Oud perfumes have become very popular and most brands have their own line of oud fragrances. Are you wondering what exactly oud is before you buy an oud perfume? Look no further!
With a long history deeply woven into human culture, the complex and rich woody scent of oud holds a significant place in the world of fragrances.
Continue reading to delve into the intricacies of oud, from its sourcing to its history, and explore its future implications. Uncover the distinct aroma of oud, understand its role as a fragrance base note, and gain insights into a selection of popular oud perfumes.
- What is Oud?
- A Brief History of Oud
- The Future of Oud: Sustainable Sources
- What Does Oud Smell Like?
- How is Oud Used in Fragrances?
- Popular Oud Perfumes
What is Oud?
Oud, also known as agarwood, comes from a certain species of tree, the Aquilaria tree, native to the rainforests of southeast Asia. Oud forms when the tree sustains damage and then becomes infected by the Phialophora parasitica mold. The tree responds to the damage and infection by producing a dark, fragrant resin, which is oud.
Natural oud ranks among the most expensive raw materials globally. Often dubbed “liquid gold,” its cost can reach up to $5,000 per pound, and the annual market value is in the billions.
Oud’s high value stems from its rarity, as the demand for the product far outweighs the supply. The most exquisite ouds are extracted from trees aged 30 to 60 years, and the pursuit of oud has pushed Aquilaria trees to the brink of extinction. Experts estimate an 80% decline in the global population over the last 150 years. 
In 2018, the ICUN reclassified the Aquilaria tree from vulnerable to critically endangered status. 
A Brief History of Oud
Historians trace the use of oud back to ancient times, finding mention of oud in scriptures from numerous ancient cultures.
Oud is mentioned in the Sanskrit Vedas, one of the world’s oldest written texts. It also appears in the Bible, the Torah, and Buddhist and Islamic scriptures.
Records in Vietnam exist dating back to the third century A.D. that describe the export of oud to China and Japan.
Oud has been an important part of Middle Eastern cultures for centuries, deeply woven into tradition. One example is the centuries-old practice of Bakhoor, where chips of oud wood are burned to release their fragrance. This act not only perfumes the air but also serves as a conduit for communal gatherings, celebrations, and significant life events. The aromatic trails of oud-infused Bakhoor have become synonymous with hospitality, enhancing the ambiance of homes and welcoming guests in a sensory embrace.
As Middle Eastern fragrances gain popularity across the world, oud has followed suit with oud perfumes increasingly sought after on the global stage.
The Future of Oud: Sustainable Sources
Oud is currently farmed on ethical and sustainable Aquilaria tree plantations in various locations, including Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Since harvesting oud from the wild is now illegal, what remains of wild-sourced oud isn’t present on the market but rather resides within the collections of private collectors.
Synthetic oud is also widely used in oud perfumes. Large fragrance and ingredient manufacturing companies such as Givaudan have developed sustainable, synthetic sources of natural ingredients, including oud.
Large-scale manufacturers and producers of fragrances, including oud perfumes, often choose to use synthetics for both cost-effectiveness and the desire for a consistent scent profile across all products.
Synthetic oud delivers this desired uniformity, whereas natural oud can exhibit variations in scent due to factors such as region, soil, climate, and distillation method.
What Does Oud Smell Like?
Describing the subtleties of oud’s notes is a challenge, as it is complex and can vary from source to source.
Oud possesses a deep and rich woody scent profile. It features a woody aroma reminiscent of resins and incense. It is often described as smoky and bitter, though sometimes offering a subtle sweetness, along with a mild spiciness.
Some liken it to an earthy essence evoking dried leaves or soil.
Synthetic oud often displays notes reminiscent of cedarwood and leather. 
How is Oud Used in Fragrances?
Oud is commonly used as a base note in perfumes. Base notes remain on the skin long after the initial top and middle notes have faded.
Serving as the foundation of a fragrance, base notes possess a remarkable richness, weight, and longevity, often lingering for up to six hours or more.
Oud, in particular, boasts substantial staying power.
When utilized as a base note, oud contributes a robust and lasting scent, while also enhancing the aromas of other components within the fragrance. It infuses fragrances with a warm, sweet, and earthy aroma.
Oud perfumes are complex and varied, offering a diverse range of fragrances.
Popular Oud Perfumes
The following is a list of some popular oud perfumes that are worth trying out:
- Tom Ford Oud Wood: A signature creation known for its sophisticated blend of oud and spices, offering a warm and luxurious fragrance experience.
- Creed Royal Oud: A refined fragrance that combines oud with citrus and spices, resulting in a balanced and classy scent.
- Yves Saint Laurent M7 Oud Absolu: A rich, sweet, warm oud fragrance that merges oud with mandarin and patchouli notes.
- Acqua di Parma Oud: A combination of fresh citrus, oud, and leather creates a unique and classy fragrance.
- Amouage Interlude Man: A complex, rich, smoky fragrance that incorporates oud with a blend of spices, resins, and woods.
- Kilian Musk Oud: A clean, musky, rose oud fragrance.
- Montale Black Aoud: A powerful blend of rose and oud, with strong floral notes.
- Jo Malone Oud & Bergamot: A sophisticated blend of oud and bergamot that creates a refined and balanced fragrance experience.
- Mancera Aoud Vanille: A personal favorite; a blend of oud and vanilla. An easy introduction to oud, creamy vanilla well blended with light oud.
Remember that fragrance preferences are highly individual and can vary significantly from person to person. Exploring and discovering new fragrances is an enriching experience that allows you to curate a collection of scents that truly reflect your individuality.
If you are ready to search for your next new oud perfume, check out our guide on buying perfumes.