By Kilian Incense Oud (Review): Style before substance?

For those who like their Oud fragrances expensive and without all that pesky Oud interfering, By Kilian Incense Oud is your perfect scent.

For those who like their Oud fragrances expensive and without all that pesky Oud  interfering, By Kilian Incense Oud is your perfect scent.

Review – By Kilian Incense Oud: Style before substance?

What if someone created a fragrance based on a central theme of Oud (agarwood), distilled it at eau de parfum strength into very fancy leather and metal bottles, marketed it for $395 for 50 ml and then left out that central ingredient? You’d probably feel somewhat disappointed if not outright misled or tricked. You would have also perfectly described By Kilian Incense Oud.

Now before someone accuses me of something ridiculous, such as ‘liking my sushi fully cooked’, I happen to like my ouds to be, how shall we say, ‘authentic’? By Kilian Incense Oud is an oud fragrance that is missing oud, making it rather disingenuous to even call it Oud-based as the presence of actual agarwood in the creation is a clever suggestion but far from a reality. The accord is created out of the components of other notes wrapped around a cloud of incense. The result?

ByKilianIncenseOud By Kilian Incense Oud (Review): Style before substance?By Kilian Incense Oud (2011): Let’s first of all dispel the rumor that the fragrance contains any Oud at all by citing the component parts. Incense Oud begins as a very incense laden fragrance with opening notes of cardamom, geranium, rose and pink pepper, lenidng to a rich yet spicy profile. This transitions into a heart the encompasses papyrus, patchouli, Virginia cedar and a blended citrus courtesy of methyl pamplemousse (and here we thought this was a natural perfume line). Those elements blend into a based of French labdanum, sandalwood, oakmoss, musk and incense.

Right. What’s clearly missing is Oud in any form. Rather than use the component, Sidonie Lancesseur has played a clever trick to mimic the accord through the use of other elements. The untrained nose will believe it’s a wonderful Oud-based scent, and indeed, it’s very inventive and a very good fragrance in its own light. But a search for the actual Oud note will leave you lacking as you don’t pick up the deep, medicinal and resinous properties that are normally attributed.

The outcome is an Oriental Wood with some floral properties. It’s very creative, it’s very well executed, it wears very well and has a terrific profile as a luxury scent. Longevity is very good, as are sillage and projection (both are excellent), which they should be given the lofty price point of this and all By Kilian creations.

The proposition for this is interesting, as in time the availability of Agarwood of easonable quality will become more limited. The key to satisfying the possible future demand is to synthesize a fragrance with the qualities of Oud through other means, some of which may require lab experimentation. No doubt many fragrances claiming an Oud pedigree are currently so derived. What remains is the question of whether such a fragrance in an EDP concentration should demand a near $400 price tag, especially with other renditions including that note (however derived) with higher concentrations make a more compelling price-to-value argument. Unfortunately, the proposition for By Kilina Incense Oud is similar to ordering Chateaubriand and being fed marinated firm tofu: they’re not similar, nor exactly as advertised.

On its own, however? By Kilian Incense Oud is a terrific creation, wears very well on skin, and captures a profile of spice, rich floral and woody depth with just enough incense to evoke memories of High Mass. But in the final analysis, it all distills to one point: It’s just not Oud.

Rating: 3/5. While By Kilian Incense Oud is a worthy fragrance based on its own merits, it isn’t a best-of-breed fragrance nor is it completely unique or original. Incense Oud creates a very deja vu experience in that someone smelling a very Arabian incense-laden scent will immediately gravitate toward the accords and outcomes. Beyond that, there isn’t much original behind it other than the composition to create the perception of an Oud perfume…without the Oud. “Incense Accord” would be far more accurate.

It’s still much like being served Tofu when you’ve paid for and expected prime grass-fed beef. You will no doubt feel cheated.

Alternate recommendations: Tom Ford Private Blend Noir de Noir or Oud Wood; Byredo Accord Oud; Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory and New York Oud

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  • jen

    Well, I think it’s clear why I like this scent and Amber Oud, too: “you don’t pick up the deep, medicinal and resinous properties”. lol
    Great review!

  • Andrew Buck

    Thanks, Jen. As I said, it isn’t horrid. But for me, the old hamburger commercial with Clara Peller comes to mind: “Where’s the beef?”

  • The Scented Hound

    Andrew, I had no idea about the lack of Oud. For the price it should be very Oudy (I’m sure that’s not a real word, but I think you know what I mean). But the bottom line is that I love this fragrance. Right now it’s one of my favorites, Oud or no Oud! I love your investigative research. Keep it coming!