Exotic, sweet perfumes inspired by romantic visions of the gorgeous East; rich in precious woods, tonka, vanilla, balsams and spices. Consequently these scents are usually very long-lasting on hair, skin and clothing. They also keep well in the bottle if protected (as all fragrance should be) from light, heat and air. They are frequently loved and remembered above all for their heady penetrating base notes often enhanced with (synthesised) animalic accords such as ambergris, civet, castoreum and musk.
Modern oriental fragrances are usually said to have begun with Guerlain's Shalimar (1925) with its classic structure of a sparkling citrus top accord which develops into a floral heart and a massively vanilla base. Nowadays oriental scents are free-wheeling, crossing over with many other fragrance families such as chypres, florals, tobacco and leathers.
Above all orientals have in the past few years become dominated by the Western obsession with oud, that most powerful and dramatic of natural oils. The word 'oud' is increasingly as vaguely used as 'amber'.
Oud is specifically a gum from a certain species of Asian agar tree exuded when the dying tree is infected by a certain type of mould. This dark and smoky ingredient may be used in woody, tobacco or leather perfumes but its origins and its popularity in Arabic cultures has tied it in the popular mind with the Oriental family.
Orientals are not for the shy, the reserved, the prudent. They are highly-coloured, elaborate and warm in mood with a pungent sillage. They often attributed with powerful aphrodisiac qualities. It takes a strong personality to wear an Oriental without being overcome by its spell.