I find the whole subject of oud and its uses quite fascinating, but I also find it quite irritating. The reason for this is the exclusivity associated with genuine oud. What I am really saying is that I yearn to try some proper ouds but the price point is insane and my wallet barely stretches to sampling niche fragrances, let alone a wood prized by Arabian Sultans and Oil Sheiks. To date I have sampled a lot of oud-based fragrances by Le Labo, By Kilian, Montale and Micallef. However, I am led to understand that none of these (possibly some of the Montales do) contains any real oud and that they are all based on oud accords, which is a synthetic recreation of the note. Please correct me if I am wrong, or go read some of the oud threads on Basenotes, some of which date back three to five years and are scores of pages long. I am toying with the idea of ordering some samples from suppliers such as Arabian Oud, Al Munnawarra, Oriscent, Ajmal, etc, but as I already said, the price point is staggering for what you end up getting. I understand a lot of this stuff is highly concentrated, but still folks, my daddy is not an oil baron and I am not the love child of Bill Gates, so I might need to seriously reconsider.
While on the general subject of oud, is it just me, or is there a lot of snobbery surrounding the whole real oud/fake oud debate? I find especially on Basenotes a school of oud lovers that sneers at people's appreciation of oud-accord perfumes such as those I mentioned above, just because they are not the real thing. In the next breath, some of these people then go on to brag about how they are going to "drop a couple of $350" this weekend on a tola or two of whatever insanely expensive oud is on offer online. If these guys are speaking the truth (and why should I doubt them, I'm not jealous - goddammit yes I am!) I still struggle to understand how they could spend these sums of money regularly on what amounts to a few millilitres of juice. To be fair, one person's $350 could be another's $3.50, who am I to judge! In any event, I still wish they would be able to accept that a lot of us just don't have access to these "exalted" ouds, or don't have the cash, plain and simple, and start losing their oud attitude. Actually, that would make a good rap line, don't you think?
Anyway, lets move onto the main subject of my post today, Micallef Oud Homme and By Kilian's Pure Oud. The Micallef opens very bright, with plenty of sweet rose. The oud is evident and is quite similar to the accord used in Czech & Speake's Dark Rose. There is a slight medicinal edge to the oud, but nowhere near as intense and forceful as some of the Montales. As the top fades, we are left with a fairly straightforward oud-rose combination, but a very well done one at that. I find that oud can often be quite a sombre affair, but in Micallef's case, the effect is bright, zippy and happy. It's a bit like Montale's Black Oud on happy pills! The heart notes contain a lovely, fresh rose accord that is on the sweet side and for some reason this phase makes me feel like I am being soaked by rays of bright sunshine, streaming in through a window - radiant, is how it makes me feel. In the dry down all the notes fade and smooth out, with that overall feeling of happiness and sunshine never leaving me. To my mind this is a great example of an all-year-round oud fragrance. It isn't too forceful, yet it isn't bland either and would make a great introduction for someone looking to try an oud fragrance for the first time.
Pure Oud is a strange one. It opens with no sweet or citrus notes to speak of. It's a severe, woody oud from start to finish, with little embellishment. There is a hint of the barnyard, but overall it feels very woody, not resinous, but quite dark and brooding. I'm reminded of the elementalness of raw wood for some reason, but also of old, decaying wood, slightly mouldy and dusty. There is a slight camphorous note in there, not really detectable unless you sniff really closely. As it moves through the heart to the dry down, the woodiness becomes more complicated, with a mushroomy note and a vague hint of something sweet, but its hard to pin down. The fragrance remains quite severe, earthy, a little decaying right to the end. I would say this is one for the hardcore oud (or should I say ord-accord?) fan. I think quite a few people might struggle with this one and although I did find it quite compelling, I wouldn't say it is an easy perfume to wear. Again, I would recommend trying this one, although it has to be said that By Kilian is hardly the cheapest niche line in the world. Definitely one to sample first before purchasing.