By Deborah Fulsang There's a reason why fragrance is a…
Thank Tom Ford, By Kilian, Francis Kurkdjian and Cartier for making oud, perfumery’s “liquid gold”, super current and cool.
Oud’s powerful smoky musk scent has been coveted in the Middle East for decades. Derived from agarwood, a large tropical evergreen tree predominantly indigenous to Southeast Asia, its dark oil is often referred to as black or liquid gold. And according to Fortune magazine, it’s one of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery, selling for more than $5,000 a pound—that’s more than $30,00 a kilogram depending on the purity.
Oud perfumes: In the beginning
Thanks to its long-standing history as a fragrant favourite in Thailand, India and Saudi Arabia, complete with alignment to ceremonial traditions, religious practices and alternative medicine, oud’s popularity in North America has been growing. “It has been a breakout perfume note in niche and mainstream scents alike for several years,” affirms Barbara Herman in her recent book Scent & Subversion, Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume.
A cultural must-have bottled and worn by the multitudes in the Middle East, oud gained mainstream awareness on this side of the world with the launch of Yves Saint Laurent’s M7 in 2002 and with Tom Ford’s Oud Wood in 2007. Notably, Ford was at the creative helm for both scents, seemingly paving the way for others. Since then, By Kilian’s Pure Oud, Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Oud Intense and Juliette Has a Gun’s Midnight Oud have been staples on swishy department store counters since 2009, followed with equal popularity by Bond No. 9’s New York Oud and Creed’s Royal Oud in 2011.
Reaching peak oud
Now, the pricy, prized scent is popping up everywhere. Last year welcomed Frederic Malle The Night, Comme des Garcons Wonderoud and Christian Dior Oud Elixir Precieux. And according to the NDP Group, in 2013 alone oud fragrance sales reached $4.3 million—an increase of 34 per cent that only continues to rise.
This year has us spritzing new sultry, animalistic and musky renditions. By Kilian Pearl Oud is a sensual incarnation with an equestrian vibe thanks to rose, leather and woody notes. Cartier Oud Radieux boasts an intriguing juxtaposition that’s fresh and warm courtesy of ginger and Sichuan pepper. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood is a smooth powdered blend replete with rose and violet flowers and vanilla.
Our oud perfume picks
By Kilian Pearl Oud, $510 (50 ml) www.holtrenfrew.com
Cartier Oud Radieux, $280 (75 ml) www.cartier.com
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood, €195 (75 ml) www.franciskurkdjian.com
Previous Post: Deborah Fulsang shares her favourite holiday scents