Le Labo Oud 27: West of Oud

Le Labo Oud 27One 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

Le Labo Oud 27

Notes from my nose: halitosis, fur, oud, cypress, overripe peach, leather

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MemoryOfScent by Christos Karageorgos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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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.

22 comments

  1. I’m only familiar with Iris 39 which I simply adore. I think I would be unable to wear Oud 27 easity. I don’t fancy oud really and I don’t like wearing loud, easily noticeable perfume so I think it’s not something made for me. Le Labo are not available here but I will give it a try if I ever get the chance

  2. Give me an slightly sweaty, animalic oud and I am on board! A wonderful review indeed!

  3. ginzaintherain

    I loathe this but love your review. I was just writing somewhere about ‘Cat People’ and then clicked on this and it all just fell into place..panthers…leather..

  4. Really lovely write up Christos. I don’t think I ever found Oud 27 scary – just, a little “curdled” which turned my stomach a bit. I think it’s pretty instantly warm and welcoming, but the “breath” and “fever” references are PERFECT. It smells like someone who has fever and has been bedridden for a few days, you know when someone’s really poorly becuase they smell a little gross :’)
    Unfortunately Oud 27 turns very vanilla heavy on my skin after just an hour or so and falls flat in comparison to the brilliant opening so on my skin it doens’t work that well. I did however smell it on someone in town the other day (at least I hope to god they were wearing it!!) and it was beautiful. I like to be around it, and to smell it, but not on me :)
    Your description is perfect.

    • OK this is really strange… There is no vanilla in sight on my skin. In fact this smells really butch and un-vanillic in a very old fashioned way. You make me really curious about smelling this on more people. Maybe I’ll set out and start spraying unsuspecting strangers :)

      • Really? It goes really sweet on me, like a thick cream – but yes, also old fashioned and slightly powdery in a similar way Patchouli 24 does.
        I’ll be sure to keep trying it though becuase I really WANT to like Oud 27 – and I do, but not enough yet. Yes go spray random people! :D

  5. I will volunteer for a spraying :) this is one incredible review and I will definitely put this at the top of my sample list when I next visit New York.

  6. I have the same response as ginazintherain … I really hate this scent (and once wrote that it smelled like sweat that had no place to go but the sweatshop), but I loved your review of it and learning how you find it attractive. Me, I would much rather wear a straight-up oud oil … which I quite often do. :) Sometime I’ll send you a sample to see what you think of it.

    • That would be really nice, I have never smelled real oud so my impressions are based on combining things I pick up from perfumes. Do you find it sweet? I think ta has the sweet-and-sour aspect of overripe fruit (or decaying leaves for that matter…) but I don’t get any classic sweet notes from it

      • Sweet, no – not in the classic sense of the word. But for the two oud oils that I own (and there are many different kinds of oud, with different scent profiles depending on where the tree was harvested, etc.) in their far drydown stages they present notes that smell somewhat like black tea, which I think of as being a sweet smell. I guess you could say that there is a light balsamic sweetness at this stage. The scent profile overall is quite complex and has a definite evolution on the skin. I’ll send you a sample, for sure, so you can experience it.

  7. (catching up on my reading)

    I have a sample of this perfume. I had it for more than a year now but haven’t tested. And now, after reading both your review and others’ responses, I’m a little scared. But I will give it a try. One day.

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