Oud : Fragrance Note and Perfume Reviews

Begum_oudh_flying_kite

The aroma that set the imagination of Middle Eastern poets and Sufi mystics aflame is a fascinating product of the process that via slow deterioration brings immortality. Oud is a resin released by Aquilaria tree species in order to protect themselves against fungus that decomposes their bark and branches. Developing over many decades, oud is priced above rubies. The high quality oud is a true dark gold, its fragrance ethereal and complex, blending nuances of ambergris, sweet incense, tobacco and wood. The lower grades, on the other hand, have a sharp, dark, less nuanced and pleasant scent. Its rich fragrance is used for scenting mosques and clothes in the Middle East, and it is believed that oud can ward off the evil eye as well as attract lovers.

A brief glimpse at the list of fragrances launched over the past couple of years and the launches still ahead this year make it patently clear that oud has been an au courant note for the first decade of our millennium. From Trish McEvoyto Tom Ford, it appears either as a central note or as a main component of a woody accord. At this rate, we might even see Bath & Body Works “Warm Vanilla Oudh”! On the one hand, the popularity of this complex note is surprisingly, for it is certainly not an easy scent to appreciate—sharp, animalic, pungent, intense. On the other, it is an exciting backnote for modern fragrances, lending a new dimension to the compositions. It pairs well with the traditional oriental notes, from rose to vanilla, as well as with the crisp modern ambers and the effervescent hersperidic notes. It should be noted that oud found in many fragrances is not the precious natural oil, which is not only quite rare, but also quite expensive. Still, a number of oud bases I have smelled have an interesting character that captures some of the features of the natural material, which is rich and seductive.

Therefore, I would like to give an overview of 25 or so of the oud dominated fragrances on the market and to highlight a few others to explore.

10 Corso Como
A little known fragrance that is worth exploring, 10 Corso Como has a very interesting, dry, luminous woody accord. The sensual facet of oudh is subtle, but it lends a great counterpoint to the creamy sandalwood-cedarwood base.

Amouage Homage Attar
Not quite a classical Middle Eastern attar, Homage is gentle and refined. Yet, this very feature makes it a good introduction to oud, if the dramatic intensity of the classical Middle Eastern blends is too overwhelming for you.

Amouage Jubilation XXV
A fantastic ambery-woody fragrance with a dark oud accent. It possesses that Middle Eastern opulence that appeals so much to the fans of Amouage.

Anya’s Garden Temple
Orange accented oud marvel. Temple is a dark, deep, complex fragrance that showcases all of the facets of oud in its elegant and dramatic composition.

Arabian Oud range
A large collection of classical Middle Eastern attars. I recently smelled Cortoba, which is a well-made classical oriental with a prominent oud note. Be warned, these fragrances are not for the faint of heart as they are quite dramatic and intense.

Armani Prive 1001 Nights Collection Oud Royal
Prêt-a-porter interpretation of the leather-oud notes that sometimes are quite difficult to wear (such as by Killian Pure Oud, beautiful though it is.) Yet, it does not strike me as particularly new or original. Or perhaps, something of this Arabian Tale was lost in translation.

By Kilian Pure Oud and Rose Oud
Pure Oud is an interesting oud rendition, which renders this animalic and pungent note dark, yet refined. Smoky, inky, with a great backdrop of rose-tinged guaiacwood and saffron, Pure Oud is simply seductive. Rose Oud is a more feminine variation, in which the luscious rose note softens the animalic facet of oud. Luminous and quite lovely. These would be two of my picks for ouds outside of the classical Middle Eastern tradition.

Secret Oud and Oud de Caron
Oud de Caron has the trademark Caron darkness, with the rose and iris balanced well against the dark woody backdrop. Secret Oud is a softer, more familiar blend that will recall both Tabac Blond and Nuit de Noël with its dark, mossy backdrop. Incense, dry austere woods, a hint of smoky rose, Secret Oud has a very pleasing darkness and intrigue. Interesting take on oud genre through the prism of the quintessential Caron Art Deco style.

Christian Dior Leather Oud
Very appealing masculine interpretation of oud, which is set in the elegant Dior Dune structure of a fresh oriental and wrapped in a beautiful leather note, reminiscent of vintage Diorling.

Czech & Speake Dark Rose
Another rose and oud combination, but here the rose is creamier and more dominant. Overall, a good fragrance that is lacking in refinement.

Donna Karan Chaos
While the reissued version does not have the dramatic presence of the original Chaos, it is nevertheless a gorgeous woody-oriental fragrance made interesting by the contrast between the herbaceous-citrusy top and the spicy, smoldering heart.

Guerlain Oud Sensuel
Elegant woody fragrance, without the characteristic pungency of oud. Iris, the trademark of Guerlain, lends a cool character, while a delicate sparkle of citrus in the top notes uplifts the composition. The perfume stays close to the skin and does not have much sillage. Nice enough, but as an oud fragrance, it disappoints.

Henri Bendel Rose & Oud
Reminiscent of Miss Dior Cherie, but in a less fetching bottle.

Jo Malone Oud and Bergamot
If you are familiar with Jo Malone range, then you know what to expect—light, uncomplicated, pale. Still, an interesting example of setting oud against the bright citrusy accord.

Juliet has a Gun Midnight Oud
One of the nicest easy-to-wear oud I have come across. It lacks the pungent animalic intensity of fragrances like Le Labo Oud 27 as well as the heft of Montale and Tom Ford, but it has plenty of character in its saffron accented woody form. What it lacks in drama, it makes up in elegance and sophistication.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh
An interesting, if somewhat attenuated oud heart gives way to a harsh, pungent drydown, reminiscent of a typical masculine blend.

Le Labo Oud 27 and Rose 31
If By Kilian Pure Oud is intense, yet suave, Le Labo’s Oud 27 is animalic and dramatic. Definitely should be smelled, although I find it less striking as it dries down. Rose 31 only has an accent of oud, but it is very well-placed indeed. Its smoky darkness renders the rose accord almost masculine, which is what makes it interesting.

Montale oudh range
I will confess that while I used to like Montale before I have actually experienced any real oud blends, now I find them unbearably sharp and synthetic.

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man
A subtle accent of oud lends an alluring quality to Ormonde Man by making its woody accord animalic and yet luminous. One of the most striking fragrances from Ormonde Jayne.

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque
Serge Lutens’ treatment of the oriental genre of perfumery is fascinating, especially in his older fragrances like Cuir Mauresque. It draws upon the Arabic perfume tradition to weave it animalic-leathery accord, while the modern dry woody and ambery notes make the composition seem radiant and layered.

Tom Ford Noir de Noir and Oud Wood
The sweetness of tobacco and dried fruit frames the opulent oriental composition in Noir de Noir. Opulent, dark, sensual, it can be overwhelming, yet like most Tom Ford creations, it satisfies one’s craving for a dramatic fragrance. On the other hand, Oud Wood is surprisingly pale and understated. It is certainly well-made and would appeal to fans of Tom Fod, but for an intense dose of oud, look elsewhere.

Yves Saint Laurent M7
The original Tom Ford oud exercise was M7, created under his direction for Yves Saint Laurent in 2002. It was one of the most dramatic launches, from the edgy, avant-garde composition to the naked male model featured in its advertising campaign. And it was one of the most resounding failures. Still, I cannot recommend this fragrance highly enough for its depth, its dramatic character and its beautifully opulent woody drydown.

Other fragrances containing oud
(*asterisk indicates fragrances dominated by oud)

Aftelier Perfumes Shiso
Ajmal Asheem*
Ajmal Muhja
Ajmal Mukhallat Dahn al Oudh Moattaq and al Oudh Saif al Hind
Amouage Epic Man
Amouage Epic Woman
Anya’s Garden Temple*
Bond No 9 Perfume and Harrods Oud* (2009 limited edition)
Bond No 9 New York Oud*
By Kilian Incense Oud
By Kilian : L’Oeuvre Noire Cruel Intentions Tempt Me
Byredo Accord Oud*
Byredo Oud Immortel*
Caron Oud de Caron*
Caron Secret Oud*
Cerruti 1881 Black
Christian Dior Fahrenheit Absolute
Christian Dior Leather Oud
Comme des Garçons Wonderwood*
Comme des Garçons Red Series Sequoia
Comptoir Sud Pacifique Voyages to the Orient oudh series*
Costume National 21
Daphne Guinness by Comme des Garçons
Estéban Orientalissime
Gandini Agarwood Man*
Guerlain La Cologne du 68
Juicy Couture Dirty English
Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum Parfum du Soir
La Prairie Silver Rain
MAC Afrikanimal
Maison Dorin Un Air d’Arabie: Oud*
Mäurer & Wirtz CULTURE BY TABAC : ARENA DI ROMA
M.Micallef Aoud*
M.Micallef Arabian Diamond*
M.Micallef Night Aoud*
Paul & Joe Bleu
Strange Invisible Perfumes Aramaic*
The People of the Labyrinths A.Maze
Trish McEvoy Precious Oud*

P.S. I spoke too soon–even Bath & Body Works has oud in their Twilight Wood and in Citron! You can also find it in Avon Uomo and Tomorrow for Men.

Image: Begum of Oudh Flying A Kite, Mughal era miniature painting.

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29 Comments

  • Mark: Great overview! I am glad to see that someone else appreciates M7. What a great fragrance!
    I smell oud in Lanvin Vetiver. Do you find it there too? August 6, 2010 at 7:09am Reply

  • Carla: I’m preparing my fall fragrance wardrobe, so this list is just perfect for my research. :)) I think I can smell oud in Bulgari Black, but maybe it’s just my imagination. I love this note too (and I confess to liking Montale.) :) August 6, 2010 at 9:27am Reply

  • Diana: Would one describe the Germaine Monteil Fragrance “Bakir”, as having oud in its composition? August 6, 2010 at 10:17am Reply

  • gautami: Hey V, what is the difference between oud and incense? For e.g. what would you say Dzonkha has, oud or incense? Thanks August 6, 2010 at 10:40am Reply

  • Eric: Wow, this is a great collection of oud reviews. So helpful, V. I also like Arabian Oud fragrances, but boy, are they strong! August 6, 2010 at 11:05am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Mark, Lanvin Vetyver strikes me as very light. I would not have said oud, although it has a nice woody base, it remains quite dry and crisp. Oud generally would be warmer, more animalic. August 6, 2010 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Carla, I was writing these reviews in 90F weather, 100% humidity. I am already in the fall, as this did not bother me at all. Glad to help with your fragrance wardrobe planning, the most important wardrobe planning of all. August 6, 2010 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Diana, Bakir is indeed a grand oriental, but no, it does not have oud. It is based on myrrh, amber, bezoin with patchouli and moss providing an elegant chypre facet. Such a beautiful fragrance! August 6, 2010 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Gautami, incense can refer to the smell of a burned fragrant substance, which may include myrrh, sandalwood, and oud. However, generally in fragrance it means frankincense, the peppery-citrusy-smoky resin from trees of the genus Boswellia. Dzongkha, as I recall, is not oud, but it contains other notes suggesting a smoky incense effect. August 6, 2010 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Eric, thank you! Oh, they are definitely super strong, which is why I wear literally half of a drop. And that half of a drop lasts for a whole day!! August 6, 2010 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Mark: V, I messed up! I meant Lalique Encre Noire. To myself, I keep referring to it as Vetiver. Ok, sorry, it was totally confusing, I know! August 10, 2010 at 7:04pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Mark, ah, ok, makes sense. Although I do not smell oud in Encre Noire either. For me, it is a classical woody fragrance, with a stunning vetiver note. August 11, 2010 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Myra: This is one of the best recaps of oud perfumes out there. I totally agree with you on the Montale’s range; very sharp and synthetic smelling, sometimes soapy which smells nothing like oud to me – I grew up in Dubai and bK’s Pure Oud here in the U.S is close to authentic evokes special memories. It is one of my HGs. I am trying to decide between bK’s Rose oud and Amouage Homage for smooth rose aspect with hints of oud. Which one would you recommend or would you recommend something else instead? September 24, 2010 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Myra, thank you! Oud is one of the most fascinating raw materials, and the fragrances based on it are truly unforgettable if done right. If you are interested in a smooth rose facet, then bK’s Rose oud is a better choice. I love Amouage Homage, but its rose is quite subtle. It focuses more on the woody-musky elements of classical attars. September 27, 2010 at 9:58am Reply

  • linda: Hi there,
    I’m new to this blog. Loving it sooo much! Thank you.
    What are your 3 favorite Serge Lutens fragrances, your favorite Oud fragrances and your 3 favorite fall fragrances. 9 total….if you can!
    smiles. October 2, 2010 at 9:28pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Linda, Thank you !
    My three favorite Lutens must be: Iris Silver Mist, Santal de Mysore and Bois de Violette (it always changes though, but these tend to dominate)
    Favorite oud fragrances are Amouage Homage, Juliet has a Gun Midnight Oud and Arabian oudh.
    Fall favorites–changes all the time! if you click on “articles” tab above, you will see some articles I wrote about fall favorites. This fall my favorites are Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer and Chanel Bois des Iles. October 3, 2010 at 8:48pm Reply

  • Mike: Hi there!

    You mention that you now find the Montale line too harsh and synthetic after experiencing real oud blends. What are these real oud blends?

    Also, what are your absolute favourite ouds (either blends or pure and unadulterated), be they weak or strong, smooth or harsh?

    Mike x May 30, 2011 at 9:00am Reply

  • Mike: And these don’t necessarily have to be fragrances sold in a bottle as we know them, they could be oils, etc. Your advice would be greatly appreciated (: May 30, 2011 at 9:02am Reply

  • Victoria: Mike, oud is now endangered, so very few fragrances available outside of the Middle East use it. Even in the ME, the grade of oud has declined dramatically over the past years.

    If you want to experience a really beautiful oud effect, I would recommend by Kilian Pure Oud. It is my favorite so far. I also discovered one oud in Montale collection, which is excellent–Black Aoud. Highly recommended and quite different from Pure Oud. May 30, 2011 at 7:22pm Reply

  • Mike: Thanks so much for your reply Victoria x June 10, 2011 at 8:21am Reply

  • Mohammad ishaq khan sekmani: Assalam o alaikum !

    Bro I’m after Oudh the one scent that sheikh people use it for their own.
    And I doubt there may be other 2nd hand Oudh as well. But I’m after the genuine
    and first class Oudh. Could you Plz let me know if I’m able to find them anywhere. Thanks March 12, 2012 at 6:01pm Reply

  • Ferris@DKchocoman: There is Oud in Twilight Woods.. the scent from Bath and Body Works? Oh wow, I must have missed it because I never smelled it. Are you talking about the women’s or men’s version? They both smell remarkably different each other. All I smell in the men’s version is cedar, lots of spices and musk. Which I love, love ,love BTW. The women’s version is a bit sweeter with a tad less cedar. Maybe we are referring to two different scents all together. LOL September 13, 2012 at 1:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Nah, I don’t smell much oud there either. Probably just a marketing thing, a nod to the current trends. Although would an average BBW consumer really care one way or another? September 13, 2012 at 3:11am Reply

  • Ferris@DKchocoman: Never knew Jubilation XXV by Amouage had oud as well. Thanks for informing me. I will have to sniff that one again. September 13, 2012 at 1:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I notice an oud accord there, and it is really polished. Such a good perfume. September 13, 2012 at 3:12am Reply

  • pomusthafa: suggest best woody and earthy perfume October 4, 2012 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Pomusthafa: Why not some well known essential oils and some branded perfumes mixing together . How it works .i tried and the result is fantastic December 18, 2012 at 3:35am Reply

  • paola: What about OUD Reminiscence ? I find it quite intriguing December 20, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it, but it sounds interesting. December 20, 2012 at 3:11pm Reply

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