Christian Dior’s latest scents burst with Arabian inspiration as Oud takes centre stage | Oud Isphahan and Leather Oud from the “La Collection Privée Christian Dior”

As Christian Dior calls it, it’s the exceptional collection “A collection of rare, authentic and elegant fragrances for men and women, created using only carefully selected, noble raw materials”.

I’ve never really noticed Christian Dior as a fragrance maker but after absorbing the world of the La Collection Privée I can safely say my opinion is changed.

I’ve selected Oud Isphahan and Leather Oud because I just couldn’t select one! Quite frankly I would actually take three. Amber Nuit is another must. Each so distinct and a whole day later still begging questions from everyone who comes within a metre of me and I only barely touched the scent on my skin.

Christian Dior describes the Leather Oud as a scent discovered after searching the world looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. I might add that they likely simply took a look at the big market trend to have something ‘oud’, the perfume industry’s latest secret ingredient. Let’s take a look at the list of Oud inspired perfumes today; Tuscan Leather, Oud Wood, Oud & Bergamot, Secret Oudh, Crystal Oud, Aramis latest Calligraphy and the list goes on.

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Where does this new secret come from? Unsurprisingly it is indeed the big Arabian inspiration. The first thing you would notice when entering any Arabian home is the strong smell of woody oud with its many different variations. Oud has always been a supreme fragrance in the Gulf and is often burnt as a mark of respect and hospitality as a traditional gesture of welcoming and honouring guests. Oud simply means wood in Arabic and has many pedigrees which can cost anything in the range of a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Pure oud oil known as liquid gold is indeed more expensive than much-loved gold. Indian oud is imported upon customers’ individual requests because of its high price, which reaches SR 6,000 to SR 8,000 per 12 grams. The price for an ounce of premium Cambodian oud can reach SR 5,000. A kilo can cost about SR 120, 000.

Christian Dior we know isn’t the only brand to have jumped on the ‘oud bandwagon’ with Tom Ford bringing the first oud inspired scent to the mainstream market whilst heading YSL’s collection in 2002. It was a resounding failure at the time, although it would probably be very popular if it were introduced today due to the current market’s new familiarity with oud. It was apparently too much, too soon, as it was a very powerful fragrance, but it has a cult following to this day, due in part to its provocative ad campaign. Other brands smart enough to capture the large appetite for oud based scents and of course the large high net worth client who has a natural preference to these scents include;  L’Artisan Parfumeur, Montales,  AmouageParfums M. Micallef, amongst many others.

The strength and longevity of these perfumes is legendary, and  I hear some calling it a commitment in wearing them – that it is to twelve or more hours of smelling of this intensely aromatic resin. 

Where is Oud found?

Also known as aloes and agarwood, Oudh is found in the forests of South East Asia. Clearly an aromatic resin it is found in certain species of Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees. The resin is produced by the tree as an immune response to a fungus (Phialophora parasitica)which invades and spreads throughout a tree over many years. It is believed that it takes as long as 300 years for the fungus to spread through the bark of the tree. Unlike the otherwise pale wood of the tree, infected sections

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are dark and extremely heavy. In fact, the Chinese and Japanese terms for Oudh translate as ‘the wood that sinks in water’. The best grade of Oudh is hard, nearly black and very heavy.

The only reliable way to test for quality is to burn a small bit and evaluate the complexity and richness of the smoldering wood. Cut, sliced, polished and burned over coal in traditional incense burners called mabakhir of which Haute Arabia will be bringing exclusive pieces to you.

image084Chips of this fragrant wood are a prized, almost priceless commodity, and burning it is one of the region’s most distinctive traditions. From the time of the Prophet  Muhammad (pbuh) good scent has been considered as highly important.

Christian Dior’s Leather Oud’s perfumer like the designer selected the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is Oud Wood from Indonesia.  Christian Dior describes further “Highly powerful, vibrant and deep, Oud Wood is rare and particularly recognizable by the leather scents that it diffuses when burned. Using this unique wood, François Demachy created an intensely masculine fragrance, with strong character in which Leather notes intertwine with those of Gaiac Wood, Cedar and Sandalwood”

Although Described as a masculine scent I would hasten to disagree, similarly to Tom Ford’s classic Tuscan Leather it has been a major success with men and women alike.
If there was any criticism to be made it would only be the lack of creativity on the bottle and packaging. I am a big believer in contemporary simplicity and understated elegance but I think Christian Dior took it one step too far with this defining collection. Perhaps a more inspired bottle would have me burning to take all three even at a price tag of EUR250 for each bottle.
Will Christian Dior’s collection invite those who have stayed away or convert the not-so-great oud fans, it is a love or a hate. Many I know can’t live without and many others simply detest a hint of oud.
What’s your view?
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