Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Persolaise Review: Amber Oud and Rose Oud from Nicolaï (Patricia De Nicolaï; 2013)

Ah, the power of peer pressure! A few years ago, you needed quite a few fingers to count the number of brands who said they'd "never do an oud." Now, the gaggle of cool kids in the corner - the ones who refuse to listen to the sweet chime of those cash registers - is positively skeletal. Granted, its members are amongst the most illustrious names in the world of scent - Hermès, Malle, Chanel, Lutens - but I wonder if even their resolve is beginning to crack under what must be considerable commercial weight.

Last year, Patricia De Nicolaï gave in and signed up to Team Oud by releasing two agar-inflicted compositions: Amber Oud and Rose Oud. Fans of her work wondered if this duo might be little more than a soulless concession to public demand, but they needn't have worried. Nicolaï probably couldn't make a dull scent if she tried, and although these latest additions to her highly-respected range were likely inspired by visions of petro-dollars, they display the balance and refinement for which her work is rightly lauded.

Rose Oud is perhaps the more predictable of the two. It is essentially the 'rose + dry wood' fragrance which we have smelt countless times before from several other brands, but the manner in which its central idea has been executed lifts it above most of its competitors. Under Nicolaï's expert guidance, this rose seems to grow larger with the passage of time. Its peppery aspect becomes stronger, its leathery base dirtier, its jammy, osmanthus note more and more surprising. Towards the end, the synthetics become a touch too prominent and spoil the illusion somewhat, but by and large, the desert mirage is sustained.

Amber Oud comes with a delightful trick up the sleeve of its dishdash. As its name suggests, it's based on an amber accord: sedate, burnished and cut by a well-judged note of dry saffron. The agar wood facet is suitably animalic: a veritable barnyard of fecal debauchery, made less threatening by being placed downwind, quite some distance away. But then comes the Nicolaï twist: an injection of fresh, soapy lavender. Its floral soul links with the amber and its camphoraceous edge connects to the oud, turning the whole into an unexpectedly translucent take on the genre. Versace attempted a similar feat with their Oud Noir, but - surprise surprise - Nicolaï's effort is superior. Both scents take you all the way to Dubai, but Versace's is decidedly an 'economy' affair, whereas Nicolaï's is First Class on Emirates, with canapés, Agwa dates and a seat that folds out into a bed fit for a pea-fearing princess.

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Nicolaï in 2013]



  1. Thanks for these reviews. I agree that Rose Oud is a bit predictable but done with the kind of panache that belongs firmly to classic French perfumery. A pleasure to wear. I think PN works with an 'oud accord' here rather than using a specific oud molecule, but I could be wrong.
    My experience of Amber Oud was dominated by the lavender (indeed I couldn't smell the 'downwind' oud at all - eek, what's with my nose!). The amber base is lovely but one waits forever for the lavender to die down enough to be able to appreciate it - indeed, washing oneself reveals the beauty of the base. It's a fine lavender and projects well but I felt shortchanged on the amber and oud aspects.

    1. Gimmegreen... interesting. Maybe your skin pumped up the lavender for some reason. On mine, the barnyard was pretty prominent :-)

  2. I wish PdN hadn't decided to discontinue Le Temps d'Une Fete!

  3. I do wish she hadn't decided to discontinue Le Temps d'Une Fete!

  4. Thank you for reviewing these. I'm a huge fan of De Nicolaï's work. I haven't yet tried these but have been wishing to try them. Love the comparison with the flight!

    1. Austenfan, De Nicolai is a class act, as far as I'm concerned. I hope you get to try these two soon.


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