Oud, a mysterious and enchanting scent, has been a cornerstone of the perfume industry for centuries. But what makes it so precious? Let's delve into the fascinating world of oud and uncover its captivating allure.

Origin of Oud: The Fragrance of the Forest

Oud, also known as agarwood, is a byproduct of the aquilaria tree, an evergreen species indigenous to Southeast Asia. This highly prized scent is not easily obtained. It forms when the tree is assaulted by external factors, such as environmental changes or physical damage, leading the tree to produce a protective resin. Over time, this resin transforms the heartwood into what we know as oud.

Quote by Geza Schoen, Escentric Molecules Founder and Perfumer: "Natural oud, the scent (the essential oil) arises when a particular fungus places itself on an aquilaria tree. A reaction creates a resin that slowly embeds into the wood creating agarwood, known as oud, which is then soaked, and using a distillation and evaporation method is developed into an oil."

Interestingly, Vietnam has a significant history of oud harvesting, which was inadvertently stimulated during the Vietnam War when the bombing of forests led to the damage of numerous aquilaria trees, initiating the growth of the next generation of oud.

The Aromatic Appeal of Oud

Oud offers a potent, long-lasting, and deeply layered fragrance. It boasts a warm, musky, slightly sweet, and animalistic profile, making it a scent that lingers long after application. However, the fragrance varies depending on the region where the agarwood trees are grown.

Quote by Olivia Jan, Senior Perfumer at Givaudan: "Each version [of oud] has its own olfactive specificity ranging from herbal to woody. Across other countries, there are different variations like aquilaria crassna from Laos and aquilaria sinensis in China."

The Cultural Significance of Oud

Oud holds a significant cultural and spiritual standing in the Middle East, where it is known as "the wood of the gods." A staple in Muslim culture, oud is commonly used in religious ceremonies and as a home fragrance. It's also a customary offering to guests as an aromatic refreshment.

Oud's Global Popularity

In recent years, there has been a surge in the demand for oud fragrances, particularly in the Western world. This trend is reflected in the increase in Google searches for oud and the rise in the number of oud fragrances launched by various brands.

Quote by Frank Voelkl, Principal Perfumer at Firmenich: "Oud is traditionally known as black gold in the Middle East as it is a prized ingredient that comes from one of the rarest and most expensive woods in the world."

The Uniqueness of Oud

Oud stands out among other scents due to its distinctive olfactive characteristics. It resonates with the wearer's skin chemistry, augmenting its muskiness and providing an intimate, animalic aura simultaneously.

Quote by Frank Voelkl: "[It lends] a unique woody warmth to a fragrance with a slight leathery and animalic aspect. It is a unique way to add depth and sensuality to the dry down, and it is indeed one of the most long-lasting ingredients we use in our palette."

The Rising Demand and the Challenges

The escalating demand for oud has made it a scarce commodity. Given that it takes decades for oud to form naturally, the supply is limited, leading to astronomical prices. The situation has been further aggravated by the attempts to infect trees artificially to stimulate oud production, which has resulted in the depletion of these trees.

To counter the demand-supply gap, synthetic oud has emerged as a viable alternative. Synthetic oud not only addresses the sustainability concern but also provides better stability and longevity to fragrances.

Quote by Jacques Huclier, Senior Perfumer at Givaudan: "Modern oud, in the U.S., is a blend of natural and synthetic ingredients… [Synthetics allow] a perfumer to bring new complexities to an oud fragrance because they can balance the characteristics with other facets to be more spicy, earthy, leathery, etc."

Oud in Modern Perfumery

Oud has made a significant impact in modern perfumery, with a plethora of popular fragrances featuring this intriguing note. Some notable examples include Les Vides Ange's Bonjour Madame, Tom Ford Oud Wood, Byredo Our Immortel, and Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood.

Oud's Pairing with Other Scents

Oud's versatility allows it to pair harmoniously with a range of scents, most notably floral notes like a rose. This pairing results in a seductive contrast between the robustness of oud and the delicate, dewy scent of rose.

Wearing oud requires a mindful approach due to its potent nature. A small amount can leave a lasting impression, making it a perfect choice for those who want their scent to be memorable.


The future of oud in the fragrance world is promising. Its increasing popularity in Western markets, coupled with the development of synthetic oud, is set to expand its global reach and appeal.

Much like a precious gem, oud has a unique charm that has captivated the senses of fragrance connoisseurs worldwide. Its rich history, cultural significance, and enigmatic aroma make it a timeless classic in the world of perfumery. So, the next time you're at a fragrance store, don't forget to explore the captivating world of oud fragrances.