Fine smells and fine tastes being so inextricably intertwined, I’m surprised it took so long for someone to own the barrel-aged perfume idea—but it’s happened, thanks to OK Fine Fragrances, who launched 5 fragrances in “the first collection to be aged in American oak barrels like fine wines, whiskies and bourbons“!
It’s such a brilliant idea, and I was thrilled to find out that one of the barrels was mezcal. This “smoky cousin of tequila” is my spirit of choice, my favorite so far being Del Maguey Minero, a single-village mezcal distilled in clay stills with bamboo tubing. It’s described as having “a nose full of flower essence, vanilla and figs with a burnt honey flavor and a bit of lemon,” according to the distillers. For me, it’s perfection of the Goldilocks sort—not too sweet and light that it feels watered down, and not too smoky that it tastes reminiscent of how the large-animal section of a zoo smells.
But I digress… we’re supposed to be talking about the perfume here!
OK Fine Fragrances names their perfumes in abbreviations, with each letter forming part of a code that indicates 3 things: the star ingredient, the type of alcohol that was in the barrel it aged in, and the type of wood the barrel was made of. So of course I had to buy a sample of AMO—amber fragrance aged in mezcal seasoned American oak barrel. Had to!
It didn’t disappoint. One of the first things I noticed was that, refreshingly, the amber didn’t have the heavy background of vanilla that many ambers do. From the perfumer’s note:
“I crafted notes of Olibanum, Labdanum, Benzoin, Tonka and Woods to age in the Mezcal seasoned barrel which imparted a hard-to-describe smokey/spicy veil to the exotic amber. This turned out to be really amazing.” —Steve D
It seems that the emphasis on warmer ingredients kept this perfume on the “dry” end of the spectrum (borrowing from wine-tasting vocabulary), paradoxically giving it a bright, uplifting quality. AMO not an armor, but rather a sheer scarf, with a gently crunchy texture like diaphanous silk can have, and metallic thread running through it sparingly to give it a sparkly sheen. It lasts a few hours, but not all day—only faint wafts remain after several hours, and it stays pretty linear throughout the wear.
I’m not sure I would have guessed that the barrel was mezcal seasoned if I hadn’t been told. I would have believed it if they’d said it was bourbon, for example. As for the effect, I do feel that the perfume has an added je ne sais quoi for having been inside a barrel for 39 days. It may be the contribution of the oak wood itself as well as the mezcal. It smells very natural. From this, and without having a valid comparator, I agree with the brand’s statement that the perfume is “smoother and silkier.” I would also add more bubbly—like champagne, but more because of the aroma, not because of any aldehydic fizz.
A fascinating way to build character into a perfume!