Oud, Tea, Sandalwood,
From a fragrance brand with a name The House of Oud I would expect spectacular oud-centric fragrances. The superstar of the collection, Crop 2016, delivers on this expectation. The others from the line I have smelled...well not so much (see Cypress Shade).
Creating an original high quality oud fragrance in 2017 is a difficult task for several reasons. First, the oud trend has been dominating the Western fragrance markets for close to ten years now. Virtually every single brand has released its own version of oud perfume and some several versions of it.
Even though the majority oud fragrances are built following the same patterns (oud+rose, oud+saffron, oud+leather, etc.), there are many original creations. With all this oud proliferation it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with an original, never-done-before oud scent.
Secondly, oud oil is a limited resource. Just like Mysore sandalwood naturally grown and aged agarwood is hard to find and getting a decent batch often involves smuggling and breaking several laws (not that this ever stop some industrious entrepreneurs).
Given its scarcity, oud oil is extremely expensive. A recent study showed that its price in 2016 exceeded that of gold. The scarcity and high price make oud oil inaccessible or unfeasible for many perfume houses. Even if they manage to obtain a batch, they will have to charge ridiculous prices for the fragrances they use it in. A case in point is Crop 2016, which goes for $400. All other offerings from the company sell for approximately $250.
Third, oud as a perfume ingredient is tough to work with. It has many different facets, many of which are unsavoury for the Western consumer (think smells of feces, baby goats, barn, etc.).
Therefore, creating a fragrance with real oud that is creative and marketable in the West requires a special kind of talent. I dare say The House of Oud achieved this feat with Crop 2016.
The story goes that to create Crop 2016, The House of Oud used a special 2016 batch of Kalimantan Super Oud oil. Once the batch is finished, the perfume will not be produced anymore.
The limited supply of the 2016 crop of Kalimantan oil is not only a sales gimmick. If the House of Oud is indeed using a specific oud oil from a specific batch and are adding large quantities of it in their composition, then once this batch is done they indeed won’t be able to produce more of the same perfume.
Natural oud oil is very complex and virtually impossible to reproduce with all its nuances. Some companies can get away with swapping one source with another if the oil serves only as a base. When it makes up 60% of the composition as in Crop 2016, swapping the oil means creating a new fragrance.
Leaving all these technicalities aside, Crop 2016 is a masterpiece played at a low volume. It is a soft blend of oud, sandalwood, black tea and mint. The composition is fresh and creamy at the same time. The harsh splinters many other oud scents come with have been polished off.
The real beauty of Crop 2016 becomes evident only upon closer inspection. Since the scent stays so close to the skin, you literally have to bury your nose in your hand and inhale deeply to detect its nuances.
Even though Crop 2016 is done well, you may not be able to enjoy it unless you make a study of it. I can barely detect it on my when wearing it and those around me can smell it even less. If the meaning of wearing a fragrance is a pure hedonistic pleasure, then Crop 2016 is pointless. If you see perfume more like a collectible art, then by all means get a bottle. There may be very few left.