If you find yourself trolling around fashion industry events as often as we do, then you can’t help but notice how the surge in non-western markets has impacted the luxury business. Where once all the ambassadors were white, Hollywood royalty, brands now scramble to sign Chinese film talent to promote their watches, jewellery and fragrances. It’s recognition of just how much the country’s economy has risen, even as the west’s taste for luxury – or, at least, its ability to afford it – has stalled.
The Middle East is also booming. Protected from the vagaries of global economic collapse by the fact much of its sits on billions of barrels of oil, brands like Dolce & Gabbana have questioned whether they’re going to get the best returns from Parisian businesswomen or Saudi wives, and answered with a line of luxury hijabs.
Not, you may think, something that impacts you. But the recent explosion in oud-heavy fragrances stems directly from the fact that it’s popular in Saudi Arabia, where the fragrance market is worth $1.4bn, a figure expected to grow by 9.4 per cent over the next few years to top $2bn by 2018. With European sales stagnating, expect the trend of retooling successful scents for the Middle East – which basically translates as giving your spice hand free rein – to continue.
Which brings us to Dunhill’s new twist on its excellent Icon fragrance. Released early last year, it quickly earned acclaim and comparisons to the iconic Terre d’Hermès. Which left the brand scratching its head over how to capitalise on this success. The result is Icon Absolute, which takes the original’s pepperiness and mixes in a host of Middle Eastern notes – oud, of course, but also saffron, tobacco leaves and Egyptian jasmine.
Because it’s a scent crafted by Carlos Benaim – no less iconic than the fragrance itself, he’s the nose behind Calvin Klein Eternity, Ralph Lauren Polo and Yves Saint Laurent’s l’Homme Libre – the additions aren’t overpowering. In fact, Icon Absolute opens with the same blend of wood and citrus, courtesy of bergamot and black pepper, before those desert aromas kick in: saffron, black rose and then that big hit of oud.
It’s a scent that lingers, developing and softening over six or seven hours, making it the ideal thing to spritz on after work if you’re plans include something other than the sofa and Netflix.
Available from Harrods, priced at £90 for 100ml of eau de parfum.
Bottle: Machine-tooled metal, like the original, here done up in gold instead of silver. Keep it on your chest of drawers, since it’s handsome enough to be an ornament even despite its contents. And has enough heft to brain a home invader.
Head notes: Bergamot, black pepper;
Heart notes: Saffron, black rose, Egyptian jasmine;
Base notes: Oud, tobacco leaves, Tuscan leather.
Best for: Cocktails on the top floor of the Burj Khalifa.