Louis Vuit­ton’s new oud fra­grance ap­peals not only to the house’s worldly clien­tele, but to true con­nois­seurs of the rare in­gre­di­ent. By Dan Thaw­ley.


The his­tory of oud per­fumery in the Mid­dle East reaches back through the mil­len­nia, a fact not lost on Louis Vuit­ton’s master per­fumer Jac­ques Caval­lier Bel­letrud, the man charged with thrust­ing the French leather-goods house into the world of fra­grance in just a few short years. How, then, to grace­fully in­ter­pret oud to­day? The en­chant­ing, sug­ary scent of the pre­cious agar wood is it­self an in­sti­tu­tion – the sub­ject of cen­turies of rit­ual, re­fine­ment and ver­i­ta­ble lust.

Bel­letrud’s an­swer is Om­bre No­made, a new stand-alone scent in his Louis Vuit­ton port­fo­lio that re­vis­its oud, a rare in­gre­di­ent of­ten re­ferred to as ‘black gold’, by dis­till­ing its true essence from a rare crop of oud as­sam from Bangladesh.

At Louis Vuit­ton’s Les Fon­taines Par­fumées work­shop in Grasse, France, Bel­letrud in­tro­duced Om­bre No­made by em­bark­ing on a rev­er­ent ex­pla­na­tion of the rit­u­als of per­fume, its con­nec­tion with prayer, and the fact that house­holds from Dubai to Oman will of­ten boast a hall ta­ble groan­ing with dif­fer­ent fra­grances for fam­ily and guests to scent them­selves when en­ter­ing and leav­ing a home. “They are the kings and queens of lay­er­ing fra­grance,” said Bel­letrud, of the Mid­dle Eastern tra­di­tion of wear­ing at least two dif­fer­ent per­fumes at once. “It is linked to the art of se­duc­tion, and the idea of cre­at­ing your own unique scent. Whether you are rich or poor, it be­comes your ol­fac­tive sig­na­ture,” he ex­plained, men­tion­ing that an oud note still re­mains the most com­mon fi­nal touch to these per­son­alised con­coc­tions.

Housed in a bur­nished near-black bot­tle, Om­bre No­made is a dense, heady de­par­ture from the soft and del­i­cate for­mu­las Bel­letrud has sent out for both men and women at Louis Vuit­ton. Shot through with rasp­berry and plenty of in­cense, it per­haps shows Bel­letrud at his most dar­ing – tack­ling an icon head­first – but the re­sult is no less sub­tle than his pre­vi­ous ef­forts. And as oud gains pop­u­lar­ity in the Western world, Vuit­ton’s take won’t go down as one of the first in­ter­pre­ta­tions, but likely one of the most com­plex. ■

Louis Vuit­ton Om­bre No­made EDP, 100ml for $340.

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