The Oud Fragrance Mania

In the last couple of years, there has been a proliferation of oud-based fragrances on the market. Everyone from mass market players like Armani and Dior to hard-to-find niche brands like by Killian and Heeley have released an oud fragrance. Oud or agarwood is a resin derived from the Acquilaria and Gyrinops trees native to Southeast Asia. When the heart of the tree becomes infected with a particular type of fungus, it starts rotting and emits a unique resinous-woody smell.

Oud Chips

Traditionally, oud has been used in middle eastern perfumery for many centuries, but it never really made it big in the Western markets until recently. The trend we are observing isn’t a renaissance of the middle eastern perfumery. It is really driven by Western perfume houses taking the traditional oud element and transforming it into fragrances that are more appealing to the Western markets. We suspect that oud craze is also driven by the discovery of a good synthetic molecule replicating the smell of natural oud, which makes the production of good quality oud fragrances cheaper.  For the record, natural oud is extremely expensive and very few perfumes on the market have the real thing.

Since the oud seems to be the hot new thing on the fragrance counter we selected some of the more popular ones you may want to try:

Joe Malone: Oud & Bergamot

Joe Malone came out with its Intense Cologne series in 2011 featuring Oud & Bergamot. It opens up with bergamot, lemon and oud notes, which do not change much in the later stages of development. The oud note is slightly sweet with a nuance of smokiness. Don’t let the smokiness part turn you off though. Oud & Bergamot is probably one of the most mainstream oud fragrances on the market. Don’t get spray-happy with this one as the projection is quite strong and you can easily overdo it.

Joe Malone Oud & Bergamot
Jo Malone – Oud & Bergamot

Creed: Royal Oud

Apparently, Royal Oud was a present Creed made to Prince William and Princess Kate during their stay at Santa Barbara Polo Club. If you believe Creed’s advertising, which you should not, Royal Oud is sensual and luxurious like the lives in the Parisian and Persian palace. We get the Parisian part, we giggled at the Persian one as Royal Oud has un-Persian as it can get. There is nothing in the composition and ingredients of Royal Oud that even remotely suggests Persian perfumery.

Royal Oud is not bad but it is a “me too” oud fragrance: it’s a one-toe-in-the-water attempt to ride the trend while keeping the core audience happy. The results are pleasant but unimpressive.

Creed - Royal Oud
Creed Royal Oud

Tom Ford: Private Blend Oud Wood

Oud Wood is an authentic interpretation of oud and therefore it takes some getting used to. It opens up with solid smoky oud that has medicinal notes to it. It melts into the skin and stays close to it. The vanilla and tonka beans notes start to emerge in the heart and base without making the fragrance too sweet. Oud Wood is a pleasant experience, especially if you want to take a walk on the strange side.

Tom Ford - Oud Wood
Tom Ford – Oud Wood

By Kilian: The Arabian Nights Series

By Kilian has a whole line of oud-inspired fragrances called Arabian Nights. By Kilian’s interpretation is closest to the original Arabian oud fragrance. To our knowledge all four fragrances in the line use the classic combination of oud and rose. Our favourite is Incense Oud, which is very smoky and dry. Pure Oud is another great creation in the line and is meant to interpret the smell of burning oud.

Arabian Nights are definitely for the more adventurous, so definitely try before you buy.

By Kilian - Arabian Nights
by Kilian – Arabian Nights

Byredo: Oud Immortel

In 2010 the Swedish niche house Byredo released their own oud fragrance – Oud Immortel. It is a mix of incense, papyrus, rosewood and tobacco. As if it was late for the party Byredo decided to go for an overkill and released another oud-centered fragrance. They creatively called it Accord Oud.

Oud Immortel is a fragrance with powdery dry characteristics. The mix of rosewood, incense and oud contributes to its dry character. Oud Immortel is fairly linear and subdues quickly. Not a bad choice if you are a fan of rosewood fragrances and would like something with an interesting touch.

Byredo Oud Immortel
Byredo – Oud Immortel

Now that you have the scoop on the good and bad stuff on the oud interpretations, you can spray away. Let us know what you favourite oud fragrance is and we’ll definitely tell you what we think about it.

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14 thoughts on “The Oud Fragrance Mania

  1. I do not like agarwood much. I don’t mind it in very small doses but oud-centric perfumes aren’t my cup of tea.

    By Kilian’s Amber Oud is, probably, one of a few I like (do not love though). And just recently I tried perfume Amour de Palazzo from the new brand – Jul et Mad – and I though that agarwood in there was just about right for my taste.

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    1. I read somewhere that oud is not used as creatively as it could be. Mot perfumes have the same interpretation – oud and rose or oud and incense.

      I haven’t found an oud scent I would wear on regular basis. The closest one for me is Oud Wood by Tom Ford, even though I rarely feel like wearing it.

      What aspect of the agarwood in Amour de Palazzo do you like?

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      1. It’s not overwhelming in there! Agarwood in a supporting role – I’m fine. But once it wants to be a diva…
        As much as I like Tom Ford’s perfumes Oud Wood is one of a few that I do not like on my skin because of the strong opening. In drydown it’s very nice (if I could only skip straight to that phase!)

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      2. I agree, Oud Wood can be come off as “strange” in the opening and put you off. I didn’t like it for the longest time and I thought it smelled like a curry. Then, one day I went to the Tom Ford counter and the attendant sprayed in on my wrist. I had a couple of other things on but 20 minutes after I had left the store, this rich sweet-aromatic smell drew my attention. It was the Oud Wood wrist. It has grown on me and I’m happy I gave it a chance.

        Many people rave about L’Artisan’s L’Oud even though to me it smells harsh. I might just need some getting used to.

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  2. Great round up. Oud Wood is my daily but the Jo Malone is great too. Have you tried the Jo Malone Rose Oud limited release? Synthetically Stunning. Most mainstream Ouds have less than a drop of the real thing topped up by gallons of the various synthetic oud molecules hence the mania and availability. The gaharu hunters return empty handed from the jungles so any wild harvested wood is rare, extremely expensive and sold to the fragrant carving market rather than to perfumers.
    Methinks that you are ready to explore the delights and intensity of Ensar Oud which these days is sourced from the emerging plantations. These cultivated trees ensure the future of Oud in a world that has seen the demise of Mysore Sandlewood due to over harvesting.

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    1. Hey Jordan,

      Thank you for your comment. Oud Wood is great. It has this medicinal feel to it in the opening but my favourite part is the drydown when it gets a little more subtle and sweeter.

      I haven’t tried Rose Oud but I’ve heard about it. I’ll swing by the Jo Malone counter and check it out. Rose and oud seems to be a very popular combination. I agree with you on the use of synthetic oud molecules and that it drives the mania. I doubt if some of the mainstream releases even have any natural oud in them.

      Judging by the price of some releases from niche houses (e.g. Maison Francis Kurkjian), there are some scents on the market with natural oud, at least partially. In the case of Maison Francis Kurkjian, his Oud fragrance is in the $300s, while his other releases are well under. It makes me think he’s probably using some of the real stuff. Speaking of which, have you tried his Oud release?

      I’m not familiar with Ensar Oud. Does it come from a particular region? I’ve heard that in order to get the oud scent, the tree mold has to develop over several years and this is part of what is making cultivation of oud hard.

      Are you familiar with some of the traditional Middle Eastern oud fragrances? What do you think of them?

      Vic

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    1. Just now found this, thanks for the reference.

      As for the Creed and Byredo that you picked on, I like the Creed even though it’s not the “best Oud” interpretation but more because it’s simply a very solid, refined scent. Accord Oud gets very under-rated, and I find it has more substance than Oud Immortel, which to my palate becomes very powdery/musky almost from the start. The deep berry pairing tends to give Accord more a feeling of a merlot, and it’s more interesting in a sense.

      If you’ve not yet checked out the MFK Oud Moods, definitely do so. He’s done a creatively brilliant job with them.

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      1. Yes, M7 was theoretically discontinued, though it can still be found. A friend of mine bought a bottle of it just last week. The new version, M7 Oud Absolu, is apparently nothing like the original and has essentially been emasculated.

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  3. I did a review of certain Oud fragrances recently and ended up being most fascinated by Pur Oud from By Kilian. I found almost zero oud in the Amber Oud but it was a pleasant (albeit linear) amber fragrance. I also tried 2 oud fragrances from Montale and I was not a fan. One of them, Lime Aoud, was the olfactory equivalent of Chernobyl on my arm and made me want a Silkwood shower. Truly, one of the worst things I have EVER smelled!! I’m curious to try the Tom Ford one but I’m a bit leery now as I’m not sure my body chemistry really works with oud.

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