In 2014, when Cartier launched their three oud scents - Oud & Rose, Oud & Musc and Oud & Oud (yes, really) - I confess I was rather disappointed. Yet another brand, I thought, jumping on a bandwagon so crowded, it's a wonder it's able to move at all. So when I met their perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, in Paris a few months ago, I had to raise the subject with her. Whose idea was it for Cartier to join the oud brigade?
"I didn't want to do it," she said, with a chuckle. "But I must confess that I really love oud. I didn't want to do it, because I didn't want to follow everybody else. I find that going to Arabian countries with our perfumery is like selling French Coca-Cola in New York. But at the end, as I really love oud, I decided I wanted to work on it. So we had many discussions. And I said that what I wanted to express about oud is purity. Real oud. I've been to Dubai and I smelt different local ouds. I knew that they were very animalic, musky. So I said, 'You have to understand that if I do an oud, it'll be a real one, an animalic one.' That's the one which became Oud & Oud."
What was the thinking behind that strange name, I asked. It's almost like a joke.
"Yes, it is a joke," she replied, "because in the Heures collection, these ouds are called Les Heures Voyageuses. When the Heures go on a trip, they go to Dubai, like their perfumer. In Les Heures, we have a lot of joy and creativity and fantasy. I always choose the names. And I always want to have fantasy, because that's something that seems to be the opposite of luxury for everybody. Everyone thinks luxury should always be very serious, very grave. Not something you can play with. But at Cartier we like to play, and I really think that fantasy is something people want. We play. We are happy together. We are really very proud of what we do, and we have fantasy. And I want it to be seen in the product.
"That's why we made Oud & Oud, to show that it's a real oud, and that it is even more oud than oud. And Oud & Oud is the one that sells the best. I'm really happy about that, because I wanted to show that if Cartier comes to you with an oud, it comes with your oud, not a Parisian, European ersatz oud. When you smell some ouds on the market, some of them just don't smell of oud. And I think that's a question of dignity. I find it insane."
To read my full interview with Laurent, please click on this link to Basenotes.