LM Parfums Black Oud

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.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

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.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

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.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

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.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

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.

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

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.

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

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.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

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.

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

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.

Source: hotguyscollection.com

Source: hotguyscollection.com

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. […]
Source: HDwallpapers.

Source: HDwallpapers.

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.)

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

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. 

Cost & Availability: Black Oud is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $225 or €195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC. If, at some point in the future, you don’t see Black Oud listed at that link, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out-of-stock, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Black Oud directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums extraits which are priced at €19 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Black Oud and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Black Oud at ParfuMaria. The LM Parfums line is also available at Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. Samples: A number of the sites listed above sell samples. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but you can call Osswald NYC at (212) 625-3111 to order samples. They have a special phone deal for U.S. customers where 10 samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials is $10 with free shipping. However, they are currently out of vials until mid-March.

Puredistance Black: Shades of Purple & Pink

The night is dark, and full of terrors.”

Source: Puredistance.

Source: Puredistance.

That is one my favorite quotes from the television series, Game of Thrones, and I often come up with fun variations for different occasions. It’s a line which sticks in my head, so I wasn’t surprised when it popped back up just before I began testing Black, the new, about-to-be-released fragrance from one of my favorite perfume houses, Puredistance. The luxury brand talks about how the scent was inspired by “the concept of black,” and about how it is a “mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away – only every now and then – part of its nature.”

Upon reading that part of the press release, and seeing the image sent by the company, all I could think of was, “the night is dark (black), and full of luxury.” Well, not quite. As it turns out, Black is indeed an extremely luxurious fragrance that smells very expensive, but I found it to be as purple and pink as humanly possible. At one point, it evoked fluffy pink clouds, and I almost expected a chubby cherub to be sitting on one and offering me turkish delight. For me, “Black” is the absolute furthest thing from its name, and is not my personal cup of tea. It’s not a bad fragrance by any means — in fact, it’s well done and clearly emanates luxury — but we all have subjective tastes or things that we struggle with, and I struggled quite a bit with Black.  

Black in the 17.5 travel flacon. Source: Puredistance.

Black in the 17.5 travel flacon. Source: Puredistance.

Like all of Puredistance’s fragrances, Black was created by a master perfumer, in this case, Antoine Lie, and is the very highest perfume concentration, an extrait de parfum. Black clocks in at 25% perfume oil, a figure that is surpassed only by Puredistance’s exquisite floral, Opardu (which has 32%). Black will be released at the start of December, and is described as follows:

Puredistance Black is an understated elegant and mysteriously charming perfume inspired by the concept of BLACK; a concept that for centuries has been associated with secrets, mystery and style.

Puredistance BLACK is created in Paris by the famous French Perfumer Antoine Lie based on a concept of Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos. The essence of the concept was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases sensual and elegant scent layers in a whispering way – without shouting. A mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away – only every now and then – part of its nature.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in the regular, non-travel, bottle form.

As part of the whole concept of mysterious shadows, Puredistance wants you to treasure the “beauty of the unknown,” and merely describes the scent as one that is more “masculine and oriental” than Puredistance “I.” The company is keeping secret Black’s perfume notes, saying only that you should “Envision, Smell, Feel. Don’t analyse.” If you’re a regular reader, you all know how well I manage not to analyse things…. It’s hopeless. I was incapable of just smelling, feeling, letting go and not analysing with the uber-luxury brand, JAR, and it’s not possible here, either. It simply is not my personality or forte in life, given my obsessiveness with both facts and details. 

So, based on what I smelled, let me give you my guess of the notes in Puredistance Black:

Ginger, cardamom, absinthe wood (wormwood), saffron, rose, patchouli, myrrh, opoponax (sweet myrrh), amber, sandalwood (not from Mysore), and benzoin.

What I’m less absolutely certain of is the possible inclusion of oud, a tiny touch of elemi wood or guaiac as an additional source of woody smoke, and a drop of vanilla. It’s extremely possible, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Puredistance Black opens on my skin with a blast of cardamom, immediately followed by ginger, amber, absinthe wood, incense, saffron, patchouli, and a whisper of rose. There is a balanced sweetness, a suggestion of sandalwood, and a saffron that is neither buttery nor hot, but wonderfully spicy. The ginger adds a lovely, fresh, piquant bite that works beautifully with the sweeter notes and the woodsy notes.

Speaking of the latter, I guessed absinthe (or wormwood) for a few reasons. First, even before I tested the perfume and simply upon taking the vial out of its white, satin pouch, I was hit by an extremely strong blast of oud-like woodiness that was herbal, spicy, and green — too much so to be real agarwood. It was also extremely similar in smell to the wood note in Amouage‘s Fate Man, a fragrance that officially includes wormwood. On the skin, the woodsy notes was surprisingly less dominant and forceful than what was wafting out of the vial, but it felt even less than complete, total agarwood in nature. Absinthe shares a few cursory, initial similarities with oud, so that’s what I’m going on.

purple smokeThe initial opening of Black in the first two minutes is lovely, but then, my nemesis takes over: purple, fruited patchouli. For all that I love black/brown patchouli, I despise the purple kind that is ubiquitous and everywhere in modern perfumery. A friend asked me the difference the other day, and I think my explanation may help some other people too.

For me, traditional (and rather 1980s) patchouli is brown/black in hue, with chewy undertones of sweet amber, spice, leather, wood, and incense smoke. The current, modern version of patchouli is purple in hue because it’s fruity, syrupy, jammy, incredibly sweet, and with grape and berry undertones. The very original type of patchouli is the 1970s, hippie kind that is really, really black, dirty patchouli and that people describe as a “head shop” scent. Some examples of fragrances with a strong purple patchouli note would be: almost every commercial, department store perfume containing “patchouli,” Marc JacobsLola, Chanel‘s Coco Noir, Le Labo‘s Ylang 49, Frederic Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, and, now, alas, Puredistance Black. An example of black/brown, more traditional patchouli would be something like Profumum Roma‘s Patchouly, Serge LutensBorneo 1834, Chanel‘s Coromandel, or Reminiscence‘s Patchouli. It’s not a long list at all because that sort of patchouli is incredibly uncommon nowadays.

Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo. For recipe for Concord grape jam, click on photo.)

Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo. For recipe for Concord grape jam, click on photo.)

I spent all this time outlining the specific smell and nature of purple, “fruit-chouli” because it is the heart of soul of how Puredistance Black manifests itself on my skin. No less than three minutes into the perfume’s development, the saffron-oud blast takes on an almost grape-y, berry, jammy overtone that is incredibly sweet. Five minutes in, I feel as though I’ve been covered by fruit syrup. Twenty minutes in, I feel as though I’ve been transformed into a berry tart with unctuous, cloyingly sweet, fruited, purple Smucker’s jam, then sprinkled with rose petals and a dusting of saffron. I have to be honest, I lost my appetite — and I hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours.

I wish there were a substantial counter-balance to the deluge of fruit-chouli in the opening hour. There is a herbal, woody note that flitters about like a tiny hummingbird, but it’s far, far underneath, and wholly unable to compete with the grape-y, berry onslaught that is stomping over my arm like a Panzer unit in full fury. I know my skin tends to amplify base notes, but this is a bit ridiculous. I think sadly back to that absolutely lovely opening with its spicy, gingered, slightly herbal, ambered woodiness, but it’s gone, smothered by unctuous, purple, saffron-rose-infused molasses. Even the absinthe gasps for air, then retreats to the corner to hide its head.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

There is no salvation in low sillage, either. That promised description of a wispy perfume that “stays in the shadow”? Ha! Black’s opening is strong and potent, with significant sillage, wafting in a purple cloud almost a foot around me. I normally would be thrilled, but the fruit-chouli is starting to crush my spirit. For a whole hour, I’m drenched by jammy, grape-berry molasses, that is just lightly infused by particles of saffron-infused rose, incense, absinthe wood, and honeyed amber. The ginger is no longer noticeable, and neither is the cardamom.

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

It was with enormous relief that things start to slowly — very slowly — improve at the end of the first hour. The Smucker’s patchouli jam lessens fractionally, allowing the rose to finally come out properly from its gooey purple shadow. The rose is sweet, just slightly dewy, and pink in visuals. With each passing moment during the second hour, it takes on a weight of its own, and starts to diffuse the fruitedness of the perfume. The woody notes and light incense are also more noticeable, though they’re largely blended into the greater whole.

Rose-flavoured Turkish Delight.

Rose-flavoured Turkish Delight.

By the start of the third hour, Puredistance Black’s purple hues have turned into a gorgeous shade of pink. The perfume wafts about 2 inches above the skin, and has a soft, creamy texture like a fluffy cloud of saffron-rose. In fact, Black takes on a Turkish Delight, or loukhoum quality, though without any of the sugared powderiness often associated with that confection. The patchouli remains, but it is quite mild as compared to its original, completely nuclear blast. Instead, it merely adds to the loukhoum association with a soft touch of grape. It actually works perfectly and brilliantly now. The absinthe wormwood and touch of incense lurk in the shadows, leaving an image that is primarily that of a pink, fluffy, creamy cloud. I almost expect to see a pink-cheeked cherub sitting on one of them.

I mean it quite sincerely when I saw that I enjoyed this phase of Black. I really did. It reminded me of a significantly richer, creamier, more luxurious version of the drydown phase of Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. There, the syrupy, very baroque rose with saffron, truffle earthiness, and the merest, speckled touch of oud also turned into a loukhoum confection in its final stage, but there are big difference. Noir de Noir was much thinner at that point than Black, had an almost violet-y touch, and, more to the point, was extremely powdered in nature. I wasn’t particularly fond of the violet, vanillic powder of the drydown, and I’m relieved that Puredistance Black has none of it at this stage.

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

Even better, Black is infinitely deeper, smoother, richer, creamier, and more opulent. The perfume is fluffy, but rich; sweet but not excessive; and an utterly beautiful, creamy, deep, pink rose with just the right amount of fruited patchouli. There is also the very necessary touch of woodiness which Noir de Noir lacked in its drydown, adding a balance to the floral sweetness. Here, the woody element has the faintest flicker of herbaceousness, but, more importantly, a creamy smoothness that makes me wonder if there is generic, Australian sandalwood or cashmeran underneath.

Black remains as this lovely mix for a few hours with only minor alterations. For example, at the start of the fifth hour, the perfume drops to lie just barely above the skin. The herbal absinthe wood that continues to hide behind the floral loukhoum changes in strength, fluctuating from mild to weak on the overall scale of things. And there is a growing hint of something anisic that is rising to the surface.

At the 6.5 hour mark, however, Black begins to transform. It takes on a licorice undertone and slight whiteness which makes me think that it must have myrrh. It is a note which is known to display an anisic, herbal facet, in addition to a slightly churchy, cold, white, incense note. The latter is extremely subtle in Black, but it’s there as well. At the same time, there also is a flickering shade of something honeyed which resembles very much sweet myrrh or opoponax. In addition, Black is starting to show a slightly vanillic powderiness that makes me suspect the presence of benzoin. In its final change, the perfume has turned into a gauzy veil that sits right on the skin, though it is still easily noticeable and potent when sniffed up close.

"Pink abstract" by Montserrat Lopez Ortiz via fineartamerica.com

“Pink abstract,” painting by Montserrat Lopez Ortiz via fineartamerica.com

Black still smells of a floral confection first and foremost, but the newcomers become increasingly noticeable. And, in all honesty, I’m not completely thrilled by the overall effect. There is a cloying undertone to the rose Turkish delight when combined with the anisic, slightly cold, white incense-y myrrh, the sweet myrrh, and the vanillic powder. It’s not helped by a new spiciness that faintly resembles All-Spice powder and/or star anise. In small doses and for a short period of time, the sum total is perfectly fine, but Black stays this way for hours on end. I found it a little fatiguing, if truth be told.

In its very final stage, starting at the 9th hour, Black turns into a whisper of sweet vanillic powder with rose, a vague blur of myrrh, a flicker of abstract woodiness, and an odd underlying tinge of sourness. It’s all a shadow of its former self, coating the skin like the sheerest, thinnest glaze. Black finally fades away about 14 hours from the start with four squirts from the small sample, and 15.25 hours with 5 medium sprays. (Note: My sample atomizer didn’t release the same amount as would be available from a regular bottle as it had a very small hole and a wonky release, so the quantity applied was not as large as those numbers may suggest. It would really be the equivalent of 3 small-to-medium smears from a dab vial, and 4 large ones.)

I tested Black twice, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very enamoured on either occasion. I don’t mind the middle phase, but I wasn’t crazy about the last one. And there aren’t words whatsoever to describe my reaction to the opening hour. As I said, I thought Black significantly and substantially improved at the start of the second hour, but the first one was rough.

Yet, it’s important to put my comments into context: I absolutely loathe purple, fruited patchouli. I try to grit my teeth and get over it when the note is minor, but when it is significant, substantial, and potent, then I simply can’t bear it. I don’t think others have quite the intensity of my reaction to fruit-chouli, which isn’t helped by having a skin chemistry that amplifies the note. In short, my reaction is very subjective and personal to me.

It’s also a reaction that is not even remotely common to others who have tested perfume. Black has generally been greeted with uniform admiration and liking, even by those who usually share my perfume tastes and skin chemistry. Take, for example, The Non-Blonde who writes, in part:

Puredistance is stepping into unexpected new territory with Black, a dark and romantic fragrance created by perfumer Antoine Lei[.] … Black [is] an oriental with an edge that could have come straight out of the labs at Amouage.  […]

Puredistance Black holds my interest from the very first second. A medicinal camphoric note there that lets you know that the raw materials here are real and uncompromising. Soon it becomes honeyed and steeped in booze, making the maybe-oud go down easily and deliciously. Perfumes of this kind, from Amouage to By Kilian often use their sillage to assert themselves as luxury. Not here, though, and as the press materials stress– this is a feature, not a bug. And I have to say that I love it. Black is not exactly a skin scent but it lives and thrives on skin level;  the emotional storm is very much there, manifesting itself for one’s own personal pleasure for a full day and night, just without broadcasting it to the world.

My reaction was also different from those who did detect the patchouli, but had a completely different perception of its nature. In a gushing rave, The Perfume Shrine described Black as follows:

a quasi-brutal opening with a tangy citric fruitiness allied to the darkest, earthiest patchouli possible, like snails coming out of the bush in the dusk, but the cloak of the night soon mollifies it with a woody cluster of honeyed plummy-cedar notes reminiscent of the Lutens canon and a “suede” orientalism. The sweet melange is also reminiscent of pipe tobacco, laced with a boozy aftertaste that lingers. (I hypothesize smoky cypriol/cyperus and vetiver should be featured too). Chewy, a meat course for non vegetarians. […]

Puredistance Black reminds me of the darkness and weirdness factor of Goutal’s Un Parfum Cheri, par Camille, fueled by an intense Indonesian patchouli grade replete with all its earthy chocolate and darkness “dirty” facets. […] Black would be also liked by those who appreciate Borneo 1834 and Bois de Violette or by oudh and tobacco fragrances fans, as the bittersweet oriental feel would appeal.

I’ve tested both the Lutens fragrances that she mentions, and I see absolutely no similarity between the patchouli in Borneo 1834 and Black. Not even remotely. As for Bois de Violette, I don’t think mere fruited sweetness with wood is enough to make the perfumes comparable in style. Clearly, we have very different skin and skin chemistry.

Patchouli — of any kind — isn’t mentioned at all by two bloggers with whom I generally have very similar perfume opinions, as well as perfume tastes. Take the lovely Caro of Te de Violetas who writes:

The initial impression is one of chaos: its fiery opening smolders with notes of chili pepper, cinnamon, and green cardamom, soon overlapped by the bitterness of saffron and absinthe. A smoky touch of oud dominates the blend for a while and brands its character. I am not especially devout of oud but the effect here is restrained and it suffices to cast a veil of mystery. The whole effect is opaque but lightweight and refined. As I near my nose to my wrist, I can’t shake from my head images of Bogart and Bacall. The progression is as smooth as velvet. As it turns softer, well into the drydown, vanillatobacco and tonka ensure a plushy sweetness but the darkness never completely fades away.

As a woman, I can wear Black more comfortably than the rugged M, but I still prefer to smell this on a beloved man or on a handsome stranger.

The Scented Hound also never mentions patchouli, though parts of his experience sound to me as though they involved both absinthe wood and myrrh:

WHAT I SMELL:  Black opens with a sweet and deep incense and smoky accord.  I want to say there’s some bergamot and what seems to be a bit of floraled honey mixed with the smokiness.  That initial smokiness breaks away somewhat to reveal this almost butter like creamy light almond.  But as soon as I notice that, the incense starts to waft up from the bottom again, this time with what seems to be a bit of sueded leather. There’s a bit of sour that makes an appearance that doesn’t detract, but like the smoke and incense, seems to pop in and out.  After around 15 minutes it seems like there is a bit of peppered metallic that makes an appearance.  Again, it comes and goes like all of the other notes which seem to intermix seamlessly without one note dominating.  In the end you’re left with a very light, close to the skin, smooth and elegant slightly woody incensed perfume.

As all of this should make clear, Puredistance Black is different things to different people. All these reviews are dissimilar, though mine seems to veer furthest outside any common thread.

So, the bottom line is that you should try Black for yourself, and make up your mind. If, by chance you generally share similarities with my type of skin and perfume taste, don’t be put off by my review. For example, if you love Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir, or if you would like an even richer version of its drydown, you absolutely should consider Puredistance Black. I will only caution you on one thing: if you’re expecting another, darker, woodier version of Puredistance’s absolutely spectacular “M,” then you will be disappointed. They are nothing alike — and every reviewer who mentions “M” is absolutely consistent on that point.

Perhaps that is small part of why I struggled with Black. M happens to be one of my all-time favorite (modern) fragrances, an absolutely magnificent marvel that is in my Top Ten, and which I would bathe in, if it were possible. The chypre-oriental-leather-amber mix is also the perfect representation of my perfume tastes. I don’t do well with sweetness, and Black turned into a very extreme, very pink example of that. If I had experienced something actually black in hue, with smoky, woody, dark Orientalism, then I suspect M might have had some stiff competition. As it is, I’m afraid it doesn’t.

DISCLOSURE: My small vial of Black was provided courtesy of Puredistance. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is to my readers.

Cost & Availability: Black is an extrait de parfum concentration (the highest), will officially debut in December 2013, and will be available in a variety of different sizes on the Puredistance website. Its European retail price will be as follows: €165 for the 17.5 ml travel spray, €275 euro for 60 ml (about 2.1 oz), and €490 euro for the 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The American prices are, respectively: $198, $330, and $590. Until its official release, samples of Black are being temporarily offered as part of a promotional special from Puredistance (at the website linked up above). The promotion involves: 2 x 2ml vials of the Extrait for $39 or €29, with free shipping. Retailers: Upon its release, Black will be offered at the usual Puredistance retailers which include: Luckyscent and MinNY in the US; Jovoy in Paris; and London’s Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie division on the 5th floor of Harrods. You can already pre-order at Luckyscent. For all other countries, you can use Puredistance’s Store Locator which lists retailers from Australia and New Zealand to Austria and Russia. I will try to remember to update this post later with more direct links, as well as links to sample sites like Surrender to Chance which normally offers Puredistance fragrances in vials that you can buy for testing.