Having an appetite for beauty but a limited budget has led me to think a lot about luxury. Vogue magazine is happy to show me spreads of thousand-dollar dresses on models reclining on sofas in fancy resorts and pronounce this as luxury. Yes, taste is individual. But it seems luxury is pretty well defined, if you believe the marketing. All you have to do is go to Barneys and proffer a credit card, and luxury is yours.
I refuse to believe that luxury has to be expensive. For instance, with clothing, it’s not unusual that a five-dollar vintage pencil skirt has six darts on both the front and back, recognizing that a woman is three-dimensional. You’d be hard-pressed to find such craftsmanship today, even in the off-the-rack Chanel. A beautifully poached, pasture-raised hen’s egg bursts with luxury (and is something I bet most Gucci evening dress owners rarely experience). Tea in a vintage Japanese ceramic tea cup culled from Goodwill is luxury, too.
And perfume? To me, luxury equals good materials, orchestrated with imagination, skill, and invention. For the perfume lover, sometimes this means coughing up for the latest Parfums MDCI (to name one perfume house of many). Or, it means dropping a pittance at the drugstore for a bottle of Dana Tabu.
Oud in perfume can signal luxury, for sure. Natural oud is rare and expensive, and it’s been used in certain luxurious, ground-breaking fragrances, such as Yves Saint Laurent M7. But an oud fragrance can also signal “we need an oud perfume in our line, because the Middle Eastern market likes oud and they have money.” Maybe that sounds like good business, but it sure doesn’t guarantee a fragrance is luxurious.
Eric Buterbaugh’s floral oud perfume line meets the consumer definition of luxury, meaning that it’s expensive — $395 for 100 ml for the floral ouds — and it’s sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, a high-end department store. But does it meet the aesthete’s standards for luxury?
The Eric Buterbaugh Floral Oud line includes Rose, Orange Flower and Lily of the Valley. Here we’ll look at Orange Flower and Lily of the Valley.
Floral Oud Orange Flower’s notes include champaca, frangipani, Egyptian orange flower, bergamot, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, oud and oak moss. Orange Flower is a joyful, welcoming oriental that most people probably wouldn’t classify as an oud in the classic sense, since it lacks the metallic oyster-like note characteristic of oud.
Floral Oud Orange Flower oozes friendly orange flower, bursting with bergamot, that joyfully slobbers its way to my nose like a Labrador retriever puppy. It’s loud, obvious and charming, and it refuses to sit. When I wear it, people tell me how much they like how I smell, just as they’d smile and tuck into a syrupy orange crème caramel if we were at a café together.
Floral Oud Orange Flower darkens with patchouli after an hour or so, when its bergamot finally loses its sparkle and is overtaken with vanilla, but it never really becomes serious. The fragrance persists with good sillage for another five or six hours. All in all, Floral Oud Orange Flower is simple and cheerful and not particularly complicated.
Floral Oud Lily of the Valley’s notes include bergamot, cassis buds, lily of the valley, tuberose, oud, amber and sandalwood. Like Floral Oud Orange Flower, Floral Oud Lily of the Valley doesn’t flaunt its oud but stashes it out of sight in a chorus role. Unlike Floral Oud Orange Flower’s singular focus on orange flower, this one casts lily of the valley against the green-tart scent of cassis for a robust but elegant oriental fragrance.
Floral Oud Lily of the Valley actually kicks off with more orange flower than the bergamot-heavy Floral Oud Orange Flower does. Then it sails into black currant and a partying variety of lily of the valley, until the lily of the valley puts on her coat and goes home well before the music stops.
After a couple of hours of wear, the cassis melts into a vague vetiver and sweet sandalwood that whisper for another four hours before disappearing completely. I was left thinking that wearing this fragrance was a fine and comfortable ride, but then so is eating a popsicle when it’s hot. It was nice, lovely, and ultimately not particularly compelling.
If dropping a hundred dollars for 10 milliliters of easy, pretty perfume sounds good to you, then I encourage you to seek out these floral ouds. They’re certainly likable enough. If, like me, you demand a lot of luxury for your money, then nurture your own patch of lilies of the valley in the garden and save orange flower for a real tree in spring — or maybe a bottle of L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville à l’Aube.
What constitutes real luxury for you, both in perfume and in life? For perfume, I like the freaky risk of vintage Christian Dior Miss Dior and the breathtaking luxe of old Lanvin Scandal Extrait. For life, I nominate clean, crisp sheets; hot baths; and the sound of crickets in late summer.
Eric Buterbaugh Floral Oud Orange Flower and Floral Oud Lily of the Valley are available at the Eric Buterbaugh website and at Saks Fifth Avenue. They cost $595 for 250 ml, $395 for 100 ml, and $95 for 10 ml.