Papyrus Oud / 71 is a small independent perfume with a big story. If you know Parle Moi de Parfum, you may know Benjamin Almairac’s story as the young Parisian entrepreneur who created his own independent perfume house with his brother Romain and father, Michel Almairac, one of the fragrance industry’s most respected perfumers. I last saw Benjamin in Paris at his store in the Marais in 2018 where he showed me this fragrance. Papyrus Oud / 71, which had just launched exclusively at Selfridges in London. The fragrance received a global launch the following year.
Papyrus Oud / 71 made an impact on me because I was a fan of Gucci Pour Homme (2003). It was one of the last fragrances Tom Ford developed as the Italian luxury brand’s Creative Director. The fragrance was years ahead of the fashion curve with its spicy, woody persona. Before Gucci Pour Homme, Ford also developed M7 for Yves Saint Laurent. There was no mistaking his fixation with warm ambery notes that fused incense with woods and spices. Both fragrances make complete sense today but they were the antithesis of what was fashionable in fragrance at the time.
The perfumer behind Gucci Pour Homme was Michel Almairac. After Ford’s departure, his fragrances were gradually discontinued, allowing Ford’s successor to put her own stamp on the brand. Not long after Gucci Pour Homme disappeared, it became a cult scent and EBayers were willing to pay a small ransom for old bottles and decants. Internet chatter shifted to suitable alternatives. Surprisingly, Gucci Pour Homme wasn’t hugely copied. Some close relatives included Juicy Couture’s Dirty English (2008) and more recently Robert Piguet’s Atomica (2019). There was also Bentley For Men Absolute (2014), a fragrance by Michel Almairac, who continued to explore the accord he created for Gucci.
With Papyrus Oud / 71, Michel has revisited his cult accord once more. Fans of Gucci Pour Homme will immediately recognise their old friend. The beauty of it being created for a niche brand like Parle Moi de Parfum is the budget accommodates the use of some very nice natural ingredients from Robertet, Michel Almairac’s long time employer and one of the industry’s most respected producers of high-end natural ingredients for fragrances. Parle Moi de Parfum describe Papyrus Oud / 71 as “the future of this accord”. A neo-retro, “this creation is the perfect meeting point between the Middle East and the West. The spiritual tradition of incense and precious woods, including Papyrus, emblem of Lower Egypt and the Renaissance, is the highlight, worked with the subtle delicacy of Western accords.”
I thought it would be interesting to write this review with Papyrus Oud / 71 on one wrist and Gucci Pour Homme on the other. Keep in mind my bottle of Gucci Pour Homme is over 10 years old but I can say the juice ages surprisingly well. The immediate difference I pick up is Gucci Pour Homme is a little fresher and peppery in the top compared to Papyrus Oud / 71. There is a dry, cumin-like accent in Gucci’s fragrance I don’t get so much from Parle Moi de Parfum. Papyrus Oud / 71 is bolder in its use of papyrus. Like cypriol, papyrus is a woody note that has a vetiver-like freshness, but it also smells smoky, dry, woody and ambery. It’s the perfect pair for oud. Papyrus Oud / 71 opens with spicy ginger that plays well with the fresh peppery facets of Somalian incense. The initial minute is as fresh as the fragrance gets before it descends into earthy, dense woody notes. Incense is the bridge across the heart of the fragrance leading to papyrus and oud. Transparent woody notes make the fragrance modern and give it lift, preventing it from smelling like the bog marshes of the Nile River. It’s a clever contradiction because Papyrus Oud / 71 feels entirely urban whilst still feeling like it’s taking you some far reach of the planet. I like that Papyrus Oud / 71 isn’t too shouty. It purrs with Parisian charm.
Fragrance sample provided for review