Several years ago, oud fever began spreading like wildfire across the perfume blogs and boards, and like so many others, I was captivated. "Noble rot" they called it, and the tales of how it was harvested and the way it was used in the Middle and Far East made agarwood sound so esoteric and totally covetable that I couldn't resist trying some. Thus, I ordered a bunch of samples from Montale, the only house that was using oud on a large scale at the time.
Sadly, my oud testing spree did not go well. The Montale fragrances were without a doubt different from anything I had ever experienced and certainly interesting perfumes. However, I found myself feeling unsettled and borderline anxious whenever I wore them. I eventually figured out that the medicinal, Bactine-like aspect of Montale's oud was reminding me of hospitals, sickness, injury and other unpleasant stuff. "No oud for you!" I thought to myself. Enter Amouage Epic Woman, which I tested on a whim without even knowing that it contained the dreaded oud.
Agarwood (or an aromachemical meant to represent it) is present in Epic Woman from top notes to drydown, but unlike in other settings, the oud here is mellow, a bit sweet and plays well with the other notes. The noble rot descriptor fits perfectly, as the wood has a round, honeyed quality that gives the impression of careful ageing without the medicinal odor. This beautiful note provides the backdrop against which the rest of the fragrance unfolds, at all times enhancing rather than upstaging the other components. Spices, including caraway, pepper and cinnamon abound in Epic, and they have a remarkably fresh quality suggestive of crushing the pods and seeds under a rolling pin as opposed to the dry, musty/stale character found in some spice-laden fragrances. Allegedly, there is a Damascus rose at the heart of Epic Woman, but the floral that I'm able to detect is more of a jam or a liqueur than a natural rose, and all the darker and more rich for it.
Epic Woman's base notes include a creamy, buttery note reminiscent of the one featured in Fracas, as well as the magical silver Frankincense that characterizes most of the Amouage line. Although sandalwood is listed, I can't smell any nasty Polysantol, only an earthy whiff after a few hours of what I assume must be Gaiac wood. The sillage and longevity of this perfume are appropriately epic, as they ought to be for the price. Speaking of which, if loving this expensive juice means a month of eating Ramen in a styrofoam container instead of a proper and civilized lunch, I consider it well worth the sacrifice.