Christian Dior Oud Ispahan : Perfume Review

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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

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44 Comments

  • Martyn: Now this sounds beautiful – and right up my street! June 25, 2012 at 7:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, since I already have enough oud-roses, but it’s so nicely done. June 25, 2012 at 10:12am Reply

  • OperaFan: Oh Dear V! You got me on the first sentence of the last paragraph. With the emphasis on the rose petals makes this a must try for me. I haven’t tried any of the Dior collection so perhaps it’s time.

    Thanks for this lovely review. When I see the name “Ispahan” mentioned, I immediately think of Faure’s haunting song, “Les Rose d’Ispahan.” This almost seems like it would fit the spirit of that song.

    a:) June 25, 2012 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t love everything in the collection and most fragrances are a bit on the light side. Oud Ispahan isn’t as rich as Portrait of a Lady, but it has enough heft for me.

      Your mention of Faure’s song made me rush to youtube, and I found this clip:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ4Z2sBeWeQ
      It’s so beautiful! June 25, 2012 at 10:16am Reply

      • OperaFan: Thank you for sharing! I haven’t heard the song in decades but it was one of the ones I learned in my early student days and remains a favorite. My voice teacher told me the Rose of Ispahan was an imaginary rose, but I’ve often wondered what beautifully scented rose might have inspired such a poetic name. June 25, 2012 at 10:46am Reply

        • Victoria: I wonder too! Your description of this song as haunting is right on the mark.
          By the way, another beautiful dark rose is Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma. I was just smelling it against Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady, Frederic Malle Une Rose and Oud Ispahan. It’s darker and earthier (so a bit more austere in spirit), but the rose heart is so rich and lush, I find it addictive. June 25, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

  • Alyssa: That sounds gorgeous. But I never, ever see these. Not a one. June 25, 2012 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: They are available from Dior boutiques in the US, which certainly limits their distribution. I usually just end up buying samples from The Perfumed Court, because it’s easier than tracking to one of the boutiques. June 25, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

  • lucas: That’s too bad that all those exclisive lines from Dior, Chanel or others are unavailable here. I wish I could smell some of those… June 25, 2012 at 10:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucas, I hear you. I’ve lived in small university towns for years, and my journey down the perfume rabbit hole started out when I was still a student, so I remember how frustrating it was to discover niche perfumes. Perhaps, you can swap with someone via Basenotes or Makeupalley? There are so many perfume lovers all over the world, and swapping can be a great way to try hard to find perfumes. June 25, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

      • lucas: I’m the same here. I’m a student (cosmetic chemistry) and I was lucky that this year I found a small niche perfume boutique in my university town. The perfumes there are great, but pricey, so I can afford buying something only once in a few months. More if I get to split the bottle with others (glad that I’ve found a split board that is exclusive to perfume lovers from Poland)

        The problem is that Chanel, Dior, Hermes – they don’t even have their boutiques in Poland (well, maybe they do, but only in the capitol city of Warsaw, and I live far from Warsaw) June 25, 2012 at 10:57am Reply

        • Victoria: You know, I worked in Poland one summer (in Krakow and in Warsaw), and I was already interested in perfume at that time. I don’t remember what shops I used to visit, but I recall that I got my bottle of Guerlain Herba Fresca at one of the boutiques in Warsaw. It still reminds me of that fun summer.

          Not sure about Dior and Chanel, but Hermes occasionally ships samples of their perfumes if you call their store. I definitely prefer to sample before purchasing anything. Sometimes I use up a sample and realize that I didn’t really like the perfume that much to invest in a full bottle. Even if initially it seemed like a love at first sniff! June 25, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

          • lucas: Oh, what a surprise! Herba Fresca is really nice, but I prefer Nuit Etoilee.
            I hate buying without trying, I do it as rarely as possible. Did it once with a Prada fragrance as I found a great deal online and this fragrance was unavailable in Poland so I took a risk and this was a one good choice.

            The other time I bought Caron Pour un Homme. Liked for a few months, now can’t stand it and don’t know what to do with the remainin 90-100ml I’ve got…

            So no, I don’t like buying blind.

            Just to say out of topic. My newest purchase is VC&A Bois d’Iris. June 25, 2012 at 11:13am Reply

            • Victoria: Lucas, well, at least with Pour Un Homme you have a superb classic on hand. If you’re tired of it, keep it someplace dark and cool and return to it a few years later. Gems like this are worth keeping around just for reference. Plus, who knows if it might be reformulated or discontinued down the road!

              Bois d’Iris is so elegant! I also like Cologne Noire from the same collection. June 25, 2012 at 11:20am Reply

              • lucas: I’ve been willing to try Cologne Noire too June 25, 2012 at 11:43am Reply

                • Victoria: It’s a sandalwood-incense fragrance. Dark, but luminous and transparent. June 25, 2012 at 2:18pm Reply

                  • Lucas: That sounds good. June 26, 2012 at 6:47am Reply

  • gio: It sounds absolutely gorgeous! Too bad it’s not available here.. June 25, 2012 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Gio, that’s the frustrating thing about these exclusive lines. Wish that Dior made their readily available fragrances just as memorable. I can’t recall anything interesting in their recent mainstream launches. June 25, 2012 at 10:50am Reply

  • AnneMarie: Ohh, this sounds so beautiful! May I ask for a more thorough comparison to By Kilian Rose Oud? Rose Oud is my dream fragrance, all darkness,damp earth, and humid air. The price, however, kills me! I just graduated from Berkeley and have some loans to start paying off soon, so my perfume budget is rather meager. I imagine that despite its private collection status, Oud Ispahan might prove a more affordable option. June 25, 2012 at 1:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rose Oud is brighter and sweeter to me, but also more animalic in the drydown. Oud Ispahan is rich too, but it feels more velvety and gentler. I love Rose Oud and find it addictive, sultry. Oud Ispahan seems less dramatic, but that doesn’t detract from its appeal. Hope that this helps a bit. Oud Ispahan might be less expensive per ml, but it’s still in the $200 range ($225.00 for 250ml vs by Kilian’s $235, 4 x .25oz spray refills or $395, 50ml spray bottle). June 25, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

      • AnneMarie: Thank you for the response! It does help, yes. Now, though, I want to try Oud Ispahan too. It sounds beautiful (velvety and less sweet!).

        I do love the sultriness and drama of Rose Oud. I wore my sample mainly for occasions I wished to make an impression or seduce a bit through scent. 😉 June 25, 2012 at 5:10pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s what Rose Oud is for me too–my sultry perfume. And also my wanderlust perfume. June 26, 2012 at 4:50am Reply

  • Kaori: This sounds very lovely. I haven’t worn a rose dominated fragrance for a long time. The last one was probably YSL Paris in the 80s !

    The size is 250ml!? I have 125ml bottles from the line and those are quite large.

    i have read an article on Guerlains Ouds in Madame Figaro(on line), which sound tempting. They must be pricey…

    Kaori June 25, 2012 at 9:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: There are several sizes available, IIRC. I think that Anne Marie will find 125ml big enough (and definitely more affordable).

      Guerlain Ouds are very nicely done. But I’m such a Guerlain fan that I want to try everything from them. June 26, 2012 at 4:53am Reply

  • neil chapman: A beautiful review. I didn’t like either the Kilian oude particularly, and though Portrait of a lady was stunning initially, it became so insistent and THICK somehow (too many synthetics in the base anchoring the naturals), that it almost made me feel sick. A more gentle, refined version of this prototype thus sounds gorgeous. June 25, 2012 at 10:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Portrait of a Lady has so much amber in the drydown and occasionally I find it sharp. But it’s just stunning, especially in the beginning when its thick, dark rose petals start to unfold. I think that you might enjoy Oud Ispahan more, if you found PoaL too heavy. June 26, 2012 at 4:55am Reply

  • Persolaise: I’m so pleased that we agree on this one. I was really impressed with it from the very first sniff, not least because it shows, as you say, that it is possible to return to familiar territory and create something wonderful. June 26, 2012 at 2:06am Reply

    • Victoria: Just smelling something of decent quality is pleasant enough. But here I like some of the unexpected contrasts and accents. Such a nice perfume. June 26, 2012 at 4:58am Reply

  • Amer: Well Dior might have fallen as everyone says, following the general self sabotage of all mainstream perfume houses lately, however, I still find their readily available range one of the best amongst the fragrant soup that Sephora offers. For many people who can’t spend half a wage on 50ml of perfume, Dior is still a choice of considerable quality.
    Since we are talking disappointment however, I find there is a lack of interesting new releases in two other old favorite houses: Hermes and Prada (again I am talking about their mainstream collection). Hermes’ latest hobby of re-releasing their latest hits in EdP concentration has not produced anything remotely interesting in my opinion. Same goes for Prada’s Ambre Intense. I still go to their counters expecting to be wowed. Just hope it will happen one of these days.
    What is your opinion on the matter? Any good insider information? June 26, 2012 at 3:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Amer, that’s true–Eau Sauvage, Dior Homme, Addict, J’Adore (ok, even in its
      post-reformulated state), etc. are still head and shoulders above many other mainstream collections. I was really thinking about their recent launches, and I couldn’t remember anything other than flankers.

      I think that every house is struggling a bit between the need to maintain their classical collections and release the new fragrances (not just flankers, which are cheap and easy releases that boost the profits). Not sure if I have any inside info on what’s going on inside Prada or Hermes. They aren’t the house the launch a new perfume every other season, so I hope that there will be something new and interesting. Voyage by Hermes was pleasant, but not that exciting. June 26, 2012 at 5:05am Reply

      • Amer: yes. Voyage left me somewhat unsatisfied too especially since it seemed to have such potential. I trully believe that with some tweaking it could have been exceptional. Domage. It is the EdP however that I think is disastrous. The resinous base doesn’t really add anything to the whole but rather subtracts the sparkling cleanliness effect and dims the woody spiciness.
        I tried Aqua di Gio essenza today. Again, so similar to the original that seems to have no raison d’etre.
        I really don’t get it. So many aromachemicals have become widely available and yet there are no decent efforts to bring out the best out of them.
        Another new sub-trend I have noticed of late is myrrh. It features in many new flankers. For me it is such an exceptional material with excellent tenacity and radiance and very unusual nuances. However whenever I can detect it in a composition (like the Ambre Intense by Prada, the Voyage EdP and Eau Sauvage EdP) it seems like an afterthought, a pastiche at best. I think true compositions around myrrh would give an interesting exit from this faux oud stagnation and the ban of oakmoss. It is a matter of time before we see more companies invest in that direction. June 26, 2012 at 6:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: I agree on that–the regulations have limited the traditional base notes to such an extent that the perfumers end up searching elsewhere. Myrrh is a gorgeous note, but it’s so darn hard to use! Too much and the balance is completely gone; too little and it has no effect. Plus, good quality is expensive, and lower grades have a rubbery-burnt note that can be very jarring. The faux ouds with that lingering band-aid note are my perfume pet peeves. Thankfully, Dior’s ouds have none of that. June 27, 2012 at 8:13am Reply

          • Amer: myrrh is a puzzle indeed. I don’t mind the rubbery aspect at all. In fact I love it. Someone told me that pure myrrh smells to her like a new troll doll! Do you remember those? In fact she loved it because of that.
            What I am not that crazy about is the licorice facet that reveals its ugly face in dilution. However this can be “cured” with some of the heavier resins like peru balsam, benzoin and vanilla, Ylang and citruses. Also certain spices with citrusy accents (like ginger or pepper) go extremely well. In total I think it can be worked into an ideal cologne base, a dry citrus/woody type, the kind that traditionally relied on oakmoss.
            I’m rambling. About the collection privee, I haven’t tried any. They are so difficult to find. However, based on many reviews I think I’d love several of them (damnit!) June 27, 2012 at 8:46am Reply

  • Ida: Well technically this is a Persian tale, not a Arabian one 😉 It sure sounds gorgeous. June 26, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: That was deliberate though, as I had the passages of lips red as roses from the Arabian Night Tales in my mind as I was writing! June 26, 2012 at 4:22pm Reply

  • Federico: Victoria, many thanks for your review. After having read it, I have tried Oud Ispahan at a Dior boutique. I have to say that I liked it eventhough I found it very similar to Amouage Lyric for me which, at the very end, is far better than Oud Ispahan. Ciao, Federico June 28, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Federico! I’ll have to smell it next to Lyric. That’s such an excellent fragrance from Amouage, but I haven’t smelled it in a while. June 28, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

  • clover: i have been watching to smell this for a while! especially ever since people started talking about how it smells like portrait of a lady, which is a scent i absolutely love. June 28, 2012 at 6:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely in the same ballpark, so if you like Portrait of a Lady, I recommend trying Oud Ispahan as well (and Amouage Lyric, as Federico recommended above). June 29, 2012 at 6:29am Reply

  • Aramis: Is the “Ispahan” name of a city in Iran or not?
    Ispahan = Isfahan ? July 6, 2012 at 1:39pm Reply

  • patricia borgenon: Victoria,

    Where can i gat Dior oud isaphan in Belgium please?

    Txs a lot,

    Patricia December 11, 2012 at 2:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think that it’s sold anywhere here, but I haven’t check at the Dior boutique. December 11, 2012 at 5:51pm Reply

  • Debra Garrett: I actually have a bottle I would like to sell if anyone is interested February 23, 2013 at 9:38pm Reply

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