Today, a quick look at Oud Minerale, an eau de parfum which Tom Ford released several months ago as part of his Private Blend Collection and a further continuation of his oud series. Tom Ford says it merges “rare and precious Oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean, capturing the refreshing play of surf and sea against the burning flame of smoked wood.” While he does not list the specific notes, if you combine the elements provided by Luckyscent and Fragrantica together, the note list looks like this:
Sea salt, aquatic notes, oud, pink pepper, styrax, seaweed, balsam fir, pepperwood or hercules club and ambergris.
Oud Minerale opens on my skin with calone cucumber water aquatics layered with mineralized salt water, pine trees, diesel gasoline, and fruity pink peppercorn berries. All of this is then ensconced within a cloud of immensely synthetic, smoky woods. They smell like a mix of faux cedar, a faux woody-amber aromachemical, leathery cypriol, styrax, and DOP (dioctyl phthalate), an aromachemical which is often used to stand in for oud in Western perfumery. (For more information on DOP, see Ensar Oud‘s FAQ post which states: “It’s no secret that the standard formulas used in today’s oud market have dioctyl phthalate (DOP) as one of the ingredients. The addition of DOP in perfume has been banned in several countries due to being a strong carcinogen.”)
Here, not one iota of the allegedly “rare and precious Oud” note smells like actual agarwood. Instead of the usual agarwood aromas, this “oud” wafts the aforementioned diesel gasoline, blackened cypriol/styrax leather, wood smoke, and antiseptic rubbing alcohol. (See, Luca Turin‘s explanation, “Power Tools,” for more information on the rubbing alcohol aroma and on woody-amber aromachemicals in general.)
When taken as a whole, roughly 90% of Oud Minerale’s opening bouquet during the first 20 minutes consists of a co-equal triad of: salty cucumber calone aquatics; pine; and the smoky aromachemical wood cocktail. To me, it’s not much a normative sea scent as a trip to an industrial harbor where someone has burned woods to a cinder on an abandoned rust-bucket ship which is dripping diesel into cucumber-mineralized salt water as the wind blows pine from the distant forests up north.
The first time I tried Oud Minerale, I scrubbed it after just 20 minutes. The wood smoke was so abrasive and the woods themselves so dry, so replete with rubbing alcohol and gasoline undertones that it hurt my throat and gave me a blinding headache. I used a scent strip for my second test and smelled it occasionally, but it wasn’t easy with my sensitivities and I developed such a sore throat after 6 hours that I eventually had to throw it away.
Oud Minerale didn’t change by leaps and bounds during that time. There were only changes to the order and prominence of certain notes. For example, the fruity-sweet pink peppercorns seemed to disappear after 20 minutes, replaced by a soapy cleanness and freshness. The woods’ smoke, dryness, blackened leather, and gasoline facets steadily rose at the same time. Roughly 40 minutes it, they quite overshadowed the pine, relegating it to the merest wisp in the background. The net effect is a fragrance that is now a mix of calone cucumber water, mineralized salty water, and immensely dry, leathery, gasoline-wafting “oud”-cedar-woody synthetics, all woven together with thick, powerful chords of smoke.
It’s different, I’ll give you that, and it’s certainly an unusual, creative mix of elements. Putting aside the ricocheting aromachemicals, I think parts of it work, while other parts do not. I like the mineralized salty aspect quite a bit and I don’t mind the calone’s cucumber aroma. I just don’t think they work beside the shoe polish leather or the intensely desiccated woods and their gasoline-wafting smokiness. I find it to be a jarring, discordant combination, though I can see how some might view it as appealingly unusual.
Oud Minerale changes several times in the balance of its notes as it evolves. Towards the end of the third hour, the mineralized, cucumber, and salty sea aromas temporarily become mere blips in the background. Soapiness and laundry-clean white musk take their place as the “oud”‘s main companions. The “oud” itself has changed. It is now heavily infused with dry, smoky cedar and no longer has any leather or gasoline undertones, although the rubbing alcohol/antiseptic vibe remains. The result is a more standard, typical layering of smoky woods and soapy, clean musk.
Then, approximately 5.25 hours in, Oud Minerale reconfigures its notes again. The salty-mineralized accord returns to center stage, and the white musk seems to double or triple in strength. The musk smells like concentrated Bounce dryer sheets. The wood smoke is as dry as can be and continues to be laden with rubbing alcohol tonalities. The overall combination became too much for me to bear, even on a scent strip, and I gave up at the end of the 6th hour.
Oud Minerale receives mixed reviews on Fragrantica, but the majority seem to fall on the positive side. A number of commentators really like the unusual nature of the scent which one person termed as “contradictions.” One chap described his experience with Oud Minerale with a succinct two-sentence summation: “Machine oil and ozonic electric motor smell. Somehow it works. Very masculine, perhaps good for a mechanic or machinist.” While many experienced and loved the oceanic, salty aromas, some people did not and thought Oud Minerale was “lackluster,” particularly in light of Tom Ford’s ever-rising prices. “Jayssen” wrote, in part:
If I close my eyes and tell myself over and over that there are “sea notes” and “seaweed” then I sort of can smell them (but its more like when you go down to the harbour and some boats have spilled gasoline on the water) – but I’m really pushing to identify them. I just get pink pepper, some nondescript wood notes and a little styrax. It is much more masculine than I thought it would be and nowhere near as complex as I had hoped. At a much lower price point I’d probably be all over this and add it to my collection as a masculine woody/spice scent. However, at the ever sky rocketing price it currently is – no.
I’ll let you read the reviews on your own if you’re interested. I’ll simply say that, putting aside and ignoring the aromachemical issue, I agree with “Jayssen” that Oud Minerale is quite a simple scent when taken as a whole.
It is difficult for me, however, to completely put aside and ignore the aromachemicals because this is such an intensely synthetic scent. Tom Ford’s releases have skewed that way more and more in the last few years, but I’ve usually been able to plow through and endure until the end. I can’t remember the last time I had to scrub one or to gingerly approach it on a scent strip. I realize that the vast majority of you do not have issues with aromachemicals, but my point is really not my personal sensitivity. It’s that I expect better than this for the price. Tom Ford has now raised the starting point for his Private Blend collection to $230 for 50 ml, and that puts Oud Minerale in quite a different light. None of the materials in here are “rare” and “expensive.” Calone certainly isn’t. I’m perfectly willing to ignore a Westernized faux “oud” if it smells good or decent, like his Oud Wood, but this cocktail and this degree of aromachemicals? It’s disappointing. I was actually looking forward to a mineralized, salty oud. Really looking forward to it. While I still like the mineralized, salty part, I didn’t expect such an untrammeled degree of aromachemicals nor some of their nuances like the gasoline or the rubbing alcohol antiseptic. This isn’t “luxury” to me.
All in all, it’s a thumbs-down from me.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Details/Links: 50 ml of EDP costs $230 or €200; 100 ml is £250 (that size does not seem to be offered in the US); the 250 ml cannister is $595. Some retail links: Tom Ford; Luckyscent; Sephora; Nordstrom; Neiman Marcus; Bergdorf’s; Holt Renfrew; Harrods; Selfridges; John Lewis; Sephora France; de Bijenkorf; David Jones; and Surrender to Chance.