Creed's list of successful oriental Millésimes is short: Bois du Portugal, and Original Santal. One could argue that the "Love Ins" share their limelight, but critically speaking, they never broke the same ground. BdP shares Green Irish Tweed's realm as one of Creed's hugely popular eighties perfumes, just as big, bold, and ferociously masculine (Creed suggests unisex, but I'm skeptical). It's a wetshaver favorite, and deserving of its classical status. Original Santal inhabits a different zone, appealing to a younger demographic with its modern take on the sweet 'n spicy oriental. Spice and Wood, while very nice, doesn't even make the cut, despite being a Royal Exclusive packaged in a super facy bottle with a ginormous price tag.
I learned about Royal Oud by reading comments on Fragrantica and watching video impressions on Youtube. One commentator did a blind buy on it and sniffed it for the first time on camera, feeling somewhat neutral at first, but rapidly expressing admiration, and then total devotion to the fragrance wafting off his arm. Cross referencing his description with written reviews helped me develop a mental pre-configuration of what Royal Oud actually smells like. When the sample arrived a couple weeks ago, I could smell it through the card. What I smelled eased me ever closer to knowing this Creed without actually smelling it. And then, finally, I smelled it. After that, I wore it.
Put simply, I don't like it much at all. And oddly enough, the fragrance smells exactly as I imagined it would. It opens with a vibrant, lemon-laced pink pepper accord, very fizzy, a little fruity, and reminiscent of Himalaya, an older Millésime that I'm intrigued by, but would never own. Creed's pink pepper is heady and tickles the nose, and as far as pepper notes go, this one is tops. There's a pleasant woody-fruity aspect to higher quality pepper notes that I appreciate, and when black pepper joins the pink stuff, I'm somewhat impressed. Give Royal Oud three minutes, and a strong birch note develops, but as it plods out of the peppery haze, I realize it's been there all along, a note without any purpose, other than to remind me of Spice and Wood and Aventus. I guess birch is Creed's new 'note du jour', and Aventus makes the best use of it.
As far as oud goes, it's there, but it's barely, barely, barely there. I mean, good luck picking it out of the crowd. It's the Where's Waldo of oud notes, just strolling casually along behind the busiest woody amber accord I've ever encountered. Hello cedar, sandalwood, and musk. Hello Tylenol. Seriously, Royal Oud's drydown is a billowing, migraine-inducing cedar fest, with Bois du Portugal's creamy sandalwood underpinning it. I'm not a fan of cedar, and anything that blares it this prominently drops several levels on my internal rating scale. Of course, this particular cedar note smells of quality, with all the earthy-sweet nuances of real Texan cedar oil. But I'm not inclined to wear this at all, and even the ghost of lavender that flits through its dense forest fails to redeem it.
Add to my growing ennui the fact that Royal Oud's chemistry disagrees with my sinuses, inexplicably closing them up and wreaking nasal havoc as the day wears on, and Royal Oud earns a big thumbs down. I'm not interested in badmouthing this perfume, because I know it has a strong fan club, and it certainly isn't foul smelling and downright awful. But I must lightly protest some proclamations that Royal Oud is Creed's best Millésime - or even their best perfume ever. At best, it's almost - ALMOST - as good as Bois du Portugal. But not quite, as BdP is airier and much better balanced. It's easier to wear than this. This is competent, but disappointing, and taking the whole "where'd that oud note go?" out of the equation, it amounts to a mere footnote of an over-priced Creed fragrance, their completely unnecessary peppery-woody oriental. Which, I might add, some have wisely said should have been named, "Spice and Wood."