Oud is the new black

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again… oud is the new black.

I was at Etiket recently for the perfume launch of Vaara by Penhaligon’s and I was surprised to see that it didn’t have oud in it, which just seems to be everywhere these days!  I’ve smelled A LOT of new oud scents recently, the most recent being Ferrari’s Essence Oud, and I suspect we’ll be seeing many more before it inevitably drops off.  Personally, I tend to avoid oud fragrances because they are so expensive.  When I see oud in the ingredient list I know I’m going to spend a lot of money.

John Oehler even wrote a thriller, Aphrodesia, based on the theft of an oud sample.  It’s definitely in the air, if not on the skin!

The only three ouds that I really know and have worn are Creed’s Royal Oud, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s everything-BUT-royal, animalic Al Oudh and Ex Idolo’s Thirty Three.  I’m a big fan of Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose and Oud but I’m getting more of an amber basenote from that than an oud one, although there is definitely some oud in there.

In a Bloomberg article, Susan Hack reported that oud oil can cost up to $300,000 for one kilogram… JUST ONE!  Sales of oud fragrances rose 34% in 2012… particularly impressive since 10 years prior oud was relatively unknown to the western market.  Of course Yves Saint-Laurent’s M7 (2002) changed all that but I feel that what we know and smell as oud is always a mixture… or synthetic.  At any rate, for me oud is like jasmine… it’s best when it is blended in with other materials.

And to be frank, I can’t always distinguish between oud and a very dark woody scent.  From what I’ve read, Oud seems to have a “dirty” facet, so when I smell something slightly off, I figure it might be the oud.  I guess a trip to the Middle East would settle the issue but that’s quite a commitment.

And so… I’m asking anyone out there that wants to respond to my post… which is the truest oud?  And which perfume uses oud in its blend and works perfectly!

ADDENDUM (Nov 10, 2013) : Check out the comments for very useful oud info and where to buy.

Aquilaria tree showing darker agarwood. Poachers had scraped off the bark to allow the tree to become infected by the ascomycetous mould.

Aquilaria tree showing darker agarwood. Poachers had scraped off the bark to allow the tree to become infected by the ascomycetous mould.

Leave a comment


  1. Ensar Oud for the real thing. Other trusted suppliers are listed at the end.

    I think all perfumery that states Oud as an ingredient is the synthetic version with the exception of:

    Oud Caravan 1, 2 and 3 from Promfumo.it
    Thirty Three which you reviewed recently
    David Falsberg’s Realoud and Realoud Feral (Phoenicia Perfumes)
    Trayee (Neela Vermeire Creations). Trayee has some of the world’s last remaining Laotian Oud which nowadays you can only find in non-commercial quantities.

    The assumption above is due to price and consistency of bulk delivery for this increasing rare ingredient. You or your commentators can correct the list above as I would like to know any others. I think less than a half drop of Oud mixed with a huge amount of synthetic version would be as good as it gets.

    Collectors would consider Oud a perfume in and of itself. I will now quote myself lol,

    “Genuine Oud oil is a journey through scent with all sorts of interesting ‘breezes’ making appearances over time; like a treasure trove of nature referencing smells from the barnyard to spring blossoms.

    I like to think of ‘barnyard’ as the smell of Mother Nature regenerating. There are also other words used to describe this aspect of some Oud oils, especially the Hindi oils. Cambodi Ouds (agarwood trees grown in the Cambodia/Thailand area) are less barnyardy while the Papuan Oud is more floral. The medicinal note is a fleeting feature of many true Oud oils. These are very broad descriptions; a universe of scent swirls around in each Oud oil.”
    The Fragrant Man

    These people can be trusted for real Oud. There are a lot of pirates in this business who I will not list.

    Expensive Price

    Medium Price – http://www.phoeniciaperfumes.com/collections/all/products/realoud-5-ml

    Oud Caravan – made by a Sufi

    Agar Aura


    There is also an article I wrote about The End of Oud here:

    Normand, let’s go to the Middle East and explore. How is this December for you? We can avoid the seasonal Western exhaustion of taste.

    • Great Sleuth, Jordan! What fantastic research! But then, I remember reading your post on the end of oud. Fascinating.

      OK… let’s go to the Middle East. December sounds great! Although, it’s the year that poses the problem (ie. money!)

      Thanks so much for this Jordan! My readers will really appreciate it!


  2. mario

     /  November 9, 2013

    I would like to thank you, Jordan for this comment that provides the answer to many of my questions. Montale and By Kilian claims that they have true oud essence, what do you thing of these statements?

    • I think their claims could be made true by putting in a soupçon of essense. They can then charge accordingly for true Oud. We will never know if they do or not until we have gas-chromatographers at home.

      Real Oud ages well but the scent profile changes delightfully over time; this is what makes me doubt its inclusion in modern perfumes. Having said that I guess that the aroma could be fixed by other chemicals.

      If you look at the raw material prices that Normand has highlighted above then how could you make and distribute perfume with this ingredient? Of course raw Oud oil is bought at these prices by people in the Middle East who may or may not keep to pure or mix it with other ingredients for personal or even commercial use.

  3. As the perfumer behind Phoenicia’s Realoud I could write a dissertation on this one. Whew, I stumbled into this mess via al Oudh which I still love but only because it smells like armpits. Jordan is correct to tie different scent profiles to different terroirs but the method of distillation used by different countries also plays a role. Hindi oud is soaked to the point of fermentation prior to distillation causing that barnyard effect that is so cherished in the middle east. My main beef is this, the only western perfume I am dead certain contains real oud is Xerjoff’s Oud Stars series and the price reflects this. My vision of the oud presence in Maison Francis Kurkdjian or Tom Ford is that they wave an unopened bottle of real oud over the batch cooking in some basement lab owned by F or G. So does waving a full bottle over a vat of synthetic molecules justify an extra hundred bucks on the price tag?
    The most incredible thing about real oud is that it changes as it ages. I buy young oud because it is cheap, relatively, and it stinks…but over the course of several years my oud perfumes change complexion completely, soften, go through phases of harmony and discord with the florals, spices and other woods they rub up against. Niche houses pride themselves on consistency and that goal is achieved with synthetic molecules with perhaps a few drops of real santal or oud per liter. I bet if you buy a bottle of MFKs Oud Cashmere Mood it will smell the same ten years from now as it does today.

    • I burst out laughing when I read your comment about liking al Oudh because it smells like armpits. SO TRUE! Anyway, anyone who can make me laugh before noon gets my attention.

      Thanks for your comment!


  4. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  November 10, 2013

    Fascinating oud info! If a home gas chromatography unit became available within the range of, say, a lower-end ipad, I would definitely invest in one and–let the fun begin! The oud parade has not gotten me on the bandwagon as, like Normand, I have not sufficiently distinguished the note, nor do the oud perfumes I have smelled to date entice me more than many other scents more in my price range. As Normand knows, I’m a big fan of the Chanel Exclusifs. If an oud came out in that line, I’d probably be all over it!

  5. Natalie

     /  November 10, 2013

    I would put a vote in for La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan as being a “true oud.” I also think Royal Oud, as much as I don’t necessarily love Creed, is pretty solid.

  6. I don’t think, and may I eat my hat if wrong, you will ever see Chanel jump in this game. If they do it will be a very special synthetic rendition of oud along the lines say of Amouage which is a totally synthetic brand although there is debate about the presence of real oud in some of their attars, many of which are exclusive to the middle east market. I wear Amouage Tribute attar which is built around frankincense and roses and Amouage claims to have their own source of silver frankincense but I don’t think this is purely natural, my nose can detect the difference in vibration frequencies of natural and synthetic molecules. Last year Oman suffered horrible frankincense season and no one could get it. I am currently seeing world-wide drought of honey absolute which I use in my perfume Skin Graft so I put the perfume on vacation. Amouage is not going to create a product that is susceptible to the eco-system.
    I asked an exec at Frederic Malle if they would jump in the oud game and he said no because of sourcing issue. I think Jordan was being diplomatic but essentially it is all fake outside of a small universe of oud heads.

    • I was only kidding. I don’t expect to be dancing a Congo Line anytime soon. The more I read, the clearer it becomes. Sourcing in quantity is the showstopper. If sourcing wasn’t an issue, I could see many other players getting involved before Chanel… notably several niche brands and Guerlain.

      • FiveoaksBouquet

         /  November 10, 2013

        I wasn’t kidding! And if Chanel does come out with their version I think they should call it simply Oud Chanel and I would probably buy it (assuming the price was in line with the other Exclusifs). If Guerlain did it, it would probably cost upwards of $400.

      • Well. Let’s see what happens. 🙂

  7. Tara

     /  November 11, 2013

    I believe Mona di Orio’s Oud is supposed to be made with real Laotian oud… how much, I have no idea, but it is a delicate and beautiful perfume, not the heavy-duty barnyardy stuff you smell elsewhere, so it may be a very small amount. Looking forward to sniffing your sample of Realoud Feral, Normand.

  8. La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan is a winner for me… oud oil can cost up to $300,000 for one kilogram…this seems incredible from my point of view…anyhow really fascinating oud info!

  9. Hyperosmia

     /  December 3, 2013

    I find it disappointing to see Oudh listed as an ingredient when it’s clearly too cheap to be anything but synthetic. It gives the real Oudh a bad name!

    I think of Oudh as precious, sacred, ceremonial and now, over commercialised. But if it wasn’t, I’d never know of it.

    I really want a small sample of new Oudh to observe as it mellows from raw and rude to fragrant oudh! Maybe I’ll try Al Oudh. Thanks for all the info!

    • Hello and thanks for the comment!

      Now that I’ve tried Realoud from Phoenicia Perfumes, I realize that Al Oudh is a fairly good holographic interpretation of oudh but it’s not the real thing. Check out Jordan River’s comment on my post for perfumes that use real oudh.

      I’ll come back to oudh and talk about Realoud and Realoud Feral shortly.



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