What does the sun smell like?
Apparently, of oud. And spices. And also of an intoxicating tonka bean and tolu blend, at least according to Memo, that names their oud-centric perfume Shams, the Arabic word for sun . I'll take it. I'll take anything that smells this good.
I first learned about Memo when I stumbled upon their (now closed) freestanding Paris boutique in 2008. When I went back last fall I already knew that another bottle was going to come home with me, I just wasn't sure which one. Memo perfumes (and candles) are now sold at Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche (and at Harvey Nichols in London, if you're lucky enough to be in the area), so it's easy to locate them, especially since the brand's display in black, white and gold is gorgeous. I could have easily picked several of the fragrances, but the one that left me week in the knees this time was Shams, though I wasn't sure if I loved it more on myself or on the husband.
As Victoria from EauMG asserted, Shams is not your Montale-type of oud. Not only is it not medicinal, but thankfully it's also not rosy, which delight me to no end. shams is full-bodied and spicy. The saffron in the opening nudges it a little towards the gourmand zone, but it never fully gets there, despite being decidedly sweet (on me distinctly more than on my husband, so your mileage is likely to vary). The spicy top is also a bit boozy, though that might also be a matter of skin chemistry, as Shams is pretty dry on The Blond's skin.
As Shams progresses it gets warmer and very ambery. I could swear there's a little tobacco somewhere in the mix, but it's not listed, so maybe it's a phantom note as I often associate these type of fragrance with hay or tobacco. The oud becomes more prominent, and it smells wonderfully luxurious and delicious, like something that belongs in By Kilian's Arabian Nights series. I fully agree with Victoria that fans of Kilian's Pure Oud and Amber Oud should give this one a try.
Shams is lavish to the point of smelling bigger than life. It's strong and assertive with a sillage that knocks down city walls. Victoria recommends to stick with one spray (guaranteed to survive 24 hours), but I admit to having no restraint and no shame, so I double that (and have also experimented to see what happens when you wear three spritzes: people will stare. And point). Two sprays will envelop you in an impenetrable bubble and transform you to foreign lands. It's almost narcotic or perhaps meditative in the way it takes over the mind (and the room, and perhaps also the solar system). It leaves little space to anything (and anyone) else. How could I not love it?
Notes: pepper essence, ginger, saffron, vetiver, Russian paper, tonka bean, birch essence, tolu absolute, styrax absolute, oud
Shams by Memo (69.00€ for 1 oz) is available in select European locations and from mymemo.com. In the US, you can buy samples from The Perfumed Court.