Estee Lauder Wood Mystique ~ fragrance review

Estee Lauder Wood Mystique advert

Last October, Estee Lauder launched Wood Mystique* — a unisex, limited edition oud fragrance aimed at the Middle East perfume consumer. Ad copy swooned: “Elegant, mysterious, lavish…enter a world of opulence and richness beyond compare.” As much as I like Estee Lauder, this was something like Betty Crocker launching a “complete” Lebanese meal in a box — “Beirut Skillet! Come Visit the Souk in One Easy Pan! And Clean-up’s Easy!” I wasn’t convinced the concept would work.

As soon as I sprayed on Wood Mystique, I was dismayed; it smells a tad tawdry and destitute, “worn out” — like a Tennessee Williams heroine who’s seen better times and is trying to make ends meet and keep up appearances (Blanche DuBois transported to Cairo, black haired, eyes outlined with kohl, sporting a well-worn thawb). Wood Mystique’s powdery-tart roses and pale peonies smell of dusty, dry flower arrangements. These floral notes, for all the hype of their purity and naturalness, have an artificial vibe, like aromas you’d smell on scented facial tissues. The oud/woods in Wood Mystique are “inept”…they are lovely when you can smell them, but they especially can’t withstand the raspy phony-smelling raspberry note that overwhelms this fragrance.

I can’t imagine an Arab customer being awed by Wood Mystique; classic Middle Eastern perfumery is full of rich, syrupy, “arrogant” arrangements of nostril-tingling floral, wood and spice essences. How can Wood Mystique compete with such perfumes? Maybe younger consumers are open to “updated” perfume formulas? I’d love to know how Wood Mystique did commercially in the Middle East.

Wood Mystique has excellent lasting power and sillage, but I don’t feel this is a unisex perfume at all. All the days I wore it, I felt like my imagined “Arab Blanche DuBois”…uncomfortable in my own skin, faded, and a bit sad. If I could reconfigure Wood Mystique I’d amp up the rose (remove its dry/desiccated aspect) and make the handsome wood/oud notes the dominant elements. The raspberry? DELETE! The fruit note, more than anything else, cheapened the perfume for me. As it stands, Wood Mystique is one of my least favorite oud perfumes.

Estee Lauder Wood Mystique is available in 100 ml Eau de Parfum, $175.

* The fragrance notes include agarwood, cedarwood accord, raspberry, rose, peony, pink pepper, patchouli, jasmine, mimosa, orris, ylang-ylang, leather “essence” and benzoin.

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  1. Rappleyea says:

    “…this was something like Betty Crocker launching a “complete” Lebanese meal in a box…”

    ROTFL!! :-D

    Oh Kevin, this was priceless! Thanks for such a good laugh (and the review) in a week of drudgery. Any perfume that is described with the words “artificial vibe” definitely won’t touch my skin!

    • ringthing says:

      This is so funny, lol! What’s not funny is the price EL is charging.

      • Kevin says:

        Ringthing: it ain’t cheap

    • Kevin says:

      You’re welcome…artificial sometimes works…sometimes doesn’t.

  2. maggiecat says:

    I had looked forward to sampling this, thought I did wonder why Middle Easterners, with their rich tradition of splendid perfumes, needed an EL scent. Too bad it’s…well, too bad. But thanks for letting us know!

    • Kevin says:

      Maggie, I wish I knew more about Estée Lauder in the Middle East…what sells, what doesn’t….

  3. Ari says:

    That poster up top is pretty funny. Instead of using the actual Arabic words for “wood mystique”, it just sounds out “wood mystique” in Arabic! What a relief to know that this isn’t worth the surprisingly high price. Thanks, Kevin!

    • Rappleyea says:

      And what does that sound actually mean then?? Or do I want to know??

    • Kevin says:

      Ari…no problem

    • eeek. I can’t imagine that’s good marketing.

  4. Dilana says:

    I suspect some Mideastern customers would be more likely to buy an Oud from Betty Crocker than the actual Estee Lauder, who was a NJG (Nice Jewish Girl) from New York.

    • Kevin says:

      Diana, no doubt ‘Josephine Mentzer’ is unknown in the Arab world!

  5. RusticDove says:

    Bummer! I was quite excited when I saw this fragrance finally available here, and I’ll still give it a sniff of course. But I am a bit less enthusiastic now. This is the second dismal review I’ve read.

    • Kevin says:

      Rustic: I was hoping someone out there had tried it and would comment. The EL site was ‘sold out’ of the fragrance….

  6. Omega says:

    I was very interested in this scent until I saw this review..bum deal.

    • Kevin says:

      Omega…still give it a sniff

  7. bluepinegrove says:

    Hilarious! I hope you can dress and perfume Blanche Dubois again, and send her to other places around the globe. There are so many perfumes that could make a person feel “a tad tawdry and destitute, worn out.”

    • Kevin says:

      Bluepinegrove: true!

  8. Merlin says:

    I was excited to see that this perfume did reach our shores – but like you I was disappointed. It was just one of those scents that made no impression on me at all – if anything ‘tired’ like you say. I don’t think I have smelled nearly as many oud perfumes as most people around here but I have to say that the Van Cleef & Aarpel was almost as disappointing, not that it was ‘tired’ as such, but there was nothing that smelled oud-ish about it.

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: I wasn’t a fan of that one either. D o try the le labo oud if you haven’t already.

      • Merlin says:

        Le Labo is not available here so I haven’t tried any, but I know someone coming from the UK in December so if they have it at Les Senteurs I may ask him to bring me a sample!

        My idea of oud, at present, comes from M7 (not oud absolute – which I cant smell any oud in), and from the Jo Malone’s cologne intenses which I actually do like – especially the Oud and Bergamot but also the Velvet Rose and Oud (I think those are the names). I have smelled a Byredo Oud (two of them, I think), but I liked these less. Then again something about the WHOLE Byredo aesthetic puts me off.

        So, over all, I probably don’t have a very good idea of what oud SHOULD smell like!

  9. Jill says:

    This was a hilarious review! Thanks for making me laugh when I needed it. I’d still like to smell it just re-experience your Blanche Dubois image. ;)

    • Kevin says:

      Jill: hope you can find some to sniff then!

  10. nozknoz says:

    What a disappointment and presumably a misstep, although I’m not sure. I ordered a mainstream Middle Eastern perfume that I had read about on a blog and was also disappointed a couple years ago. I didn’t like it, and it had no discernible natural ingredients. Maybe the EL works for it’s intended target market segment.

    I was also not impressed with the three Guerlains that were aimed at the Middle Eastern market. Fortunately! Amouage is really all I need in the way of expensive Middle East perfume lemmings!

    • Kevin says:

      Noz: can’t speak about the Guerlains…but it’s ALWAYS nice not to be tempted…my “to buy” list is taking up too much space on my hard drive!

  11. mutzi says:

    I don’t know what this says about me, but I was interested when you said “tawdry and destitute”. It sounded like that could be interesting and fun. The rest of your great review convinced me it wouldn’t be.

    I wonder if even considering tawdry and destitute as positives indicates a need for therarpy.

    • Kevin says:

      Mutzi…not at all! Just a need for a new perfume genre!

    • Merlin says:

      Yes! And I know…it could be fronted by Brad Pitt!

  12. Too bad! I am an Estee Lauder fan generally, but this did not strike me as really being something in their wheelhouse.

    Well, here’s hoping for Very Estee.

    • Kevin says:

      Breathes: you know, if THE Estee were still around I’d have given this a better chance of success. She liked her RICH perfumes.

  13. hajusuuri says:

    I must have missed the launch announcement but it sounds like it’s bleh anyway so no biggie.

    Estee Lauder recently launched two marketing brands: Aerin (“Effortless beauty”, minimum effort, maximum impact) and “Osiao” a new brand of skin care products targeted to Asian skin. The product development specifically targeted to a particular country/region does not surprise me at all.

    • Kevin says:

      Hajusuuri: one must branch out I guess…I did read quite a bit about the “Asian” line.

  14. solanace says:

    Great, funny review. I’m a fan of woody roses, but this one sounds so uninteresting. Gonna try it anyways, with low exectations, though!

  15. Nile Goddess says:

    Why would one try to beat Arab perfumers at their own game?

    Especially with the cheap tools of Western mass-market perfumery.

    I like the flacon though. If I can get it empty and fill it with a fragrance of my choice, I’ll be delighted.

  16. cheriann says:

    I like this perfume and find it so delicious as to be almost edible. It may be a ‘safe’ interpretation of a Middle Eastern Fragrance and whilst I love Oud fragrances, they can be a bit headache inducing after an hour or so.

    Wood Mystique reminds me of when I first fell in love with Oud. I used to greedily take in the scent of Arab women when they passed me by, wondering what their fragrance was and when I finally discovered what it was and bought some, I was overjoyed (but did find that it could sometimes bring on a headache). Wood Mystique reminds me of the sillage of fragrance that those Arab ladies leave behind, it has all the characteristic aromas, but in a subtle combination, which I think is quite a skilful achievement given the nature of the fragrance and ingredients being used.

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