A long time ago, a friend who was a painter gave me a book. I can’t tell you now what the book was about, but I remember the rich scent of his work soaked in its pages. For days, I buried my nose in the book to smell the turpentine, oil paint, and raw wood of his studio. The smell brought back the giant landscape he was working on while a cat padded over the cement floor to jump into my lap as I talked and nursed a glass of red wine. This is what I think of when I smell By Kilian Incense Oud Eau de Parfum.
Incense Oud, the third in By Kilian’s Arabian Nights series, was developed by perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur and released earlier this year. By Kilian’s website lists among its notes incense, oud, cardamom, rose, and labdanum. Probably, like many fragrances, it has something citrusy and fleeting for top notes, but I don’t smell it. And probably there’s something more complex in its body, but I don’t smell that, either.
What I do smell is a surprisingly sinuous — although definitely present — incense sweetened with sandalwood. Some incense is earthy, some is dank and wet, and some, like this one, is full of piney turpentine. Oud seems to have overtaken pink pepper as the note du jour, but if you are looking for oud’s signature peaty, metallic, oyster-y scent, try Montale. Any oud that might be present in Incense Oud only serves as a bit player to accentuate the resin in the incense, despite its billing as co-star.
Rose brings out an almost port-like touch to Incense Oud’s wood. Without smelling rose as a distinct note, I can smell the fruitiness it imparts. I first noticed how rose transforms sandalwood into a wine-like potion in XerJoff Richwood, and it seems to play the same role here. Still, the incense is a lot more present than the rose.
Perfumistas who have been around a while might notice a similarity in notes between Incense Oud and 10 Corso Como. Both fragrances lean on oud, wood, and rose. 10 Corso Como is sweeter and brighter and shows more sandalwood and rose than Incense Rose. Its oud sharpens the sandalwood so that it reads closer to incense. In Incense Oud, incense is king, and other notes are definitely subservient. Incense Oud, although still a particular fragrance, is more conservative in some ways than 10 Corso Como. Neither fragrance could be called mainstream.
Incense Oud has moderate sillage, but feels soft and comfortable in its silky, piney wood. It lasts a solid ten hours on my skin, sweetening over time but staying pretty true to what I smelled fifteen minutes after my first dab. Do I like it? Yes, I do. I value it for the memories it evokes so easily.
Would I buy it? I adore By Kilian’s packaging, but it’s expensive for what is basically a nicely made incense fragrance. A 50 ml bottle of Incense Oud Eau de Parfum is $395 in By Kilian’s fabulous bottle, but a refill is $175. A gorgeous atomizer with four quarter-ounce refills, perfect for splitting, is $235.
I’d love to hear what you think of Incense Oud, but I’d also like to know what perfumes you like more for what they remind you of than for the fragrances themselves. Are there any fragrances you might normally pass by, but they remind you of a time in your life that you want to bring back from time to time?
For buying information, see the listing for By Kilian under Perfume Houses.