Monday, June 15, 2009

Amouage Ubar: fragrance review

The exotic-sounding name of Ubar by parfums Amouage comes from a lost Omani city founded in 3000BC and still functioning during the first century AD, which consolidated a reputation as a tremendously wealthy trading post of frankincense en route the Silk Road. Nicknamed "Atlantis of the Sands" by T.E.Lawrence, its mysterious past lay hidden beneath the sand dunes as a result of divine wrath against the amorality and greediness of its inhabitants (according to the Qur'an). Although archaeological study had been going steady following surface archeology methods, it was only in 1992 that satellite imaging fully revealed Ubar to the world.

Commemorating that event and marking their Silver Jubilee, the Omani-residing brand of Amouage first issued a fragrance named Ubar in 1995, yet like the lost city the fragrance disappeared soon afterwards as if engulged by the sands. Luckily for us, Amouage re-issued the Ubar fragrance in 2009 under their new Creative Director, Christopher Chong; some formula tweaking didn't change the resulting composition too much, but enough to render it more baroque and extremely lasting.

Comparing a vintage sample I had languishing in my collection with a new batch which a generous friend recently provided , I can sense that the original 1995 Ubar consisted of a distinctive woody orientalised composition without much citrus up-top, while the re-issued Ubar is a floriental, with a dominating floral heart and a soft oriental aura on its lush lemon top and its silky woody bottom. Luca Turin gave it maximum points in his Perfumes the Guide quarterly update, mentioning how the older version had also received high marks of respect from connoisseurs, and I can see how it would.

What is most interesting about the re-issue is that Amouage Ubar is a regular shape-shifter on its ~very long~ course on my skin! Ubar's beginning mingles the discernible and very lush bergamot and lemon brightness with some "cleaner" notes (listed as lily of the valley, more of which here) cutting through the voluptuous richness; yet already a velvety aura radiates warmth forth ~the magical radiance of civet, conferring a restraint upon whatever tangy nuances might have been feared. You never had such a lush lemon before! Give it some time however and it becomes a throbbing, pulsating, thorny dark rose, the way the classic Montana Parfum de Peau behaves, while jasmine later embraces the composition fully. At this stage Ubar is a statement-making evening diva, not your average office-friendly perfume and indeed to treat it thus would amount to terrible waste. Atter a brief phase that seems to take a more masculine direction, the longer it stays on skin the more it reminds me of the peculiar lemon-cupcakes accord which was the pinacle of charm and naughtiness in Guerlain's Shalimar Light, with a very discreet suede-like accent in the base (perhaps due to a little labdanum): for something so naughtily laced with animalic civet, Ubar retains an always opulent yet elegantly sexy vibe (same as Ormonde Jayne's Tolu does), never veering into vulgarities: it wears hand-sewn dark lace, not red vinyl, as befits something evoking the romance and splendour of the Arabian Nights.

Although Ubar is appealing to me in no uncertain terms, I find that it is hard to surpass my infatuation with Jubilation 25, despite its many merits. It is worth noticing that men however, especially men attuned to rose and sandalwood mixes, might find it less outrightly feminine than the former and thus find it a better match to their sensibilities.

Amouage Ubar notes: Bergamot, lemon, lily of the valley, rosa Damascena, jasmine, civet, vanilla.

The original Ubar from 1995 came in Eau de Toilette concentration in a twisted pyramidal-shaped bottle (pic here) and cost "around $60 for a half ounce", according to the NST reportage. The re-issued Amouage Ubar comes in Eau de Parfum concentration and costs $250 for 50ml and $285 for 100ml at and Luckyscent.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Amouage scents, Parfums Fourrure/Animalic scents.

Pic of Oscar de la Renta fashions shot at Palmyra, via Corbis.


  1. Great review E.! Now I understand why I both like and dislike this fragrance. I love its sensual femininity, however as it veers off into a different direction that is skanky and more masculine, it almost puts me off entirely.

  2. Thank you E! It makes sense, doesn't it: there are two contrasting elements within the composition and I can see how you could not like one of them. It's quite interesting though and very "rich-smelling" (as usual).

  3. E,

    That urine aspect of indole you mentioned? That's what I get from Ubar. No can do I'm afraid :-(

    I still have a sample of Jubilation 25 in my drawer that has sadly gone untouched....will pull it out very soon.


  4. T,

    that's funny, eh? It's a very changing scent on my skin and goes through a lot of phases. Do get out the Jub; it deserves air time!


  5. Jub it is :-)

    I'll let you know how it goes!



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