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Bombay Duck London

Organic Glam So Oud

One of the great, magic-enhancing mysteries of the fragrance world is of course that we scent-lovers can never find out exactly what’s in a perfume.  It’s Above Top Secret info, for commercial reasons.  (Fragrance, unlike other areas of cosmetics, is not bound by the need to label anything but any potential allergens – limonene, geraniol etc. – on the packaging.)  So I have no reason to disbelieve Organic Pharmacy when they tell me that their four new fragrances are 100% natural, with no artificial fragrances or colours, phthalates or animal ingredients.  But I have to say, it’s a serious achievement.

Now, professeur de parfums Roja Dove and I once spent an entire afternoon sniffing our way through dozens of ‘natural’ fragrances for The Green Beauty Bible (which I co-wrote with Sarah Stacey).  I have to say we loathed much of what we encountered.  Some were blatantly synthetic, despite the ‘natural’ spin.  Others had zero staying power on the skin.  Yet more were simply poor compositions.  We eventually settled on a slightly-less-than-magnificent seven fragrances to list in that book – but I can safely say that if Organic Glam’s quartet had been up for assessment that day, it would have grabbed the first four slots.  These are expert blends:  rounded, beautiful, impactful – and they last, on the skin.  The Scent Critic doesn’t know how Organic Pharmacy founder Margot Marrone’s done it – but I take my hat off to her.

Naturally, I have my favourites in the collection:  Oriental Blossom is delectably sexy, but it’s Oud I’m enjoying most of all.  Oud, of course, is having a major fragrance moment generally.  Jo Malone’s got an Oud, and so has Tom Ford.  There are a couple of good Ouds at Avery Perfumery (and I’ll get round to those, in the months to come).  Deeply, darkly rooted in the Arabic tradition of perfume, oud – a.k.a. agar – is a dark, resinous wood that forms in the heart of trees when they’ve been infected with a specific type of mold.  In defence, the tree produces a dark, aromatic resin – and that’s oud, which literally for millennia has been used for perfumery and for incense.  It’s exotic – and erotic.  And yes, it does have a little bit of an ‘off’ smell if you analyse it too closely – but it’s the grit in the oyster, what makes it intriguing.  Oud gives the depth that an animalic note used to, and now that the fragrance world’s banned the civets and musks, it’s more valuable than ever.

Not surprisingly, Organic Glam Oud is very woody from first whoosh. The overture is dry and souk-spicy:  cedarwood, chai-like cardamom – and a generous, nose-tingling grind of black pepper.  Freeze-framed there, it could be worn by a man – but then a softness drifts in:  the powderiness when you open a box of rose-scented Turkish delight, with a touch of Mummy’s handbag about it.  Within minutes, Oud’s become super-sophisticated and girly, all at once.  Burlesque, even.   And I love, love, love the base notes:  generous sandalwoodiness, with vetiver (you know by now how I feel about vetiver), and the chocolate-bar sweetness of tonka bean.

There’s definitely a wild-animal-undertone about Organic Glam Oud.  Caged tiger.  Cheetah-on-a-leash.  I am old enough to remember when hip young men wearing flared trousers and silk bandanas would sometimes parade pet lions and leopards down Chelsea’s King’s Road on jewelled leashes, and I was always a sucker for that underlying sense of threat, as they padded by.  Well, this has a little of that purring, dangerous sensuality.  The label – on a hefty bottle that’s definitely the most glamorous the natural fragrance world has yet seen – may not list the ingredients, but it probably ought have a warning:  ‘We cannot be responsible for things that happen to you when wearing Organic Glam Oud.’

Definitely not one for the office, anyway.  Unless you’re looking to seduce Mr. Blenkinsop in Accounts, that is.

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