Today, I’d like to take you inside the world of high-end artisanal oud oils, as glimpsed through the experiences and work of one distiller, Feel Oud. For the men working at this level, whether it is Russian Adam of Feel Oud, Ensar Oud, or Agar Aura, oud is more than a mere scent they enjoy; it’s a life-changing passion and labour of love. It’s blood, sweat, tears, long hours, attention to every microscopic detail, high cost, tropical jungles, and the need to possess both the vision and the soul of an artist.
Trying to date vintage Shalimar and navigating eBay to find a bottle of the version that you prefer might seem, at first glance, to be an exhausting, frustrating, and complicated ordeal. However, there are some basic guidelines to make things much simpler. It’s one of those things where the learning curve is initially steep but then, suddenly, it becomes much easier and one can (almost) whip through the many eBay listings to single out the bottles which fit your precise parameters.
So, today, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on the bottle designs for vintage Shalimar, their history, their appearance, their packaging, their differences, and the methods used to try to date the bottles. The analysis will focus almost entirely on the parfum, but I’ll briefly mention the bottle designs for the other concentrations that were discussed in Part II. They’re not hard to date or figure out for the most part but it’s a different story for the parfum, particularly since most eBay sellers don’t know much about the bottles that they’re selling. I recently had to use a sort of reverse engineering or backwards analysis based on nothing more than the height dimensions (inches) of a listed bottle in order to figure out its size and possible date of release. And I’m still not sure of the latter! The process is much like playing Sherlock Holmes except, in this case, the tiny clues often don’t yield definitive answers.
“Amber” is a glorious genre of perfumery, a showcase for all that is decadent, inviting, resinous, and golden in scent, with facets that range across a broad spectrum from the musky, sultry, smoky, and spicy to the deliciously cozy with sweetened aromas of toffee, caramel, or vanilla. But “amber” is a word that needs to be in quotation marks because it is, in reality, an umbrella catch-all term that encompasses many varieties of materials and, as a result, a slew of different aromas or styles.
I’d like to go over the basics of those genres or, to be more precise, sub-genres in what will be a two-part series, starting today with the history, definitions, basics, and scent profile of the materials in each group. In the next post, Part II, I’ll list fragrances that I love and recommend within each category, as well as a few famous ones beloved by others, even if they don’t strike the same chord with me.
What’s it like to be a professional nose? How difficult is it to become one? How does one deal with the restrictions inherent in perfume creation, whether IFRA/EU-related, a client’s brief, or basic price constraints? And why do so many perfumes smell the same?!
Those are a few of the questions I posed to Viktoria Minya, the award-winning perfumer and owner of Parfums Viktoria Minya. She’s a rare creature in the industry for a few reasons. First, she’s one of the few professionally trained female noses who also runs her own perfume house. Second, she’s both an insider and, in many ways, an outsider as well. She’s not part of the stable of perfumers hired by the big companies like Givaudan, IFF, or Robertet, but she was one once. Now, she’s independent but, unlike Bertrand Duchaufour, she’s not a nose for hire in the typical sense and she works primarily on her own creations. Her closest counterpart might be Patricia de Nicolai, but the latter is arguably a part of the establishment, whether through her presidency of Osmothèque or her membership in the Guerlain family.