Rich spices, tobacco, coffee, dark amber, smoke, dark musks, and soft animalics dress up a spicy Borneo oud in Oud Picante, the third new release from Areej Le Doré. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for men who love both ouds and spicy orientals, and it was the fragrance that I enjoyed the most out of the new quartet.
Oud Picante is an extrait de parfum. According to its description on Areej Le Doré’s website, its two central characteristics are “the spice of life” and wild Borneo oud, which Russian Adam custom-distilled to bring out its spicy, resinous traits. The fragrance note list is:
Top notes: cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg
Heart notes: wild Borneo oud oil distilled by Russian Adam, carrot seed, spikenard, tobacco and coffee
Base notes: opoponax, Bengal sandalwood, Muhuhu [African sandalwood], costus, fossil amber and labdanum.
Oud Picante was one of those compositions where the amount of fragrance that I applied impacted which notes were highlighted, resulting in significant and noticeable differences during the opening and drydown phases. When I applied several spritzes amounting to 2 sprays from a bottle, the fragrance was more nuanced, complex, and enjoyable in its opening than when I applied a smaller amount, while the drydown was more animalic, centered on a Kouros-style costus musk. In contrast, when I applied the equivalent of one spray, or when I dabbed on a small amount instead of spraying, the opening was rawer, more smoldering, smokier, and more animalic, while the drydown was cozy ambered spiciness. I’ll describe both versions below.
With a 2-spray equivalent, Oud Picante opens on my skin with a sea of red, gold, brown, and dark visuals created by waves of spices followed by waves of oud, then a slew of dark oriental notes. The very first note to appear is cumin which smells earthy, ripe, and just a shade skanky in the sexual, crotch-like way of vintage Femme and Salome, although, I hasten to add, never to the latter’s powerful degree. The naughtiness here is merely a subtle, delicate touch.
A parade of notes follow the cumin: oud that is chocolate-y, resinous, smoky, spicy, and musky; warm cinnamon; peppery cloves; chili-like cardamom; dry, warm, gingerbread-spiced tobacco; boozy and balsamic labdanum amber; a wonderfully bitter, espresso-like coffee; honeyed opoponax (sweet myrrh); sweet-dry, softly smoked, spicy woods; and, finally, costus root. The latter has a skin-like muskiness to it, pepperiness, a quiet civet-like, urinous undertone, and an oddly buzzing quality about it. Oud Picante then takes this entire complex kaleidoscope and envelops it within a smoky, smoldering, and deeply resinous cocoon.
It’s a delightful mix of spicy, sweet, dry, smoky, earthy, and warm notes, each nicely balanced and complementing the others. The cumin adds a hint of sexual naughtiness, the costus parallels it with its subtle animalics, and both of them accentuate the muskiness of the oud. Similarly, the espresso coffee, toffee’d labdanum, and spices complement the Borneo oud’s dark chocolate and spiciness, resulting in something that reminds me of a rich Mexican chocolate molé sauce. Soft sinews of spiced, honeyed opoponax incense smoke tie everything together. They work particularly well with the toffee’d labdanum and the tobacco.
Everything is integrated seamlessly, the notes taking turns to dance with the Borneo oud that is the centerpiece and beating heart of the composition. Like supporting players in a large onstage production, each element appears, caresses the oud, then retreats to let the next one have its moment in the spotlight. One minute, it’s the coffee; the next, it’s the tobacco, boozy labdanum, smoke, sandalwood, animalic costus, or muskiness. The tobacco and spices are the biggest supporting players in the first hour; the coffee and animalic musk the smallest.
Out of the spices, the earthy cumin is the most evident on my skin, then a rather fiery, chili-like note that I assume stems from the cardamom combined with the cloves. What’s so great about the spices here, both individually and cumulatively, is that they’re rich, hot, fragrant, exotic, and… well, “spicy,” but they’re never dusty, musty, grainular, powdery, or overtly and excessively foodie/culinary in nature. Nor are they bitingly raw, aggressively pungent, evocative of a dentist’s office, or sharply medicinal. They may be rich and bold, but they also have nicely rounded edges and smoothness, the quantities are balanced, and they work harmoniously with the other notes.
Oud Picante had a different debut when I applied a small amount roughly equal to one spray from an actual bottle. There were fewer notes and it was a much simpler fragrance, perhaps because the Borneo oud was so much stronger, overshadowing everything. On top of that, the character of the oud was different: it was smokier, rawer, faintly greener, significantly muskier, more animalic, and more ferocious in feel. The spice mix was largely an amorphous, indeterminate haze with little to no individual note delineation. The tobacco was a major presence, but there was no chocolate or coffee whatsoever.
Instead, this time, the costus was a central element, amplifying the oud’s muskiness while also adding a civet-like, urinous aroma that reminded me of the costus root in vintage Kouros. It’s hardly to the same degree, but it’s the same smell. I really like vintage Kouros, but I wasn’t crazy about the odd buzzing feel to the note every time it appeared in Oud Picante, its faint pepperiness, or the scratchy feeling that it left at the back of my throat. I don’t recall experiencing any of those things in past fragrances with costus, so perhaps the root cause is something different, although that buzzing, rasping thing in Oud Picante only occurred when the urinous musk materialized. If it is the costus, the plus side is that none of its challenging olfactory characteristics appear here: its aromas of dirty unwashed scalp, greasy hair, animal fat, smelly fur, or wet dog. Not one whiff at all.
The net effect of these changes impacts both the balance of the notes and the character of the fragrance as a whole. With the smaller fragrance application, Oud Picante was a simpler fragrance that was more of an oud soliflore during its first 40-50 minutes in terms of the balance of notes, as opposed to being an oud-based oriental with a wide array of accompanying notes and nuances. The fragrance felt more butch, more masculine, and more smoldering, thanks to the significantly greater smoke, oud rawness, and quietly growling animalics. The increased smoke levels also made Oud Picante a drier, darker fragrance, perhaps because the smoke seemed to cut through the labdanum’s boozy and sweet facets.
In contrast, the version which appeared during the first 40-50 minutes with a larger scent application was more complex and less heavily or purely dominated by the oud. There were more notes to round it out, and the strength of their presence mellowed out the oud’s smolder, taming some of its bite. I’m not an “Oud Head” who loves agarwood in hardcore solo form; I’m a bit of a wuss who prefers it blended with other materials, so, to me, this version was more enjoyable. I also found it to be more interesting, due to the increased number of nuances, like the chocolate, coffee, cumin, booze, or sweet myrrh.
Ultimately, however, regardless of quantity, both versions end up in the same place. Basically, the more complex 2-spray version simplifies. It turns into a haze of smokiness, spiciness, muskiness, earthiness, resins, and tobacco, all swirling around an increasingly smoldering oud centerpiece. The process starts roughly 50 minutes in when the spices turn into a blur, wafting a simple fiery earthiness with only an occasional glimmer of something suggestive of cumin peeking out. At the same time, the coffee, labdanum, chocolate, and sweet myrrh turn into a broad umbrella of sweet-dry darkness. The oud’s muskiness and the animalic costus fuse together in similar fashion to form a generalized muskiness with only a passing undercurrent of the costus’ urinous aroma to indicate its presence. The oud’s smoke and the smoky sandalwoods do the same thing to form a wide ribbon of smokiness that circulates around everything. The tobacco is the one note that remains individually clear and distinct on my skin, but even that ends up being subsumed within the oud at the 90-minute mark.
The cumulative effect is an oud lacquered with broad, impressionistic brush strokes of spiciness, smokiness, resinous amber sweetness, muskiness, and woodiness, and by quieter, subtler, smaller strokes of tobacco, animalics, and earthiness. It’s a heavily spiced, smoldering scent that bears a soft, small growl, but it’s never truly animalic like MAAI, Salome, or Montecristo. By the same token, it’s not fecal, furry, skanky, or redolent of the barnyard. Each of the broad accords are integrated harmoniously and are well balanced vis-à-vis each other. The individual components that make them up are either quite subtle or heavily muted. For example, the spice mix continues to emit a chili-like fieriness, but it’s a heavily muffled undertone that runs deep under everything else. The costus’ urinous facet runs even deeper, manifesting itself as a sort of musky, sotto voce buzzing that one senses, semi-consciously, but can’t pinpoint. The sweet myrrh incense, cumin, sandalwood, and labdanum operate in a similar fashion. While the tobacco is, comparatively speaking, the only strong secondary note, it feels more like an aura and it’s clearest when I smell Oud Picante from a distance, not up close.
The fragrance’s main parameters are set roughly 75 minutes into its evolution, and the changes which occur over the next few hours are only to the prominence or nuance of individual accords. The spices are always the oud’s main partner during this time. It’s the other accords which take turns appearing in relatively more prominent fashion: sometimes, there is more smokiness; sometimes, more muskiness, labdanum resinous sweetness, the tobacco aura, or woodiness. In the middle of the second hour, a sort of oud-ish, sandalwood-ish, sweet powderiness joins the rotation. Around the same time, tarry, smoky leatheriness and oud mushroomy funk pop up in the background, but both are minor, abstract, and amorphous.
Things change at the start of the 3rd hour. The oud’s smoke and tarry leather take over, cutting through much of the labdanum’s sweetness, in addition to turning the scent drier and darker. The spiciness becomes the gentlest, thinnest, and smallest layer underneath, while the tobacco turns into a fleeting wisp in the distant background. There is no oud funk, oud musk, costus musk, or animalics. By the start of the 4th hour, I’d estimate that roughly 85% of Oud Picante is smoky, tarry leather on my skin, with the remainder consisting of an ambered spiciness which is mostly evident if I sniff my arm up close.
The spices make a small comeback in the middle of the 5th hour. Gradually, slowly, inch by inch, they grow in strength over the course of the next few hours until they finally return as the oud’s partner. The amber follows closely behind.
Together, 6.5 hours in, they push aside the smoky leather to usher in a new phase and a bouquet that is centered primarily on spicy, smoky, sweet, and highly resinous labdanum amber. Flecks of dark musk and dry, spicy, smoky woodiness run through it. The latter smells only quietly oud-ish and is often more like a resinous, red, African sandalwood heartwood, similar to the sort in Ensar Oud‘s fantastic Santal Sultan. From afar, Oud Picante is a red-bronzed-brown blur of sweet-dry, smoky, spicy amber, although sometimes the emphasis is more on the spices than on the labdanum.
In all cases, whether up close or from afar, the fragrance always strikes me as a sultry and wonderfully inviting “cozy comfort” scent. I’m also struck by the similarities to my beloved Ambre Loup. Oud Picante at this stage is basically its oud-ish, woodier brother except there is no tobacco and Ambre Loup is slightly sweeter. Even so, they smell similar and definitely share the same cozy, heavily spiced, smoky ambered allure. Given how much I love Ambre Loup, it’s a big compliment.
With a 1-spray fragrance application, this is Oud Picante’s drydown, and the fragrance doesn’t change beyond this point. It simply gets hazier, softer, and quieter. In its final hours, all that’s left is a dry-sweet spiciness.
It’s a different story with a 2-spray application. There is a subsequent, additional stage which ensues, a completely dissimilar drydown which is centered heavily on the costus root on my skin. The spiced, smoky amber stage gradually begins to change in the middle of the 9th hour when the costus asserts itself, adding muskiness, a small whiff of Kouros-like urinous skank, and a skin-like textural quality. The latter is nice, and I’m guessing the costus was used to provide a variation on the musky, velvety resinous drydowns of Siberian Musk and Ottoman Empire, but I’m not crazy about what I can only describe as a buzzing quality to the note. Or its subtle scratchy pepperiness. To be fair, even without those qualities, I would have preferred the other version because I enjoy rich spices and I’m a complete amber junkie.
The drydown for this version of Oud Picante kicks into high gear around the 11th hour. The costus takes over on my skin, engulfing the resinous, spiced, sweet-dry, quietly smoky amber accord within a cloud of quietly urinous musk. The spice, smoke, and amber peek out from time to time, but they’re a heavily muffled, minor subtext. They basically fade away at the end of the 13th hour, leaving only a dark, slightly urinous, velvety muskiness on my skin. Oud Picante remains that way until its very end.
Regardless of quantity, Oud Picante had low projection, good-to-fair sillage, and very good longevity on my skin. With a 2-spray amount, the fragrance opened with about 2.5 inches of projection and about 4-5 inches of sillage. It was a strong cloud of scent with a paradoxical rich airiness or potent weightlessness. The projection dropped after 2 hours to about one inch, perhaps 1.5 inches at the very best. The sillage remained the same until the 4th hour when it shrank to about 2 inches, although there was a small scent trail when I moved my arm. Oud Picante became a skin scent about 8.75 hours in, but I could detect it easily until the 13th hour if I put my nose right on my arm. In total, Oud Picante lasted just short of 21 hours on me.
The numbers were lower when I applied a few spritzes roughly equaling 1 spray from a bottle or when I dabbed the fragrance instead of spraying it. The opening projection was 1.5 to 2 inches and the sillage was about 3-4 inches. Both numbers dropped after 1.75 hours; the sillage was closer to the body at the end of the 4th hour; and the fragrance turned into a skin scent after 6 hours. In total, Oud Picante lasted about 14.75 hours.
On Fragrantica, there is one review for Oud Picante at the time of this post, and it’s extremely positive. (It’s also humourous, and made me laugh out loud at one point.) “RogerM72” writes, in part:
I received my samples and I was forced to try this first as it spilled a bit from the vial and traces were all over the plastic envelope.. as soon as I opened it I have been bombarded by Oudy sweet and sour and peppery spices that really made me say “WOW”.
This is the cousin of Oud Zen. The smart ass cousin, as it immediately shows you the dirty face without you even know it.
Dirty is the most suitable adjective that comes to my mind.
Dirty and playful, it kind of gives you the finger. It kind of shouts all its power straight in the face. It is a concert of lazy prostitute spices (the maidservants) that play hide and seek with their master (the Oud)… and the end of it all, the master possesses all of them and they like this.
Not for everyone, everyday wearing.
Sexy as hell
Soon in my collection [.]
In the Basenotes Official Areej Le Doré Discussion thread, there are a series of scent descriptions from “Rynegne” starting on page 15. In comment #442, he wrote:
The opening is a very deep and brooding combination of oud and forest notes. There’s a blast of oud that’s accompanied by this incense-piney-forest floor, bringing you to the Neora Valley of Bengal. Rather quickly this deep, dark opening fades into a duet of oud and honeyed amber with undertones of incense.
**Two hours in and this has turned into an amber fragrance with loads of dry oud which is not of the barn yard variety. It’s very dry and very woody with gobs of creamy-spicy waves from the cardamom-amber combination.
**After about 9 hours, Oud Picante has lost the oud, the spices and woods and still lies a powdery myrrh base. Sort of a wild ride of a fragrance that is to be much enjoyed by fragrance lovers looking for a different take on an oud fragrance. Hats off to Russian Adam here. I think this one will be quite popular.
He provides additional details in several subsequent comments which I’ll let you read on your own if you’re interested because I want to move on to how Oud Picante compares to its brother, Oud Zen. Both “Rynegne” and I found them to be different fragrances. He wrote:
Oud Zen was more about the dustier, funkier Indian Oud and gorgeous aged saffron…very straight forward fragrance but stunning as each of the precious materials presents itself in the most stunning manor. Oud Picante shifts a lot transitioning from a deep and dark coniferous oud to a spiced-amber-and-oud to a creamy-amber-woody-powdery myrrh and spice. Oud Zen for the true oud lovers out there…Oud Picante for someone looking for a different take on oud that IMO hasn’t been seen much in perfumery in a “gourmand-ISH oud.”
I didn’t experience any coniferous or foresty notes with Oud Picante, but I agree that it’s a very different scent than its brother. There are a number of reasons why:
- Oud Picante doesn’t include Hindi oud, so it doesn’t have any cheesy, barnyard, rawhide, or fecal aromas, which is how Oud Zen opened on my skin. The Borneo agarwood has a smoldering quality, and its olfactory emphasis is on spiciness, chocolate, smoke, and/or resin.
- Oud Picante really emphasizes the spices to a far, far greater degree than Oud Zen did on my skin. In addition, the character of those spices is quite different here: it’s a more complex blend that goes beyond mere saffron; the cumin gives it an earthy, occasionally naughty, skanky quality; there is a chili-like fieriness that didn’t appear in Oud Zen; and the spice mix occasionally takes on a culinary quality.
- Oud Picante wasn’t heavily, strongly boozy on my skin the way that Oud Zen was.
- Although the ouds in both fragrances turned into smoky leather, it happened pretty quickly with Oud Zen and the leather was accompanied by booze, saffron, and tobacco. That was not the case when the leather appeared on my skin with Oud Picante.
- The sandalwood never turned creamy and buttery on me the way that it did with Oud Zen.
- What little animalics appeared in Oud Zen consisted of the oud’s musky, barnyard tonalities, not urinous, civet-y costus.
- Oud Zen didn’t have different versions which ended up, in one case, with a musk drydown on my skin.
For me, Oud Zen’s feel and focus put it in the general universe of Sultan Pasha’s Tabac Grande and Pure Incense attars. Oud Picante’s feel and focus put it more in the world of Amouage‘s Journey Man, in addition to feeling like the Borneo oud relative of the musky-spiced-tobacco-opium-amber Ambre Loup. These aren’t exact matches by any means, merely a general ballpark spectrum which is meant to give you a rough idea of the different feel of the two Areej fragrances. The two ouds are clearly related, there is no question about that, but they aren’t redundant, overlapping scents.
I liked Oud Picante and I think it will be a big hit with fans of spicy ouds, tobacco ouds, or spiced amber orientals. Since the sample sets are no longer available, I suggest keeping an eye out for Basenotes splits by “Strifeknot” or, if you want a smaller amount, seeing if STC eventually gets a bottle. [Update 10/19: Surrender to Chance now has Oud Picante and is selling individual samples starting at $6.99 for a 1/4 ml vial. They ship to most places worldwide.] If you love both spices and oud, this is definitely one to try.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Areej Le Doré. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Shopping Details/Additional Links: Oud Picante costs $250 for 50 ml of extrait de parfum. It’s limited-edition; only 100 bottles have been made. Sample sets are sold out. Full bottles are available exclusively at Areej Le Doré. Additional reviews can be found at Basenotes starting on page 15, and on Fragrantica.