If there’s one ingredient in perfumery that’s guaranteed to get love-it-or-hate-it reactions, it’s rich and woody oud.
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Partly, this is because there are so many mediocre oud fragrances on the market, but mostly it’s due to the unique qualities of the ingredient. Oud can have a variety of characteristics: anything from musty and bittersweet to balsamic but this is dependent on how it’s used.
A visit to a perfume counter will tell you how popular oud has become over the last decade. Of course, it has been a staple in Middle Eastern perfumery for centuries.
8 Best Oud Colognes for Men
Fragrances with the scent are growing in popularity. There’s something undeniably sensual and appealingly sophisticated about this scent.
Before we take you through what oud is, what it’s made of, and the fragrance to expect from an oud — here are the eight best oud colognes reviewed.
Perfumer: Calice Becker, 2009
Key notes: Guaiac wood, saffron, agarwood, copahu balm, cypriol oil.
Wear it if… You want a heavy, pungent and uncompromising niche oud fragrance, with a strong leathery and woody aspect. Be warned if you’re looking for something more subtle as some call it challenging, bitter and unwearable. From the band’s Arabian Nights Collection, It’s decidedly masculine and makes a powerful statement.
Perfumer: Aurelien Guichard, 2016
Key notes: Pear, raspberry, saffron, Bulgarian rose, orange flower, natural oud oil, patchouli.
Wear it if… You want a great designer oud fragrance that doesn’t cost a fortune like many niche options, which claim to use more of the genuine stuff. Gucci fragrances have been patchy over the years, but the Italian luxury brand hit the sweet spot with this unisex release. It’s smoky throughout, thanks to the incense and frankincense notes, sophisticated and sexy.
Perfumer: Unknown, 2015
Key notes: Sicilian bergamot, black pepper, saffron, rose, jasmine, agarwood, tobacco.
Wear it if… You want a super-elegant, smooth and toned-down oud experience. The oud in this EDP is well balanced by the spices and florals. It’s from the brand’s high-quality Icon collection and the gold-encased bottle deserves a special mention for being of the best fragrance bottle designs in recent years.
Perfumer: Oliver Creed Sixth Generation, 2011
Key notes: Lemon, pink berries, bergamot, cedar, galbanum, angelica root, sandalwood, oud, Tonkin musk.
Wear it if… You want a seriously upmarket, luxurious interpretation of the scent that’s signature material. This is expensive stuff (it’s Creed, after all). For the price though you’re getting a masterful and multi-faceted fragrance, from the citrus opener to the slightly sweet oud that’s not too dominant. It’s not an obvious oud fragrance and that’s part of its beauty.
Perfumer: Unknown, 2016
Key notes: Incense oil, blue cypress, birch, red pimento, honeysuckle, temple oud, night-blooming jasmine, white magnolia, balsam fir, bushman’s candle, soft suede, patchouli, black amber, praline, musk, olibanum.
Wear it if… You want a clean and unisex niche scent that will surprise you. There are a lot of officially listed notes in this fragrance, many of which you won’t be able to pick up. What does come through in this skin scent is the warm and musky quality of the suede, oud, musk, incense, and amber notes. The praline note gives it a hint of just the right amount of sweetness.
Perfumer: Antoine Lie, 2010
Key notes: Vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, guaiac wood, Virginia cedar, oud, cypress, pepper, bergamot, incense, nutmeg, cashmeran, caraway.
Wear it if… You want a highly rated wood fragrance, where the scent is just one of the elements. The similar-ish Comme des Garçons Wonderoud EDP goes big on the oud, but Wonderwood’s balance between the various listed woods and spices is, in many ways, a better option. A good dose of vetiver just adds to the woodiness. Definitely wonderful!
Perfumer: Jerome Epinette, 2016)
Key notes: Calabrian bergamot, Siberian angelica, Vietnamese black pepper, Turkish rose absolue, Egyptian geranium, Chinese eucalyptus, Malaysian agarwood, Indian sandalwood, Indian guaiac wood.
Wear it if… You want a very wearable fragrance with a fresh, green quality. Paris-based niche fragrance company Atelier Cologne is renowned for its citrus-infused scents. This EDP from its Haute Couture collection features some of the usual oud fragrance combos – for example, rose – but it’s the fresh notes – especially eucalyptus — that make it stand out.
Perfumers: Jacques Cavallier & Alaberto Morillas, 2002)
Key notes: Mandarin, bois de oud, patchouli, ciste, myrrh.
Wear it if… You want a seductive, smoky, slightly sweet oud fragrance. A reformulation of the classic and ground-breaking YSL M7, it’s a worthy purchase in its own right. A brief fresh opening makes way for an intriguing blend of patchouli, amber, and myrrh, with a light treatment of oud in between.
What is Oud Perfume?
Sometimes called aloes or agar, it has been long valued as a scent in the Middle East. It has recently become popular in Europe and North America as well. Because it is rare, in very high demand and difficult to harvest, it is one of the most expensive scent ingredients in the world. It is sometimes called liquid gold because it is worth about 1.5 times its weight in gold.
What is Oud Made of?
Oud occurs when the tropical agar tree is infested with a mold known as Phialophora parasitica. To protect itself from this parasitic mold, the tree produces a special, fragrant resin. This is oud, a time-honored ingredient in perfumes. About 110 pounds of wood from the agar tree is needed to create about 3/4 of a cup of oud.
Both agarwood and oud are very high-demand items and unfortunately, this has resulted in the agar tree being recently listed as a potentially threatened species. The agar tree is grown in southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, and India hence its status as a true “oriental scent”.
What Does Oud Smell Like?
Unlike other raw materials, the scent of oud varies widely, based on the age of the wood where it was formed and whether the parasitic infection was cultivated or naturally occurring. In general, oud is warm and woody, but it can have a smoky or sweet edge as well.
It can be quite strong, so it’s not the best scent to choose if you want to fly “under the radar” at work.
What Makes Oud So Special?
According to Fragrantica, oud is the result of a fascinating process whereby the aquilaria tree species — found in south-east Asia, India, and Bangladesh — is infected by a parasite. To protect itself, the tree produces a resinous heartwood known as oud or agarwood.
Various factors can influence its quality, including the distillation process and the age of the tree. The very best is incredibly expensive, so most mainstream oud fragrances are based on a synthetic version or a blend of both natural and synthetic. Hence, the endless online debates about whether or not a fragrance is a real or synthetic oud.
Although there are many standouts here, this is not a definitive list of the best oud fragrances on the market. It also doesn’t include the huge variety of Middle Eastern fragrances. But it will give you a good sense of what’s available, especially for those who might have convinced themselves that the scent is not for them.
I’m really excited to see how oud continues to influence western perfume makers. It’s a luxurious, mysterious, time-honored aroma, unlike anything else. If you like stronger, more complex scents, I’d recommend adding at least one oud-based cologne to your collection.