Review En Bref: Montale Aoud Safran

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_aoud_safranMontale 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…

Cost & Availability: Aoud Safran is an eau de parfum and is available on the Montale website where a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle retails for €110. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size than 100 ml. Montale offers a 20 ml mini-bottle of Aoud Safran for free at the time of purchase. The fragrance is also available at Parfum1 for $160 and at The Perfume Shoppe for $150. If you want to try a sample of Aoud Safran, Surrender to Chance sells vials starts at $3.99.