Dark Orchid by Amouroud (2016)

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Amouroud is a strange newcomer to the niche scene, representing a full-circle for The Perfumer’s Workshop, who were arguably OG hipster niche before the term was prevalent due to their original business model of custom blending fragrances from components right at the counter. The brand quickly moved into ready-made bottles of pre-mixed popular accords, which is how Tea Rose (1972) was born, then gradually moved down market like so many brands did in the 1980’s when volume became preferrable to margin as perfume use becamore more ubiquitous. Naturally, The Perfumer’s Workshop also branched out into owning licenses for designer-branded perfumes too, and has been a shadow player for years on that front, so it makes sense to use a new name like “Amouroud” to re-enter the niche market they partially helped create way back when, since the name of “The Perfumer’s Workshop” doesn’t have the luxury zing today’s niche buyers crave. You might be wondering if a name like “Amouroud” means a love of “oud” (a.k.a. macerated agarwood) and yes, it does, but in this regard the house is a sham because they neither use real oud nor even attempt to make their oud compositions smell like it. However, the other lines Amouroud has do offer a lot of quality for their niche price tag, since The Perfumer’s Workshop has always offered value since the beginning, but some compositions like Dark Orchid (2016) sit a bit too close to their inspirations for comfort. To be blunt, Dark Orchid is a clone of Tom Ford Black Orchid (2016), almost a decade to the day since Tom Ford launched his house with the erstwhile oriental gourmand chypre hybrid, but seeks to be a true unisex composition in tone rather than one which is inadvertently unisex through co-opting by men.

Black Orchid isn’t exactly niche, but the price tag of even the signature lines from Tom Ford makes it one of the rare designers that dwells in the niche space, so I can see why Amouroud would target it and make a riff based on it. The opening of Amouroud Dark Orchid is very much like the aforementioned Tom Ford, but less sweet, less bright, and made greener with the addition of fig leaf. Herein the bergamot/mandarin/gardenia opening of Black Orchid loses the jasmine hedione in exchange for the fig leaf, and the heart of lotus/orchid/spice (all basically made up notes) is stripped of any fruity sweetness too. A dry ylang-ylang replaces what is missing from this heart, and the experience continues on as a more-serious and less-sensual Black Orchid, although Amouroud’s clone does get some real personality of its own late in the wear. The patchouli and sandalwood base of Black Orchid are built up with olibanum and amber, which goes entirely opposite to the way the tonka and chocolate notes round out the experience. Instead, Amouroud Dark Orchid is gothic in a sombre Guillermo del Toro way rather than a kitschy Tim Burton way, and slightly more formal to boot. Wear time is outstanding and sillage is good. Projection here is pretty impresesive too, and because Dark Orchid is not very sweet, it doesn’t feel as cloying in the heat. I’d say office use may be a bit much, but anyone can wear Dark Orchid in the evening year-round, even in situations where a “come hither” trail is not wanted. For me, Dark Orchid just screams “formal dinner with the in-laws”, so take that as you may.

Tom Ford Black Orchid is a very iconic perfume, and there haven’t been many if any noteworthy attempts to emulate it outside the fly-by-night Middle Eastern clone houses or operations like Alexandria, Dua, and so forth. Definitely no other designers have really tried to touch Black Orchid, or else whatever you want to call its style would be a genre of its own by now, and I would not so easily be able to label this scent a clone. To be honest, I usually avoid using the term “clone” because it is a mark of condemnation from the YouTuber-worshipping “frag bro” subset of the fragrance enthusiast community, and wielded improperly, can call the failure of a fragrance. In this case, the term “clone” just fits too perfectly, and Amouroud Dark Orchid is a damn good one at that, taking something so notoriously decadent as the brand-launching scent from Tom Ford and cleaning it up with a bit of tweaking to be more oriental and less gourmand. People who don’t enjoy fig may not really dig Dark Orchid, and people who really don’t like the core of Black Orchid may not like it either, but if sweetness and cloying sillage were your biggest complaints, or you want to steer closer to true unisex accords rather than bounce around the spectrum, Amouroud Dark Orchid may be the alternative for you. I have to dock some points for originality because a house that makes oud fragrances that aren’t really oud fragrances has an uphill battle on principle alone, but the quality and performance are undeniable even at the prices they charge, and everyone -but- those poor oud takes has been top-notch from the house. Thumbs up.

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