I know, I know, it was only a few weeks ago that I vowed never again to review any scent with 'oud' in its name, and here I am, going back on my word. But you see the problem is that: a) there are more and more passengers hopping onto the oud-y magic carpet ride every week and b) a few of them do actually make an attempt to say something new in what has become an Arabian tale filled with so many cliches, it'll soon force Sheherazade to pop out of her grave and scare the civet out of every perfumer in the Western hemisphere. The latest effort comes from Comme Des Garçons, which immediately makes it more attention-worthy, given the brand's philosophy (not much in evidence lately, I grant you) of bringing innovation to the mainstream.
Antoine Maisondieu's Wonderoud takes as its starting point 2010's Wonderwood, a fragrance which aimed to focus only on wood notes and, as a result, suffered from a lack of contrasts in its composition. Wonderoud takes the same idea and injects - you guessed it - a touch of oud into the mix. I would be very surprised if any proof ever emerged that this stuff contains meaningful quantities of real agarwood oil, but then surely, we've all gone past expecting 'oud' scents to contain real oud. As Frederic Malle said recently, 'oud' has now become an abstraction, in the same way that the notion of an oriental perfume is an abstraction. I would also defy anyone to claim there's anything especially original about the olfactory profile of this composition: it takes the 'oud' (probably a mixture of patchouli, cypriol, lab-made castoreum and various other concoctions) and places it alongside vetivert, cedar, musks and the synthetic sandalwoods (including a Givaudan invention called Pashminol) we've now come to expect from almost every faux-Middle Eastern masculine. But despite these drawbacks, I'd assert that Wonderoud possesses two attributes worth mentioning.
First, there's the balance of the drydown: in most of these sorts of scents, one element - usually the cyber-sandalwood - tends to dominate, sinking the whole into crudeness. Here, the various facets exist in equilibrium, remaining in comparative harmony until the very end of the drydown. And secondly, there's the relative silence. Perfumes of this nature tend to be loud and diffusive. But somehow, Wonderoud turns down the volume and never strays too far away from the wearer's skin. By no means do these two traits push the fragrance into the realms of masterpieces, but they do set it apart from most of the brash entries in this genre and they just about convince naysayers that Comme Des Garçons' mainstream line shouldn't be written off quite yet. All of which leaves me with just one thing to say: that's quite enough oud... for this week.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Comme Des Garçons in 2014.]