Azman Risk artwork courtesy of the brand©
One of the biggest impressions (and by “big” I mean bloody enormous) at Pitti Fragranze this year was made by Azman with their new fragrance, Risk. As Azman founder and creative director Husen Baba explains, the fragrance was envisioned as “the summit of desire and passion. The name is inspired by great endeavors in life that are achieved with vision, persistence, nonchalance and a big margin of Risk.” Baba set out to create not just an unorthodox oud scent, but the oud perfume to end them all, an extrait with a 25% concentration of perfume oils that wove together six natural ouds and two separate but synchronous “matrices;” one of vintage and modern ouds, the other an earthy floral accord with civet, Tonkin musk and full-bodied flowers. Enter Antonio Gardoni, one of perfumery’s most refined and inventive risk takers.
Husen Baba and Antonio Gardoni by Lauryn photos from Pitti Fragranze 2023 collage by Michelyn
Between them, Baba and Gardoni have created one helluva composition: a ferociously sexy, complex oud beast that is as heated as lovers on a sweltering bayou night. True to its name, Risk abandons conventionality, eschewing the classical scent pyramid of top, heart and base notes in favour of note development that moves musically (something of a hallmark of Gardoni’s work) between refrains and harmonies. The ouds are layered like an agate, each adding a tang that melds into its sisters so that the composition gives off every conceivable facet of oud: smoky, woody, boozy, earthy, medicinal, animalic, and mulchy, with touches of tobacco and char. These notes are accentuated by musk and civet and lifted by light touches of citrus.
Let me tell you straight up, this is no conventional oud perfume. There are none of the conventional roses or jasmines to distract from oud’s singular array of aromas. Rather, Risk opens with a resinous explosion of woods, smoke, booze, and feral ferocity. At first, Risk hits me like the heart-pounding drums of Mussourgsky’s Baba Yaga movement in Pictures at an Exhibition: a big-ass, badass, brooding, crackling oud, full of strange medicine and old wood. But, before you can say timpani, the tempo slowwwwssss like a snake hiss into something more like a jazz clarinet with cymbals shimmering just behind. Smoke and booze, with something sweetish just underneath, seep languidly like the fume of an opium den and take over for a while. The whiskey-ish, foggy, burnished wood quality is quite transporting; I wonder if I close my eyes, when they reopen, I will find myself with a hookah pipe in my hand and some louche company lolling on silk cushions next to me.
Agate, image via Gratis Graphics
The bright citrus notes you would expect right at the top – yuzu and bergamot – don’t turn up straightaway. Wait a few minutes and there they are, peeking through the dense wood and smoke, keeping the perfume’s weight down. But they stay quiet, just keeping things from getting too dark, while the ouds start to play with some creamy, textural notes. Immortelle lends its maple-y spice syrup to the woodiness, while a bit further on, tuberose yields some dairy fleshiness. The effect of these flowers is that the more medicinal and earthy qualities of the ouds begin to sweeten slightly and fall back in favour of spiritous wood and smoke. That hint of sweetness is enhanced by benzoin, which twines like a taffy bracelet around the ouds, smoothing out their more antiseptic, reeky qualities. The wild animalism of the opening calms down a bit, and Risk shifts from Wolverine to Don Juan.
And then, without notice, the whole tempo changes.
Risk becomes creamier and more floral, while smoke hangs around like nightclub haze and the woods keep their steady drumbeat in the background. It becomes more challenging to describe Risk’s evolution hereafter. It’s changeable, going from hypnotic flowers and civet back to that butch, burnished woodiness of the beginning, segueing through the opium parlour. Around two hours into the fragrance there’s marked departure from the more masculine aspects of oud – the sturdy, dark wood and cigar smoke – into more of a creamy, sleepy tuberose-benzoin with the woods and smoke hovering in the background. Outside, with the rain falling, I’m struck by the way the fragrance softens, taking on some nuttiness and sweetness from the benzoins which become more obvious in the open air. Wearing it to bed, it is as if a jungle cat snuggled up to me, purring loudly (note: my hound dog objects pointedly to this description). The smell of wild wood, of animal fur and fading smoke, sent me to some rather odd dreams. But when I woke, I couldn’t quite remember what I wore the night before, but was aware of creamy flowers, resin and a cling of smoky and wood, in that order. it’s like going to bed with Casanova and waking up with Jayne Mansfield, cigar smoke clinging to her hair.
Animalic, burnished, smooth, and creamy, Risk is one of the sexiest oud fragrances I’ve ever taunted my skin with. Not an office fragrance, and definitely not a first date perfume unless you are already planning to skip dessert. Rock it when you want to be very, very naughty.
Perhaps Baba should rename it risqué.
Notes: Six natural oud oils: vintage Trat oud, Thailand; vintage Assam oud, India; vintage Garu Hills oud, India; Prachin oud, Thailand; Laos oud; Upper Assam oud, India. Bergamot, yuzu, tuberose absolute, iris, ambergris, Tonkin musk, civet, Sumatra benzoin, Siam benzoin.
Disclaimer: Sample of Risk kindly given to me by Husen Baba at Pitti Fragranze. My opinions, as always, are my own.
Lauryn Beer, Senior Editor
Thanks to the generosity of Azman we have a 10 ml bottle of Risk for one registered reader in the EU, USA, UK, UAE. To be eligible, please leave a comment saying what you find most interesting based on Lauryn’s review of Azman Risk and where you live. Have you tried any Azman perfumes? Draw closes 11/16/2023.
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