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