Going from Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Oud to his Oud Cashmere Mood is a bit of a shock. For one thing, whereas Oud is soft and subtle, Oud Cashmere Mood has the volume turned up 150% and must be dabbed on with extreme caution unless you want your whole house fumigated. But more surprising is Oud Mood Cashmere’s complete departure from the sedate prettiness I experienced in the original Oud. This is one Kurkdijan fragrance that’s not afraid to come out of the bottle all ugly and beaten up. It’s Charles Bronson to Oud’s Leslie Howard.
So, let’s deal with the ugly. Cashmere Mood opens on a pretty horrible (but also realistic) accord of burning rubber, stale plastic, petrol, rotting wood, chimney soot, and something like a freshly decaying corpse. It feels like what’s left when everything else has been razed to the ground. Having tried a wide variety of real ouds, I can tell you that some of them can actually smell like this at first. It reminds me for a minute of Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, with its rotting plastic buzz, but Cashmere Oud is far smoother and more natural. It has the unmistakable twang of authenticity.
The hot, sour aspects of the opening die back dramatically within the first twenty minutes, leaving in its wake a smoky heart that is both compelling and elegant. It smells like a piece of old wood, desiccated and crumbling but with sour earth still clinging to the underside and bug larvae squirming through the holes. Disgusting as this may sound, it actually represents quite accurately the complexity of real oud, which runs the gamut from dead and sour to alive and sweet.
Labdanum contributes tar and warmth, and mild pepper spices prickle the nose. Although benzoin and vanilla are listed in the notes, Cashmere Mood never drifts into that sweet, vanillic amber drydown that I had been expecting – nor does it ever get powdery. This is a welcome surprise. Rather, the base remains smoky, and woody, with a pleasing hint of hot tarry sourness. At the very tail end of the fragrance, this turns to pure salt and leather on my skin. I find Cashmere Mood to be jarring at first, but then compelling, and then finally, beautiful. It keeps my interest at every turn.
The price is beyond obscene, so I will never own this. But I am pleased to have a sample, and I’d recommend this to anyone who has deep pockets and is looking for a rather authentic-smelling oud fragrance done in a smooth and refined manner. It is far more challenging than the original Oud but also arguably more intriguing. This brings up the important question of whether I’d rather smell good (MFK Oud) or interesting (Oud Cashmere Oud), and on that point, I have to admit that I’m torn. Oud Cashmere Oud will not be to everyone’s taste, but fans of real oud in all shapes or form would probably be very impressed by what a commercialized version such as this can achieve given a talented perfumer and a slew of excellent raw materials. Two very big thumbs up!