Among the many ingredients which sharply divide perfume lovers, licorice and oud would rank high on that list. I am that contrarian which enjoys both. I like the sharply herbal darkness of licorice. I adore the medicinal tinted ouds; like smelling a bandage on my finger. When these notes are combined in a perfume you might expect an obstreperous off-putting composition; which it might be for some. I found the perfume which does this, The House of Oud Crop 2017, exactly the combination I was looking for.
I became acquainted with The House of Oud last year. Founded by perfumer Andrea Casotti and oud distiller Mohammed Nashi. One of the things they are doing is creating yearly limited editions which feature a specific oud called Crop. The first one Crop 2016 was built around a green Kalimantan oud that was compelling. I was curious to see what Crop 2017 would bring.
This vintage works with a traditional oud full of those medicinal aspects I enjoy. It is not as unique as the oud in Crop 2016. For Crop 2017 it seems as if Sig. Casotti wanted to explore the depth of how dark you could take an oud. Instead of lightening it up he drives it even deeper with licorice.
Crop 2017 does not have a pyramid as much as everything sort of appears. Very early the herbal pure licorice of a throat lozenge is dunked in a glass of absinthe. What this creates is souped-up wormwood accord with the licorice maxed out. Before I get much time to enjoy this the oud rumbles in like a rhino into a china shop lifting the licorice accord up and slamming it down on top of itself. This is where Crop 2017 hovers and if the idea of acerbic herbal boozy bandages makes you go “oooh!” then, like me, you will be in bliss. I enjoyed this so much that I almost was disappointed when the sandalwood began to find its way in. It was so normal I was irritated with its presence.
Crop 2017 has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am reasonably sure if I asked many oud lovers whether they like Crop 2016 or 2017 most of them would choose 2016. Not me. Crop 2017 is one of those reasons I enjoy niche perfumery. Everything doesn’t have to be made for the masses. Sometimes it can be made for us who want to hang out on the event horizon of licorice and oud.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Nature offers up some wonderful contrasts of extremes. None more surprising and ephemeral than snow in the Sahara Desert. It has happened twice in the town known as “The Gateway to the Desert”. Ain Sefra in Algeria. Once in 1979 and again in December of 2016. For the most recent occurance photographer Karim Bouchetata was there to capture it. When you look at the picture below it almost looks like exotic dessert instead of desert. The perfumer behind The House of Oud was inspired to create perfume based on this called Wonderly.
Snow in the Sahara December 2016 (Photo: Karim Bouchetata)
The House of Oud was founded by perfumer Andrea Casotti and Indonesian oud distiller Mohammed Nashi. They released their debut collection in June of 2016. As you might suspect the expertise of M. Nashi in sourcing oud was displayed throughout. Of those initial releases the most intriguing was a limited edition called Crop 2016 featuring a rare green tinted oud from Kalimantan in Borneo. I had never smelled anything like it and Sig. Casotti surrounded it with a “tea in the Sahara” theme which displayed all the uniqueness of the keynote. When I received my sample of Wonderly I was surprised to find a fragrance intent on capturing the dichotomy of snow upon the dunes.
I imagine if I asked many of you to describe a perfume trying to capture the snow and sand combination fruity floral would not be where you might start. When I first tried it on a strip I was initially thinking if this was the best choice to represent the snow. Then I realized the snow in the Sahara is itself an anomaly and a fragrance should look for something anomalous to portray the event.
The fruity top accord is the tart goji berry combined with apricot and almond flower. The accord comes off as a juicy fruity accord with some nutty facets. For Wonderly, Sig. Casotti uses white flowers as his snow; neroli and jasmine primarily. Then in a clever twist a bit of orris is applied underneath to represent the sand beneath the snow. For a long time, it is just the orris pushing against the “snow”; over time a resinous mixture of myrrh, and incense begin to figuratively provide a thawing effect. Sandalwood, vanilla, and the powdery musk Cosmone add the finish as the desert takes its normal place on top.
Wonderly has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I like Wonderly because Sig. Casotti didn’t bring a selection of chilly notes to represent the snow but instead took a different tack. The result is as layered as snow in the Sahara.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample from The House of Oud.
There are so many perfume brands claiming to combine Middle Eastern perfumery with Western perfumery that it has become trite when another claims to be doing it. It is with a great deal of skepticism I approach these claims as most often it is tilted mostly to one side of the equation. The other half gets what amounts to a matador’s swoosh of a red cape of the other influence. Every once in a while there is a brand which actually does try to live up to that. I was sent a sample set of the new brand Moresque which is just beginning to be sold outside of a handful of Middle Eastern outlets. There are seven perfumes within the inaugural line. The one which impressed me most was Aristoqrati.
Moresque was started five years ago when CEO Cindy Guillemant met perfumer Andrea Thero Casotti. Together they wanted to produce a line which espoused equal parts Middle Eastern exoticism and Italian style. It is much easier to type out than to achieve. For their efforts they have produced three perfumes in the White Collection and three perfumes in the Black Collection. Aristoqrati makes up the sole member to date of the Art Collection.
Cindy Guillemant (third from l.) and Andrea Thero Casotti (second from r.)
For Aristoqrati Ms. Guillemant and Sig. Casotti wanted to marry the idea of Middle Eastern aristocracy with Italian flair. Most often that first bit of inspiration means oud. Thankfully this creative team has a different sense of history as instead of oud; nutmeg is the link between the Middle East and Italy. During the Dark Ages the Arabs traded nutmeg to Europe through Venice. It was prized as a potential cure for the Black Plague; it wasn't. It became more known as an exotic cooking ingredient worth its weight in gold. It would find its way to Tuscany many years later and be a part of that style of cuisine. The nutmeg in Aristoqrati pulls together an otherwise simple marriage of a few notes into something which actually does pay respect to both sides of its desired heritage.
Sig. Casotti opens Aristoqrati up with the nutmeg and early on it is matched with the green-tinted floralcy of geranium. There is a nuttiness to nutmeg which the greenish quality of the geranium enhances. The sweeter character survives into the heart. There it is met with vetiver and peony. This mix of these three notes is where Aristoqrati really thrived on my skin. Peony has that spring-fresh feeling to it. Vetiver is more grassy than woody. As mentioned above the nutmeg turns sweeter by this point. Sig. Casotti hits the balance just right. Eventually all of this drifts away to a fairly pedestrian amber and patchouli base.
Aristoqrati has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage. All of the Moresque fragrances are called Esprit de Parfum. Putting the concentration somewhere between extrait and eau de parfum. I found they all wore on my skin closer to something at extrait strength which means close to the skin.
I have great respect for the decision not to trot out the usual suspects when trying to make an East meets West perfume. Aristoqrati shows there is plenty of spice in that combination if you just use your imagination.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.