Weekly Fumes: Oud Palao by Diptyque

John Preston

I have yet to find an oud scent that I love and which has persuaded me to commit financially to a full bottle. I very nearly thought that Ex Idolo’s 33 was going to be the one but there was something about its too-dominant rose and opening sweetness, along with the massive entrance it insisted in making, that turned me off.

My first reaction on hearing that Diptyque had created an oud fragrance was to roll my eyes towards the sky and shrug with disappointment. It doesn’t fit with the French brand’s aesthetic and considerable history but aligns itself perfectly with market cynicism and a trend that refuses to retreat.

Oud Palao opens even more thunderously than 33. It is immediately identifiable as an agarwood scent (and the oud in question here is listed as Laotian) but this eau de parfum stays closer to the smoother and more child-friendly end of the oud scale, which runs from the medicinal and alarming all the way through to the woody and comforting.

Again in common with Idolo 33, there is a predominant rose note (Bulgarian) which runs throughout Oud Palao’s playing time but it is neither sweet nor overly feminine in character. It is an undoubtedly invigorating fragrance and does eventually become quieter when a smoky and light incense accord comes out to play.

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Oud Palao is a pleasant surprise. Like last year’s fantastic Essences Insensées, I’d almost forgotten that Diptyque can make bold and challenging perfumes like this – it’s been a long time since weird and wonderful aromas were the norm during the house’s hey-days. But where the pungent, decaying beauty of Essences Insensées succeeded in being genuinely charismatic and niche in spirit, Oud Palao is ultimately a very well crafted but unoriginal attempt to crack the lucrative Saudi market, bringing along anyone else who may care to join.

A friend who saw me later in the evening of the day I sampled Oud Palao (it lasts FOREVER) commented on how good I smelt but that the scent ‘wasn’t me’. This is a fair point and maybe I’ve never really been in the running for an oud adventure of my own, preferring instead to smell it on (some) others.

Either way, I still recommend Oud Palao: it’s an excellent starter scent for the oud-inquisitive and a good price too given that the genre (if it is, in fact, a genre; it certainly feels like one these days) is usually found at the higher end of the scale. Personally, though, I shall put this mild obsession to bed and accept that my oud fix will have to come from another wearer. For now.

Oud Palao Eau de Parfum by Diptyque 75ml £90

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.