Yves Saint Laurent M7 and M7 Oud Absolu : Fragrance Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

I now know that the worst thing after a perfume reformulation is a relaunch. You mourn your long lost favorite, stock up on bottles and brace yourself for the day when a spray releases nothing but a few scented puffs of air. Then you learn that the brand valiantly decides to reissue the fragrance and your hopes are resuscitated once again. You seek out a sample, eagerly apply the liquid to your skin and—it is not the same! That is exactly what I experienced with M7 Oud Absolu, a relaunch of the marvelous and polarizing Yves Saint Laurent fragrance M7.

M7 pushed all imaginable boundaries —the composition was a woody oriental blend of such boldness that it seemed fit for superheroes; the tenacity was legendary and the marketing campaign was one of the most controversial. Creators Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier, perfumery superheroes in their own right, emphasized the richness of woody notes—oud, vetiver, sandalwood—by layering them with incense and citrus. M7 was dark as night and radiant as moonlight; in other words, mesmerizing.

The bold and brash original M7 was a resounding market failure, and perhaps it was a deliberate choice to tone it down. If M7 growls, M7 Oud Absolu meows. The woods are splashed with the licorice sweetness of myrrh and creamy musks provide a hazy glow to the whole composition. The dark, smoky woods of the original M7 are rendered in violet tones, similar to Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois. The medicinal richness of oud swirls in and out of the composition, always remaining mild. The semblance to the original is clear in its woody and ambery notes, but the overall character is subdued and mellow.

I am ambivalent on M7 Oud Absolu. Its rich, chocolate amber drydown with a hint of myrrh is comforting and tender, but it is not distinctive enough. While I can easily recall M7 in my mind, I struggle to remember the defining features of M7 Oud Absolu. However, in comparison to most other new launches, especially among masculine fragrances, it stands out for its elegant and suave aura. Perhaps if M7 were not so vivid in my mind, I would have been kinder to this offspring. Meanwhile, I am going to try to smell M7 Oud Absolu on its own terms.

Yves Saint Laurent M7 Oud Absolu contains notes of bergamot, mandarin, orange, rosemary, vetiver, oud, musk, and amber. Available from major retailers.

Image: original M7 ad.

Sample: my own acquisition

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13 Comments

  • Suzanna: This review reminds me that there used to be some rather glorious men’s scents around, of which M7 was one. That they all seem to have vanished in a puff of nitromusks makes me wonder why we have become so timid and apologetic, fearful of not smelling of freshly pressed linen or laundry, afraid of a waft of incense or a handful of vetiver. March 15, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

  • Victoria: Have you smelled Paco Rabanne One Million? Not exactly the style I like, but it sure is bold! And fits perfectly with the bottle and the whole marketing image.

    By and large, though, I agree. The masculine fragrance counter is even more boring than the feminine one. March 15, 2012 at 12:14pm Reply

  • minette: so glad to have and wear the original! it’s one of my favorite men’s scents, and so distinctive and rich. and soooo unlike most of the men’s offerings these days. so i can understand why the new one might disappoint – but it does sound better than most of the new stuff out there for guys – so i, too, will try to enjoy it for what it is.

    in fact, the only recent men’s scent i sorta-kinda liked on my sniffing trip a couple of weeks ago was victor & rolf’s spicebomb – which was more like a spicepuff than a big blast of spice, but still nice because it WASN’T one of the ubiquitous citrus-musk-detergent-clean wood men’s scents that all smell the same (and really dull) to me. then again, i am a huge fan of equipage, bel ami, m7, kouros and eau sauvage, among other men’s classics.

    i wish i could encourage men to look for something more interesting than the the citrus-musk-detergent-clean wood scents they all seem to gravitate to around here, but maybe those men are not themselves interesting…

    a truly interesting man is going to look for something unique – something that expresses himself – and he won’t be afraid to explore the classics. i guess i just have to wait for him to cross my path. in the meantime, it’s detergent city. March 15, 2012 at 1:37pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am wearing Cologne Bigarade on one wrist right now and Eau Sauvage on another. Both are wonderful! And like you, I cannot stand the mutant lavender and laundry musks of typical masculine scents. At least, Oud Absolu is not in that category.  March 15, 2012 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Amer: I don’t see how the reissue holds any merrit. It is blunt and vanilic when male vanillas are worth a dime a dozens these days. Its top and middle notes don’t last at all and the bottle is bad, outdated design and feels cheap. Is this the destiny of great ideas? March 16, 2012 at 8:32am Reply

  • Victoria: Sigh… Let’s hope, it isn’t. March 16, 2012 at 12:18pm Reply

  • civava: M7 is so bold. I had to step one step back when I first tried it. But it is great perfume it is so much going on on that I can’t even describe it. And it is not an easy perfume to wear. Love it. March 17, 2012 at 6:12am Reply

  • Barney A. Bishop: I once owned the original M7. I wish I still did. I’ll have to sniff out this updated version. March 20, 2012 at 12:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: The original M7 is still easy to find. The update just doesn't compare… March 20, 2012 at 1:01pm Reply

  • ken: M7 smells of very high quality materials to me. think it is probbaly the oud, which i think became so prohibitively expensive over the years that they have to discontinue M7 and come out with a watered down version. i have stocked up 2 big bottles of the original M7. this whole thing about raw materials becoming expensive and we end up with cheap / chemical smelling alternatives is something that depresses me. May 28, 2012 at 4:09am Reply

  • piatti: just got the Oud Absolu and i really do not seem to like it. plus doesnt last like the original M7 but still stands out tho and its a lot different from other perfumes. if you using M7 its means you are spontaneous. in one word M7 is seductive September 6, 2012 at 6:48am Reply

  • Charlie: As a young man in his early twenties, I’m always very cautious when checking out perfume. Simply because I can see all the marketing that is being done to get us to buy some pretty bad perfumes, haha. Or, uhm, boring perfumes then.

    I remember trying out the original M7 and thinking “Wow, it might be a bit too much. But I like it!” And the woman behind the counter actually told me that it was a perfume for older men! I happen to live in Holland, a country where perfume is at most something you buy as a gift, because it comes in a flashy bottle.

    But anyways, I saw the new M7 (how dare they change the bottle to such a boring one, by the way!) and didn’t understand what had happened. So I tried it and knew something wasn’t right. I had been using M7 Fresh (if you like M7 and citrus-y perfumes, you’ll be addicted to the Fresh) and didn’t know if maybe I thought the M7 was not as daring anymore because maybe I got used to it or my perfume knowledge had evolved. So I asked if it was the original M7 just repackaged. The lady said yes and I was disappointed (and still a bit suspicious). In this country it’s a miracle to find anyone who has any clue as to which ingredients there are in the perfume she’s speaking so highly of.

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not crazy. The new M7 is just ok, but t’s nothing compared to the powerhouse that was the original M7. Gotta go scour the web for some of the old juice then. The perfect toned-down yet still vibrant version/addition of/to the M7, would be the M7 Fresh. This new “Oud Absolute” was totally unnecessary. September 27, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re definitely right, the perfumes are so different. The original M7 is bold and dramatic, and this version is just bland in comparison. Not a bad fragrance, but if you know the original, it’s disappointing. September 27, 2012 at 11:32am Reply

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