An oud by any other name... would smell more oud-y?? When I saw that one of the scents released by the new, UK brand Nancy Meiland - founded by the eponymous, self-taught perfumer - is called Aquilaria, I let out a groan of dismay. It's depressing enough that we've got a torrent of 'oud' perfumes, I thought. If we're now going to be treated - and I use the word sardonically - to a swathe of creations featuring oh-so-terribly-clever twists on the word 'oud', then perhaps we ought to save ourselves years of agony and jump off the top floor of Harrods right now.
As it happens, in this particular case, I needn't have had an existential panic attack. Yes, with its name, the scent aspires to a 'nudge nudge, wink wink, did-you-see-what-I-did-there' kudos. But 'Aquilaria' also suggests an intention to return, quite literally, to the basic building block of oud - the aquilaria tree is, after all, the primary creator of oud oil - and, in this regard, the perfume achieves commendable success. It displays no trace of the nasty agarwood clone which has infested the vast majority of so-called oud creations on the market. In other words, it doesn't mix crude synthetic sandalwoods with a heavy-handed patchouli note and a sucker-punch of abrasive leathers. On the contrary, it is restrained, dignified and contemplative. What's more, its oud note is entirely convincing, choosing to focus not on the characterstitics of agarwood oil, but - in a manner not unlike Amouage's Interlude Man - the dryer, less animalic odour of the smoke which emerges when one burns oud-soaked chips of wood.
When combined with a soothing tea facet, a smooth guaiac note and a rich, fluffy vanilla, the oud element begins to take on hues of compelling originality. By turns sweet, peppery and dry, it holds its own against the onslaught of oud releases and dares to assert a novel identity. It may not be as long-lasting as some might hope, but like Francis Kurkdjian's Oud - minus the musks which characterise that particular creation - it proves that, against all odds, it is still possible to find something new to say in this most overcrowded of perfumery genres. And that makes it a delightful, praiseworthy surprise.
[Review based on a sample provided by Nancy Meiland in 2015.]