A tribute to precious oriental perfumes. Balms, resins, vanilla and powdery effects create intensely sensual and addictive blends. A startling and unusual base of carrot, seed and wood adds an unexpected twist. An original edginess in an oriental perfume that loses none of its sumptuous opulence. In fact, quite the opposite… An extraordinary blend, green and creamy.
«For me, Oriental Express is a fur-like perfume... I decided to enhance the harmony of sandalwood and vanilla by blending it with carrot and basil, for an aromatic green effect. This striking contrast gives birth to a feminine or masculine oriental fragrance, with an unexpected personality.» Olivier POLGE1
Oriental Express was my immediate favorite of the Les Exceptions collection from Thierry Mugler (see Tuesday's review of Supra Floral), and after spending more time with all them, it's still top of my list. The description above is reasonably accurate: it's a unisex woody iris-y carrot (or a woody carrot-y iris, take your pick), somewhere in between Honoré des Prés I Love Les Carottes and Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris.
It starts, as advertised, with a green herbal cast over some bright citrus. I would not have guessed basil, but it's obvious if you go looking for it early on, and it makes for an interesting mix with the iris and carrot notes, which are likewise present from the outset. It's not as overtly carrot-y as I Love Les Carottes (or as the opening of Hermès Hiris), and it's warmer and drier, with mild hints of spice. As it dries down, it's woodier, and slightly sweeter, although it never gets as sweet and vanillic as the Van Cleef & Arpels (or the original Dior Homme, also by Polge). I would call it middling-powdery, and middling-dark, and it has a kind of sober elegance — it's not a loud, heavy oriental in the traditional sense, and it's certainly more discreet than you might expect from Mugler's prestige line (A*Men, Angel, Alien, etc and etc).
Verdict: Beautifully done, and if you don't already own a perfect powdery woody iris, very much worth a try. I really like Oriental Express; if I could have one free bottle from the collection, this would be my pick, and I do think I'd reach for it often. My main quibble with the description is with the "original edginess" — I have so many similar perfumes in my collection that I'm no more than slightly tempted to buy, and of course, the price is an additional (and effective) deterrent.
Thierry Mugler Oriental Express is available in 80 ml Eau de Parfum in a refillable bottle, $225. It is already out in Canada at selected Hudson's Bay stores, and it will be introduced in the US in late September, at three Nordstrom stores (Miami Aventura, LA South Coast Plaza and Chicago Michigan Avenue). It was developed by perfumer Olivier Polge, possibly with perfumer Jean-Christophe Hérault (it is not clear from the press materials whether they worked together on all five scents).
1. Via press materials.
Note: top image is Postcard of Constantinople: the Harbor via Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.