Tuesday, 19 July 2011
L'Artisan Parfumeur, Al Oudh
**** dirty hot
Well, this was a bit of a bold one. Who wants to smell like body odour?! Well, me, as it turns out.
Al Oudh is composed by the masterly Bertrand Duchaufour, whose aesthetic tends to be marked by an incredible knack for the pellucid, a see-right-to-the-bottom kind of transparency that is no doubt fearsomely difficult to achieve. It's a bit like Gustav Klimt's one-dimensional decorated surfaces---whether it's hieratic gold spangles for weathly Viennese, splodgy whorls of purple hollyhocks, or shimmering green birchleaves, each image hovers before the eye as a single tessellated plane. Thus, mutatis mutandis, with Duchaufour's translucent effects: whether working with incenses, woods, and papery smoky smells (Timbuktu, Kyoto, Dzongkha), drenched tropical florals (Fleur de Liane, Amaranthine), or sappy, milky leaves (Calamus), he achieves great depth without obscurity or fug.
Al Oudh is in the incense vein, with a core of burning agarwood chips. Oud/agarwood is an extraordinary substance---and whether there is any natural oud in this fragrance I shall leave to those with better noses than I---a kind of woody-sweet medicinal pong, interestingly clean and dirty simultaneously. A bit like spices, a bit like cough syrup, and a whole lot like armpits, the temptation is always to neuter its tomcat, on-the-turn forcefulness. Happily, Duchaufour went the opposite way, and has bolstered the oud note with a number of, uh, funky animalics: civet, castoreum, and the 'yesterday's shirt' honk of cumin. Over this he floats a lovely soft, dry rose, like a full moon over a Cairo slum. The whole thing makes one laugh at the way it breathes life into orientalist cliché. Yes, it's got a whiff of the souk. Yes, it's a what 1940s stage villains termed 'a Dusky Beauty'. Yes, I imagine---and I've put some effort into the exercise---it probably smells much like Jake Gyllenhaal's nethers in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (above). After several months with a 10ml sample, I've come to the conclusion that this is a Good Thing.
Drolly marketed for both sexes, I doubt that Al Oudh would make a good feminine, unless you happen to be either a) naturally intrepid, or b) Lady Hester Stanhope.