In perfumery, the word “oriental” denotes a rich, dense and complex perfume. Shalimar is probably the best-known example.
According to J.S. Jellinek, in Perfumery: Practice and Principles, oriental perfumes can be divided into those such as Obsession and Must de Cartier that are based on the ambreine accord, a mixture of civet, bergamot, patchouli, vanillin, and coumarin, that gives a deep and satisfying softness and gentle sweetness to floral or spicy perfumes, and those based on the “mellis” accord. The mellis accord, upon which Coco, Youth Dew, and Opium are based, includes benzyl (or other) salicylate coupled with eugenol which, of course, smells of cloves. These two compounds form an accord, the same accord used in L’Air du temps, Anais Anais, and Paris. Added to this famous accord are hydroxycitronellal, patchouli and coumarin, with woods and spices, to form the final mellis accord.
In Must de Cartier, we encounter an accord of hedione, sandalwood, and galaxolide that’s used in conjunction with the mellis accord.
Opium (the perfume), popular in the 70s and 80s, is an example of a perfume that uses both the ambreine and the mellis accords, with the coumarin, a component of both, linking the two. In Opium, we see a few modern developments including the use of lyral to reinforce the hydroxycitronellal and vertofix to function as the main woody material. As in Shalimar, Opium contains a good quantity of castoreum to bring out the leather character. Later perfumes such as Coco, placed a greater emphasis on floral notes, and include hedione to reinforce the accords. Sandalwood, once used prodigiously in oriental perfumes, is now rare and expensive. Fortunately, there are a number of synthetics which are nowadays used to emulate the smell of authentic sandalwood.