Montale Black Aoud: Bête Noire

Montale and this blog have a past. About a year ago, very early on the Montale controversy I wrote a post about how intriguing Pierre Montale’s person/persona was and how I liked the line and its attitude towards customers. That post has become my Nemesis as it is the one post that simply won’t die. Of all the reviews I have written, of all the personal memories I have shared in this blog, this is the one post that attracts the most readers and at a constant rate. As much as I love Montale fragrances this has put me off reviewing more for some reason. I was tired of all the futile speculation on:

  • whether Pierre Montale is the real perfumer who created these or not
  • whether Pierre Montale is a French or an Arab
  • whether Pierre Montale has been the perfumer to the Saudi Royal family or not
  • whether Pierre Montale exists or not

My intention when I wrote my post was to express my views on the company and the perfumes, not to play detective and I felt so tired of all these hot headed discussions (especially on Basenotes) about this person/persona when everybody was missing what was essential: the perfumes are still out there for everyone to wear and review. All this and the fact that it takes a lot of focus to properly review a Montale has made me postpone reviewing some of my favourites. But now I think it is time to tackle the beast.

Of all the fragrances that I have worn very few can be massive and delicate at the same time. Black Aoud has this rare intangibility to the extreme. Just a tiny spray is enough to let you enjoy a wrist wear for hours and hours through its complex development. The opening is a strong affirmation of oud. Whether this is real or synthetic I am not the most competent to say because I have never smelled real oud. The prices suggest that it isn’t natural but my nose also can tell you that this is not the abundant, sweet oud that has flooded the world of mass market perfumes (and several very expensive niche perfumes) after Montale trod the European asphalts with it. It is dry, woody, medicinal and the proverbial band-aid similarity is there, but I have to admit that I liked the smell of band-aid even before I smelled Montale. The best way I can describe it is as the smell of professional hairspray with an undertone of freshly cut wood. This is what almost all Montale ouds smell for the first half an hour or even more. In each perfume the other notes start coming through and developing an individual character. In the case of Black Aoud the first notes that I feel cutting through the oud are a jammy rose and delicate honey. What was a very dry, woody scent for the first half hour starts sweetening up and become more alive. The sweetness remains minimal and there is no way this can be classified as an oriental fragrance. As the hours pass, and I am being very accurate when I am talking about hours, the rose becomes fresher and livelier. The deep red rose jam turns into a fresh, wild, pale coloured rose. The longer I wear Black Aoud the fresher the rose becomes. It sheds the weight of the difficult medicinal note but a hint of oud is always there, as the spirit of freshness.

Black Aoud is not a fragrance one would spray hastily by the perfume counter and fully appreciate it. It is more the fragrance that haunts you when you come home after a perfume shopping spree with a handful of nameless blotters you sprayed earlier and dismissed. But then at home one of them smells like heaven and you don’t know which one of those bottles that turned you off this was. Ever had this happen to you? Well, it was Black Aoud! The transition from medicinal oriental oddity to fresh, cool, rather masculine rose is slow, dramatic and captivating. Sprayed on skin Black Aoud is a tattoo fragrance: it will stay there till after you shower. Sprayed on clothes, it will sent delicately your entire closet. And most importantly, it is one of the few fragrances that I continue to smell while I am wearing it. My nose never really get s tired of it. The others also appreciate the sillage. Of all the perfumes I own this is the only one that people notice and comment on, very favourably. Right now I am two hours into my wearing and the rose has just started to breath and radiate. Amazing stuff!

Notes from Fragrantica: rose, french labdanum, musk, patchouli, mandarin orange and agarwood (oud)

Notes from my nose: band-aid, white woods, rose jam, wild rose

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

34 comments

  1. Montale is is such an intriguing – and extensive line on its own that any of those silly discussions are, as you point out, more or less redundant. And again – they take time to appreciate! LOTS…of time! ;) Since oud is a problematic note for me, I’ve not tried this one, but your review has made me curious! Always a dangerous thing…:)

  2. Yep, I also pay no attention to drama that goes on between perfumer’s on the like – although the recent Duchaufour thing was a bit of a let down – but there we go, it got him a lot of money, who wouldn’t say yes to the offer? Anyway :)
    Nice review – bizarrely, I haven’t tried Black Aoud – but I have tried a lot from the Montale line inluding Lime Aoud and Aoud Queen Roses and the like, so I can pretty much put the two and two together ;)
    I don’t own a Montale yet but I would like to, although I find most of their compositions simply put together, if you like the oud-y opening it’s hard to deny that they are thoroughly enjoyable.

    • The transition from pure oud to warm rose in this one is impressive.

      The Duchaufourd story is very sad. I am sure he could have a lot of money coming his way from other projects that wouldn’t involve oppressive political figures.

      • Well, I trust your nose a lot from reading your blog so thoroughly – I’ll be sure to give this one a proper chance. I don’t really care about true oud and synthetic – at the end of the day if I like the smell of it then that is enough… but one factor that proves Montale’s are synthetic (along with the fact it is a very singularly recognizable scent which doesn’t really adapt beyond the high pitched medicinal scent) – is that these fragrances can start at oud and end at rose – a true oud would dominate in time and finish the fragrance with the rose sitting above it – due to it’s life on the skin. As I said though, Montale “oud” smells great so it doesn’t bother me, and this type of transition from oud>>rose is fun :D
        Be sure to grab a sample of both Oud Luban by Aftelier and Oud Caravan 3 to understand the natural oud more thoroughly. Oud Caravan 3 is a challenging portrait, whereas Oud Luban is a broad spectrum of much more wearable and utterly beautiful natural oud.

  3. I’m sooo out of the oud loop I wasn’t even aware of a Montale controversy!

  4. I have the Black Aoud sample card on my desk as my next trial. You have reviewed it so beautifully that I’m going to put it back in its envelope for a while.
    Lovely,
    Portia x

  5. Yes, Black Oud, a hounting stuff. No need to use much – a little goes a long way. Even if I only have a dabber sample it lasts for a whole day on my skin. And I also smell it on me from time to time.

    • It is unique at least in this sense. It is probably one of the cheapest niche ouds in the market so either they used an extremely well blended artificial oud base or they are extremely reasonable when it comes to determining their profit margin. Or both of course.

  6. Montale Black Aoud is dark, glorious, and one of the most beautiful rose scents I’ve ever encountered. I wouldn’t care if someone told me Jabba the Hut created it. I’m glad you decided to finally review it; your handsome description makes me want to wear some right now.

    • I must admit that the incredible beauty of this rose makes me miss the dark element in it. I even picture the rose pale yellow. And I cannot understand how someone with a pair of nostrils can smell this and not see the greatness in the composition. The “who done it” question actually adds to its charm.

  7. ginzaintherain

    Personally, if there is no character called Pierre Montale, I think I like the company even better! A bit like the whole JT Leroy ‘scandal': I wasn’t upset, I was delighted for some reason. And the Montales do stand up to inspection, even if they were ‘only’ created by a Syrian (surely more authentic in which case…)

    Two years ago I had a party in London. I was in Norwich in the morning, and thought out my perfume extremely carefully. A long, long, soapy bath with Imperial Leather soap, and strategically placed pure essential oil of patchouli. Then: a fair few (too many) sprays of Montale Aoud Rose Petals on the body, and some Aoud lime in the armpits. Clothes had been carefully washed and ironed, ready, smelling perfect.

    People on the train on the way down must have been gagging, but at the PARTY I was practically lynched: oh my god oh my god you smell amazing like Turkish delight what is that I need to get it (etc). The beginnings of the perfumes are always a bit dodgy: so sharp and medicinal, but oh the treasures that follow. It was for this reason that I have never been able to get excited about any of the other ouds that followed: I felt that it had already been done.

    Great review.

    • Thank you so much. I completely agree that if Pierre Montale does not exist this makes the line even more likeable. Mostly because the idea of using a French name as frontman who would never appear in public to promote your products is so madly vane that I have to applaude the Dali-esque ingenuity behind the plan.

      You captured my experience with Black Aoud in many ways. I realised that although I have sampled many from this line I have never sampled any other rose. It was a subconcious choice but I realise that I avoided it because I was afraid that I would get caught in a web of comparisons that would still leave my experinece with Black Aoud as the best example of rose I can wear.

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  9. Black Aoud was one of a few Montale perfumes that I tried, hated passionately and decided to stay away from the line. Probably because of that until today I haven’t heard (remembered?) about any controversy related to the brand (and now I know more than I care to! ;) ).

    My all-time most popular post, with more than twice as many views as the next most popular one, is about Coco Noir – so I think you shouldn’t complain about yours ;)

    • Don’t get me wrong, I like traffic on my blog, but the people who obsess about whether Montale has “used” them using a fake perfumer are just people who are missing the point and I do not expect htem to appreciate most of the other posts that I write.

      • (laughing) Don’t worry! Those people do not read your other posts.

        I completely understand what you mean, I just couldn’t help joking. Since your blog isn’t a commercial one, I realize that you want “quality readers.”

        • I think I prefer readers who appreciate perfume for what it is and not for the hype it generates, that’s the problem. I found that my post had become this keyhole people were peeping through to see if Pierre Montale moves.

  10. Late to the party, apologies. Sorry to be the reference in your post, and I suppose it’s unfair in one respect to those who enjoy many of the Montale scents, myself included. As I made mention, and as I echo the sentiment here, the controversy (especially the cat fight on Basenotes) perhaps is a distraction that many of the fragrances are quite good overall — like every house, it has its share of winners, losers, and those in between.

    Black Aoud is a favorite, but it’s a powerhouse and very polarizing. It lasts for hours and is complex and intriguing. I hope people take away the key point that a good fragrance is just that, regardless of the name on the bottle, the marketing hype, or even the controversy surrounding.

    Great review!

    • Andrew the Montale controversy is a strange and unpleasant story regardless of whether Pierre Montale is an agoraphobic perfumer or a marketing fiction. The point that both you and I are making is that it is our fault, bloggers and perfume consumers alike, to base our decisions and appreciation on the hype behind companies rather than on the actual perfumes themselves which are there and much more real than anything else.

  11. bety

    hi!
    i’m dying to have this perfume
    My story about it started 3 months ago. One day a lady came to my office as a client and was wearing black aoud …honestly i knew nothing about the scent i just simply asked her what the parfume was and she said me it was black aoud by montale… it was amazing, fascinating really realy different , after then, i tried to find it but i couldnt,, so pls help me how i can find it , do u know any shopping sites that i can trust ,
    i can’t wait your answers:) thanks in advance.

    • Hi Bety. Black Aoud is a stunning perfume. The best way to get it is by sending an email to Montale Parfums. You will find a contact address in their official site. You will have to give your credit card details by mail and I know this sounds a little scary but I assure you that you will not have problems giving out information this way. It sounds a little unprofessional but the people servicing the orders are very professional and they treat this information responsibly. And there is a big bonus if you order this way: when you order a 100ml bottle you will receive a 20ml bottle of any other Montale perfume that you want free of charge. This means that you will have to research their offerings a little bit more before ordering to find out what would be interesting for you. I suggest not to ask for another of the aoud line because frankly Black Aoud is probably the best. You can go for one of the rose offerings.

  12. I’m quite tempted to try Black Aoud after your review. I’ve heard a number of times that it is the best Montale. Unfortunately, Montale and I don’t seem to get along very well. Lime Aoud was….. deeply traumatic. (I’ll be polite and spare you my real thoughts on it. ;) ) And I didn’t fare so well with my other experiences, either. But you tempt me with this one. It is a lovely review. :)

    As for the controversy surrounding Pierre Montale, I’ve heard of it briefly but, I can’t stand drama, so I never investigated further. Like you, I don’t really see what it has to do with enjoying (or hating) a scent on your body, though perfume noses who deal with oppressive dictators may be a slightly different issue. In any event, someone told me recently that the Montale brand may not last much longer because of a rift between the partners. I have no clue if that’s true or not, but it might be one more twist on the whole saga.

    • Lime Aoud would be traumatic to a serial killer I am afraid… I love Black Aoud but one has to be patient with it. If you want to try it I suggest spraying it on paper and smelling it 24 hours later, so you will know what the reward of patience smells like.

  13. Eric

    Great review, Christos. I stumbled upon Montale’s “Black Aoud” while looking for “dark, mysterious” scents, although I was aware of it. I have since ordered a bottle, and I would say the price might not be considered so bad to some considering the minute amount required to last an entire day. I also like the idea that the sillage is actually enough to counter the cold winter temperatures and low humidity we suffer from here in Minnesota.
    On your comment about ordering from the Montale website, is it true that you can ask them to “bump up” the aromatic ingredients on some of the weaker (which is rare for Montale) scents? If that is so, it certainly seems to be a benefit to ordering straight from Montale.

    • Thanks Eric. I have never tried this option because I seriously do not think anyone would need such a thing. Most Montale perfumes transfer from skin onto clothes and next time you wear the same garment they are able to transfer back to skin so making this effect even more prominent would probably be a curse! I do not know the exact percentage of aromatics in regular Montale bottle but from my experience, how oily the feel on skin, how long they last, I would classify them as extrait de parfum. Quite similar to Nasomatto in that respect. I promise you, Black Aoud will stay on your skin till you shower if not longer.

      • Eric

        Oh yeah, I wasn’t really thinking about taking this option with a powerhouse like Black Aoud, but I wonder if one with a bit less “oomph” like Red Vetiver might benefit. I agree that an “enhanced” Black Aoud might last for a week and project to the neighbor’s houses;)

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