Oud wood

Oud wood

When it comes to oud-laced perfumes, the Middle East is Mecca. Shrouded in mythological history, Sufi mystics and Arabian princesses alike have claimed for centuries that the spicy, golden-hued essence is more valuable than the rarest ruby, with powers to attract a lover and to ward off the evil eye. Pretty high praise for tree sap—albeit one that smells like the most incredible elixir of wood and fire, tobacco and incense, ambergris and resin.

This season’s olfactory interest in oud reflects a renewed love affair with darker oriental fragrances across the beauty-brand board, but also an emerging global interest in all things Middle Eastern—from politics to perfume.“It’s a very dark wood, yet it doesn’t carry the charred, pyro-generated aspects of a birch tar,” says Chandler Burr, author of The Emperor of Scent and The Perfect Scent and curator of the new Center of Olfactory Art at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, of the wood. “That’s an interesting trope to play with.”

(And FYI, this much-in-demand oud is actually agar wood (an evergreen native to southeast Asia) which has been infected with a particular type of mould. With the infection, the wood turns dark with a deeply hued resin and becomes aromatic oud.)

Fragrance houses such as Bond No 9, Creed, LUSH, Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Tom Ford, have all been reinterpreting the ancient ingredient lately by alternately mixing it with sumptuous rose, uplifting bergamot, fougère notes, powdery iris, spicy saffron and warm vanilla. “Oud has been an international trend for about five years now,” affirms Burr. “I’m quite sure it’s out of a need for a new material, a fresh approach.”

Or perhaps its surge in popularity is a reflection of our yearning for context in our unpredictable and, seemingly, uncertain socio-economic future. It certainly makes spritzing a little oud apropos, particularly when the perfume oil continues to anoint the sacred interiors of cathedrals and mosques around the world, and is commonly referred to as the resinous wood of God.

It speaks to our souls. “It doesn’t hurt that it’s exotic,” Burr adds.

Amen; amen to that.
—Adriana Ermter

PICTURED: Byredo Oud Immortel EDP, $230 (100 ml), www.byredo.com, www.holtrenfrew.com

Other fragrances with the essence of Oud wood include:

Creed, Royal Oud EDP, $375 (100 ml), www.creedboutique.com, www.holtrenfrew.com

Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood EDP, $215 (50 ml), www.tomford.com, www.holtrenfrew.com

Bond No 9, New York Oud EDP, $265 (100 ml), www.bondno9.comwww.thebay.com

By Kilian Pure Oud (2009), Rose Oud (2010), Amber Oud (2011) and Incense Oud (2011); each $435 (100 ml), www.bykilian.com, www.holtrenfrew.com

LUSH Smell of Freedom Part Three: Oudh Heart EDP, $70 (15 ml), www.gorillaperfume.us

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud EDP,  £195, http://www.franciskurkdjian.com




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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.