Oud. It may be more familiar to you as oudh, or oudwood or aloewood or agarwood or Aquilaria but for the purpose of this post, I will be referring to it as oud. It is note that over the past ten years has been featured more and more frequently across designer, luxe and niche brands but what is it.
What is Oud?
Trees of the Aquillaria Genus can be found across Asia from India to China includig the Phillipines, Thailand and Indonesia. If an Aquillaria tree gets infected by a bacteria or fungus from a parasite it reacts by producing a resin. This resin protects the part of the tree that was under attack. The resin makes that part of the tree where it has been secreted harder and darker in colour. This dark hard part of the tree is the agarwood and is where the oud oil is extracted from. Oud has been used in Asia and the middle east for centruries for medicinal as well as adornment purposes.
What does oud smell like?
A molecule of oud oil is a complex thing. Depending on the age of the tree, where it grew, how it was extracted, stored and a whole variety of other factors oud can smell differently. From medicinal, almost herbacious, through amber and woody notes, there can be bitter and sour elements, ozonic animalic or even fecal. Fecal may not be a note that you think you want to smell of. In the hands of a master perfumer, however, you would be surprised at how good fecal can smell! The chemical structure of the terpenes and terpenoids can vary significanly which is why what you smell in the bottle, on your blotter and most imprtantl on your skin can vary so much.
As you know, I love fragrance. I’ve been trying to develop my nose and try fragrances that I don’t like. That is why you will see rose perfumes featured regularly here. Oud is another note that I I am currently learning to appreciate. It is a tricky one as I did not grow up in an oud household. It held no point of reference for me It does not remind me of a member of my familiar or a childhood haunt or a text book or a neighbourhood in London. As a Londoner I grew up with people who were from the middle east and for whom oud was normal, but it just did not register with my olfactory system. Which is why I have been developing my nose and the reason that I would really encourage you to do the same. It really does open up a world of possibility and by possibility I mean beautiful, glorious scents.
To date, I have sampled more than thirty oud fragrances in a variety of formats. Don’t tell anyone but I also have a spreadsheet which details which I like, which are meh and which are an oud too far. Over the next month or so, I will be taking you through my candle, fragrance and skincare picks.