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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.