My main experience with that mysterious wood known as oud, aoud, agarwood, agar, whatever you want to call it, is the unique Yves Saint Laurent offering, M7. M7 was one of the first fragrances I sampled and suffice it to say that it’s an acquired taste. One of the most common analogies is the smell of cherry cough syrup. Pretty damn good analogy really. Robitussin aside M7 really is a pretty good representative of oud, and Montale takes the concept to what can only be described as another plane of existence. Pierre Montale may not make universally loved stuff but it is nearly universally respected and Black Aoud is on top of the heap there.
If you are a fan of the smell of oud, the opening blast may be the best you’ll ever find in a fragrance. If you’re not as big a fan, you may come very close, as I did, to washing the stuff off. It is a mindblowingly realistic recreation, and stays as such for a full hour. No progression, no pretenses, just black oud. The closest thing I can compare it to would be citronella bug spray. Appetizing right?
Now, despite that, my designated smeller said that she really, really liked it. Needless to say I was a little surprised as I was still pretty displeased with my choice of a work fragrance. But we discovered something; it’s great from a distance, but when I invited her to get in close and smell it on my wrist, she agreed that it wasn’t nearly as good. So that’s the rub; it’s a great fragrance with monster sillage, but you may personally not like it.
At least, not at first. After a couple of hours either I began to get acclimated to the smell or, more likely, it progressed, and picked up a sweet background of rose and spicy cedar. As I indicated to the Basenoters on my thread entitled Coming 180 on Black Aoud, it’s at this point that I made a connection to another fragrance, one that will soon be part of my collection. That fragrance would be L’Occitane Notre Flore Cedre. There is a period of several hours where Black Aoud and L’Occitane Cedar are dead ringers for each other. I don’t know whether that speaks greatly about L’Occitane or poorly about Montale.
The longer I wore Black Aoud the more I liked it. This one will make for a very interesting revisit in the winter. Would I buy it? Probably not, it’s $150 for a 50mL bottle and the point I liked the most was when it smelled just like L’Occitane Cedar, which is fairly linear and costs $65 for 100mL. However, I am withholding final judgment for now.