The house of Amouroud is the new niche arm of The Perfumer’s Workshop, the once niche-before-niche-was-a-thing upstart perfume brand-turned-conglomerate on the success of their early hits, who has for years silently bought up licenses for designers and drugstore brands alike to act in a similar manner to Bogart Group or Puig. The irony of all ironies here is that the house, which is an obvious portmanteau of the Italian word for “love” and the word “oud”, doesn’t actually use any real oud in their scents. I know that even at the $150-$200 price point, real aoud is still not to be expected because actual macerations of the stuff can cost hundreds for just a few drops, hence the extreme expense of artisanal perfumes which use it, but one would think that Amouroud would at least give the old “college try” at making a reasonably-convincing synthetic compound. Well, the answer to that is decidedly “no”, because I find myself singing “Is this oud that I’m feeling” in the voice of Whitesnake’s David Coverdale as I wear the stuff on skin. What makes the smell of Oud After Dark by Amouroud (2016) so much worse is that the base doesn’t even resemble the medicinal synthetic oud notes we’re used to in designers. Hell, the cheapo One Man Show Oud Edition by Jacques Bogart (2014) does a better job of a reasonable oud accord than many of the Tom Ford Private Blends, and even has a bit of an animalic kick to boot. Instead of that, Oud After Dark goes in a similar direction to later (and much more expensive) Initio Oud for Greatness (2018), but just simply forgets to have an oud accord at all.
What is here in Oud After Dark is worth sniffing however, as you get an opening of saffron, pepper, and some rather genderbend fruity floral notes like osmanthus and orchid. The middle lists an oud note but in reality this is a plum and shoe leather accord augmented with a synthetic wood type which I can’t fully peg but resembles Tom Ford’s beloved Akigalawood. You get a bit of black shoe polish, plum, and wood mixing with the fruity spicy opening, balancing between dry and sweet, before the real star players show up for the majority of the time on skin. There is Turkish rose listed too but I don’t detect any noticeable rose, so if it’s there, it must be just a pin drop. There is tonka, plus an ambroxan note which mixes with the pepper, spice, and wood mentioned above to form a feel similar to Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2015), to which this scent most resembles. Oud for Greatness also gets some comparison to Br 540 because of the saffron and synthetic elements in it too, but it still has an oud note in it, however designer-like of an oud note that may be. Here in Oud After Dark, there is none of that, just the saffron, the leather, the plum, some smooth synthetic woods, tossed with a softening pinch of vanilla and musk near the end. Amouroud mentioned tobacco in their official note breakdown, but that’s just the tonka. Maybe the oud comes after dark like the name implies? I waited until sundown for this one before writing my review, and still no oud. Wear time is over 8 hours and performance for both sillage and projection is above average, and overall vibe here suggests cool weather evening wear to me. I guess this can read as romantic from the sweetness, spice and musk, but if I smelled it on someone, I might mistake it for a business perfume due to the dry woods note that leaps out now and then.
Is this nice? Yeah, sure it is. I particularly enjoy the plum and the saffron paired with the really smooth woods in the base, although I can do without the apricot-like osmanthus opening note. In the end, this will appeal to fans of Br 540 more than fans of oud fragrances, and people who want something adjacent to the costly Oud for Greatness. Is this truly unisex like the label claims? Maybe, but most women with conventional (also read: mainstream) tastes will not like the scent beyond the opening 30 minutes, unless they’re into woody tonka perfumes. Trying to make an oud-like accord with zero oud or even oud replacer notes is something that seems to be en vogue with some niche houses, and Byredo attempted a similar thing to Amouroud, with better results, but I just can’t get over the fact that the house doing this is called Amouroud in the first place. I reviewed one of Amouroud’s non-oud compositions first (from the white line) and found it really good, so I went into this expecting a well-done synthetic oud at an entry-level niche price point a la Diptyque or Perris Monte Carlo, especially because The Perfumer’s Workshop performs natural-smelling miracles at the lower-end of their wares. I wouldn’t buy this literal bamboozle in a bottle, but I admit it does smell well-composed for what it is. You may have a different opinion depending on how you feel about being baited and switched with perfume nomenclature, which if you’re a fan of Le Labo and their practices, may be something you’re already used to by now. Neutral.