a study of oud, Musk Oud falls slightly short of my expectation.