Diptyque launched Oud Palao last autumn. I just got around to trying it this week. Why? Because I was 99.9 percent sure I wouldn't like it. Oud Palao's list of notes didn't sound original...but to make up for that, each note, trying way too hard to excite, had a Travel the World with Diptyque! signifier in front of it: Bulgarian (rose), Laotian (oud), Madagascar (vanilla), Indian (cypriol), Sri Lankan (sandalwood), Somalian (olibanum), Spanish (cistus) and Indonesian (patchouli). I laughed.
The laugh's on me! I love Oud Palao.
Oud Palao opens with a sensational accord that brings to mind tropical forests: a mix of indoles, fleshy green leaves, raw, just-hewn hardwoods and rose (the rose, combined with the wood notes, brings to nose the scent of rare rosewood). The head notes are lively, pungent, bright, almost searing — camphor? Oud Palao's opening zapped me out of a mild depression when I first smelled it on a gloomy winter's day.
Though the designs on Oud Palao's packaging are inspired (loosely) by Moroccan tiles, the fragrance reminds me of Southeast Asia — with its wood, incense/smoke, oud, nagarmotha and vanillic patchouli (Oud Palao's oud supposedly comes from Laos). The heart of Oud Palao is floral-spicy with an undercurrent of mild incense. For awhile, Oud Palao's rose becomes creamy but then, surprisingly, it's joined by a "rice cracker" note. In the base, there's more smoke, this time associated with leather-tobacco-like notes, not incense. Next up? "Green" frankincense (vegetal in character and mixing with notes that smell of sweet dry grass). A lovely, semi-sweet oud-patchouli accord finishes the fragrance. Oud Palao's oud smells NOTHING like the annoying "oud" used in Montale's ouds; Oud Palao's oud is delicate, beautiful and it weaves its way in and out of the composition.
Though I've made (and kept...mostly) a VOW not to buy another bottle of fragrance for y e a r s, Oud Palao is now in the top five contenders for my next full-bottle purchase. Thanks to Oud Palao (and last year's Florabellio) I'll start paying close attention to Diptyque's new fragrances. My favorite oud perfume? It's now a tie between Le Labo Oud 27 and Oud Palao.