By now, most people well versed in the fragrance world are familiar with Oud Ispahan, a powerful perfume composed by François Demachy and released by Christian Dior in 2012. This was debuted by Dior alongside Leather Oud, another release centered around the precious note of agarwood or oud.
Ispahan, or Isfahan as it is rendered in Persian, is the third largest city in Iran, a city famed over many centuries for its architecture, palaces, culture, gardens, and roses. It was these palaces that so enchanted Mr. Demachy during the creation of Oud Ispahan:
“Oud Ispahan opens the doors to an ochre-walled palace filled with captivating fragrances. The smoky trail of smoldering Wood, the softness of floral water lingering on washed hands. It is the fragrance of this voluptuous atmosphere where scents of Rose, Frankincense, and Resin waft in the air. A fragrance as velvety plump as the Roses of the Far East.”
But I also believe it was also a Damask rose cultivar that enraptured the perfumer, appropriately called Rosa “Ispahan” because it was supposedly discovered in a garden there sometime in the 19th century. The blooms of this cultivar are characterized by a strong, sweet fragrance.
So, what does Oud Ispahan smell like?
The initial experience upon application is quite intense. There are only five notes listed in the composition – labdanum, patchouli, oud, rose, and sandalwood – but what a glorious symphony erupts from these components! As I mentioned, the opening is quite strong with the heady combo of labdanum, patchouli, and rose. The labdanum exhibits fierce, but passionate animalic qualities along with its resinous profile, similarly to how the material is used in Chanel’s Le Lion. But the resin also exhibits leathery facets, as here, it’s warm, full of cozy skin tones, almost sweaty in a way.
People mention the oud being the so-called “stanky” part of Oud Ispahan, but I really do not sense this. In this fragrance the oud accord carries more of a light, smokey character, it isn’t heavy. Participating in this fervent opening is the luscious, voluptuously sweet rose – dripping red, almost syrupy, but not quite gourmand – fleshed out even more with the addition of woody, somewhat green, slightly balsamic patchouli. Underneath all this is the luxuriously smokey oud.
Over time, Oud Ispahan becomes much woodier thanks in part to the sandalwood. The sandalwood is very rich, smooth, with just a hint of that medicinal, almost spicy bite that characterizes this ingredient. Even in the dry down, the rose remains prominent, although the sweetness diminishes as it becomes more of a silky, luxurious robe embracing the wearer’s skin, made so intriguing by the slight smokiness of the oud and lingering balsamic passion of the labdanum.
The longevity is fantastic, easily lasting into the next day with a majestic sillage trailing around for at least 3-4 hours. Oud Ispahan would be perfect for those cooler summer evenings when something is needed for a romantic soirée, or to make an intriguing statement at a formal event. It also shines wonderfully during the fall and winter.
If you still haven’t experienced Oud Ispahan but adore fragrances imbued with the resplendent qualities of Eastern cultures, especially those featuring rose, I encourage you to check it out.