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.