Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Leather Oud from Christian Dior and Absolue Pour Le Soir from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2010)

It was only a matter of time before Dior created a non-mainstream perfume range to compete with Chanel's widely-praised Les Exclusifs. Dubbed La Collection Privée, it takes three of the existing boutique-only scents - Eau Noire, Bois D'Argent and Ambre Nuit - pumps them up to eau de parfum strength, pours them into slightly redesigned bottles and assembles them alongside seven new creations. Taken as a whole, Dior's effort probably falls just short of matching the elegance of Chanel's and may have had a more powerful impact if it had been released as a smaller set, but it also features at least one scenery-chewing monster of a masterpiece.

With the dry, tangy undertone of Atlas cedarwood as the eye of its storm, Leather Oud whips up a scorching shockwave of cloves, honey and parched leather to create a trail of heat so palpable, it almost literally leaves you gasping for air the first time you smell it. Needless to say, it contains an oud note as well, but not in the manner of the accords present in the output of, say, Montale. Here, it's very much tied into the overall structure of François Demachy's composition, mingling its indescribable, woody-earthy stink with the contributions of all the other materials to create an effect that is both raw and highly polished. Experience it from a distance, and you'll be impressed by its impeccable grooming. But get up close and you'll learn that what it's really got on its mind is an urgent tryst at a Moroccan tannery. In terms of bravery and divisiveness, this is unquestionably La Collection's equivalent of Sycomore: it pushes the limits of the mainstream and re-energises the house of Dior. My critical reserve has been all but devoured by its seductive insistence and I'm one intoxicated step away from granting it a place on my list of all time favourites.


A very similar vibe is created by the aptly named Absolue Pour Le Soir, which in many ways, plays the role of sultry August moon to Leather Oud's blazing midday sun. Atlas cedarwood is given prominence here too, but only after the wearer is allowed to recover from the initial shock - and boy, do I mean shock! - of a gorgeously animalic brew of civet, frankincense and, once again, honey and cloves. The aforementioned tannery has been swapped for a rustic chapel, but you can't relax just yet, because the person sitting across the aisle from you has a curiously crimson complexion and eyes with a demonic glint. Lasciviousness wins again. Not surprisingly, what remains after this feverish physicality is the sense of an afterglow, created by a rapturous blend of sweet musks, darkened with a touch of cumin. If this is how exciting Monsieur Kurkdjian's evenings are, I can't wait for him to make Absolue Pour La Nuit!

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin. For the record, the other new perfumes in Dior's La Collection are Cologne Royale, Milly-La-Forêt, New Look 1947, Granville, Vétiver and Mitzah; reviews of the last four should appear on Persolaise.com before too long.]

Persolaise.

10 comments:

  1. I haven't tried any of the exclusive Diors but I adore Absolue pour le Soir (that's why I wanted to read your opinion). I'll have to get more than a sample for me. :)

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  2. Persolaise I like the sound of the Dior. I might need to get a sample of this. Are these sold anywhere in London or the south-east? Like you and Ines, I fell in love with Absolue Poir Le Soir. I think it is a magnificant fragrance - the best he's done in his eponymous line so far.

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  3. This really makes me want to retest Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, which I smelled sometime last year. Absolue Pour Le Soir sounds very interesting, and as you know, I agree with you completely on Leather Oud.

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  4. Ines, Absolue was one of the few things I bought in Paris. I was instantly hooked.

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  5. Michael, as far as I'm aware La Collection will be available only at Selfridges when they open their new, Chanel-style 'boutique' stand. Perhaps it'll also be available at stand-alone Dior shops.

    Oh, and I think you might like Leather Oud!

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  6. Victoria, as I said above, Absolue impressed me pretty much at first spray. It manages the balance between politeness and indecency quite beautifully.

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  7. I love your description of Leather Oud. I don't quite get the heat you speak of, I see it as a more sophisticated and refined scent, but the hint of the animal is definitely there. The drydown offers an almost saline nuttiness that I find incredibly appealing, and that, I take to be a quality of the particular oud they have used. I can't remember, did you say you tried and did not like Le Labo's Oud 27? I see the two scents as very similar, but Oud 27 is quite a bit sharper and more animalic, while the Dior has this amazing deceptive brightness on opening. They have their differences for sure, but they have the main components in common (my three favorite notes) and are almost interchangeable for me. Almost.

    I have a sample of Absolue Pour le Soir and was not very impressed by it at all, but I've only tried it once, and now must go back to it again. You make it sound so tempting!

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  8. Carrie, perhaps the 'heat' is something to do with personal associations. I first came across oud when I was growing up in the Middle East, so in my mind, it's probably linked very strongly with the sun and humidity and sand etc etc. But I totally agree that Leather Oud places the 'heat' in a very sophisticated context.

    I really like your 'saline nuttiness' phrase. Have you ever smelt pure Atlas cedarwood oil? If you haven't, please try to get some... and then let me know if 'saline nuttiness' comes to mind again.

    As for the Le Labo, in all honesty, I can't say I've given any of their scents a decent test drive, so I don't want to pass judgement on Oud 27.

    And finally, yes, I absolument love Absolue, but perhaps it just doesn't push your buttons.

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  9. Funny you should mention that about trying Atlas Cedarwood on its own, I have had a BURNING desire lately to try notes by themselves, purely out of curiosity and to tune my nose to a more refined pitch. I'm wondering how I can manage it without breaking the bank. I have a particular passion for cedar, its presence in perfume blends will make that fragrance indispensable to me 90% of the time, providing it's a good cedar. Even the "meh" cedars are still interesting to me, like the hamster cage cedar chip scents.

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  10. Carrie, if you find a way of doing it without breaking the bank PLEASE let me know what it is.

    But hey, since you live in the US, you shouldn't have to pay too much to get some samples from Eden Botanicals. Their stuff is meant to be top notch.

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