If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that my personal nemesis is Montale, the French niche perfume house known primarily for their panoply of agarwood fragrances. Whenever I wear one, I feel like Sisyphus crashing down the mountain after a Herculean struggle. In fact, Aoud Lime will forever remain my kryptonite, a scent of Chernobyl proportions that astronauts in space could detect from a mere drop and which riot police really should consider using for crowd control.
Today, however, I felt that hope may not be lost and that Montale may, eventually, perhaps, win me over. It’s all thanks to Aoud Safran which took me much further up that Sisyphean mountain, though its simple linearity failed to create true love.
Montale describes the perfume as follows:
An exceptional combination of three materials with powerful spiritual impact: the Red Gold – the Saffron – the mystical Aoud and the Roses from Arabia for a highly sensual fragrance.
The notes are as simple as that: saffron, Arabian rose and agarwood/oud. Now, saffron is one of my absolute favorite ingredients, but that is no guarantee that I’ll like a fragrance, especially if it involves Montale’s typical take on agarwood. So, I fearfully put on a few drops — far below what I usually apply — and waited to be blown to outer space by Montale’s usual, ferocious, and feral potency.
Instead, I was overwhelmed by a stunningly beautiful, warm, buttery, red saffron. It was so good that I overcame my fear, and put some on the other arm as well. (I know, it’s truly quite shocking!) The saffron was followed by a brief instance of sharp alcohol of the rubbing variety, but it vanished in few seconds. On its heels was sweet, red rose upon a backdrop of subtle oud. The rose note was rich, beefy and as fleshily red as a hunk of rare sirloin. It helped to really sweeten the agarwood which was surprisingly mild — both by the standards of an oud fragrance and for a Montale oud in particular. Even more surprising, the agarwood was not even remotely medicinal, camphorous, bitter or plastic-y like pink bandaids.
There is a great warmth to the fragrance, unlike some of the colder, stonier or screeching treatments of oud in the Montale fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. I don’t even think it’s because of how the other ingredients sweeten the agarwood; I think it’s because the oud is a completely different beast than it was in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom. It seems almost more like a regular woody note than actual agarwood. In fact, I wondered if it was really agarwood at all; that’s how shockingly different it is. As time progresses, the oud takes on a distinctly peppery note, as if slathered under heaps of crushed black pepper, but that fades away after twenty minutes, too. All that’s left as time progresses is a very faint impression of some amorphous “wood” note.
The agarwood is never the star of this show. At first, it is the saffron which is simply stunning and very heady, singing its aria of warm nutty sweetness. The rose note is there, but it shyly waits outside the limelight. After an hour, however, it joins center stage and joins with the saffron in a lovely duet. Eventually, about three hours in, all that is left is the rose who stays to sing a solo for another three hours. And that’s about it. The perfume never progresses in any way beyond that simple duality and linearity.
With the exception of the linearity, Aoud Safran does not seem like any of the other Montale perfumes that I’ve tried thus far. It’s not only the peculiarly muted, emasculated and de-fanged nature of the agarwood (though that is pretty striking as compared to the way it manifested itself in Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossom). No, it’s also the fact that Aoud Safran is both quiet and somewhat rich smelling. There is nothing remotely synthetic, chemical, astringent, abrasive or antiseptic about the scent; and it smells as though expensive ingredients were used.
Furthermore, the potency and sillage are almost demure by the standards of the feral Montales I’ve tried thus far. Aoud Safran had good-to-moderate projection for the first forty minutes; you could smell it maybe from a foot and a half away. After that, however, it dropped dramatically. By the end of the second hour, the scent barely hovered over the skin. By the end of the third, you actually had to put your nose on your arm to smell it. After six hours, all lingering traces were gone entirely. Again, relative to the Montales I’ve tried, that is quite a volte-face.
All in all, Aoud Safran was a pretty, uncomplicated, simple saffron and rose scent. However, those seeking a real agarwood or agarwood-heavy perfume may be disappointed. On the other hand, those who have some problems with agarwood but who love saffron and rose may find Aoud Safran to be ideal.
Unfortunately, there are a plethora of fragrances on the market with saffron, rose, oud, or some combination thereof. Many of those perfumes have a lot greater depth or complexity to them than Aoud Safran. Personally, I would recommend the stunning, spectacular Trayee by Neela Vermeire Créations if you wanted a mesmerizing scent whose notes include hefty doses of all three ingredients (but with many others as well). Its range, kaleidoscopic nature and richness render it far more than a mere, simple saffron, rose and oud scent. Plus, it lasts for an astonishingly long period of time.
Nonetheless, Aoud Safran is a very approachable fragrance. And it helped Sisyphus climb just a little bit higher up the Montale mountain…
If I were in a store and Montale was the last brand I haven’t tried I might have given it a swirl. Otherwise I pass.
Heh. Your comment had the feel of: “If I were stranded on a desert island and Montale was the last perfume on earth” …. *grin*
I know the look of the bottle is a huge problem for you, Undina. For many others too. 🙂
And the agarwood! I hated Black Oud before I saw any bottles or pictures of them: none of the stores around carries that line, so I wasn’t influenced by esthetics – pure juice from a test vial. But, of course, bottles do not help 😉
It sounds nice. I told you that you’ll find something more for you on Montale counter. White Aoud is the one that you’ll probably like too.
Well, we’re not up that mountain yet, Lucas. But, perhaps, one day…. 🙂
Sure, take little steps 😉
I like the bottle for its authenticity. It looks like a raw ingredient bottle at a perfumery rather than something prettified.
You have a point, Jordan! I hadn’t thought of it that way before. 🙂 xoxo
We have such different chemical reactions to the Montale range. I don’t find them especially glaring or to have such incredible staying power.
Have you tried Sandflowers? It is an extraordinary Montale.
No, I haven’t tried it but I know you love it, so I’ve kept it in mind. Is it one of the Aouds? Because my main issue is with those ones. Have you tried Aoud Lime? I’m not the only one to have had really extreme reactions to it. Mr. Hound hated it and another blogger said it was a scent that would traumatise a serial killer. Others who have sniffed it were horrified too. I’d LOVE to know what you thought of that one, so if you ever get the chance to sniff it, please do and then let me know. I’ll make you a milkman’s bet that you won’t be a fan. 😉 And, please, feel free to call me Kafka. 🙂
Yep, I tried Oudh lime and loved it. It was a good stayer and kept itself inteteresting and wearable on me. Funny isn’t it.
Not so much oudh in Sandflowers for me, if any. I had a strange dream about Sandflowers last night, someone had opened my new bottle packaging and used it all up without asking me. In the dream I was stomping around the house like a giant.
I think it must be all down to chemistry how we are affected.
Good heavens, Portia, I bow down in utter awe before your skin! I mean that quite sincerely. I think I shall call you Wonder Woman from now on. 😀 XOXO
p.s.- Terrible dream!!! Presumptious perfume thieves stealing our favorites? More like a nightmare than a dream!
p.p.s – I will definitely put Sandflowers on my list of things to get a sample of.
HA HA HA!! Everyone has different reactions, I may have a bout of Industrial Nose Deafness too.
Tell me when you try Sandflowers, I can’t wait to read what you thought. The have samples at Posh Peasant.
Very interesting! You are brave indeed to try another Montale after your earlier experiences that were so disastrous. Bravo for giving it a go. This even sounds like something for me to test drive. Though I have to say to me the bottle is not attractive but rather reminds me of a fire extinguisher.
I thought that too, about the bottle. Fire extinguisher or fire hydrant. After Jordan’s words, however, I see it sometimes as an old-fashioned apothecary bottle, especially when it’s brown like this one. Either way, it’s not a perfume that I personally would be tempted to spend $160 on, but at least it didn’t kill me. 😉
I’ve been a bit distracted and out of the loop here lately but when I glanced and saw you tried another Montale I just had to stop and read. Wow, it was almost like! That’s impressive. I’m sure there’s going to be at least one you like in the line because they have what seems like a hundred scents. I still have not tried the lime one but when I do you’ll be the first to know.
I’ve missed seeing you, Poodle! I hope you’re all right, sweetie.
Yes, I tested another Montale; I’m clearly either a glutton for punishment, extremely obstinate, or both. LOL! And to almost like it — that was certainly unexpected! I can’t wait for you to sniff Aoud Lime one of these days. I’ll see if my friend can send back my sample and then maybe I can forward it onto you. A mere drop felled him and he ended up having to take a shower after just an hour or two, so I’m sure there is more than enough left in the vial to work its … er… magic…. on you. 😉 xoxox
Trying get back on track but it’s not working. I’ve got sick and stubborn elderly parents, one of the dogs has been sick and it looks like she’s got some problems that will be ongoing (possible Cushing’s), and I think I really need to get myself to the doctor as well.
I would hate to deprive your friend of the magic of Aoud Lime. 😉
Sweetpea, I can relate far, far more than you can know — to all of it. Please know, I’m just an email away. (It’s in the About Me section). If you ever want to vent, or if it’s just late at night and there is no-one to speak to about something, do not hesitate to write to me. I’m usually up and I would be honoured to listen, even if it’s only about one of the pups. My prior baby, Kafka, had Lupus with Cushing’s always being a fear and dread, but the Lupus alone was a nightmare to deal with and incredibly stressful. Venting was one of the few ways I could get through it, so please know that I’m not just being polite. I’m truly here for you if you ever want to talk. A very, very big hug, my dear. And a huge belly rub for the furry one.
Oh, Montale. Sigh. I haven’t had much luck with the line but then again, I haven’t tried that hard either. Maybe I’m being shallow, but the spray can bottle turns me off. I read some other blogger who had a friend call it Fancy Axe. Now it’s all I can think of when I see it!
That being said, I thought Red Aoud was really interesting. It’s not for me, but it was definitely not like anything else that I have smelled, and I would rather have that than be bored!
“Fancy Axe”? Oh dear. I fear that image may stay with me too. I’m intrigued by your comment about Red Aoud. What made it so interesting?
I know. The minute I read that I knew that “Fancy Axe” would totally stick in my mind. Doesn’t help that the colors are similar too 🙁
What made Red Aoud interesting? For me it was the combination of red peppers, saffron, and spices on top of that Montale aoud. I don’t remember anything floral about it, I just remember that it smelled really different. Given all the rose ouds out there, something different as a pairing always sticks out!
Red peppers as in red chili peppers or actual bell peppers??? If the latter, then I don’t know. I’m still a little traumatized over Jean-Claude Ellena’s bell peppers in the Hermessence Paprika Basil. Living in Texas, it’s not exactly positive to feel a bit like the side dishes to a fajita mixed with heavily peppered woods. At least, not for the prices Hermes is asking for that line….. But I do have a passionate weakness for saffron, so saffron & spices? I will definitely put Red Aoud on my Montale list, next to Portia’s Sandflowers. After all, nothing could possibly be worse than Aoud Lime. Nothing. (EVER!) *shiver*
Red bell pepper? Thankfully no! Like crushed red pepper flakes to me. You know, that kind of toasted, chocolatey, leathery kind of pepper?
Phew!! Then Red Aoud definitely goes on the list. The sort of red chili pepper you’re describing is one reason why I loved Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis so much. Mmmmm, Anima Dulcis…… If you haven’t tried that one, BaconBiscuit, I highly urge you to hunt down a sample or find it in stores to give it a sniff. If I could have, my entire review would have consisted of: Wow, Mmmmmmm, yum, Mmmmm…. WOW! 😀
I love Anima Dulcis! When I was at the Elements Show, they told me it is incredible in the summer (I have been reserving it for a winter-only scent). But now I am intrigued! When have you worn it?
Do seek out Red Aoud. It is definitely different. In a good way.
I only tried Anima Dulcis a short while ago. You can read my assessment of it here, if you’re interested: http://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/perfume-review-arquiste-anima-dulcis-conquistadors-convents-chocolate/ However, given that the weather down here is hardly that faced by NYers, I’d say it was almost Spring-time by your standards when I wore it. It was gorgeous and something I’d wear in summer too! Given the climate here, I don’t really have the choice to let the seasons affect my decisions when it comes to perfumes. That’s probably just as well, since I go by mood when picking things out. I DEFINITELY want a full bottle of Anima Dulcis. Such an amazing scent! I know NY summers are hot and sticky (I used to live in NY) but I think the dryness and smoke of Anima Dulcis would make it superb in summer as well. In fact, I suspect the smoke and spices would come out even more, making even less gourmand that it already is.
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