The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud

Sun Through the Trees

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” [1] 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.

The Smell
Oud has a incredibly varied scent profile, largely due to the many different types, and varying qualities of oud oil available. To me oud can be described as; sweet, sour, medicinal, spicy, rich, animalic, barnyard-like, skanky, earthy, woody, honeyed, fecal and floral.
Bhutan Oud Cut

A cross-section of an infected Aquilaria tree.

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:

The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Tuberose

The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Lavender



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* Prices converted from USD
** added 02 April 2012
*** added 17 May 2012 


68 thoughts on “The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud

  1. Love the Guides series!
    I adore MdO Oud as you know, other than that I am happily oud-less.
    I had to laugh when you said you really start to like Black Aoud ten hours into wearing it, that much commitment is admirable indeed! 😉

  2. Oud you believe it (groan), as a Middle Eastern person, I really don’t like the smell of most Oud based perfumes. I find them dirty in all the wrong ways and when someone walks past wearing one, I often wonder whether they’ve accidentally trodden on a rather large dog poo and it makes my senses recoil.

    Butt… (groan) there is one oud based perfume I love, called King B, by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi and it happens to be one of my favourite perfumes of all time. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t have that dog poo perfume to it :-), but leans on the honeyed side and is beautifully balanced with just the right floral notes to make it a light and airy treat, yummy enough to wear every day.

    Despite my dislike of Oud based perfumes, I love your reviews and continue to read them with delight and look forward to the next post, always.

  3. Hi,
    Best oud I’ve ever smelled is Accord Oud from Byredo.
    Medicinal, balsamic and really sexy.
    Give it a try, if you happen to go to Liberty!

  4. Really enjoyed this Guide as oud is a note I’m just learning to appreciate. I adore Rose Oud but totally understand why people say it’s more of a rose perfume than an oud. It’s a good way in for beginners, I think. White Aoud sounds like it could be a good starter oud too.

    I was really impressed with how beautiful Roja Dove’s Oud is, so do give that a try next time you’re at Harrods. Pricey though!

    • Rose Oud is very lovely indeed, but like you say it is more rose than oud.

      I would recommend White Aoud to anyone who hasn’t yet started exploring the world of oud, its counterpart, Black Aoud, is definitely not for the faint hearted.

      I have tried Roja’s Oud and remember it being very nice and I hear that it is Harrod’s biggest selling perfume. I shall have to revisit it.

  5. I didn’t like oud until recently as I have been exploring the By Kilian line. I loved Incense Oud so much I bought it, but I suspect it’s not really about the oud. I also liked Rose Oud and love Cruel Intentions.

    I haven’t tried the Montales, but I love your description of Lime Oud, and I’d like to smell that. I also want to try that Mona di Orio. Yours is not the first reve review I have read about that.

    • I really need to spend more time with the Kilian Ouds, everyone seems to love them!

      The Montale aouds are great, but there are just so many to keep track, and they’re quite full on. Do try them if you can.

      Mona’s Oud is euphorically beautiful 😀

  6. I really enjoy your “Guide to…” posts.

    I like oud but I’m not sure I can wear it. I have samples of the Montale Black and White Aouds and would really like them if it weren’t for the strong musk in the drydown- exactly why I dislike them after that 10 hours that make them more palatable to you!

    It’s probably shameful to say it, but I actually really like The Body Shop’s Rose Oud. It’s a relatively clean, “starter” oud, but still has enough of the sharp medicinal thing going on and a very pretty ripe rose.

    And I agree with you about Mona di Orio’s Oud, which is out-of-this-world beautiful.

    Today in Selfridge’s, the lovely Dior SA gave me a sample of Leather Oud. Have you tried that one? I’m really enjoying it. The leather isn’t bitter and the oud isn’t scratchy, and it dries down to a comfortable spicy ambery warmth- sorry, I’m still not so good at describing notes.

    Come to think of it, could you do a Guide to leather perfumes sometime?

    • Thanks Kristen, I’m glad you enjoy them!

      It’s interesting that we seem to go separate ways with the Montales after 10 hours 😛

      There’s no shame in liking the Body Shop Oud, I haven’t tried it myself, but most BS stuff is pretty good!

      I have tried Leather Oud, but I haven’t given it enough of a go to really form an opinion yet 🙂

      I like the idea of a guide to leather, I shall keep that in mind. Thank you for the suggestion!

  7. I went to the L’Artisan store in Paris, and that’s where I smelled Al Oudh the first time and thought EW. Absolutely EW. A few days afterwards, I went to the Grand Mosque and spent an afternoon at the Hammam, a traditional Arabic bathhouse. Everywhere I went, I smelled the various notes of Al Oudh you described–smoke, wood, flowers. I felt so relaxed and wonderful after the bathhouse that I ran back to the L’Artisan store and bought a bottle. I love wearing it! Sniffing it on my wrist, it’s totally barnyard, but those around me don’t find the fecal note to be that strong. I’ve actually gotten many compliments on it.

    I totally agree with you on Le Labo’s Oud. I find their Rose 31 to be way dirtier and more complex.

  8. I enjoy your Guides! I haven’t found “my” oud yet. I’m a fan of Betrand D. but Al Oudh I couldn’t scrub off fast enough. It was if I was at a bonfire and the wind shifted, sending all the smoke into my face. I couldn’t breathe. Never got any of the animal aspects because of the suffocation aspect! It’s been a year or so, maybe it’s time to retry.

      • Thanks. I’ll try them. Montale’s Aoud Roses Petals I’ve smelled and it mostly just smelled like rose! So, I guess I could take the risk to be more daring….but not yet ready for Al Oudh. Le Labo’s Oud is o.k. but it seems like I’m missing something of the true oud experience with it.

  9. Do any of these contain actual agarwood? They’re all Palisandrol, or Givaudan Black Agar, or Firmenich Oud Blend, right? (Not that it matters; I just don’t think I’ve ever smelled real oud before.)

  10. I love oud although I do not think I know it very well. I am more familiar with the western versions of it. My oriental knowledge of oud comes from a stop over at Doha airport, catching the trail of travellers passing by smelling like heaven.

    My suggestion for the guide id Le Labo Oud 27, the shamelessly western oud. Nothing in its composition tries replicate the oriental experience. It smells scarily dirty at first to develop into the cosiest oud I ahve ever smelled.

  11. While I admit I haven’t sampled a ton of ouds, I would say my general impression of it is favorable. I am currently deciding between By Kilian’s Rose Oud and Incense Oud. I love to layer Osmanthus fragrances with my Tom Ford Oud Wood. So I’m thinking I need to sample the Mona di Orio Oud. And you’ve made the Montale Black Aoud sound like something that I would like very much.

  12. Me and oud: ehhh. I like it in small doses. M7 skews too masculine for me but I’d like it on a sig other. 10 Corso Como is quite nice, too, for sandalwood-oud. I’ve recently been testing (reviewing) By Kilian ouds. I was surprised by how much I liked Amber Oud and Rose Oud – of course, the oud purists are already shrieking that those are really amber and rose fragrances, respectively. JHag Midnight Oud, and Montale’s Oud Queen Roses and Aoud Roses Petals – all more about the rose, it seems, and I LIKE IT THAT WAY. Hmph.

  13. Aoud Lime was my born again perfumista brother’s first experience of the oud note and he said it was mighty weird, so he would love to see it categorised as such! I love your headings as ever, and though I am not really of the oud faith myself, I quite agree about Mona di Orio being “Bewitching Oud” – I changed tack pretty much solely thanks to her, and the same day thanks to Rose Oud, which I would perhaps designate “Girly Oud”. I see Mals above likes it ands she isn’t an oud person either, so that figures! Black Oud was too much for me, though I might care for cosy White Oud by the sound of it. : – ) I tried and quite liked Golden Oud, for example. Generally though, I am a bit over oud as a flavour of the whatever note!

  14. Sorry – the box wouldn’t show me more than the last five lines of what I had written, so I couldn’t proof this before posting. Now I see that “pretty much solely” is never right, if Rose Oud did half the conversion job, haha! But you get my drift…MdO’s Oud marked a turning point…

  15. Awesome post, it’s great to read someone rate and compare ouds positively without moaning about synthetics and just appreciate the fragrances for what they are.
    I really like L’Artisan’s oud and its rare to read much positive stuff on it.
    I also tried Duro by Nasomatto which I liked, it’s basically oud wood with more wood atop some wood, very good! 🙂

  16. I love oud , and for me there can never be enough oud fragrances . My favourite oud’s include Blask by Humiecki and Graef , Harrods Swarovski edition Oud ,Roja Doves oud and the three new Histoires De Parfums releases Petroleum , Ambrarem and Rosam .For the skankiest , most barnyard oud – try the amouage attar Oud Al Khaloud , it is quite wonderful .

  17. My first oud was Montale’s Black Oud. It didn’t sit well on my skin and turned me into something of an oud-hater. JHaG’s Midnight Oud was the first one that began to change my mind — somewhat. And vintage M7. And Dior’s Leather Oud, in which the oud was part of the chorus, not the star. I ordered a “tiny sample” of the real thing from a botanicals company and was surprised at how different it smelled from the synthetics! And so when MdO’s oud came along, I could tell it was real oud. I guess, though, that one would have to be an oud fanatic to pay that price.

    • Midnight Oud is almost like a diet Black Aoud isn’t it. There’s more rose and less of all that patchouli and leather that makes BA so dense.

      Lots of people have mentioned Leather Oud, and I’ve tried it but not enough to form an opinion. I think this needs to change ASAP!

      I totally get what you mean about Mona’s Oud, you can really smell the natural oud and it works wonders. The synthetics seem flat in comparison.

      If you like M7 do try Oud Wood, it’s a more refined and masculine version.

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  23. I’m a big admirer of Oud – it seems that my skin swallows most of its animalic/skanky/indolic notes and I’m left (thankfully) with all the lovely facets of the scent. My collection of Ouds is still growing: I started with the Montales back then (White Aoud, Aoud Roses) and my last love (and hopefully lasting as well) is Roja Dove’s Amber Oud – which I found dark and deep and lovely. I still think that Mona di Orio’s Oud is really THE masterpiece out there. Right now I’m waiting for my Oud Ispahan (Dior La Collection Privee). The strangest scent in my Oud collection is nevertheless LeLabo’s Oud, which is the only one managing to smell like dirty horses on my wrist…

    • The Le Labo Oud is pretty barnyard-y isn’t it?

      Mona’s Oud really is the masterpiece out there. I really like Francis Kurkdijan’s too, simply because it’s not like any other oud and is a incredibly unusual take on the genre.

      Oud Ispahan is good!

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  29. Loving the Guides Series.
    I’d be inclined to swap titles for Dior’s Leather Oud and L’Artisan’s Al Oudh because where I was initially overpowered by Leather Oud’s animalic civet note Al Oudh was pure sex!

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  31. Hi, Candy Perfume Boy!
    Thank you for very interesting article about oud perfume. I want you to ask one question. What can you say about Armani Prive Oud Royal perfume. Did you ever test Armani Prive perfume? Thank you.

    Best Regards

    • Hi Armen, thanks for commenting!

      It has been a while since I tested the Armani Prive and can only say that it didn’t really make an impression. I’ll have another sniff next time I’m near a counter and will come back to you 🙂

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