Perfume dork that I am there are things which happen in my head as I try perfumes. One of them is when I encounter a particularly intriguing base accord the internal jukebox in my mind begins playing the 2014 pop song by Meghan Trainor “All About That Bass”. The song is speaking about the bass line to a song especially as it pertains to dancing. It is the reason I have bass enhanced headphones so I can make my music all about the bass if I want to. There is something satisfying about a depth which resonates deep in the belly and spine.
I also hum this song when giving advice to fledgling indie wanna-be perfumers. The great majority of the time what is lacking in their earliest attempts is the base accord. This is not so different than the bass line in a song. In perfumery the base is what you build upon, it is foundational. It is often where the soul of perfume resides. It may be covered in all matter of fabulous other accords and ingredients but without it there is nothing. What happens when a professional perfumer decides to make it all about the base? You get something like Amouage Silver Oud.
Creative director at Amouage, Renaud Salmon is early in his time there. He is beginning to create a set of perfumers he believes can realize his vision for the brand. One of them seems to be perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is one of the best perfumers as well as one of my favorites. A couple of her earliest fragrances are among my personal faves. She has only become better over time. In recent years she has been the perfumer closest to pushing the gourmand genre into something grand. Earlier this year Amouage Material is an example of this. When I reviewed that I mentioned I wanted more from her and M. Salmon in Silver Oud I am getting that.
This is inspired by Stendahl’s 19th century novel “The Red and the Black”. I’ve never read it, but Wikipedia tells me it is a tale of a young protagonist rising above his modest beginnings only to be brought low by his passions. To that end there are three titled accords in Silver Oud; confusion, passion, and destruction. I’ll allow someone who has read the book to weigh in on those themes as the heart of the novel. I encountered the perfume based on them quite differently as I was brought to mind of a clever rumination on oud in modern perfumery.
This is a perfume which is three distinct base accords, but they are presenting how oud is perceived in Western perfumery. The early part is an oud accord. Mme Zarokian weaves a classic patchouli, cypriol and cedar version. Most of the oud in fragrance is this kind, an accord given some life with a tiny amount of the real thing. In this case what comes first is a reminder of what those accords represent. Not quite the real thing but close enough to be part of a bigger construct. Here it is given some time to itself. This is much better than many of the commercial oud accords because of the quality of the patchouli and cedar used here. They bring in some of the rougher edges these type of accords usually lack.
In the heart real oud from Assam, India pushes through the simulation with authenticity. This is that full-throated oud which has medicinal, barnyard, and resinous aspects in its profile. Most of the time a perfumer will look for a complement. Mme Zarokian chooses a contrast, a slightly smoky vanilla from Madagascar. This isn’t a gourmand accord yet her facility in that genre allows her to find a sweet smoky contrast. The vanilla smolders its way through the oud. It is what those who love real oud are looking for. A simple pairing which brings out the best in both.
The final piece is a strong smoked amber accord. This is one of those tricks some brands like to play when they say there is oud in their perfume. They create a strong amber layered with ingredients which add smokiness. It is why so few perfume lovers ever know the real thing. Mme Zarokian creates a version of this which is better than almost all the ones trying to confuse perfume lovers. It creates its own version of an oud accord around amber, guaiac wood, and castoreum. The smoke comes courtesy of birch. She smartly keeps it at the level where a comparison can take place. The real oud paired with vanilla versus the smoked amber simulation. It is a fascinating debate which took place on my skin.
Silver Oud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Silver Oud is as good as Material was earlier in the year. M. Salmon and Mme Zarokian are forming a creative partnership which might be the core of what this phase of Amouage is all about. The absolute fun of wearing this and having the history of oud in Western perfumery play out is fantastic. Then again that’s because this is a perfume which is all about that base.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Amouage.