Montale nomenclature is descriptively confusing. And confusingly accurate. Take for instance Sandflowers. The name predisposes for a floral oeuvre with tropical highlights. Wrong! No flowers at all, just sea wind, sun, sand, skin and calone. But then again, ins’t “Sandflowers” the most evocative name one could choose for this masterful, modern, abstract creation? Another example: is there room in a fragrance line for Aoud Leather and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie?. How many oud-leather combos can keep buyers interested? Well, surprisingly enough the actual names of the perfumes will guide you to which one of these completely different perfumes is right for you. A more conventional, western-type leather or the rugged goat hide of arabian souks? Greyland is an example for a Montale release where the name might say absolutely nothing to hint the notes but once you’ve tried this mix of pepper, amber and leather you realise that of course! this is a bleak, Wuthering Heights type of tormented, romantic composition (I had a sample of this but I liked it so much, I couldn’t help using it all up before getting to write an actual review). And then come the Aouds and Aoud and Roses infinite combos. I admit that after experiencing the grandeur of Black Aoud I actively avoided any of the others for fear of discovering another oud-rose that is even more mesmerising than the Black Beast. Searching for a tagette (or less lavishly put, marigold) fragrance I noticed Aoud Red Flowers. I love the scent of marigolds. Together with mimosa, they are for me the animalic florals. Thick, oily, leathery smells that convey a sticky, humid micro-environment , they feel like they can move towards you as lean forward to sniff their scent. Even if for most people “animalic flower” is usually associated with indolic white flowers, for me the leathery facet of marigold and mimosa are the real dirty blossoms. Cuir Pleine Fleur is the perfume that explains the way I see carnality in these flowers.
Aoud Red Flowers smells like marigolds in the opening. Narcotic, sweet, wet, sticky marigolds. It is a red-ish flower after all. But with it comes a slightly boosy smell that supports the marigold and keeps it from getting too sweet. This boosiness is the only thing that could hint of the presence of oud. I can’t say that I smell oud in this one, at least not at a measure that would justify putting “Aoud” in the name. This is not a bad thing of course. Using this note as a player and not as a ruler is never a bad thing nowadays, the way it has climbed down the ladder to feature even in Lynx/Axe releases. Here oud acts like a subtle desiccator to the waxy floral note and you can approach this without fear if the Montale variety of this ingredient rubs you the wrong way. But what comes next is the real star of this composition for me. One of the richest, waxiest, iris accords I have ever smelt. Or maybe this is actually carrot seed because it has this lived-in, slightly acrid hay note that I have experienced from carrot seed oil. Together with sandalwood they marry to accentuate the already leathery aspect of marigold. Reportedly saffron is also deployed here but to be honest it doesn’t catch my nose in a major way. In the process of the development some of the dusty, dark rose of Black Aoud also makes an appearance and actually this is the only note that actually lifts off the skin to give volume to this composition. Some reviewers have used the term “powdery” to describe Aoud Red Flowers but I wouldn’t go as far as to adopt this descriptor. This is way too waxy to drift off to powdery on my skin. I suppose what I describe as iris/ carrot seed is what links this to powder.
Is this name accurate after all? As with all Montale perfumes one might be tempted to say that it isn’t. The oud doesn’t shout. It isn’t too floral either. But come to think of it this is a velvety perfume, old velvet, lived-in. And it feels “red” in that it is rich and makes you go back and sniff again and again the spot of your skin where you applied your sample. There is also a touch of drama into it, I cant’t help seeing a Chinese courtesan wrapped in red, embroidered silk, sitting in front of a lacquered screen and looking at the camera lens with an empty, lonely look in her eyes. Aoud Red Flowers has gravitas. And it also made me think that Pierre Montale must hold small name-giving sessions where people sit around smelling new perfume sketches and tell him what they smell like to them. And thus are these perfumes christened.
Notes from Parfumo: Oud, Pot marigold, Rose, Saffron, Sandalwood
Notes from my nose: Marigold, Iris, Hay, Sandalwood, Rose