The darkness of incense and an extremely refined oud, speckled with red-brown, earthy, and fiery spices. A deep woodiness that is soon married with a purple liqueured richness, before its sweetness eventually turns drier. Bold richness that moves into an intimate, gauzy whisper. Those are some of the different aspects of Black Oud from LM Parfums.
Black Oud is a pure parfum extrait that was released in 2012. LM Parfums describes the perfume and its notes as follows:
«Blend into the middle of a black and white tainted forest, be in the most obscure darkness, to deliver the fragrance of Oud.» This is my wish to take you into the depth of Indonesia.
The subtlety of the Oud fragrances, mixed to cistus gum, wrapped with nutmeg, caraway, and incense, this generous fragrance brings in its wake cedar, amber and sandalwood, embellished with a touch of musk.
Top Notes: Nutmeg, Cumin, Incense.
Heart Notes: Oud Wood, Labdamum.
Base Notes: sandalwood, Cedar, Civet, Castoreum, Vanilla, Amber.
Black Oud opens on my skin with a darkness quite worthy of its name. I’m surprised by that, since so many perfumes labelled “Noir” or “Black” don’t actually convey that sense or impression to me. Black Oud does — at least in its opening minutes. There is a burst of beautifully refined, high-quality agarwood that is thoroughly infused with a spicy, peppered sweetness. There is dusty, vaguely earthy cumin, but also the fiery bite of what feels like red, pimento chilis. A rich, very darkly resinous stickiness follows moments later, along with what feels distinctly like a jammy patchouli note. It completely throws me off, as nothing in the notes indicates patchouli, but that is what I smell. It’s a deeply purpled, velvety, liqueured richness with a vaguely fruited aspect.
I love Black Oud’s opening. The spices are the key, adding a great depth to the smooth, refined oud. They are dusty, dusky, and dry, but never sweaty. I don’t smell the nutmeg at all on my skin, but the cumin is really lovely. For all its spiced dryness, it also smells oddly fresh in a way, and something about it evokes rye bread more than anything curried, sweaty or stale. The whole bouquet is wrapped up with a thick ribbon of billowing, black frankincense, but it is blended so seamlessly into the notes that it’s more of an overall feel of darkness than a sharp, easily delineated note.
I’ve worn Black Oud a number of times, and on each occasion in the opening minutes, my initial impression is always the same thing: a much better, more refined, drier Puredistance Black. (Puredistance insists on typing it as BLACK, but I refuse.) Black Oud was released in 2012; Puredistance’s Black in summer of 2013. They are both Extrait perfumes with spices, incense, oud, and a liqueured patchouli sweetness, though Puredistance refuses to release its exact notes for the fragrance and Black has a definite floral component. I was the only blogger out of the first lot who initially reviewed Black to say that I didn’t like it, and I received a bit of flack for it. Well, I stand by my opinion, as I still don’t like Black.
In the opening moments, Black Oud blows the Puredistance scent out of the water. It’s much smoother, more refined, and deeper. Unlike the Puredistance scent, the overall effect of one actually feels black in mood, perhaps because Black Oud is much smokier, drier, less unctuously sweet, and more spiced. The jammy, purple, fruit-chouli aroma is much more subtle in Black Oud’s opening phase, while the incense is much more profound. In addition, the oud note feels more luxuriously smooth and expensive. However, as we will soon see, the early differences soon fade, and I’m afraid Black Oud becomes a lot closer to Puredistance Black in nature. Several of the things in Puredistance Black that I struggled with manifest themselves here, to the point where I wonder if Antoine Lie made LM Parfums’ Black Oud a year before he made the significantly more expensive (and over-priced) Puredistance Black.
It takes very little time for Black Oud to start to evolve. Exactly 5 minutes into Black Oud’s development, the sandalwood peaks up its head. It’s muted at first, but it’s a lovely, subtle touch of spicy, creamy, smoky red-gold woodiness that feels like real Mysore wood. Laurent Mazzone has shown his willingness with the spectacular Hard Leather to spend any amount of money on the genuine Mysore wood, no matter how costly the rare ingredient may be, and I think he must have insisted on the real thing for Black Oud as well.
A few minutes later, other changes occur. The cumin starts to slowly melt into the other notes, creating a more abstract sense of “spiciness” instead of a distinct, individual cumin note. The sandalwood grows stronger, while the labdanum suddenly starts to stir. It’s got a deliciously toffee’d, vaguely dirty, almost chocolate-y undertone. Yet, Black Oud is never skanky, raunchy, urinous or dirty in any way on my skin. I never detect the civet, castoreum, or nutmeg, though there is a subtle muskiness and earthiness that creeps in towards the end of the perfume’s development.
As a whole, Black Oud in the opening half-hour is a very smooth, delicately spiced, liqueured, black-purple oud scent that is infused heavily with smoky incense and that inexplicable jammy element, then lightly flecked with Mysore sandalwood and labdanum amber. While LM Parfums’ Hard Leather is a lusty, “skanky” take on leather, incense, oud, and sandalwood, Black Oud is the sweeter, non-animalic, more purely oud and incense sibling. Every single one of its elements feels rich, seamless, and luxuriously refined, but the whole thing is also very gauzy in feel. Surprisingly so for an Extrait concentration.
Black Oud slowly turns sweeter, as the liqueured, fruited, patchouli-like jamminess grows stronger. Unfortunately for me, there is the first twinge of something aroma-chemical that stirs in the base. I’m not a fan of it, though it’s thankfully subtle and muted at this point. What is much prettier, however, is the cumin which adds a dry, almost herbal, green-brown spiciness to the base.
At the start of the 2nd hour, the aroma-chemical in the base turns into one of the main notes. It smells like some sort of very arid, “amber” substitute, but also very woody, harsh and, to my nose, jangly with its sharp edges. I don’t like it one bit, though I realise that I have a sensitivity to aromachemicals, and that the vast majority of people can’t detect them. At least the dryness of the note (whatever it is) helps to cut through some of Black Oud’s increasing sweetness, though the jammy liqueur is still very prominent. The incense retreats to the sidelines, along with the spiciness, while the sandalwood slowly starts to fade away.
Black Oud also turns thinner and sheerer, with sillage that now projects only about an inch above the skin. By the 1.75 hour mark, the perfume is a gauzy thin blur of refined oud, the excessively dry aromachemical, incense smokiness, and the jammy fruitchouli note. There is a subtle nuance of something vaguely herbal and earthy in the base, but the overall impression is of a non-floral, woodier, drier version of Puredistance Black.
Black Oud remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. Thankfully, the harsh aromachemical note disappears by the end of the 3rd hour, and my mood improves. By the middle of the 4th hour, Black Oud is a skin scent that slowly turns drier and woodier. It’s a sheer, very pretty blend of vaguely oud-y woodiness and sweetness with tiny, subtle flickers of smokiness, earthiness, and something vaguely herbal lurking at the edges. Around the 7th hour, a touch of beeswax appears, undoubtedly from the labdanum, and a growing element of muskiness.
In its final hours, Black Oud also takes on sexy muskiness that has a tobacco-like undertone and a velvety earthiness that almost feels mushroom-y at times. I suspect it stems from the castoreum. As a whole, though, Black Oud’s drydown is generally just abstract woodiness with a touch of sweetness and dryness blended within. Something about it is quite seductive. Call me crazy, but this is what I imagine Tom Ford to smell like. Sweet, dry, woody muskiness with a touch of the scent of a man’s warm skin, all wrapped in a very refined, understated bouquet. Yes, I know Tom Ford is the least “under-stated” person around, but he is what I think of when I smell Black Oud’s drydown: open-shirted, bare-chested and revealing skin that carries the discreet musky sweetness of Black Oud.
As noted earlier, Black Oud is an extrait or pure parfum. It doesn’t feel like it on my skin, I’m afraid. On a few occasions when I’ve worn it, I was surprised by how quickly it faded. Two decent-sized sprays gave me between 9 and 9.75 hours in duration, but the perfume consistently became a skin scent at the start of the 3rd hour. I frequently thought that it had vanished by the end of the 5th hour, but, no, Black Oud definitely lingered, and was noticeable when I put my nose directly on my skin and smelled very hard. With 3 big sprays, Black Oud lasted a good 12 hours on my skin, but, again, it was extremely discreet.
A number of LM Parfums start strongly and then become much more intimate, as that seems to be part of the brand’s overall aesthetic. The gorgeous Sensual Orchid is one example, where the opulent, bold, narcotic sensuality slowly turns into something more romantically discreet, as though it were olfactory lingerie. I am starting to have the impression that Laurent Mazzone might feel that a subtler suggestion is better for his bolder, richer aromas, the new Hard Leather excepted. So, when seen in that light, perhaps Black Oud’s softness and subtlety makes sense, but I was still taken aback. It really didn’t feel like an Extrait on my skin, and its wispiness was another thing that made me think of the intentionally “whispering” Puredistance Black.
While I have extremely wonky, perfume-consuming skin, I’m apparently not alone on the issue of Black Oud’s subtlety and limited projection. On Fragrantica, two other people felt the same way, though their overall assessment for the fragrance was very positive. For example:
If Valentino ever produced an OUD based fragrance it would smell something like this.
Romantic and Deep are the key words here. A rich mix of delicate spices and oud emphasizing the intricate balance between eastern and western perfumery. Smooth pristine and dressed up.
It isn’t loud by any means. In fact I think it is a sleeper that will wake up at unexpected moments. It is however very durable.
Leave it on for a while before you try to decipher it….it’s one of those. […][¶]
Been wearing this for a full day now. I hate to say it but this has nothing to do with an Extrait as far as projection goes. […] EDIT : TWO Days later. I share the same feelings still. Nice *subtle* romantic oud scent that lasts a good amount of time as a skin scent with just minimal projection. [¶] DEFINITELY not one of the stronger Extraits/Parfums that I have sampled but what can you expect for $225 100ml Extrait.
Others agree on the romantic, refined nature of Black Oud, including a woman commentator who offers up the first review below:
- This perfume is a dream come true : when I wear it,I have the feeling that I smell a mysterious lover’s smell (a latin one, of course !)on my skin all day long! Very erotic ! Wonderful ! You’ll feel very sexy while wearing it (for men or women.)
- very amazing perfume and it’s like Black Afgano but with more Oud and more sillage .. [¶] I love this perfume[.] [Emphasis to name added by me.]
On Basenotes, there are 3 reviews for Black Oud, 2 of which are positive and one is a mere “neutral.” Their views, in part or in full, are as follows:
- Simple comfort to wear animalic oud scent.
- It starts quite alcoholic and spiced , with a soft frankincense. Then it develops to a sweet-rosey oud .Finally it dries down towards a kind of animalic sandalwood . [¶] This reminds me of L’Air du Desert Marocain with a touch of oud .This is not dark nor black . [¶] Longevity is regular , taking into account that this is an extract of parfum . [¶] Over-priced for what it is , 200 eur . [Emphasis to name added by me.]
- Wonderfully smooth and powerful scent [….][¶] I love it, it isn’t too powerful, very “smooth” as someone else mentioned, and it is really just what I was looking for, a sensual date scent. […]
One perfume blogger who isn’t a fan of agarwood wrote that Black Oud was the first scent with the note that she liked. The site, Esperanza Van Der Zon, wrote, in part:
Black Oud became the first oud perfume I really liked. It is a very well blended oud extrait with rich wood and incense elements. The oud is not dominating the perfume but part of the whole composition like a primus inter pares, equal amongst the other notes. It is hard to detect individual notes as they are very well blended. But I do detect rich frankincense lingering at the beginning, followed by warm dark woods to continue to labdanum and golden oud. The extrait changes its scent showing some different aspects at first but does not change very much during the day on my skin. What remains is a warm wooden resinous drydown, modern, strong, very present and with a little edge. Compared to a texture it would be soft black wool, still a bit tingling when you touch it. […][¶]
Although the Black Oud is an extrait (pure perfume), its sillage is enormous, one spitz is enough for a whole day. Some called Black Oud a sillage monster. I would say this extrait is for true sillage lovers or people who do not like to reapply during the day. You can still scent Black Oud after 24 hours so have some caution when applying !
Her sillage and longevity experiences are obviously quite different from what I or some of the Fragrantica people experienced, so skin chemistry is clearly key. What I found interesting about her review is how taken she was by Black Oud. Even though she found the perfume a “bit too masculine” by her standards, she said she would still buy a full bottle if it were cheaper:
There are cold days I really enjoy wearing Black Oud. It is a pity it only comes in 100 ml bottles for about 200 euro. If it was sold in smaller bottles I would have bought a full bottle some time ago.
That’s quite an endorsement from someone who says bluntly that she does “not like oud very much.”
Speaking of prices, Black Oud costs $225 or €195 for the 100 ml bottle. It may not be cheap, but it is substantially less expensive than Puredistance Black which costs almost $600 for a similar 100 ml size. (Both are Extrait fragrances, so their prices can definitely be compared on an equal basis.)
Black Oud is a much better value than the Black, and a better fragrance as a whole, in my opinion, because it feels much more refined. The oud smells more luxurious and smoother, and the perfume lacks the annoying rose-fruitchouli singularity of Puredistance Black. The latter ended up making me think of pinks and purples, fluffy clouds, and Turkish delight. It was not “Black,” let alone very smoky or woody on my skin. In fact, it smelled significantly aromachemical in nature, and was much more generic in profile, two reasons why I think Puredistance Black is badly over-hyped and over-priced for what it is.
Black Oud, on the other hand, seems darker, smokier, woodier, and drier. The opening 30 minutes are really fantastic, and the drydown is both pretty and quite sexy. The middle stage, alas, didn’t thrill me at all; I don’t like whatever amber aromachemical was used in the base, and the liqueured sweetness of Black Oud was a bit difficult for me as a whole. I’m also not enthused by the discreet, intimate sillage. However, at the end of the day, all of those things are a matter of personal tastes and skin chemistry. Black Oud isn’t very me, but I can respect it (minus that aromachemical bit) and I can completely see why people find it to be a beautifully blended oud fragrance. Puredistance Black, on the other hand, just leaves me scratching my head. At best.
In short, if you’re looking for a refined, approachable oud scent with sweetness, incense, and dryness, you may want to give Black Oud a sniff.
Disclosure: Perfume provided courtesy of LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.