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.

puredistance : Black

Yves Saint-Laurent tuxedo (1966)

Yves Saint-Laurent tuxedo (1966)

Created by : Antoine Lie

Date : 2013

Genre : Oud vetiver

Concentration : Perfume (25%)

Oud is the new black, isn’t it?  From its ill-fated entry into western perfumery with Yves Saint-Laurent’s M7 (2002) through to its cumin-laced animalic glory in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Al Oudh, it’s come a long way, baby!  Now we’re seeing it almost everywhere, although it seems to often appear in perfume names more than in the actual juice.

Puredistance’s Black is the opposite.  Oud is not in the name but it sure comes through in the juice!  As does vetiver, cardamom, patchouli and, in the drydown, a powdery musk that stayed on my shirt through a wash and dry cycle!  I thought Puredistance’s M was spectacular with their oud-leather accord but in Black, they have elevated oud from an almost cult scent to tuxedo-chic.  Antoine Lie calibrated the oud-vetiver accord with such precision, I couldn’t tell throughout the day whether it was oud or vetiver in the forefront.  But as soon as I put my finger on it, it seemed to switch.  People!  Perfumes don’t get much more handsome than this one.  Black’s longevity is excellent, my two sprays lasted throughout the day.

I loved wearing Black and I will wear it again and again.  I found this fragrance to be suitable for both men and women… say, in a classic tuxedo, or a simple, tailored wedding dress… or nothing at all.  This is one of the rare perfumes that won’t clash with nude.


puredistance : M

Created by : Roja Dove

Date : 2010

Genre : Oud leather

Concentration : perfume

When I researched this perfume after wearing it for two days, it didn’t really surprise me that Roja Dove, noted Professeur de Parfums, had created it because M has so many references to masterpieces of French and British perfumery of the late 19th and 20th centuries… the dark rose note from Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet (1872), the smoky-leather accord from Tabac Blond (1919), the cumin note of Eau d’Hermes (1951) and the overly-sexy oud note of Yves Saint-Laurent’s M7 (2002).  Add to all this, a frankincense that popped in and out of the mix throughout the day giving it an oriental feel.  This one, readers, is a lesson in perfume history… and it is gorgeous!

M starts with a deep-orange, mouth-watering bergamot that floated ever so slightly above the heart which is powerful and sexual.  Although not listed, I picked out the decidedly “down-under” male scent that only oud can produce… bringing to mind L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Al Oudh.  But what is so special about M is the way it evolves… sometimes leathery, sometimes woody, sometimes smoky, but always interesting.  The drydown surprised me many hours later leaving me with a powdery, clean vanilla-musk accord… all the sexy notes gone.

In short, M is intelligent, rich and researched. It feels like a fragrance that Edwardian men might have worn… big and unapolagetic. They don’t make perfume like this anymore, or rarely… complex and controversial and with “space between the notes” as FiveoaksBouquet would say.

When I thought of who might wear it, I thought of King Edward VII and his frequent trips to Parisian brothels, notably Le Chabanais, his favourite room being the Hindu room with its “siège d’amour”.  As depressed as I’ve been about the state of perfumes recently, this one was a very welcome trial.

On both men and women, M could easily seduce both sexes.  Its sublime, fleshy animalic qualities are universal.

Have a nice week everybody!

Top image : Portrait of King Edward VII (1905)

Bottom image : Male nude by Dan Lacey

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