Suzanne's Perfume Journal

By Kilian Amber Oud: An Amber for the Rambler in Me

November 17, 2012:

Oh the prairie lights are burnin' bright
The Chinook wind is a-movin' in
Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound.
Though I've done the best I could
My old luck ain't been so good and
Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound.

                                    --lyrics from “Alberta Bound” by Gordon Lightfoot

Although I am not a fan of winter itself, the months leading up to winter are exhilarating. It’s a time when all I have to do is take a drive through the central Pennsylvania backroads of the farming community where I grew up, and I find my heart catching in my throat at every turn. Just catching sight of the lay of land—so pronounced at this time of year, when the corn has been cut from the fields and the hay reduced to stubble by a killing frost, and you can see the rise and fall of a hillside in a way that seems new and almost magnified—I find my breath quickening the way it would if an old lover suddenly stepped into view. What is really in view is not only the stand of white pines along the south-facing side of a small mountain ridge, and the steep slope of hayfield that meets it, but the sight of my father on his horse Lunacita (“little moon”) leading the way through them. Any other time of year, I don’t find his ghost here, and to be truthful, I don’t go looking for it anymore. In November, though, it is almost impossible to pass by this terrain and not remember the trail rides he took us on after the crops had been harvested. A glance is all it takes to recall the rush of wind that met us after we crossed over the ridge and passed through these glossy pines into our neighbor’s field, and the sound of my father’s voice singing a Gordon Lightfoot tune. His was not a clear and confident singing voice, but he liked to sing anyway, especially when he thought no one was listening. In the stillness of a November wood, if you happened to be riding the next horse in line behind his, you could hear him softly making his way through the verses of his favorite tunes about rambling men and their ilk. And when his voice was carried off by the November wind that met us on the other side of that wood, those songs became something else. What, I’m not sure, but I sometimes think they hunkered down and buried themselves in my marrow. Every year when the late autumn winds blow, before the snows of winter arrive and insist otherwise, I am a bit of a rambling woman myself. I want to go somewhere, not to escape but because it’s an instinct. And it always strikes me that I want to go west, and that the West really feels like home to me, so in essence my travel instinct is almost a homing instinct. Kind of interesting when you think about it.

However, I have no westerly trip on my horizon—my rambles now will be to places not so far away—but still I will enjoy this time of year and the stirring feeling that comes with it. This week I’ve been wearing a fall fragrance sent to me by beautiful Dee Howe (blog mistress of Beauty on the Outside), one that seems custom made for days when the cold Canadian air dips down, making me feel like I ought to be hoofing it out to Alberta (a place I've never been). Amber Oud is the name it goes by: don’t ask me why, because if there is actual oud in this perfume, it is in the slimmest amount. That’s fine by me—I don’t need any more oud in my perfume cabinet—and this perfume is, as Dee says, “so darn affable” that its name hardly matters. It is an uncomplicated amber perfume that smells a bit like Play-doh when it first hits the skin, but give it five or ten minutes and it develops into an amber scent that has a nutmeg creaminess gently gliding along a base of cedarwood that’s as dry and fluffy as kindling. Amber Oud is, to my mind, the down-jacket of amber perfumes: it’s an amber that radiates warmth but is amazingly light for a perfume of this genre. Although its notes include benzoin and vanilla, I actually don’t find it all that vanillic. For me, the defining element in the perfume is the cedarwood, which is a note that can smell awful or wonderful on me, and here it is elegant, dry and balsamy enough that it reminds me a bit of winter woods. Amber Oud strikes me as the perfect scent to wear on a trail ride.

While it’s not the kind of amber perfume that I think of as being “narcotic”—in other words, it doesn’t have either the kind of complexity or the über creamy richness that makes me want to lie in bed and sniff my perfumed wrists all day—it’s nice to have a featherweight amber perfume that allows you to smell great, feel warm, but also to forget about it, in a sense, and move through your daily rounds with ease. It’s kind of funny to me that Amber Oud is from the By Kilian collection of fragrances that are part of his Arabian Nights collection, because despite its Eastern influence, everything about it says, Go West! And were I lucky enough to be Alberta bound, this scent would be coming with me.

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By Kilian Amber Oud eau de parfum has notes of amber, oud, bay leaf, cedarwood, benzoin and vanilla. It can be purchased from, where a 50-ml bottle in the exquisite By Kilian packaging is $395. A more affordable alternative is the 50-ml refill bottle also available at for $185.

Many thanks to Dee Howe, who sent me a decant of Amber Oud. Here's a link to her Beatles-inspired review of it!

Photo of "Welcome to Alberta" is from; photo of By Kilian Amber Oud bottle is from