Montale Black Aoud : Perfume Review



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

To be perfectly honest, I find many Montale oud fragrances to be overly brash and lacking nuance, yet I am ready to eat my words anytime I discover something that proves me wrong. Black Aoud, a surprisingly authentic Arabic style fragrance, made me forget both my distaste for the oud trend as well as for Montale. Oud (agarwood), derived from a species of Aquallaria trees affected by a fungus, has a unique fragrance, which ranges from honeyed tobacco to warm fur. Given the numerous nuances of this material, it is possible to fashion different effects, whether dusky and smoky or luminous and suave. Black Aoud exemplifies the East Arabic style of perfumery that tends towards the latter.

Although I doubt that many agarwood trees suffered to make Black Aoud, it nevertheless has an interesting complexity. While the oud note is a central piece of Black Aoud, its medicinal roughness is smoothed out sufficiently to allow for a harmony with other notes. In contrast to the animalic and spicy oud renditions popular in other parts of the Middle East, Eastern Arabic perfumes rely on amber and sandalwood to lend oud an elegant twist. Plush rose notes further soften the animalic richness of the main accord and pervade it with a delicious velvety sweetness.

The initial heft of oud and sandalwood gives way to an earthy patchouli and amber, with the red rose petals melting into the honeyed warmth. At this moment, as I wear Black Aoud, I invariably feel an exhilarating moment of recognition. Dark roses, smoky wood and incense, it is a fragrance that evokes the generous Arabic custom of scenting guests with rosewater and oud smoke. Leaving one’s hosts, one goes away not just with the pleasant memories of time spent together, but also with the opulent scent that clings to the skin like warm silk. As Black Aoud dries down to rose inflected amber and smoldering woods, it indeed becomes reminiscent of rosewater and incense smoke.

As in some of the best Arabic attars, the composition hits different facets as it warms up on the skin—from oud to rose to amber and back. This shimmery sensation makes Black Aoud beguiling, and while it is a dramatic and tenacious fragrance, it is marked by a certain refinement. For those who wish to experience a traditional Arabic perfume rather than Western fantasies on the theme (by Kilian, Tom Ford, L’Artisan, etc.), Black Aoud offers a glimpse into this venerable heritage.

Montale Black Aoud includes notes of rose, oud, labdanum, and sandalwood. Available at fourseasons, luckyscent, parfumsraffy, theperfumeshoppe (Canada), and first-in-fragrance (Germany). $115, 50 ml, $175, 100 ml of Eau de Parfum.

Image: miniature painting, 17th century, via wikicommons.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Suzanna: I like some Montales, but I like few ouds. This is an exception, probably because of the veils of amber, rose, and sandalwood. These cut down on the pungency of oud without wrapping it in floss (White and Red Oud).

    Thanks for putting this scent into context relative to other treatments of oud. That is fascinating stuff and worthy of a longer article, I should think, off-blog. May 9, 2011 at 9:39am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I did not particularly like Montale either, but you make this sound very interesting, as I want to explore attars, this is maybe a good transitionional scent from western ones. I will certainly give this a try. May 9, 2011 at 6:55am Reply

  • bee: I have a small bottle of it and have noticed that it always takes 1-2 hours to mellow down, and have had fellow commuters twitching their noses around me just after application (be assured that I am an “undersprayer”), but after that the staying power is exceptional and as you say it is a scent with a “moiré” effect May 9, 2011 at 11:45am Reply

  • Heidi: I love the info about middle eastern perfume, and I’d also love to read more about different traditions there! Scenting your guest so that they have a memory to take with them– how beautiful and civilized.

    Why is it becoming more rare for women to blend their own attars? May 9, 2011 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: It smells very much like oud based fragrances I’ve smelled in Oman. The first time I smelled Black Aoud, I felt as if I were back in Muscat. And the oud note is not as sharp here as in some other Montale fragrances. May 9, 2011 at 9:39am Reply

  • OperaFan: Black Aoud is indeed a beautiful creation, even though I’ve only sampled it in sparing amounts from a half-filled vial. My first Montale was Aoud Roses Petals, which was very beautiful initially but with repeated wearings became too much to handle. These days, among my favorites are Chypre Fruites and Taif Roses, which layer beautifully.
    I’ll need to go back and retry the Black Aoud again – there might be a small bottle in my future… May 9, 2011 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: Suzanna, I am glad that you found it interesting. I have been collecting the information for such an article for a while, since I have traveled in the Middle East and found it interesting to observe the variation in local preferences. Until recently, it was customary for women to blend their own perfumes from the bases they would buy from an attar shop. These days, it is definitely a dying tradition.
    So, one of these days, I will definitely try to get it all on paper. May 9, 2011 at 11:21am Reply

    • Susan: I am somewhat of an aoud fan, probably because The Perfume Shoppe here in Vancouver, Canada carries the Montale line. Naz, the owner, is a fascinating woman. She was born in Zanzibar, and her father owned some kind of shop where the Arabs used to come, bearing their perfume oils. It all sounds dreadfully exotic and romantic to me! I also have an obsession with tribal jewellery from Morocco and Yemen (and Oman to a lesser degree). This may explain my fondness for “heavier” scents. (Although I am also a die-hard Deneuve devotee.) September 3, 2020 at 2:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Bee, I can definitely see what you mean. The top notes in these types of fragrances are rather strong. I also find that Black Aoud really enchants me once it dries down. May 9, 2011 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Victoria: I think that it is because the commercial fragrances (and above all, branded western fragrances) are becoming more and more available. Plus, it is an art in itself to create the blends, and many women simply prefer to buy something ready made, rather than spend time learning to craft their own compositions. I personally know a few women who still do it, and I must say that it is amazing to smell their creations. May 9, 2011 at 1:58pm Reply

  • Victoria: Whenever I have Middle Eastern dinners for my friends, before serving dessert and coffee, I like to bring out a large bowl filled with water and scented with rose petals and rosewater. People can rinse their hands with this scented water, and everyone always enjoys the scent that lingers on the skin afterwards. Incidentally, roses and coffee is a surprisingly good pairing! 🙂 May 9, 2011 at 2:01pm Reply

  • Katrina: I really enjoyed reading this post. I find it fascinating to learn about the background of different perfume styles. May 9, 2011 at 6:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: Aoud Roses Petals also was my introduction to Montale ouds, and like you, I found that while pleasant initially, wearing it repeatedly was tiresome. Not so with Black Aoud, which is less heavy-handed and flat. I have a small bottle, and I  revisit it whenever I either want a bold and confident fragrance or else whenever I feel nostalgic for Oman. May 9, 2011 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Myra: Super cool to know that you have visited Oman! I have never seen anything more beautiful in the middle east than the clear blue waters of Ruwi. I dream of going back again some day.
    Tell me V, last year I was trying to decide between Black Aoud and White Aoud and I read of so many rave reviews of White Aoud that I blind bought it. I do like it, but later I had a chance to try Montale Attar and I liked it better. It smells very similar to WA but with a pronounced leather note. Anyway, back to my question, have you tried WA and if so, how would it compare in your opinion to BA. Forget about the rave reviews on WA; your opinion has come to matter more to me.
    -Myra May 9, 2011 at 9:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Katrina! I am glad that you liked it. May 9, 2011 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Myra: I am intrigued! Now I must get myself a decant 🙂 May 10, 2011 at 12:38am Reply

  • Victoria: And I am delighted to encounter someone who has visited Oman. I loved it–the people, the food, the smells, the culture. Such a beautiful land!

    White Aoud and Black Aoud are similar in their treatment of out–ambery and suave (relatively speaking.) White Aoud is sweeter, muskier and warmer, while Black Aoud is more leathery. I much prefer Black Aoud, because of its dry, leathery character. This is exactly what makes it so polished to me. White Aoud may be easier to wear, but I find it less interesting overall. May 9, 2011 at 10:02pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I love Black Aoud.The rose note in it is probably the most beautiful of all the Montales I have tried. I love how the rose unfolds from the dark leathery oudness..And the contrast is probably what makes it beautiful. I found the rose softer and more luminous than in White Aoud and Aoud Rose petals. Its been a very long while since I’ve worn it..must buy some! (wish they had 30 ml bottles) May 10, 2011 at 2:17am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that you will like it!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:20am Reply

  • Victoria: I agree with you–the rose note is what makes Black Aoud so much more appealing than some other Montale fragrances. It is definitely softer and less citrusy-sharp.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:22am Reply

  • Fernando: This is one of my “really love” perfumes, and luckily my wife loves it too. It does need to be used with some caution, as it’s quite brash and long-lasting. My wife once argued I shouldn’t wear it to class because it would intimidate my students… May 10, 2011 at 3:57pm Reply

  • columbine: i love Taif Roses as well, though not for daily wear; it’s the only rose perfume i like and i looked hard.
    my friend likes wearing Greyland, and it smells great on his skin and he loves another one that i hate: Oud cuir d’Arabie because i find it too animalic. in fact, he wears it only when he goes away because the scent makes me really sick.
    i just wonder sometimes if Montale’s perfumes are not meant for hot climates where perfume probably evaporates quickly so you might want something a bit more dense. May 10, 2011 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Fantastic! As I've said before, you must be the best smelling professor! 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: I think that the Middle Eastern market to which Montale caters really tends to heavier, richer blends. It has more to do with culture and its strong love for oud and such notes (oud is even mentioned in Koran.) That's why Montale's fragrances are as rich as they are. Whenever I visit their boutique in Place Vendome, there is always someone from the Middle East buying up vast quantities of the perfume.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 6:29pm Reply

  • ellen: I first noticed this on a lovely and sophisticated young friend from Somalia/Kenya, now living in NYC. She and I have similar taste, and I have been toying with buying a bottle for myself, via the web, as it is not sold in USA as far as I can tell. I have read several reviews, but I must say yours is the first that explained the fragrance in a clear and understandable way.
    on to perfumesraffy! July 1, 2011 at 11:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am glad that it was helpful! Black Aoud is fantastic, and it wears really beautifully. There is something so beguiling about it. July 4, 2011 at 3:12pm Reply

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