Ubar by Amouage is a shimmering floral mélange so massively radiant that its heat signature can probably be picked up from outer space. Like its progenitors in the grand old French perfumery tradition, Chanel No. 5, Joy, and Arpege, the floral accords are so complex and blended to the point of abstraction that it becomes a guessing game as to what flowers exactly you are smelling. It just smells like a thousand different flowers (all of them hellishly expensive) gave up their life for a greater cause.
Cutting through the richness of the floral notes is a knife edge’s worth of bitterness from bergamot and civet, giving it that balance between rich flowers, bitter citruses, and the whiff of gently-used lady undergarments that all those good French class perfumes have. It is not, however, as animalic as reviews had led me to believe – oh, it may have been, but a reformulation is suspected. On the scale of animalic dirtiness, the needle moves towards the gently dirty Bal a Versailles – in other words, it is not the roar of a lion but a purr from a kitty.
Past the classic, rather overwhelming start, Ubar starts a slow but exquisite transformation from French floral chypre to a relaxed, creamy oriental. It’s like watching a beautiful woman take down her hair for the night. All the floral notes collapse with a sigh into a milky, ambery heart, calling to mind those oldies but goodies from the 1950’s, like the original L’Interdit by Givenchy. The sharp notes from the beginning fall back quite a bit, although they don’t disappear completely, so the impression you get is of a rich, creamy softness from the amber and sandalwood, but without any added sugar.
It’s beautiful, but emphatically not for me. I wore Ubar for the first time on an outing to the cinema with my small son, and as we sat there in the dark, watching the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, I realized with a sense of mortification that I am clearly not the person for whom Amouage envisaged this perfume. Like a Hermes Birkin bag, I can admire the shape of it, the engineering, the skill, everything – but if someone were to gift me one (unlikely, I know), I can say with almost 100% certainty that it would never see the outside of my closet. Because to wear it would require me to suddenly be a different person altogether – more put together, classier, and without a perennially scuffed pair of ballet slippers. Ubar is beautiful, but I am just not up to the effort it would take for me to deserve her.