dimanche 15 novembre 2009

L'Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh: Feral Wood



We may have to stop thinking of Bertrand Duchaufour exclusively as the master of the transparent woods lashed with spices and incense – I do, anyway. His three latest offerings don’t even feature that pinch of sliced green pepper I’ve come to see as his signature note.

No, Bertrand Duchaufour seems to have gone over to the dark side or at least lusher, dirtier notes. Havana Vanille, which I’m pretty sure is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s bid for the pod-loving American market, is built around a tinge-of-the-stable narcissus absolute. Penhaligon’s Amaranthine doesn’t shy away from what I was already calling “The corruption of white flowers” a year ago (a theme reprised by Penhaligon’s PR): that hint of vegetal decay at the heart of the purest blossom.

And L’Artisan’s new Al Oudh crosses over boldly into outright animalic funk, with a practically Lutensian level of cumin and enough civet to put the neighborhood toms in a state of alert. A generous helping of the ink-and-truffles castoreum pulls the leather accord, underlined with incense, into deep and dirty black. Sandalwood and myrrh add a subliminal tinge of sweat.

The oud itself is partnered with its classic Middle-eastern consort, rose; in another quote of Middle-eastern aromatic tradition, rose is matched with the difficult, medicinal-metallic saffron. In fact, every note, from honeyed date to fruity Atlas cedar, points to the Arabian roots of perfumery. After all, Al Oudh is, like Bois Farine, Timbuktu, Dzongkha and Havana Vanille, an episode of L’Artisan’s “Voyages” collection…

Yet for all its feral aromas, Al Oudh manages to be both distinctly recognizable as an oud – an elderly Levantine gentleman who entered the L’Artisan shop as I was smelling a strip identified it straight off with a blissed-out smile and started telling me about the erotic powers of scent – and sufficiently subtle for Western noses. With Bertrand Duchaufour’s deft hand at dosing perilous notes and the smooth, sweet vanilla-tonka bean base he wraps them in, Al Oudh stays well out of the Happy Hour in Dubai, Montale-type levels of oudness.

How does it measure up to By Kilian’s Pure Oud and Le Labo Oud 27? L’Artisan’s oud is quite a bit spicier and rounder than the former, and much tamer than the latter. If both sent you running for the scouring pad, Al Oudh might still be too much of an animal. If the cumin in Femme – which somehow Al Oudh brings to mind as a distant descendent – or Serge Lutens’ Santal de Mysore, El Attarine and Serge Noire conjures uncomfortable associations with hot days on the Cairo subway, give it a pass.

But if you love to roll around in animalic leather and spices, if a hint of pong sends a thrill through your spine, my how you’ll love Bertrand Duchaufour’s neo-oriental gem…

I love it when a guy plays dirty. And I’d gladly nuzzle a gentleman smelling of Al Oudh.


Al Oudh is officially launched on November 20th.



Image: from the Iranian artist Abelina Galustian's The Veil Series (2003), sourced from The Huffington Post.

48 commentaires:

  1. Hmmmmmm. I've never found a L'A that really spoke to me, whiich I freely admit is probably more my problem than theirs. I'm going to need to make a Dallas trip to do some sniffing over the holidays -- I'm woefully behind.

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  2. Amy, like you, I'm not a big collector of L'Artisan scents, despite my respect and admiration for the line. I do own Safran Troublant, one of my rare on-the-spot purchases, and I crave a bottle of their super-expensive Fleur de Narcisse 2006. Al Oudh may be the point where I cave in again...

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  3. I've always loved Dzing. And quite recently, I bought a bottle of Timbuktu for my boyfriend. I admit I was a bit influenced by Luca Turin's review but this fragrance is actually really good. I even think I could wear it... In New York, I smelled the exclusive AP fragrace for Aedes de Venustas and liked it very much. I think the "problem" with AP might be they have too many. But they do have a great perfumer in the person of Bertrand Duchaufour.

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  4. Rebecca, I didn't know your English was so impeccable! As for AP's catalogue, bear in mind that they've been around for decades now: some houses that are less than 10 years old have as many in their collection!
    I love Dzing! too and am forever wondering whether to get it or not, since I already own Chanel Cuir de Russie in large quantities as well as Bulgari Black...

    As for Bertrand Duchaufour, he is keen to explain that he is *not* L'Artisan's in-house perfumer but an independent perfumer who can take on other contracts!

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  5. Well words like "civet", and "castoreum" are enough to have me instantly wanting to smell this, and possibly own it. I do have some samples of Pure Oud (love) and a bottle of Oud 27 (more love), but maybe this would be a nice third addition.

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  6. Jared, if you love both of those, I'm sure you'll be at least intrigued by the L'Artisan. It's different enough to warrant a sniff, possibly a buy if those notes attract you. It must smell luscious on a man.

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  7. L'Artisan was my introduction to the world of niche fragrance, so I'm always curious to try a new fragrance from them. Plus, I would gladly apply Al Oudh if it guaranteed some nuzzling.

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  8. Denyse! Such good news! Like you, I've been mostly unenthused regarding the L'Artisan line -- with the exceptions of Dzing! and Fleur de Narcisse. The rest have left me cold.

    But the way you write about Al Oudh gives me hope.

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  9. Jarvis, I'm wondering though which type of nuzzler (apart from mad perfumistas) it would attract...

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  10. Nathan, I also have a weak spot for Safran Troublant, one of my very rare impulse buys... This may not wean you off Pure Oud but I'll be looking forward to reading your impressions.

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  11. Safran Troublant was actually the first perfume that I have purchased and I still love it. Also, everytime I put it on it reminds me of Süskind Perfume (I bought the Safran shortly after reading the Parfum).
    The Al Oudh sounds very interesting, in desciption perhaps slightly similar to Amouage Epic?
    I have not tried Epic yet, but a sample is on its way to my house (yay!).

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  12. Klara, I'm afraid Epic is still languishing in my sample box, so I can't tell (I know, I am remiss, but I'm a very slow tester and I love to wear my favorites too)...

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  13. Thank you Denyse.
    Well I find the AP perfumes from the last decade much more interesting than the ones from their beginning. Personally I've always loathed Mûre et Musc and only started to get an interest in their line when Olivia Giacobetti started to compose for them. I understand Bertrand Duchaufour is not their in-house perfumer, yet he's proved to be a great asset for them.

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  14. Oud served up with animalic funk and spice? I'll gladly nuzzle my own arm if I can't find a gentleman to wear it! I didn't care for the Le Labo, but I like Pure Oud quite a bit and I have a few Arabian ouds that I put into rotation on weekends when I don't have to worry about scaring my colleagues.

    I haven't tried Havana Vanille yet, but I think that Amaranthine is brilliant. I hope that Duchaufour stays on the dark/dirty side of perfumery.

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  15. Melissa, I guess Havana Vanille doesn't register as dirty, unless tobacco leaves are considered morally reprehensible... But let's say BD seems to be moving towards fleshier (he could always handle "difficult" notes).

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  16. Interesting how many of us are not excited in general by the L'Artisan line up to this point, anyway. I love oudh and skankified roses, the oudier and skankier the better. Havane Vanille, nah, but this one I look forward to trying.

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  17. Carter, you'll get skank all right! Report back when you do...

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  18. Now there's a title for a perfume blog: The Skank Report. Now I have a skank worm. I believe I'd better dab on a bucket of vintage Rumeur in the meantime...

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  19. Carter, it is indeed. Cartier XII for me today I think... That's got a skank to it too.

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  20. I can't wait to try it. great bottle too- not that it should matter but you know... I used to shy away from these very potent scents but as my olfactory education has developed I find I more and more drawn. Strange for someone who just said they preferred the cleaner Serge Lutens scents. I am terribly fickle!

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  21. Rose, I'm fickle too... This one manages to be both transparent and dirty.

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