Throughout my youth my parents belonged to a wonderful organization called The Council on World Affairs . As a result of their affiliation with CWA ,we had foreign students that went to Case Western Reserve and became a part of our family every 4 years. They came to us from far off places; India, England, Japan, Holland and Iran.
Each one brought with them traditional things from their countries so that we could share in their experience of home, just as they were sharing in ours and trust me, it was a wonderful way to grow up. They taught us to cook their favorite foods and in turn learned to eat hamburgers, baked beans and barbecued chicken. I’ll never forget the first time we took them to McDonalds. That was so much fun!
I loved them all, but I’ll never forget the last one, a young man named Farhad who was from Iran. I especially loved him because he never went back to his country without bringing me beautiful gifts! Farhads presents were as exotic as he was, beautifully hand painted jewelry made from mother of pearl and precious metals, beautiful textiles of magnificent quality and my very favorite thing in the world to eat , a delectable sweet called Turkish delight that was a soft creamy nougat filled with pistachios, date and jellies and delightfully scented with rosewater.
There was something incredibly worldly about Farhad and he’ll undoubtably laugh when he reads this, but his presence in my life opened my eyes to the possibilities of an entirely different world. One Christmas when I was about 15, his sister Floria came to the United States for a visit and he brought her to our home for dinner. It was then that I learned about the powerful mystique that Middle Eastern women possess and in my life still I have never met anyone quite as captivating as she was.
Floria walked into our house and my sense of what was gorgeous in the world of fashion changed forever. She was an absolutely gorgeous woman with deeply set brown eyes and a dark waterfall of hair that was lustrous, thick and just a bit wavy. She was wearing simple black heels, a beautiful cream colored silk blouse, a swirly black skirt made of crepe, a beautiful handbag and a gorgeous red lipstick, all Chanel. Her eyes were rimmed with kohl and the effect was elegant, edgy and completely exotic all at the very same time. I couldn’t stop staring at her, I’d never seen a woman quite like her and from that moment on she became my muse. I copied everything that I ever saw her wear and to this day still I can’t walk past a Chanel counter without thinking of her, but it was her perfume that just mesmerized me. It wasn’t Chanel like everything else she wore but it was incredible; spicy, warm and woody with a lot of muskiness and just a hint of something sticky and sweet.
Floria's perfume was terribly mysterious and the one secret that she wouldn’t share but as soon as I opened up the trio of samples that I received of the magnificentOuds from Comptoir Sud Pacifique, I knew that my search for her scent had finally come to an end. Each one, the leathery Nomaoud, woody Aouda and the sweet Aoud de Nuit is completely beautiful on its own, but layered they create an exotic tapestry of fragrance that is almost impossible to ignore and completely enigmatic.
These are a joy to wear because they are unexpected and disarming, the rose and Oud woods are soon softened by the individual accords that make up each composition. It’s just a matter of allowing for fantasy, choosing the one you fall in love with . Nomaud is a wonderful sensual and very leathery oud with many distinctive grace notes, a few of them being of ylang ylang, cashmeran and cedar.
Aouda is spiritual, woody, resinous and earthy with the sparkle coming from the top notes of Egyptian geranium and a blend of Rose that you can almost imagine being burned as an incense. Nuit is the most toothsome of them all and manages to be sweet and completely sexy all at the same time with saffron and vanilla , musk and a soft topping of warm oozy caramel. All three of them are completely over the top, gorgeous and sexy and should really come with a warning.
These Ouds are dangerous because they are fascinating and utterly compelling. They feel hot on my skin in a way that I cannot ignore. They speak to the mysteries of the Orient and the unknowns that captivate us about the desert lands that beckon filled with doe eyed women and incredibly beautiful men whose language seems to be spoken only through their lips, hands and eyes.
So cast your fates to the winds, try them if you dare but be very careful. You never know who you’ll find waiting for you in the hot desert sands….
This was originally published in The Perfume Magazine