ODE TO OUD
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.