The Warsaw Voice » Society » Monthly - July 6, 2018
You have to be logged in to use the ReadSpeaker utility and listen to a text. It's free-of-charge. Just log in to the site or register if you are not registered user yet.
The House of Oud – an Olfactory Journey to the Middle East
Andrea Casotti, an Italian master perfumer, cofounder of The House of Oud niche perfume brand came to Warsaw’s Quality Missala Perfumery to launch his fragrances. He spoke to Voice’s Marzena Robinson.

You are a nuclear engineer by education but you have been involved in perfume business for 15 years now. How did it all happen?
It all happened by chance, when a company I was working for at the time sent me to take over the management of a perfume oil factory. When I entered the perfumery world it was really difficult for me to part with it. So I decided to leave all the other businesses behind to focus on fragrance oil development, and since then I have never stopped doing it.

How did your own brand originate?
It began with a story of friendship between Mr Mohammed Nashi and me. He is a Saudi from Jakarta and produces oud. It’s been now more than ten years that we have been both working in the perfumery business, travelling and spending a lot of time together in the Middle East. The collaboration that began with business quickly turned into a very special friendship. So after years working with many brands, making compositions to embody their stories in perfumes, three years ago, we decided to embody the story of our friendship and make perfumes for our friends, to tell them this way about the Middle East experience. Thus our brand was born from a Christmas gift for our friends.

So this is how the idea of your first collection came about.
Yes. We created our first, the Desert Day collection to explain what you experience in the desert from the morning to the night. The first fragrance, Breath of the Infinite, evokes a lazy wake up in a desert late in the morning. With a long-lasting musk and peach accord, and oud from Papua, it is like a second skin ready to receive the new day. The next in the collection, powerful and spicy Wind Heat, with oud from Myanmar, seeks to capture the hot intensity and movement of a dashing wind in the desert to give you a feeling of freshness. After a few hours spent in the desert you are totally exhausted, even doing nothing, but happily enjoying the silence and beauty of nature. The third fragrance, Golden Powder represents the special moment of the sunset, when the hot, dense air envelops the skin while the oriental, woody and spicy notes of the composition take shape.

Finally, around 9.30 the night settles over the desert. In the absence of the sun, there is a much-needed coolness and calm. Woody and balsamic notes of sandalwood, rose, Indian oud and patchouli move together inducing a deep feeling of well-being, embodied by the fourth fragrance, Blessing Silence.
There is also a rare moment in the desert when it starts snowing. To celebrate this magic occasion we made a fifth addition to this collection and called it Wonderly, because snow in the desert is like wonder. The fragrance’s notes of iris and vanillic myrrh are in a beautiful contrast like snow falling in the Sahara.

And what stories does your second collection Klem Garden tell?
Again, it is another chapter of our book, about special moments you experience in an Arabian garden, where you are treated to its pleasures and blessed fruits - dates, grapes and almonds.

In the first, gourmand fragrance, Dates Delight, based on the freshness of the dates, with amber and honey, we were looking for totally different sweetness. To boost the top notes we let them play with oud from an Indonesian island of Kalimantan.

The second fragrance, Almond Harmony, is based on another addictive fruit. We combined the richness of the almond with the richness of heliotrope to make a simple but very noble and elegant perfume. Grape Pearls, with the main accords of grapes and coffee is the fragrance of the highest level of instant liking. It is a tribute to grapes which add craziness to this simple scent.
Cypress shade is the most complicated scent in the whole collection. It’s a tribute to a cypress tree, typical of Arabian garden, whose shade brings relief and refreshes the soul. The citrus notes combined with fresh mint, vetiver, coriander and mimosa capture the cool, herbal dampness of the ground under a cypress tree.

The Klem Garden Collection closes with Empathy, a tobacco-fruity fragrance, celebrating the shisha time, a moment when everyone stops talking and just enjoys the presence of friends, the beauty of being together.

When you decided to share your stories with more people than just friends what message did you want to convey with your perfumes?
As my main job is being a nose (a perfumer – WV), this brand for me is like a garden in which I can play with whatever I want. What we are looking for is not luxury but excellence, and this word best describes our brand, in the meaning that excellence is the joy of knowing how to do things.

Creating fragrances is like writing a book, the ingredients for us are like the words. Every time we create a new perfume it is like writing a new story.
We use more than 1,000 ingredients in our fragrances but the oud is the most beautiful one in our palette, the most special in terms of complexity. In the beginning there was a fight between Mr Nashi and myself because we had a different approach to oud. I didn’t want to use oud like Arabs do so that it totally dominates the fragrance. Being a Westerner, I wanted to show him a different way of using oud, to let it create a bridge to boost the beauty of all the other ingredients. Every time we compose a fragrance we use the most beautiful and expensive roses or irises so I don’t want them to be overpowered by oud.

The reason why we called our brand The House of Oud was to show that we use oud in a different, Western way so that it becomes the soul of the fragrance.

So what is this oud anyway?
Oud (agarwood) is formed in a tropical evergreen tree called Agar tree or Aloes tree. When this tree is attacked by certain fungi or bacteria in its heartwood, the tree responds to this attack by releasing a dark aromatic resin to defend itself. This resin is known as oud, valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus used for incense, in religious and festive celebrations in India, China, Japan and other Asian countries. It is also one of the most expensive ingredients used in perfumery as there is a very big human effort behind its production. There are people who risk their lives to hunt the infected trees in the jungle. The tree needs to be sourced, cropped and boiled and producing one kilogram of oud can cost from 30,000 to even 200,000 euro.

Oud is really incomparable with all the other ingredients in the perfumery. It is so powerful that it is not easy to leverage it with other ingredients in a fragrance so that it does not dominate. Its aromatic qualities are influenced by the age, species and geographic location of the trees and the extraction method. The Indian oud is considered the most primitive, the one from Indochina is the sweetest, most noble and user friendly, while Indonesian oud, my favorite, is more balsamic.

What is the story behind the Crop, considered to be a signature fragrance of The House of Oud?
It’s more than a fragrance, it’s an experiment, our limited edition, annual Crop collection. It means a truly one-time-only production with each year's edition specifically tailored to the unique properties of the latest harvest of oud oil. The quality and quantity of oud differs over years so the amount of fragrance will also vary. So every year we launch a new experiment, we pick what’s best in our factory and we boil it all together. The first Crop 2016 was built around a green Kalimantan oud and featured mint. The 2017 edition was based on licorice and now we are waiting to see what Crop 2018 would bring.

Who designed these unusual, egg-shaped flacons, resembling precious stones and standing up-side-down on their stoppers?
We did. When we started thinking of packaging for our fragrance we wanted to do something unusual and decided to make it top down design to show our different approach to oud. With this concept, the atomizer, had naturally to be leak-proof.

Each bottle is handmade and hand-painted. Each is one-of-a-kind and inimitable with their ornament ink and paint. The desert collection features flacons with a characteristic cracking coating, embodying the desert sand. To have this effect, a special process is applied to let the air break the mix of ink and solvent.

In the garden collection a mix of interacting ink and solvent is used. The colors embody the beauty and joy of different elements of the Arabian garden. The shape of the flacon is inspired by the palm of the hand, because we wanted it to be comfortable to use.

All the bottles are crafted by an Italian artisan and each one is absolutely distinct. We thought it was the best way to give our customers something really unique every time, and at the same time it is a tribute to the originality of the Italian art.