My bottle of Amouage Ubar arrived this morning and I have been in full swoon ever since. This newly relaunched fragrance, named for a long-lost ancient trading city of the Middle East, smells true to its heritage—and the way it juxtaposes the delicacy of lily-of-the-valley against the perfume’s deep and full-bodied fabric is masterful in creating the feeling of twilight settling over the open walls of a warm city. I read somewhere that lily is the Persian personification of night: the words lil or lilleh are designations for evening. Lilies-of-the-valley are of the lily family*, and though here in the United States we think of them as cheerful harbingers of spring and, thusly, more daylight, I have to say that the cool-and-ethereal quality of the lily-of-the-valley note in Ubar does very much remind me of evening, the way it twinkles throughout the fragrance like a night star. Eventually honeyed-rose and warm jasmine envelope it to a degree, along with a deliciously Old-World, vintagey-smelling base, thick with vanilla, civet and moss (and though it’s not listed, vetiver, I believe). Yet somehow this lilting lily-of-the-valley note glides over, or pops in and out of, this deep dusky expanse without ever fully succumbing to it (helped along by a chiffon-like lemon note in the scent’s initial stages). It’s as if the thrust of the perfume is to act as a sumptuous cushion for lily-of-valley to recline upon so that she can beguile with her tender beauty for a long stretch of time. (Much like Scheherazade settling in for a long night of story-telling in order to survive, and eventually win the love of, her crazed and embittered husband, the Sultan Schahriar, who would otherwise have her head.)
The Amouage website lists the notes for Ubar as:
Top: Lemon, Bergamot, Lily-of-the-valley
Heart: Damascene Rose, Jasmine
Base: Civet, Vanilla
But on the ingredients list, printed on the cellophane portion of the packaging, the company also lists “Evernia Prunastri (oakmoss)” and “Evernia Furfuracea (tree moss),” which I thought worth mentioning here because they contribute to the beauty of the fragrance’s rich base. Oakmoss is a perfume ingredient that has recently been banned by IFRA (the International Fragrance Association, a governing body that determines what aroma materials can and cannot be used in perfumes sold commercially), so the oakmoss used by Amouage is likely the low atranol variety that, as of this writing, is still allowed.
As one would expect of a fragrance of this caliber, Amouage Ubar is long-wearing with a sillage that is very striking and yet, true to its good breeding, respectful. On the Amouage website, they have a review by Luca Turin that led me to believe that Ubar's sillage would be on the huge and flamboyant side, but I don’t find this to be the case. It smells opulent, yes, but to me it has that twinkling, twilight quality that I mention above—a sense of twilight’s quiet magic and mystery. This is a scent for formal attire—the perfect accompaniment to an evening dress—but since there are few occasions for that, and since I’m already so in love with Ubar, I’ll be wearing it with considerably less finery than it deserves. I should also mention that while Ubar is described as a woman’s scent—and it does play more to the feminine side in terms of its notes—I’d love to smell it on a man. If my husband decided to wear this one, I would happily play the Sultana for him.
*There is some dispute as to whether lily-of-the-valley is of the lily family, but my research indicates that it either is (or was) considered part of that family. To quote from the Science Encylcopedia website: "There are about 240 genera and 4,000 species in the Liliaceae. Lilies are a diverse group and recent taxonomists have tended to split the group into four main families: Liliaceae, the lilies proper; Convallariaceae, lily-of-the-valley and Solomon's seals; Melanthaceae, or bunch-flowers; and Smilaceae, the catbriers or greenbriers. In this article, the Liliaceae is considered in the broadest sense, including all of these four groups."
Like a Night in Arabia: Amouage Ubar
April 30, 2009:
Suzanne's Perfume Journal
She comes like fullest moon on happy night,
Taper of waist with shape of magic might.
She hath an eye whose glances quell mankind,
And ruby on her cheeks reflects his light.
Enveils her hips the blackness of her hair--
Beware of curls that bite with viper bite!
Her sides are silken-soft, that while the heart
Mere rock behind that surface 'scapes our sight.
From the fringed curtains of her eyne she shoots
Shafts that at furthest range on mark alight.
--The Arabian Nights,
Tales from A Thousand And One Nights
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Amouage Ubar is available from Aedes.com, ParfumsRaffy.com, and LuckyScent.com, where I purchased my bottle: $250 for 50 ml or $285 for 100 ml.
Images: Scheherazade and the Sultan by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) from Artpassions.net; bottle image of Amouage Ubar is from LuckyScent.com.
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