Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Cuir d’Arabie

I always try to be fair. In fact, I’m a bit obsessive about giving things second and, sometimes, third or fourth chances. (I think it’s my Libra side.) So, I decided to give the high-end French niche house of Montale one final chance.

If you’ve read any of my prior posts, you will know that Montale is my kryptonite, a perfume house that consistently brings me to my knees — and not in a good way. At various times, I’ve described Montale fragrances as: “horrific,” or “Chernobyl” on my arm, and Lime Oud, in specific, as something warranting a “Silkwood Shower,” an extreme measure normally suited for cases of radioactive contamination that will lead to inevitable death.

Montale aoudcuirdarabie-fragranticaBut, my Libra side is hard to ignore so, a few weeks ago, I ordered Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. I did so even before a fellow perfume blogger, Scent Bound, suggested it, but when he recently warned me that it would take a few tries because “it is the smell of a raw skinned animal,” I paled. No, really, I actually paled when I read that. So, last night, I put on Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, fully expecting to end up huddled in a foetal position in the corner, sobbing and crying “Mommy!”

The fourth time is the charm? I’m shocked — truly and genuinely shocked — to say that it wasn’t bad. In fact, I think I may have liked it?

The Hairy German.

The Hairy German.

Now, I should confess right at the start that, soon after I put it on, The Hairy German jolted my arm and almost all of my sample vial ended up on my sheets. So, I didn’t have enough to try it out for 2-3 days to see if Scent Bound was right and I’d end up liking it, but I certainly had enough to know that it was very different from my prior experiences with Montale.

I started by putting on (cautiously and with great fear) 1 small dab on each wrist. Normally, I put 3-4 on each arm, but this is Montale! It is a line where prior experiences have shown that a miniscule tiny drop on your finger can last through numberous, frantic, desperate washings, through Lady Macbeth-like pleas to “out, damn spot, OUT!” and through hysterical fear that you will never, ever (ever!) be free of Montale. You see, all three of my prior experiences with Montale followed that exact same path, and I am a woman upon whom almost nothing lasts. But Montale is a whole other story; it is nuclear stuff and you can’t escape it. A single drop can drag you by the hair, caveman style, and clobber you like a T-Rex. And it’s not just Montale’s Aoud line, either, as I tried one that wasn’t. (Oriental Flowers.)

But Montale has as many as 27 different oud fragrances, and this one definitely strays from that horrific, nuclear path. I put on that initial dab on each wrist, waited to be brutalised, but soon realised I was still alive and unharmed. So, I put on some more. Yes, I actually did. Me! Montale!!! I put on 2 more dabs on each arm, and still I lived to tell the tale.

Aoud Cuir d’Arabie isn’t a hugely complicated scent. According to the notes on Fragrantica, it consists merely of: tobacco, leather, birch and oud. Birch is an element whose extract, tar or oil has often been used in treating leather, as an antiseptic in medicine, and to treat eczema or psoriasis. Here, in Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, it creates an immediate impression of the pink rubber in Bandaids. It is medicinal. But so is the initial smell of oud, and the two together create a rather singular, linear note. There is leather — black and cold, almost raw and feral, but never (on me) painfully fecal like horse manure, the way it was in Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie.

Finally, there is an oddly soft floral note that almost evokes rose and hovers as faint as a ghost in the background. I must be hallucinating it from the pinkness of the rubber bandages because rose is the furthest thing from the notes listed anywhere, though I smelled a rose note in both the prior Montale ouds that I tried. I later learn that, according to the Perfume Niche, the rose note is a signature to Montale’s aoud fragrances.

Aoud Cuir d’Arabie is a cold, cold, cold scent. I smell cold leather and cold, stone fireplaces. There is smoke, but it is not the warm smell of tobacco. Rather, it is the smell of burnt paper. I imagine a giant, cold, stone hearth where there is a lingering trace of burnt papers. It is not acrid, and it is nothing like the smell of burning that one finds in incense, but it adds an interesting note to the leather and birch. I am reminded of By Kilian‘s Pure Oud which has similar cold notes of smoke, stone and pure leather. I liked it then, and I like it now.

That is about the sum total of my experience with Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. I find little else because — on me, as with all the prior Montales — it is an incredibly linear scent. It doesn’t morph or vary, and it never turns into something hugely animalistic or rich with sweet tobacco. On the other hand, it is also nothing as extreme as the experiences noted on Basenotes where the scent is described with something approaching fascinated horror or bewildered love. Some of the comments:

  • A hospital janitor using bleach to clean puke off the floor. Oh, and an animals corpse by the roadside rotting in the hot summer sun. Why do I love this?
  • Limberger cheese. Vomit. Dry down did improve to leather, but what a nasty start!
  • This is a difficult fragrance. When I first applied it, the fecal/animal note was a turn-off. Luckily, after dry-down plus 15 min. that lessened, and the Oud and Leather predominated. It’s projection is great, and longevity is excellent. I wouldn’t EVER blind buy this, you must try it first. I enjoy it after the fecal smell dissipates, and own a large sample spritzer of this. I can’t apply it unless I have 15min. to let it dry-down before I have contact with anyone.
  • The first thing you get when you apply this is a very barnyard, fecal note, I’m not sure if this is caused by cambodian oud or a very animalic leather. But once you pass that stage the whole composition gets softer and a toned down version of the classic rose oud Montale combo emerges. I also get a pipe tobacco smell together with the leather in this stage that is very interesting. While it evolves the composition becomes very resinous, leathery and animalic, it gets very close to the skin becoming a skin scent, and when you think the scent is gone, you suddenly get a waft of it trough the air. Just marvelous!
  • it wreaks its dirty havoc all around me. The thick, pungent, hot leather of this fragrance, further pronounced by the Oud, is a leather reminiscent of an attire which has clearly been used repeatedly for numerous socially unconventional sexual acts and yet has never been cleaned once. It is almost verging on repulsive. Nevertheless, when I wear this, there is some aspect of this which gives me the greatest pleasure. […] Perhaps this says more about me than of the fragrance itself, but at least in my opinion, it resembles an almost forbidden indulgence of monarchial proportion.

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies also loves this passionately. (You can read her review for Perfume Posse here.) As did the Perfume Niche who wrote:

It opens with an animalic note of sweaty, worn leather combined with a medical hit of oud. Pungent, rugged and raunchy. A note of tobacco adds richness, Soon Montale’s signature rose note appears and adds a gentle floral presence. As it dries down, the leather becomes more refined; the oud softens, becomes warmer and more resinous. Together they combine to create a sexy sensuous intimate scent that stays close to the skin.

I certainly liked it enough to want to give it a further, detailed review over the course of a few days. That said, I have to confess, I frequently wonder if I’m confusing enormous relief (at surviving a Montale without being clobbered with ghastly, nuclear strength horror) with actual liking. I think relief may be a huge factor here, particularly as I did find the scent to be very linear. But, I’m a Libra and I like to give things chances, so I will buy another sample of Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. If things change, if multiple tries end up revealing far greater complexity, or if I fall for it without question, I will be sure to update this review.


If you’re interested in trying out Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, you can get a sample on Surrender to Chance where the smallest vial starts at $3.99. If you are intrigued enough to want to buy it outright, it is available at Lucky Scent where it costs $110 for a 1.7 oz/ 50 ml bottle, $160 for a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle, and $4 for a sample. And, of course, you can purchase it directly from Montale on its website where it costs 80€ for a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle.

35 thoughts on “Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Cuir d’Arabie

    • Heh, I hate their bottles too and it’s an admittedly shallow reason why I haven’t bothered to try any of their offerings yet. But it’s profoundly ugly to me.

      • I read something recently from someone highly respected about how Montale and Fracas bottles were the epitome and ideal for perfume bottles. Ah, yes, it was Chandler Burr. He said those 2 brands had the best bottles for maintaining the life of a perfume because they were dark, opaque and shielded the scent from damaging light and heat.

        But, yes, Lanier is right: they look like fire-extinguishers. Personally, I think it’s kinda cool in an ultra-modern, minimalistic way but not so much as a perfume bottle, per se. I would never want to show that off on my dresser!

        • That’s interesting, but it does make sense. I really like Tom Ford’s Private Blend bottles, which I think probably achieve a similar effect being very dark glass. They are probably my favorite bottles, stylistically. Well, TF or the Chanel bottles from the Exclusifs. They are very simple, but there’s something I find so beautiful about them. Although there’s probably an underlying psychological thing going on where I like them not because they are simple and elegant, but because I love what’s in them, and I extend my love to the bottles as well.

  1. Nice review Kafkaesque! I haven’t explored Montale much, I tried few scents like Black Aoud (lovely) and White Aoud (so fluffy) and I also tried Aoud Ever (citrus and flowers)

    I’m rather sceptic in terms of leather perfume. I love Cuir de Russie and Cuir Ottoman, they’re very acceptable for me, but other leathers are usually not my style.

    • Montale makes a scent that you would actually describe as “fluffy”? Montale??!?!!! Good heavens, Lucas, either you are like teflon and also incredibly brave, or Montale completely departed from the style of the ouds that I have tried. 😀 Hmm…. White Aoud, I shall definitely look into that one. It would be nice to have one Montale that wasn’t a completely painful or indescribably odd experience. Are you really sure you’d call it FLUFFY???!! Did you review it? If so, do you have a link because I’d love to read about a Montale that is as soft and tame as a fluffy bunny rabbit. LOL! ;D

      • I didn’t review it sir but there’s no mistake I would call White Aoud a fluffy scent.
        It’s described as a feminine scent but I find it unisex. Definitely try it. That Aoud Ever I mentioned is also not a beast at all.

        • I’m very intrigued now. Very. You will have to read my reviews of the 3 prior Montales I’ve tried and then you can see why my experiences have been so different. LOL. BTW, I’m a female but, in any event, no Sir or Ma’am would ever be needed. You can call me Kafka if you’d like. 😀

          • You definitely need to grab w White Aoud sample from STC ;).
            I will look into your Montale reviews a little bit later.
            Sorry, that cute dog in your picture mislead me. I use sir only from sympathy.

  2. If they last that long this is a line I need to sample. I don’t want to smell like road kill though so perhaps I should avoid their ouds.

    • Are you another one whose body voraciously consumes even the strongest and most potent perfumes?

      On me, Aoud Cuir d’Arabie definitely didn’t smell of road kill. And the prior Aouds (Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom) certainly didn’t. They were… *shudder* just synthetic chemical explosions of incredibly screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeechy magnitude, over a linear note of lime, roses and medicinal horror. The non-Aoud, Oriental Flowers, was almost as bad. Just recalling those 3 makes me shiver. But Lime Aoud… sweet God above, it was the worst thing I have EVER smelled in my life. And I couldn’t get rid of it, even after a shower. I had to wash my clothes. And I could still smell traces of it. The horror of my two attempts to try that perfume… I truly can’t even begin to convey it properly.

      • I *so* want to try Lime Oud because of how horrible you say it is! Thank god I’m not a cat, curiosity would have killed me by now!

        • I’ll send it to you next week. Seriously. That and the 2 other ones. (I’ve lost the caption/envelop/thingy for either the Aoud Blossom or the Oriental Flowers, but I think I’ve sorted it out based on the quantity left in one and have marked it as such as the non-Aoud one. The Aoud Blossom is almost untouched and the Lime Aoud…. there is more than enough to result in high level toxiciy. *shudder*) I’ll seriously send it to you next week. I want to spread the anguish…. 😉

          I would be happy to toss in what I have left of the 4 By Kilian Arabian Nights ouds but those vials were only like 1/2 full to begin with and most have just enough for a dab, so it is probably not worth it to you. But I am *SO* sending you the Montales! I’ll wait until I get the decant sample stuff sent to me so that I can send you my beloved Elixir de Merveilles too. I can’t think of anything else that I have that may be up your alley but, if you can think of anything, let me know!

          • Thanks! You really don’t have to if it’s a burden, but of course I will try anything and everything. It goes without saying [Sidenote: “Well now I’m saying it!” [/The Birdcage] ], I SO appreciate your generosity! It’s always such a fun experience, even when I don’t love the scent!

          • Pffffffffffffffffftttttttttttttt! This from the man who has already sent me a package that (hopefully) I’ll receive today. Don’t be silly, cheri. Besides, I’m thrilled to be able to reciprocate almost as much as I’m thrilled to extend the torture of Montale to the rest of the world. But really, it’s that last part that is giving me great glee….. *grin*

            Gosh, it’s been AGES since we quoted the Birdcage! I need to see if I can ever incorporate references to it in one of my reviews but somehow, “WhateMALen heat,” crucifixes for martyrs, and horses fleeing burning barns are things that don’t come up often in perfume….

      • I have skin that devours most scents. I routinely spritz most scents at least 8 times in the morning and there’s only a handful my husband can notice on me shortly after spraying. Granted I do have a few that I can go lighter with but not many. I’m totally intrigued by Lime Aoud now too. Your intense dislike made me laugh. Montale, here I come…

          • Thank you, Poodle. He is my hairy son. 🙂 I am utterly obsessed with German shepherds but he is the hairiest one I have ever had. Friends and vets all call him Mr. Personality and he really is a source of pure joy. I love your avatar with your furry one, too. I hope to hear more about him or her one of these days. *hugs*

        • Well, Montale is definitely a scent that can overcome even our sort of skin, Poodle. It is well-known to be extraordinary in its longevity, regardless of a person’s skin chemistry. I laughed at how my loathing for Lime Aoud has now made you totally intrigued by it. It’s happened before. LOL. But, you know, I’m not the only one who hated it. Scent Hound and Freddie did too, though neither had quite as bad or horrific an experience with it as I did. You will definitely have to let me know what you think of it after you try it. I’m dying of curiosity now to see if you will survive it…… 😀

  3. LOL… I love the hairy German comment. Other than that, I’ll pass. Montale does not work for me as well…nor do cold scents. I need fragrance to comfort, not repel. Thanks S!

    • Perhaps you need a Hairy German in addition to your hubby and your comforting amber scents?? He is my ultimate comfort and source of warmth. LOL. Poodle is totally intrigued now by my hatred for Montale. I cannot wait to see what her reaction to the line will be, since man or woman, it can fell you in a single drop.. *grin* I was truly shocked to survive this Cuir d’Arabie version. And Lucas tells me one of the line is actually “Fluffy”…!!! My unfortunate Libra side, combined with curiosity, requires me to investigate further. I think I may have some masochistic tendencies…. 😉

  4. I’m glad you were patient with this one. It’s a hard fragrance to wear. I find it addictive after a few wears but its versatility is so limited that it is almost not worth it to get a full bottle.

    I am not sure if this is still in production. Allegedly, Montale has sort of disintegrated. Rumour has it the partners have split and are now doing things on their own. So, not sure if any of their fragrances will be around much longer. Great review.

    • Really interesting stuff about Montale. It seems to be a house around which a LOT of rumours swirl. I came across something a few days ago which argued that there actually was no Pierre Montale and that it was all a myth, a front for some other chap entirely whose name was on some business or entity papers and who lived in the UAE. They argued “Pierre Montale” was so invisible as to be just a name, not a real person. And, they said, numerous threads and sites were discussing the house and its never-seen founder. The blog owner had done quite a bit of detective work, in fact. However, someone called Suzan then replied that she’d met him in Paris at the shop and gave a description.

      It all seemed very dramatic and I really hate drama, so I didn’t look into it further. Now, based on what you’re saying, it seems that there are two partners (at the very least). It’s sad that they seem to have split because there seem to be quite a few fans for the line. For the moment, at least, the website is up and still selling everything, including the Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. What else have you heard about the potential, rumoured demise of Montale?

      • I haven’t heard the story about Pierre Montale not being a real person. I’m not sure why they would make up Pierre Montale. If it is for the cache of the French name, they can always hire a French perfumer to develop their stuff and promote their name.
        I heard the UAE guy and Montale were partners and they simply had different views of where the business should go. The UAE partner wanted to grow the line by releasing new fragrances every other month, while Montale apparently wanted a more tempered approach.

        A separate rumour has it that as the line became really popular, quite a few counterfeit products came to market. As a result they decided to kill it and start a new line called Tanelli.
        None of these rumours make any business sense to me. The truth may have to do with running out of money and lack of profits but then this is so unexciting that it won’t catch anyone’s attention. 🙂

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  7. I find it funny that so many on Basenotes compare this delicious scent to dead animals and poo. It does make you wonder if these people are shut ins who live in some sort of biosphere where they only inhale air enhanced with floral notes. Montale’s Aoud cuir d’ arabie is actually quite a scent, which to me does not come of as “pink band aid” as some claim, but rather a somewhat boozy aoud/leather opening, which dies down into a very manly scent. If anything, it evokes images of riding a fine Arabian stallion, but not because it smells like a stable. This is the smell of a strong man entering a tent to visit his harem….

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  14. This reminded me a lot of Christian Diors Leather Oud once it settles down…it maintains what reminds me of a refined horse stable smell…it’s clean but has a hint of a horse stable, I don’t find it as offensive as most people…tried it in the duty free before a flight and kept visiting the scent on my arm throughout the day…. For me it is a difficult scent to wear as I believe it is a very acquired taste…I think it’s splendid but my wife hates it so I will leave it at that 🙂

    I don’t get the pink bandaid thing, didn’t get any of that…

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