Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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​​​    And February was so long that it lasted into March

    And found us walking a path alone together. 
    You stopped and pointed and you said, “That's a crocus,” 
    And I said, “What's a crocus?" and you said, “It's a flower,”
    I tried to remember, but I said, “What's a flower?”
    You said, “I still love you.” 

           --From the Dar Williams song, February
(About the end of a relationship so wearying and cold, it is analogous to February)

February may be the shortest month of the year, but when you live in the northeastern United States, it seems like the longest.  And March is often equally long and cruel.  These two months are filled with snow, ice, freezing rain, non-freezing rain, and temperatures that seem all the colder for the damp precipitation that accompanies them.  It truly is the kind of cold that goes right through you.

My perfume antidote to the dreary months of February and March usually lies in the application (sometimes over-application) of dazzling white florals that are the olfactory equivalent of a French Polynesian vacation.  There are some days, though, when white florals fail me, when I am miserable enough that I don't want to play along with them and pretend.  There are days when I am so rolling around in my misery that I just want the comfort of something equally dense and thick, something with a slightly sharp or bitter edge to it.  And on those days, my perfume cravings turn to dark roses, with Montale Black Aoud being my poison of choice.

Roses like dark chocolate...that's how I would describe Black Aoud.  The fragrance starts out with the bitter-smokiness of aoud (or oud), a precious resin that is formed from the heartwood of the Asian Aquilaria tree species.  The aoud resin is produced from these trees, also known as agarwood or aloewood trees, after the tree has been infected by fungus and the wood begins to decompose, a process that can take anywhere from fifty to several hundred years, if my understanding is correct, which is why the best aoud resins are rare and costly.  In the Middle East, aoud is burned in homes and mosques to celebrate important events, and the smoke is not only used to scent a space, but in a guest setting is sometimes passed from person to person to scent one's clothes.

After the bite of aoud come the roses, and they are the deep red and velvety kind.  Wearing Black Aoud is a very sensual affair: it is like lying down on a bed of rose petals while keeping one rich, intact bloom pressed to your nose as you skulk in your dark room, cocooned from the rest of the world, watching Spanish soap operas or doing nothing at all.  And if you have the kind of crazy hectic life that so challenges the spirit your imagination can't even support such a fantasy, I still believe that, if any fragrance can stir your senses, let your mind rest for a pause, then Black Aoud is such a fragrance.  Dark, yet splendidly plush, with a slightly sharp bite in the beginning to grab your taste buds, it is like the one perfectly decadent piece of chocolate that can make time slow down for a few precious minutes; the equivalent of the now-rare cigarette break in the middle of a long workday; the stolen moment.  Only, Black Aoud lasts much longer than any of those beauties.

The fragrance composition is elegant in its simplicity: the notes are red rose, aoud, labdanum, and sandalwood.  Depending on the source, I've also seen patchouli and mandarin listed as notes in Black Aoud.  It's worth noting that while Black Aoud is beloved by women, it is actually listed in some places (like as a men's scent--and I can tell you, it does indeed smell devastatingly good on a man.  My husband started wearing it a short while ago and smells delicious in it.  It's rare for me to go through a whole bottle of something, but considering how often we both reach for this scent, I have a feeling I'll be ordering a second bottle of Black Aoud very soon.

Black Aoud is available from ($150 for 50 ml; $210 for 100 ml).
Photo of Montale Black Aoud is from

February 26 2008:

Montale Black Aoud: Roses Like Dark Chocolate