Yves Saint Laurent M7
Posted: Nov 19 2015
Anyone who listens to me rant about perfume long enough knows that I’m not really a fan of the current oud craze. To me, oud is one note (and a very strong one at that) that completely alters the character of any perfume in which it’s included. Unlike jasmine or rose or lavender, which are all very versatile, oud invariably makes its home fragrance “an oud perfume.” I find this tendency irritating, especially because most Western ouds are not made with real oud (which is derived from a fungus that infects the heartwood of the Agar tree) but with (generally very poor) synthetic reconstructions. Real oud tincture costs a nearly unholy quantity of money ($500 for 15ml is ballpark, though many cost a lot more), so I guess I can understand it, but one would think that the various houses using the note would put more effort into making it actually smell good instead of just there.
Which brings me to M7. M7 is the perfume that started it all. Tom Ford, who was working as creative director for YSL at the time, seems to have some sort of fascination with oud (and his brand reps will tell you that he was “revolutionary and instrumental” in sparking the current craze, which I suppose is true). This was the second fragrance over which he presided and is part of what allowed him to so successfully launch his own house.
Fragrantica lists the notes as oud first, amber second, vetiver third, rosemary fourth, mandarin fifth, musk sixth, lime seventh. I don’t quite follow that. To me, M7 starts with tobacco. Lots of it. Warm, rich, sweet pipe tobacco. The tobacco is followed up by a reasonably well-done synthetic oud with an unusual hint of black tea. It’s rich and inviting and better than many of the oud perfumes in modern production. But then everything goes to hell.
Much of my problem with synthetic oud accords is that they all make use of a molecule called Norlimbanol (sometimes called Timberol, depending on the manufacturer), which is literally the smell of dryness and desiccation. It produces a weird, dried-out feeling in your nose when you smell it at full strength and it’s a molecule whose smell you never, ever forget. For me, its overuse can completely ruin a fragrance and M7, like most Western ouds, suffers from a drastic overdose. It take the richness of the tobacco and the oud and dries the whole thing out, making it smell synthetic and dead. It eventually smells so chemical that it’s nearly headache-inducing, but there are people who are far less sensitive to Norlimbanol than I, so you should really smell it yourself to see if you like it.
M7 has now been discontinued (for better or worse) and replaced with reputedly less refined M7 Oud Absolu. As I haven’t had the opportunity to try the new version, I can’t comment on whether its oud accord is better made or not. I know that many who were fans of the original feel that it’s harsh and poorly constructed, but I also know that there are many out there who consider it an improvement. Because it’s part of YSL’s new “La Collection” line, you should be able to find the new version at Saks Fifth Avenue.