One of the joys of sharing my perfumes with a loved one is being surprised by whiffs of favourite perfumes coming form the other’s skin unexpectedly. This happened to me the other day and the wonderful aroma that filled the air was Oud 27. I hadn’t worn this in a long time and I had forgotten how beautiful this perfume is. I still remember the first time I tried this and it was a scary experience. I was going through my oud exploration phase but this was nothing like I expected. Oud 27 opens with a cacophony of acrid and sulfuric notes. What remains after the initial shock is warm sensation. This perfume has its own temperature and it is around 40 degrees Celsius: it smells like fever. Or like the breath of a wild beast howling in front of your face. Nothing can prepare you for how alive and evocative this is. There is nothing perfume-y in this opening accord, just raw ingredients and raw power.
It took me many wearings to be able to approach this without fear and awe and to be able to dissect what I smelled. To begin with, the oud used here is neither the band aid, dry version of Montale, neither the sweet, cherry kissed version of M7 and other East-meets-West compositions. It is a slightly sweaty, animalic version of oud. It smells like fur and sweat and animal power. A feline scent gazing at you with yellow feverish eyes framed by a panther’s face. Underneath everything and in the heart of the composition stands a rich woody note. It is a fresh wood, just ripped from the tree with a resinous and sweet undercurrent. After having tried Magnetic Scent’s Indigo I recognize a similar sweet-and-sour vibe that I associate with labdanum. Serge Lutens Chêne is another woody perfume that has the same overripe fruit tartness running alongside the wood vein. During the first half hour of wearing Oud 27 I can’t escape this vision of a panther running in a forest of huge trees, breaking branches with its body and ruffling the decaying leaves with its paws. The balance changes constantly shifting from sulfuric animal notes to resinous wood to tart fruitiness. A real battle takes place on your skin and the composition seems like it is never going to settle down.
Eventually though a balance is reached and there lies the big surprise: the drydown is one of the softest, most elegant and warmest scents I have ever smelled. The sweaty, animalic oud settles into a beautiful woody note with green hints of cypress. A leathery vibe develops but it is soft and enveloping, not aggressive and literal. The smell of an old loved leather jacket that has shedded the tannery smells and accumulated years of body heat and traces of masculine scents. The balance of the composition is just perfect, nothing sticks out. The fullness brings to mind perfumes from past decades like Chanel Antaeus and Jacomo Eau Cendrée. Many report a boozy note, more like whiskey than anything else. I do not get that but I have no reason to doubt them. What I find striking is that although oud is present and quite obvious nothing conjures images of the orient and this is what makes this scent so unique and so admirable. Incorporating oud in a western context proves that ingredients cannot define the trajectory of a perfume, only the imagination of the perfumer can do that. Vincent Schaller is the perfumer behind this favourite of mine and although his creations read mostly like a list of cheap, commercial scents he created a complex niche perfume with tons of personality and remarkable sillage and longevity.
Le Labo Oud 27 is one of my all time favourite scents. It showcases two characteristics that win me over: a difficult opening and a warm and enveloping drydown. In winter it can instantly conjure images of fireplaces, blankets, good booze and good company. And it is the only player in the western oud game. I am a fan!
As you can see my bottle of Le Labo Oud 27 is expired. I can tell you that nothing has changed from the first day. Although the whole “fresh until” concept may seem a bit iffy at least the date of purchase is recorded and Le Labo is the only company to my knowledge that is open about reforulations
Notes from Peredepierre: Agarwood, Aldehydes, Atlas Cedar, Incense, Patchouli, Black Pepper, Saffron, Vetyver, Gaiac, Civet, Musk, Rose Bulgare, Amber, Ambergris
Notes from my nose: halitosis, fur, oud, cypress, overripe peach, leather
MemoryOfScent by Christos Karageorgos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.