There are so many things in perfumery which have started since the first number in the calendar year changed to 2. If there is an ingredient of the last 21 years which encapsulates the changes in Western fragrance it is the rise of oud from 2002 to the present day. To fragrance fans in the East oud is what many of them encounter in everyday life. For those of us who knew nothing of it the revelation was immediate. The craving for more almost insatiable, and so the brands gave us what we wanted. There was a time when it seemed every new release claimed oud in its ingredient list. In most of those cases it was an oud accord made up of less expensive materials given some texture with a tiny amount of the real thing. As perfume consumers became more sophisticated there were places to go encounter authentic oud essential oils. Once you smelled your first of those you could become lost in the pursuit of different varieties. One of my most prized perfume possessions is a little wooden box containing thirty single-sourced oud oils. I was one of those forever enchanted with the world of oud.
The unfortunate side effect is there are those who will claim to use real oud, who do not. Because relatively few have ever smelled the real thing most don’t know they aren’t. It has been something I have seen become more common in recent years. I’ve wanted to be able to point those who love oud to something where they can experience the real thing. Phoenecia Perfumes has given me that opportunity with the release of Oud Elegance Rose and Oud Elegance Incense.
Phoenecia Perfumes is the brand of independent perfumer David Falsberg. Ever since discovering his fragrances in 2013 he has been a perfumer who uncompromisingly brings his vision to life. Part of that is it takes time. He releases new things as they feel right to him. He also must find the right sources for the ingredients which complete his scents. What comes out of this process are perfumes which provide an emotional response as well as an olfactory one.
For both new ouds he chooses classic pairings oud and rose, oud and incense. They are excellent choices because it makes it easy to compare to all the other versions of these duos out there. It allows anyone the opportunity to compare an authentic experience. One of the smart things he does is the alcohol used in both extrait strength fragrances is prepped with a tincture of Africa stone or hyraceum. It is an invitation into a deeper world of oud.
Oud Elegance Rose is a duet of both the named ingredients. He uses two roses from Morocco and Persia. He blends four different ouds. In both fragrances he has sourced them from ethical and/or sustainable sources. I feel certain that if he just put the two roses and four ouds in a bottle this would have been quite good. He uses a set of complementary notes to bring out the best in both. The inherently spicy roses are given an herbal contrast through rosemary along with a leathery glow in saffron. The oud is given some cedar to remind us that it is a wood and some civet to amplify the animalic heart of these ouds. Mr. Falsberg uses cumin to stitch these two pieces together with amber to provide a warmth not unlike the braziers oud chips are burned in.
Oud Elegance Incense follows a similar path in its development. Although the incense does get a moment to stand on its own. He takes an austere olibanum swathing it in a citrusy floral veil. It is a lovely opening as Mr. Falsberg has another blend of five ouds with which he uses as the incense’s partner. This comes together more naturally because at the core both oud and olibanum are resins. The difference is oud also has a woody component and that is enhanced through sandalwood. It adds a comforting woodiness underneath the incense and oud. The animalic side of oud is less present than it is in Oud Elegance Rose. it is probably the biggest difference in the oud part of the experience between the two. Depending on what appeals to you that might be the best way to choose only one.
Both extraits have 24-hour longevity and wear very close to the skin. Because of that these are very personal perfumes which can be worn anywhere.
Mr. Falsberg is one of my favorite independent perfumers because he does not compromise. He asks perfume lovers meet him on his own terms. If you make the choice to do that a fantastic new world awaits.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Phoenecia Perfumes.
In the early part of 2013 I was introduced to a perfume and perfumer who exemplify independent perfumery. I was regularly reading a Facebook group of Pacific Northwest indie perfumers. One day I was reading about the perfumes of David Falsberg for his Phoenecia Perfumes brand. I was fascinated with one called Skin Graft. I ordered a bottle which showed me the boundaries of what perfume can realize. It remains one of the most creative perfumes I own six years later. Mr. Falsberg has continued to make perfume on his own schedule. There is no one I am more excited to receive an e-mail from letting me know something new is coming. He has always given me something new to consider. It has happened again with Phoenecia Perfumes Dark Musk.
One of the interests of Mr. Falsburg has been to find the shadows within the darkest ingredients. He released a version of genuine oud called Real Oud. It was one of the only real ouds available plus he paired it with authentic clay pot Hindi oud. It is a treat for those who love the darkness, Mr. Falsberg has just brought back Real Oud. At the same time he also released Real Oud-M wherein he creates a synthetic musk accord that is ingenious in the way it retains the bite of real musk. Both perfumes find pockets of shadow within the dark foundation. That experience comes together in Dark Musk.
As he did in Real Oud-M he constructs a musk accord as the nucleus of Dark Musk. It is composed of mainly birch tar and labdanum. It forms a country blacktop tarry accord on its own. Mr. Falberg must add in the correct amounts of other ingredients to get to this final accord. Those are a pinch of spikenard, a handful of cumin, and the decadent decay of costus. As they come together the tar turns to musk. It is the kind of transformation I have regularly experienced from Mr. Falsberg’s creations. It is nice to remember how good he is at it. Over a few minutes, sandalwood comes to lift up this musk accord. The woods help give something familiar to latch onto if the musk threatens to subsume you.
Dark Musk has 24-hour longevity and moderate sillage because it is a 100% mixture of essential oils.
When I wrote my review of Skin Graft, back in 2013, I used the second verse of the Neil Young song “Hey, Hey, My My” as my intro. Now it seems appropriate to use another few lines from later in the song to describe Dark Musk, “hey, hey, my, my/ rock and roll can never die/ there’s more to the picture than meets the eye/ hey, hey, my, my”. If you are looking for the frontier of independent perfumery Dark Musk is there.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Phoenecia Perfume.
There are so many fragrances these days with musk and/or oud listed in their notes. The truth is, as with ambergris before it, the presence of these notes are actually other materials substituting for them. Musk has a host of botanical and synthetic stand-ins and nagarmotha does double duty as oud in some fragrances looking for the effect without adding to the cost. As part of a mixture of other notes these approximate the effect of the real thing well enough. In truth of fact most perfume lovers have never really had the opportunity to smell either real oud oil or actual musk harvested from the musk deer. For those who have always wanted to know what they smell like there is a very special opportunity for you to be able to do just that.
David Falsberg the iconoclastic perfumer behind Phoenecia Perfumes has become the man to turn to when it comes to finding an authentic oud experience. Through Phoenecia Perfumes he releases Realoud in batches identified by the month of release because he only sources his oud from reliable sources in small batches. He then takes what he acquires and blends a new version of Realoud. The current one labeled 04/14 might be my favorite to date because to his Hindi oud he adds my favorite Laotian variety to create a real “mukhallat”.
One of the best things about Mr. Falberg is he is a consistent correspondent on his creative process. It is often like watching The Wizard of Oz pulling levers, causing steam to billow and flames to jet skyward. For all of the intense passion on display the fragrances often display real inspiration. One which had my attention since he announced he was working on it at the beginning of the year was Oud Taiga.
Oud Taiga is at its heart a combination of the high-grade Hindi oud with a 50-year old vintage authentic deer musk. Mr. Falsberg could have just let the incredible authenticity carry the day but he wanted to re-create a true piece of perfume the way they used to do it. Oud Taiga is everything it was promised to be.
The actual musk base of Oud Taiga (Source: Phoenecia Perfumes Facebook page)
It is hard not to be drawn to the musk and the oud from the first moments you put some Oud Taiga on. Because of the genuine nature of the two central ingredients they pull you like high powered magnetic fields towards them. Don’t get so focused on the trees that you miss the delicate forest Mr. Falsberg has constructed to surround these massive sentinels at the heart of Oud Taiga. Cardamom, lavender, sandalwood, davana, and cedar add nuanced texture and complexity to two notes that are perfume dimensions all to themselves. He has chosen very wisely to use them to again create a “mukhallat” style perfume. That means everything is there right from the start and it tends to fluctuate over time with certain of the supporting notes temporarily ascendant only to let something else take over later on.
Oud Taiga has 8-10 hour longevity and very low sillage.
Mr. Falberg’s insistence on putting the real ingredients in his perfumes makes every oud he makes something to be cherished, and I do. Oud Taiga is a cut above that as the reality of having real oud and real musk in a composition makes it extremely special. Mr. Falsberg has created a fragrance that hearkens to the past but hews to the indie perfume aesthetic that Mr. Falberg has become one of the leaders of; it truly is “The Real Thing”.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Phoenecia Perfumes.