Scented Advent, December 8

Scented Advent, December 8

Today’s post about the SOTD from my Advent calendar will be brief, because it’s a scent I don’t like very much, and I don’t like to write a lot about scents I don’t like. It is Amber Aoud, from Roja Dove. First, I don’t much care for oud except in very small doses, and I’m tired of how omnipresent it seems to be, both as an ingredient and in the names of fragrances. Sadly, I suspect that the reason it is omnipresent and the reason I don’t like most of what I’ve encountered are the same: chemists have come up with some cheap synthetic molecules meant to imitate the real, expensive substance, which probably smells much better and more interesting.

Second, I react to Roja Dove’s fragrances much as I do to Tom Ford‘s: there are some very nice scents among them, but the hype and the prices are too much. I’ve enjoyed visiting a Roja Dove boutique in London, in the Burlington Arcade, and I’ve occasionally stopped by the counter in Neiman Marcus to test, but I’ve never been tempted to buy one of his fragrances. There are just so many other, equally (if not more) appealing, less expensive options.

But, to briefly address Amber Aoud, the first note that hits my nose is in fact “oud” that smells very chemical and synthetic to me. It smells smoky but not in a way that I enjoy; I’m sure that more sensitive noses would experience it as “burning.” It does turn into something sweeter and more pleasant, but for the life of me I can’t detect the rose it is supposed to contain as a major note, or any fig. It doesn’t smell particularly like “amber” either, or at least any of the accords I’ve learned to identify with “amber.” The full list of notes on Fragrantica is: Top notes of Bergamot, Lime and Lemon; middle notes of Rose, Fig, Ylang-Ylang and Jasmine; base notes of Agarwood (Oud), Ambergris, Saffron, Cinnamon, Birch, Civet, Orris Root, Musk, Oakmoss, Sandalwood and Patchouli. I don’t smell any of the citrus top notes at all (but this may be an older sample where they’ve evaporated). The sweetness I sense after the initial smoke may be coming from ylang-ylang, but it’s very hard to tell. As to the base notes, I smell “oud” and birch tar, and maybe a hint of the orris root.

So that’s me and Amber Aoud. Sorry to disappoint any fans — your mileage may vary! If you know and like this one, please share your thoughts in the comments. I’m looking forward to something different in tomorrow’s Advent calendar surprise! Which is one of the fun aspects of Advent calendars — a little surprise every day.

Refillable wooden Advent calendar
My fragrance Advent calendar
May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming, because the following New York Times Style Magazine article popped up in my news feed, and I got totally distracted by it! It is called The Fragrances That Changed the Field, by Aatish Taseer. It starts with a childhood memory, from India, of a first encounter with oudh, and travels a winding path from there through the “Orientalism” of fragrances in the 1970s, to the power statement fragrances of the 1980s, circling back to previous centuries and the use of florals and musks in fragrances. It includes insight from several modern perfumers.

I highly recommend this article! You’ll want to set aside a good block of time to read it. The opening paragraph:

I REMEMBER AS IF it were yesterday that distant afternoon on which I first smelled oudh. I was in my grandmother’s house in Delhi. I was 13, maybe 14. We had a family perfumer, or attarwallah, a man of some refinement, who came to us from Lucknow — a city that is a metonym for high Indo-Islamic culture. We didn’t know the attarwallah’s name, or how he knew to follow us from address to change of address. But he came without fail two or three times a year. A slim, gliding figure, with a mouth reddened from paan, or betel leaf and areca nut, the attarwallah produced his wares from carved bottles of colored glass that he carried in a black leather doctor’s bag. He showed us scents according to which season we were in. So in winter, musk and patchouli; in summer, white-flowered varieties of jasmine — of which there are some 40 odd in India — as well as rose and vetiver. In the monsoon, he brought us mitti attar, which imitates the smell of parched earth exhaling after the first rain (“mitti” means “mud” in Hindi). The perfumes came from the medieval Indian town of Kannauj, which is a 75-mile drive west of Lucknow and which, like its French counterpart, Grasse, has a tradition of perfume manufacturing several centuries old. Once he had drawn his perfume out on white cotton buds at the tips of long, thin sticks, the attarwallah lingered over his customers, telling stories of the various scents and reciting the odd romantic couplet of Urdu poetry.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, as a person interested in fragrance, I don’t know what will! Enjoy. BTW, my scent of the day today was Cristalle, and I’ll write about it tomorrow instead.

Featured image from