Those who keep track of such facts know that 2009 was the year everyone was doing oud perfumes. The previous year, if I'm not mistaken, was all about iris. Or was it violet? Does it even matter? As you can tell, I don't really care. Some perfumes and trends go away and disappear, others are here to stay (at least until the demon of reformulation steals their souls). While By Kilian was definitely not the first one to do an oud perfume (Montale was there long before Kilian Hennessey launched his line), his vision as composed and executed by Calice Becker has a good chance to stand the test of time.
The opening of Pure Oud is very sharp and overdoing it is not entirely pleasant, though to me it's one of those beautiful-ugly moments. It's medicinal, bitter and a little like avant-garde jazz for the first 20-30 minutes (a couple of hours, if you ask the Blond). Once things settle and the other notes take their seats, I get smoky leather, labdanum and myrrh. Pure Oud becomes smooth and velvety. It's actually mostly a skin scent on me, intimate and discreet. The unisex quality of oud and leather lends the fragrance an intriguing aura- like an item borrowed from a lover's closet before the relationship is out in the open.
As someone who wears and enjoys many masculine and genderless perfumes I especially like the little twist in Pure Oud. It's not loud enough to declare itself, and once someone is close enough to get a good whiff there's even more mystery as to what exactly they're smelling. It's just dirty enough to make one curious without really raising eyebrows.
Pure Oud ($395, 50ml) and the rest of the By Kilian line (the perfumes not in the Arabian Nights Collection also come in much more affordable travel size) can be found at Aedes, Luckyscent, MiN New York and Bergdorf Goodman. I got my sample at a press event.
Photo of Josephine Baker from the ultra-fabulous Stirred, Straight Up, With A Twist.