Rich and resinous, the exotic allure of oud is centuries old, but in modern day has become something of a revelation, with contemporary perfumers increasingly succumbing to its charms in a fragrant array of different interpretations. Known by many names including agarwood, oud is also one of the rarest and most expensive notes in perfumery, often described as 'liquid' or 'black gold'.
Boasting an equally enigmatic birth story, oud is derived from a reaction between the agar tree and a very specific mould pathogen, and it is this fragile symbiosis that can cause variables in the end product, adding to its mysterious, unpredictable and highly prized nature. This also leads many perfumers to opt to work with synthetic versions for their fragrances. Spiked with spices, leather undertones, incense and musk, crushed in with notes of smoked tobacco and bittersweet honey, the character of oud can be both complex and dark. With great ritualistic, cultural and spiritual significance, it is a scent that's widely believed to soothe, calm and revive the senses.
With perfumers across the globe telling their own tales of oud, one of the most exquisite and precious includes Frederic Malle with Dominique Ropion's The Night – an intoxicating, oriental and woody fragrance that features natural oud blended with Turkish rose and saffron on sandalwood. Maison Francis Kurkdjian's Oud Satin Mood, meanwhile, offers a smoother take, with an enveloping all-natural oud infused with violet, vanilla and Bulgarian rose. For something a little spicier and woodier, Annick Goutal enchants with 1001 Ouds, enriched with oud and papyrus, rose, pimento, birch and myrrh, while Kilian Pure Oud, with the smoky, aromatic velvet quality of oud, is crafted with geranium, cardamom, patchouli and oak moss, to entice and weave its magic.
Other key scents include Oud Essential by Guerlain, a mysterious and hypnotic interpretation, mixing oud with rose, saffron, leather and cedar, while Oud Immortal from Byredo is a chypre-woody riff on oud with smoky tobacco leaf and oakmoss for depth and rosewood and incense giving it a sweeter edge. And for a distinctly Parisian take, Ex Nihilo's Oud Vendome opens with ginger and cinnamon, making way for the oud and musk heart.
Discover our line-up of the most evocative and mood-enriching ouds out there...