Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.
When I read about the niche perfume line by Kilian coming out with Amber Oud, a new fragrance for its Arabian Nights Collection, I did not feel at all excited. Another oud, another amber, another overplayed trendy note. So, when a helpful sales associate at Saks asked me if I wanted to try the new fragrance, I reluctantly reached for the blotter. I gingerly sniffed the white paper, and suddenly I was charmed. As I was drawn deeper into the spicy warmth of Amber Oud, I could not even hear the din of Saks’s beauty department, nor did I realize that I was blocking someone’s way. I was only conscious of the dark sweetness coming off the blotter, a mélange of spices, vanilla liqueur and smoky woods.
Sure enough, by Kilian’s prices brought me to the ground with a thud. Still I walked away with a sample, with which I have been living for the past couple of weeks. The beguiling moment of my first encounter with Amber Oud comes back whenever I wear it, which is a rare delight. There is nothing tired about this idea—the dense and rich oud is interspersed with the dry, crisp amber, which cuts through the richness and heft. The medicinal, “band aid” impression disliked by oud detractors is not obvious here. Like perfumer Calice Becker’s other ouds for by Kilian, Rose Oud and Pure Oud, it is similarly luminous. However, Amber Oud is the softest of her oud interpretations, a perfume with a suave, caressing character.
One of my favorite aspects of Amber Oud is its spicy floral accent. I envision it as a flourish of red petals, and as the composition develops, this illusion keeps drawing me back. The dark carnation effect is suggested by the combination of allspice and bay leaf. The bay leaf with its green mango note is particularly appealing against the caramel richness of benzoin, amber and woods.
In its drydown, Amber Oud leaves Scheherazade's boudoir and enters into her pastry kitchen. The vanilla note is similar to the smoky, cured vanilla bean of Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille, but without the latter’s density. In contrast to another vanilla and oud idea I love, L’Artisan Vanille Absolument, Amber Oud is more nuanced. It settles into the base of cinnamon spiced chocolate, roasted almonds and a light drizzle of caramel. The sweetness is tempered by the lingering smoky incense, while the dryness of the amber accord keeps the richness in check.
By Kilian Amber Oud (Arabian Nights Collection) includes notes of cedarwood, vanilla, bay leaf, and benzoin. By Kilian fragrances are sold from Aedes, MiN, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks5thAvenue. $235, 4 x .25oz spray refills and portable flacon; $395, 50ml spray bottle.
Sample: my own acquisition