There are some varieties of rose that smell fresh and delicate at first and then reveal a piquant, peppery bite. You pull away from the blossom with a start, the tingling sensation still in your nose and can’t help yourself leaning in for another inhale. My first impression of Oud Ispahan, a new addition to Christian Dior’s La Collection Privée, was similar—the compelling sparkle of the top note contrasted dramatically with the darkness of patchouli and oud.
Although some aspects of Oud Ispahan felt unexpected and surprising, this elegant fragrance is a classical marriage of rose and woods. Oud Ispahan is an Arabian Tale alright, but it’s told with a French accent. Perfumer François Demachy’s style is polished and refined, and I particularly enjoy Oud Ispahan for its easy to wear, easy to enjoy warmth. It isn’t a polarizing fragrance that requires a long courtship; Oud Ispahan readily envelops its wearer in soft and velvety layers.
The initial dark hint comes right after the fresh and citrusy opening, liberally laced with rose. The rose—and from what I can smell Dior didn’t spare money on making this rose as full and voluptuous as possible—becomes rich and saturated as Oud Ispahan dries down. The saffron is a leathery accent that bridges the rose and the amber inlaid drydown. This is the point when I sniff my wrist obsessively.
The oud impression in Oud Ispahan is as nuanced as that of Leather Oud, another dark fragrance from La Collection Privée. The amber with its honeyed sweetness plays up against the earthy patchouli and warm resins. It smells of tree sap, Indian sandalwood beads and incense. Some oud accords smell so medicinal to me that they end up being repulsive, but Dior’s oud is mild and velvety. It lingers gently and feels as appropriate for an office as it does for an evening alone.
Oud Ispahan’s ambery roses remind me of Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady and By Kilian Rose Oud, but with a stronger emphasis on rose petals, rather than dark and sweet notes. It may seem familiar–and here I agree with Octavian’s review, but it’s so well put together that I don’t mind the lack of novelty. I admit that these days I don’t always feel excited about Dior’s offerings and its strange practice of renaming and duplicating its own fragrances. But when I discover Dior at its best—emphasizing quality and craftsmanship, I’m smitten once again. I hope that just as Scheherazade never ends her fabulous tales, the house of Dior continues to woo us with new interesting fragrances.
Christian Dior Oud Ispahan is available from the Dior boutiques.
Sample: my own acquisition