I have had samples of both Black Oud and Dark Rose for some time now and have worn these two regularly over the last eighteen months. To my mind, I thought they were quite similar, so thought I would wear them side by side, one on each wrist. Readers of my blog might know that I am generally quite a fan of both oud and rose perfumes, and the combination of the two can be stunning and is a tried-and-tested duo. I went through a bit of a rose fetish a while back and more recently on an oud bender. Black Oud is one Montale that always seems to encourage debate - just visit the Basenotes reviews for example, and you will see what I mean. Dark Rose is less well known perhaps, but perhaps the Czech and Speake line as a whole is becoming better known, as recently (i.e the last eighteen months) they have stepped up their marketing, at least in the UK.
Black Oud opens with a strong medicinal blast, a common theme in the Montale Oud series. Any western nose familiar with more Western-based oud perfumes will recognise this accord. It's quite an oily perfume on skin, suggestive of its concentration and strength. The powerful opening is quite astringent and pungent and I can see some people being put off by this. The rose emerges quite quickly and it isn't a fresh, green, dewy rose; rather it is quite sweet and earthy. At the same time there is a sourness as well, which might be citrus, but I'm not sure. The heart is rose and oud; no surprises there. There is some patchouli here too (some say a lot) but I never find it that obvious, although it might lend that earthiness I was referring to. The rose is of high quality I think, but I do find that Black Oud wears very differently on my skin depending on the season. In winter the rose can come across quite sour and thin, but in heat it blooms and becomes gorgeously sweet and rich. I would say that Black Rose is quite linear. Once you get past the medicinal oud opening, the rest is pretty much rose and a bit of woods, but amped up, so that what you get is a bold, intense and long-lasting perfume. In fact, sometimes Black Oud's intensity and linearity bores me, as it goes on and on, without really altering. However, in warm weather it definitely reveals a more interesting facet. I wore Black Oud a few months ago at the height of the South African summer, when I was out there on holiday. The woody subtleties of the fragrance were revealed, and as I said, the rose more well-rounded. In the gloom and cold of a northern winter, Black Oud can be rather severe and constant, at least on my skin.
Dark Rose also opens with a medicinal oud edge, but is much more restrained than Black Oud. There is also a slight soapiness to the opening which surprised me. The rose is very prominent, perhaps more so than Black Oud's, but it is perhaps less sweet and a bit greener. Other than that, the first half wears fairly similar to Black Oud. As the fragrance progresses, I feel that it is thinner and less rich than Black Oud, almost watered down by comparison. I think Dark Rose is still well done, and one might find it more to their liking if Montale's ouds come across as too strong and forceful.
Having worn these side by side, I find that they are not quite as similar as I first thought wearing them separately. My personal preference is for Black Oud, which I find richer, more complex, has a better and more realistic rose note and somehow its sweeter character suits the rose more, in my opinion. That's not to say that Dark Rose is a poor fragrance; it isn't, and if you are someone who likes, or is interested in, rose and oud perfumes, I would certainly recommend trying them both. I would say that both tend to be more masculine in character, but particular with Black Oud, I think the sweet rose brings it back more into unisex territory and I can't see why a woman could not at least try it.
Image credit: florissential.co.uk