It’s been prized for centuries for its rich, smoky resinous and slightly primal aroma, but in the last few years oud has dominated the fragrance world as an ingredient and something that was originally quite niche has hit the mass market so here is a comprehensive guide to all things oud.
Oud (also called Agarwood and Aloeswood) has been loved in the Middle East, Japan and China for over 3000 years for its rich aroma and therapeutic effects.
What is Oud?
Oud is the tar-like resinous heartwood that forms in the ancient Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees found in the forests of Southeast Asia. But sometimes only one in ten trees have this special substance, making it very rare and attractive to royalty and healers throughout time.
King Louis XIV of France had his clothes washed in the deep earthy scent; Buddhist monks ground it into powder to heal the most serious illnesses. It was said to have healing and restorative powers making it extremely precious.
With its intoxicating aroma and stress-relieving properties, this ‘Wood of the Gods’ is still used today in perfumes.
In the perfume industry they call it ‘liquid gold’, its usage first mentioned around 1500 BCE in ancient Sanskrit texts. Today, most perfume houses include oud in their collections due to its high desirability among perfume lovers in both the Arabian and the Western worlds.
Extracted from a resin formed as a reaction to mould, it’s one of the rarest and most expensive components used in perfumery. This lends to the sheer exclusivity of oud.
According to experts, oud has an incredible depth to it and sits very low down in the composition of a fragrance, meaning that it really lasts on the skin and it also has the ability to hold other scents n place.
Longevity aside, part of oud’s appeal in Western perfumery is its sheer ‘otherness’. “Widely associated with the Middle East, it simply has no equivalent in the palette of Western or European perfumers. It’s a unique smell, entirely on its own. To Western noses it comes across as exotic.
“It’s richly symbolic,” says James Craven, a perfume archivist at specialist fragrance emporium Les Senteurs. “The process that leads to its formation is one which celebrates resurrection and renewal: after all, this strange and beautiful scent is a by-product of disease, corruption and death.”
He continues, ”According to Unlike ingredients common in contemporary men’s fragrances, like sandalwood, vanilla or bergamot, oud’s distinctiveness and punchiness makes it the Marmite of perfumery. It’s so extreme, so demonstrative, so powerful”.
Oud has become a status symbol for those with more refined tastes who want to get the most out of their money. With prices starting at the equivalent of N180,000 for a 30ml bottle, Oud is much more than a fragrance, it’s a power move.