It is nice when brands have an identifiable aesthetic that mostly rings true. It allows for me as a consumer to have an idea of what I’m getting if it is consistent. One perfume brand which has this kind of consistency is Penhaligon’s. It has always stood as the epitome of British style. The great majority of the collection possesses a refinement that somehow seems very English to me. It might be the same infatuation many Americans have for things from Britain but I just like the style. When it works it really works. The latest release in the Trade Routes Collection, As Sawira, applies this aesthetic to one of the more recalcitrant notes out there; oud.
As Sawira is inspired, as are all of the Trade Routes collection are, by the old shipping trade when it was transported by tall ships. For As Sawira perfumer Christian Provenzano was asked to interpret the city of Essaoiura which was the first seaport in Morocco. M. Provenzano assembles many of the more exotic Eastern ingredients in perfumery; saffron, davana, cardamom, myrrh, and oud. At the time of these great ships crossing the oceans these provided an interpretation of the rest of the world most would never see. M. Provenzano takes As Sawira and provides a very British re-telling of a trip to Morocco.
Before M. Provenzano gets down to his tale he pours himself a glass of absinthe and the boozy licorice starts things off. In fairly short order the darkly woody davana and saffron join it. It immediately sets this as coming from the East. The saffron really does a nice job at taking the wood and licorice and making it seem alien. The heart is centered on a beautifully poised jasmine. M. Provenzano has used a source which has only a trace of indoles, sort of cleaning up his story for English audiences. The three notes which surround this jasmine are clove, cardamom, and peach. The cardamom adds a spicy green effect to the jasmine while the peach makes it creamier. Clove is almost a stand-in for the missing indoles from the jasmine. This all leads to a base of oud and myrrh. M. Provenzano uses the myrrh as a foil to the rougher edges of oud. He has done a fine job as he dresses up the oud in bow tie and blazer before unleashing it on society. The first time I wore As Sawira I kept expecting the oud to tear the tie off and throw the jacket on the ground as it would eventually take over the final stages of development. Instead, M. Provenzano keeps it completely well-behaved allowing it to interact with sandalwood, and amber for the very end stages.
As Sawira has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage. One of the least projecting oud fragrances I have tried.
When a perfumer undertakes the effort to modulate the effect oud has in a perfume very often it leads to one of the better oud creations. In As Sawira M. Provenzano has done an excellent job of making oud behave like a gentleman and the perfume is much the better for it.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.