Wholly Kaw "King of Oud"
Guerlain "Oud Essentiel"
Value (Cost, Packaging and Performance)
Lather (Density, Glide and Feel)
Post-shave (Healing, Moisture and Feel)
Scent (Quality, Strength and Longevity)
Oud wood is a rare and precious raw material carefully enclosed in the heart of Eden-like forests. An ancient treasure hidden from view, its fortuitous formation in a handful of trees is nothing short of mystical. This sacred gift imparts all its rich bounty to the new Guerlain fragrance.
I've reviewed several of the "donkey milk releases" from Wholly Kaw in the past as well as an in-depth review of King of Oud. I won't get into the performance too much today; suffice to say that it's truly excellent, and firmly within the top tier of today's artisanal shaving market.
As far as scent, King of Oud may just be the boldest, most complex accord yet by #WhollyKaw. Officially, it has top notes of bergamot, lemon, clary sage, rose, aldehydes and pink pepper, middle notes of angelica, rosewood and galbanum and base notes of agarwood (oud), sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and amber. On the surface, it's somewhat similar to Dance of Agrumes but with some key differences. Just sniffing the dry tub reveals a robust scent that's rich and complex (and gets better from there). There's a tangy interplay of citrus and woods with a floral thread woven throughout. On the base, it's woodsy with more earthy and green undertones. Very nice. It offers the vibe of a good commercial cologne. While the oud in this case is synthetic, it pulls it off quite admirably (and at a reasonable cost, I might add).
So of course I had to follow that up with a recent acquisition - Guerlain Oud Essentiel. Guerlain as a perfume house is one of my favorites, and I have several of their scents... This one being the latest release (from 2017) in the unisex Absolus d'Orient collection - the other two are Santal Royal (2014) and Ambre Éternel (2016). The Absolus d'Orient collection is marked by three Eastern inspired scents, with each fragrance packaged in a similar flagon, albeit in different (dark) colors. Each carries an MSRP of $200 for 125ml of Eau de Parfum strength juice. While I've only sampled the other two, I can say of them all that they have beast mode sillage and longevity (as they should). The sillage fades very slowly over its course and the longevity is an easy 8-10+ hours. On fabrics, you'll smell it 24 hours later without batting an eye.
Now the accord itself... Officially it has top notes of saffron and pelargonium; heart notes of agarwood (oud), rose and Atlas cedarwood and base notes of leather, incense and gaïac wood. It shares several notes with King of Oud but really goes in a different direction. In a nutshell, think of it as oud, leather and rose. The leather is the main differentiator between the two accords, and of course the quality coming from Guerlain is no comparison. We are talking about products an order of magnitude different in price, after all; not to mention real vs. synthetic oud and saffron (two very expensive ingredients).
Whereas King of Oud is more citric, earthy and floral, Oud Essentiel is much more pungent, thanks to the real oud, saffron and incense (frankincense). Overall it's much woodier with leather and rosy undertones. Think of it as oud with a Habit Rouge base. You should really be an oud fan to fully enjoy it as it unapologetically holds nothing back. Though it should be noted that some oud purists (literally and figuratively) scoff at this somewhat Westernized accord. I don't care - I love it.
Hardware for today includes the same stainless "mild edition" #TimelessRazor I've been rocking all week with a .68mm blade gap on a smooth top cap and straight bar base plate, a titanium #Stork handle and a #PolSilver blade on shave three. It's just been buttery smooth all week and I want to ride this train to the end! The brush is practically my de facto Wholly Kaw brush because of the colors, and hails from #LowbornSupply - sporting a 24mm BOSS knot - with the #GTP scuttle rounding out the hardware selection.
Holy friggin' oud, Batman! I could take a bath in all this software. If you're a fan of oud, this is a great collection to "immerse yourself" in. Performance of everything you see pictured is without reproach. While the price of the Guerlain Oud Essentiel is a bit steep, it's potent and long-lasting and of course - smells amazing! It pairs nicely with the Wholly Kaw King of Oud or rather takes that foundation and then runs with it.