Monday, January 03, 2011

Fragrance of the Moment

The word in perfume blogosphere is that Montale and Comptoir Sud Pacifique are connected through the in-house perfumer who has worked on fragrances for both companies, hence the similarity in their aluminum packaging (although Comptoir Sud Pacifique used to come in attractive turquoise glass bottles). I think of them as sister companies, one dedicated to the vanilla motif and the other dedicated to aoud (aka agarwood, agar, oodh or Oud in Arabic), "a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops,[1] trees (large evergreens native to southeast Asia) when they become infected with a type of mold" (Wikipedia). The scent of aoud is similar to that of essential oils of certain types of wood, but unique in that it is not smoky (like sandalwood), or sharp and dry (as characteristic of cedarwood), but rather resinous with sharp bitterness like that of citronella and qualities of incense (such as frankincense which simultaneously has a warm, deep and yet cooling element) with some underlying muskiness or boldness of traditional wood. Its aroma is soothing, aromatherapeutic and pleasant, and thus aoud is a prized ingredient in French-Arabian perfumery, its popularity predominantly in the Middle East.

In the recent past, aoud made its way onto our department store and mall shelves in fragrances by Jo Malone, By Kilian, Tom Ford (I suspect the incense note in White Patchouli is aoud; it smells a lot like Montale White Aoud to me) and even Comptoir Sud Pacifique. Although some Western noses may find the scent of aoud heavy and at times brash, as with all fragrance notes, there are different types, grades and compositions surrounding the note to enhance, embellish or mute it. I happen to like the scent of agarwood, and among my favorite presentations of this note is a Montale creation called Aoud Rose Petals (launch year 2000, also called Aoud Rose, or Rose Petals). Although I was once told I smelled like I was wearing a "woodsy men's deodorant", I have since revisited the scent and decided it is much more queenly and elegant than that; the accompanying rose note is pristine, clean and dewy, a rose note I could compare to that of Les Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose or Diptyque L'Ombre dans L'Eau. This sweet, elegant rose is the perfect soulmate to the dark, deep aoud, creating a rich and regal, yet diaphanous blend.

If you're a fan of dark, woody, incensey roses such as Caron Or et Noir and Parfum Sacré, you may find Montale Aoud Rose Petals is actually a bit too bright and soft, but personally, that's what I like about it. It's the lightest and most wearable of the genre I have found thus far. Another scent that comes to mind for comparison is Miriam Mirani Aqaba, which shares with Aoud Rose Petals the sensuous combination of rose and incense notes, but with additional spices such as cinnamon to make it more extroverted and red hot (Aoud Rose Petals is a cooler, more luminous and sylphlike interpretation, the yin to the spicy yang). Montale Aoud Rose Petals, like most Montale fragrances, is a very strong (tenacious) scent, so a very tiny bit will travel far. Aoud Rose Petals would also be beautiful as a room fragrance, to subtly scent your silk curtains in heavenly fumes fit for the finickiest of kings and queens, sultans and sultanas.