The odour of oud appeals to us because it has no equivalent in the traditional palette of Western/European perfumers. It is a unique smell, 'sui generis'. We occidentals are still exploring it, still reconciling our noses and our reactions to this exotic novelty. Here is an ingredient that our parents and grandparents never knew or probably even heard of: an entirely new perfume experience.
That's why despite the current vast array of oud scents, we don't quite know what to make of this oil, we are still experimenting and learning how to wear it. It is so extreme, so demonstrative, so powerful: uncompromising, indiscreet. It makes a huge statement in a very non-British way. So, can we cope with it? Well, it is fun finding out...
A Unique Story...
Oud is the pinnacle of exoticism in that so few people actually know what it is. Many folks confuse it with amber or musk, or simply think it is a generic term meaning "oriental/dark/dusky"; or a synonym for incense.
When people begin to grasp what oud actually means and what it consists of, they are fascinated. It seems against nature: a very slow and complex natural process of decay creates this substance. An ancient agar tree is infected with a parasite; exudes a natural gum to protect itself; fails and dies. Oud is the pungent residue. That process which celebrates life in death is, therefore, the birth of a strange and beautiful scent as a by-product of disease, corruption, and death. Richly symbolic! From death comes renewal and resurrection.
Because of this, oud is a spiritually powerful oil much revered in the East - rather as frankincense is - as a cleanser of the soul. A fragrance in the nostrils of the Divine. It is a truly mesmerising and extraordinary smell. And it has so many shades, so many different types and grades of quality depending on its country of origin and its vintage. It is an olfactory feast for the connoisseur. Like Cleopatra, who may have used it, oud has "infinite variety".
...For a Plurality of Moods
If you'd like to try a very dark authentic oud created by the gifted Thai perfumer Pissara Umavijani, spend some time in the company of Dusita's Oudh Infini. Pissara, who grasps all the implications and complexities of her materials - she was reared in a culture which instinctively reveres oud - audaciously splices the strongest, almost violent, oud with powdery white orange blossom.
And at the other extreme, we present the stylish and authentic Ex Idolo's Thirty Three - a perennial Les Senteurs best-seller, at a competitive price. Here oud is crafted in an elegant style which combines Eastern exoticism with the sophistication of Western Haute Parfumerie. Vintage oud blended with rose, orris and tea: perfect, easy-going bliss!
We have other relaxed, approachable, 'happy' oudhs - such as Anima Vinci's Oud Delight. The scent lives up to its description, with the brightness of ginger, saffron, coriander, labdanum and tonka. Oud is lifted, lightened and brightened: oud simplified and without the fear, thus allowing it to be appreciated in a new and different way.
Then there are 'floral' oudhs - like Mona di Orio's Oudh Osmanthus. The bewitching apricot scent of osmanthus amply holds it own - giving the oud a catalyst and a worthy sparring partner. Soft dark fruity-floral and intoxicatingly bizarre.
For another Western take, try Maison Francis Kurkdjian's Velvet Oud - from his Oud Moods Collection. We love the use of oud here, displayed in a very dramatic and expressive way. In his original Oud Francis worked the substance in a classic French style - and very beautifully, too. But now he turns up the full oriental throttle and gives the drama and wildness of oud full rein. Here we smell oud at its most ruthlessly uncompromising. Kurkdjian is interpreting it in terms of a fabric: swathes of dark smoky heavy and maybe slightly damp velvet curtains impregnated with tobacco, red wine and spicy fumes from long years of use.
Velvet Oud is clean but simultaneously richly dusty & musty; it smells centuries old. Slightly camphorous but thickly smooth, it is dense, suffocating, inky, invasive, aromatic, narcotic: possession by an odour with a power and personality of its own. Francis Kurkdjian has not tried to tame oud here. He has the confidence to let it alone to do its own astonishing act, at which it succeeds superbly. Oud Silk Mood (with rose oil), Oud Satin Mood and Oud Cashmere Mood are also available, each one a masterpiece.
If you are going to wear oud successfully, you have to be able to dominate it. Don't let it boss you about! As with all perfume, first apply a very small amount and make friends with it. See how your skin - and your imagination - react to it. In the Middle East where oud is hugely popular it is usual for both men and women to wear oud as a base-perfume and then to layer it with something lighter, fresher, brighter. It's not a scent for most workplaces or for the shy; but oud can enhance and dramatise a confident and extrovert personality. If you are a lover of the Oriental perfume family and have not yet tried oud we strongly recommend you have a go. Less sweet, heavier, duskier and less playful than traditional Orientals, oud is always an experience to remember. Oud is an oil that you need to work at: and beware! Once conquered, it can become highly entirely addictive.