Desperately Seeking OudhAoudOudAgarwood...

05th May, 2012

Having sniffed out the skankiest new launches in London, Basenotes set me the challenge of seeking a spectacular Oud. The Oud / Aoud / Agarwood trend just keeps on giving. And every house seems to have a different name or spelling for the note!

M7 started it out all that time ago, and has recently been relaunched as Oud Absolu as part of YSL's heritage collection. M7 Oud Absolu felt fizzier than before in the opening, less of the 'cherry lips' sweetness from my “old timer” bottle, with a deeper and richer myrrh note in the base. In my mind I'd linked Parfumerie Generale's Iris Oriental to M7 years ago, and as Oud Absolu it feels even closer. That wet woody quality. (Interestingly, PG claims to use 'Jinkoh' wood in Iris Oriental. Jinkoh is Japanese for sinking incense, or 'oud'...)

Luckily for me, I was going on a day trip to Paris just as Basenotes set me on task. After a brief wander around, we headed to Montale where we proceeded to smell all the ouds. A few that stood out in my mind (Montale have a vast range of fragrances, let alone the rather intimidating amount of ouds!) were Aoud Lime, with it's strangely rubbery and metallic oud note plumped up by saffron, Black Aoud, a straight up rose and oud combo that was pretty fantastic, and Aoud Cuir Arabie, which was intensely barnyardy. It transforms after about 4 hours into something otherworldly, but those first 4 hours are skank heaven!. Moon Aoud was bizarre, as was Steam Aoud. The sales assistant even grabbed out the pure stuff, a €400 roller vial of super potent oud – it was pretty transcendent stuff. Animalic and dark. I settled on Aoud Lime – the rubbery notes reminded me of one of my Comme des Garcons favourites, Tar, but I felt it was sufficiently different to join my already extensive wardrobe... I also bought Full Incense and took a small 20ml bottle of Chocolate Greedy as my free gift.

Back in London, we'd just received the new Heeley Extrait de Parfum scents at Les Senteurs. Agarwoud (I enjoy the name, a rather clever portmanteau of Oud and Agarwood, and was surprised it hadn't already been thought up!) is a resinous, benzoin and rose heavy oud, but it has this feeling of open space and clarity, as well as feeling very smooth. Somewhat traditional, but because of the openness, it feels like a revolutionary take on oud.

I'd still not really paid any attention to Byredo's Ouds, or in fact, any of their creations outside of Pulp – a fragrance that I enjoy immensely just because it turns to rotten fruit on my skin, so I spent a good twenty minutes assessing the line in Liberty. Accord Oud seemed like a fairly well constructed and traditional oud withrose combination, but on the skin it felt plasticky and fell apart very quickly. Oud Immortel was earthy, dark and much more oud-y, but smelled of “incense chips” - like a kind of cedar and frankincense – and was ended up becoming quite bland.

I quickly moved into the rest of the fragrance hall, where I tried out L'Artisan Parfumeur's Al Oudh, a much more interesting and sweaty type of oud, which I vastly preferred over the Byredo duo. Then the sales assistant showed me Nasomatto's Pardon, a scent featuring an agarwood note, but that to me felt intensely chocolatey – it was almost as though Guerlain's L'Instant pour Homme had had an Oud note somehow worked into it! Still in Liberty, I enjoyed Le Labo's Oud 27, which had an enjoyable rubber and metal top note – owing to the saffron and patchouli that are so prominent – and also had the cherry lips Haribo aspect which I so love in an Oud. It felt much more offbeat than everything else I'd tried there.

Following a tip off from Kagey in the comments of the Filth Glorious Filth feature, I headed back to Selfridge's to try out the Leather Oud from Dior again. I put it straight onto my skin, forgoing the blotter, and immediately regretted the decision! The honey and musk stood out so much that I felt a little overwhelmed (my skin does seem to amplify honey notes) – I wanted to get it off as soon as possible. Pissy (not in the good way), powdery, oudy, dark and shiny. No thanks. Having re-sniffed it on the blotter, though, I understand how it could be liked.

In Harvey Nichols I found By Kilian's latest addition to the Arabian Nights collection, Amber Oud. To me it smelled of a rich vanilla and benzoin with a hint of the medicinal quality about it. Lots of sweat, too, when sniffed up close. Wonderful in its way, but it feels like a bit of a misnomer!

Eventually, I made a mini scent pilgrimage on a Sunday morning over to Angela Flanders boutique on Colombia Road, to test out Oudh Noir. I'd smelled it previously at one of Odette Toilette's Scratch + Sniff events, and remembered liking it very much. My eyes may have rolled back into my head when I sniffed it. So when I resprayed it on the back of my hand to re-experience the heavenly smoky, earthy and dark woodsy blend, I fell back in love. The Oud in here has a light touch, but that makes it much more intelligent and wearable. I find it works incredibly well with the rooty vetiver note, especially on me. Angela tells me that it doesn't contain the real stuff, but that makes it no less beautiful. And how many of the others do, really?


About the author

Nick loves scent and co-runs @FragrantReviews, a 140 character fragrance review project. Visit the blog for an archive of the reviews.

Disclosure : Nick Gilbert works for Les Senteurs in London.

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About the author: Nick Gilbert

Nick has been working in the world of fragrance for over 15 years. He is co-founder of Olfiction, a creative scent agency offering fragrance development, training, copy and content production. He is frequently quoted in the press and has provided perfumery training globally, from London to Seoul.


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    • Kagey | 5th May 2012 21:29

      Oh, Nick- I'm sorry about your Leather Oud disaster! For me, it's all leather and skank; I don't get the strong honey like you do (and which I agree can go horribly wrong). It doesn't strike me as particularly oud-y either. On the other hand, I like Black Aoud enough until about 30 minutes in, when the musk nearly knocks me over.

      Thanks for braving it to bring us these reviews, though. There are some nice tips there. Must check out the Angela Flanders boutique and Oudh Noir!

      By the way, have you been to the Arabian Oud shop opposite Selfridges? If you're not all oud-ed out, you might want to drop in. Their "Woody" perfume gets some good reviews, from what I remember, although I haven't tried it in a while.

    • Gblue (article author) | 5th May 2012 21:34

      Hi Kagey - I've avoided that Arabian Oud place like the plague because the SAs are often stood outside spraying. I'll try to get in and try Woody, seeing as the LS2 shop is practically around the corner from it. :)

    • surge | 5th May 2012 23:00

      Leather Oud is very, very potent. It's one of those frags I love to have but I rarely wear it due to the sheer amount of potency.

      It's supposed to be that way (imho), and I get a really great fireplace \ ember wood vibe from it. Awesome for summer nights, but not too much -- use VERY sparingly!

    • hednic | 5th May 2012 23:03

      Nice analysis and review of some interesting scents. Thanks.

    • Sybarite | 6th May 2012 02:05

      M7 and Iris Oriental "linked" ??? ~ I don't understand this at all. To my nose they smell absolutely nothing alike. - And honey in Leather Oud ??? Certainly not on me. ... But then, I suppose we all smell scents differently. And what I can tell from the way you describe most of these scents is that we must have VERY different noses indeed !!

    • Sybarite | 6th May 2012 03:07

      M7 and Iris Oriental "linked" ??? ~ How so - this makes no sense to me ?? To my nose these smell absolutely nothing alike. ... And "rubber/metal" notes for Oud27 ?? Again, huh ?? Not to my nose. (Are we even smelling the same frags here ?) ... Also, Leather Oud - "overpowering honey & musk" ??? (To me, subtle beeswax more like - and gone within 15mins). And I found it overall quite soft and even reserved for an Oud scent. Tho' it's easily one of my favourite 'ouds' of the year. - Plus, I could go on .....

      But then, I suppose just another testament to how very differently we all smell frags. And what I can tell from the way you described these is that we must have very different noses indeed ! (So methinks probably best I not go by your reviews in future. (LOL)

      ~ But thanx for the reviews/article nonetheless. - And Oudh Noir is indeed lovely. (At least I agree with u there.) :)

    • Gblue (article author) | 6th May 2012 11:36

      It's just as useful to find someone we disagree with as someone we agree with I think :) This is based on how they all smell on my skin, and I can only vouch for my reviews based on that point. It's amazing how different skin makes things smell like entirely different fragrances. For example, when we receive a new release we all try it out, and it smells incredibly different on just the few of us that work at LS - so there must be so much more variation out in the world, as well!

      Yeah, the link I've made between M7 and Iris Oriental is hard to explain aside from a similar feeling and quality, even if it's not there in smell, it's there as a somewhat fizzy and sweet 'oud' note. (I link scents in my brain and it's not always easy for other people to understand the links, even though they make perfect sense to me.)

    • MonkeyBars | 6th May 2012 19:57

      Oudh Noir really piques my interest, as vetiver and oud are a teriffic combination. I love it in Bond's Harrods Oud.

    • agarwoodindonesia | 7th May 2012 08:12

      I am a distiller of agarwood, from the review above most of the oud smelling ( not real oud) perfume are mostly leathery animalic disguting etc. This animalic notes actually is based on the oud that widespread on the gulf market, the smell of rubbery bitter leathery came from over soaking, soaking cause the wood to become alter in it's smell, if distilled correctly the oil will be like the wood itself. Rich, etheral, woody, and more complex smell, since to me oud EO is like a perfume itself it has top note, middle note and basenotes. If distilled correctly and if smelled by ones who fond in it. Oud smelled animalic filth .....think again :D

    • Beranium Chotato | 7th May 2012 13:29

      What a pleasant surprise to see a BN story with critical content. More, please!

    • icanzapyou | 7th May 2012 20:09

      Really fun story, both enlightening and enjoyable. Great writing too!

    • danny1967 | 8th May 2012 12:34

      completely agree with sybarite, have owned m7 for years and never seen a connection between pg iris oriental and it. same with the 'rubber/metal' note (or lack of) from le labo oud 27 which i've tested extensively before settling for patchouli 24 (i thought oud 27 smelled very medicinal and sour, which made me not buy it). and whilst i agree that dior's leather oud is skanky and fairly animalic, i completely fail to see (well, smell) the 'overpowering' note of honey & musk (well, there is a tiny bit of musk but quite faint). fyi, talking about arabian perfumes, i have bought an 'oud wood' concentrated oil perfume from an ebay arabic retailer and it is scary. if you have the patience to wait and go past the first 1hr opening of straight up pissy/animalic oud then it settles into a exact replica of leather oud (at a fraction of the price). a word of advice though: not for the faint hearted.

    • Kagey | 8th May 2012 13:18

      I went to Angela Flanders on Sunday and had the best time trying out the perfumes and chatting with Angela, who was very charming and friendly.

      The Oudh Noir is fantastic - earthy, damp, woody, and on my skin, animalic and warm. Think I'll be buying that one. But Nick, which concentration did you like most? I always end up kicking myself for forgetting to check the concentration of the ones I tried and liked.

      I also loved the Tuberose, which to me is very clean (nothing very indolic to my nose) but also ripe, waxy, creamy, and tropical. Very cheerful and bright. It was like a tamer version of Fracas (claws retracted) that I might feel ok wearing to the office.

      Other good ones were Josephine (violet), Sandalwood (better than you tend to find these days now that the real stuff's endangered, and possibly better than the Villoresi Sandalo), and Ottoman (centered around rose).

      The only odd thing was that I'd worn Lancome Sikkim that morning, and the drydown of that mixed with the spot of Josephine I tried, resulting in something really similar to Secretions Magnifiques. It wasn't so good, and another argument against layering, I think!

    • Gblue (article author) | 8th May 2012 17:52

      Kagey - I liked the EDP most - the Parfum is fab too :D It's such a gorgeous little shop, isn't it? I am tempted to agree with you on the Sandalwood! It's deliciously good!

      Danny - Very often the merest drip of honey in a perfume goes nuclear on my skin. I'm wearing Oud 27 right now and I still get the rubber/metal thing. I'll try to explain the M7 vs Iris Oriental next time you come by the shop. (It's a textures thing)

      agarwoodindonesia - thank you for the information :)

    • danny1967 | 9th May 2012 11:14

      nick, if you get the new release from mpg (ambre dore), i'll be there in a second. will probably get sooner as i intend to get my hands on ambre russe. mwah mwah..

      ps you've made me very curious about angela's perfumes but shoreditch is a tad out of my way (i'm lazy like that, lol)..

    • rickbr | 9th May 2012 12:38

      Nick, after your challenge report, where you linked M7 and Iris Taizo, i got curious for trying my decant of this PG scent. And for me, you're definitely right. One of the core notes of M7 is definitely here. Of course, without the sweet amber, the medicinal/syrupy accents. I see it as the persistent note that you'll smell on your clothes where you sprayed M7 after washing them (the smell is heavenly during the ironing moment). It has a woody, musky, slightly velvety impression. On Iris Taizo it seems very upfront, surrounded by an earthy iris and something vanillic, spicy of a creamy quality.

      From the ones you tried, Oud 27 was my biggest disappointment. I had to throw away my decant, this one smells like greasy skin and greasy hair.

      I didn't noticed much Oud on Nasomatto Pardon when i smelled it from a sample of a friend. It reminded me more of a crude Chanel Coromandel.

      Do you have access to Micallef scents? They have two excellent ouds, Vanille Aoud and Aoud Gourmet. The former is what Lutens Un Bois Vanille would smell if it had oud instead of coconut and the latest is a complex mixture of caramelic, boozy aromas on a leathery and slightly animalic base.

      Another line sample worthy is the Nejma Aouds.

    • rickbr | 9th May 2012 12:46

      Nick, have you also tried Comme des Garcons Sequoia? It's one that i see a peripheral use of the oud, on a time that it wasn't yet a trendy note. It's like Bertrand where experimenting with his mineral-incense-woody structure putting just a dollop of the oud note on it. It's seems to last all day the oudy impression, slightly animalic, going in an out of focus of the overall woody idea.

      I also see a musky, subtle woody impression on Annick Goutal Musc Nomade

    • Kagey | 9th May 2012 14:41

      It's totally out of my way too, but I do like exploring new neighborhoods. Of course always happy to participate in a pilgrimage if it encourages others to go.

      Nick: Thanks for the info. I think it was the EDP I tried, although it may have been the parfum - it made a dark-ish stain on the tester strip that still smells wonderful.

    • Gblue (article author) | 12th May 2012 21:28

      Kagey - yay for your splashing out on Oudh Noir!

      Rickbr - I've been a bit put off of the Micallef's from the bottles - I'll pop by Fortnums and try them. Thank you for the recommendation and confirming I'm not totally mental about M7 and Iris Taizo/Oriental :) I'll have to resniff Sequioa, because I don't remember it that well.

      Coromandel reminds me of Pardon, actually. It's all a bit of weird territory between those two, the L'Instant Pour un Homme, and Prada's Amber (the "ladies" one).

    • loveisintheair | 19th May 2012 15:25

      Danny 1967, would you care to share the name of the Oud Wood concentrated oil Perfume. Thanks