Oud is a note that seems to have had a great deal of popularity over the last few years. Most perfume houses have an ‘oud’ in their line-up, in fact many have several – anybody who’s anyone has got one. Despite it’s prolific presence in today’s perfume landscape, it cannot be denied that oud is a wonderfully powerful material, that when used properly can be one of the most beautiful smells known to man.
Oud is the jigsaw piece that helps fuse European and Eastern styles of perfumery together, and whilst the oud that is used in western perfumery is much cleaner (and largely synthetic) than that used in the east, it has coloured the face of perfumery in bright arabian hues and taken us on exotic voyages to faraway lands.
Oud/Oudh/Aoud/Agarwood is a “dark, resinous heartwood”  that forms in infected Aquilaria trees. The infection is due to a specific type of mould, that changes the colour and density of the wood, leaving a strong, dark resin (the oud) in the core.
Due to its rarity and variation in quality and scent profile, oud is a very difficult and expensive ingredient to work with, hence why the majority of oud fragrances use a synthetic substitute.
Reference Oud Fragrances
These are the fragrances that anyone exploring oud should smell, they are, in my opinion, the best of the bunch as it were:
The Classic Oud
Black Aoud by Montale
Black Aoud is a classic blend of oud and rose, with a good deal of patchouli and leather thrown in for good measure. It is perhaps one of the densest and most rich fragrances I have ever tried and for that reason it really needs a lot of time to unfold and develop on the skin, but It is definitely worth the wait.
The oud in Black Aoud is very much the signature oud of Montale, it is mainly sour and medicinal and it works beautifully with the earthy, dusty quality of the rose. Black Aoud very much feels like a barrage of scent upon first application, and I have to admit I enjoy it most about 10 hours in when everything has settled. With time it loses a lot of the heft that represses the beauty it contains. The rose becomes wonderfully powdery and joins the patchouli and oud in a wonderfully heady blend of eastern mysticism.
Black Aoud is available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum with prices ranging from £70-£100*.
The Masculine Oud
M7 Oud Absolu (formerly known as M7) by Yves Saint Laurent
M7, created under the artistic direction of Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent, was the fragrance that threw oud in to the mainstream. It pairs a spicy, and yes largely synthetic oud with rich, ripe fruits, vetiver and amber. The effect is almost like an intensely medicinal bubble gum laid over the cosiest of ambers.
I find M7 to be ridiculously masculine and it is my go to ‘neanderthal fragrance’ for those days when I’m feeling particularly manly, something that is a more regular occurrence than you would imagine. M7 is as stylish as it is manly and I’ve always seen it as somewhat of a ladykiller (or mankiller depending on your preference of course) fragrance that lures people in, ready to be ravaged.
M7 Oud Absolu is available in 80ml Eau de Toilette for £58.
The Cosy Oud
White Aoud by Montale
Due to there being so many ouds within the Montale line, it is no surprise that there are some rather surprising interpretations of the note lurking amongst the more ordinary ones. White Aoud is one of these surprising interpretations, it is the “OH MY GOD IT’S SO FLUFFY’ oud. Or in English ‘The creamy, cosy and snuggly oud’.
White Aoud pairs Montale’s signature oud (sour, medicinal) with saffron, white rose, vanilla and sandalwood. I almost gave White Aoud the title of ‘The Delicious Oud’ because of the strong, creamy vanilla but due to the dry edge of the sandalwood it never quite makes it into gourmand territory.
This snuggly little thing (it’s not little by any means, it’s as loud and bombastic as every other Montale) is one of my favourite ouds and is a go to scent during winter. It smells great, emanating its cosy warmth from my winter scarf.
White Aoud is available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum, with prices ranging from £70-£100*.
The Barnyard Oud
Al Oudh by L’Artisan Parfumeur
Al Oudh is yet another example of just how amazing Bertrand Duchaufour is (for other examples see L’Artisan’s Vanille Absolument & Traversée du Bosphore and Penhaligon’s Sartorial & Amaranthine). It sits within that category of filthy, animalic perfumes that I like to call ‘barnyard chic’.
This heady blend of spicy, animalic oud, leather, rose and dried fruits is wonderfully filthy and smoky. I find it to be incredibly evocative of the East and out of all of the ouds on the market it feels like the one that you could actually find on a stall in a Middle Eastern bazaar.
For another really good ‘barnyard oud’ I would recommend Oud 27 by Le Labo, which would have been included here if it were a tad more refined.
Al Oudh is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £88.
The Downright Weird Oud
Aoud Lime by Montale
Never has their been a weirder fragrance than Aoud Lime…
The house of Montale has oud fragrances coming out of its ears, and the signature of oud of the house is a sour and medicinal blend. With Aoud Lime, Montale amps up the medicinal facets of the oud by pairing it with golden saffron. The effect is strange, yet beautiful.
Aoud Lime smells like lime, but the startling thing is that there is no lime within the composition, instead the infusion of saffron and oud creates a wonderfully true impression of lime.
Aoud lime is weird, wonderful and totally worth it!
Aoud Lime is available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum, with prices ranging from £70-£100*.
The Stylish Oud
Oud Wood by Tom Ford
I have a somewhat turbulent relationship with Tom Ford’s Private Blends. On the most part I think they are all very well crafted and interesting fragrances, but I also think that they are vastly overpriced for what they are. So far there is only one that I would, and have shelled out for – Oud Wood.
Oud Wood epitomises Tom Ford’s classic style and it is a simply beautiful fragrance. The oud in Oud Wood is spicy, woody and almost rubbery. The contrasting notes of tonka, vanilla and pepper make for a fragrance full of style, class and substance, and it’s one fragrance that I would not want to be without.
Oud Wood is part of Tom Ford’s line of Private Blends and is available in 50ml, 100ml and 250ml Eau de Parfum. Prices range from £125-£285.
The Bewitching Oud
Oud by Mona di Orio
Oud is simply one of the most glorious ouds, if not one of the most glorious fragrances available. I could leave it there, because really that is all you need to know, but I feel compelled to say more.
Unlike a lot of other oud fragrances, Oud uses real oud oil, in this case an incredibly expensive one from Laos. The difference between the synthetic ouds and real oud oil is startling, and in Oud the oud oil is put to good use.
Oud is a glorious blend of oud, osmanthus and amber. The oud is incredibly complex, it smells bready, and rather than being animalic I find it to be incredibly human – like the hot breath of another person. The apricot jam note of the osmanthus adds shimmer and sparkle to the oud and the amber gives a lightly cosy feel.
Words will never be able to describe just how beautiful Oud is, It has to be smelled to be believed.
Oud is part of Mona di Orio’s ‘Les Nombres d’Or’ collection and is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £325.
The Cerulean Oud **
OUD by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
OUD makes it clear very quickly that it is a different breed of oud perfume. Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, OUD is hued a pure cerulean blue. It is a mesmerising blend of bright, candied citrus, smooth oud and a big airy laundry musk. On paper it shouldn’t work but in reality it is one of the most unique and startling oud perfumes to have been released.
OUD is available in 70ml Eau de Parfum for £175.
The Pornographic Oud ***
Leather Oud (La Collection Privée) by Christian Dior
Yep, you read that right, this one definitely is “The Pornographic Oud”. A rich, honeyed blend of smoky leather, sour oud and dry woods make for one of the sexiest fragrances around.
Leather Oud is raunch bottled and it lures you in with a promise of wild night between the sheets. Despite it’s carnal nature it is a surprisingly versatile fragrance that, whilst being rather tenacious, isn’t loud or oppressive and could be worn in most situations. You wear Leather Oud, it does not wear you. You are in control of your own raunch.
Leather Oud is available in 125ml, 250ml and 450ml Eau de Parfum. Prices start at £125.
Join the Discussion
Do you love or loathe oud?
What are your reference ouds?
Do you agree with my choices?
Which perfumes do you think should be included in this guide?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below!
The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to…
Other installments in the series:
Image 1 kjanicki-sotd.blogspot.com
Image 2 cafleurbon.com
* Prices converted from USD
** added 02 April 2012
*** added 17 May 2012