This Oriental ingredient provides an interesting amalgamation of ‘mystery, depth and opulence’.
Oud / Oudh /Aoudh comes from the wood of the tropical Agar (Aquilaria) tree that produces a resinous, fragrant heartwood called as Agarwood /Aloeswood.
It is more popularly known as Oud or Oudh which is how it is referred to in Arabic; however sometimes the names are used interchangeably to refer to both the ingredient and its applications.
It is used popularly in two forms :
- The essential oil which is a popular perfume used by both men and women
- The high grade wood chips which are burnt and the sweet smell of the smoke emitted is used which is called as Bahkoor.
An Oudh for every Occasion
They say that there is a perfume for every mood. In the case of oudh, one can say there is an oudh for every occasion. Seldom has an ingredient been used across so many occasions and during so many parts of the day.
The ‘slice of life’ scent : As mentioned, the oudh wood is used as a general household fragrance, as incense burned around the house and for perfuming personal garments – it is literally a of life’ scent’. In fact it is said that this popular home fragrance boosts positive spirit and enhances creativity and in a sense drives away the evil spirits.
The ‘scent on the street’ : This is the familiar whiff of oudh that beckons and entices one to walk in a store; many shops and even some of the commercial establishments in malls burn the oudh incense in their outlets.
The ‘mystical /spiritual’ scent : This is used in preparations for prayer and for purification purposes.
The ‘scent of Arab hospitality’: It is customary to pass bukhoor / oudh among guests as a mark of honor and respect.
The ‘smell of romance’ : Romance has always been the territory of fragrances and oudh perfumes have also been used to create a romantic atmosphere.
The ‘scent of culture’ : Fragrances are an integral part of Arab traditions and culture and form a part of wedding rituals and even the bridal trousseau.
The Complex Scent
The scent is complex. Depending on the ingredients that it has been paired up with or the origin of the ingredient; it connotes different shades.
Sometimes described as deep, dark, woody ; sometimes sweet, aromatic and at other times spicy – all in all, a complex scent that triggers a mélange of memories.
The mystic ingredient has always had an ancient connection with the Eastern world; however it is recently making its presence felt in the Western world. Many connoisseurs still see it as a niche offering; others see it as a slightly heavy or musty, dry perfume, albeit with a slightly astringent touch.
However recent times have seen experimentation with different blends, introduction of variants by mainstream perfume houses and even launching mellowed versions of what is called as a ‘Western Oudh‘.
Many purists, though, view this global explosion as a marketing hype rather than a mark of authenticity. Only time will tell if this whiff makes a lasting impact in the Western markets.
An Insider’s Guide to the Best of Oudh
Many a fragrance house has interpreted this wonderful ingredient and experimented with a variety of combinations in the quest towards a perfect balance and harmony.
Founded 25 years ago by the Omani Royal family, Amouage is one of the leading luxury fragrance houses that uses traditional Arabic ingredients with a contemporary touch and is deeply rooted in modern Arabian opulence. Their range of oudh perfumes include the Oudh Al Khaloud – a powerful scent with woody and smoky accents, the dark and opulent Amouage Epic Man with exuberant top note of pepper and cardamom and underlying base notes of frankincense, myrrh, oudh, the Interlude(oudh and leather base notes) and the very popular Jubilation XXV for Men with its woody, balsamic spicy notes. The recent launch of the Opus VII from ‘The Library Collection’ also features agarwood smoke in the heart notes among other ingredients.
Ajmal Perfumes, Dubai based family-owned fragrance house celebrates oudh with its Dahn Al Oudh range. From contemporary renditions (Dahn Al Oudh Maysaam) to old school, from unisex to gender specific, from deep woody (Bakhoor Khas )to floral woody, to pure Indian oudh (Dahn Al Oudh Saif Al Hind / Al Oudh Moattaq) to blends from Cambodia and Indonesia (Dahn Al Oudh Al Nuwayra). There are also many variants that are targeted to a range of demographic and psychographic profile groups (Dahn Oudh Al Shams, Dahn Al Oudh Lujain)
The Mohammed Hilal group has the Hind Al Oud range and its signature fragrance Al Oud has a balanced woody base and creamy sandalwood, pepper and saffron notes. UAE’s own fragrance December 2nd (top notes – peach and plum and base note – oudh amongst others) was created under the second luxury brand Ansfasic Dokhoon from the same group. Another significant launch from the group, the Khaltat range focuses on the elements of nature; Khaltat No. 4 has top notes of cinnamon, middle notes of saffron and rose, and base notes of vanilla and agarwood.
Bahrain based Designer Shaik has the Opulent Shaik Gold edition – with base notes of oudh , sandalwood, Tonka bean and ambergris. The top notes have a distinctive pink pepper, black pepper, saffron notes and heart notes of rose, lavender, geranium.
East meets West
European fragrance houses have been experimenting with oudh in recent times. Kilian’s Arabian Nights range pays homage to this ingredient through its many variants. Pure Oud is a contemporary olfactory interpretation of Bakhour, the smoke from the Oud Wood while Rose Oud is a more feminine interpretation of the same. Other variants include the Musk Oud (blend of lemon and mandarin notes) and Incense Oud.
Well known fragrance expert and collaborator, Roja Dove has tried to capture the mysterious exoticism through his creations like the spicy aromatic Aoud, the sumptuous and sensual Amber Aoud (citrusy/yellow floral notes) and the mysterious Musk Aoud.
Chopard’s new masculine fragrance (signed by perfumer Dominique Ropion) called as Oud Malaki which actually means Royal Oud in Arabic also attempts to capture the growing appeal for oudh – it opens with bursts of grapefruit, lavender and artemisia, and contrasts smoothly with warm tobacco, spices and leather undertones.
Well, an oudh perfume is like an oasis in the sands of time. It manages to take one back to his/her roots. It is part of who one is, part of the golden memories and the special people who helped create them. It is the lingering trail that never fails to leave a mark.